Dec 16th 2010 | from PRINT EDITION
“HOPE” is one of the most overused words in public life, up there with “change”. Yet it matters enormously. Politicians pay close attention to right-track/wrong-track indicators. Confidence determines whether consumers spend, and so whether companies invest. The “power of positive thinking”, as Norman Vincent Peale pointed out, is enormous.
For the past 400 years the West has enjoyed a comparative advantage over the rest of the world when it comes to optimism. Western intellectuals dreamed up the ideas of enlightenment and progress, and Western men of affairs harnessed technology to impose their will on the rest of the world. The Founding Fathers of the United States, who firmly believed that the country they created would be better than any that had come before, offered citizens not just life and liberty but also the pursuit of happiness.
Now hope is on the move. According to the Pew Research Centre, some 87% of Chinese, 50% of Brazilians and 45% of Indians think their country is going in the right direction, whereas 31% of Britons, 30% of Americans and 26% of the French do. Companies, meanwhile, are investing in “emerging markets” and sidelining the developed world. “Go east, young man” looks set to become the rallying cry of the 21st century.