“The future doesn’t exist yet, we have to make it up.” Not exactly a profound statement. It is the closing sentence from an essay by Walter Russell Mead titled A Crisis of Civilization. You will have to read the essay to understand the context in which the statement was made. I sincerely hope you will read mr. Russel Mead’s essay because I personally need to hear your opinion about what he has written. I have never been more disturbed by something I read since reading Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath when I was but an ignorant teenager. I need to know if you come away from this essay with a feeling of hope for the future, which I believe the authors intent, or if you come away with a sense of despair or do you think that Walter Russell Mead is just plain wrong.
Mr. Russell Mead believes the economic model used by th United States, Europe and, Japan, which became the envy of the world is no longer sustainable and can not be recaptured. Also, he believes the model can no longer be copied by such developing nations as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and, South Africa). My interpretation of his reasoning is that technology innovations keep improving productivity making it possible for fewer and fewer people to produce all the goods and services that the world needs. This, of course, makes more and more people redundant (my words not his). he is optimistic(?) that further technology and innovation can solve this problem and that the United States can lead the way.
And that’s what we need to remember today. America had to build a new kind of democratic industrial society before it could serve as a model for others, or before it could hold that model up as a goal. Now that the blue model is no longer adequate, we need to prepare the way for something new.
America’s job is to show the world how to shoot fish in a barrel: how to harness the power of the new technologies and how to find productive uses for all the human labor being released from drudgery and routine. We have to show how the complex and sophisticated services that people need for life in post industrial society can become radically cheaper: good legal advice, financial planning, education, training, government. The costs of these services can fall as far and as fast as the prices of so many goods did in daily life when the industrial revolution first swept through the world.
The fight for the reforms and changes in the United States that can facilitate and speed up the birth of a prosperous post-industrial society here is deeply connected to the fight for a peaceful and prosperous world in the 21st century. It is not just that these changes will keep the US rich and strong enough to play a role in supporting world peace. It is that the example of a successful transformation here will do more to promote democracy, peace and human rights worldwide than all the foreign aid, all the diplomats and even all the ships and tanks and drones in the world could ever do.
Why do I get the feeling that Walter Russell Mead is painting a picture of hell and trying to put it in the best light possible?
Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?