If you are in Bratislava don't miss http://www.snd.sk/?home

http://www.snd.sk/?home its lovely!

Greece in crisis - why is greece suffering and why it is frowned upon by other eurozone members

If one listens to greek media reporting on the crisis there is this constant wounded pride and sulking in the reporting, and a certain disbelief that things are so bad. There is also a certain victim mentality.

In the beginning of this crisis many countries violated the rules of the Euro by a bit.. It was a reflection of the huge sudden crisis, and the European Central Bank reasonably made some allowances if the violation of the rules on deficits a eurozone government committed was

1. relatively small and
2. temporary
3. measures were taken to put it right as it happened by the government concerned without the prodding of the ECB.
4. The markets regarded these measures as credible.

Basically France through it long standing behaviour for hundreds of years has earned a reputation for competence.

In greece the situation was and is different. This is why the ECB is more strict with greece as it should be.

Greece on the other hand stands accused of the following triggering the lack of willing investors buying greek bonds with confidence.

1. The greek statistical service was lying to the EU about the deficit, as it was lying to join the Euro in 2001. That is unfair for a country like Latvia for example which missed becoming a eurozone member by a few tenths of a percentage. But they didn't lie about it. This childish behaviour is embarrassing and barbaric and shameful! The Greek statistical service is led by the usual party lackeys and had no people with dignity that would stand up to the government when it forced them to lie about the Greek deficit. The fact that there are no whistleblowers in the greek civil service is even more troubling.

2. Greece had a massive deficit that it was lying about even before the crisis. The liberalisation of banking was making the private sector of greece indebted just as much as the public sector has traditionally been. This was making greece steadily even more of a basketcase than it already was. Greeks are now astonished that counterparties dont want to lend more money.

3. Greece has had a tradition of using devaluations of its currency to adjust to the real world which was totally different to the economic management of the eurozone. When we joined the euro however we got up to our old tricks and there was no reform. However the easy option of devaluation does not exist anymore.

4. The olympics were an orgy of public spending with plenty of white elephants. It was economically slightly negative or at best neutral. That is constantly touted as a great achievement which mystifies me.

5. Every single government that gets in in the last 30 years promises to fix the economyand the public debt. Every single one has not delivered. Why should the europeans think this will change now? When there is the slightest bit of difficulty Greeks fiddled the figures. Greeks cannot continue to piss on everyone else in the eurozone.

6. The measures the governement of Pasok has taken to fix the deficits are small, have been tried before with little success, don't show a change of policy when it comes to hard numbers.

7. The Pasok government got elected promising that it will spend even more money that it doesn't have which is basically lying again, now we want to regain credibility? Its not a very good way to start a government that wants to be believed. The finances were terrible even before the election and Papandreou knew how bad things were but he lied to get elected..

8. There is another dimension of an inter-generational robbery. In short one generation has leveraged the country's balance sheet as if it was fighting a war or worse. The money has ended up mostly as consumer spending by well-connected individuals. The end result is a huge bill that now creditors do not believe is serviceable anymore. Basically the country's shrinking young generations are called to: 1. have children and finance their education, 2. buy a place to live, 3. Pay all the taxes to pay back all the debt and interest that has been accumulated. No wonder lenders don't want to lend any more money, they feel that they will lose the sums they have lent already.. 

Given these points Greeks need to become more financially educated and involved in the decisions being taken in their name. The state finances are their problem.

Other eurozone countries have learnt to live within their means, not least Slovakia. Greece needs to let the talented professionals it does have, and that are qualified to design its economic policy going forwards.

Amadeus / Mozart in Vienna & Bratislava

Mozart in Bratislava performing a torrent of his first compositionsIt is well known that Wofgang Amadeus Mozart first played in Bratislava as a child prodigy in 1762.

W.A. Mozart and his family travelled to Bratislava at "the request of the Hungarian nobility" on the 11 December 1762 passing by Petronell and Hainburg.

Leopold Mozart bought a carriage. In this carriage the Mozarts travelled during their great Western Europe trip one year later too. On Saturday 24 December 1762 the Mozarts left Bratislava at 8.30 in the morning and arrived in Vienna at 8:30 in the evening. Today this short trip takes 45min on the Autobahn connecting Bratislava and Vienna.

Amadeus. The famous play after which Miloš Forman made his Oscar movie is staged at the Slovak National Theatre for the first time ever.

