In the history of the past 30 years, the rise and fall of inflation plays a huge and unheralded role in shaping politics and social change. The advent of double-digit inflation in the United States and Britain propelled Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to power, transforming politics in these countries and the world.
THE AMERICAN ECONOMY CONTINUES TO ZIP ALONG, defying--so far--predictions that it would slow down or crash. In the last quarter of 1998, output (gross domestic product) raced ahead at a blistering annual rate of 5.6 percent, much faster than most economists had predicted.
IF NOTHING ELSE, BRAZIL HAS SHATTERED THE SOOTHING notion that the world economy is slowly but surely on the mend. What happened last week (the surprise devaluation of Brazil's currency) suggests that the recent months of economic calm--when the U.S. stock market raced to new highs--may resemble the ""phony war'' of 1940: a period when people falsely reassured themselves that calamity would, somehow, be avoided.
THE PROSPECT THAT AN INDEPENDENT COUNSEL WILL be named to investigate the alleged campaign-law violations of President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore exposes a central contradiction of ""campaign-finance reform.'' The ""reformers'' claim they're trying to lower public cynicism by cleansing politics of the evils of money.
IN HIS NOVEL ""1984,'' GEORGE ORWELL DEFINES ""doublethink'' as the ""power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.'' There was, in this sense, something deeply Orwellian about last week's orgy of self-congratulation over the balanced-budget agreement.
WE ARE NOW WITNESSING-- MOST RECENTLY France but also in the United States and elsewhere--the triumph of conservatism. This is or, of course, what you're hearing. "Europe has turned left,' says The Wall Street Journal, noting that 18 of 15 countries in the European Union now have leftish governments.