Sunday, April 7, 2013

And We've Gotta' Get Ourselves Back to the Garden. A Review of The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government by Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer

"And we've gotta get ourselves back to the garden . . . "
Joanie Mitchell's "Woodstock Song" most famously performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

From the book of Genesis to Woodstock, perhaps no metaphor has proven more durable or alluring than that of the garden. The Gardens of Democracy draws upon this venerable heritage to create a manifesto for a contemporary progressive agenda. This book provides readers with a new way of looking at the economy, citizenship, capitalism, and government that breaks some of the old molds. For instance, they draw upon the work of Eric Beinhocker (Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics) to show that our old models of the economy are insufficiently dynamic to account of how we really operate. In addition, many economic theories rely on extremely truncated and impoverished notions of human rationality, irrationality, and behavior. Likewise, they appreciate that how we define ourselves politically will define our polity and the quality of political discourse and action that we experience. As for government, they look beyond the usual dichotomy of "big" vs. "small" to consider what proves effective and useful, a much truer and more inventive way to consider issues about government and its responsibilities. Let me give you a sense of the dichotomies and new ways of addressing economic relations that they argue for:

Simple Complex
Atomistic Networked
Equilibrium Disequilibrium
Linear Non-linear
Mechanistic Behavioral
Efficient Effective
Predictive Adaptive
Independent Interdependent
Individual ability Group diversity
Rational calculator Irrational approximators
Selfish Strongly reciprocal
Win-lose Win-win or lose-lose
Competition Cooperation

Liu, Eric; Hanauer, Nick (2011-12-06). The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government (Kindle Locations 321-329). Sasquatch Books. Kindle Edition.
Is this the dawning of the Age of Aquarius? No, but it does make a lot of sense to adjust our perspectives along these lines.  

These two guys out of Seattle have published a book that everyone ought to read, at least if you think that there's a better way to think about politics and the economy. Their idea of a "gardenbrain" (organic, evolutionary)  far exceeds the usefulness of the reigning "machinebrain". The idea of gardens and how we conduct ourselves, as gardeners fostering what gifts we have received, acting with a spirit of reverence for nature, but not without our active participation in the outcome, provides us with a metaphor that we need. 

Read it and pass it on! 


P.S. I’m not much of a gardener, but I have watched and helped a master gardener.

1 comment:

IOWA GURU said...

Where are all the garden metaphors, at least? If we're not going to talk conifers, bulbs, or amaryllis, at least a metaphor, please!