Michael Barone, writing in The Washington Examiner, reflects on the “oughts,” the decade of fear that followed the economic and political optimism of the 1990s.

Barone doesn’t hold out much hope for the coming deacade, either. He writes:

In retrospect, we may have been misled because so many of the surprises of the 1990s were happy ones. The end of Communism removed a strong enemy, and the spread of market economics in Eastern Europe, China, India and elsewhere led to unparalleled world economic growth.

Ross Perot in 1992 told us that federal budget deficits would swallow the economy and that NAFTA would suck jobs southward; instead the budget deficit disappeared by the end of the decade and the number of jobs skyrocketed.

Technological advance improved productivity at more-than-historic rates, as Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan predicted, and then, as the decade ended, Y2K proved to be no problem.

So we may have been primed, on that decade-ago morning of January 1, 2000, to expect that every surprise would be a happy one, and that there were lots of good things in store we didn’t expect. This decade has taught the lesson taught by so much of human history: Many surprises are bad news, and they should often be regarded with fear.