Martin Huba, Lenka Máčiková Vladimír Kobielsky, František Kovár, Branislav Bystriansky Ondrej Kovaľ, Alena Ďuránová Ondrej KovaľsOndrej Kovaľ, Martin Huba

This is a play by the contemporary British playwright Peter Shaffer which had its premiere in London a long time ago only to become a classic repertoire piece. And no wonder – the author tells the story of the brilliant composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his less talented contemporary and competitor Antonio Salieri.

The play depicts the eternal conflict between a prodigious and an average artist, conventional and nonconformist composer, a rebel and a member of the establishment.

Shortly after its premieres in London and New York, Amadeus received several prestigious awards (The British Critics Award and a Tony Award in the US), and the Broadway production ran over for more than thousand performances. Miloš Forman based his most successful film on the play and received an Oscar for it in 1984, Peter Shaffer received both major American awards for his screenplay: the Golden Globe and the Oscar.

Sometimes even an enormously successful play, one staged to great acclaim all over the world, falls into oblivion after several seasons. Shaffer´s Amadeus has a different fate. Its topic is universal and eternal, like Mozart´s operas. Time is an uncompromising judge: only that, what is unique, will survive.

The eternal conflict between brilliance and mediocrity will come alive where it first began: on a theatre stage. The historic building of the SND forms a highly suitable backdrop.

Sunday 31. January 2010 - 18:00
Detail Buy the ticket
Sunday 28. March 2010 - 18:00 Detail Buy the ticket

Information from

Porsche Cayenne 2.0 to be made in Bratislava

Porsche Cayenne 2.0


Details of the second-generation Porsche Cayenne have been leaked out two months before the upmarket four-wheel drive’s public unveiling at the Geneva motor show. This is also going to be made in Bratislava, Slovakia's capital city along with VW's new hit series of UP! cars.

The information brings to light the all-new-for-2010 Cayenne’s five-strong range of engines, including the first details on the new petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain it will share with the second-generation Volkswagen Touareg, alongside which it has once again been conceived, developed and engineered.

As with its predecessor, the second-generation Cayenne will continued be manufactured at parent company Volkswagen’s factory in Bratislava, Slovakia alongside the new Volkswagen Touareg and existing Audi Q7.

porsche cayenne 2

Porsche will also continue offering its new four-wheel drive system with the choice of three petrol engines – all updated versions of the units used in the outgoing first-generation model. They include a 296bhp 3.6-litre V6 in the entry level Cayenne, a 395bhp naturally aspirated 4.8-litre V8 in the mid-range Cayenne S and a range-topping 493bhp turbocharged 4.8-litre V8 in the top-of-the-line Cayenne Turbo.


Also planned from the outset of UK sales in May is a successor to the Cayenne Diesel running a lightly modified version of the existing model’s Volkswagen-developed 237bhp 3.0-litre V6.

Porsche Cayenne Hybrid

The big news, however, is Porsche’s decision to add a Cayenne Hybrid to its ranks as part of efforts to give its new four-wheel drive a more environmentally friendly image than its predecessor. Set to form an integral part of the new line-up, it uses an Audi developed 328bhp supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine in combination with a 46bhp electric motor that draws energy from a lithium ion battery mounted within spare wheel well in the floor of the boot. It's an arrangement that will be mirrored in the upcoming Panamera Hybrid. Official Porsche figures put combined reserves at 375bhp – or just 20bhp shy of the Cayenne S.


All second-generation Cayenne models will receive a new eight-speed automatic boasting an automatic stop/start function as well as brake energy regeneration as standard. Porsche claims fuel consumption has been reduced by up to 23 per cent, with three of the five new Cayenne models registering better than 28mpg on the combined European cycle.

More specific is its claim for the new Cayenne Hybrid, which Porsche says returns an impressive 34.5mpg, making it the most fuel efficient model in the entire Porsche line-up while endowing it with a CO2 emission rating under 200g/km.

Foreign Companies in Slovakia - FDI trends

The situation of foreign companies that have made large investments in Slovakia seems to be bad in their home markets.

Nevertheless they see investing Slovakia as part of the way to solve their problems and spokespersons for many of them confirmed the parent companies have expansionary plans in terms of production in Slovakia.

Although car makers will report similar sales as last year after the end of the scrappage scheme, all three foreign parent firms in the car industry: Volkswagen, Kia Motors and Peugeot confirmed they trust in the local market, according to partner KPMG Quentin Crossley. “They see an opportunity for more job openings, sales growth and their overall expansion this year,” claims Mr. Crosley.

