Tuesday Bonus: Intelligence Squared

One of the great things about working here at Small Towns is being part of the intelligent discussions my colleagues frequently have. For example, yesterday we were having an email discussion (debate) on land prices and the tax system - specifically, how does our method of property tax distort the market and what can we do about it. Our Executive Director, Jon Commers, advocating for changes in the system added this thought during the discussion:

If we stick with the status quo until we plow into a brick wall, it will be a lot more painful than if we make difficult and costly and uncomfortable shifts now in preparation. Said another way, we can transition to a new marketplace now and have some influence over how that looks, or just transition later when the two factors above force us, in which case we’ll have a lot less time and influence over the outcome. I choose the former.

While we enjoy a spirited debate on what the precise solutions are, we all agree that we can't stay where we are. We can't afford it. The recent economic crash confirms that something is wrong with our growth model. America's present challenge is to transition to something new, which we at Strong Towns unanimously agree needs to harness market forces to clearly reflect the true, long-term cost of our choices.

This brings me to Intelligence Squared, an Oxford-style debate that NPR broadcasts which I enjoy listening to by podcast. The premise that was recently debated was, "Obama's Economic Policies are Working Effectively?" While the participants were heavily weighted to left-of-center thought, it was a good debate and I was struck by some of the arguments against the premise. The strongest arguments, in my opinion, can be summarized by this quote from former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer (whose recent checkered past did not cloud his debating skills).

"...the Obama Administration's economic policies, in my mind, stand for continuity you can believe in. We are still giving away vast sums of money to the same people with the same result so that the bank profits are way up, unemployment is up, investment is not increasing, consumption is not increasing and we are not seeing any of the wise transformation in the fundamental structure of our economy that this crisis calls for. We all remember Rahm Emanuel's oft-cited statement that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Indeed, it is. This crisis is the rare opportunity that we have to change the direction of our economy, an economy that has been sliding in the wrong direction for many years."

Jon's comment, which I echo here: how do we transition to something that works?

This was a good debate. You can listen to the audio by clicking here. A transcript is also available by clicking here.


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