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The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government Hardcover – November 8, 2011
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"Liu and Hanauer have proposed a powerful new way to think about how society works and there is a lot here for conservatives to work with and debate." --Noah Kristula-Green, The Daily Beast
The Gardens of Democracy provides a refreshing new conceptual approach to understanding our economic and political situation, and it will help us move past the fossilized ideas in today’s public debates.”--Francis Fukuyama, author of The Origins of Political Order
“Society is a garden. Liu and Hanauer’s simple metaphor makes the complexities and limits of social policy emerge before your eyes. Statists can’t see the interconnections of organic systems. Free marketers can’t see that a garden needs some tending. If you’re looking for a way forward out of America’s dangerous gridlock, read this wonderful book.”--Jonathan Haidt, Professor of psychology, University of Virginia and author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
“Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer are progressives who always think outside the box, and that’s why everyone should pay attention to them. The Gardens of Democracy shakes up our stale debate over government’s role in a dynamic society, and in a thoughtful, creative and inventive way. Everyone will find something to disagree with here, and that’s the point: getting us out of our comfort zones is an immensely useful democratic undertaking.”--E.J. Dionne Jr., author of Why Americans Hate Politics
"I just read a remarkable book by Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer. It is The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government. I highly recommend it as a big gust of fresh air to clear out the dense, stale, gases we have all been breathing when it comes to how we talk about politics and citizenship. It is time to break out of the prison of left/right thinking that has made politics so mean spirited in recent years... There is something in this new metaphor for both the left and the right."--Ray Smock, Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies
"Even if you don't agree with everything the authors propose, you will find 'The Gardens of Democracy' to be spirited and thought provoking."--The Bellingham Herald
"We’d do well to shift our political and economic metaphors from images involving machinery toward more organic ways of thinking… [A] nifty way of rethinking metaphors for what government does."--Wonkette
About the Author
ERIC LIU is the founder and CEO of Citizen University and executive director of the Aspen Institute Citizenship and American Identity Program. He is the author of several books, including You’re More Powerful than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen, The True Patriot, and A Chinaman's Chance. Eric served as a White House speechwriter and policy adviser for President Bill Clinton. He is a regular columnist for CNN.com and a correspondent for TheAtlantic.com.
NICK HANAUER is a Seattle-based serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist, author and activist with a knack for identifying and building transformative business models. In 2007, he co-authored The True Patriot with Eric Liu and co-founded The True Patriot Network, a non-partisan group committed to furthering patriotic ideals. He also co-founded the Washington State League of Education Voters (LEV), a non-partisan statewide political organization focused on promoting public education, where he serves as co-president.
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Top Customer Reviews
"If you can hold these paired thoughts in your head, we wrote this book for you:
- The federal government spends too much money. The wealthy should pay more taxes.
- Every American should have access to high-quality health care. We spend far too much on health care.
- We need to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels. We need to ensure that our economy continues to grow.
- Unions are a crucially important part of our economy and society. Unions have become overly protectionist and are in need of enormous amounts of reform.
- We need strong government. We need strong citizens."
Liu and Hanauer advocate "Big What, Small How" government, in contrast to the "small/small" of the right and the "big/big" of the left.
This book is a quick read that will make you think.
See Hanauer's recent Bloomberg op-ed:
One thing to appreciate about the book is that it is short enough to read in one sitting, with or without a nice pot o' tea, and its construction might remind one of books you checked out from the school library when you were still in your single-digits.
Simple, concise can also be deep and can change the way you look at things. And this book does not promote one grand narrative or ideology, but does insist on each of us to take more responsibility for the outcomes in our communities and our country. And trust me it will prompt you to re-think at least a few assumptions.
We are at a crucial point in the evolution of the American experiment. Some people are wallowing in profound cynicism when it comes to all government, some people have been profiting at an astronomical rate in the last 30 years (for instance, co-author Hanauer), the middle class is suffering (unquestionably, no matter how you analyze it), "Gridlock!" everywhere you look, the military-industrial complex is a whole other subject ... and yet choosing to be hopeless or ignorant may not be the best way to go forward.
This book's strength is about questioning assumptions, perceiving our government, economy, and our role as citizens with more reality AND imagination. It offers helpful critiques of the stale talking points from both the right and the left. And offers a refreshing look at some of the language we use when we talk about the issues.
I'll let you explore the book unimpeded and take from it what you may, but let me give one small example and point to consider (though I am sure many have seen this elsewhere). Some companies and individuals have profited mightily, mightily from the internet. Did Google or Amazon or any of these companies create the infrastructure? Who paid for and conducted the research and development that created the internet? If we want to continue to have a dynamic, vital economy in which we can all be "better off when we are all better off" how should we tend our garden?
This is much more like a long pamphlet (in the sense of the word during our revolution) than a short book. I heard Nick Hanauer on NPR and was fascinated by his ideas so I got the book. I give the book 3 starts because the writing is simplified a bit too much for my taste. Also the book is ocassionally utopian; one example proposes that the thoughtful caring constructive civic minded attitude of an individual can change the course of a nation. I believe that an individual's attitude is very important in affecting change yet there are limitations. I liken civic life, and particularly politics as being much more like football. Thoughts of "yes I can, yes I can", are equally met with thoughts of "no you won't, no you won't" (wittness our current political atmosphere). It's a fact of life, to succeed means being prepared for this in wide variety of ways.
Nevertheless, if you have been drawn to this book for any reason, you should read it! The ideas are valid and important. There is great reference material cited at the end. It is forward thinking. Leave the rough edges aside and run with the ideas you value. In our country, there is the barest sense of a hint of a possibility that big change could be in its conception right now. Some of the ideas presented here are bound to be in play.