Q&A: MICHAEL LIND, Co-founder of the New America Foundation; Author of LAND OF PROMISE: An Economic History of the United StatesWritten on March 17th, 2013
This week’s guest, MICHAEL LIND, has written an economic history of the United States. In his new book, LAND OF PROMISE, he lays out a pattern in which the US has reinvented itself economically and politically a number of times based on the emergence of new technologies. From wind and water, to steam, to electricity and internal combustion, and finally the computer.
Each new dominant technology overwhelms the existing political and regulatory system and American government lags a generation or two behind technology-induced economic change. It takes a crisis or a war or both to overthrow the old regime and usher in the new.
When the U.S. economy has flourished, Lind argues, government, business, labor and universities have worked together as partners in a project of economic nation building. Today, as the United States struggles to emerge from the Great Recession, Land of Promise says that Americans, since the earliest days of the republic, have repeatedly reinvented the American economy-and have the power to do so again.
Recently the annual TED conference took place in Long Beach California. I have long recommended its famous 18 minute TED talks. Check out TED.com/talks, they cover a wide range of topics including science, technology, design, business, global issues and they have recurring themes of inspiration, challenge, and optimism. Not unlike what I try to do with this radio show.
On opening day the recent conference scheduled two talks one after the other. The first by Paul Gilding entitled The Earth is Full asked questions like Have we used up all our resources? Have we filled up all the livable space on Earth? Gilding suggests we have with the possibility of devastating consequences. In a talk that’s equal parts terrifying and oddly hopeful, he says “It takes a good crisis to get us going. When we feel fear and we fear loss we are capable of quite extraordinary things.”
That talk was followed by one by today’s guest, PETER DIAMANDIS, entitled Abundance Is Our Future in which he makes the case for optimism — that we’ll invent, innovate and create ways to solve the challenges that loom over us. “I’m not saying we don’t have our set of problems — problems – climate crisis, species extinction, water and energy shortage – we surely do. But ultimately, we knock them down.”
Since the dawn of humanity, a privileged few have lived in stark contrast to the majority. Conventional wisdom says this gap cannot be closed. But, according to a new book by Diamandis and co-author Steven Kotler, it is closing-fast. In Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think, they document how progress in artificial intelligence, robotics, infinite computing, ubiquitous broadband networks, digital manufacturing, nanomaterials, synthetic biology, and many other exponentially growing technologies will enable us to make greater gains in the next two decades than we have in the previous two hundred years. They believe we will soon have the ability to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet.
VAN JONES is Co-Founder and President of REBUILD THE DREAM, and a co-founder of three other successful non-profit organizations: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change and Green For All. Jones served as the green jobs advisor in the Obama White House in 2009, and is currently a senior fellow at the Center For American Progress and a senior policy advisor at Green For All. He holds a joint appointment at Princeton University, as a distinguished visiting fellow in both the Center for African American Studies and in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is the author of The Green Collar Economy.
I've invited three people to begin a conversation with me about what's broken at the intersection of our society, our politics, and our economy, how it got broken, and how we can fix it.
ROB JOHNSON served as chief economist of the US Senate Banking Committee, was a Management DIrector at Soros Fund Management, and is now Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), funded by Soros to encourage and support a rethinking of the fundamentals of economics so that they take into account the role of human behavior including politics.
R J ESKOW, a former executive and consultant on matters of finance and information technology, to AIG, the World Bank and the State Department, is a prolific blogger at the Huffington Post and Campaign for America's Future.
DREW DELLINGER is a poet, teacher, activist and founder of Planetize the Movement. He is currently finishing his doctoral dissertation on the last years of Martin Luther King Jr., and co-wrote the documentary film, The Awakening Universe.
DAVID DEGRAW is the day-to-day director of http://mediachannel.org/ whose slogan is "As the media watch the world, we watch the media." Founded by Danny Schechter and Rory O'Conner, MediaChannel deals with the political, cultural and social impacts of the media, large and small. David created http://ampedstatus.com/ to combine cutting-edge technology with human intelligence. He and his team analyze thousands of news items daily to deliver the most hard-hitting and informative.
DAVID DEGRAW started a tech company with friends during the internet boom of the late 90's. They'd raised millions in venture capital when David chose to leave to do more socially conscious work. He did online marketing/business development consulting on projects with Sony, Pearl Jam, AlterNet, etc. After consulting on Danny Schechter's documentary Weapons of Mass Distraction, he moved to Media Channel, where he has been director for five years. In the spring of 2009, he debuted http://ampedstatus.com/