Beating the Politics of Polarization

Putting transpartisan theory into practice, renegade political strategists mobilize “Solutions Voters” in a bid to save American democracy.

by Bill Shireman

‘Politics’ in America is booming. From pollsters to consultants, and think tanks to media, interest is high. The ‘industry’ is doing well, but the people who are supposed to benefit from this ‘booming enterprise’ (the American public) have never been more dissatisfied.

Michael Porter & Katherine Gehl

America is losing its global competitive advantage, and the “political industrial complex” is primarily to blame, according to the father of modern business strategy, Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter.

Porter and his colleague Katherine Gehl, a former dairy industry CEO and entrepreneur, have applied the tools of competitive analysis to American politics, to discover how and why America’s dysfunctional political system is threatening future peace and prosperity. Their conclusion: it’s the duopoly.

“The political system is a private industry in America,” says Porter. “It consists of the two-party duopoly. Surrounding that duopoly are other actors” – lobbyists, campaign strategists, pollsters, marketers, think tanks, and the media. “Collectively, we call those the Political Industrial Complex.”

That complex profits not by solving problems, Gehl says, but by perpetuating them. The longer a political war lasts, the more entrenched the partisans become, and the more money flows to the political industry.

As a result, “None of the critical steps that need to be taken” to sustain American prosperity “have been taken for decades,” they say. “We haven’t dealt with the federal budget, the tax system, infrastructure, immigration, [or] our public schools.” This is because “we’re stuck. We’re in gridlock. The parties are good at blocking each other. They are not incented to fix these problems.”

“If you fix immigration, all of a sudden a lot of your most fervent supporters have less desire to affiliate with the party and give you money. . . . The parties have divided the electorate into mutually exclusive groups of special interests and partisans” devoted to single wedge issues, says Porter. “The people in the middle don’t matter.”

The partisans divide about 30% of the total Constitutionally defined electorate. Roughly 50% of constitutionally eligible voters fail to or are blocked from registering. Of the remainder more register as independents than as either Republicans or Democrats. Combined the unregistered and the independently registered add up to more of the electorate than Republicans and Democrats combined.

That absence of the middle not only undermines the health, happiness and well-being of Americans – it also opens a wide path for countries like China to drive their state-managed capitalist economy to the top position in global wealth, power, and political and military influence, perhaps as early as mid-century. Once that shift happens, America’s leadership will decline to second-tier status.

Bottomless fear and endless battle might damage the nation, but it already drives an average of $4 billion or more annually to political strategists, pollsters, and lobbyists, according to analyst Rob Stein.

Last year, Professor Candice Nelson, chair of the American University Department of Government, projected that spending on federal campaigns could rise to $8 billion or even $10 billion. Now, some estimates are closer to $30 billion.

The author of this paper and his colleagues have worked separately and together for twenty-five years to reduce extremism and resolve conflicts between political adversaries, so that sound policy and effective solutions can be enacted. Our data and experience confirm what Stephen Hawkins and colleagues contend in their recent study Hidden Tribes: close to 70 percent of American voters would rather solve problems in collaboration with one another, than battle over rigid ideological positions.

But if seven-in-ten voters want to solve problems, why is the nation unable to deal effectively with serious economic, security, and environmental threats? As Porter’s research shows, in today’s hate-based political business model, war is more profitable than peace.

To correct that market failure, in collaboration with scholars and statisticians at U.C. Berkeley and generous supporters, we have developed methods to identify, persuade, and mobilize “Solution Voters” – citizens across the spectrum, or as some of our colleagues put it within the transpartisan political matrix, who resist hate-based politics, and focus their consumer dollars, political votes, and issue activism on solving real-world problems.

We call our business model the Solutions Voter Strategy. It has already resulted in important political reforms and environmental policy breakthroughs. Here’s how it works.

