Review: The Great Reset by Richard Florida

May 17, 2010

“We’re a hurried people, living in an anxious time. We’ve grown impatient, accustomed to instant gratification. We want the economic crisis to just be over. We want our pension funds, stock portfolios, and college savings accounts to be healthy and growing; we want our jobs back; we want to be able to go out to eat or buy ourselves a treat without panicking about the household budget. And we want all of it right now. Resets, however, take time.”

~ Richard Florida, The Great Reset

On Friday I finished reading The Great Reset by Richard Florida. It’s a great book that I think should be required reading for policy makers before the next Congressional session begins, but it is also very much written for our time, right now.

Florida sets the stage by telling the history of the two previous economic crises that most resemble our own, but with a storyteller’s flair. As an economist, he explains the factors that created the Long Depression of the 1870s and the Great Depression of the 1930s and demonstrates the cycles that were present. However, the emphasis of his message is on the reset the followed each downturn. The First and Second Resets resulted in ground-breaking innovations, changes in infrastructure, and a spatial fix. These are the three areas Florida focuses on as he explores the Great Reset that has begun in our own time.

In terms of innovation, Florida sees a serious lack in American innovation that must step up to the challenges presented today, as inventors and developers have done in generations past. However, he believes that as the demography of North America begins to shift and people begin to move toward mega-regions (the spatial fix), the clustering of creatives together and the friction created by diversity will result in greater innovation.

In terms of infrastructure, Florida points to our need for improvements to the education system. In previous resets we ensured that all Americans would receive an increased level of education. Today, that standard needs to increase, as does the quality of the education being delivered. American innovation has wilted. We need more students to enter the fields of science and engineering so that we can once again be competitive on a global scale.

Florida also points to the need for high speed rail to connect the mega-regions across our great continent. In comparison to other nations, we have seriously dragged our feet in this regard. Although expensive, the installation of high speed rail would connect smaller cities to larger mega-regions, increasing the speed of ideas, knowledge, talent, and productivity.

I was most encouraged by Florida’s analysis of areas that have suffered greatly in the Great Recession – Detroit, specifically, comes to mind. Florida sees hope and a future for these areas. He sees pockets of innovation and creativity, and he has mapped out several suggestions for helping bring these areas out of the depression that they are currently in. He supports his arguments by showing what is working in other, similar regions, but accounts for the unique characteristics of each region to present a plan that is actionable and realistic.

How long will the Great Reset take? According to Florida, twenty to thirty years in the short run, but it is possible that the Great Reset may span several generations. Our challenge today is to that we must see the future as Florida has. We must see the possibility, rather than be discouraged by the latest unemployment and bank failure trends. We must make choices today that will shape our nation’s future tomorrow.

I am not a policy maker. I am just a (very) small business owner and recent college graduate who very much misses the relative stability of the economy five years ago. In fact, last night I dreamed about asking a former employer for my old job back. There is no denying it – these are scary times. However, we can’t be paralyzed by fear, and we have to stop wishing for the old ways to return again. The truth is, they never will. Instead, let’s participate in local elections, let’s let our voices be heard, and let’s be a part of creating a brighter future for tomorrow.

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  • Reply Liz @ Creative Liberty May 17, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Nice review, Dee. I always like the level at which RF thinks. I’m off to see if I can put a hold on this book at the library.


    Dee Reply:

    Thanks, Liz! I hope your library has the book in stock. If not, maybe you can request it. It really is excellent!


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