You know it's grim when the prevailing debate among economists and historians is whether the world economy faces the "Great" depression of the 1930s or the "Long" depression of the 1870s.
Listening to commentary surrounding the seemingly intractable sovereign debt and banking crisis in Europe, the stimulus/austerity battle in the United States and even hard-landing risks in China, gloom is fast becoming the consensus.
Only the shade of gloom, it seems, is in question. It's got so that, depending on your view of big or small government, you can pick your version of the pending depression.
Harvard professor and economic historian Niall Ferguson, a fan of the British government's austerity drive and skeptic of further stimulus, reckons the world is facing a "slight depression" and favors comparison with the late 19th century rather than 1930s.
Speaking on Monday at private bank Kleinwort Benson, where he is on the advisory board, Ferguson restated his critique of the fiscal and monetary stimuli from western governments over the past four years and said their modest impact questioned the key lessons most economists took from the Great Depression.
"They may have stopped another 'Great' depression but not a depression and what for many was the most profound lesson of economic history may turn out to be wrong," he said, adding the fact that government debts and obligations were already so high before the crisis pump priming meant they now risked backfiring.
Euro Zone: 'Depression' Makes Return to Mainstream Lexicon - CNBC