It’s ‘mak­ers’ who will de­cide our na­tion’s fu­ture


It’s no se­cret that both po­lit­i­cal par­ties are strug­gling to con­nect with vot­ers. Strate­gists dream up mar­ket­ing plans to in­crease their party’s ap­peal to this con­stituency or that group. Some­times they work, and some­times they don’t. But they never es­tab­lish a deep and last­ing con­nec­tion with vot­ers.

That’s be­cause most of what the par­ties talk about is yes­ter­day’s news and is largely ir­rel­e­vant to the re­al­i­ties of the 21st cen­tury.

Con­sider the top is­sue be­fore the na­tion -- the econ­omy. Pres­i­dent Obama wants to raise taxes and in­crease govern­ment spend­ing to boost the econ­omy and cre­ate jobs. Repub­li­cans dis­agree. Vot­ers root for their po­lit­i­cal team but see lit­tle con­nec­tion be­tween rhetoric and re­al­ity.

A bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of where the econ­omy is headed comes from far out­side of of­fi­cial Wash­ing­ton.

One way to get a sense of what is tak­ing place is to pick up a copy of “Mak­ers: The New In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion,” by Wired mag­a­zine edi­tor Chris An­der­son.

If you’ve never heard of or seen 3-D print­ing, the book will change ev­ery­thing you think you know about economics and day-to-day life. An­der­son ar­gues that “the col­lec­tive po­ten­tial of a mil­lion garage tin­ker­ers and en­thu­si­asts is about to be un­leashed, driv­ing a resur­gence of Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ing.”

If you are fa­mil­iar with the po­ten­tial of 3-D print­ing, you will have to con­sider An­der­son’s claim that “a gen­er­a­tion of ‘Mak­ers’ us­ing the Web’s in­no­va­tion model will help drive the next big wave in the global econ­omy.”

It’s un­likely that ev­ery­thing An­der­son de­scribes will play out as he en­vi­sions, but at least he’s dis­cussing the 21st cen­tury econ­omy.

He is ad­dress­ing both the hopes and fears of mil­lions who rec­og­nize that the new tech­nol­ogy has al­ready changed the econ­omy in a fun­da­men­tal way. Jaron Lanier, the fa­ther of vir­tual re­al­ity, also ad­dressed those is­sues in his book, “Who Owns the Fu­ture?” Lanier ini­tially thought that the dig­i­tal net­work­ing world would im­prove life for ev­ery­one. Now, he fears that those net­works will elim­i­nate mid­dle-class jobs. In Lanier’s view, the prob­lem is that ev­ery­body is giv­ing away so much per­sonal and pro­fes­sional con­tent for free. He sees the ul­ti­mate win­ner in such a world as the per­son with the big­gest com­puter to mine that data. As with An­der­son, you don’t have to agree with ev­ery­thing Lanier says to rec­og­nize that he’s ad­dress­ing re­al­ity far more than ei­ther po­lit­i­cal party.

Even more, whether or not An­der­son and Lanier have it right, the forces they de­scribe are go­ing to do more to shape the global eco­nomic fu­ture than all the rhetoric about fis­cal pol­icy, stim­u­lus, min­i­mum wage, union rules and reg­u­la­tion.

For those ac­tivists who cling to the view that pol­i­tics drives the fu­ture, con­sider the 1970s, when politi­cians grap­pled with an en­ergy cri­sis, Water­gate, high in­fla­tion, high un­em­ploy­ment and more. The pol­icy de­bates led to the tax re­volt and the elec­tion of Ron­ald Rea­gan as pres­i­dent.

Dur­ing that time, un­known to the world at large, Bill Gates dropped out of Har­vard to found Mi­crosoft. Steve Jobs left school to work for Atari and at­tended the Home­brew Com­puter Club with Steve Woz­niak. Those two men started Ap­ple Com­puter.

With­out tak­ing any­thing away from Rea­gan’s ac­com­plish­ments in the 1980s, it was Gates and Jobs who shaped the fu­ture. To­day, the fu­ture is be­ing shaped in Amer­ica, not Wash­ing­ton.

To find out more about Scott Ras­mussen, and read fea­tures by other Cre­ators writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit cre­

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