Our objective has been to mobilize Solutions Voters as the tie-breakers in any competitive race or ballot initiative we choose. Because we are Republicans concerned about the future of our party, we have focused our private efforts on electing Republican problem-solvers. But the method can be applied to empower problem-solving candidates and voters outside party lines. Our objective is to shift the balance of political power from the extreme party base of hardcore warriors to swing voters across the broad 70% center more dedicated to solving problems than destroying enemies. Our target has been to mobilize up to five percent of these voters in competitive races. In close contests, even 1-2 percent of these activist “resolutionaries” can swing elections to problem-solving candidates and causes.

Turning out the base usually appears to be the most cost-effective way to secure additional votes. In competitive races, candidates may need to appeal to the ideological center. But get-out-the-vote campaigns focus on ideologically rigid voters who can be relied on to support every candidate and issue their party endorses.

Our innovation has been to turn the theory of several distinguished political scholars into a practical system for breaking out of the linear right-left political spectrum. We have done this by identifying and mobilizing a critical mass of voters previously overlooked in campaign strategies. This new political constituency is made up of free-range voters who will cast their ballots for problem-solvers even if it means crossing or going outside of party lines.

Our colleagues Lawrence Chickering and James Turner recognized this need more than a generation ago, coming from different sides of the political spectrum. Chickering and Turner are a libertarian conservative and a freedom left progressive respectively, dedicated to eliminating racism, sexism, poverty, and war. In our experience, free market conservatives and individual rights progressives generally offer better solutions to these problems than crony capitalist industrialists or big government progressives. Yet the mainstream political industry offers no place for conservatives or liberals seeking non-ideological solutions to problems such as these. These issues are “owned” by the Order Left and Right, with little room for either the Freedom Right or Left.

To attract attention and gain leverage in a crowded political media environment, the Left tends to catastrophize social and environmental problems, while the Right tends to discount or deny them. But neither resolves them. The few solutions offered almost always reflect order Rightist or Leftist doctrine, and when passed, empower entrenched institutions on both the Left and the Right. Open-minded progressives who seek solutions on “conservative” issues like spending reform or national security have no viable choice except doctrinaire conservative positions that reward other vested interests. Those favoring evidence-based solutions on either “left” or “right” have no way to advance them. Their only choice is to support a flawed policy that panders to their base and serves the establishment.

An example of transpartisan cooperation occurred when freedom Right conservative Grover Norquist joined freedom progressive Ralph Nader in a campaign against corporate welfare. As they worked together Nader wrote Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State. After fifty years of consumer activism Nader, according to the book’s promotion, “ramps up the fight and shows how Left-Right coalitions can prevail over the corporate state and crony capitalism.”

 

The traditional left-to-right spectrum.

 

In his 1993 book Beyond Left and Right, Chickering presented an alternative to the linear left-right political spectrum that can help identify and empower the problem-solving majority: a framework of four quadrants that Chickering and Turner call the Four-Quadrant Transpartisan Matrix. They wrote more about the “Transpartisan Matrix” in their 2008 book Voice of the People: The Transpartisan Imperative in American Life; and in 2016 they jointly founded The Transpartisan Review.

The four-quadrant matrix begins with a horizontal, Left-Right axis but then adds a vertical axis, which presents the two great values in the Western political tradition – ‘Freedom’ and ‘Order’ – which consciously or unconsciously underlie most political conflicts. Freedom is the libertarian ideal, which vests maximum choice in individuals. Chickering’s and Turner’s more recent writings on freedom expands the concept to highlight its importance for the marginalized beyond freedom from coercion. In their new, expanded conception, freedom is maximized when people are empowered to make choices that play an important part in their lives. This can be especially important in shared ‘ownership’ of community institutions such as schools and law enforcement.

For much of human history order was largely traditional, emerging out of culture. Over time, especially since the end of the Middle Ages, increasing individuation (advancing consciousness of the self) eroded the authority of tradition, and order became increasingly understood as power vested in a central authority, which could be an individual, corporation, church, or state. With the rise of democracies, constitutions came to play increasingly important roles in creating foundations for the order provided by legal systems.

Chickering’s and Turner’s concept of transpartisan order, in this time of advanced individuation, occurs when people choose it, as in a self-governing school or housing project, with a governance structure that empowers people it serves with significant powers of governance.

FREEDOM
Individual Choice
*
*
*
*
*
Centralized Authority
ORDER

The order-to-freedom spectrum.

