Above: “Obama’s 2015 State of the Union in Two Minutes”
In last Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, President Obama charted the course for the developmental leap from a modern “orange altitude” economy, which is where we are now, to a postmodern “green altitude” economy. He argued for policies such as:
- Free higher education for everyone who wants it
- Maternity leave and increased child care
- Paid sick leave
- Extending health insurance to more people
- Higher minimum wage, so that everybody who makes an effort can make a living. I love how he said it: To everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.
- Higher taxes on the rich
Now I know what many of you international readers are thinking, “Really, this is what you Americans are still working on?” It’s true, America is a good developmental half a stage or more behind other developed countries in regards to family care and even safety net issues. Fundamentally, Obama’s economic vision is to catch up to what is already happening in other rich countries of the world, particularly in Western Europe.
I saw elegant evidence of the difference between American and European thinking in a Pew Poll this week which asked people from the United States, as well as people from Germany, France, Britain and Spain, which is more important to them: 1) The freedom to live your life without state interference? or 2) The security of having the state guarantee that everyone’s basic needs are met? It turns out that the views of Americans and Europeans were perfect mirror images of each other on this basic “security vs freedom” polarity. Europeans choose security over freedom by 60% to 40%. Americans chose freedom over security by 60% to 40%. And that’s how Americans choose the modern Orange system, which is oriented to the individual, over the Green post-Modern system, which focuses on the community at large. The latter is the choice of the Europeans.
Paradoxically, America’s relative Orangeness may be one reason for its economic success, which outpaces Europe’s in two important ways. The first is our long-term success: over 70 years America has had the richest middle class in the world. The rest of the developed world is gaining on us, but we’re still out in front. Also second is our success in the short run as well, with America leading the developed world out of the recent Great Recession both in terms of growth and employment.
But the inequitable distribution of America’s wealth is too high. It just doesn’t feel right when 90% of new wealth created by the economy is flowing to the top 2% of citizens. That offends the moral sensibilities of modern and postmodern people.
So how do we solve this problem? We integrate! The way forward is to harmonize the polarities — freedom and security being two of the primary polarities of life. As we mature we realize that it’s not that we are to choose one over the other. It’s that we are to see the wisdom in both poles, and be ever more able to tease apart what is best about each. Using this thinking we create a less ruthless meritocracy and a less stagnant collective. We develop a more entrepreneurial flavor to government services, and an ever more humane and flexible workspace provided by private companies.
The goal of this integration is a system where people are free to move through their lives and make decisions for themselves and their families unencumbered by unnecessary rules and rulers. Yet at the same time they are connected to and supported by a meshwork of intelligent and responsive systems that catch them when they fall.
I think an economy like this is evolutionarily inevitable, the natural consequence of smarter people and systems, and smarter leaders. This is where Barack Obama comes in. One of the best ways to understand how a President thinks is to read his big speeches, and to read Obama’s speeches, including this State of the Union address, is to feel the multi-perspectival flow of an integral mind.
Excerpt | The case for communal values
In this 13-minute segment, Jeff dissects the speech and the political ramifications as described above.
Full podcast below includes excerpt plus further commentary
The history of the American economy reveals a pattern oscillating between individually oriented altitudes of development and communally oriented altitudes of development. It starts when the indigenous Americans (tribal communal values) encountered European conquerors (Red individualistic values). With a weak central government and no advocates for labor, the Red economy evolved over a couple hundred years into to a warlord structure of robber barons and the Gilded Age. The Great Depression ended the Red economy and introduced Amber values (traditional communal values) which took us through WWII, the post-war boom and finally ended in the Great Stagflation of the mid-1970’s. At this point the Amber traditional economy was replaced by Orange altitude Reaganomics (modern individualistic values) which created a boom for the last part of the 20th Century. That ended with the financial and real estate meltdowns the kicked off the Great Recession of 2008. At this point, with the election and policies of Obama, the Green economy (communal postmodern values) is coming online. Jeff explains in the podcast and transcript.