Energy concern MOL in control of crude refiner Slovnaft also continues in its investment plans in Slovakia. Telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom expects efficiencies from mergers of fixed and mobile telephony networks it owns in Slovakia.

Taxation in Slovakia

Taxes in Slovakia can be basically summed up as a flat tax of 19%

Tax revenue is distributed to Slovakia’s two levels of government: the central government and local authorities. Most of the revenue is earned by VAT and income tax. The Municipalities taxes can use exclusively the revenue of property tax and charges.

The property and personal income taxes are the lowest in EU.

Total receipts of tax and insurance in Slovakia:

sources of state tax income
36 % - social and health insurance
35 % - VAT
11 % - personal income tax
10 % - corporation income tax
7 % - other

Update on Slovakia economic acceleration

Slovakia’s economy should grow + 1.5 % this year, and +3.5 % in 2011, according tot he expectations of Saxo Bank (Denmark). The Slovak economy will be driven by its close link with the German economy (foreign demand for Slovakia comes mainly from Germany and from other countries of the eurozone such as Austria).

The bank expects that unemployment will stabilize in Slovakia later than in main economic areas. The growth in exports is lagging behind the development in economies fueled by foreign demand. Saxo Bank expects 12.5 % jobless rate in Slovakia in
2010 and sees it at 13.05 % in 2011.

This estimate may be on the low end as there are 9 korean companies about to make big investments in the country.

Saxo Bank's verdict suggests that adoption of tougher fiscal measures will squeeze the estimated general government deficit that the bank forecasts to reach 5.15 % of GDP in 2010 in line with most other european countries. In 2011, the deficit should narrow to 4.95 % of GDP. However, the bank added that the fiscal policy is hardly predicable now a few months to the parliamentary elections due in June. The National Bank of Slovakia however is more optimistic. In its latest prediction the central bank expects Slovakia’s GDP to grow by 3.1 percent.

Where should one start their career in central europe?

The grand conclusion onne can draw about the world crisis of 2008-9 is that the effects are going to be long lasting and that firms have used the last year's meltdown as an excuse to drastically cut jobs and offshore jobs to lower wage countries like Slovakia (especially the large firms).

It seems that other than Investment Banking, Sales, Medicine, Schools and government (where people are employed in the US and the high-wage countries of the EU) because they happen to be close to where the action is and outsourcing would not make business sense), almost all jobs in US and the EU can be performed cheaply in other countries at a fraction of the wage (even the highly technical engineering/Computer jobs and manufacturing jobs). These are very large countries with shaky labor laws and huge labor pools (unlike Japan, Germany and other small countries in the past) which can be exploited profitably by large firms in developed countries for many decades to come. So unless and until the wages in these low cost countries converge closer to US levels (either through wage inflation or currency adjustment), I don't see any job growth in any developed countries for a really long time. The only jobs that will grow (or not reduce) are the ones which cannot be outsourced profitably without damaging the firms.

Nearsourcing in Bratislava

The market for IT outsourcing service providers in the CEE region is growing at a fast rate, one that is ahead of average rates worldwide. The main factor of growth is that Eastern European companies offer the valuable model of outsourcing services – “nearsourcing”. Companies who are consumers of nearsourcing get all the benefits of the “offshore outsourcing” economic model plus advantages such as cultural compatibility, a similar- or same-time zone and geographical proximity that allows for fast, inexpensive and easy travel to the offices of nearsourcing partners. After the rapid growth in 2006-2007, and with increased maturity in the IT outsourcing industry, both customers and providers became more sophisticated in their working relationships. There has been a shift from simple cost savings as a motivation to valuing the quality of services and efficiency of cooperation between onshore and offshore teams. Companies in the CEE region have a reputation for efficiency and quality of services. The economic downturn is likely to support further growth in IT outsourcing services within the CEE. The independent experts Carl Billson, Mark Dangelo, Parvis Hanson and Don Moskaluk kindly responded to the questions presented below, providing their views on the trends for IT outsourcing in the CEE region and the influence of the financial recession in the CEE region and worldwide.

Question 1. What is the influence of the global economic recession on IT outsourcing market, particularly on IT outsourcing market in the CEE region?

Carl Billson: The indications are that there is a likely increase in outsourcing influenced by the global economic recession and this appears in a wide range of analysts’ forecasts. "Whenever there's a downturn people outsource more, not less" was a quotation from Gartner analyst Linda Cohen. Gartner reportedly claimed that around 60 per cent of organisations in Western Europe will outsource more IT and business process functions in 2009. This should be positive news for companies in the near-shore CEE region. However, the same firm also predicts that prices for IT services will fall 5% to 20%, with an average reduction of 10% in 2009 due to uncertainties from the adverse economic climate and constrained IT budgets.