 

The Transpartisan Matrix combines the two axes as follows:

The Transpartisan Matrix helps us understand how a “conservative” like Chickering and a ‘progressive’ like Turner can both be anti-war and pro-social justice. Chickering is not what conservative warriors derisively call “RINO’s” – Republicans in name only who secretly favor big government statism. Turner is not what liberals call “high tech monopolists” – who start out favoring freedom on the web and end up with the surveillance society.

Each simply believes that both peace and justice can best be served through freedom – when communities served by government schools, for example, are empowered as co-owners to design and implement empowerment strategies for them – than through force, when governments make all decisions. Order through freedom has a better chance of producing reforms through facts rather than fantasies, by combining the enduring strengths of traditional Left and Right into an integration of order and freedom.

While it is often said that libertarians prioritize liberty over authority, a more precise statement would be to say that authority, which is earned power based on consent, is maximized when people are empowered to make the rules in self-governing institutions. In this conception, authority is maximized when liberty has a significant role in a governance structure.

Unfortunately, because the duopoly serves the institutional Left and Right, the policies it promotes are biased toward imposing order through rules and regulations rather than establishing frameworks for innovation and free enterprise, accomplished by empowering even the most disadvantaged to play active roles in their own governance. Imposing order, on the other hand, helps protect entrenched institutions, which seek to have their organizations and business models embedded in law and regulations, which often exclude innovative upstarts and empowered citizenship.

Partly as a result, as the following diagram shows, most existing governance models around the world favor authoritarian power over free, empowered citizenship. They place power in the hands of cocksure executives and entrenched interest groups, rather than empowered citizens and smaller local institutions.

But free market innovation tends to be better at problem-solving than rules designed to benefit entrenched interests that control government agencies and business monopolies. Chickering and Turner were among the first political scholars to recognize how to empower these “problem-solving” voters: those on both the Left and Right who understand how harnessing markets, science, knowledge, and nature, individuals and businesses – creates problem solving energy. It is driven by and draws on the desire, which is in people’s nature, to be self-governing.

This perspective explains why the 70% who fail to identify as registered Democrats or Republicans can meet most societal needs better than entrenched state-sanctioned institutions.

 

Each Quadrant Contributes to the Truth

Each quadrant in the Matrix reflects a value and a reality that needs to be integrated with the others to solve real problems. Understanding the need to incorporate adversaries’ insights is important for another reason – because large-scale change is generally not possible without support, if not leadership, of the opposition to the change, uniting the political culture. This creates a paradoxical logic around large-scale change – Nixon going to China being the archetypal example. The truths in each quadrant represent only partial-truths, each needing elements of the others to be complete – hence, the need to integrate them.

Order-Right (OR). This, Chickering and Turner note, is the ‘oldest’ position, with origins in tradition and faith. OR’s essential truth is to protect the tribe – care for those close by. Traditional cultures reveal this truth in extreme forms, with relationships limited to preconscious, habitual connections. OR’s values are responsibility, duty, and public spirit. Nationalism is tribalism on a national scale. Traditional peoples often feel antagonism toward outsiders. Thus, OR limits peoples’ experiences and forms of connection. By caring for those close by, OR is the narrowest value among the four quadrants, often combined with fear of “others”. Fear of others is OR’s ‘dark side’. Tribal communities thus often fear and hate other tribes. In most extreme forms right totalitarian systems feel ‘totalist’ commitment to ‘core’ myths (the Aryan Man in Nazi Germany) against ‘marginal’ groups (Jews for the Nazis).

Although OR’s core value of caring for those close by has this dark side, it also, paradoxically, can animate the most intense, intimate relationships, in relationships with ‘others’. The Order Left (OL) seeks to overcome ‘differences’ in people in large, abstract, and mechanistic ways. But overcoming differences depends on communication and engagement between people, bringing them close to each other.

Redeeming the full value of OR’s commitment to relationships close by depends on engagements across all differences of race, gender, and class – which are a central value of both quadrants on the Left. Such engagement can be achieved only in small groups, which, however, can cumulate into very large scales.

