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The Bright Green Undertow to America's Conservatism
Jeremy Faludi, 29 May 06


"I don't believe that the solutions in society will come from the left or the right or the north or the south. They will come from islands within those organizations; islands of people with integrity who want to do something" -- Karl-Henrik Robèrt

Conservatism is on the rise in America, and shows no sign of slowing, much less reversing, in the coming decade. This is due mostly to the impressive organizing and activism of the country's political right wing. However, there are larger societal factors at work both in America and around the globe which are slowly changing the political landscape, pushing environmental responsibility and social tolerance--traditionally both liberal values--into more prominent positions over the coming decades. Whether this means the breaking of conservatives' stranglehold on the country is inevitable, or if it merely means that conservatism will be redefined, I don't know. Probably the latter, since these large-scale forces will not cause redistribution of wealth or various other things in the vaguely-accepted liberal agenda. But all that is a moot point--no matter what, change is coming.

The four large-scale trends that are pushing much of the world towards more environmentally responsible and socially tolerant politics are:
- increasing urbanism
- the new economy
- education
- immigration

For this essay I'll ignore things like peak oil or increasing weather crises, which require a receptive audience to leverage. The four trends listed are simply a matter of numbers. Currently the US's dominant political culture (both left and right) is resisting them, but they are changing the world whether or not anyone wants them to, and our acceptance of them will decide whether the transition is smooth or painful.


Despite the inevitability of this undertow pulling away the social strictures and ecological irresponsibility we see in today's American politics, we can't just wait around for it to happen. I write this in the hope that by identifying and pushing these leverage points, we can cross the threshold sooner. ...And more importantly, that we make it a smooth changing of the guard instead of a war. In the best case, Neo-liberals could use these as leverage points to turn around first the old-school half of the Democratic party and then the rest of the nation after a couple election cycles, bringing the rest of their agenda along for the ride. In the worst-case scenario, the country could be crippled by internal conflict so severely that it is unable to compete in the world's changing markets and politics, and to some extent collapses before rebuilding itself in a new form. The most likely scenario is somewhere in between, where these factors change politics in isolated pockets, here and there, both on the left and on the right. The same applies to other countries around the world. Though these large-scale shifts will happen at different rates and have different impacts in different countries, here is a general picture of how these four factors will change the political landscape to promote tolerance and environmental issues.

 
 
Urbanization

Living in cities does not inherently make people more tolerant of diversity, but it helps. People living in cities get exposed to more different kinds of people than those living in sparsely-populated countryside. Ghettoization exists, it's true, but on balance, urbanites' exposure to people of different races, religions, sexual orientations, etc., shows them that these Others are not scary aliens after all, but just other people; coworkers and neighbors. Those that live in more isolated, homogeneous locations simply don't get the chance to make friends across these divides. Tolerance is more than just having civil rights, it's having everyone well-integrated into society, including civic, business, and cultural life. America's demographic trends are going as the rest of the world's are, with more people living in cities every year. As urbanization increases, it will increase American society's tolerance for diversity, helping civil rights and integration battles.

Urbanization also helps environmental issues, because it increases their visibility. California has the best air pollution laws in the world because Los Angeles is full of smog. In the countryside, people live so far apart that car exhaust doesn't build up so noticeably. Cities also present solutions as well as problems--in rural areas, generally the only way to get from here to there is to drive, but those who move to cities and fight traffic discover the choices of public transit, or moving to city centers where they can walk. They may feel downtown living is prohibitively expensive, or the local transit system is garbage, but this will motivate some to push for better urban planning or transit development. The more people move to existing cities, the worse traffic gets, and the more people become motivated to fix it.

Cities also increase the visibility of power and water inputs, as well as waste outputs. The impact of a single family farm on a nearby river might be ignorable, but an entire city's impact is not. Because cities' impacts are unignorable, they also cost money to deal with. This forces anyone with civic involvement to become aware of these issues, and as things like oil become more expensive, alternatives will begin to be sought. In addition, some cities which already have high percentages of Earth-conscious citizens are pulling the rest of their populations up to speed--in Seattle, for instance, recycling is now mandatory. Those who leave more than 10% recyclables in their garbage will not have their garbage taken, and apartment owners can be fined. Almost all major metropolitan areas have green measures like carpool lanes and recycling programs, which are largely absent in rural areas simply due to economics.

