I had some time on a recent flight to France so I decided to knock down America 3.0, a book that has been discussed a bit here on these pages. It was a pleasant and fast read. Before my review, full disclosure.
I am a friend of Mr. Lotus. I had the pleasure of meeting him several months ago here in Madison and we had lunch together. I showed him my farm property, as well as my business. I didn’t really know it at the time, but I am sure Mr. Lotus was smiling a bit inside. As he toured my life a bit, I imagine that he saw a lot of America 3.0. Our friendship doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t pan the book if I thought is stunk, but I felt that this bit of information should be put out there.
Also, I am not an academic or professional writer, but just a guy who reads a lot of history, runs a business, and takes care of his family. I am sure that I read some parts of the book wrong, and my book reviews aren’t the best. This review is likely too short and doesn’t dive into the book too deeply – for two reasons. One is that I only have so much spare time, and the second is that I don’t want to ruin the book for those who haven’t read it yet. So here goes.
As I began to read the introduction I had to keep reminding myself that this is a book that is very large in scope. When I say that, I mean that the book talks about the big picture, and speaks in terms of decades, not one day. This was a recurring theme and I had to keep reminding myself of this. When I read something that I perhaps disagreed with, my reasons were usually very small in scope, and I had to remember that this is a book that is talking about cross generational change, not current headlines.
The book is well written for non historians, for the most part. Some of the parts (specifically the law section) were a bit dry for the average Joe, but in general, I think this book is accessible for most of the general population. This quote from the introduction gives a taste of what I mean:
Note that the use of the word “Germanic” for these barbarian tribesmen is the accepted scholarly term. It should not be confused with the German speaking peoples of Europe. They went down a different cultural path from the English speaking peoples. Nor should the word “Germanic” be confused with any modern German political regime.
This simplicity in explaining what could be confusing terms for those who aren’t familiar with them was, I thought, a nice touch in the book.
The basic premise of the book is that we have gone from a simple, agrarian based economy (America 1.0) to a massively industrial economy, with an overly intrusive, cumbersome and bureaucratic government (America 2.0) and that we are at a turning point right now, to America 3.0, which will feature a nimble economy enabled by sweeping changes in technology to allow Americans to be more productive wherever they are, whenever they want. The authors note that there was a lot of pain when the US moved from the America 1.0 model to the America 2.0 model and that there will be a lot of pain as we move to the 3.0 version. I believe that the authors underestimate the amount of pain just a bit.
One theme that runs through the book, and one that the authors use to base their optimism on is the American Nuclear Family. The only problem I see is that the family unit has broken down quite a bit, and is basically non existent in certain cities and strata of society. The book does take into account that certain parts of the country may be left behind in the transition from 2.0 to 3.0, but I believe if this happens that there might be actual physical pain involved. Not that we haven’t gone through this sort of thing before, but I think the book doesn’t delve deeply enough into what could happen, say, if Upper New York state divested itself of New York City, for instance. Then again, I need to keep reminding myself that this is a big picture book, and that events that look big at one time (does anyone remember the Boston Marathon bombing?) will just salt away into history as blips on the screen.
I work in wholesale distribution, and noticed that the book is very retail centric. This is, of course, to be expected, but is worth noting. I will give the authors a pass on this, as most people don’t even understand what a wholesaler does, and it would take up valuable time in the book to try to have a deep conversation about how our complex economy works, and how America 3.0 would apply to so many different types of businesses.
I am glad that the authors believe that America will never repay its debts, and that a lot of people will be getting a haircut in this deal eventually (the authors called it “the Big Haircut”).
The section on the English Inheritance, while interesting to me, might be a bit dry to the average, non history liking individual. I understand that this section is essential, but I had read a lot of it before in books like Albion’s Seed (that the authors refer to) and other books on the subject.
The authors make their case very well in the book. The foreign policy stuff at the end didn’t really interest me, but ymmv.
The book ended rather abruptly and went into the bibliographical essay. I would have liked to have seen a little ending chapter of at least a few pages to tie everything into a nice package.
Overall, I really liked the book, and my criticisms are pretty minor in the big picture. I hope that the authors are right, and that “America’s greatest days are yet to come”.