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A big reason why Western politics is in such disarray is voters' pessimism about the future. According to the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of Westerners believe today's children will be "worse off financially than their parents," while most Europeans think the next generation will have a worse life.To paraphrase the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, they expect youngsters' lives to be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish – and long.Pessimism afflicts those who have lost out economically, as well as those who worry that they (or their communities) may be next. It affects young people anxious about their prospects and older people nostalgic for their youth. And it encompasses both economic fears that robots, Chinese workers and immigrants are threatening people's livelihoods, and cultural fears that white Westerners are losing their privileged status both locally and globally.As a result, accepting and anxious pessimists tend to elect governments that duck difficult decisions (witness Germany's grand coalition), while angry pessimists make matters worse (by voting for Donald Trump's "America First" agenda or for Brexit, for example).
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