Finally, as cities grow, they have to become more efficient in order to not crumble under their own weight of traffic, energy and resource use. True cities (as opposed to suburbs) are actually quite energy- and resource-efficient, even if city-dwellers are no more aware of environmental issues than those in the countryside, simply because density is efficient. As city populations become more dense, people living in these cities will inevitably get pulled along to greener lifestyles and awareness.

 
 
The Global Digital Economy

The "new economy" is not just the internet age; it is the transition of economies from being primarily agriculture, manufacturing, or service-based to being primarily knowledge-work-based. It enables environmental responsibility by replacing matter with intelligence, and it demands social tolerance because it is driven by creativity and critical thinking.

Replacing matter with intelligence is sometimes called dematerialization. Basically it's "working smarter, not harder", so that you can achieve the same ends with much less energy or less resource use than traditional solutions would use. Computers make intelligent analysis cheap, so engineers now more than ever before have the ability to run the numbers on their creations to figure out how much width, or stiffness, or whatnot, is needed, instead of just designing in huge margins of error just to be safe. In addition, computer modeling allows designers to create and manipulate prototypes virtually, without having to build dozens or hundreds of physical prototypes just to work out bugs in the design. These trends push everyone towards better environmental responsibility no matter where they fall on the political spectrum, because they make it a matter of saving money. Before computer-aided design and analysis, you could easily spend more money trying to design a smaller/lighter/efficient part than you would save in reduced material cost or energy use. Now we're starting to see that change, and as virtual modeling technology improves, smart design will get cheaper and cheaper, thus leaving cost more aligned with resource use. Finally, there is some excitement about the possibility of smart objects facilitating their own recycling, reuse, or repair, rather than just going to a landfill like products today.

Ten years have passed since the beginning of the "new economy" boom, but it takes time for an industry to grow to prominence, and it takes time for wealth to transform into social change. Even so, the most old-school investors can see the writing on the wall: last year, Google's stock was worth more than Ford Motor Company and GM's combined. The oil and coal industries will continue to have serious money and clout for decades to come (and all oil-rich nations will continue to have their politics distorted by it far past any ripples of the new economy), but other resource-extraction industries such as lumber and steel are already withering on the vine. A generation from now, companies that make money from bits instead of atoms will be a far larger part of the economy, and a more influential bloc.

Many of the Web's inventors, such as Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreessen, intentionally designed the system to be a public good and have fought to keep the web open and free, a very democratic goal. That's nice and all, but it wouldn't make a difference without the economic revolution of the internet boom. The boom put enormous amounts of wealth into the hands of smart creative idealists like Andreessen, and gave them the power to forge a whole new sector of the world economy. (Note that neither Berners-Lee nor Andreessen were originally American, but both live here now, because of the entrepreneurial opportunities and hotbeds of creative tech people.) The bubble burst on the first wave of the internet boom, but the revolution is still very real, and the world's economy is permanently changing as a result. The people making money in the US will increasingly be at places like Google, Apple, eBay, etc. (Granted, the internet boom still makes money for people like Microsoft, Verizon, etc., but the percentage of non-traditional, left-leaning people getting rich in the internet sector is vastly higher than in traditional manufacturing or service industries.)

This boom is not restricted to the developed world, either--India's economy is getting transformed by the new economy more than any other in the world. Although its first wave of companies are foreign giants outsourcing routine tasks, its second generation is beginning to poke its head out, with entrepreneurs and creativity of its own. And even in its first wave, it is changing the culture--Bangalore is significantly more relaxed about social strictures than the average Indian city. It is not as tolerant as Mumbai, but one of Mumbai's core industries is the movie business, which is a creative media-based industry, albeit a pre-internet one.

As Cory Doctorow has said, "any job that can be described is likely to be outsourced", so decent-wage jobs that remain in the US, Europe, and Japan will increasingly require actions that can't be listed in a spec sheet. In other words, they will require creativity and problem-solving. This, perhaps even more than the high levels of education required for knowledge-working, will push society towards tolerance, because the people with money will increasingly be cultural creatives, as described by Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson. This same demographic has been studied as an economic segment by Richard Florida, in his books The Rise of the Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class. He defines the "creative class" not only as artists and designers, but as all critical thinkers / problem-solvers: this includes doctors, engineers, lawyers, and financiers. It may be an overly-broad definition, but it works when contrasted with the other two-thirds of the US economy--manufacturing and service. Those jobs are about performing well-defined tasks quickly and repetitively, while "creative class" jobs require advanced education, out-of-the-box thinking, or both. He points out that in 1900, only 10% of US jobs were creative-class workers; in the 1980's it began to rise, and now they comprise not only 30% of US workers, but almost half the wealth creation: "nearly $2 trillion, almost as much as the manufacturing and service sectors combined."

