The Optimism Market

Americans, according to Gallup, are facing a giant deficit in optimism. From CBS.com:

Fewer than four-in-10 Americans (39 percent) rate the US in a positive manner – the most negative feedback the country has produced since 1979.

A new Gallup poll finds that Americans are as negative about the country’s prospects as they have been in more than three decades. Americans are more upbeat in their predictions of where the U.S. will be in five years (48 percent positive), but this is the lowest rating since an August 1979 Gallup poll was conducted.

The deficit is not evenly distributed, by the way:

The negativity about the current state of the US has a politically partisan split – Republicans stated that the country’s best days have already passed and Democrats say the best days have not happened yet. Seventy-five percent of Democrats gave positive reviews of how the nation will be five years from now, but only 15 percent of Republicans were positive – a 60 percent partisan gap.

Which seems right, somehow. But also somehow wrong, too. We’re supposed to be the optimists — we’re the ones who think things get better. They’re the ones who think we’ve pretty much invented everything we’re ever going to invent, that the future is a grim place with dwindling resources and fighting over table scraps.

And that brings me to this, from the Watts Up With That site:

  • In 1865, Stanley Jevons (one of the most recognized 19th century economists) predicted that England would run out of coal by 1900, and that England’s factories would grind to a standstill.

  • In 1885, the US Geological Survey announced that there was “little or no chance” of oil being discovered in California.
  • In 1891, it said the same thing about Kansas and Texas. (See Osterfeld, David.Prosperity Versus Planning : How Government Stifles Economic Growth. New York : Oxford University Press, 1992.)
  • In 1939 the US Department of the Interior said that American oil supplies would last only another 13 years.
  • 1944 federal government review predicted that by now the US would have exhausted its reserves of 21 of 41 commodities it examined. Among them were tin, nickel, zinc, lead and manganese.
  • In 1949 the Secretary of the Interior announced that the end of US oil was in sight.

Isn’t this cheering? Experts are always wrong. Always.

Maybe that should be our main attack on the policies of this administration and its devotion to magical thinking: mockery.

And optimism.