It is my tradition to commemorate the start of a new year by making negative predictions. According to my own rules, I may only contra-predict events which seem, at the moment, to be reasonably likely to occur. So here it is -- my list of Things That Will Not Happen In 2012 (even though you thought they would).
1) The euro will not collapse. That is to say, it will not cease to exist as a currency, despite the philosophy and the economic assumptions on which it rests being utterly discredited. As a consequence of the latter, the euro as an idea will have to be reinvented as a purely pragmatic way of avoiding a catastrophic banking collapse rather than as an idealistic solution to the historic mutual loathing of neighbouring European nations.
This downgrading of the single currency project from idyllic dream of eternal harmony to half-baked, impromptu rescue operation will create enormous bitterness and dissatisfaction.
Accusations and recriminations will fly across borders.
More important, what remains of the euro will become even less plausible: the suspension of disbelief required to sustain it will exhaust the moral resources of the European political class.
So the currency will survive but credible democratic politics as we know it will largely be at an end.
2) A corollary to number 1) -- fully-fledged democracy will not return to Greece or Italy -- whatever promises are now being made about elections in the coming months. If elections are held in the near future, they will involve the participation of caretaker candidates, whose "technocratic" function will be remarkably similar to the puppet regimes which have been put in place by the EU (which is to say, France and Germany).
Indeed, they may be the very same people seeking the imprimatur of a popular mandate.
This will not particularly worry the Italians, who are contemptuous of their own politicians, believing them to be either criminals or clowns, and whose social solidarity allows them largely to ignore national politics. But the Greeks will rebel -- and the disorder that results will make it impossible for the euro, even in its reconstructed form, to prevail in that country.
So Greece will be ejected, perhaps from the EU as well as the euro, not for economic reasons but for political ones.
3) Barack Obama will not lose the White House. His poll numbers may look pretty disastrous now, but there are small signs of recovery in the US economy, which is what this presidential election will be all about. It is generally regarded as fatal for a candidate to have "peaked" too soon, but Mr Obama will have "troughed" too soon for the Republicans' chances.
His lowest point may have come and gone by mid-summer.
It will be no landslide, and there will be none of the revivalist euphoria of the first win, but he will get his second term.
If I am right and the American economy recovers sufficiently to save Mr Obama from a graceful retreat into academic life, this will be pronounced (by some interested parties) a victory for the Keynesian economic stimulus policies which he espoused, as opposed to the European "austerity" programme which advocates cutting the deficit as a first priority.
This will be entirely wrong as an interpretation of events. The American economy will recover from its current despond -- as the American economy always does -- because of the work ethic and enterprising spirit of its population.
Its revival will have nothing to do with the spending projects of federal government.
Indeed, it is the relatively minimal influence (by European standards) of government intervention in the US which permits its citizens to reinvigorate their economic life by their own resources and efforts.
The Obama second term will give the Republicans time to regroup behind a candidate less boring than Mitt Romney, and to formulate their arguments against Mr Obama's march toward the social democratic neverland in which Europe is now trapped.
Political discourse in America will be no less rancorous during the second term of Mr Obama but it will be more coherent: the US will be engaging in the real argument about the size and power of the state that ought to be dominating discussion in all the western economies. (© The Telegraph, London)