Today ideas can move across society faster than at any time in history. This is an amazing reality that is creating stunning levels of innovation. But it is not enough to be good at simply transmitting ideas. We first need to discover those ideas, to incubate them in the creative spaces of our towns and neighborhoods. Unfortunately, in an increasingly competitive world, most of America's places are not configured for incubating ideas. How much genius could we unleash if we were not so deeply committed to the Suburban Experiment?
Six years ago I received a phone call from a group of Hasidic Jews from Brooklyn, NY. They asked if I would be interested in helping them build a city from scratch in rural Kansas. For a Catholic farm boy from rural Minnesota, this became one of the greatest opportunities of my life.
Not because I got to build the city. That would have been great, but the project fell apart before it even really got started, the logistics of relocating intact a community of Orthodox Jews halfway across the country too daunting for us all to pull off. The opportunity came from how the experience changed my spiritual life and helped me understand the value of community.
Is the challenge facing our local governments one of efficiency -- do they lack the systems to make good use of resources -- or is it one of innovation? If it is efficiency, then consolidation can address those problems. But if what we need is more innovation, we have to find a way to unleash local governments to make little bets - low risk experiments in solving problems.
Cognitive dissonance is where one holds two competing thoughts in the mind at the same time. The idea that the economics of our system of living is forcing us to contract does not correlate with the popular political notion of getting America growing again. Would cognitive dissonance be an incremental improvement over the blind ignorance our political establishment seems to have of our current situation?