Money goes where it's wanted and stays where it's well treated; the same thing goes for the creative class, because they are highly mobile and often novelty-seeking. Thus, Florida argues that economically successful cities must woo cultural creatives by having "large numbers of talented individuals, a high degree of technological innovation, and a tolerance of diverse lifestyles." He has an entire essay describing how US conservatism has hurt the economy by driving away the creative class, and you can tell by the title of his latest book that this is happening in significant numbers.

In the US, this is where the greatest uncertainty lies in having a smooth transition or a rough and painful one. Currently the gap between rich and poor is widening along the digital divide, with blue-state cities gaining wealth sharply while red states are sliding further into welfare dependence. This plus the widening social divides as cultural creatives emerge as a demographic are causing serious friction and polarization in the political spectrum, entrenching conservatives in intolerance while old blue-collar union leftists are left behind by the new digital liberals. Changes in numbers of congressional seats and electoral college votes are also not keeping up with population shifts from red states to blue ones, leaving red-state voters with disproportionate electoral power and fueling the backlash against the rising creative class. Continuing dominance of socially intolerant administrations cause more flight of the creative class overseas, which weakens the US economically. If continued for long enough, this vicious cycle will cause America to become a has-been while other countries take center stage in the world's economy. ...This is fine, perhaps it would even be for the best; however, it's unlikely that Americans, particularly conservative administrations, would go gently into that good night. Economic desperation, a sense of entitlement, and the world's largest military are a dangerous combination. On the other hand, if red states can be brought into the new economy, they will embrace the prosperity which comes with the creative class, and begin to reshape their cities to attract more of them. This would smooth and hasten the transition away from intolerance to openness.

 
 
Education

Universities are bastions of liberalism in America. Historically this has probably been more due to the fact that liberals value education, not because education makes you more liberal (as much as I would like to believe the latter), but that's irrelevant. Once you have that condition set up, anyone going through higher education gets pushed a bit to the left, simply because that is the environment present. As the economic shifts described above continue, a higher percentage of Americans (and people worldwide) need advanced degrees. As more kids go to college every year, our next generation will be more liberal than our present one.

American universities' liberal bent has been pecked at for over twenty years by right-wing organizations such as The Heritage Foundation, whose stated mission is "to formulate and promote conservative public policies". The American Prospect has an excellent in-depth article on lessons the left wing should learn from the right's concerted and effective job in this arena. As they mention, "Conservative funders have understood that funding projects at the most prestigious universities... turns out young scholars who confer the important commodity of credibility for policy proposals." Currently there are no liberal organizations filling an equal and opposite niche to the half-dozen conservative ones which have reframed the debates of today, though a couple have been proposed: the fledgling Center for American Progress and the alleged Democracy Alliance (which has had news articles written about it, but has no online presence itself; the Alliance for Democracy is not the same thing, and not even in the right league.)

Left alone, however, academia always tends towards open-mindedness because the very process of academia is thinking critically about the world and society. Academia also increases students' environmental awareness through the sciences and through the existence of environmental studies programs; once people have more environmental awareness, a sense of responsibility comes on its heels. This trend has only strengthened in the past few decades, and shows no sign of letting up--campuses across the country are creating or enlarging environmental studies programs. According to Romero and Jones of Macalester College, before the 1960's, only 14 environmental studies programs existed in the US; this number swelled during the 1970's and 90's, so that now there are over a thousand programs.

Elsewhere in the world, increases in education can cause much more dramatic changes in the political landscape. Getting girls in developing nations into primary and secondary schools is a Millennium Development Goal because, as the UNPFA states, "Investing in girls' education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty." It also changes the political landscape by emancipating women, and by changing demographics: educated women tend to get married later and have fewer, but healthier, children. Educated women are also less likely to get AIDS. Since the Millennium Development Goals were set, much progress has been made getting universal access to education in developing countries.

