The prospect of recession has done wonders for black humour. In our collection of visions of 2012, Paul Mason says we’ll be hunkering down, eating baked beans, our only luxury an iPhone. If we haven’t taken refuge in the cold comfort of an actual Welsh farm, we’ll be in a “farmhouse of the mind,” he says, invoking that buried sense that the western mountains are a last refuge from apocalypse.
It has been a bad year for those who believe that governments can fix problems—and a good one for those who think they’re to blame. President Obama and Congress are in a standoff; France and Germany are unable to devise plausible rules for the eurozone; Italy and Greece have installed unelected technocrats as leaders; the easiest course for southern Europe is to give in to picturesque decline, with nothing left to sell but the sun and classical ruins (Bettany Hughes). In the simmering Middle East there is the threat that Iran will get nuclear weapons and the chance—although small—of the turmoil of a pre-emptive Israeli strike on those sites.