The year has begun well in markets. Stock markets in 2012 are generally up, and European sovereigns have experienced less difficulty borrowing than many expected. And economic data, particularly in the United States, has come in ahead of expectations. So as President Obama prepares to give his State of the Union address, and as a large group of policymakers and corporate chiefs come together in Davos this week, there is if not a sense of relief at least some diminution in the sense of high alarm that has gripped the global community for much of the last few years. Yet anxiety about the future remains a major driver of economic performance.
Americans have traditionally been the most enthusiastic champions of capitalism. Yet a recent American public opinion survey found that just 50 per cent of people had a positive opinion of capitalism while 40 per cent did not. The disillusionment was particularly marked among young people 18-29, African Americans and Hispanics, those with incomes under $30,000 and self-described Democrats.