Tag Archives: progressivism

Brain Candy – Great Quotes from Yesterday

I’m in San Francisco to co-chair the Code for America Summit this week, so lots going on, and some deep blog posts in the works. But first. Fun! Here are some of my favourite quotes I stumbled upon or heard in the last 24 hours.

“The 4-Hour Body” reads as if The New England Journal of Medicine had been hijacked by the editors of the SkyMall catalog.

Dwight Garner, in the New York Times review of the Four Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss

The entire review is pure genius. Definitely worth reading.

But more quotes await!

“Micro-managing isn’t that third thing that Amazon does better than us, by the way. I mean, yeah, they micro-manage really well, but I wouldn’t list it as a strength or anything. I’m just trying to set the context here, to help you understand what happened. We’re talking about a guy [Jeff Bezos] who in all seriousness has said on many public occasions that people should be paying him to work at Amazon. He hands out little yellow stickies with his name on them, reminding people “who runs the company” when they disagree with him. The guy is a regular… well, Steve Jobs, I guess. Except without the fashion or design sense. Bezos is super smart; don’t get me wrong. He just makes ordinary control freaks look like stoned hippies.”

Steve Yegge in a now no longer public but still accessible assessment of why Google doesn’t get platforms.

The broader read is fantastic, but this quote – mentioned to me by a friend – I thought was both fun and insightful. There is something to be said for super obsessive bosses. They care about their business. It is worth noting that both Jobs and Bezos founded their companies. A lot of other companies could do with this kind of love and attention – even if, in high doses, it can be totally toxic. It’s a fascinating tension.

So yes, tech and the four hour work week? I must be proximity to the valley… so let’s get away from that.

How about #occupywallst? There is a very interesting analysis of the data behind the We are the 99% tumblr feed over at rortybomb, definitely worth a read. But I was really struck by this quote about the nature of the demands:

The people in the tumblr aren’t demanding to bring democracy into the workplace via large-scale unionization, much less shorter work days and more pay.  They aren’t talking the language of mid-twentieth century liberalism, where everyone puts on blindfolds and cuts slices of pie to share.  The 99% looks too beaten down to demand anything as grand as “fairness” in their distribution of the economy.  There’s no calls for some sort of post-industrial personal fulfillment in their labor – very few even invoke the idea that a job should “mean something.”  It’s straight out of antiquity – free us from the bondage of our debts and give us a basic ability to survive.

Ooph. Now that is depressing. But check out his concluding remark.

We have piecemeal, leaky versions of each of these in our current liberal social safety net.  Having collated all these responses, I think completing these projects should be the ultimate goal of the 99%

This is what really strikes me. Here you have a welfare state that isn’t even that big by Western standards but is still not trivial in the resources it consumes, and yet it delivers a pretty crappy outcome to a huge number of citizens. It may be that enough funding from the wealthy restores that system and makes it work. But the financial crises in Europe would seem to suggest otherwise. For many, especially in America, the status quo is unacceptable, and the ability to go back may no longer exist. So until we start thinking about what the future looks like, one free of the systems of the past, we’re probably in trouble.

But any effort here is going to run into a pretty serious brick wall when it comes to coalition building. Consider this amazing line from this Change.org petition:

Rhee uses Change.org to post deceptively worded petitions with such titles as: “Join the Fight to Save Great Teachers” and “Pay Effective Teachers What They Deserve.” When you delve into it, she’s working to weaken unions and institute merit pay for teachers. These are insidious, corporate, anti-progressive reforms. Change.org should not be participating in Rhee’s union busting.

Merit pay is an insidious, corporate, anti-progressive reform? You have to be pretty far out on the left to believe that. Indeed, the notion of merit sat at the heart of the progressive revolution. Now I’m no fan of Rhee, but I’m also a believer that good work should be rewarded and, well, bad work should be punished. That isn’t saying your pay should be linked to test scores, but it also doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be linked to nothing other than tenure. If that is union busting, then the progressive movement it totally dead. This is why I think progressive reform is stopped dead in its tracks. The traditional left wants to defend the status quo of government (while happily attacking the equally problematic status quo of wall st.) while I suspect others, many of whom are sympathetic to the #occupywallst message, are actually equally uncomfortable with the status quo in both the public and private sphere.

