With the warm glow of the holidays quickly receding into memory, it's time to remember that there's a big scary world out there waiting for us in 2012. While we're not going to witness the Mayan apocalypse touted by nut jobs and supposedly educational cable television shows, there's enough potential for disaster in this upcoming year to make anyone reach for a stiff drink or a tub of Ben and Jerry's.
In no particular order here are four things to worry about in 2012
1) The Euro
The Bottom Line: 2011 was a rough year for the Euro, but 2012 is likely to be even tougher. Obviously a sick European economy doesn't bode well for the world economy.
There was a lot of news about the Euro in 2011, but it's more than likely that we haven't reached the peak of this crisis yet. In 2011 we saw Greece take center stage as the European Union failed to contain fears that Greece was just the first domino to fall in a multi-country debt crisis. Indeed, by the end of the year, fears had moved on from tiny Greece onto much larger Spain and Italy, which both saw governments toppled as austerity took a bite. In 2012, things look even worse. People fear that Italy and Spain might not have what it takes to finance their debts, and are looking increasingly suspiciously at French debt. At the same time, European banks which hold a lot of this debt, are also increasingly worried about their own ability to stay solvent. The bottom line is this: we could finish 2012 with a drastically different Euro and and Europe in something akin to a depression. A depression for Europe is certainly trouble for the rest of the world. While this scenario sounds alarmist, it's been increasingly brought up by notable economists like Simon Johnson of MIT and Tyler Cowen, who runs Marginal Revolution, among others.
2) North Korea
The Bottom Line: With an unsteady young leader in charge of the world's scariest nuclear arsenal, we may be in for some turbulence on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea perenially makes lists of things to worry about, and with good reason. The secretive totalitarian nation is not only run by a family of wierdos who have managed to brainwash their starving populace, but also has a huge conventional army and nuclear weapons just a few hundred miles away from some of Asia's most important population and economic centers. 2012, though, is different.