GT: You've summed that up in your new book, saying "The logic of commerce and capital has overpowered the inertia of politics and launched an epoch of great social transformation." Do you have any thought on what the new political logic should be? From your examination of these problems, is this something that we are going to have to find through a long process or is there an obvious solution sitting there?

Greider: The only logic which I can identify starts with a negative perspective, examining what it is that governments do now and asking a very hard question. Does this really deliver work and wages -- decent wages -- to the populace that is paying for it? I know the federal establishment much better now than I know state government, but I can guarantee you that as you go through the federal budget and the tax code and ask that question, you will find enormous volumes of things for which the answer is no. You find what we are doing is sustaining sectors that are there and exist. And yes, of course people are employed there, but there is nothing being created by it. And in fact, the cost of it is quite high just to sustain it. I think the same process would perhaps also provide a general understanding that this country particularly has to do a new inventory of invention at the lower level.

Some of this is going on, as you know, where people are willing to take the risk of creating a market for an enterprise or products or a service that does not exist now because they have a good basis for understanding that this is a future market.

I'm not arguing that government ought to get out of the question of economic development. I believe profoundly that across human history, long before there was a United States, governments have always played a central role in economic development and always will. It is part of society. The free market dogma that says that you just have to get the government out of it is nonsense. First of all, most of the world doesn't believe it even if Americans did. And I don't think most Americans believe it either. Certainly most politicians don't believe it, not under the skin.

Here's an image to keep in mind: If you go back to World War II, other elements aside, it was an extraordinarily creative time in terms of economic development. And the government, almost single-handedly in the necessity of war, created a demand for a lot of new technologies and products. We can go down the list from radar to petrochemical synthetics.

As a country, we came out of that war not only with a lot of pent-up demands because people couldn't buy cars and houses for several years, but also with these new industries which led the world. What people have forgotten is that after the war, the government continued to fund these in fundamental ways. An obvious example is the semiconductor industry. For most of its first generation, there was really only one buyer, the U.S. government. Large body aircraft, where we now have lead the world for almost two generations, came out of the defense budget spending post World War II. Telecommunications would be another example.

You can go down this list and in every case its the same story. And this is not unique to the United States. Similar things were happening in Europe and Japan. The government was able to put some money on the table in reasonably intelligent ways and the money either bought this new product before it was commercially viable, or it subsidized the R & D or it even created the factories in some cases. I think this has got to happen again in this country to really get back to

Blake Harris  |  Editor