This is bad news for those of us who don’t want to return to the Gilded Age. There may not be a coalition that can counter the conservatives on the left and the right. Maybe there needs to be a collapse of this complex system before there can be a rebuilding. It’s a pretty depressing and sobering thought.

Okay. so, you got suckered in by a few fun quotes only to find yourself in the serious world of protest politics. Sorry about that, but that’s the kind of technology fueled, politically driven 24 hours its been.

Hope to see you tomorrow…

A Neo-Progressive Manifesto

This piece builds on my thoughts regarding Umair Haque’s Generation M Manifesto.

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 turned politics into a divisive word. We want open, engaged and deep democracy — everywhere.

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 wanted organizations hidden behind veils of secrecy. We want open institutions, fit for survival, designed to grow and share wealth, that seek to create markets, not own them.

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 let citizens devolve into consumers and users. We want citizens to be hackers, creators and… citizens.

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.

There’s a tectonic shift rocking the social, political, and economic landscape. We are pro-ams, we are creatives, we are hackers, we are neo-progressives and we are legion.

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.

But increasingly they’re your institutions, not ours. You made inherited them but you failed to renew them and now they’re broken. Here’s what we mean:

“… 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?

The Generation M Manifesto (Re-mixed v.1)

I’ve always been a big Umair fan and think you should to. He writes about everything Taylor and I were getting at in our piece about The Death of Progressive Politics and the need for a neo-progressive movement.

On Wednesday Umair Haque published The Generation M Manifesto on his blog. In the very best spirit of Generation M he asked others to edit and re-mix the manifesto. I’ve added a few lines (all my edits are in red), removed the reference to “I” (underlying thinking: this is a manifesto for a group), removed the “I thinks” (this is no time to hedge ourselves)

I want to think about this more but here’s my first crack.

Addendum: I’ve actually done a lot more thinking on the Manifesto and re-mixed it more significantly here.

—-
Dear Old People Who Run the World,

My generation would like to break up with you.

Everyday, I 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 I think we have irreconcilable differences.

You wanted big, fat, lazy “business.” We want small, responsive, micro-scale commerce.

You turned politics into a dirty word. We want authentic, deep democracy — everywhere.

You wanted financial fundamentalism. We want an economics that makes sense for people — not just banks.

You wanted shareholder value — built by tough-guy CEOs. We want real value, built by people with character, dignity, and courage.

You wanted organizations hidden behind a veils of secrecy. We want open institutions, fit for survival, designed to grow and share wealth, that seek to create markets, not own them.

You wanted an invisible hand — it became a digital the sleight of hand. Today’s markets are those where the majority of trades are done literally robotically. We want a visible transparent handshake: to trust and to be trusted.

You wanted growth — faster. We want to slow down — so we can become better.

You didn’t care which communities were capsized, or which lives were sunk. We want a rising tide that lifts all boats.

You wanted to biggie size life: McMansions, Hummers, and McFood. We want to humanize life.

You let citizens be devolve into consumers and users. We want citizens to be hackers, creators and… citizens.

You wanted a culture that is controlled by the past. We want a free culture that builds on the past.

You wanted exurbs, sprawl, and gated anti-communities. We want a society built on authentic around sustainable communities.

You wanted more money, credit and leverage — to consume ravenously. We want to be great at doing stuff that matters.

You sacrificed the meaningful for the material: you sold out the very things that made us great for trivial gewgaws, trinkets, and gadgets. We’re not for sale: we’re learning to once again do what is meaningful.

There’s a tectonic shift rocking the social, political, and economic landscape. The last two points above are what express it most concisely. I hate labels, but I’m going to employ a flawed, imperfect one: Generation “M.” We are pro-ams, we are creatives, we are neo-progressives, we are hackers, we are Generation “M” and we are legion.

What do the “M”s in Generation M stand for? The first is for a movement. It’s a little bit about age — but mostly about a growing number of people who are acting very differently. They are doing meaningful stuff that matters the most. Those are the second, third, and fourth “M”s.

