So, it is the day after labor day, and I am catching up on the news, including some big labor endorsement news from John Edwards, via Marc Ambinder:
In Pittsburgh this morning, ex-Sen. John Edwards will proudly receive the endorsement of the United Steelworkers and the United Mineworkers of America, giving him the largest bloc of union endorsements so far.
USW claims 1.2M current members and retirees, including nearly 9,000 in Iowa.
Perhaps it is because I just read Nick Gillespie’s great review of Matt Bai’s new book, but I have to ask one question. So?
I mean, isn’t the modern economy an information (capital) and services (the new labor) economy? Is John Edwards the candidate of yesterday’s economy? Shouldn’t the debate be about how to maximize the upsides of today’s and tomorrow’s economy while minimizing the downsides, including transition? Who will be the candidate of tomorrow’s economy? When I asked this question several thoughts occurred to me.
First, the answer should be, at least on the GOP side, Mitt Romney, if only because of his experience as a VC. But he is not pushing those issues and is instead pushing his more corporatist worldview and pandering to the base. Perhaps in tribute to the problems faced by the GOP, the questions that we debate in the primary are not of interest to the general electorate. The Dems debate healthcare and getting out of Iraq. We debate tax reform proposals that are mostly DOA and staying in Iraq.
Perhaps the more interesting question is which party is the party of the information economy and in what way? Historically speaking, the GOP was the party of economic innovation during the last fundamental shift in our economy, the industrial revolution. Certainly our voters were northern industrialists and their employees. But on a policy level our issues were larger than that. We were the party of the Homestead Act, of national railroad and canal infrastructure, etc.
Clearly in an information (and services) economy, the primary form of capital is human capital. Now revolutionary productivity increases are coming through management, education, etc., not industrialization and mechanization. Shouldn’t the GOP be on the side of encouraging and facilitating those radical increases in productivity? Of developing and maximizing human capital through education?
Have there been any proposals offered on education by candidates on either side? I don’t think that I’ve seen any, but I’ve missed a lot. Reviewing websites from Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, there are commitments for more accountability (Romney) and teachers (Clinton), but nothing of any substance.
Shouldn’t this be the question?