So I promised I’d tell you guys a bit about the book I just finished by Richard Florida, The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity.
Despite some of my kvetching (too many statistics, too city-facts-oriented – his stock in trade), I liked it. I had hoped for more visionary stuff, but maybe Tom Friedman has spoiled me.
Here’s how the inside cover describes the book: “We tend to view prolonged economic downturns , such as the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Long Depression of the late nineteenth century, in terms of the crisis and pain they cause But history teaches us that these great crises also represent opportunities to remake our economy and society and to generate whole new eras of economic growth and prosperity. In terms of innovation, invention, and energetic risk taking, these periods of “creative destruction” have been some of the most fertile in history, and the changes they put into motion can set the stage for full-scale recovery.”
So I was sort of hoping to get a leg up, ya know? figure out where this ship and is sailing and heading for that port. I mean, doesn’t that sound sexy and kind of edgy? But instead it felt a bit like future as past. Back to apartment buildings and out of McMansions. Back to the kind of jobs we had in hospital (he tries to fancify it, but basically low-level retail and other service jobs), high-speed rail (which seems like its way overdue — and oh, we get to catch up to Europe in the 1950s then) and the ‘megaregions’ getting bigger.
I sort of like Tom Friedman’s and Dan Pink’s future scenarios better overall (See Tom Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded 2.0: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America and Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future).
But here’s what I DID like about this book:
- The reminder that every downturn turns around
- Historical analysis that the crashes of 1870 and 1929 were followed by incredible innovation. The list of people in the 1870s is staggering: Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, George Westinghouse, Alexander Graham Bell, Andrew Mellon
- The proposition that wealth will be measured not by McMansions and obscenely large cars (i’m SO hopeful that both are on the way out…) but by one’s creativity, connectedness and ability to contribute and do cool stuff
- Some sobering food for thought: “Our excesses have been so great that there is no way out of this that does not lead to a general fall in living standards”
- Some thoughts on which cities are likely to be most resilient. Since this is Florida’s metier, these parts are the ones I take most seriously and I was quite delighted that my favorite town, Madison, WI is a “double dipper” – he says government towns (Madison is the capital of Wisconsin) and university towns (it’s the seat of the U of W schools) are very well situated (as are the large financial centers – New York being primary, but Chicago gets a nod).
- His prediction that the Sunbelt’s days are numbered (family and friends in Florida take note!) noting that a lot of the boom there was built on absurdly jacked up housing prices and tourism
- His assertion that with blue-collar jobs going-going-gone, jobs will be in either professional/creative fields or service economy jobs (the former fits with Dan Pink’s hypothesis that we are moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age). I think of Ferron’s lyrics in her apocryphal song “It won’t take long:
“With business freezed up in the harbour,
the kings will pull upon their hair
And the banks will shudder to a halt,
and the artists will be there”
Here’s a line to ponder “Today’s Reset will affect our society at a deeper level than did the Resets of the past. We are living through an even more powerful and fundamental economic shift, from an industrial system to an economy that is increasingly powered by knowledge, creativity and ideas.”
There’s a part about real wealth that is so good that I’m going to write a separate little post on it – it’s worthy of our undivided attention
Loved this one: “Chicago is one city in the Rust Belt that is likely to come out of the crisis stronger than it went in.” (all this and the Black Hawks, too?)
People will still own homes, but the rate of home ownership will drop and more people will rent – not just for economic reasons but to increase their ability to be mobile. Love this line “We could well look back on this moment in history as a time when people lived like indentured servants, with their own homes as lord and master.” amen to that.
So what am I going to do/change from reading this book? It’s making me look even harder at the idea of cohousing (I’ll write a blog entry on that soon). Also at becoming a landlord in the city of Chicago – people have to have somewhere to live. Many of the ideas he talks about fit with the hippie ethos I picked up back in the day and, like the Grateful Dead and tie dyed t-shirts (one of which I’m wearing right now) i never really outgrew. But I’ve watched many others I love get seduced by stuff and I think this reset will be harder for them. If the reset involves lack of coffee and Internet access I may take to the streets, but if it’s turning away from consumer culture, bring it on.
Richard Florida is a good writer. It’s a short, well-written, thought-provoking book. I’d recommend it.
What’s your two cents? Is this reset going to rock the world?
My fellow astrologers and I would say, “but of course!” given the huge winds of change that have started blowing in and will be gale force this summer. More on that later, too!