Renewing American Vigor: Consumption and Production

In spite of the way this title may sound, this is NOT about renewing America by making and buying more “stuff.” This blog post accompanies the delivery of the RAP essay entitled “Renewing American Vigor: Transforming Consumption and Production.” After two months of promising this essay and drafting many versions, we decided to just post the draft as it is today, knowing we’ll never get it “perfect.”

The essay is several times longer than our typical blog posts, but it took a few more words to report on how production and consumption have led to the state of the American Promise today. Our intent is to demonstrate how transforming the production and consumption of “stuff” is at the heart of what we can do as individuals to regenerate and renew American vigor and potential to more broadly fulfill the American Promise.

The American ideal of possessing “stuff” has roots in the influence John Locke had on George Mason and Thomas Jefferson in their respective writings of the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the American Declaration of Independence. [1] We noted this in a post that introduced what we called a Platform for RAP (called FAPITCA at the time).

Our essay on production and consumption in America shares these roots. We’ve also sought to expand the discussion to talk about sustainability of the American Promise and way of life through smarter production and ownership of property and ideas in light of what’s possible today. We address consumption, production and “ownership” of ideas as additional items of “stuff” we sometimes tend to hold on to all too long.

The essay traces an important part of the story of how Americans think about the acquisition and possession of “stuff” (again, where “stuff” means both physical and intellectual possessions). We go back and cite previous work in this area by Betty and Mike Sproule, and Annie Leonard, as we’ve previously written about in “…and our Posterity…”. Their work introduces important driving forces that have led to the challenges we have with production and consumption in America. The essay also introduces the role of marketing and investing in the world of American consumption.

Since this blog is about America in the Connected Age, we devote a good deal of the essay to how we might harness the tools of information technology to transform consumption and production. As we note in the essay, the “problem is that we have been unable to see the forest of opportunity in a new age of connectivity because all we can see are the trees that compose our individual relationships to the present and the future.” We make the case for the imperative of leveraging information technologies available to us today.

Additionally, we revisit one of our very favorite authors in American history and culture, John D. MacDonald, creator of the well-known “Travis McGee” series of novels. It turns out that the ol’ beach bum Travis and his sidekick, Meyer, had a lot of insight about America today even though they talked about an America of 40-50 years ago. [2]

Finally, we wrap up the current version of the essay with a review of some highly pertinent insights from our friends Wayne Porter and Puck Mykleby, the authors of A National Strategic Narrative. We’ve written about Wayne and Puck’s work in several previous posts, but in the essay we try to tie some of their relevant thoughts to the ideas of transformed consumption in America. Thanks to Wayne, Puck and Betty Sproule for making the Narrative so accessible!

Note that we call this the “current version of the essay.” This simply means that we understand an undertaking like the essay can only be a draft in the Connected Age. Our networked world changes quickly and an essay about production and consumption in America needs to maintain some level of fluidity, as well. This also means that we intend for our readers to help us maintain this essay through their comments and edits. We mean this…please help us make this essay better!

We hope you find value in the time you might invest in “Renewing American Vigor: Transforming Consumption and Production.”

Originally posted by Carl and Chuck Hunt, 9/4/2014/.

Notes:

[1] As noted in the essay, George Mason even had designs on transforming American consumption back in September, 1787, while the Constitutional Convention was wrapping up the final drafts of the Constitution.

[2] Contemporary mystery and adventure fiction readers who enjoy novels by Carl Hiaasen and Lee Child (“Jack Reacher”) will appreciate their respective Forewords in the last two re-releases of the “Travis McGee” series.

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