Pessimism is a hallmark of the post-crisis period, and it was with us for so long, we almost didn't notice. Confidence -- its polar opposite -- is one of those necessities that we take for granted. That is, until they are taken away. Without confidence, at best we cower in the shadows, coming out to carry on basic activities, and scurrying back for shelter. At worst, it causes the collapse of financial systems and the distribution of goods and services -- in a word, chaos. But this year, we regained something: hope.