Thursday, November 22, 2012


As I sit here staring at my iPad, straining to find some pithy analogy befitting the moment (Thanksgiving morning), so many things come to mind. It occurs to me that while you and I may disagree on certain issues of the day—health care reform, government debt, “entitlement” programs, global warming, taxing the “rich”, regulations, etc.—we would yet find common ground on the deeper sentiments, the blessings of family, of health, of liberty and so on.

Here’s a little message we all can relate to — from my soon to be released daily devotional Leaving Liberty?, Essays on Politics and Free Market Thinking.

Wishing You and Yours a Very Happy Thanksgiving!!


DAY 1: The Good Old Days

When I look to the future I get very nervous, but when I look to the past I feel pretty good.—James Buchanan

I’m generally not one for reminiscing, but the other day I found myself in the throes of a sentimental moment. A friend forwarded me an e-mail titled To Those of Us Born 1925–1970, and man did it ever take me back. Back to my childhood, to a simpler time, to a time when kids could entertain themselves for hours on end—without the luxuries of video games or cable television. I literally got goose bumps as I was reminded of how my pals and I would pile into the backs of our parents’ pickups after Little League games. But now that I think about it, I’m not entirely sure whether my goose bumps were inspired by nostalgia or by my memories of how friggin’ cold it was riding in the back of a truck.

Ah, the good old days, when the future seemed so bright! Like during the Great Depression, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy’s assassination, Nixon’s resignation, the Arab oil embargo (remember those gas lines?), the Cold War, 19 percent mortgage rates, the junk bond scandal, the savings and loan crisis, the Mexican and Asian currency crises, the 1987 crash, the tech bubble, September 11, 2001, the real estate bubble, and the myriad events between all those I just listed? Seriously, if you were born between 1925 and 1970—or from 1970 on, for that matter—how often were you truly looking to the future with optimism?

In the words of economist James Buchanan, “When I look to the future I get very nervous, but when I look to the past I feel pretty good.”

Now in spite of my calamitous chronology of the past eighty-five years, I believe those of us born in the heart of the twentieth century indeed have much to be thankful for. Life was blissfully less complicated back when the notion of paying even a nickel (let alone a buck-fifty) for a bottle of water, as we drank from garden hoses, would have seemed utterly absurd. Yet while we will forever romanticize our past, we nonetheless strive mightily to make life more comfortable for ourselves and for our posterity. And clearly we have succeeded beyond our wildest expectations.

Pessimists consider themselves realists, and they call optimists idealists. But like Buchanan, when I look to the past and consider how far we’ve come, I’m thinking the optimists had it right.

Of course we have issues. We’ve always had issues, and of course we always will. You may indeed be pessimistic—you indeed have reason to be—and you’ll indeed be proven right every now and again. Or you may be an optimist—you indeed have reason to be—and you’ll indeed be proven right every now and again as well.

I have often wondered if we even have a choice, in terms of those predispositions. Perhaps it’s a chemical thing, or maybe it’s environmental. Speaking for myself, particularly when we’re talking public policy, I concede to both. But again, when I look at the world in retrospect, when my thinking transcends the headlines of the day, I can’t help but be optimistic in the long run.

If you consider yourself a “realist,” no offense—I did not intend here to criticize you. For as the buyer needs the seller, you are every bit as essential to the market’s function as the optimist.

Or, for that matter, if you’re an optimist, I did not intend here to inflate your ego. For you are the pessimist’s pawn. When Gloomy Gus gets it right, there has to be some bleary-eyed buyer to sell to.

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