This OR principle of engaging people close by has an important piece – perhaps (in the Chickering-Turner view) the most important piece – of the truth.

Freedom-Right (FR) first appeared socially and psychologically in the late Middle Ages and the beginnings of modern individualism. This is the quadrant of free market capitalism, which has brought great wealth to modern societies, but it has also brought large concentrations of power and wealth, which are often abused. [1]

The governing principal of the FR is self-interest as the principal engine of progress. This was and is a powerful motivator for action, but self-interest came to be understood, both by advocates and critics of capitalism in narrow terms, often indifferent to the OR’s principles of responsibility, duty, and public spirit – which departed from Adam Smith, the father of modern capitalism. [2] FR’s narrow understanding of self-interest, ignoring people’s broader ‘self-interest’ in cooperation and community makes it only a partial truth, needing insights from the other quadrants to present a whole picture of human needs.

The dark side of individualism takes many forms for both individuals and for societies: greed, selfishness, class consciousness, the belief that with ‘winners’, there must also be ‘losers’, and a general sense that individualism necessarily implies separation and disconnection. The last two points suggest why the Republican Party and ‘conservatism’ declined after the last Presidential election. Many on the Freedom Right have focused on freedom as freedom from order and were indifferent to perceptions of the overall fairness of the system. They pushed their understanding of the individualist ideal toward objective success, both economic (‘the American dream’) and social, without recognizing the instability that wide variations in material wealth build into society.

Individualism, as a modern expression of psychological individuation, can also mean – needs to mean – ‘self-determined’ toward whatever one values, whether material or non-material, ‘connected’ or ‘unconnected’. This concept was always a central component in the late free market economist Milton Friedman’s concept of capitalism. As an example, he regarded the communal Israeli kibbutzim as a triumph of capitalism because they are freely chosen. That the kibbutzim are also often hailed as a triumph of socialism reveals the overlapping ideals of capitalism and socialism (process and substance), tending toward four-quadrant integration.

This is a complicated subject, but the challenge for the FR – at a time when demographic trends are expanding the representation of ‘marginal’ groups (minority groups, immigrants, many women) in the population – is to focus on instrumental empowerment instead of material equality as the ideal toward which we should all be aimed. Empowerment can benefit all groups in society, as opposed to equality understood objectively and promoted by the Order Left, which cannot (because everyone cannot be above average). (The only way everyone can be objectively equal is for everyone to be relentlessly average – not a very happy outcome.)

Actively promoting empowerment would require that the freedom right expand its rhetorical focus away from criticizing governments to actively promoting initiatives that empower citizens, especially through civil society organizations (CSOs). Empowering citizens, in fact, would need to have both individual and collective dimensions, especially in public spaces such as public schools and housing projects. In its relentless opposition to government social policy benefiting marginalized groups, the FR and economists generally miss opportunities to promote both individualism and community by pushing new concepts of shared rights in public spaces.

FR’s dark side, for its strong theoreticians and practitioners, includes disconnection, loneliness, and narrow social experiences.

Order-Left (OL). The growth of industrial capitalism led to the rise of trade unions and also to increasing calls for equality and justice guaranteed by centralized governments based on legal rights. The OL vision appeared in most extreme form in totalitarian Marxist-Leninism, which presented equality and justice as objectives governments can achieve by coercive force. It placed no priority on subjective issues of how people ‘treat each other’, which is also important as an objective of the quest for justice. The OL’s contribution to integrating the four quadrants was its call for expanding justice to the most marginalized.

Freedom-Left (FL). The rise of large, bureaucratic governments and corporations led to a range of abuses, infringing on citizens’ rights, which stimulated calls for freedom on the civil libertarian left. Groups in this movement have been the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), peace groups protesting global military initiatives, and (in the 1960s) the New Left, protesting encroachment on freedoms by large organizations, both public and private, including the mega-universities.

