Predictors of Doom Are Notoriously Wrong

>> Friday

In a Newsweek article, Daniel Gross surveys America's economic recovery from the Great Recession and explains some of the elements that helped.

He doesn't try to explain why so many experts (and people who should know better) seem so hell-bent on scaring us with dire predictions of the future. But he doesn't really have to, because I've already explained it so eloquently here: Why is News so Negative?

But he does a beautiful job of highlighting the kind of pessimism that ruins so many perfectly good moods. Here's an excerpt from the article:

The current pessimism is part of a historical economic inferiority complex. To hear some critics tell it, things have been going south in this country since the cruel winter in Jamestown, Va., in 1609, when most of the settlers died.

And for most of the 19th century, America was the immature, uncouth cousin that required huge infusions of European capital to build its railroads. The U.S. emerged from World War II as the globe's industrial, financial, and technological leader by default—the rest of the developed world had destroyed much of its industrial capacity. Yet Americans were insecure about their rising status.

In the 1920s, many Progressives returned from Mussolini's Italy convinced that Il Duce had a superior economic model. During the New Deal, bankers and industrialists earnestly fretted that Franklin Roosevelt would ruin the nation's prospects for growth by establishing a new safety net. The U.S.S.R.'s launch of the sputnik satellite in 1957 inspired fears that the Soviet Union's presumed technological lead would allow it to triumph in the Cold War.

And in the 1980s, Japan threatened the U.S. with exports of electronics and cars and by buying trophy properties like Rockefeller Center and the Pebble Beach golf resort. "The Cold War is over, and Japan won," as Sen. Paul Tsongas put it in 1992.

Pessimism fixates attention better, so those are the predictions that get published. Find out why: The Normal Course of Events Will Almost Inevitably Lead to a Pessimistic View of the World.

The Newsweek article is worth reading. Check it out: The Story of America's Amazing Comeback.

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