Parvis Hanson: Multinational companies are looking how to squeeze cost on every line item it is therefore mandatory also to look at outsourcing. This said they are unwilling to sign new contracts since companies have had mix experiences with outsourcing. Therefore old outsourcing contracts will be revisited at the time of renewal to reduce costs, and new contracts especially in the CEE region will be difficult to sign. The main reasons why I believe outsourcing to CEE countries will be challenging is mainly since most of the CEE region is going through economical turmoil the question is who will still be your partner in 1-2 years time and which CEE outsourcing service provider will have become bankrupt.

Don Moskaluk: Spending has been cautious for the first two months of the year however, its open up and capital projects are going through. It looks like the hype of bad recession is not taking place and people are gearing up for the recovery. Certain sectors do not show any recession, again manufacturing and banks seem to be hit hard. Canadian banks are buying up most of the US banks and they are in a strong position.

Mark Dangelo: The market rebalancing that started in late 2007 will continue to have a permanent impact on global sourcing initiatives, their contractual terms, and the performance criteria used to govern delivery. With changing consumer and financial shifts transforming competitive and operational landscapes, organizations no longer have certainty of vision with regards to IT outsourcing needs. Term variability, risk aversion, and orchestration of suppliers will take precedence over traditional arrangements that once spanned 5 to 7 years across multiple processes.

Question 2. Did the positioning of the CEE region change in 2008 in comparison with other global offshore markets?

Carl Billson: It is possible that the positive perception of the CEE region will have risen during this period, and beyond, as initiatives and publicity help bring the region’s benefits to greater prominence. For example, the creation of the Central & Eastern European Outsourcing Association (CEEOA), with its active membership and publicity via its websites www.ceeoa.org and http://itonews.eu help to educate and shape perceptions of CEE as a worthwhile near-shore destination for IT services. Keeping a country and a region in the ‘business eye’ is a vital aspect especially when there is so much global competition.

Regional and national government has a role to play in raising awareness and providing support for growth in near-shore IT Services. Consider some examples.

A report by the London School of Economics Outsourcing Unit issued in 2009 was, according to the authors, “commissioned as an independently researched report by Hill & Knowlton, who are acting for the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) of Egypt.” The authors note Egypt’s ambitions to extend its offerings beyond the established call centre work and provide suitable analysis and assessment including comparisons with other regions.

A small pavilion of French software and IT services companies was at the 2009 Internet World exhibition in London, their presence apparently supported by French regional government.

A Trade Mission of ten entrepreneurial Ukrainian IT companies visited the UK in April 2009 as part of an EU Project to support small-to-medium sized companies in the IT sector who actively seem export opportunities in providing near-shore IT services to companies based in Western Europe – see www.sme-int.com.ua

Parvis Hanson: No. Outsourcing has been going on for the past 15-20 years, overall the ICT expenditure and therefore the outsourcing have grown strongly over the same period of time. The CEE region is about 10 years behind the Indian Outsourcing sector, however the CEE region is catching up fast by offering a more "nearsourcing" business model. This allows multinational clients to obtain better services such as language skills, similar time zone and closer software production sites.

Don Moskaluk: Not sure on positioning but we saw back in 2008 more on shore off sourcing. Intern the BPO in USA and Canada then off sets to mostly Asian countries. Most have continued the trend into 2009 but are delayed and are being cautious.

Mark Dangelo: The shine for many of the traditional global ITO and BPO providers came off in 2008. Customer doubt with traditional players has lead many organizations to reassess their exposures and contractual obligations. The result has been a more holistic and encompassing review of all players that meet functional and process demands regardless of historical market acceptance – that is beyond India, China, and the Philippines. Cost or arbitrage no longer is the dominate factor when assessing, transferring, and governing offshore labor forces.

Question 3. Has the global economic recession influenced clients' plans to use the offshore outsourcing services?

Carl Billson: As recorded above, there is an increase in clients’ interest to use near-shore services and/or use more of them. However, this is mitigated by the awareness of the potential ‘backlash’ especially where local employees themselves risk losing jobs in a difficult economic climate affecting every nation.

