The problems we face today are urgent and complex, but they are not the problems of failure. We are suffering the consequences of success.
We are not like Pakistan, Egypt, Russia, or dozens of other countries who are struggling with the consequences of decades and even centuries of failures to keep up with a changing world. America’s failures are the failures of a country on the cutting edge.
Countries like China and India are doing some amazing things, but they are playing catch-up. They are trying to get where we are, while the United States is moving forward into unexplored terrain. They are building industrial societies; we are seeing what comes next. They have a clear idea of the target in mind: a country where people are as rich as Americans. Our quest is different — harder, but perhaps also more rewarding.
We aren’t trying to recreate somebody else’s achievement or to replicate an already existing model. We are trying to do something new and different — we are making up a new kind of society as we go along. The challenges of America’s today are the challenges of everyone else’s tomorrow. We were the first “Fordist” society, where mass affluence was built on mass production in the factories of the twentieth century. We are now trying to be the first successful post-Fordist society, trying to work out a way to have a prosperous country that depends on something other than mass employment in manufacturing.