But what basis do Americans have to suppose that, for the first time in history, a younger generation will be worse off than their parents? Perhaps it's just a feeling that things cannot possibly get any better. In any case, we seem to be in a pronounced national funk.
We might take some comfort in some of the trends of opinion in the rest of the world. In China and India, large majorities think the next generation will be better off -- a vote of confidence in their surging economies, which are providing cheaper products for us and are growing as markets for American goods and services. In Latin America, most believe that people are better off with free markets. (The highest percentage was in Hugo Chavez's socialist Venezuela!) In Africa, most express great optimism in the future -- a sign that the world's most troubled continent may be at last turning around.
Perhaps most importantly, the Pew Global survey showed sharply reduced numbers of Muslims saying that suicide bombings are often or sometimes justified as compared with 2002. That's still the view of 70 percent in the Palestinian territories. But that percentage has declined from 74 percent to 34 percent in Lebanon, from 43 percent to 23 percent in Jordan, and from 33 percent to 9 percent in Pakistan.
We've been instructed by many sages that the rest of the world hates us and does not want to follow our example. The Pew Global numbers tell us something different.
People around the world may oppose American intervention in Iraq, but they also want many of the things we do. Perhaps we should take a cue from the optimism of the developing world and appreciate what we have -- and get out of our national funk.