Also, there is constant re-assessment seeking favourable global outsourcing destinations. For instance, an advisory report produced by KPMG in 2009 is titled ‘Exploring Global Frontiers – The New Emerging Destinations.’ The following table taken from this report lists cities in the EMA region (Europe Middle East and Africa):

As can be seen above, CEE region cities are represented in this survey that chose just 31 cities across the globe as outsourcing destinations worthy of note. The report states that the “emerging cities in the EMA region are gaining prominence due to the growing regional market in Europe. Linguistic, geographic and cultural affinity with Europe are the key drivers here.”

Parvis Hanson: Yes. Multinationals companies are more cautious on the promises made about outsourcing. Outsourcing used to be the "magical" formula to reduce your costs, this said most companies have managed to reduce short term the cost by using outsourcing, however the "hidden" costs e.g.. network failures, delay in software productions, misunderstandings between the company and their outsourcing partners are only just now becoming known.

Don Moskaluk: So have quicken the past to get cost saving ASAP, but again most are continuing down a known path such that if they were thinking of outsourcing in 2009 then they are proceeding with plans.

Mark Dangelo: Like political viewpoints, the use or aversion of offshore labor arrangements can reach extremes. What is envisioned for the next 36 months would be a balancing of domestic and offshore workforces using orchestrated delivery techniques. For suppliers, they can no longer show up and “take orders” like they did for two decades. They will be forced to balance local workforces, domestic needs, and corporate profits against their own nationalized desires to provide large offshore environments. We have already witnessed this with one of the top three outsourcing vendors as they proactively diversity their workforces and operations for the fifth iteration of globalization.

Question 4. Are there any new tendencies on IT outsourcing market in the CEE region to appear in 2009?

Carl Billson: With a reported increase in outsourcing from Western Europe, the CEE region is well-placed for winning near-shore IT services work. Established benefits include an innovative well-educated workforce, geographical proximity and short journey times, similar culture and competitive labour rates. The latter naturally vary within countries and tend to be cheaper still in provincial locations, leading to some IT companies having multiple offices.

The recent widely-reported scandal involving outsource provider Satyam in India both un-nerves potential buyers and opens further the opportunities for outsource providers elsewhere, including in the CEE region.

Green IT is an example of a new tendency that affects companies in the CEE region as much as anywhere. Awareness of changing market need and readiness to make provisions obviously increases the attractiveness of a provider.

Parvis Hanson: No. I believe that overall the CEE outsourcing market will continue to develop at a slower speed for 2009, however when the economy of the developed markets picks up again so will the CEE Outsourcing companies.

Don Moskaluk: We see a lot of SAAS and wonderful rates such as CRM for 9.99 dollars US per seat per month however we continue to develop our own SAAS with processing as an added benefit. Most business are looking for the complete picture such that they are looking for everything to be outsourced.

Mark Dangelo: Look for analytics to consume many discussions starting with IT and continuing into the board rooms. The use of known technologies – MDM, databases, BI, cloud computing, et al – will demand a new series of methods and delivery techniques to improve not just cost, but value and responsiveness along the entire operational chain. Analytics will be where the discussions start if a business case is to be achieved. Point-based outsourcing will remain only for those small vendors who are capitalizing on market laggards.

Question 5. What advantages of offshore outsourcing are becoming important for the clients during the financial crisis?

Carl Billson: They are probably the same as before the financial crisis – only more so! Price is obviously a prime consideration but experienced players, and informed new entrants to outsourcing, recognize that value not price is the overriding factor once a range of costs of factored in. Martyn Hart, Chairman of the National Outsourcing Association (NOA) in the UK recently stated that “…parts of Eastern Europe are now beginning to compete with the Indian giants. This leaves a very competitive market for end users to indulge in and …Now companies are asking: where in the world?” (Source: “Your guide to outsourcing and offshoring in a recession” available via the National Outsourcing Association website www.noa.co.uk).

Parvis Hanson: Companies are a lot more internally focused during this financial crisis this means that at the moment they are not looking at new offshoring, outsourcing solutions. Companies have understood that any changes within their ICT working environment has a cost such as implementing the new outsourcing model, new internal business processes, delays etc. I therefore do believe that 2009 and 2010 will be slow growth times for the CEE outsourcers. This said 2009 and 2010 will be business critical for CEE outsourcers to position themselves with a clear business model to profit from the 2011 recovery.

Don Moskaluk: One initially thinks of cost savings but most of the clients we handle are thinking beyond the recession. They are thinking long term. Smaller and mid size companies are looking for cost saving. However, one particular company that has a really large growth rate is not affected by the recession and they are utilizing the recession to get the resource to move further ahead.

