So What Should We Call The Last 10 Years?

Last Updated Dec 30, 2009 3:16 PM EST

Changing seasons of the year are meaningful in agricultural economies, but in a developed industrial economy like the U.S. -- or maybe that should be a "knowledge-based" economy or something similar, since we don't make many things here any longer -- break points such as calendar years and decades are pretty artificial. But human society has stayed with these conventions, as points of reckoning and reflection. Most of us are eager to drawing a line under both 2009 and put an end to the decade, but we won't be able to stop talking about the past ten years, so what should we call it?

The wags in London at the Financial Times are calling the decade "The Noughties," and noting:
but the US term is the "Aughties" or "Oughties" as in "Christ, I oughta've seen THIS coming."
And we entered this decade with so much momentum, optimism and innovation. Was the dot-com boom a hoax, or just a dream? That's too negative, considering the economic presence of Amazon, Facebook, Google, and others. But we sure got that part wrong, and weren't watching the things that turned out to matter on other fronts.

Here's my own version, "The Nots:"

In one sense, I'd like to deny their existence.

But we should also be prepared that the decade's disappointments are not over. The calendar is an artificial measure, and the setbacks and damage of the last 10 years, even the short-term stuff, will still be in the shop for the next few years. For instance, the housing market, examined in detail here.

Paul Krugman, in an op-ed in The New York Times on Sunday, proposes:
[F]rom an economic point of view, I'd suggest that we call the decade past the Big Zero. It was a decade in which nothing good happened, and none of the optimistic things we were supposed to believe turned out to be true.
Happy New Year nonetheless.