One of the phenomena of the last many years is evaluating our society by pondering vast systems of economic and government policy. It’s become a populist game of game complexity. But for our economy and our society, what we measure and the policies we argue are increasingly not helping us.
Lately we try to insert perhaps immeasurable factors into social theory such as climate, population, old age, healthcare, religion, resource extraction, globalism, corporatism, elitism, terrorism, corruption, and war.
We revive hero’s invigoration from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman and his sidekick Frederich Hayek. We disdain market intervention where it hits the ground as if laissez-faire will release a random invention to save us like a lottery will relieve us.
We assure our correctness by citing periods of growth or decline in terms of a government’s memorable clumsiness or predictive wit. We argue that Rome was not in a day, nor America’s centuries, nor China’s revival, nor migrants crushing over walls. To smooth charts and re-draw irregularities, we look to rules and law not to inspire principals but to sink pirates, as if preserving intellectual property can collect the cash we need in our crowded world.
I think our risk may swing on these armchair abstraction.
As we tweak economic algorithm to save our West, we look to succeed with more than widgets by designing more widgets, by promoting widget propriety, or, Orwell forbid, by enforcing widget pedigree. But none of these are fundamental to where we walk with our widgets along the boulevard of our lives.
To compete with a billion scholars overseas, we will not succeed by trading acres of expensively trained personnel explaining digital services to movie and media consumers. Nor will we sufficiently grow by grabbing a theory in science or a breakthrough in a lab, even if we cajole every genius and savant from every agriculture in our schools. Nor will we sufficiently entice the world to support us by selling only loans, leverage, audits or insurance; nor automated stock acquisition, automated traffic compliance, automated window cleaning.
These approaches are merely trading 19th Century factory industrialism with 21st Century centrist institutionalism. As China and India and others grow, while we are scurrying against terror, we fail to admit to ourselves that the day to day fashion of leaders in the West is to merely worry where our diplomats will be pleasantly greeted.
Most of us are building and rebuilding the wishes we can reach – a workable economy of our own local and regional arrangements. It’s from here where we can build a more effective economy. It is not, I assert, organizing ourselves in a stadium of human waves to compete on behalf of company or government whim. It’s from where we stand that we can support a greater economy worldwide.
There are so many challenges to answer, but before we evaluate our tasks, we should know our targets. When we talk economics and government, we too easily omit our day to day living where we must invent a workable if not pleasant human community.
This recommendation doesn’t ignore macro activity but propels increased activity where it’s acutely required. Most of us have not abandoned usefulness to each other. Most are employed in teams that are smallish and active and smallish and changeable. Most are willing participants in our future.
For us nearby, and for all around us, our new infrastructure makes new economy possible. A better economy may follow a broader understanding of our potential but a less wide way of managing it. Social initiative and healthy community may be our best policy and the first requirement of education.
Our next economic opportunity may be to invent more attractive living. Now, that’s something we can sell!
Each can reach,
so reach to each –
the best restitution
for any institution.
I was a founder of Community Renewal, Inc., a small 501(c)3, that encouraged county and municipal leaders to focus their efforts less to complying with larger entities and instead to helping their communities reach their potential – to discover and create “the dream” of residents.