The Breakfast Table

Silver Linings

Dear Paula,

Good heavens, cheer up! You’re usually the optimist in the family. Things aren’t so bad. The Teflon market is unnerving, but I now accept some of the points made by the “new economy” gurus. American productivity growth is probably being underestimated; information technology is clearly revolutionizing the economy, etc. And remember, if the Dow “corrects” even 20 percent–what a great piece of anticipatory spin that word is!--most people’s assets will have appreciated nicely over the last four years. Those who just came in will do worse, but the bull market has been going for two decades now. The trouble I suppose is that a fall in the market could have a psychological effect, causing fear and panic, deepening the fall, lowering spending, etc. The virtuous cycle becomes a vicious cycle. But I’m Dr. Pangloss today, so let me just stop there.

The Kosovo bombings are becoming more intense, which is good. (And those carbon bombs are amazing! Am I being a boy?) But this step-by-step escalation is stupid. Vietnam showed that people could adjust quite well to slow increases in bombing. It’s a bit like the hot water into which you toss a frog; better to have it boiling at the start if you want the critter to feel the pain. In any event, better late than never. Of course, now the allies will start complaining about civilian causalities. And there are those who still think we could fight a ground war with this committee of 19 countries!

On Columbine. I have an even stranger confession. It hasn’t really shocked me in quite the sense most people mean. I assume that there are pockets of inexplicable evil in the world–and we were confronted by one. Those two kids were just bad, nasty creatures. The Weekly Standard makes the point that what is actually more noteworthy is the courage and faith of some of those who died in the high school: the girl who would not renounce her faith in God even though it meant death; the people who helped others escape at the cost of their own lives. A pocket of genuine nobility–which is truly heartening don’t you think?