Tag: Optimism

On Quitting My Job

 

“What makes you think you were doing bad work?” Asks the psychologist. Not a real one, just the call-and-response in my cranium.

“Well, there’s only so many hours a workday you can spend on Ricochet when you ought to be doing other things and still think you’re a good worker. I’m not going to sit here taking their coin forever when I’m not providing commensurate services in exchange. It’s dishonest.”

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The Left’s Shabby Vision

 

I think we conservatives sometimes feel inadequate, as if we lack the joy and enthusiasm that the left seems to bring to its various causes. It’s hard, after all, to wax rhapsodically about fiscal responsibility, deregulation, federalism, and other principles that distinguish conservative philosophy from the ever-expanding universe of leftist passions and causes. We don’t do sit-ins. We don’t chant. Conservatism is, well, conservative, and just not very exciting.

But if you scratch the surface, if you look beyond superficial enthusiasm and consider the worldviews that truly motivate left and right, you discover something interesting and, I think, counter-intuitive. You discover that it is conservatism that is optimistic, positive, enthusiastic, innovative, and forward-looking — in short, hopeful — and the left that is, overwhelmingly, motivated by a grim, desperate, fearful, and impoverished view of both humanity and our prospects.

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Has the Death of the Great Books Been Greatly Exaggerated?

 

I saw this article in my news feed, lamenting the collapse of interest in The Great Books. Articles much like this one show up often in my news feeds. The collapse of interest in The Great Books, the Classics, traditional curricula, etc., is “common knowledge” amongst conservative intellectuals.

I don’t have sufficient data to disprove that this “collapse” is occurring, but anecdotal evidence makes me skeptical. In the past, there were essentially three ways to be exposed to The Great Books: 1) They were assigned in a classroom. 2) They were assigned by parents who owned a high-quality home library. 3) A reader would stumble upon them in a public library.

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Member Post

 

Ricochet, and conservatism in general, are excellent sources of pessimism. We don’t have any utopian visions like the Left, and the most effective post often seems to a description of how our country is doomed, doomed, I tell you. The Left has captured the populace and will lead hordes of locust-like antifa zombies to despoil […]

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Member Post

 

Welcome to the Harvard Lunch Club Political Podcast for January 3, 2018 – O.M.G. it’s 2018! It is the Crimson Crystal Ball edition of the show with your hosts fortune-teller Todd Feinburg and Swami Mike Stopa. We will peer into the future, part the enveloping mists of chaos and tell you what you can expect […]

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Beauty from Ashes

 


“To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit
of despair.” — Isaiah 61:3

Seven years ago, a mountain in southern Iceland called Eyjafjallajökull erupted. This caused an enormous emission of smoke and ash that covered large areas of northern Europe. Consequently, the majority of European flights from April 14 to 20, 2010 were cancelled, creating the highest level of air travel disruption since the Second World War. Twenty countries closed their airspace to commercial jet traffic and it affected about 10 million travelers. By April 21, the eruption had ended. Since no further lava or ash was being produced, the crisis was declared over and flights returned to normal.

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Looking Back from 2075: The Case for Optimism

 

twenty20_cd8caa36-a91d-4125-b593-f84ced651faf_child_hope_future_optimism-e1472839152581Will people living a half century from now think the 21st century’s been a good one? Economist Brad DeLong explains his optimism:

The reason is simple: the large-scale trends that have fueled global growth since World War II have not stopped. More people are gaining access to new, productivity enhancing technologies, more people are engaging in mutually beneficial trade, and fewer people are being born, thus allaying any continued fears of a so-called population bomb. Moreover, innovation, especially in the global north, has not ceased, even if it has possibly slowed since the 1880s. And while war and terror continue to horrify us, we are not witnessing anything on the scale of the genocides that were a hallmark of the twentieth century.

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What a Time to Be Alive. Really. Why Don’t We Believe It?

 

twenty20_f3243af1-5703-4d84-b4cb-16583a79e80e_tunnel_light_optimism_pessimism-e1471985273737An excellent piece in the UK Spectator by Johan Norberg tackles one of my favorite issues: Why are we so pessimistic these days? After making the case that advanced economy citizens live in a veritable “golden age,” Norberg tries to explain why so many disagree:

In almost every way human beings today lead more prosperous, safer and longer lives – and we have all the data we need to prove it. So why does everybody remain convinced that the world is going to the dogs? Because that is what we pay attention to, as the thoroughbred fretters we are. The psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky have shown that people do not base their assumptions on how frequently something happens, but on how easy it is to recall examples. This ‘availability heuristic’ means that the more memorable an incident is, the more probable we think it is. And what is more memorable than horror? What do you remember best – your neighbour’s story about a decent restaurant which serves excellent lamb stew, or his warning about the place where he was poisoned and threw up all over his boss’s wife?

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Member Post

 

I believe most of us have heard the story of Pandora’s box. The gods create the first woman, and she is given all the gifts. Then, as part of a much more detailed revenge plot, a large jar is left in her presence that she isn’t supposed to open. Having the “gift” of curiosity, she […]

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Hope on a Rope

 

Ron-Paul-Donald-TrumpLike many other Republicans in 2012, I chose to ignore Ron Paul and his supporters as just a deluded fringe element inside the party. “Surely, they can’t be serious,” I said. “No real Republican could ever support a buffoon who espoused policies so clearly out of step with the rest of the Republican Party,” I said.

