When the market economy is booming there’s a tendency to assume this state of affairs will last forever – on so many occasions have we heard that ‘it’s different this time’ and that ‘we’re in a new paradigm now’. Yet when a slump occurs – as they do periodically – the mood of incautious optimism changes quickly and pessimism and despair can set in.
This has most obviously been the case with the present recession (or series of recessions, depending on how you define it). Since the first signs of crisis appeared in late summer 2007, the mood has been bleak. The nadir was probably reached in late 2008 when the collapse of Lehman Brothers led to massive falls in world stock markets and coincided with the seizing up of the credit markets. Unemployment and bankruptcies soon began to rise.