In the United States, we are often exhorted to be optimistic, enthusiastic, and positive about our society and one another, criticising “constructively” or perhaps preferably not at all. The United States has a particularly optimistic political culture, one where you really can make your campaign slogan “hope”, “change”, or “yes we can” and get away with it. The United Kingdom is quite a different place–in Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron got into office with the slogan “we can’t go on like this”. There’s a “change” message in there somewhere, but it certainly isn’t phrased in hopeful terms. Today I’d like to have a closer look at the role optimism and pessimism play in the American and British political systems, respectively, discovering how both extremes can have a deleterious effect on government.