Mark Dangelo: When taking into account regional benefits against a global rebalancing of how and where outsourcing is performed, the business case for "thinking global, but sourcing local" has new financial implications. A new set of business realities are facing many Eastern and Western firms as the fifth iteration of globalization takes ahold. As a result, the expected truisms of outsourcing to India and China have been displaced as new skills, markets, and consumer demands outweigh simple labor arbitrage. Tomorrow's outsoucing arrangements will be about equal prosperity for all local and national constituents. Skills and knowledge worksets will be seemlessly integrated with complex, compartmentalized processes rather than simple call centers and IT sourcing that was the model for 20 years.

Slovakia vs. Czech republic - Economic development

chart: Koruna and GDPBasically Slovakia had an abrupt crisis with a sharp contraction but also an equally large improvement.

Zdenek Tuma, the governor of the Czech National Bank, said being in the euro had helped spare Slovakia the worst of the economic disruption that affected the rest of the region including his country.

For example Slovakia’s cost of borrowing on international markets was cheaper than for the Czech Republic.

Slovakia’s economy is forecast to grow 3.1 per cent in 2010, far greater than the 0.3 per cent forecast by the Czech finance ministry.

As growth returns, investors are trickling back, with some saying they are tempted by the prospect of avoiding currency risk. “The euro allows us to make long-term plans and it eliminates exchange rate risks caused by the volatility of the Slovak crown,” says Vladimir Machalik, a spokesman for Volkswagen Slovakia, which is starting production of a new small car in its factory outside Bratislava.

In a further sign of confidence Taiwan’s AU Optronics signed a €191m agreement last month to open an LCD television component factory in Slovakia.

Although Slovak workers have become slightly more expensive than those of Poland and Hungary, they are still much cheaper than their rivals in western Europe, and investors already in the country are unlikely to make decisions to relocate based on possibly temporary changes in exchange rates.

Politically, joining the euro has proved to be a coup for Robert Fico, the prime minister. A survey shows that almost 80 per cent of Slovaks approve of their new currency, which Mr Fico has called Slovakia's “shield”.

It also proves that despite his faults Robert Fico is a commited left of centre politician that agrees with the overall development strategy of Slovakia, but wanted to make sure that where there are market failures or lack of competition this is rectified and that there are real rules in the game.

However, Czechs have maintained their reservation about rushing towards the common currency. Mirek Topolanek, former prime minister and leader of the centre right Civic Democratic party, says the Czech Republic may be ready in 2015 to begin discussing joining the exchange rate mechanism, a precursor to joining the euro.

But Czech businesses do not seem to share this assessment. “We (Czech republic) need the euro as soon as possible in order to be able to address the current problems caused by the world financial crisis,” says Jaroslav Cerny, spokesman for Skoda Auto, a Volkswagen subsidiary.

“A failure to introduce the euro may drive not only our current suppliers, but also all potential investors, out of the Czech Republic.”

An interesting retrospective of east germany

book recommendation: Bright-sided How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America

This is a great book about the moronic underpinnings of motivational speaking

How the Relentless Promotion of Positive
Thinking Has Undermined America

by Barbara Ehrenreich

A sharp-witted knockdown of America’s love affair with positive thinking and an urgent call for a new commitment to realism

Americans are a “positive” people—cheerful, optimistic, and upbeat: this is our reputation as well as our self-image. But more than a temperament, being positive, we are told, is the key to success and prosperity.

In this utterly original take on the American frame of mind, Barbara Ehrenreich traces the strange career of our sunny outlook from its origins as a marginal nineteenth-century healing technique to its enshrinement as a dominant, almost mandatory, cultural attitude. Evangelical mega-churches preach the good news that you only have to want something to get it, because God wants to “prosper” you. The medical profession prescribes positive thinking for its presumed health benefits. Academia has made room for new departments of “positive psychology” and the “science of happiness.” Nowhere, though, has bright-siding taken firmer root than within the business community, where, as Ehrenreich shows, the refusal even to consider negative outcomes—like mortgage defaults—contributed directly to the current economic crisis.

With the mythbusting powers for which she is acclaimed, Ehrenreich exposes the downside of America’s penchant for positive thinking: On a personal level, it leads to self-blame and a morbid preoccupation with stamping out “negative” thoughts. On a national level, it’s brought us an era of irrational optimism resulting in disaster. This is Ehrenreich at her provocative best—poking holes in conventional wisdom and faux science, and ending with a call for existential clarity and courage.