 
 
Immigration

The world is getting smaller, people are getting more mobile. In particular, the people with technical skills and high earning capacity are getting more mobile. That means that increasingly, anyplace in the world with a flourishing economy will have many immigrants. This has already been true for decades (in fact, centuries) in places like New York, London, and Shanghai, and such places thus get reputations for being cosmopolitan, diverse, and accepting of many lifestyles. As immigration rises both in the US and worldwide, this social openness and diversity will inevitably spread to cities that have traditionally been more homogeneous. Europe in particular is beginning to see waves of immigration heretofore unknown there, and some countries have struggled to assimilate their increasingly diverse populations (note last year's riots in France).

Some cities will be less receptive to waves of immigrants and the changes in local culture that they bring, but they will be hurting themselves economically. Bill Joy once said that even the biggest company with the brightest staff has to remember, "most of the smart people in the world don't work for you." The same is true for cities and nations. Anyplace that does not wish to become an economic backwater in the age of highly mobile professionals must welcome immigrants and the changes in culture that they bring.

Immigrant-rich cities also become breeding grounds for new kinds of culture: creole languages like Yiddish or Afrikaans, music like jazz or flamenco, foods like cajun or various "fusion" cuisines. This is the most literal sense of "cultural creatives" mentioned above, and such blossoming of unique local culture opens people to become not just tolerant, but enthusiastic, about the ways people around them are living differently.

In addition to immigrants effecting the politics of the nation they settle in, they also effect the politics of the nation they come from. Remittances help reduce poverty in developing countries--they are both the most stable and the largest source of economic aid, far eclipsing government aid and foreign direct investment. According to Financial Express, about $175 billion a year is sent in remittances worldwide; they say "crude oil is the only commodity that generates a larger volume of money flows between countries each year." There is also some evidence that the ties immigrants keep with their family and friends in their home countries serve as conduits to leak host country culture and politics back to home countries. Sociologist Peggy Levitt's book The Transnational Villagers describes her case study of values acquired by assimilating immigrants that diffuse back to people in their home countries, with gender roles and family roles changing for people who have never even been to the host country. This is a change in political landscape that few politicians are aware of, much less plan for.

 
 
A New Left?

The growth of ecological responsibility and social tolerance may be inevitable, but its political location is not--just as Nixon was the first US president to go to China, Republicans could lead the way in these arenas. It seems unlikely, and would require sloughing off the party's current elite, but that may be more likely than Democrats getting into power. In addition, much of the Democratic party establishment doesn't understand these forces any better than Republicans. But the rise of a new, more coherent left in American politics might help and be helped by the rise of environmentalism and tolerance.

The Economist's John Michelthwait Adrian Wooldrige point out in their book The Right Nation that America's right wing slowly built their domination of politics over the last fifty years, and their power will continue to rise through the next ten or twenty years. Their uniting of the brainpower and vision of rich intelligentsia with the passion of grass-roots religion has been an unbeatable combination, particularly as the left sits fragmented. As the authors of Cultural Creatives note, the number of "traditionalists" (roughly speaking, right-wingers) in America is only slightly more than the cultural creatives (neo-liberals); 29% vs. 24%. However, the cultural creatives lack consciousness of themselves as a group, and thus are impotent politically. This needs to change. The transition to a greener, more open-minded US would happen more smoothly and completely if the political left were in power and effectual. (Social tolerance in particular is a hard sell for today's ruling conservatives.) America's left is unlikely to rise anytime soon, but Markos Moulitsas Zuniga ("Kos" from The Daily Kos) and Jerome Armstrong wrote in their book Crashing the Gate about how it could: basically restructuring the Democratic party to be more like a Google than like a General Motors, with the old guard getting out of the way to let the New Left take the reins. The only problem with their book is that they said a new vision was key to motivating the party, but did not present that vision. In fact, that vision is already here. Its three pillars are a healthy environment, a healthy society (which includes equal rights, and building community), and a truly healthy economy (not necessarily the highest GNP, but the lowest poverty and the rebuilding of America's middle class). It's that simple. The triple bottom line for national politics.

Perhaps the rise of environment and tolerance issues over the coming decades will help America's left regain power; perhaps it will just make the left less necessary. I don't presume to make a prediction.

