Norman Vincent Peale has a lot to answer for. His gospel – that the “power of positive thinking” overcomes all obstacles – infected the executive and investor class in the 50’s and was magnified by the conservative corporatocracy for the next 50 years. They institutionalized it and then grafted it onto their own beliefs, defining “positivity” or optimism as the fulfillment of their wish list. Since they tend to be bi-polar thinkers with little tolerance for, say, nuance, that meant that everything contrary to their beliefs became, ipso facto, “negative”. “Thinking positively” came to mean being positive about their ability to depress wages, subvert regulation, shove their expenses onto the govt and the rest of society (a la Wal-Mart) so they could pocket more of their profits, freely exploit the labor and resources of other countries without blowback, and so on.
Unfortunately, it also meant developing a rigid denial of the inevitable consequences of all that unrestricted self-interest. Global warming, economic stagnation and growing poverty for a majority of the population, peak oil, massive debt, Bush – all of those ticking time bombs and many more were simply denied recognition. “If we don’t see them, they don’t exist.”
That attitude has now infested Wall Street. According to the NY Times, this week’s rally is primarily the result of “positive thinking”.