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Every computer owner knows the feeling. Things go wrong. Systems fail. Mistakes are made. Then Bang! Everything comes to a sudden stop. The computer locks-up. Our work is lost. It’s time to start over — to return to the last known working model. That’s when we press the reset button — not to return to where we were, but to begin again, to restore what worked before, to rethink what we were doing, to do things differently. It’s not fun, but it’s essential to getting on with our lives.
The events overtaking the world today are of immense importance, for they are part of a massive and fundamental change that will define how mankind will live for many generations to come. If you think yourself immune, that your life has not taken a sharp turn, or that things in which you once believed remain intact, your own thinking may need to be reset as well. None of us wants to change our view of the world unless we’re certain there is absolutely no other choice. There isn’t — not for you or me, not for economic theory, not even for the government. The world we lived in for the last thirty years was one born of idealism, political activism, endless credit and immense hubris. It may have felt good. It may have made single issue believers happy or unhappy. It may have been profitable, or challenging, or tranquil. But it was not real.
In the years ahead, the implications from decades of belief in the imaginary in preference to the real will echo through our culture, institutions, government and politics. Economics and finance are only the first of many areas of American life in need of a fundamental reset. Government itself needs to be reset, as does journalism. Warring ideologies can no longer be permitted to hold hostage our political establishment, or hobble those charged with governing. Journalism must reform itself and reestablish clear paths to those places where citizens can find relevant, probative and credible information about things that matter most.
What’s happening today, amidst the turmoil of financial collapse, economic dislocation, political reversal, or governmental posturing is neither an economic adjustment, nor just another dip in the business cycle. It is evidence of systematic failure brought about by several decades of neglect, abdication of responsibility, unparalleled greed and opportunism. It is not inherently political in nature, but it has had, and will continue to have, significant, if not earth-shaking political ramifications.
The events that will unfold in the years ahead go well beyond anything we’ve know before. In some areas the changes will have cyclical characteristics while other areas of America’s social fabric seem likely to experience something closer to a major sea change.
No matter what governments do to stem the tide of economic instability, the first wave of change, driven by well meaning governmental intervention has neither solved the problem, nor mitigated damages. The problem has not been a lack of good intentions, or political resolve. For what we have done is to demand that those who were the principal players in the collapse be our stewards in recovery. Today the Congress is surprised that those who ran off with so many people’s life savings, did pretty much the same with the billions they were awarded to stop doing bad things.
Clearly what is needed today, and may in fact be possible, is a reset in how government seeks to solve problems of its own making. Simple as it may sound, the governmental reset needs to return to a prior time when problems were solved, legislation enacted, and wars fought based on reality. But what is reality in a nation that knows little of what’s important after a quarter century of pseudo-news, celebrity news, crime coverage as entertainment and over acting talking heads?
While every American knows his or her own personal reality today, many know little of how far our nation has drifted. In only 25 years we’ve shifted from a society of responsible citizens sharing the burden to today’s failed model in which the educated and the wealthy prey upon the ignorant middle-class.
The Great American Reset will take years to unfold. Not because the last working version is not known, but because dealing with reality, doing what’s right, and sharing the burden take effort and require commitment. And because we have drifted so far from course, devalued hard work, ridiculed intellectual accomplishment, and substituted entertainment in place of information about what matters most. Governance by reality demands that all Americans know what’s real, relevant, probative and credible.
As a nation we have become obsessed with spreading our beliefs, values and biases to the world at large without sufficient understanding of our own flaws, or that level of intellectual integrity to first understand how the world looks to other peoples, different cultures, or value systems.
Having good intentions is no substitute for knowledge. Nor is wishing well an acceptable alternative for doing right. The world we live in is a very complex one not well governed by simplistic thinking, single issue values, or unfettered ignorance.