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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Our Gardenbrain Economy | Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer, New York Times

An economy is a garden. It can be fruitful if well tended but will be overrun by noxious weeds if not.

WE are prisoners of the metaphors we use, even when they are wildly misleading. Consider how political candidates talk about the economy. Last month President Obama praised immigrants as “the greatest economic engine the world has ever known.” Mitt Romney says that extending the Bush-era tax cuts will “fuel” a recovery. Others fear a “stall” in job growth.
Activist/educator Eric Liu and venture capitalist Nich Hanauer, both of Seattle, begin their column with those words. They then go on to describe, metaphorically, how our current outdated "Machinebrain" economy must be replaced by a more realistic "Gardenbrain" economy.
This self-enclosed [Machinebrain] metaphor is the gospel of market fundamentalists. But there is simply no evidence for it. Empirically, trickle-down economics has failed. Tax cuts for the rich have never once yielded more net revenue for the country. The 2008 crash and the Great Recession prove irrefutably how inefficient and irrational markets truly are.
What we require now is a new framework for thinking and talking about the economy, grounded in modern understandings of how things actually work. Economies, as social scientists now understand, aren’t simple, linear and predictable, but complex, nonlinear and ecosystemic. An economy isn’t a machine; it’s a garden. It can be fruitful if well tended, but will be overrun by noxious weeds if not.
The writers describe how the Gardenbrain metaphor "challenges many of today’s most conventional policy ideas" -- including regulation, taxes and spending.

As they conclude, the authors write:
Seeing the economy this way does not make you anti-capitalist. In fact, nothing could be more pro-business and pro-growth than a Gardenbrain approach — because by focusing our attention on the long term over the short, on the power of markets to create wealth through evolutionary adaptations and on the health of the whole rather than a part, it gives us prosperity that is widely shared, sustained and self-reinforcing.
Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer are the authors of The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy and the Role of Government. Eric and Nick also co-authored The True Patriot, and together the two have created the True Patriot Network to advance the book's ideals of progressive patriotism. 

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