Will the Dam Break in 2007?

The world survived 2006 without a major economic catastrophe, despite sky-high oil prices and a Middle East spiraling out of control. But the year produced abundant lessons for the global economy, as well as warning signs concerning its future performance.

Unsurprisingly, 2006 brought another resounding rejection of fundamentalist neo-liberal policies, this time by voters in Nicaragua and Ecuador. Meanwhile, in neighboring Venezuela, Hugo Chávez won overwhelming electoral support: at least he had brought some education and healthcare to the poor barrios, which previously had received little of the benefits of the country’s enormous oil wealth.

Perhaps most importantly for the world, voters in the United States gave a vote of no confidence to President George W. Bush, who will now be held in check by a Democratic Congress.

When Bush assumed the presidency in 2001, many hoped that he would govern competently from the center. More pessimistic critics consoled themselves by questioning how much harm a president can do in a few years. We now know the answer: a great deal.