Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government

Reply Fri 27 Apr, 2012 10:59 am
This is an important book if you care about America. BBB

The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government
by Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer

Book Description

American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. 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.

Editorial Reviews

Liu and Hanauer have proposed a powerful new way to think about how society works and there is a lot here for conservatives to work with and debate.
Noah Kristula-Green, The Daily Beast

Even if you don't agree with everything the authors propose, you will find 'The Gardens of Democracy' to be spirited and thought provoking.
Barbara Lloyd McMichael, The Bellingham Herald

I just read a remarkable book by Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer. It is The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government. I highly recommend it as a big gust of fresh air to clear out the dense, stale, gases we have all been breathing when it comes to how we talk about politics and citizenship. It is time to break out of the prison of left/right thinking that has made politics so mean spirited in recent years... There is something in this new metaphor for both the left and the right.
Ray Smock, Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies


Review By Ed Lazowska

Like its predecessor "The True Patriot," this book is hugely thought-provoking. Quoting from the first chapter:

"If you can hold these paired thoughts in your head, we wrote this book for you:

- The federal government spends too much money. The wealthy should pay more taxes.

- Every American should have access to high-quality health care. We spend far too much on health care.

- We need to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels. We need to ensure that our economy continues to grow.

- Unions are a crucially important part of our economy and society. Unions have become overly protectionist and are in need of enormous amounts of reform.

- We need strong government. We need strong citizens."

Liu and Hanauer advocate "Big What, Small How" government, in contrast to the "small/small" of the right and the "big/big" of the left.

This book is a quick read that will make you think.

Review By Roger N. Johnson

Though somewhat-rightly lampooned for it, Donald Rumsfeld's infamous quote about being aware of "known unknowns", "unknown unknowns", and the like, is a useful way to open discussion about this very well-made and thought-provoking new book by Nick Hanauer, a member of the 0.1%, and Eric Liu, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton and civic entrepreneur. Our economy and government are far more dynamic and networked and reciprocal than probably most of us realize ... maybe we don't have to constantly fight with each other. It is not either/or. It could be a choice between "win-win" or "lose-lose". Why struggle so hard and live meanly if we are in effect racing to the bottom?

One thing to appreciate about the book is that it is short enough to read in one sitting, with or without a nice pot o' tea, and its construction might remind one of books you checked out from the school library when you were still in your single-digits.

Simple, concise can also be deep and can change the way you look at things. And this book does not promote one grand narrative or ideology, but does insist on each of us to take more responsibility for the outcomes in our communities and our country. And trust me it will prompt you to re-think at least a few assumptions.

We are at a crucial point in the evolution of the American experiment. Some people are wallowing in profound cynicism when it comes to all government, some people have been profiting at an astronomical rate in the last 30 years (for instance, co-author Hanauer), the middle class is suffering (unquestionably, no matter how you analyze it), "Gridlock!" everywhere you look, the military-industrial complex is a whole other subject ... and yet choosing to be hopeless or ignorant may not be the best way to go forward.

This book's strength is about questioning assumptions, perceiving our government, economy, and our role as citizens with more reality AND imagination. It offers helpful critiques of the stale talking points from both the right and the left. And offers a refreshing look at some of the language we use when we talk about the issues.

I'll let you explore the book unimpeded and take from it what you may, but let me give one small example and point to consider (though I am sure many have seen this elsewhere). Some companies and individuals have profited mightily, mightily from the internet. Did Google or Amazon or any of these companies create the infrastructure? Who paid for and conducted the research and development that created the internet? If we want to continue to have a dynamic, vital economy in which we can all be "better off when we are all better off" how should we tend our garden?

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