Parts of the FL share an aversion to politics with elements of the OR, emphasizing private relationships and communities. Especially in the counterculture and Bohemian communities, elements of the FL share with the OR a commitment to ‘caring for those close by’, but they come full circle now in communities drawn from diverse populations of race, religion, and class. Like the other quadrants, the FL vision is only a partial truth as it is ‘inclusive’ only among people united in their antagonism toward the core values of the larger society, including the government. The FL is crucial for integration of the four quadrants as it combines the OR insight of those ‘close by’ with a commitment to diversity, bound together by common, self-determined values independent of traditional and habitual relationships.

 

Applying the Matrix to Reduce Voter Alienation and Solve Problems

This discussion begins by noting the widespread voter alienation from the political system and especially from the two major political parties. A symbol of this alienation is that there are now more registered Independents than either Democrats or Republicans. The political system, based on the simple Left-Right political spectrum, alienates about two-thirds of age-eligible citizens by its preoccupation with conflict, while ignoring solution of problems.

By introducing its four value quadrants into the debate, the Matrix represents voters’ values much better than the either-or, Left-Right spectrum. purporting to represent values in very simple terms, with each side claiming all truth for its side while denying any truth in the other side. The current political system, based on this philosophical foundation, cannot accomplish anything except paralysis. One reason, which is rarely mentioned, is that it systematically undermines the social trust that is essential in all democracies – trust among political leaders, trust among citizens and trust between leaders and citizens.

The Matrix broadens understanding of the political landscape for both officeholders and constituents alike. Instead of emphasizing the narrow question of ‘how conservative’ or ‘how liberal’ they are, people both in and out of office can approach issues more broadly – searching for agreements that might define new political coalitions and new opportunities for solutions with broad political support.

Broader discussion allows individual adversaries on one issue (e.g., higher or lower taxes) to become allies on other issues (e.g., civil liberties). When individuals campaign together on any issue, the increased trust that results tend to make them more open to transpartisan discourse on all issues.

As we are writing this, it seems as if Democrats are united in their support for increasing taxes, while Republicans are united in their opposition. However, positions on taxes, as on many issues, can change. The Democrats led proposals for reducing taxes on the rich in 1962 and 1981, and joined Republicans on the issue in 1986 for a variety of reasons. Where tax policy goes in the future will be influenced by many things, including observations of taxes actually collected in responses to recent changes. Whatever happens will, without doubt, be influenced in important ways by the degree of trust in the larger political culture. The Matrix explains how to institutionalize this broadening of the political landscape – and will facilitate expanding coalitions around all kinds of policies, including tax policy.

It deepens understanding. The Matrix deepens political discussion by opening up – again, for office holders and constituents alike – awareness that individuals approach different political issues with a different mixture of freedom and order right and left. That is, an individual might take a risk for freedom on one issue but not another.

Thus, a more robust political picture of office holders and constituents begins to emerge as individuals recognize where on the Matrix they lie in relation to the issues they care about. The Matrix begins to address the fact that politics is a deeper, more personal undertaking than addressed by the rather brittle results of polling and voting.

It personalizes understanding. Politics is personal as well as broad and deep. The Matrix personalizes political discourse by allowing an individual to track how their own views, or their representative’s views, on issues change (might change) over time – moving, at different times, from freedom to order and back.

Everybody’s political actions are an integrated combination of freedom, order, Left and Right. How they express their integrated values at any given moment on any given issue will influence (and perhaps determine) their contribution to the collective political discourse at that moment. The Transpartisan Matrix describes a framework for tracking these values and behaviors – and changes in both – over time.

 

Activating the Four Quadrants: The Role of Political Strategy

The Transpartisan Matrix illustrates a powerful theory, but we needed to translate it into an on-the-ground strategy and apply it in political campaigns. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Charles Munger Jr. are the political odd couple who combined forces to do so. Schwarzenegger, of course, is the Austrian bodybuilding champion who lived the American dream, became a famous movie star, made his cinematic mark as The Terminator, then leveraged that into a real-life political role, first as Governor of California, and now as a leading force to reclaim democracy.

Charles Munger Jr. is no bodybuilder, but he was the muscle behind Schwarzenegger’s first political mission. A Stanford particle physicist with a preference for bow ties and a fascination with the nature of reality, he has a habit, when the mood strikes him, of using his substantial wealth to help restore democracy in California – appealingly, with no political ambitions of his own, besides a certain Madisonian spirit.

