A recent article in Foreign Policy highlights four things that have the potential to wreck the economy and four things that could drive it toward success. In today’s global economy, something like the collapse of the European system could have severe implications for the U.S. and economies worldwide.

On the list of things that could wreck the economy, a breakup of Europe’s financial system is one of the most frightening. Other factors that could wreak havoc include meltdowns in the Middle East, broken central banks and escalating social unrest. The ability of nations both individually and collectively to navigate these hurdles in the coming years have the potential to steer economic outcomes.

On the other hand, a restoration of Europe’s financial and political system would bring a huge sigh of relief and help stabilize the world economy. According to the article, another factor that could help steer the economy in a positive direction is a “Sputnik moment”, a common cause like that of the late 1950s, this time an economic one that would pull us together toward a common goal.

The final two factors that could help drive the economy toward success are political healing and the unleashing of emerging consumers. Politics are more divided than ever before. The 2012 elections could prove to be a rally against political dysfunction and a call for unity of leadership and purpose. And with U.S. manufacturing becoming competitive with China, the unleashing of that country’s pent up consumerism could be enormously positive.

The full article in Foreign Policy can be found here.