For fifteen years after the end of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West in 1991 the rich countries of the capitalist West enjoyed a remarkable feast. Fuelled by ever-higher levels of personal and corporate debt and by the abundance of cheap manufactures from rising economic powers such as India and China, the consumers of the rich countries went shopping. Like bubbles breaking through the surface of a volcanic swamp, swelling and swelling until they burst, so asset bubbles regularly formed in the financial markets, in shares, in housing and in certain commodities such as oil. The two great bubbles of the period between 1992 and 2008 were the bubble in shares, which ended in the dot.com slump in 2000, and the bubble in housing, which ended in the credit crunch in 2007–8. When the housing bubble collapsed, the American satirical magazine The Onion demanded that the American people be given another bubble to invest in.
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