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New Book: America 3.0 is Now Launched!

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century – why America’s Best Days are Yet to Come by James C. Bennett and Michael Lotus

I am confident that this deeply researched and thoughtfully argued book  is going to make a big political splash, especially in conservative circles – and has already garnered a strong endorsement from Michael Barone, Jonah Goldberg, John O’Sullivan and this review from  Glenn Reynolds in USA Today :

Future’s so bright we have to wear shades: Column 

….But serious as these problems are, they’re all short-term things. So while at the moment a lot of our political leaders may be wearing sunglasses so as not to be recognized, there’s a pretty good argument that, over the longer time, our future’s so bright that we have to wear shades.

That’s the thesis of a new book, America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity In The 21st Century.The book’s authors, James Bennett and Michael Lotus, argue that things seem rough because we’re in a period of transition, like those after the Civil War and during the New Deal era. Such transitions are necessarily bumpy, but once they’re navigated the country comes back stronger than ever.

America 1.0, in their analysis, was the America of small farmers, Yankee ingenuity, and almost nonexistent national government that prevailed for the first hundred years or so of our nation’s existence. The hallmarks were self-reliance, localism, and free markets.

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, people were getting unhappy. The country was in its fastest-ever period of economic growth, but the wealth was unevenly distributed and the economy was volatile. This led to calls for what became America 2.0: an America based on centralization, technocratic/bureaucratic oversight, and economies of scale. This took off in the Depression and hit its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, when people saw Big Government and Big Corporations as promising safety and stability. You didn’t have to be afraid: There were Top Men on the job, and there were Big Institutions like the FHA, General Motors, and Social Security to serve as shock absorbers against the vicissitudes of fate.

It worked for a while. But in time, the Top Men looked more like those bureaucrats at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and the Big Institutions . . . well, they’re mostly bankrupt, or close to it. “Bigger is better” doesn’t seem so true anymore.

To me, the leitmotif for the current decade is supplied by Stein’s Law, coined by economist Herb Stein: “Something that can’t go on forever, won’t.” There are a lot of things that can’t go on forever, and, soon enough, they won’t. Chief among them are too-big-to-fail businesses and too-big-to-succeed government.

But as Bennett and Lotus note, the problems of America 2.0 are all soluble, and, in what they call America 3.0, they will be solved. The solutions will be as different from America 2.0 as America 2.0 was from America 1.0. We’ll see a focus on smaller government, nimbler organization, and living within our means — because, frankly, we’ll have no choice. Something that can’t go on forever, won’t. If America 2.0 was a fit for the world of giant steel mills and monolithic corporations, America 3.0 will be fit for the world of consumer choice and Internet speed.

Every so often, a “political” book comes around that has the potential to be a “game changer” in public debate. Bennett and Lotus have not limited themselves to describing or diagnosing America’s ills – instead, they present solutions in a historical framework that stresses the continuity and adaptive resilience of the American idea. If America”s “City on a Hill” today looks too much like post-industrial Detroit they point to the coming renewal; if the Hand of the State is heavy and it’s Eye lately is dangerously creepy, they point to a reinvigorated private sector and robust civil society; if the future for the young looks bleak,  Bennett and Lotus explain why this generation and the next will conquer the world.

Bennett and Lotus bring to the table something Americans have not heard nearly enough from the Right – a positive vision of an American future that works for everyone and a strategy to make it happen.

But don’t take my word for it.

The authors will be guests Tuesday evening on Lou Dobb’s Tonight and you can hear them firsthand and find out why they believe “America’s best days are yet to come

Fallows’ $ 1.4 Trillion Question

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Both Tom and John have weighed in on the important piece by James Fallows in The Atlantic Monthly, entitled “The $1.4 Trillion Dollar Question“:

Dr. Barnett:

What Fallows doesn’t address in China’s vast surplus/savings is the huge and very real current sovereign debts and future mandates that are hidden in this development scheme: overseas resource dependencies demanding investment stakes, future aging costs, current and future enviro costs, future requirements to build out (and up) the poor interior, and so on.

Those are real sovereign liabilities because the people will expect some/much government help in these matters over time to ensure continued development and sustained movement up the product chain (gotta get as rich as possible before getting old).

Having said all that, Fallows’ analysis of the government’s logic is dead on. I suspect that, with all his time spent in China, we’ll see a book that does a big turn in explaining China to America. That will be a huge journalistic endeavor, and most welcome from someone with his considerable narrative talents.

As for the larger strategic question, we owe China a quiet international security order within which to develop, and sufficient partnership so as to obviate too much defense spending on their part. Eventually, Deng’s “grand compromise” of 1992 (PLA supports him on market acceleration in return for money and cover to modernize) must be tempered so that China doesn’t field a military for a war that should never happen and which it could never win. It needs to field a SysAdmin-heavy force that partners with us in mutual dependence: we can’t rule the peace with our Leviathan-heavy force, but they can’t rule war with their Leviathan-lite force either, so we must cooperate in extending and protecting globalization to our mutual advantage.”

John Robb:

Fallows runs through the details of the “financial balance of terror” between the US and China and concludes that it won’t last long. However, of the reasons he listed for a collapse of the balance, he didn’t include the most likely: that China will need the money to shore up its domestic economy as the US heads into a lengthy and severe recession.

Remember, China hasn’t endured anything other than growth pain for over a decade. Further, the average Chinese citizens hasn’t reaped much from that boom. They don’t have the financial reserves to weather a crisis (and many of those that do will lose their shirts when China’s market bubble tanks). So where will this cash go over the next two years? Not into Blackstones or US Treasuries. Instead, it will be invested domestically. Into jobs and projects to shore up the little bit of legitimacy the Chinese government still has (we see a similar pattern with many of the globe’s marginally legitimate governments, from Saudi Arabia to Russia).

Frankly, I’m not sure that $1.4 trillion (the normative value of which is evaporating with each plunge in the dollar) will be enough to prevent China from disintegrating if this crisis becomes a panic.”

My two cents:

China holds enormous reserves in dollars because their financial strategy – parking surplus cash in Treasury securities – also represents an internal political strategy of deferring acrimonious, major, spending and investment choices that might precipitate division among the elite. China’s leaders are acutely aware of their nation’s deficiencies and historical tendency toward centrifugal, regional, disintegration and keeping the country intact and the state in charge is right up there in terms of priority with sustaining a fantastic rate of GDP growth. The dollar surplus represents an agreeable, strategic, “rainy day fund” consensus choice of the elite and significant changes here will only be in response to pressures or needs that the elite of the CCP can get behind as a whole. Likely, cautious changes but possibly also too little too late.

Thursday, August 16th, 2007


The office of Comptroller-General of the United States , who heads the GAO and serves for a 15 year term, is hardly a political powerhouse inside the beltway and, generally, these appointees labor in bureaucratic obscurity. The current Comptroller-General, David M. Walker, a Clinton-appointee, has been making the rounds giving speeches calling for both transformation of archaic governmental practices and a return to fiscal conservatism in national policy, yet with more optimism than is typical for traditional “green eyeshade” worldviews.

Worth a read ( Hat tip to Fabius Maximus).

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