Maybe like you, I consume huge amounts of media each day. In my home office, Bloomberg or CNBC are usually on in the background. When out and about, I regularly check on my iPhone the Market and “Breaking News”- whatever that means. I visit daily IndustryWeek’s website, and read the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. Each week I devour the Economist.
I also encourage my students to do the same, and, in fact, require a WSJ subscription for each of my courses, along with the dreaded fill-in-the-blank quizzes every couple of weeks.
The conventional wisdom, of course, is that a well-informed business leader is a more effective one.
But, maybe like you again, all of this information, especially recently, has jaded me.
Since Bear Stearns went caput in March 2008, I have found myself becoming ever more negative, cynical, and even somewhat terrified of the future.
I regularly wonder if the next 10, 20, 50 years will be worse than the past – maybe much worse. That America may be in inexorable decline; that our best days might be behind us. That terrorism, increased governmental intervention, climate change, population growth, resource scarcity, and other unknowns will make things more expensive and business much more difficult.
Further, as our son was preparing to go off to college, I was becoming increasingly anxious that even if he does all the right things, he will not enjoy the same quality of life and possibilities I have.
I was getting scared.
But was this rational? Was I missing the bigger picture?
I just re-read Matt Ridley’s latest book The Rational Optimist. Check it out. It is a wake-up call.
Ridley forcefully argues the world will pull out of the current crisis for the simple reason that markets in goods, services, and ideas allow human beings to exchange and specialize honestly for the betterment of all. That despite the temptation to moan, the world is as good a place today to live as it ever has been for the average human being – even now in the Great Recession. That it is richer, healthier, and kinder too.
Just one quote from the book:
“The vast majority of people today are much better fed, much better sheltered, much better entertained, much better protected against disease and much more likely to live to live to old age than their ancestors have ever been… Even allowing for the hundreds of millions who still live in abject poverty, disease and want, this generation of human beings has access to more calories, watts, lumen-hours, square feet, gigabytes, megahertz, light-years, nanometers, bushels per acre, miles per gallon, food miles, air miles, and of course dollars, than any that went before.”
And because of humanity’s insatiable ability to innovate, specialize, and trade, the 21st Century will be a magnificent time to be alive.
I think Ridley is right. Things ARE getting better, despite all of the "news" to the contrary.