Rushkoff vs Andersen

Change Observer just posted the first part of a conversation between me and Kurt Andersen, on the economy and just how big an opportunity this crisis might be affording us.

Andersen is smart – really smart – though a bit more sanguine about all that’s going on around us than I am. I think that might be, in part, because he has done so very well at everything he has tried. Maybe that’s a law of the universe, and one I should just follow (rather than letting my misgivings about “success” impede my own path toward it). But that’s a discussion for another day.

Some excerpts:

Andersen: I tend to agree with Doug’s major premises, such as the unsustainability of an economy dominated by financial speculators instead of “value creators,” and the fact that the particulars of our system are the result of human choices rather than immutable “conditions of nature.” And I see the gobsmacking crash and resulting flux as a rare limited-time-only opportunity to significantly update and reform the system and the habits of mind that are its cause and effect. Thus we now have a chance to remake our medical and energy and educational and urban planning systems along vastly more sensible lines. But for all my hopefulness about the possibilities of change — and my desire in some ways for radical reform — as a practical matter I do take as a given our basic market-driven political economy. The decline of manufacturing and the hypertrophied financial and marketing sectors notwithstanding, Doug’s assertion that “very few American businesses actually [do] anything, anymore” seems extreme to me.

Rushkoff: The reason I’m not as forgiving as Kurt, I suppose, is that I don’t see these cycles as weather or earthquakes. I see them as entirely predictable manifestations of the system we’ve adopted. People think they need cars because “how else would I get to work?” without understanding that they only need a car to get to work because the suburbs were zoned, in part, to promote car ownership (or, in most cases, promote real estate speculation). So we look at Europeans and think how lovely it is they get to walk home for lunch, and assume something about America’s geography made this impossible. Does this mean we can get rid of the car suburbs? Probably not. At least not in the short term.

And neither do we just retire the Fed and crash the banks. We can’t go back to the Middle Ages, and we don’t want to. What we can do is promote the development of complementary economic mechanisms. New ways (and old ways) of doing commerce.