Sunday, April 29, 2012

GARDENS OF DEMOCRACY

These two young men -- co-authors of two new books -- rank right behind E.F. Schumacher with their thoughts and ideas in critique of what is wrong today. And whether you are an American or not, ideas of this caliber are always valuable and always in vogue.


Eric Liu is an author, educator, and civic entrepreneur. Eric co-authored The True Patriot with Nick Hanauer, and together the two have created the True Patriot Network to advance the book's ideals of progressive patriotism.  His first book, The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker, was a New York Times Notable Book featured in the PBS documentary “Matters of Race." He is also the author of Guiding Lights: How to Mentor – and Find Life’s Purpose, the Official Book of National Mentoring Month, and is founder of the Guiding Lights Network, an organization dedicated to promoting great citizenship. His book Imagination First, co-authored with Scott Noppe-Brandon of the Lincoln Center Institute, explores ways to unlock imagination in education, politics, business and the arts. Eric and Nick Hanauer have also co-authored the newly released book The Gardens of Democracy.
Eric served as a White House speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and later as the President's deputy domestic policy adviser. After the White House, he was an executive at the digital media company RealNetworks. In 2002 he was named one of the World Economic Forum's Global Leaders of Tomorrow. He is a columnist for TIME.com 
@ericpliu 



Nick Hanauer is a Seattle-based entrepreneur and venture capitalist. His business accomplishments include founding aQuantive, Inc. which was purchased by Microsoft in 2007 (the largest acquisition in Microsoft history), early investment and board advisement to amazon.com, founding gear.com, and key management roles and investments in companies too numerous to list. Nick is actively involved in the Seattle community and Washington State's public education system. He co-founded the League of Education Voters and serves on the boards of the Cascade Land Conservancy, The University of Arizona's Mount Lemmon Science Center and the Biosphere2 climate research project. Nick is co-author of The True Patriot, an acclaimed work that presents a forward-looking, progressive definition of American patriotism. In 2007 he and co-author Eric Liu founded The True Patriot Network to advance the book's ideals. Nick and Eric Liu have also co-authored the recently released book The Gardens of Democracy.

@NickHanauer 



 "Whatever your party, faction, or faith, we hope you will agree that we owe our country and the next generation a more purposeful politics." 
Indeed, I encourage you to give respectful attention to their ideas. Where you think you disagree, be willing to contact them personally and respectfully ask questions, seek understanding, and share your opinions.

Eric and Nick express an interest in moving away from the Hegelian dialectic that offers us little to no real options: this or that, right or left, Republican or Democrat, big government or no government.

They, like so many today who are awake, realize that solutions are never limited to only "this" or "that". How many people are living on this planet? That is how many ways exist to solve any problem. Granted, some ideas will always be better than others, but options seldom are limited to two, a manufactured paradigm which needs to be replaced.

 

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Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer want to change the way Americans think about politics, and they want to do this with a new metaphor to describe how governance should work. This is the premise behind their new book, The Gardens of Democracy: that Americans politics can be greatly improved if we can agree that the country is like a garden.


Real gardens need to be tended to and cared for, but they are also alive and must be left alone to actually grow. Liu and Hanauer see a similar way to govern America: tend to the big objectives (for example, creating a green energy industry) and make sure the garden has no weeds, but don't try to micromanage each individual.
Liu and Hanauer write their book from the left-hand side of politics but are the arguments in this book applicable to both sides of the spectrum? Or will the right find this view completely objectionable? While the book makes its argument from a strong liberal and progressive background, this does not mean conservatives and the center-right have no claim to these ideas.
The metaphor that America is like a garden is not a gimmick, but powerful refutation of neoclassical economics. If you think that human beings are atomized individuals who only make rational decisions in a marketplace with the goal of maximizing their utility, Liu and Hanauer will not only disagree, they will argue that science has proven that view to be wrong.
Gardens of Democracy is like a Cliff Notes for the major advancements in social science that have occurred in the modern era. Liu and Hanauer are interested in presenting readers with summaries of major research that has occurred to justify their view that humans are much more social and co-dependent then we previously assumed.
The book provides quick overviews of where the research has lead us. (David Brooks The Social Animal is summed up as about how "Behavior is contagious, often unconsciously and unpredictably so." The field of behavioral science is described as "pulling us back to common sense and reminding us that people are often irrational to at least a-rational and emotional.") These summaries are short but the book does provides a reading list to set you up for further independent research.
So the question for the American right is, do you buy the premise and then argue over the implementation, or do you refute the premise entirely?  ****excerpt from The Daily Beast
Aristotle wrote, "It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it." Truly, this is not as easy as one might think, especially given the beliefs, biases and prejudices so many of us are attached to. But, it is possible to consider new ideas if we can force ourselves to get past that first twitch of discomfort at being confronted by an idea that seems to vulgarly offend. Out of respect, force yourself to sit in contemplation of that you would despise.

It is not necessary to accept and believe everything either of them says or suggests, nor would it even be reasonable, for no one person is ever completely accurate in their thinking. However, surely, if only because we share humanity in common, there must be one idea that would resonate with your own thinking. May I suggest you begin there?

There is so much you can know about these two young men before you even get their books in your hands:

The True Patriot Network

The True Patriot - Listen to the book or read the book online.

Essay: The "More What, Less How" Government

"Charlie Rose actually broke from his standard fare which is generally populated by the likes of David Brooks and Tom Friedman and their cohorts in the corporate media and had a conversation with authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer about their new book, The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government."

Interview by Kristen Cambell of National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC)

"American democracy is informed by the 18th century's most cutting–edge thinking on society, economics and government, but we've learned some things in the intervening 230 years. Now, Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer, the Seattle creators of the True Patriot Network and co–authors of "The Gardens Of Democracy," argue that some of those fundamental assumptions need updating. Instead of using a machine as the metaphor for understanding markets and government, they suggest viewing democracy as a garden: functioning best according to the tendencies of nature, but also requiring vision, tending and an understanding of connected ecosystems. They spoke about their book at Town Hall Seattle on December 8, 2011."  Speakers' Forum, KUOW-94.9


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