Against many odds, I was given the chance to spend six days at the Aspen Ideas Festival this summer. While there I observed three basic orientations toward the country's current malaise: 1) Things are going very poorly in our country and much of the world, and it's worth doing something about, so let's figure out what we can do, 2) This is stimulating information I'm collecting but it's so complex that it's not possible to address issues with decisive action (i.e. "Tell me when the lifeboat is ready. I'll be listening to the string quartet on the Lido deck."), and 3) Our world is transformed by evolving movements that garner political will from experts, legislators, entrepreneurs, corporations, and regional cultures, so let's improve each of these and hope for the best. Though I sympathize mostly with #3 and #1 in that order, I found myself slipping into #2 ("relaxed Titanic") more often than I'd like to admit among the beautiful Aspen meadows.
Statistics (everyone's favorite way of documenting while showing off) were touted around every corner at the Aspen Institute's Ideas Festival in July: 60 percent of U.S. citizens receive more benefits from government than they contribute; over 46 percent of U.S. families pay no federal taxes. To the pollster's query, "Do you trust government to do the right thing most of the time?" the U.S. public is now at 17 percent. There are many more African-American men in college than in prison. For the first time in 150 years in America there is a growth in the number of farmers. And so on