Virginia, the De-Synchronization of Change and Fundamental Change

In their latest work, “Revolutionary Wealth,” Heidi and Alvin Toffler argue that different institutions evolve at different rates of speed as the economy, society, culture and political system shift from an industrial-wave to a knowledge-wave “wealth-creating system.” Businesses are adapting most rapidly — indeed, they are largely driving the shift — followed closely by nongovernmental grass roots organizations. Lagging behind is the American family, and even farther behind are labor unions, government bureaucracies and regulatory agencies. Bringing up the rear: schools, the governance structure and legal institutions. (Doug Koelemay touches upon mismatch between the “demands of the fast-growing new economy and the inertial institutional structure of the old society” in his column, “Future Still Shocking,” which inspired me to read the book.)

In their discussion of the United States, the Tofflers are relatively optimistic. Not only has our economy and society advanced farther down the path to a knowledge-wave wealth-creation system, Americans are more open to change than either the Europeans or Japanese, and they’re less vulnerable to cataclysmic political turmoil than the Chinese. However, there are several dischordances in our institutional mix that stand out — dischordances, as it happens, that are objects of regular scrutiny on this blog: the transportation infastructure, the energy system and the educational system.

The Tofflers make a number of useful observations about each, as I hope to explicate in future posts. As high-altitude observers, integrating global trends, the Tofflers miss some important details. They have little to say about the importance of human settlement patterns, for instance, in understanding the dysfunction of our transportation and energy systems. But their larger points hold up very well.

The old, industrial-wave wealth-creating system is supported by an array of vested interests. These interests resist meaningful change, seeking to apply familiar, but increasingly ineffective, industrial-wave solutions. In essence, they argue for redoubling our efforts in doing the same old thing. We can see this clearly in Virginia in our approach to roads and education: There’s nothing that spending more money can’t fix.

But industrial-wave solutions will not work. Incremental reforms won’t work. We need to reconceptualize crucial institutions. We need to reinvent them from scratch. In other words, to borrow the idiom of Bacon’s Rebellion, we need Fundamental Change.

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2 responses to “Virginia, the De-Synchronization of Change and Fundamental Change”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    I am reading this book. The House of Delegates
    GOP Caucus in the General Assembly would be a good
    case study by the writers of this thoughtful book
    about the failure of elected officials to meet the
    needs of the public.

  2. nova_middle_man Avatar

    Radical change in government what do you think this is a business

    Sorry that was too easy to pass up

    Changing government is like moving a cruise ship. Incremental change is the only realistic option IMHO. Maybe the house of delegates should start writing white papers and get some pilot studies. I bet Prince William would be willing to be looked at as a pilot study.

    * My new disclaimer: Additional revenue IS REQUIRED for transportation issues

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