Cheer up: The pessimists are wrong and America’s future is bright

From, By Dan Hannan | December 29, 2014

(Stock Photo)

(Stock Photo)

How do you think 2015 will be for you? If you’re typical, you’ll be pessimistic; and, if you’re typical, you’ll be wrong. Only 21 percent of Americans agree with the proposition that “life for our children’s generation will be better than it has been for us” — 76 percent disagree.

Well, barring some unforeseeable calamity — what Nassim Taleb would call a “black swan,” or Donald Rumsfeld an “unknown unknown” — the 76 percent are mistaken. The next generation of Americans will lead healthier, happier, more fulfilled lives than the present one.

That sentence could have been written at any time since the Mayflower landed. It would always have been true (for the settlers, at any rate; it was a different story for the indigenous tribes). And it would always have prompted skepticism. No doubt, had opinion polls existed at the time, 76 percent of Puritan emigres, their faces grim and thunderous over their lace ruffs, would have prophesied damnation. And I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if 76 percent of Americans in 1776 weren’t hanging their white-wigged heads in despair at the debt level (or whatever the fashionable panic of the day was).

Anxiety about some imminent catastrophe seems to be hardwired into our genome. We are killing the planet! Our borrowing is unsustainable! Immigration will overwhelm us! The world is frying! We’re overdue for an ice age! We’re overdue for an epidemic! We’re overdue for an asteroid strike!

Every civilization has separately evolved its own End of Days scenario: Ragnarok or Judgment Day or apocalypse or Armageddon. The eschatology varies, but the idea that life as we know it will come to an end doesn’t. Here, to pluck an example more or less at random, is the Zoroastrian version:

At the end of the tenth hundredth winter, the sun is more unseen and more spotted; the year, month, and day are shorter; and the earth is more barren; and the crop will not yield the seed. And a dark cloud makes the whole sky night, and it will rain more noxious things than water.

Which is, more or less, what the eco-extremists tell us today. Seventy months have passed since the heir to the British throne assured us that we had less than 100 months to save the world. Do you imagine that when the 100 months are up, Prince Charles will say: “I was wrong: maybe life is getting better after all”? Of course not: The whole point of looming disaster is that it’s always just around the corner.

And yet, stubbornly, most people in most places at most times keep getting richer. It has been happening for thousands of years, driven by specialization and exchange, and accelerating enormously since the 17th century — nowhere more so than in societies built on free competition, of which the United States is the foremost example.

In 1948, George Orwell was fretting about being watched through massive screens by an all-powerful state. A generation later, we carry our own screens with us — and they place more information in our hands than an entire government department could have managed in Orwell’s day. Foods that were recently exotic and expensive are available on every shelf. We buy clothes so cheaply that we rarely bother mending them. Household appliances do in minutes what might take our grandmothers days. Globally, poverty is being eroded. By any metric — longevity, literacy, infant mortality, calorie intake, height — the human race is improving.

So why the gloom? As Lord Macaulay asked a century and a half ago, “On what principle is it that with nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?”

“This time it’s different,” chorus the pundits, as pundits do in every generation. Pessimism sells. Editors publish it, politicians preach it, voters echo it. But they’re all wrong.

What’s really different this time? The level of immigration? Every generation of Americans has expressed precisely the same fears, with as much apparent cause. The power grabs by President Obama? Not a patch on either of the Roosevelts. A kulturkampf with militant Islam? Try flipping it around, and imagining how the world must seem to an Islamist worried about Westernization in his own country. Look at the clothes people are wearing, the TV they’re watching, the brands they’re buying: Who’s really losing here?

Ah, but what about the borrowing level? An $18 trillion federal debt is unprecedented. Surely here, at least, things can’t carry on as they are? Right. And if things can’t carry on, they won’t. One way or another, there will have to be a haircut, after which a number of federal programs will be shut down or devolved to the 50 states.

The private sector will always, over time, grow faster than the government, because entrepreneurs are smarter, collectively, than bureaucrats. Vast new wealth will be created from 3-D printing, driverless cars, advances in biotechnology and other sectors that we can’t now imagine. State regulators will always be playing catch-up. Free enterprise will outgrow the state, as the jungle swallows up Mayan ruins.

Take just one measure. Cheap energy is a pretty reliable forerunner of growth, lowering production costs, boosting competitiveness and increasing disposable income. Which is why it is so important to pessimists to keep predicting a looming price rise. Well, who called that one right?

Cheer up: Life keeps getting better.

Dan Hannan is a British Conservative member of the European Parliament.

