Dear conservatives on the Left and Right – and those beholden to them.
We would like to break up with you.
Every day, we see a widening gap in how you and we understand the world — and what we want from it. It’s been a long time coming but we have irreconcilable differences.
You wanted big, fat, universal and eternal institutions. We want renewable, transparent, responsive, and people-oriented organizations.
You wanted financial fundamentalism – be it unrestricted, unregulated capitalism or protected and subsidized industrialism. We believe in a post-industrial economy: a shift from the hierarchical to decentralized with the use of markets as a progressive policy tool.
You wanted big growth, measured only by GDP. We want smart growth and real value, built by people with character, dignity and courage.
You believed in top-down and trickle-down. We believe in emergent and bottom-up.
You prized biggie size life: McMansions, gas guzzlers, and McFood. We want a sustainable, humanized life.
You’ve claimed the choice is between a winner take all society or a no winner society. We want an eco-system that rewards talent, ideas, productivity and collaboration – we want a meritocracy.
You wanted a culture that is controlled by the past. We want a free culture that builds on the past.
You’ve wanted to protect monopolies or protect jobs. We want an economy that allows for creative destruction.
You wanted exurbs, sprawl, and gated anti-communities. We want a society built around sustainable communities.
You wanted more money, credit and leverage — to consume ravenously. We want to be great at doing stuff that matters.
Who are neo-progressives? We are engaged. We start non-governmental organizations, work internationally, create social enterprises, volunteer in our communities, start socially conscious businesses and advocate outside of organized politics. We are a growing number of people who act differently – doing meaningful stuff that matters the most.
Neo-progressives are those of us who have not found a natural home on the left or the right of traditional politics and are increasingly returning to the core values of historical progressivism, using evidence-based public policy to help ensure the equality of opportunity in a market-based economy.
Everywhere we look, we see an explosion of neo-progressive businesses, NGOs, open-source communities, local initiatives, and government. Who are the neo-progressive role models? Obama, kind of. Larry and Sergey. The Threadless, Etsy, and Flickr peeps. Ev, Biz, and the Twitter crew who made Tehran 2.0 possible. Calvin Helin, Wendy Kopp and Teach for America, Tzeporah Berman and the ForestEthics crew as well as Mitchell Baker and the Mozilla community. The folks at Kiva, Talking Points Memo, and FindtheFarmer. Anita Roddick, Margot Fraser, Muhammad Yunus, Hernando de Soto Polar and Jeff Sachs are like the grandparents of neo-progressivism. There are tons where these innovators came from.
The creative destruction neo-progressives want isn’t just awesome — it’s vitally necessary. And if you think it all sound idealistic, think again.
We face global warming, a financial meltdown, a de-industrializing economy, increasing inequality (both nationally and internationally) and the possibility of catastrophic terrorism.
But the real crisis is the same one that confronted us in the late 18th century and in the mid 20th century and it isn’t going away, changing, or “morphing.” It’s the same old crisis — and it’s growing.
You’ve failed to recognize it for what it really is. It is in our institutions: the rules by which our economy is organized.
“… For example, the auto industry has cut back production so far that inventories have begun to shrink — even in the face of historically weak demand for motor vehicles. As the economy stabilizes, just slowing the pace of this inventory shrinkage will boost gross domestic product, or GDP, which is the nation’s total output of goods and services.”
Clearing the backlog of SUVs built on 30-year-old technology is going to pump up GDP? So what? There couldn’t be a clearer example of why GDP is a totally flawed concept, an obsolete institution. We don’t need more land yachts clogging our roads: we need a 21st Century auto industry.
We were (kind of) kidding about seceding before. Here’s what it looks like to us: every era has a challenge, and this is ours: to renew what’s been given us and create what wasn’t — to ensure we foster a sustainable shared prosperity.
Anyone — young or old — can answer it. Neo-progressivism is about ensuring governing and economic institutions once again reflect progressive values. It is more about what you do and who you are than where you fit on a broken political spectrum. So the question is this: do you still belong to the 20th century – or the 21st?