 
 
Conclusion

Whatever parties are in power during the coming decades, four demographic/economic shifts are happening in the US and in much of the rest of the world to drive politics toward greater environmental responsibility and greater social tolerance. The shifts are urbanization, the global digital economy, education, and immigration. Certainly there are other forces rising in the world (such as Christian & Muslim fundamentalism, an aging Europe and Japan, peak oil, etc.) which are having their own effects, sometimes in opposing directions, but I think that over the next ten or twenty years, we will see these four shifts reshape the political debates both in the US and across much of the world.

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Comments

Great essay Jeremy, thought provoking, thank you. (PS: maybe you meant undertow and not undertoe?)


Posted by: JN2 on 29 May 06

Woops, thanks for catching the typo! And glad you liked it.


Posted by: Jeremy Faludi on 29 May 06

I'm really sorry to say but this looks to me like mostly regurgitated fantasy material from the trash humanist community. Nice wishful thinking but isn't going to happen.

Ghettos, slums, enhanced plagues, rampant capitalism are all gifts of cities. If you move our culture into an urban space, it will become increasingly violent, crime-ridden, and unlivable. Today, in New York City, you have entire buildings organized to exclude any "undesirable element". Racism and sexism will become institutionalized through private structures. They will replace public governments with private governance.

one way to think of the new urban landscape is a series of buildings connected by highly secure private transport to other buildings. There will be no pedestrians except for the very poor or suicidal because of the crime created by the difference in wealth between the gated buildings and the riffraff in the streets.

immigration does bring in cheap, easily exploited labor which, in addition to recent college graduates, is the feedstock for American industry. But the myth that they bring in this cultural melting pot is only true if you look on a long time line. In the short term, ghettos, both self and externally imposed keep the new immigrants isolated and vulnerable.

I grew up with people whose grandmother's could not speak a word of English. They were dependent on their children and grandchildren to help them function in our society. There is nothing to stop this pattern from repeating itself over and over again.

I don't believe the new global digital economy will provide anything of lasting value. Information is getting increasingly difficult to find. Its half-life is measured in months versus decades for books in the library. Ghettoization is increasingly common in the digital realm as well as censorship by filter as well as by lawsuits becomes increasingly frequent.

Only when the new digital economy can start cranking out individually individually customized products will you have anything vaguely resembling value. These products will be shipped to your door thereby bypassing the local merchant and having to expose yourself to people that aren't like you.

politics will break down even further because if you are paying for your own local private government to take care of your building and transportation, why should you pay attention to anything else? If things get bad enough, you can pay them to bring in food. If you have enough money, you can ignore the rest of the world.

Education will degrade similarly. Because all of your coursework can come in over the net (see global digital economy), you can get an education at bargain prices from professors on the other side of the world. There will be significant advantages in getting a degree from universities in Southeast Asia or China because that will be where the advanced research takes place. You won't need to question anything because all you need to do is pass your tests. And that's all that counts.

The greatest amount of political discourse will take place online in various forums but it will amount to nothing because it's just words. conservative politics will continue to rise because it comes from the Third World portion of America. They meet each other, talk, don't worry about assaults by random strangers as they travel about in their smaller communities. They solve the problems of the world over a few cans of beer and reinforce the sense that it's them against the world. they never look beyond the empty drums banging in their radios, screaming about how bad the other side is. They never think to do any research or reading on their own.

Lefties on the other hand are more annoying to be around. They tell you why you're wrong with a know it all attitude. Pedantic, arrogant, smug are all the reasons why lefties are left out.

maybe my view is just as fantasy filled albeit more of a nightmare. I just hope I die before any urban nirvana fantasy comes to pass


Posted by: Eric S. Johansson on 29 May 06

This reads mostly like an ad for a two-year-old book ("The Right Nation"). With Bush at 29% in polls and a Republican congress and White House mired in corruption investigations and indictments, the basic thesis that the Republican party is going to dominate for decades seems pure right-wing fantasy - unless the basis for that dominance is somthing other than our democratic system of government.

Al Gore is right, politics is non-linear. Canada's "progressive" conservative party was dominant for years until Brian Mulroney became Prime Minister. His government was swamped in corruption charges too, and he left with similar poll ratings to Bush right now; the next election the conservatives were reduced to just 2 elected representatives in the Parliament and have since had to join with another party "Canadian Alliance" to re-take the government after many years of liberal rule.

