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Tyler Cowen

America’s National Mood Disorder

Negativity about politics may be justified, but there are reasons for optimism in other aspects of U.S. society, such as technology and business.

The current state of political discourse.

The current state of political discourse.

Photographer: David McNew/Getty Images North America

America is in a bad mood. Granted, this is a subjective impression, but it is common, and there is no shortage of analyses of it, examining everything from social media to income inequality. I would like to try on for size the simplest possible explanation: If Americans are much more negative than they used to be, it is mostly about politics, and in recent decades political failure has become much more pervasive than it used it be.

The result is a kind of national mood disorder. I am not so naïve as to think politics will suddenly become less important in America anytime soon. But conditions can change quickly, and outside of politics the outlook is more positive.