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.