Paul Greenberg

Then there were the recurrent Panics of the early 1900s and earlier -- all through the 1800s. Today's slowly passing recession is really more of an old-fashioned financial panic -- without a J.P. Morgan to end it with dispatch.

And let's not forget other precedents: The long-running recession that began in 1837, following in the wake of Andrew Jackson's war on the Bank of the United States. (He won, the United States lost.) Or the New Madrid of economic shocks that struck in 1819.

This current, easing recession was anything but unprecedented. But to say so at the time was a lonely experience. There were times when I felt like a minority of one. "The last optimist" was the headline on a column of mine that ran in March 2009.

To keep your head when others all about you are losing theirs ... may be just a sign you don't understand the situation.

A year later, the sunshine is breaking through here and there, but there will always be those who hate to give up the gloom. It seems to cheer them. If they can no longer compare these times to the Great Depression without sounding silly, they seem determined to hold on to the moniker, Great Recession. ("All over our country, people who lost their jobs in the Great Recession are looking for work." --Barack Obama)

For the greater the recession, the more sectors of the economy the federal government needs to control, right? Pessimism is the natural ally of those who would ever expand government power. Bad times are the health of the state.

Even if the economy isn't ending, then the world is -- through climate change. And the only way to save it is, as usual, higher taxes.

Those of us who dare point out that this crisis, too, will pass, and indeed is passing, are sure to be accused of cock-eyed optimism. We prefer to think of it as historical perspective. For just as English history may be read as a continuing thesis against revolution, American history may be read as a continuing thesis against pessimism.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.