Neo-Liberal Revolution

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Optimism, what's it good for?

I made a remark on Blackfive that conservatives were optimists. I got this response...

"conservatives optimists? That's one of the funniest damn things I have heard in a longggggg time!! Good one!"

I know that I'm an optimist. I'm also something of an idealist. It's common wisdom that the older a person gets the more cynical they get but the older I get the more optimistic I get... particularly about people. I used to wonder how people got through the day, how children grew up emotionally healthy, how ends are met when so many people are so hopeless. As I get older I realize that it all happens one day at a time, each hopeless person taking care of just what they can take care of and because we all do that it adds up to some incredibly impressive effort and highly functional result. As I get older I value idealism more and more for the way it empowers all of us relatively hopeless people to try for something better and believe something better.

I won't say that optimism is a conservative virtue. It might be a classical liberal virtue. One thing it is most certainly NOT is a modern liberal virtue. There is nothing at all optimistic about liberalism today. What do liberal commenters on the blogs I read say?

They say the Iraq war is a disaster. Nothing good can happen. The Iraqi people can not function in a democracy. If only the doom sayers had been listened to we could have avoided all this pointlessness. Iraq would be a horrible place, but it's going to be a horrible place no matter what.

When the recent report came out that conservatives out reproduce liberals by something like 41%? The liberal commenters talked about selfishness in the face of a doomed future, overpopulation and the health of the earth. People are a cancer on the world and the future is dire. The whole environmental movement is based, not on how good things *could* be if we make changes, but how doomed the world is.

Having children is optimistic. Not having children because the future is going to suck is *pessimistic*.

You know that song... lyrics go something like... "War. What's it good for? Absolutely nothing." I think that liberals today should be singing "Optimism, what's it good for?" Because they aren't optimistic about ANYTHING.


  • At 5:11 AM, Blogger mdfay said…

    Glad to see you're still posting! One of my personal observations about the current political situation echoes your posting. There is an interesting book by University of Pennsylvania researcher and professor Dr. Martin Seligman titled "Learned Optimism". The opposite of learned optimism is learned helplessness. I find it ironic that the progressive/liberal side of the isle is displaying of late many of the measurable charactieristics of learned helplessness and it's wicked red headed step-child, pessimism.

  • At 1:15 PM, Blogger Jonathan said…

    My perception is also that left-wingers have tended for decades to be relatively pessimistic while right-wingers have tended to be relatively optimistic. You can see it in the kind of science fiction they write.

    However, the division of political opinions into only two camps, left and right, seems a considerable over-simplification. As a libertarian myself (albeit a British libertarian, not quite the same as an American one!), I ally myself with neither left nor right, and regard both as old-fashioned.

    Even if you look at your own American political parties, I think there are factions within each party. A large political party is an uncertain alliance between people of significantly different opinions.

  • At 2:29 PM, Blogger Synova said…

    Thanks for stopping by, Jonathan.

    You're right that political parties are not so clearly divided. I lean libertarian and would like to know how the British sort are different. I know that the word liberal doesn't really translate either.

  • At 2:16 AM, Blogger Jonathan said…

    The correct meaning of "liberal" is similar to "libertarian", but its meaning has been so twisted in the USA that American believers in freedom felt obliged to come up with a new word for themselves (libertarians).

    If you call yourself "liberal" in the UK, some people might understand the original and correct meaning. Most will probably assume you're a supporter of the Liberal Democrats, the third largest political party, whose ideology is hard to identify. However, in practice it currently seems somewhere to the left of the Labour Party.

    I think the main difference between me and American libertarians is that I'm not a gun enthusiast. I understand and sympathize with the good arguments in favour of gun ownership, but I also see good arguments against it; and personally I've never felt the need or desire to own a gun. I've spent all my life in countries where civilians don't normally own guns, and frankly I rather like it that way. Seems to me, the more people who have guns, the more likely I am to get shot by someone.

    I honestly don't know what the best solution is to the gun problem. If I had to decide government policy on the issue, I'd find it very difficult.


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