Looking Back from 2050: New Politics for a New Economy
Excerpts from The Long Boom: A Vision for the Coming Age of Prosperity
Hello, I'm Salma Aboulahoud, welcoming you back to "Twenty-first Century Choices: The Making of a Long Boom." From our vantage point in 2050, politics were critical to the takeoff of the Long Boom. Shortly after the turn of the century, the world made some big choices -- the right choices. A new generation of leaders arose by promulgating a vision that economic growth wasn't in conflict with social justice and the environment.
This new vision first surfaced in 2000 in California. U.S. politics hit a new low as conservative Republicans tenaciously attacked Democratic president Bill Clinton before and long after his impeachment trial. The U.S. public came close to a complete repudiation of politics. In that poisoned atmosphere, a Silicon Valley software entrepreneur named David Brewster decided to run for Congress against the Republican incumbent as an independent. He understood the new technologies and the New Economy and fashioned a commonsense politics around them. His vision was to help everyone make a successful transition to the New Economy. He advocated investment in education, technology, and scientific research even if it did not immediately bear fruit. He celebrated open trade and open borders.
What made Brewster's themes a break from the past? The Republicans had a good understanding of economics, except for their isolationist wing, but had become increasingly associated with intolerance and exclusion. The Democrats had a tradition of inclusion but had large constituencies opposed to globalization. Brewster realized that if the global economy was to fulfill its potential, all people must have the opportunity to participate. He proposed a new kind of social bargain: People couldn't cling to old ways, old jobs, and old patterns, but society would help people adapt, and generous support would go to those genuinely unable to do so.
In the late 20th century, basic research investment had dropped partly because of large government deficits. The huge fiscal surpluses of the first couple of decades of the twenty-first century spawned a renewed commitment to pure scientific research. After all, the microchip and the Internet had come out of federally funded, long-range R&D. By 2005, a key element of the new politics in nearly every nation was significant growth in R&D spending and increased funding for the social sciences and the liberal arts. There was an intellectual renaissance fueled by economic necessity.
The global dimension of the vision infused everything. Foreign policy shifted from a narrow focus on a nation's self-interest to a broader focus on the entire global community. Geopolitics shifted from a clash of national agendas to a much more cooperative approach of aligning interests and increasing interconnections. Many developed nations began to take on responsibilities far outside their borders, not just because those actions directly benefited their citizens -- which they did -- but because other, less fortunate people needed help, and the global community needed someone to act boldly.
One manifestation of this new resolve was the establishment in 2003 of the Global Corps, modeled on the old Peace Corps but with college graduates from many developed nations who would help developing nations improve their technological and legal infrastructures and adopt the new economic principles and practices. This program proved to be enormously successful, not just for the developing countries, but also for the participants, who returned home with a more global outlook.
So what happened to Brewster back in Silicon Valley in 2000? How did American politics make such a rapid shift from near isolationism to global leadership? Brewster won the Silicon Valley congressional seat and became a national celebrity. The 1990s had seen the rise of independent populists, who appealed mostly to disgruntled working people fearful of globalization and rapid economic change. It was not out of the question that a well-financed presidential candidate with an appealing new agenda could give the traditional parties a run for their money. Brewster was a potential candidate. He had his own fortune and the backing of Silicon Valley and Hollywood. He was a telegenic Baby Boomer. And most important, he had a compelling new vision.
By 2002, local and state office candidates were adopting his ideas across the country. An active constituency urged him to make a run for the presidency in 2004. The Democratic and Republican parties began to worry and plot. Alternative parties had rarely succeeded in the United States because when their ideas became popular and threatened established parties, the parties adopted the ideas. Brewster knew that, but his goal was for his vision to win.
The Long Boom ideas did not fit comfortably into the old ideological categories. Yet sizeable factions in both parties were predisposed to adopt them anyway. By the 2004 election, both parties had candidates in the primaries championing versions of Brewster's Long Boom vision, so he decided not to seek the presidency. The Democratic candidate, who had almost fully incorporated the Long Boom vision, won the election.
By 2008, competition between the parties was over which was more "Long Boomish." Similar scenarios played out around the world. The U.S. economy was the first to fully develop in the new direction, and so its national politics responded first. However, when other countries began making similar economic transitions, they were quick to adopt similar political solutions. By 2010, the ideology could no longer be called American. It was the New Global Ideology.
Peter Schwartz is the founder and chairman of the Global Business Network, a consulting firm in the San Francisco area, and the author of The Art of the Long View.
Peter Leyden is a journalist who has covered technology, economics, and politics since the mid-1980s. He was formerly managing editor of Wired magazine and a special correspondent in Asia for Newsweek.
Joel Hyatt teaches entrepreneurship at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. He was co-founder and senior partner of Hyatt Legal Services, and founder and CEO of Hyatt Legal Plans.
Reprinted with permission from The Long Boom: A Vision for the Coming of the Age of Prosperity
By Peter Schwartz, Peter Leyden and Joel Hyatt
Copyright 1999 by Peter Schwartz, Peter Leyden and Joel Hyatt
Published by Perseus Books, a member of the Perseus Book Group
Adapted by permission of the authors and Perseus Books
May not be modified, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, transmitted, or distributed in any manner.
Available beginning October, 1999, from bookstores nationwide, online retailers, or by calling 800 386-5656.