The Redistribution of Hope

Optimism is on the move—with important consequences for both the hopeful and the hopeless

“HOPE” is one of the most overused words in public life, up there with “change”. Yet it matters enormously. Politicians pay close attention to right-track/wrong-track indicators. Confidence determines whether consumers spend, and so whether companies invest. The “power of positive thinking”, as Norman Vincent Peale pointed out, is enormous.

For the past 400 years the West has enjoyed a comparative advantage over the rest of the world when it comes to optimism. Western intellectuals dreamed up the ideas of enlightenment and progress, and Western men of affairs harnessed technology to impose their will on the rest of the world. The Founding Fathers of the United States, who firmly believed that the country they created would be better than any that had come before, offered citizens not just life and liberty but also the pursuit of happiness.

Not that the West was free of appalling brutality. Indeed, the search for Utopia can bring out the worst as well as the best in mankind. But the notion that the human condition was susceptible to continual improvement sat more comfortably with Western scientific materialism than with, say, the caste system in India or serfdom in Russia.

Now hope is on the move. According to the Pew Research Centre, some 87% of Chinese, 50% of Brazilians and 45% of Indians think their country is going in the right direction, whereas 31% of Britons, 30% of Americans and 26% of the French do. Companies, meanwhile, are investing in “emerging markets” and sidelining the developed world. “Go east, young man” looks set to become the rallying cry of the 21st century. Read more…

As published in The Economist on December 16, 2010 (Print Edition)



Rita December 19, 2010 - 7:38 am

I’m not a big econ buff, but this really speaks volumes to me in terms of what a global society we are now and the equilibrium of “life”. Meaning the western world may no longer be able to keep the non-eastern world out of their competitive market, thus their wages and the such must adjust, which means standard of living may have to come down to meet wage levels of foreign countries. Either that or great innovation is about to inspire.

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