The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government
Eric Liu, Nick Hanauer
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Understand income inequality, middle-out economics and other realities of modern America as authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that fundamental American assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating for the 21st century.
For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today--generate these simple but revolutionary ideas:
True self interest is mutual interest. (Society, it turns out, is an ecosystem that is healthiest when we take care of the whole.)
Society becomes how we behave. (The model of citizenship depends on contagious behavior, hence positive behavior begets positive behavior.)
We’re all better off when we’re all better off. (The economy is not an efficient machine. It’s an effective garden that need tending. Adjust the definition of wealth to society creating solutions for all.)
Government should be about the big what and the little how. (Government should establish the ideas and the goals, and then let the people find the solutions of how to make it happen.)
Freedom is responsibility. (True freedom is not about living some variant of libertarianism but rather an active cooperation a part of a big whole society; freedom costs a little freedom.)
The Gardens of Democracy is an optimistic, provocative, and timely summons to improve our role as citizens in a democratic society.
ideologies. False choice after polarizing false choice emanates from Washington. Both ideologies—indeed, the surrender of American politics to ideology itself, and the abandonment of pragmatism as a guiding political philosophy— make it harder by the day for America to adapt. We wrote this short book to offer a new way. We aim to reach not “moderates” or “centrists” who split the difference between left and right. We aim to reach those who think independently. That might mean those who claim
transaction (and here, we are describing the parameters of neoclassical economics), you might rightly think that screwing that person is the best way to achieve your own interest. At a minimum, you’d be safe to think you could get away with it. You would think that someone else’s problem is someone else’s problem. If, however, we allow for the possibility that the other person in the transaction may still exist after the transaction, then we think differently. If we allow for the possibility
today, the debate between free marketeers and Keynesians unfolds on the terms of the market fundamentalists: government stimulus efforts are usually justified as a way to restore equilibrium, and defended as regrettable deviations from government’s naturally minimalist role. Fortunately, as we’ve described above, it is now possible to understand and describe economic systems as complex systems like gardens. And it is now reasonable to assert that economic systems are not merely similar to
of limited government. What we need now, more than ever, is not big or small government but government that is big on the what and small on the how: government that sees the world as networks, systems, and cascading contagions and operates to harness what it can, toward a shared notion of the common good—and get out of the way of what it cannot. It should focus more on what to grow and less on how to grow it. Throughout, we have understood and depicted our democracy as an array of gardens.
that the evidence for this scientific truth was there the whole time. But people didn’t perceive it until concepts like gravity allowed us to imagine the possibility of orbits. New understanding turns simple observation into meaningful perception. Without it, what one observes can be radically misinterpreted. New understanding can completely change the way we see a situation and how we see our self-interest with respect to it. Concepts determine, and often distort, percepts. Today, most of