Munger was inspired to enter politics in 2003, when Schwarzenegger announced his gubernatorial run. In 2005, Schwarzenegger backed a reform agenda consisting of four ballot propositions.  All of Schwarzenegger’s ballot measures failed, but Munger was undeterred. He reached into his own pocket and spent $78 million to fix California’s broken political machinery, with redistricting reform as a primary objective. Another of his successes resulted in requiring transparent deliberations by the state legislature, so special-interest favors can’t be rushed through before the public gets a chance to see who is capturing their money.  Importantly, then New York city Mayor Billionaire Michael Bloomberg (Democrat/Republican/Democrat) joined Schwarzenegger in funding  initiatives – underscoring the power of transpartisan integration.

Then, they recruited additional strategists, including James Fisfis and Luis Buhler, and later, donors such as Trammell Crow and this author, to help plan and fund campaigns for Republican problem-solvers.  Working with colleagues in public policy and statistics at UC Berkeley, a model was developed that, using a set of questions,  could reliably predict which voters are Solution Voters – conservatives, moderates, or progressives who genuinely believe that, by collaborating rather than just battling each other, they can solve problems.

Using the same question set, they further divided the four quadrants into a “Hollywood Squares” version that identified sixteen different segments of voters, eight of which identified Problem-Solvers. Then, they tested messages delivered through direct mail, traditional media, and social media, to see which successfully delivered prospective Solutions Voters to the polls.

In three ballot campaigns and six competitive California candidate races, they were able to win contests where they would otherwise have lost, sometimes by sizable margins.

For example, in a district dominated by Democrats, a problem-solving Republican named Catharine Baker overcame extreme odds to take the district in two successive elections. In 2014 she defeated Democrat Steve Glazer, who a year later won a State Senate seat in an overlapping district. Then, in a partnership rarely seen in partisan politics, the two joined together for a series of bipartisan town halls that attracted from 150 to 700 engaged residents, and built a coalition of problem-solvers that combined libertarian tools with progressive values to protect the environment, improve schools, and promote sensible immigration reform.

Similarly, in California’s 29th State Senate district, with a four-point Democratic edge, the libertarian-leaning pro-environment Republican Ling Ling Chang defeated a Duopoly Democrat.

Across the six races where Munger and his team applied the model, an average of 17 percent of voters shifted from their partisan preference to vote for a problem-solver. That is about five times the swing seen by professionals focusing on either the left-wing or right-wing base.

The 2018 elections provided further support for the Solutions Voter Strategy, though sometimes in a manner we regretted. When funding for the strategy was removed, the combination of the anti-Trump “blue wave” and vote harvesting by Democrats led to a loss of some of the best problem-solver candidates in California. In 2020, the strategic application of the Solutions Voter Strategy can reclaim lost seats, and lead to gains in competitive races and battleground states across the country.

Most problems are profitable to solve, if people who consume and businesses that produce – most people do both, but the political duopoly forces them to pick sides artificially – are allowed to apply science, markets, and nature to find low-cost, effective solutions that address root causes. Combining ingredients from all four quadrants in the Transpartisan Matrix, they make all our lives better through political chemistry.

Unfortunately, most entrenched institutions would rather manage problems indefinitely than have others solve them permanently. That is one reason Republican lawmakers champion freedom from government regulations, but often in selective ways that benefit companies that sell tobacco, sugar, prescription drugs, private prisons, and endless wars. It is one reason Democratic lawmakers champion social justice, but often in ways that only benefit hospitals, lawyers, social service providers, public employee unions, clean energy investors, and entrenched providers in politically favorable industries – often through coercive fundraising practices that harm their clients’ long-term interests.

Both parties use the anti-corporate or anti-state rhetoric of their warriors, but often to mandate benefits that enrich corporate and state-dependent interest groups in their constituency. Systemic solutions that rely on markets, science, or nature for innovation are left on the table. Instead, political wars drag on, driving more dollars to the political industry while they undermine America’s competitive advantage and future prosperity as well as the health, happiness, and lives of individual people.