3 responses

  1. Hmmmm…sounds like “Hope and Change” re-packaged. Which shouldn’t surprise us…according to Wikipedia, Dan Hannan endorsed Barack Obama in 2008. He did express regret for that endorsement in 2010, but it should tell us a thing or two about Hannan’s level of intelligence.

    Of course, Hannan hails from jolly old England, an open-air prison camp where the inmates are not allowed to own virtually anything for self-defense…guns, knives, pepper spray…much less carry it.

    And the Brits also imprison mere Mundanes who dare to defend themselves against home invaders. Ask British farmer, Tony Martin.

    I vote that Hannan puts his efforts into freeing the people of Britain and re-establishing their natural rights like the God-given right to self-defense.

    Then…after Hannan has freed his people, he can come to Amerika and help remove the ball and chain from around our necks that he helped put there in 2008…the one that lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in the District of Criminals.

    Many folks like Hannan focus their attention on “optimists” and “pessimists”. There is a third category…the “realist”. And a lot of us realists…realize we done been had by Obama and his minions (current and former) like Hannan.

    We have endured 6 years of Hannan’s endorsement of the illegal alien Kenyan. We have tried Obama’s and Hannan’s “Hope and Change” and we’ve figured out that we’ve been scammed.

    But, Hannan won’t even allow us to address the slow-motion collapse of the remnants of the once-Republic after 8 years of the fascists, Bush-Cheney…now he’s trying to jaw-bone us for “Hope & Change – Part Deux”.

    I’ll pass Hannan. It’s way past time to be realistic and face up to the issues that confront us…and there are plenty.

    For what it’s worth, Hannan is a member of the European Parliament. News flash, Dan! The euro currency experiment is rapidly collapsing. But, no need to address the Euro’s structural issues…just think positive old chap.

    1. Senator_Blutarsky

      I think Lenny posted this as an early April Fools Joke…………..we shall see.

      All stock market crashes are unforeseen for most people, especially economists. This is the first lesson of history.

      “In a few months I expect to see the stock market much higher than today.” Those words were pronounced by Irving Fisher, America’s distinguished and famous economist, Professor of Economics at Yale University, 14 days before Wall Street crashed on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929.

      “A severe depression such as 1920-21 is outside the range of probability. We are not facing a protracted liquidation.” This was the analysis offered days after the crash by the Harvard Economic Society to its subscribers. After continuous and erroneous optimistic forecasts, the Society closed its doors in 1932. Thus, the two most renowned economic forecasting institutes in America at the time failed to predict a crash and depression were forthcoming, and continued with their optimistic views, even as the Great Depression took hold of America.

      Irving Fisher lost $140 million (in today’s dollars) in the stock market crash, according to his biographer son, Irving Norton Fisher. Fisher was a man of many talents, a great economist, an excellent theoretician, one of the founders of econometrics, and a pioneer in index number analysis. He was also the inventor of the kardex index file system, which he sold to Remington Rand for millions, and subsequently lost in the crash. John Maynard Keynes, the most famous British economist, who made fortunes in the financial markets for himself and Cambridge University, lost 156 million (in today’s pounds) in the crash, according to biographer Professor Skidelski.

      As Fred Rexer used to say, “We are living in the world that Hitler warned us about.”

  2. Senator_Blutarsky

    Here are some observations by an intellectually honest “progressive”…… slightly contrasts the ‘happy talk’ by the drooling , brain-dead Hannan. Think as you wish.

    Thoughts On New Year’s Eve

    By Stephen Lendman

    Heading into 2015, things look grim. Domestically and abroad. US presidents able to govern like despots. Unilaterally claim emergency powers.

    Declare martial law. Suspend constitutional rights. Rule by diktat. With or without congressional and/or judicial authority.

    Based on alleged national security threats. Real or contrived. Deploying US combat troops on US streets at their discretion.

    Unheard of in so-called democracies. Wage naked aggression on their say. Order anyone killed anywhere for any reason.

    Including US citizens. Or detain them indefinitely. With no formal charges filed. No trial. No habeas rights. No judicial fairness.

    Presidents can exercise judge, jury and executioner authority. Targeting anyone they wish. Have Big Brother watch everyone.

    Wage war on freedom. Eliminate it altogether at their discretion. Based on so-called national security priorities.

    Scapegoat Muslims as enemies of choice. Wage war on Black America. Target whistleblowers for exposing government wrongdoing.

    Threaten press freedom. Public assemblies. Peaceful protests. Secret evidence can be used to convict.

    Withheld from defense lawyers. What better definition of police state lawlessness.

