The front page of the Chicago Tribune today chronicled reactions from a broad section of the local community to the current economic jitters. I thought that they did a pretty good job. However, it’s another example of how inadequate the field 1 consciousness of the main stream media and ordinary citizens are to cope with a crisis like this, nay, to seed and worsen the crisis in the first place. First of all, the survey questions are framed primarily in field 1 mindset – personal fears, who to blame and immediate defenses. There is a single field 2 question on the outlook of future economy. Surprisingly, most people are optimistic about the long-term health of the economy - no doubt the saving grace of the American Dream if there ever is one. Call it naïve if you wish, it’s the single most important factor of keeping us from descending into a new dark age as Europe did in the middle ages and China for the last several thousand years until very recently. On the other hand, I didn’t see much rationale to justify such hope. There is always a risk that even the most optimistic person could turn the other way if/when conditions continue to deteriorate. That’s why it’s important that we understand the root causes of our current crisis and learn how to cope with it in addition to blind faith in the American Dream, vital as it is.
I have no doubt that Wall Street greed had a heavy hand in making the current crisis as bad as it has become. I also agree with main stream media that deregulation of our banking system provided the futile ground for many such opportunists. However, pinning blame solely on these factors has a mortal risk: it ignores the larger dynamics fueling the greed and de-regulations in the first place. The danger is for the new administration and Congress to focus exclusively on regulation as the cure for future economic woos. That would not only be inefficient but down right dangerous as it could throw the baby out with the bath water - choking off creativity with government bureaucracy is no way to fix the economy. So here is what I would recommend to a Barack Obama administration (all bets are off if McCain ended up in the White House – we would be closer to a dark age by at least an order of magnitude and almost a certainty if Palin gets to the helm :)
1. Do whatever is necessary to keep the financial machine running in the short term - cash injections, new regulations or even inflations. Never mind what’s fair or equitable. One does not appeal to the law when a lion is fast approaching! This is purely a field 2 tactic to contain field 1 & 2 risks – if the market melts, all cans of worms at field 1 & 2 would come out and devour the civilization in no time at all!
2. Invest in a new energy policy that creates jobs, double or triple the national debt if necessary. This would not only or even primarily for fighting terrorism and global warming but channeling the human energy in more sustainable ways and avoiding frontal clashes with the capitalistic ways of “emerging economies” that threaten a Third WW over non-renewable resources as well as putting the planet on a hot stove :)
3. Reform our educations system to focus on sustainable energy and life styles. We’ve got to teach kids and those adults who are still learning how to live as well as make a living. Just as happened in the history of “developed” countries and happening in the “emerging markets” today, pumping energy into field 2 alone is worse than useless at this point of the history – it creates monsters to devour the civilization as well as the planet faster. It adds to, not resolve our worst problems. This is the most difficult task by far, far more difficult than finding and funding renewable energy technologies and infrastructure. Is it possible at all? I think it’s worth a try, do you? It’s certainly one of the motivations for me to put efforts into ideas like One Authentic Swing.
4. What about health care and social security? These are luxuries for our troubled times in my opinion. Politicians like Obama will have to do what it takes to win and maintain political equilibrium. But I think he knows where the bottom line is. For that matter, even Iraq and terrorism are secondary compared to the above top three priorities. Misunderstanding this basic reality is the biggest blunder of the GWB administration. The American people and the world paid and continue to pay a heavy price for this. It is silly and down right dangerous for McCain to continue to bury his head in the sand in glorifying the surge while all the militaries and treasuries of the world cannot possibly turn Iraq and Afghanistan into democracy, not to mention the entire middle east region, Africa and other far reaches of modern civilization. The front line of our current global crisis is not terrorism but capitalism. Therefore, we need to pursue a containment strategy with terrorism and transformational one with the latter.