If there were factory recalls for ages, the first product of the 21st century would be sent back for retooling. Politically, socially, morally, esthetically, the decade has been a disaster.
Economically, Paul Krugman grades it as "The Big Zero," but that may be too generous for a time when almost everything in American life has slid below previous standards in an orgy of what Pat Moynihan called defining deviancy down.
The decade gave us our first needlessly preemptive war, the degradation of individual privacy, the most painful depression in almost a century, and perhaps worst of all, a coarsening of sensibilities toward everything from torture to political discourse.
In the late 1990s, a time of budget surpluses and no foreign wars, Hillary Clinton called the impeachment of her husband "a vast right-wing conspiracy." It was neither vast nor a conspiracy, but it was the opening wedge in the politics of personal destruction that is now bedeviling one of the few accomplishments of the decade, the election of America's first African-American president, who is trying to govern despite a mindlessly monolithic opposition party.
Bill Clinton invited such chaos with incredible self-indulgence in the White House, but his behavior was no worse than JFK's, which did not lead to an impeachment that, among other things, may have inhibited attacks on Osama bin Laden for fear of having them called "Wag the Dog" diversions.
Al Gore started the new decade by distancing himself from Clinton, leading to Clarence Thomas' awarding of the presidency to George W. Bush and his self-selected vice president Dick Cheney.
The rest, unfortunately, is history, which offers no do-overs or replacement decades but from which it may be possible to learn and avoid repeating.