Optimists

There is a tendency among those of the neoliberal persuasion towards optimism, the confidence that humankind can solve its problems and emerge into a better world, one full of opportunities, choices and chances, and one that will enable more people to live more fulfilled lives. An early exponent of this attitude was Julian Simon, author of "The Ultimate Resource," which was human ingenuity and creativity. Modern representatives of this approach include Matt Ridley, who wrote "The Rational Optimist," and Johan Norberg, author of "Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future." Both authors share Simon's confidence that humans will meet and surmount the challenges they will encounter. Both see the world as far, far better than it was, and both look to an even better future.

The question arises as to which comes first: is it confidence in the power of markets and the spontaneous interaction of millions that draws some to be optimistic about the future? Or is it that temperamental optimism leads people to endorse markets and neoliberalism? There might be another factor, too, in that optimists tend to see the world as it is, using more reason and analysis to evaluate it, rather than an emotional response to how far it falls short of the way it might be imagined. To optimists the evidence is overwhelming that the world is better than it was in terms of offering people better lives. It is also obvious to them that people can, by care, effort and application, make it better still.