What we require now is a new framework for thinking and talking about the economy, grounded in modern understandings of how things actually work. Economies, as social scientists now understand, aren’t simple, linear and predictable, but complex, nonlinear and ecosystemic. An economy isn’t a machine; it’s a garden. It can be fruitful if well tended, but will be overrun by noxious weeds if not.In this new framework, which we call Gardenbrain, markets are not perfectly efficient but can be effective if well managed. Where Machinebrain posits that it’s every man for himself, Gardenbrain recognizes that we’re all better off when we’re all better off. Where Machinebrain treats radical inequality as purely the predictable result of unequally distributed talent and work ethic, Gardenbrain reveals it as equally the self-reinforcing and compounding result of unequally distributed opportunity.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Robotic Versus Gaian
Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer have an interesting article in the NYT "The Machine and the Garden" that brings up an interesting and, I think, a valuable notion. Our use of mechanistic metaphors when talking about government, economics and society in general drive our thinking in the wrong direction. They use the neologisms "Machinebrain and Gardenbrain" to separate the two ways of thinking about how things work and it really does make sense and it has been something I have thought about a lot over the years. The economy and society more resembles a garden than a machine, and it needs to be fertilized and cultivated more than it needs to be lubricated and tuned.
This is good way to think and while I am not to keen on the ugly "machinebrain/gardenbrain" terms and would prefer something a little less barren on the order of "Robotic/Gaian" it does provide what I consider a much more positive and constructive alternative for economic reality. What is even more important is that it happens to fit the facts far better than the right-wing/libertarian machine models which are leading us rapidly down the path to a major catastrophe. I would venture to say that if we and our leaders started thinking more about the "ecosystem" that is the reality of our society and economies we would begin to see a lot more constructive things begin to happen. If the mechanistic thinking and insistence that the whole thing is a "zero sum game" where if one wins another loses were to turn into a recognition that we all can win in a healthy, ecologically balanced system we could do nothing but generate a positive change. It also doesn't hurt that this whole way of thinking fits pretty closely with my overall Buddhist, Gaian, and Pagan belief system.