Man at Occupy Wall Street

Frowning: The New Smiling?

To proclaim, “Have a positive attitude,” is to tell people to embrace delusions.  I am not advocating for pessimism, instead I am advocating for pragmatism.  It should never matter whether the cup is half empty or half full.  The real question should be, “Waiter, where is the rest of my drink?”

Everyone has problems.  However, there is a nationwide dilemma concerning how people answer their predicaments.  America’s collective  ideology has been stagnated by “positive thinking” [article].  Many believe that if we think our problems are easy to overcome then the problem will be easier to vanquish.  Our capabilities will rise to meet our phantom projections and whatever we imagine will be realized.

This belief seems childish to me; “positive thinking” seems to be something lifted straight out of a kids movie.  When our PG protagonist believe he can emerge victorious, he shall indeed emerge victorious.  When you and I truly believe something we are in fact not granted superpower.  Otherwise, I swear I would be a millionaire by now. (I certainly believe I can be one, so why is it not so?)

This is the difference between ‘The Little Engine That Could’ and Icarus.

We can measure the negative results of positive thinking.  You have to look no further than our latest recession.  Lehman Brothers, Countrywide, and AIG all were swallowed by the willful ignorance of positive thinking.  They believed only good things would happen and bad trends would be absent due to positive thinking..  According to journalist and author Barbara Ehrenreich, in her speech Smile or Die, people in these firms who raised issue with the overly idealized projections were censured and fired.  Those who said the real estate bubble could not indefinitely rise up were told to shut up.

In a world of positive thinking, nobody wants to listen to pragmatic realism.  It is not as profitable as the illusions of positive thinking.  The recession happened because recklessness prevailed over reality until a tidal wave of truth swamped the economy.

Even President George Bush Jr. fell victim to positive thinking.  Members of his staff never voiced their doubts about the Iraq invasion because the president hated to be around “pessimists.”  Those that did, such as one general who insisted that we needed to double the troops in Iraq successfully stabilize the country, was removed from duty.  Today, Iraq has largely fallen under Iranian influence just as the final Americans troops are leaving, [article].  I believe being  realism and pessimism are separate and it is wrong to label anyone as a pessimist simply because they believe the majority opinion is wrong.

Positive thinking has allowed whole communities of Americans to choose walk the easiest path, where life is idealized and inherently flawed, as opposed to best way, where doubts are accounted for.  Journalist Adam Davidson just wrote an excellent article concerning how many of the correct economic predictions over the last decade came from fringe economists.  I believe this miscarriage of math is based the pitfalls of positive thinking and greed.

Mainstream economists, indeed thinkers of every science, favor telling people what they want to hear rather than what the reality may actually be.  This is how they make money.  If they disagree with clients their positive-thinking clients go elsewhere to find a more agreeable, but not necessarily more corrected, opinion.

One example of this positive thinking is the infamous Laffer Curve.  The economics model catered to Reaganomics.  It made men rich; therefore, it became mainstream and widely adopted.    Later, its popularity waned upon the public discovering it was overly idealized and actually hurt the economy.  Many economists had spoken out against the Laffer Curve.  They were ignored because their views conflicted with the positive thinking ideology of where the projections of the Laffer Curve would make reality conform to itself.  The long-term economy suffered because these men too were unfairly labeled pessimists and were ignored.

Fringe economists are willing to disagree with what is most profitable when it conflicts to what is actually feasible.  They become fringe economists simply because of this disagreement; fewer people listen to them because they are willing to disagree with overly idealized projections of positive thinking.  The most reliable projections for the market come from the fringe because they are the realists who are willing to put their foot down instead of caving to what is most profitable.  We need to start listening to men who go against the grain to see the world as it actually is.  Positive thinking is blocking us seeing reality.  It should be censured, just it silenced all those who conflicted with it.