We live in a moment crying out for fundamental, far-reaching change. Economic transformation and globalization–and the bitter fruits of nearly a decade of misguided policies–are wreaking havoc on the American middle class. New national security threats that reach across old borders and defy old assumptions require different military and diplomatic approaches. And America’s education, health care, and political systems are in dire need of reform for a new century.
Yet too often, progressives in and around the 2008 presidential campaigns have focused on correcting the errors of the past eight years. That’s understandable; there are many. But it is insufficient. The next president has to lead America so we can finally respond to the challenges of the twenty-first century, and do so in a way that ushers in a new era of progressive government that can truly reshape the country for the better.
So in this special issue of Democracy, we offer 20 big ideas from some of America’s very best thinkers. The ideas presented look forward and answer that perennial question: What’s next? These ideas aren’t theoretical constructs, nor are they a recitation of the tried and true. They are specific initiatives that can respond to challenges as varied as global warming, the dislocations of the global economy, Islamist terrorism, the aging of the Baby Boomers, and the distortions of our tax code. The authors of these pieces include some of the most imaginative minds from across the progressive spectrum, the men and women who undoubtedly will be tapped to help the next progressive who sits in the Oval Office.
Beyond this special “what’s next” feature, this issue includes a timely essay by Joshua Kurlantzick, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, about the rise of sovereign wealth funds and how they should be regulated to keep our capital markets robust and our economy strong. Looking further into the future, the Asia Society’s Jamie Metzl examines advances in genetic engineering, warns of an impending international “genetic arms race,” and offers a way to prevent this surprisingly plausible outcome. Former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt looks at the next generation of computing and telecom and what’s needed to make it work for us economically and socially. Responding to the article “Wiki-Government” from our last issue, Andrew Keen argues that the power of online crowds can never replace old-fashioned expertise. Anne O’Connell, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley, points our attention to the importance of the regulatory state in governance. And Ted Piccone–a former National Security Council director, now the executive director of the Democracy Coalition Project–looks south at the challenges and opportunities that Latin America will present for the United States in the coming decade.
Rounding out this issue, we have two articles that look at the enduring controversy about the role of religion in American life, one by Susan Jacoby, the author of The Age of Unreason, and the other by Yehudah Mirsky, a fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. Finally, reflecting on the current election season, Kenneth Baer writes that to restore democracy to our presidential nominating process, it’s time to go with one national primary.
To end, we want to note two important accomplishments. First, The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s Finest Hour, a new book by Democracy founder and editor Andrei Cherny, will be released this April. Kirkus called it “lively, densely detailed, and unabashedly enthusiastic.” We at Democracy too are enthusiastic about its release, and welcome this important contribution to America’s postwar history and the ongoing examination of how the United States uses its soft power to win over its enemies.
Second, our loyal readers may recall that in our last Editors’ Note, we reported that Democracy had been selected as a finalist for the Utne Independent Press Awards’ “Best New Publication” prize. We wrote that it was “an honor just being nominated,” and with more than 700 new publications launched last year in America, this was no understatement. Then, a few days before Christmas, we received the news that Democracy had won. That this “little journal that could” overcame some big-name competition is a testament to Democracy’s staff, Editorial Committee, Board of Advisors, contributors, and all those readers who have come together to build a community around the notion that America needs more serious, path-breaking progressive thinking. We’ll wear our laurels proudly, but promise not to rest on them.
–Kenneth Baer and Andrei Cherny