Publication Date: June 27, 2016
Outlet: The American Interest
By: Philip Zelikow, Mark Warner, & Douglas Blackmon
The following text has been adapted from a conversation broadcast on the PBS series American Forum in May 2016. The series is sponsored by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.
Philip Zelikow: Imagine the industrial age: big business, big work places, big unions, and a big government to umpire it all. That was the product of the last great economic revolution, the one we went through about a hundred years ago.
We’re going through another economic revolution today, but instead of it all being about big business, big unions, big work places, big government to umpire it all, it’s actually about a distributed economy, about piecemeal work being put together, about constantly changing jobs and life-time education—not just assembly line education in an industrial-style process.
Health care is changing; education is changing; capitalism itself is changing, as of course it always has. (The idea that capitalism was ever just one more or less static set of relationships simply is not borne out by the historical evidence.) One hundred years ago, we had a huge agenda for how to rework the country to adapt. And America adapted and became the greatest nation on earth. So the question that my colleagues and I were all asking ourselves in this project, is “what’s the agenda this time?”
It actually is not about a top-down agenda from the Federal government. Back then and now, it’s actually a grass-roots agenda driven more by private businesses and by state and local governments, with the federal government in support. Even though it’s not much in the national conversation today, stuff is actually happening all over America. We wanted to pull all that together and to get people talking about that agenda, because America can adapt, and this century could also be full of promise for the country.