Gen M is about passion, responsibility, authenticity, and challenging yesterday’s way of everything. Everywhere I look, I see an explosion of Gen M businesses, NGOs, open-source communities, local initiatives, government. Who’s Gen M? Obama, kind of. Larry and Sergey. The Threadless, Etsy, and Flickr guys. Ev, Biz and the Twitter crew. Tehran 2.0. The folks at Kiva, Talking Points Memo, and FindtheFarmer. Shigeru Miyamoto, Steve Jobs, Muhammad Yunus, and Jeff Sachs are like the grandpas of Gen M. There are tons where these innovators came from.

Gen M isn’t just kind of awesome — it’s vitally necessary. If you think the “M”s sound idealistic, think again.

The great crisis 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, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, in our institutions: the rules by which our economy is organized.

But increasingly they’re your institutions, not ours. You made inherited them but you failed to renew them and now they’re broken. Here’s what I we mean:

“… 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.

I was We were (kind of) kidding about seceding before. Here’s what it looks like to me us: every generation has a challenge, and this, I think, is ours: to foot the bill for yesterday’s profligacy — and to create, instead, an authentically, sustainable shared prosperity.

Anyone — young or old — can answer it. Generation M is more about what you do and who you are than when you were born. So the question is this: do you still belong to the 20th century – or the 21st?

Love,

Umair and the Edge Economy Community

Neo-Progressivism: The Next Political Cycle?

lrc_0908_largeSeveral months ago the Literary Review of Canada put out a request for articles about the rise of Obama and what it means for politics in general and Canada specifically. Mine and Taylor’s proposal won out and is the lead essay in this month’s edition of the LRC. Needless to say we are pretty excited.

The essay explores how the Left has been killing progressive politics. Those on the right have always been clear about their disdain for progressivism and their desire to rollback its success. On the left however, an equally strong conservatism has emerged. Fearful that any debate, or worse reform, will threaten successes of the past century many progressives have become anti-change. It is a more subtle conservatism, but it has helped foster a political environment within the left and centre-left that is defined by silence and stagnation.

But change is afoot. A new generation is challenging old assumptions. It is these same people – the neo-progressives – that helped propel Obama to the top of the democratic party. This new generation of progressives could similarly reshape Canadian politics.

You can read the article here.

And he's off…

As with all things Obama it seems like people saw what they wanted to see in his acceptance speech.

Was it his best speech? Hardly. But it was the right speech. Political, attacking and yet still laying out a vision.

I’m predicting a 12% convention bounce. Bold, I know, but after Taylor’s prescient 5 month Biden prediction, I’m feeling the pressure to deliver something big.

Regardless of the bounce, I worry about how the Democratic Party seems to slowly be sinking its teeth into the Obama machine. Over the past few months I sense a slight drift towards a more “traditional” liberalism and less championing of a new progressivism. He’s started to play it safe – a challenge that arose during the primary and that, once he grasped, shook him up, loosened him up, and had being himself again.

Obama’s unique – and thus perceived risky – perspective is what made him popular. Put out that flame and you kill his passion. Fortunately, this speech showed his original political instincts and leanings are still very much alive. The policy prescriptions -bound together by a narrative of encouraging both individual and collective responsibility – were sensible and pragmatic. His instinct to reach out and make space for others, while holding firm to some core principles, also shone through.

I don’t think it is possible, but I do fear the party will do to Obama what it did to Gore and Kerry – try to force him to make compromise after compromise, slowly sucking the life and passion out of him as it transforms him into block-vote seeking automaton. It ain’t a pretty picture but look at the speeches Kerry and Gore gave, it would be a different world if they’d spoken like that 4 or 8 years ago.

Fortunately, the New York Times thinks Obama has insulated himself against this outcome in large measure because he’s already managed to remold the party in his image. I hope they are right. Looking at the people in the stadium – the mix of race, class and age – suggests this is the case. It certainly was a picture of America as we’d all like to see it.

I just hope that the make-over has filtered higher up as well. I can’t bear to watch the democrats lose another election – especially with such talent leading them.