There's no reason to expect the results of the last few elections to be repeated - unless our election system itself has been corrupted.


Posted by: Arthur Smith on 29 May 06

Interesting article....

One small quibble.

You said: " The boom put enormous amounts of wealth into the hands of smart creative idealists like Andreessen, and gave them the power to forge a whole new sector of the world economy. (Note that neither Berners-Lee nor Andreessen were originally American, but both live here now, because of the entrepreneurial opportunities and hotbeds of creative tech people.)"

Actually Marc Andreessen is as American as you can get... a Midwesterner born in Wisconsin, who like many of the greatest technology pioneers attended the University of Illinois.

Go Illini !!


Posted by: Joe Deely on 29 May 06

Jer, there's good thinking in your essay, but the political landscape is more complex than you've acknowledged, and a partisan "left=good, right=bad" argument is misguided at best. I'd say many of the problems we see today are a result, not of a "right-wing" or "conservative" political agenda, but a lack of balance between "liberal" and "conservative" in governance, a polarizing move to extreme thinking on both sides, and political corruption that can and does occur on the "left" as well as the "right." What I would hope to see at WorldChanging, speaking as a member of the WorldChanging team, is a move away from polarization, an attempt to synthesize positions from a dialogue that transcends partisan differences.


Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 29 May 06

Glad to hear that Jon. There are many elements of this essay I appreciated, and will continue to appreciate, but I was left with an uneasy feeling that you have diagnosed perfectly.


Posted by: Stephen A. Fuqua on 29 May 06

"Left alone, however, academia always tends towards open-mindedness because the very process of academia is thinking critically about the world and society."

This is a joke, right?


Posted by: Dick Fitzwell on 29 May 06

"Ghettos, slums, enhanced plagues, rampant capitalism are all gifts of cities. If you move our culture into an urban space, it will become increasingly violent, crime-ridden, and unlivable. Today, in New York City, you have entire buildings organized to exclude any "undesirable element"."

Increasingly more crime-ridden? New York's crime rate has fallen drastically more than any other city in the U.S. and crime rates in Canada are falling even faster. Perhaps in the 1970s this might have been accurate of New York, but the reality of it is, it's getting better in terms of crime. Also, this seems to be an American-centric view, the racial riots of Paris are mostly in suburbs far away from the bustling downtown districts, my point being in France the inner city is actually safert than the suburbs. As for being unliveable I do agree that I wouldn't wanna live in New York despite it's curses and blessing.


"Racism and sexism will become institutionalized through private structures."

Your other points though about divisions on class levels in cities is very true though, not even the best urban planners have managed to circumvent the divisions of cities along socio-economic and racial grounds. And yes super-plagues do find their starts in higher density areas.


"They will replace public governments with private governance." Why?

"Education will degrade similarly... you can get an education at bargain prices from professors on the other side of the world."

so cheaper education will degrade the world?

"There will be significant advantages in getting a degree from universities in Southeast Asia or China because that will be where the advanced research takes place."

While Europe has yet to make good on their promise to up their science funding to U.S. levels and China has gone from "China's system of research funding, largely controlled by the Ministry of Science and Technology, has long been criticised for its lack of transparency and inefficiency. Following the 2002 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), researchers both in China and overseas called on China to establish an equivalent to the US National Institutes of Health to improve funding (see Why China needs a National Institutes of Health). The Ministry of Science and Technology rejected that proposal last week. to
"As a percentage of GDP, federal investment in physical science research is half of what it was in 1970. (By contrast), in China, R&D expenditures rose 350 percent between 1991 and 2001, and the number of science and engineering Ph.D.s soared 535 percent."

I might add I couldn't find an actual article stating that China has changed their government budget for science and made it more effecient and the Wall Street journal qoute in the above piece only mentions R&D from the corporate sector.

"You won't need to question anything because all you need to do is pass your tests. And that's all that counts."

Who would take this as an education? While yes many Asian societies do discourage the western habit of debate, they still take tests and share information amongst themselves. Additionally wouldn't this lead to a decrease in the skills of and value of an education? It seems like institutions would change to make learning more interactive etc.

"The greatest amount of political discourse will take place online in various forums but it will amount to nothing because it's just words."

and you can't make it actions?