I was wrong. In retrospect, it wasn’t the message that was attracting people to Ron Paul, it was the medium. Ron Paul’s followers believed in their candidate with a fervor that surpassed anyone else in the field that year because he offered them hope. Ron Paul supporters didn’t just have intellectual knowledge of their candidate, they had faith in him, and the Republican Party chose to ignore their passion. They believed that fever would break, and that Ron Paul’s supporters would find a home inside the Republican Party. They were wrong.

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Member Post

 

By destroying those who have co-opted the GOP for the cronies and luke-warmers, a Trump victory would provide an ideal opportunity for the Tea Party to extend the gains it has made in various local bodies to the highest levels of the national organisation. Mr Trump seems unlikely to wish to mold the Republican Party to his […]

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Pessimistic about Pessimism

 

half-full-glassThings are getting better. Democrats can’t ruin it. Republicans can’t ruin it. Voters can’t ruin it. People are getting vastly richer. Our children will be far better off than we are, no matter how insurmountable the national debt seems to be. Just think about technology. Even if wages stay constant, the things that people buy will get cheaper, and food and energy will continue to be ever-shrinking portions of our budgets.

Morgan Housel wrote an article for The Motley Fool that expresses this perfectly, and has a wonderful explanation for the allure of intelligence surrounding pessimism. Check out this graph (logarithmic, mind you). It’s the ultimate example of “climbing the wall of worry.”

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Rejoice! Rejoice! Victory, oh Victory!

 

shutterstock_158132165The most common form of contemporary conservative electoral argument is flawed in its premise. They argue that we don’t win elections because we don’t follow their advice (give up on social issues / double down on social issues / the same for fiscal issues and/or foreign stuff / use stronger language / use more moderate language / educate the public on abstract issues / stop talking about abstract issues / talk about gaffes more / talk about gaffes less).

In fact, we win elections. We run the legislature in most states, reaching a level of (small d) democratic control rarely seen in American history. We have most governor’s mansions, again, right at the edge of the historical record. We have the House; after decades of suffering from Ike’s neutrality and Watergate, we got it back in 1994 and we’ve mostly kept it. We have the Senate. Even presidentially, we’ve lost just five out of the last twelve races, with the “always losing” argument often resting on the last two. If you decide on the basis of receiving two tails after tossing a coin twice that the coin must be faulty and have no heads on it, you’re probably excessively predisposed that belief.

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Why Conservatives Are Funnier (And More Optimistic) Than Progressives

 

wogbXqWHere’s an excerpt from a C2C Journal article entitled “Why Conservatives Are Funnier Than Liberals.” I think the article makes more sense if you change ‘liberal’ to ‘progressive,’ as I think that term better describes the mindset of people who are pathologically obsessed with perfecting Earthly existence:

By the very nature of their philosophy, conservatives are disposed to be more optimistic and fun-loving than liberals. Liberals (a short hand I’ll use to cover the political spectrum on the left including progressives and socialists) base their outlook on causes, whether eradicating social injustice in our society, eliminating human suffering around the world or saving the planet and every species on it. Try smiling with all that weighing on your psyche when you wake up in the morning.Conservatives accept that the world and its occupants are fallible, and therefore are not as distressed by every manifestation of this imperfection. They know life isn’t always fair, outcomes are unequal and people and nature adapt to changes in their environment. It follows that conservatives are more optimistic because they can imagine how free people are capable of responding to challenging circumstances, rather than being limited by a sense of grievance about past transgressions …

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Which Wise Man of Conservatism is Correct?

 

shutterstock_37832320I have been struck this week by the divergent opinions of two wise men of conservatism, George Will and Victor Davis Hanson. Will thinks Americans are too mired in pessimism:

The world might currently seem unusually disorderly, but it can be so without being unusually dangerous. If we measure danger by the risk of violence, the world is unusually safe. For this and other reasons, Americans should curb their pessimism.

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They Don’t Make Pessimists Like They Used To

 

The End Is Not For A WhileThe Cato Institute recently hosted a talk by Harvard Psychologist Steven Pinker on “Pessimism & Human Progress.” Pinker covers a number of the biases that tip the scales in favor of pessimism: how false positives are perceived as less harmful than false negatives; how the burdens of parenthood make us more aware of risks as we age; how greater refinement and wisdom cause us to notice errors our younger selves would have been oblivious to; how we generally afford greater moral authority to critics than apologists; how we tend to remember drama-laden exceptions while forgetting mundane normalcy, etc. He further argues that, while these biases had and, to a lesser-degree, still have their value, they often lead us astray.

It is, indeed, hard to look at recent history without asking the pessimists for an accounting of themselves. As Pinker has argued at book-length, violence — both state-sanctioned and private — has been in decline for centuries; world poverty is shrinking; we’re still riding the crest of the greatest boon in heath and medicine the world has ever seen. Even problems strongly associated with modernity such as urban crime, abortion, and teen pregnancy are all down.

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Thought for Monday Morning

 

“There are countless horrible things happening all over the world and horrible people prospering, but we must never allow them to disturb our equanimity or deflect us from our sacred duty to sabotage and annoy them whenever possible.”

― Auberon Waugh

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