The Gift of Hopelessness

Most expressions of hope, such as “I hope so,” are statements which reflect our foolishness. We believe that we can go on doing what we are doing, or try something different which reflects only a slight modification of what we are doing, and somehow the outcome will be different.

Perhaps you have heard this parable. One evening while out for a walk, a person sees her neighbor looking under a streetlight for something. She stops and asks, “Can I help you?”

“I’m looking for my keys,” replies the neighbor. They search and search under the streetlight and find nothing.

Finally, the person asks, “Are sure you dropped your keys here?”

“Actually,” the neighbor replies, “I don’t think I dropped them here, but I thought I’d look here because here is where light is.”

This little parable has universal meaning, because it reflects an aspect of the universal condition—at times, each of us has looked for something where it could never be found.

Albert Einstein understood our universal condition when he wrote, “The world we have made, as a result of the level of thinking we have done so far, creates problems we cannot solve at the same level at which we created them.”

President Obama writes of the “audacity of hope.” Audacious is derived from the Latin audere, “to dare.” Audacity means having boldness where others fear to go. I have met many people who have the audacity to believe they can go on thinking and behaving as they always have and yet, at the same time, believe that somehow things will magically change.

Consider Secretary Geithner’s latest Congressional testimony in which he again assured us that his latest plan will work: “Congressman, this plan will work…It just requires will; It’s not about ability. We just need to keep at it.” Now that is the “audacity of hope.” Geithner believes his mind is so powerful that he has designed a plan so perfect that all he has to do is “keep at it” and his goals will be accomplished. Perhaps he also wills beating Tiger Woods in a round of golf.

Far better to be hopeless. Then, out of despair, the mind readies itself to accept fresh alternatives. If Geithner, Obama, and the American people felt hopelessness about our economic crisis, they might be ready to consider real alternatives such as abolishing the Fed, slashing spending and taxes, and returning to the gold standard. The Campaign for Liberty has a page with many fine links concerning sound economic policy, as does the Ludwig Von Mises Institute.

The other day I was talking to a colleague who remarked, “Well, something they are doing is bound to work.” The fact that so many have this view—that we can keep doing more of what hasn’t worked but hope that the outcome will be different—is a sign of how very far we are from beginning the process of real change.


3 Responses to The Gift of Hopelessness

  1. Tesh says:

    Vague feelgoodisms are always easier to sell than concrete uncomfortable realities. Ron Paul was mocked mercilessly (and ignorantly) for calling for a recession before we got an outright depression. Unfortunately, a Depression is often the only way to get people to wake up and realize that their vague “hope” really isn’t a strategy.

    It’s one thing to have a positive attitude, it’s quite anther to be blithely ignorant of reality and pretend that “anything is possible if you just believe”. Mind you, I love Disney, but the blind hope that has permeated our culture, aided and abetted by the Disneyish (cartoonish) idea that belief and hope are all that are necessary, is downright dangerous.

  2. Cojo says:

    I do not know if the Geithner plan will work but what I do know is that I have not seen much in the way of a coherent alternative proposal from the critics. Should government stand aside and let the big banks that are in trouble collapse and risk collateral damage to other healthy banks and potentially other sectors of the economy? If some government intervention is required is the role of government to ensure a controlled demolition of failing banks or should they attempt to restore these institutions, some or all, to health ? If government should “save” institutions that are deemed “too big to fail”, because of the risk of an outright financial system collapse, how much resource in time and money should be spent in the pursuit of this goal?

    Further some prescribe cutting taxes and slashing government spending as a way to address the current economic malaise…but this is not a prescription unless some real numbers are provided as well. By what percentage should taxes be cut and government spending slashed so that it has a net positive effect and gets the economic engine going again ? The Obama plan already has a proposal to cut taxes, but some say it is not enough. My point is this. This is a complex problem without clear black and white solutions. If there was an easy clear cut solution it would have been found and implemented already.Let us admit that.

  3. Tesh,

    A tough sell indeed. When we finally hit bottom and real despair sets in, let’s hope that the alternative that is chosen is toward more liberty. See, there goes that darn hope word. History teaches that tyranny is usually chosen.


    I do want to make clear that no one claims to have an alternative that will avoid pain. The Mish Shedlock blog, Lew,, among other sites, daily explains in detail why the current plans cannot work and what the alternatives are.

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