Saturday, July 18, 2015
Rebooting American prosperity in the 21st century -- Why America's greatest days are yet to come.
by James C. Bennett and Michael J Lotus
Publisher: Encounter Books (June 2013)
Available at Amazon
Sometimes when we're trying to sort out our history, (how things came to be), or our future (what will affect how our lives will be lived in the coming years given the trends of the present), we look at lots of big changes. New technology, shifts in attitudes and economics, and a host of other obvious changes that appear in our lives, seem to be the elements that will shape the future. Bennett and Lotus, however, have a new take on how Americans shape their future. After all, every country is affected by new technology, economics, etc., but they don't all make the same choices Americans make. The authors maintain that the critical element, the one we're so familiar with we almost don't recognize it anymore, is the American nuclear family.
They ask some interesting questions: What difference does it make that American marriages are the result of individuals choosing their mates, rather than having them chosen by their family or clan? Does the nuclear family provide a different environment from extended families or arranged marriages that makes Americans different? Is it important that "making it" in America has a different meaning here than elsewhere: getting a home of one's own with some land rather than living with family or in large groups?
To answer these questions, they go back in our history to look at the influences that formed the personalities of the American colonists. German and British heritage play a role in how the first Americans saw their lives, what they considered appropriate, and years later, what we consider "normal" American life.
What is America 3.0? The first America (1.0) was primarily independent; people had to grow their own crops, make their own clothes, farm their own land, and manage their own herds. As the country grew and prospered, this model was followed by a "division of labor" model where some folks only farmed, some folks only ranched, and others worked in factories to provide clothing and the other necessities of life that would (in America 1.0) have been made at home. In America 2.0, products were cheaper because mass production made it possible to create them more quickly (technology at work), but the growth of the huge corporations that resulted had an effect on the nuclear family as creativity in the work environment gave way to robot-like repetitive jobs, later replaced by actual robots. Early in America 2.0, people began to urbanize, and that urbanization has continued and expanded, further straining what most American's see as "The American Dream" -- a nuclear family in a home of their own. The authors claim America 2.0 has gone as far as Americans will allow it to go and is about to transform into a new model.
Technologies have changed again. It's possible to work from home, avoiding polluting traffic and urban snarl and claustrophobia. Networks are readily available in many suburban areas, with tools for project sharing and video conferencing. Advances like 3D printing make it possible to do small manufacturing in a residential setting without affecting the environment as large manufacturing plants did in the past. Solar and alternative energies make it possible to live off the grid. Hydroponics and aquaculture (fish farming, for one) have shifted us away from farming and fishing models where trucking long distances are necessary. All of these, the authors maintain, will bring us to a new American model -- one that can include the independence of America 1.0 and the low production costs which could previously only be obtained by centralized manufacturing and agriculture, leaving behind the urban grunge and "working for the man" models of America 2.0, and spreading out to result in government decentralization as well (with an extensive discussion of why the term "states rights" no longer has it's previous (negative) connotation).
The driving force behind these improvements, however, is not technology, but the American mindset that comes from the nuclear family, that focuses on independence and creativity. Readers will never look at a family at the park or a backyard barbecue in quite the same way again. There's a lot of thought provoking material here, and, surprisingly in this day and age, quite a bit of optimism about our future. I highly recommend it.
Posted by Eva Kosinski (Gabriella Wheeler)