Call it as you will. Aspirational. Demented. Socialist. Visionary. Radical. Revolutionary. Even bonkers. Many characterize the Green New Deal in assorted and colorful ways. The recent resolution promoted by freshman Congressional member, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has stirred up fervor on Capitol Hill and beyond. Under the guise of an environmental treatise, the Green New Deal (GND) seems to wage war against many threads of the national fabric, which she and others believe are in need of a thorough rethinking and repositioning. Of course, climate change is focus number one. But included in the GND, we traverse propositions of economic rights, health care, financial reform and tax policy. Taken singularly, might this be sophism at its best, or truly a sound and sage attempt for a better America?
The American populace overwhelmingly supports the vision by a significant margin. Still the devil of course is in the details. Voices on both sides of the aisle, while supporting the fundamental ethos, are critical on two fronts: (a) its potential effect on select industries, like transportation and agriculture, and (b) how this trillion-dollar a year endeavor will be financed.
This missive is not a critique of the GND. Rather, it’s about the spirit of the resolution: the attempt to look beyond the here and now, see what’s on the longer-term horizon, and accordingly, create pathways for a better tomorrow. Yes, a bit of silver shines within the green.
A bit earlier, during the 1960’s and even earlier, economic planning, i.e., foresight applied to many decades forward, was the prevailing practice for most developed and developing countries. Then, during the 1980’s, the Western world (US, Europe, Canada) shifted its approach to a more laissez-faire planning mode, decisioning on a tactical and market conditions bases. The long-term thinking was limited and ephemeral, coinciding with election cycles of six, four and two years, depending on the government. The party in power, driven by respective ideology, could and would change trajectory and plan. Democracy at work, in some ways, with revolving leadership and objectives led to stop and starts, and sideways movement.
Now, consider the East: China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Philippines, as well as the Middle East. Studies have been conducted to confirm their predilection to a longer-term orientation as compared with those of European roots. We are witnessing the results of their planning of decades ago.
China is now celebrating its 40thanniversary of reform, understanding that economic might outweighs military might. It has dedicated itself to opening up its markets to act on the world stage for the betterment of its society, and the attendant role of becoming a world power. In 1982, China’s economy as defined by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was six percent (6.0%) of the US. In the next few years, it will bypass America as the largest domestic economy. In fact, sansChina, Asia as a region will exceed Europe and other Western countries in a matter of a couple decades. Even Africa will play into the mix with its absorption of technology, its abundant natural resources now accessible and intervention by the East, while the West sits idly by.
I recall a lecture by former World Bank President James Wolfensohn at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Reflecting on his tenure in the 1980’s, he posited that then 20% of the world (the West) enjoyed 80% of the economic power. By 2050, that 20% will enjoy a mere 30%, while largely the non-West will command 70%. Two countries alone, China and India will produce 50% of the world’s GDP. Economic power preempts everything as America knows.
Drivers of economic growth include human and natural resources, the ability to provide capital for growth, technology acumen and finally, the political state and its consistency. We observe the world getting smaller, i.e., via globalization, and access to resources is a great equalizer. The common denominator in the East, in its acceleration, has been long term planning, availing practices of Western sovereigns, spirited by technology leapfrogging, but defining what they want to be decades out and executing a plan to do so.
Given the landscape, it is incumbent on every actor on the world stage to consider the future and how to play it. Reverting to the opening statement about the GND, one may subscribe or not to its content, however one must give credit to the exercise of applying an extended view of events, policies, and initiatives in laying out a practical and competitive future. I have wondered why the US is remiss in establishing a 20 or 30 year industrial or economic plan. Others do and they are not only are catching up, but with the anticipated economic balance shift, we will see a new economic as well as political order. One may criticize GND for its inherent elements, but give it credit for thinking beyond the next election.