Think of this as Volume 14, Number 48 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
How do you get people to believe in abundance? How do you believe in it, when the evidence you see around you screams scarcity?
This feeling of hopelessness has been at the heart of all America's past political crises.
- Can America remain one country or will it become like Europe, a collection of warring states?
- Can America grow when monopolists control essential prices and manipulate the markets to their benefit?
- Can American democracy survive this Great Depression which seems to prove it doesn't work?
- Can America keep growing in the face of social divisions tearing it apart?
- Can America keep growing in a world dominated by the price of oil and other energy resources?
These questions were all based on an assumption of scarcity. They narrowed what we could see to horrors in front of us. War. Money. Depression. Division.
You know the response. Can we? Yes, we can.
President Obama has mastered the rhetorical aspects of this task. No one can question his writing ability or his speaking ability. But he became so wrapped up in the immediate problems he faced upon taking office, on the legislative slog needed to get the ambulance out of the ditch, that he has failed to provide the vision we need.
Obama has yet to create a real growth agenda, a vision of abundance, a path forward.
That vision is an economics based on energy derived from devices that harvest what is around us -- the Sun, the air, the ground, the tides. The alternative is an economics of resources that are ever more-difficult to obtain, always more expensive, a world where our economic destiny is made elsewhere, and where it seems the world is boiling away.
As was mainly true 40 years ago, the big stories of our time are happening almost out of sight. There were no headlines in October, 1969, when the first message was sent over the ARPANET. "Talked to SRI host to host" was, like "Watson, come here" something that was only obvious in retrospect.
One job of Smartplanet, the site I've been working on since June 2009, is to highlight events like this. So here's a story, a good one, describing a new method for spraying solar arrays onto any surface, at room temperature.
Wow. Did you see this on CNN? Was it the big headline on The New York Times site that day? Of course it wasn't. And it won't be, until 30 years from now your children read a history piece which, like the link above on ARPANET, identify the specific place, time and surround of the breakthrough that changed everything.
The co-founders of The Breakthrough Institute are right. Making a political stink over global warming was bad strategy. Instead we need to focus on innovation. We need to see the opportunities rather than the problems.
Unfortunately no reporter and no think tank can shine the bright light we need. Only the President of the United States can shine that light. And it can't be a one-off. It has to be done consistently, message discipline delivered not just from the Oval Office but in every Administration communication.
Once Americans start believing in abundance again, everything changes. This has always been true. A generation ago that meant integrated circuits and content. A generation before that it meant consumer manufacturing. Before that it was great utilities, and before that manufacturing itself.
Political leaders harness such changes by changing the subject. Lincoln talked about avoiding war and healing its wounds. Teddy Roosevelt talked loudly about talking softly and carrying a big stick. FDR told us we had nothing to fear but fear itself. Even Nixon celebrated Elvis and the Apollo astronauts.
What people saw at that time, what the cynics wrote about, were the problems on the ground. Great leaders convinced us we should focus on the road ahead, and once we started doing that the crisis became manageable.
There is a future of abundance coming your way, and the way of your children. The great problems of their time will not be what you think they are -- global warming and energy shortages. They will be imagination and labor shortages. By harnessing the technological power of the last generation, we can create a new world of cheap energy, good food, and rising labor prices.
But first we have to believe in it. Someone must point it out. Someone must lift our heads toward the sky, and toward a better tomorrow.