Getting America Unstuck: Starting the Conversation

The Conversation

Overload? Or Renewal?


The future of humanity on this planet is being shaped continuously by the manner in which we resolve the fundamental tension of our times. Shall we be a civilization that thrives by living within the disciplines of Renewal? Or shall we have ourselves a civilization on Overload? A civilization whose appetites dangerously erode its capacity to govern itself wisely, whose appetites further cause accelerating damage to its climate, its soils, its agricultural productivity, and its capacity to feed itself?

Overload? Or Renewal?

Today’s default answer is the dark one. We are plunderers, burning through our inheritance, operating on Overload.

In writing this, I have drawn on Jeremy Grantham’s extraordinary essay, The Race of Our Lives Revisited. I have also drawn on Craig Unger ...

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Aspiring to an America of Intregrity


We Americans find ourselves ensnared today in quarrels that reflect our anxieties, not our vision. As a people, we are long on middle management complaints and short on executive vision. One stream of complaints arises from the bottom up quarrels between social conservatives and social liberals; another stream of complaints arises from the quarrels between Wall Street Republicans and Wall Street Democrats.

There’s a business analogy for the dynamic we’re in – as a people, we are long on middle management squabbling and short on executive vision.  The Republicans have no vision of an America that works well for everyone, but they’re not alone.  The Democrats are just as bereft of vision as the GOP.

So let’s do for ourselves what parents ...

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From Improv Liberalism to Systemic Liberalism

From Improv Liberalism to Systemic Liberalism

If America were a truly healthy country, what would be different?

To answer that question properly, we must begin with our aspirations as Americans. We – the American people – will aspire to a healthy romanticism about America, will aspire to success on our nation’s upward journey. We will aspire to a Capitalism of Integrity.  We will aspire to a Politics of Integrity.  We will aspire to a Culture of Empathy.

In other words, we won’t want America to be a country that embraces a Capitalism of Corruption. Or a Politics of Corruption. Or a Culture of Intolerance.  We won’t want America to pursue a journey that darkens its soul; we will want a journey that brightens its soul.

It’s the aspirational vision ...

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The America Unstuck Book Club


There’s an art to riding a bicycle.  It doesn’t come naturally, but with enough practice, almost anyone can learn it.

There’s an art to sailing.  It, too, is an art that one develops with training and improves with practice.

And there’s an art to teaching.  It too involves training and practice and further coaching.

By extension, it would stand to reason that the practice of self-government is also an art.  But with a difference. It's not an individual art; it's a community art. 

It’s an art that requires from an entire community a sense of purpose and a spirit of integrity.

Self-government is partly about limiting misbehavior. This can be the misbehavior of a common thief, but it ...

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Six Blind Spots


It has long been the custom of the socialist left to argue that capitalism is inherently immoral. And it has long been the custom of the conservative right to argue that capitalism’s dynamism is inherently virtuous.

And also for quite a long time, neither viewpoint has been accurate enough to deserve our trust. It’s a remarkable thing. Free market capitalism has been with us for centuries and yet the concepts by which we describe it to ourselves remain seriously incomplete.

It is customary for any introduction to Economics to celebrate the virtues of a market economy with arguments that date back to Adam Smith. A market economy brings together the sellers of goods and the buyers of goods, a natural arrangement capable of ...

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Imagine Creating a Healthy Civilization Book Club


For some time, I have been trying to scratch an intellectual itch. “If we Americans actually knew what we were doing, what would we be doing differently?”

This was the itch that led me to write my book Getting America Unstuck. It’s a solid piece of work, and it gets us closer to the kind of answer we need. 

Closer. But not all the way there.

We live in a political culture that generates values-based narratives that hook our emotions. But this dynamic hasn’t made us stronger as a people. And it hasn't made our nation stronger. Instead it has sucked us into disputes whereby we demoralize one another.  A demoralized America is an America in decline. 

Newt Gingrich wants to demoralize ...

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“If America truly knew what it was doing, what would be different?”