Why do economists always get it wrong? Because their theories don't evolve. The world economy of 2009 is not the world economy of 1999, let alone the economy of 1989, or 1979. Yet economists are still trying to apply 30 year old models to understand today's economy. It's like trying to understand modern telecommunications by studying rotary dial phones.
The world economy is centered, more than ever, on the U.S. That is changing: ten years from now, the world will probably rotate on a Pacific Axis, between China and the U.S. But for now the reality is a U.S. dominated world.
The U.S. economy is an incredible consumption machine. It consumes Chinese manufacturers and foreign oil (although not Middle Eastern oil: the U.S. gets most of its oil imports from Canada, Venezuela, Mexico, and other New World and African sources. Only 20% of American imports come from the Middle East). Indirectly, as the raw material for Chinese exports to the U.S., and China's resulting construction boom, the U.S. economy drives the demand for commodities, worldwide. But the American economy is so dependant on oil, that when oil rises in value, the U.S. dollar falls by an inverse ratio. The more prosperous the U.S. economy, the more oil it consumes, so the quicker the dollar falls in value, ironically.
Basically, the process is this:
U.S. growth = growth in demand for oil = higher oil prices = lower U.S. dollar.
For commodity-based currencies (Canada and Australia, for example) the inverse is true:
U.S. growth = growth in demand for commodities (including oil) = higher commodity prices = higher Canadian and Australian dollars (relative to the U.S.)
So, ironically, the best indicator of returning prosperity in the U.S. would be a rapidly rising Canadian dollar.
It's almost a truism- so often repeated that no-one even thinks about it: "Many wars have been caused by religion." If this were true, then surely atheism (rejecting the existence of God, and therefore all religious belief) would lead to a more peaceful world. But has it?
Atheism really didn't become a popular belief until the late 19th Century, after Charles Darwin's theory of evolution gave an alternative explanation of how life might have developed on Earth, and many people thought science had made God irrelevant. Atheism was not popular with the masses, but many intellectuals embraced it, and it had a profound influence on late 19th and early 20th Century social and political philosophies, in particular fascism and communism.
Fascists embraced the theory of evolution, and took it to its natural conclusion: social darwinism, genetic selection and eventually, euthanasia. They dreamed of helping human evolution along, and creating a 'master race'. Less fit races would have to be removed to make space ('liebensraum') for the superior race. The philosopher who most inspired the Nazis, Nietzsche, famously declared that 'God is dead'. Without God, and the 'obsolete' moral restraints of Christianity, the Nazis were free to pursue their 'final solution'. In short, the Theory of Evolution inspired, and atheism enabled, the Holocaust.
After Marx declared that religion was the 'opiate of the masses', most communists embraced atheism. While it is true that religion has sometimes been used by the wealthy and powerful to oppress the poor, atheism doesn't exactly lead to freedom. In fact, it leads to totalitarianism, as atheistic rulers do not answer to the church, to moral systems based on the old religions, or even to their own conscience. Stalin's pogroms and Mao's Cultural Revolution are the inevitable result of atheism's moral vacuum.
At least two of the three worst tyrants and mass-murderers of the 20th Century were atheists: Stalin and Mao. Many 'second tier' tyrants were also atheists, for example Pol Pot in Cambodia, and the leaders of various communist governments in Africa and Latin America. Sure, it's easy to blame wars on religion, but really, humans will find any excuse to murder each other. Without the restraints of religion, adrift in moral relativism, atheists have not created a freer and more peaceful world, but indeed, just the opposite. Better the 'oppression' of God, than the oppression of Man.