"conservative politics will continue to rise because it comes from the Third World portion of America."

This would be... what? Puerto Rico? oh wait... they can't vote in national elections so that means you're refering to what?

"They never think to do any research or reading on their own."

I think quite a few conversatives are conservative becuase debates on issues have yet to reach out to them.


Posted by: andrew jones on 29 May 06

Ack... Thanks for the correction on Andreesen, Joe Deely. I fixed the article. I think the general point is still relevant, though--many giants of the new economy are immigrants to America. Intel's Andy Grove (Hungarian), Sun's Vinod Khosla (Indian), Yahoo's Jerry Yang (Taiwanese), Google's Sergey Brin (Russian), etc.


Jon, thanks for the comment about oversimplifying and balance. I wanted to not fall into the partisan polarization trap, but apparently didn't go a good enough job of it.


Posted by: Jeremy Faludi on 29 May 06

I was interested to see this article, and it does flag some good points, though like other commenters I think the portrait of an oafish conservatism being unwittingly mugged by virtuous lefty demographics is rather one-eyed.

Environmentalism and political conservatism have, or can have, a number of intersections. Conservatism values tradition, and considers good stewardship of tradition a way to respect those that have come before and to teach those that come after. This should apply just as much to stewardship of the land, or urban environments, than to cultural traditions. After all, "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (Genesis 2:15)

Conservatives value individual responsibility, paying your own way, and facing consequences. Polluting companies do not do this. Individuals who structure their lives to fill the air with CO2 and expect the poor world to pick up the tab are not facing the consequences of their actions.

Conservatives value wealth creation, and since the 20th century or so, free markets and free trade. But markets work within a legal framework that influences the price of externalities; and this framework is discounting the cost of, eg, global warming as captured by the price of carbon-based fuels.

Other conservatives prize national sovereignty and freedom of action. But dependance on centralised mechanisms of energy, sourced from geopolitically unstable parts of the globe, severely limit that freedom of action. Furthermore decentralising energy production spreads property rights and makes homeowners energy entrepeneurs - and entrepeneurs are natural conservatives.

Some of these overlap, and some contradict; it's a broad church. Making such views more mainstream is left as an exercise for the insurance lobby politically donating reader.


Posted by: Adam Burke on 29 May 06

"Some of these overlap, and some contradict; it's a broad church. Making such views more mainstream is left as an exercise for the insurance lobby politically donating reader."

But polls show that environmentalism is popular everywhere in the U.S. Granted though that environmentalism has a tendency to take on different forms for different people and the apporach taken by the site. I mean with the exception of someone like Milton Keys is there really anyone who's terribly anti-environmental or just like Bush and Regean a heavy deregulator? I don't think that the last two Bushes see themselves as anti-environmental, and keep in mind as the economist pointed out this week, forests in Africa and South America that are owned by forestry companies are in better shape and better regulated than government owned sancutaries which are underfunded.

"Other conservatives prize national sovereignty and freedom of action. But dependance on centralised mechanisms of energy, sourced from geopolitically unstable parts of the globe, severely limit that freedom of action. Furthermore decentralising energy production spreads property rights and makes homeowners energy entrepeneurs - and entrepeneurs are natural conservatives."

this would be a truly excellent arguement for libertarians and fiscal conservatives. A distributed power network probably enjoys the same advantages as distributed power, states rights, etc.


Posted by: andrew jones on 30 May 06

We've been openly discussing entrepreneurial revolution for 30 years (2006's anniversary of my father's survey in The Economist), and death of distance's co-cultural innovation crises for 22 years corresponding to my father and my 1984 book (the original world is flat future history and scripts humanity would need to debate and celebrate in every public broadcast tv reality show or web jam imaginable) - more at http://entrepreneurialrevolution.blogspot.com where we also invite you to nominate the world social entreprenurs of 2006. This next decade is make or bust in terms of whether we get to map a 21st C as the most glorious century for integrating all humankinds accomplishments, or inconveniently the last one. We invite all our networking friends to declare that interdependence again today, as our book did in 1984, as far greater mathematicians than I like Einstein in the 1930s and Von Neumann in the 1940s - is it that the whole world already feels this common sense apart from politicians at the very top?


Posted by: chris macrae on 12 Jun 06



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