The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

An optimist and a damned fool are the same thing

Back in April I noted that the fools (and yes, they were fools) who kept mocking the right for being dead, and believing their own propaganda, were full of it.

Enjoy mocking Republicans all you want, but in your cold hard calculating heart, take them very very seriously.

Of course, Huffington Post didn’t promote that piece, because back then those of us throwing the cold water of realism on the fevered delusions of Obamadom were out of favor.

So how’d that work out for the reality denying triumphalists?  Hmmm?

Mind you, Obama and the Democratic leadership screwed things up even faster than I, whom most people consider a pessimist, expected.  Leading me to conclude that the rule of Bush is now the rule of Obama.

“Obama is more incompetent than you think he is, even if you take this rule into account.”

Also, optimists and damn fools are the same thing, at least when it comes to analysis.  It may be good for your health to be unrealistic about the future, but it makes you bloody lousy at predicting the future.  Thinking back to major analytical mistakes I’ve made in the last 5 years, only two of them were due to negative expectations, and one of those was actually optimism in pessimism drag: I thought the Fed would not be so foolish as to keep the housing and financial bubbles going for as long as they did.

My grandmother told me that an optimist and a damn fool were the same thing when I was 5, and so far nobody has ever shown me otherwise.  Lord knows, Obama isn’t going to, and neither are any of his Obots.

Pessimism is usually, actually, realism.  Because most people have an optimistic bias.  Their optimism feeds them the delusions they need to get through their lives.


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  1. And I thought I was a downer…

    The old expression “Plan for the worst, hope for the best” works for me. At least it gives me something to hope for, and I’m not too disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Usually.

  2. Ian Welsh

    I find a good dose of pessimism by decision makers makes bad outcomes far less likely, as long as it doesn’t turn into learned helplessness.

    And certainly there are eras where optimism is much more warranted (50s and 60s, on many issues or periods during Republican Rome, say). But this ain’t one of those eras.

    Despite all the progressive mockery of pony thinking, too many people thought Obama was going to produce ponies when there was little evidence he even intended to try; indeed that he wasn’t planning on setting up a glue factory to liquidate any ponies around.

    I think, actually, when it comes to personal life, cautious optimism is healthy (there’s a ton of research backing this up). I just think that generalized optimism makes for bad analysis as a general rule. A while back there was a study that showed that the only people who had an accurate view of the world were people who were clinically depressed, actually.

    Of course, being depressed sucks. But when it comes to predictions, well…

  3. Jerome Carpenter

    “The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.” –James Branch Cabell.

    Ian, I just discovered your site, thanks to Joseph Cannon–it’s always good to find another open-eyed pessimist/cynic, and I’ll be a daily visitor here from now on. I would like to know more about this intriquing study you mentioned, re clinically depressed people.

  4. Lex

    Ah yes, those heady days…what was that, two months ago…when Change was in the air and Hope lifted all boats. The Democrats had secured every voter now under 35 for all eternity and the Republican Party would soon be a malformed footnote of history.

    I’m not an optimist by any stretch of the imagination, but if one must succumb to it, it’s best to remember that they aren’t chickens until they’ve hatched, grown up and either started laying more eggs or are ready for the dinner plate.

    The lesson that won’t be learned is, of course, that if Obama was doing the things he campaigned on doing and being the leader he promised he would be Coakely probably could have not campaigned and still won. Unfortunately, i doubt that will be the lesson taken from this. It will be someone else’s fault. There will be the conclusion that the Democratic Party needs to move more to the right. Whatever lesson Obama, Rahm and the leadership take from this will assuredly be the wrong one.

    I remember that study, Ian (checked for a link but it no longer works). It explained a lot.

  5. Croak!

    (The Raven, croaking the moderate way since last spring.)

  6. gtash

    It seems readers here are generally “glass half-empty” folks. I know I tend this way. And Ian’s call on the rebound of conservatives was on the mark. From where I stand, they fumbled the ball, but have forced Obama to punt. And he is a great believer in punting, waiting, and trying for short yardage gains with down-and-outs to the sidelines. And this seems to result in very few first downs, and more punting.

    That’s just me. And I even hate sports metaphors.

  7. Lori

    One of the things I get tired of hearing about is Obama’s great intelligence. I just don’t see it. Is he smarter than Bush? Sure, by a measure. But the thing I know about smart people – really smart people – is that they find innumerable ways of showing their stuff off. They invent stuff. They write stuff about something besides themselves. They get stuff done that changes other people’s lives in a significant way. They figure stuff out that puzzled Newton. They set precedents. And none of that exists with Obama.

    The idea that he was an intellectual was always a joke. And so much of the fantasy about Obama in the White House was that he was so blazingly brilliant that he would endlessly out think, out smart, out wit, out maneuver the Republicans by coming up with policies that were so precisely calibrated, so finely targeted, so beautifully explained, that the Republicans would be forced to admit his general superiority and come along for the ride.

    I never saw anything but a monstrously narcissistic ego, with, as is the case for those afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder, no accomplishments to validate the belief. Save getting himself elected, Obama has nothing to call his own.

  8. jo6pac

    The have the same arrogance as the last group and will they learn anything or continue the great rip off of the citizens of this country and spreading death/destruction around the planet. My money is on they continue. I would like to be wrong. Sad

  9. nihil obstet

    The proof of a malevolent universe is that optimists are so happy.

  10. KZK

    Stirling nailed it a year and a half ago in:

    And also David Brin (Apply this quote to Obama):
    “The worst Bush era anti-virtue was certainty.

    The kind of absolute certainty manifested by a clade that demolished the very same Pax Americana they claimed to love, by pursuing, with absolute determination (plus contempt for all criticism) policies that proved to be at-best wrong, and often criminally delusional.”
    –David Brin

  11. gtash – I’m one of those folks who say the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

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