    Serving monied interests exclusively. Handing America’s wealth to Wall Street. War profiteers. Other corporate favorites.

    Letting popular needs go begging. During protracted Main Street Depression conditions. Economist Michael Hudson’s newest book is titled “The Bubble and Beyond.”

    From “industrial capitalism to finance capitalism and debt peonage.” Including chapters on “fictitious capital, debt deflation and global crisis.”

    Fueled by money printing madness at near zero interest rates. Benefitting investors at the expense of ordinary people.

    Creating a “new neo-feudal rentier class.” Financial elites demanding debt-strapped cities like Detroit sell off their crown jewels.

    At fire sale prices. Using cash raised to service debt. The same dynamic occurring in Europe. Rentiers buying roads. Charging tolls.

    Privatizing Chicago’s parking meters. Ticketing irresponslbly. Revenues accruing to city authorities.

    Scared parkers feeding meters with quarters. Benefitting Chicago Parking Meters LLC. Ripping of people for profit.

    Buying prisons. Schools. Bridges. Other basic infrastructure. “(B)uilding financial charges and tollbooth rents into the prices charged for access to these essential, hitherto public services,” Hudson explains.

    “Prices are rising not because costs and wages are rising, but because of monopoly rents and other rent-extraction activities.”

    Today’s environment reflects “debt-strapped austerity. (E)mpowering the financial sector…”

    Operating like oligarchs. Like 19th century landlords. Making money not by lending.

    By direct ownership. Charging “economic rent.” Hudson explained the ” ‘economic collapse’ stage of the financialized bubble economy.”

    “Coping with this legacy and financial power grab will be the great political fight for the remainder of the 21st century.”

    Disproportionate wealth concentrated in economies’ top tier reflects “the dysfunctional result of economic parasitism.”

    “(D)ebts that can’t be repaid won’t be…” When things eventually collapse, ordinary people will suffer most.

    Inequality and economic despair will be greater than ever. It can happen any time. Maybe next year.

    Imagine what young people today have to look forward to. Imagine grim futures they face. Imagine opportunities older generations had no longer available.

    Imagine highly educated people pumping gas. Waiting on tables. Driving cabs. Many unable to find any steady remunerative work.

    Imagine grim futures no one should face. While US waged wars rage without end. Wall Street crooks manipulate markets for profit.

    America’s middle class disappearing entirely. Poverty at third world country levels. Growing homelessness and hunger.

    Social services disappearing when most needed. Organized labor a shadow of its former self. Public education commodified into another business profit center.

    Benefits eroding. Wages not keeping up with inflation. US streets turned into battlegrounds. Militarized police terrorize America’s most disadvantaged.

    Freedom disappearing in plain sight. Poverty, hopelessness and despair replacing it.

    America being transformed into a ruler/serf society. Resisters declared enemies of the state. Facing gulag imprisonment.

    While monied interests never had things better. Profiting like never before. Washington’s criminal class aiding and abetting them.

    Fascism has America in a death grip. Concentrated wealth and power greater than ever.

    Tyranny is the coin of the realm. Wrapped in the American flag. Democracy is pure fantasy. Existing in name only.

    Powerful elites run things for their own interests. At the expense of ordinary people shut out entirely.

    Mass media a propaganda bullhorn. Suppressing what people most need to know. Substituting managed news misinformation rubbish.
    Manipulating people irresponsibly.

    Force-feeding austerity when stimulus is needed. An earlier article discussed John Maynard Keynes “Open Letter” to Franklin Roosevelt. During Depression era hard times.

    Urging “spend, spend, spend.” Supply “cheap and abundant credit.” Stress “speed and quick” recovery.

    Focus on “increas(ing) the national output.” Boost purchasing power by “put(ting people back to work.” On good high-paying jobs.

    “(I)ncrease aggregate purchasing power.” Undertake “a large volume of loan expenditures under government auspices.”

    Choose projects able “to mature quickly on a large scale.” Roosevelt, in part, followed Keynes’ advice.

    Obama is no Roosevelt. Benefitting business at the expense of people. Making America more than ever unfit to live in.

    Things already unbearable for many. Perhaps 2015 will be a watershed year. Expect things to be worse, not better.

    More wars. Death and destruction. Human misery. Deepening poverty, deprivation and despair. In the world’s richest country.

    Using its resources for ill, not good. Business as usual persists. Next year perhaps worse than ever.

    America’s criminal class makes anything possible. Harder than ever hard times looks likely.

    Revolutionary change urgently needed. The alternative is too grim to imagine.

    Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

    His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

    Visit his blog site at

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