Americans Doing Something
Spirit of America is serving a communal need we’ve felt since 9/11/01. Do you remember that dark September when you wanted to do something–anything–to make a difference? Remember the tone-deaf response? Take a trip to Orlando; live your life as if nothing has happened. If We the People had been empowered to work through our rage and grief proactively, perhaps our foreign policy would not bankrupt our grandchildren.
SoA is helping We the People do something significant to make the world a better and safer place. Except for the crazies, re-purposed cold warriors and pacifist Birkenstockers yearn similarly for pacification of the mid east–and the world.
Steven Johnson sees something important in Spirit of America:
My buddy Jeff Jarvis alerted me to the laudable Spirit of America site, which has already been widely linked to through the blogworld, but every link counts, so here’s mine. It’s a fascinating model for combining long-distance philanthropy with targeted interventions. I won’t bother going through the details since they’re nicely summarized here. But the site makes me wonder whether this isn’t the beginning of a fascinating new chapter in the web’s gift economy…
…What Spirit Of America suggests is a version of that swarming directed towards Good Causes: someone halfway across the globe (or halfway across the country, or the county) puts out a call for help setting up a wi-fi network in an under-funded school, or repairing a sewage treatment facility, and within five days they’re flooded with funds, spare parts, technical expertise, and good will. And when the network goes online, or the sewage starts getting processed again, we all get to see the results. (Maybe not so fun for sewage, but you get the idea.) And then we get to move on to the next cause.
Bingo! That’s what I’m talkin’ about! And so is Jeff when he describes SoA as open-source nation-building. Is it possible that the Internet disintermediates foreign aid as it does so many other communication-dependent economic structures? Natch!
This resonates with John Robb’s link to Phillip Bobbit’s important work describing the ascendancy of the market-state:
Philip Bobbitt, author of The Shield of Achilles, on the rise of the market-state:
The “market-state” is the latest constitutional order, one that is just emerging in a struggle for primacy with the dominant constitutional order of the 20th century, the nation-state. Whereas the nation-state based its legitimacy on a promise to better the material well-being of the nation, the market-state promises to maximize the opportunity of each individual citizen.
The current conflict is one of several possible wars of the market-states as they seek to open up societies to trade in commerce, ideas, and immigration which excite hostility in those groups that want to use law to enforce religious or ethnic orthodoxy.
States make war, not brigands; and the Al Qaeda network is a sort of virtual state, with a consistent source of finance, a recognized hierarchy of officials, foreign alliances, an army, published laws, even a rudimentary welfare system. It has declared war on the U.S. for much the same reason that Japan did in 1941: because we appear to frustrate its ambitions to regional hegemony.
“…the market-state promises to maximize the opportunity of each individual citizen.” How’s that for a consumer-oriented manifesto?
It’s a classic market opportunity, and the virtual Al-Qaeda market-state is responding to it with innovation and energy. The entrepreneurs at Spirit of America see the success enjoyed by this new class of entrepreneur, and realizes that an American response, fueled by real abundance, can overwhelm the competition with a better product, one that actually improves lives rather than one that promises to improve the afterlife. It’s a functioning product vs. vaporware, and it’s really no contest.
The Spirit of America proposes to deliver real results to the customers to whom Al Qaeda is shipping empty cartons. In that sense, SoA is as much a market-state as Al Quaeda, but still a baby one. How big does SoA have to grow to match Al Qaeda in GDP? In about a week and a half, last month, SoA raised $1,500,000, giving SoA an imputed annual GDP of $52 million. That’s about 25% as big as the US economy in 1789, according to these experts.
It’s a start.