In his first inaugural address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared, “So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is … fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

FDR was wrong. Far worse than nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror is nameless, unreasoning, unjustified optimism which leads to catastrophic blunders that would not have occurred if potential costs and risks had been properly weighed in advance. The greatest thing we have to fear is … optimism itself.

More… “Our Greatest Enemy: Optimism”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.


The economy is still so weak that one in eight Americans now relies on food stamps to help pay their grocery bills, and yet in May, Mission Minis — a San Francisco purveyor of expensive pygmy cupcakes — experienced such high demand that its exhausted employees were threatening to quit after several marathon days of grueling baked goods preparation. To satisfy the city’s appetite for these Justin Biebers of the dessert world, one Mission Minis employee reportedly spent 52 hours baking, boxing, and taking orders.

All across the country, Average Joe small businesses are enjoying similar boom times in the midst of a recession that has laid the titans of Wall Street to waste. An “unassuming, slightly cramped” spa in New York with a reputation for rudeness suddenly attracts 2,570 blotchy Manhattanites in search of deep-pore cleansing. A… More…


It seems a bit mean spirited to say that Reading, Pennsylvania feels like an RV kind of town, but that’s what I honestly thought as I pulled up to the Greater Reading Expo Center for its 2009 RV Show.

There were several reasons for this. Some were simply aesthetic. The Expo Center itself is part of a former manufacturing facility, and pipes and tanks crowd the view immediately to the right of the entrance. Looking back out over the parking lot, you can see the Reading Pagoda on a hilltop in the distance. A former owner of the land built it there in 1908; criticized for defacing the hillside with a stone quarry, he didn’t restore the natural landscape but instead built the seven-story pagoda after seeing one on a postcard from the Philippines.

Other reasons were more… More…