And we’re not done yet if we want to benefit from a new narrative for America, according to Porter and Mykleby. We also need to invest. They wrote that our nation needs to focus on three investment priorities. The first is our young people, the very object of our book, Paradoxes of Power. Our essayists were gratified that “A National Strategic Narrative” recognized the critical need to build the “intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth.”
The second is a sustainable “whole of nation” security that includes all aspects of being a member of the American society and culture, not just national defense as it relates to military power.
The third investment priority “is to develop a plan for the sustainable access to, cultivation and use of, the natural resources we need for our continued wellbeing, prosperity and economic growth in the world marketplace.” Contributors to Paradoxes of Power cover this in Chapter 6 and emphasize it in Essay 3, arguing this investment priority may only be achieved when we avoid the paradoxes we described between humans and nature.
The initial place in which to make these three investments is in our communities and towns, and through the wisdom of our best local leaders, scale these investments upward to the national level.
While there are several other relevant topics in this “new narrative” for America, the capstone recommendation for what Porter and Mykleby call a Strategic Ecosystem that would be embedded within a novel construct they called “A National Prosperity and Security Act.” In 1947, President Harry Truman signed into law the National Security Act of 1947, and it remains today a guide for national security in our nation. Porter and Mykleby described the next generation of such a potentially long-enduring measure, and it combines the strength of the 1947 law with an additional emphasis on enhancing prosperity for our nation, as they described in “our enduring national interests,” above. This new act would “recognize the need to take a longer view, a generational view, for the sustainability of our nation’s security and prosperity.”
As Porter and Mykleby define this new approach to American governance, this National Prosperity and Security Act:
would integrate policy across agencies and departments of the Federal government and provide for more effective public/private partnerships; increase the capacity of appropriate government departments and agencies; align Federal policies, taxation, research and development expenditures and regulations to coincide with the goals of sustainability; and, converge domestic and foreign policies toward a common purpose.” That, when combined with updated state and local government policies, is how we build the base for the future of power in our nation.
In summary, we have a broad model to generate a new narrative for America that harnesses all the creativity and original objectivity our Founders intended, based on hope and a bias towards action. The Founders provided us with not only a Constitution; they also provided us with the underpinnings of our national narrative that begins with the values of our local communities. Now we can integrate the vision of transformational past works and produce a narrative that fits America in 2021 and beyond. This is the basis of the future of power of America.
To transition from Porter and Mykleby’s grander vision for America to local responsibilities and efforts, it’s worth revisiting economic initiatives and justice, as we discuss in Essay 4. Paradoxes of Power co-author Veronica Mata added an interesting perspective related to a new narrative that strikes at the heart of the local through federal government’s role in local and regional economic development:
I like to think of this challenge like I would a business. The most successful businesses evolve, they grow, they develop, and they change. Their policies, employee handbooks, regulations, and expectations change, so why shouldn’t our country? A company, like JP Morgan Chase which was founded in 1799, 77 years before the telephone was invented, isn’t going to operate today without telephones “just because that’s what the founders did, and we should too.” If the companies within our country are constantly “removing onerous provisions” and addressing more current topics, why shouldn’t our government? Look how far we’ve come over 245 years, and how much we still must change.
Veronica and our other essayists noted that the consequences for production, transportation, power generation, and consumption may soon be driven more by local demand than global, and that could be a good thing for our environment and our living spaces. That would necessarily change the way Americans view consumption, of course, as we scale back our desires to be more consistent with our needs. If we could do that, we could create far more localized, environmentally friendly production and delivery systems that unite us together in community. We could see a “power shift” back to a more local perspective as Americans rethink consumption.
Economics offers a good starting point for us to “change the way we change” as Sullivan and Harper advise in Hope is Not a Method. Larry Kuznar and I proposed in Essay 4 that local communities are the perfect place to practice polycentric distributed power in economics. We can tap a better definition of “hope as a method” at the local level to experiment and learn and scale for systemic success. This is how we choose hope over fear and build a truly better community and nation, established on a newer and more powerful narrative.