Good tidings: Ireland offers a haven from the populist plague

The US stock market is having its worst December since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Donald Trump has fired the last remaining adult in the White House and is reported to be thinking about sacking the head of the Federal Reserve. The US government is on its third partial shutdown of the year with the president promising a prolonged battle with Congress unless he gets funding for his Mexican wall. If Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, does get the boot, financial market reaction will, I would guess, be orders of magnitude worse than anything we have seen in recent weeks.

Trump has often suggested that the Dow Jones index is the ultimate barometer of his presidency: the stock market hasn’t figured too much in his tweets over the past couple of months, for obvious reasons. Trump doesn’t like the Fed because it has raised interest rates – and more hikes are promised for 2019. It’s hard to know what Trump thinks removing the Fed chairman would achieve other than another collapse in the stock market.

The list of things to worry about is not restricted to the US. It’s not possible to have a discussion about China, now the world’s largest economy on some measures, without someone arguing that a debt implosion is just a matter of time. In addition, the internet is, apparently, in the process of being taken over by the Chinese government or Huawei, depending on which conspiracy theory we prefer to believe.

Global economic growth has slowed markedly: nobody knows whether it is the start of a recession or merely a soft patch.

Defying analysis

And then there is Brexit. The collective nervous breakdown being experienced by our nearest neighbours defies rational analysis so is now attracting the interest of psychologists and other behavioural scientists. Game theorists are dissecting Theresa May’s current tactics: pressure is now building on British MPs to choose, in mid-January, between May’s deal or no deal. The idea is that as the consequences of a no-deal are laid bare, more MPs will change their mind and vote for May’s withdrawal agreement. This is, to say the least, a risky if not fundamentally misconceived, strategy.


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.