As Chickering and Turner noted in a prior issue of The Transpartisan Review, donors on both the right and left are increasingly aware that their dollars support this dysfunctional outcome. In meetings of the Donor Roundtable hosted by Trammell Crow and this author, they set goals and made investments to combine the Munger model with parallel initiatives led in part by Kathryn Murdoch. Beginning this year, we will reach out to 45 million of the most likely Solution Voters, with the objective to recruit 500,000 by this November, and grow the community to five million by November 2024.

The dysfunctions in our democracy are deeply-rooted, yet easier to reach than many believe. The first imperative is to shift the balance of rhetorical power from the extremes that divide and conquer American democracy, to the broad 7-in-10 who can form a governing majority that integrates freedom with order, protects what is sacred, and presses forward toward what is possible.

Empower the solutions voter. Government of the people, by the people and for the people shall ensure that the earth will not perish.   – James Turner


[1] Adam Smith, the father of modern capitalism, warned about this in his The Wealth of Nations.

[2] Smith wrote his The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759, nearly twenty years before The Wealth of Nations (1776).

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Bill Shireman is a recidivist social entrepreneur, environmental policy innovator, and rare San Francisco Republican-in-plain-site. He brings together people who love to hate each other – capitalists, activists, conservatives, and progressives, among others.

As President of the non-profit Future 500, he invites Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network (RAN), ExxonMobil, Mitsubishi and other corporate and environmental leaders to slip into bed together to create, among other healthy offspring, the world’s first corporate supply chain standards for sustainable forestry (between Mitsubishi, RAN, and then 400 other companies), the most effective beverage container recycling program (the California CRV deposit system and its progeny), and the 2008 agreement by both Greenpeace and Exxon-Mobil to support precisely the same federal tax on carbon, which went absolutely nowhere.

Professor Shireman is a prolific author who has written nearly as many books as he has sold. His latest book, In This Together: How Republicans, Democrats, Capitalists, and Activists are Uniting to Tackle Climate Change and More, was launched on July 4, 2020.

3 comments

  1. I’m pleased to learn that my Stanford classmate Luis Buhler is involved in this. But I think the stakes in play are far more sweeping than Jim Turner acknowledges. The numbers on the American economy tell an un-acknowledged story. That from 1945 to 1981, ours was an economy of Prosperity Capitalism, with rising incomes across all income slices except the Top One Percent. Why? Because in the post-FDR era, Government was strong enough to curb the inherent corruptibility of capitalist elites. Then Reagan belittled Government, pushing it aside, and almost overnight an era of Prosperity Capitalism was eclipsed by the rise of Enrichment Capitalism. The share of total income going to the Bottom Half fell from almost twenty percent to little more than twelve percent; the share going to the Top One Percent nearly doubled. What was at stake in this shift can be measured in the trillions, not the billions. It takes strong Government to curb the inherent corruptibility of the One Percent. We need Prosperity Capitalism; we have been savaged by Enrichment Capitalism; and the idea that solution voters by themselves can flip us back to the practice of Prosperity Capitalism seems somewhat far-fetched. Would that it were true. But with the stakes in the trillions, this particular problem won’t be solved till the narrative of inherent capitalist virtue has been replaced with a narrative of inherent capitalist corruptibility and the critical role Government must play in curbing capitalist corruptibility. Capitalism – to operate honestly – needs to be supervised by a strong and honorable Government. What are the odds that a four quadrant model can, by itself, curb the rewards of Enrichment Capitalism? Well, Laurie? Well, Jim? Take your best shot.

  2. “Chickering and Turner were among the first political scholars to recognize how to empower these ‘problem-solving’ voters: those on both the Left and Right who understand how harnessing markets, science, knowledge, and nature, individuals and businesses – creates problem solving energy. It is driven by and draws on the desire, which is in people’s nature, to be self-governing.”

    Love that phrase, “problem solving energy.”

    Best and clearest article on Transpartisanship that I’ve encountered. (And being on the advisory board of, and am an occasional contributor to, the Transpartisan Review, I’ve encountered plenty.)

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