To me, the leitmotif for the current decade is supplied by Stein’s Law, coined by economist Herb Stein: “Something that can’t go on forever, won’t.” There are a lot of things that can’t go on forever, and, soon enough, they won’t. Chief among them are too-big-to-fail businesses and too-big-to-succeed government.
But as Bennett and Lotus note, the problems of America 2.0 are all soluble, and, in what they call America 3.0, they will be solved. The solutions will be as different from America 2.0 as America 2.0 was from America 1.0. We’ll see a focus on smaller government, nimbler organization, and living within our means — because, frankly, we’ll have no choice. Something that can’t go on forever, won’t. If America 2.0 was a fit for the world of giant steel mills and monolithic corporations, America 3.0 will be fit for the world of consumer choice and Internet speed.
Of course, America 2.0 won’t really vanish. Just as the America 1.0 spirit of entrepreneurialism and ingenuity survived in the shops and garages that gave birth to the Internet era, the big bureaucracies won’t vanish — they’ll just become smaller and less significant. And, hopefully, more solvent.
In a way, our current problems exemplify the need for change. As Democratic strategist David Axelrod said last week, “the government is so vast” that we can’t expect a president to actually be in charge of things. A government that is too big for its chief executive to manage is something that can’t go on forever. Time for change, and the sooner, the better.