I recently finished That Used to Be Us by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. I am a huge Friedman fan and have been ever since a college mentor passed me an op-ed to read. Since then, I've read each of Friedman's books and enjoy his practical insight. That Used to Be Us is a great primer on what could be done with our political and economic systems in order to make America great again. Like many books of its ilk, if only half of what Friedman and Mandelbaum prescribe is done, the world could be radically different in a very good way.
Here, then, are some of the best lines from the book:
The bottom line: "Collaboration is important on the battlefield and trust is the cement of collaboration," said [General Martin] Dempsey. "And trust is the prerequisite for creativity. You will never be creative if you think that what you have to say will be discounted. So creativity cannot happen without trust, communication cannot happen without trust, and collaboration cannot happen without trust. It is the essential driver. And that is why you build authority now from the bottom up and not the top down."
Nations that don't invest in their future tend not to do well there.
In 2009 United States consumers spent significantly more on potato chips than the government devoted to energy research and development - $7.1 billion versus $5.1 billion.
We spent the rest of the decade [2001-2011] focusing our national attention and resources on the losers from globalization - al-Qaeda, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan - when our major long-term challenge comes from the winners, most of them in Asia. We devoted ourselves to nation-building in Mesopotamia and the Hindu Kush when we should have been concentrating on nation-building at home.
[Veteran Republican campaign director Mike] Murphy then paused for a moment to recall one of the best pieces of advice he ever got from a wise old hand in the business. "Negative ads work," the old hand told Murphy, but then added a word of caution: "Do you know why McDonald's never ran a negative ad against Burger King, saying their burgers were all full of maggots? It might have worked for a year or two but then no one would have eaten another hamburger." The old hand concluded with this piece of advice for Murphy: "Never destroy the category." Reflecting on that insight, Murphy noted that just at a time when we need politics in America to be at its most credible and constructive in order to define and pursue the national interest, "we've destroyed the category."
As Senator Robert Bennett remarked to us, "We have great issues in politics, and then we have great diversions, and we spend most of our political time arguing over the great diversions and never facing the great issues."
The idea of risk is so tied to the idea of greatness - you cannot be great without risking yourself.
The role of the CEO now is not to dictate but to empower.
Exceptional, meaning exceptionally wealthy, powerful, and dynamic, is not a distinction that is bestowed and then lasts forever, like an honorary degree from a university. It has to be earned continually, like a baseball player's batting average. Too often in recent years, though, we have treated "American exceptionalism" as just another entitlement - just another thing we get to enjoy without paying for. Those days are over. America's exceptionalism is now in play. It is not an entitlement. It is not a defined benefit. To retain the exceptional status that Americans rightly value but wrongly assume is automatically ours, the country must respond effectively to its four great twenty-first-century challenges - the ones posed by globalization, the IT revolution, our large and growing deficits, and our pattern of energy consumption. Unfortunately, not enough Americans seem to understand the first two and too many want to deny the necessity of addressing the second two. The first two we need to look at so much more closely, and the other two we have to stop looking away from so insistently.
In a world in which individual creativity is becoming ever more important, American supports individual achievement and celebrates the quirky. In a world in which technological change and creative destruction take place at warp speed, requiring maximal economic flexibility, the American economy is as flexible as any on the planet. In a world in which transparent, reliable institutions, and especially the rule of law, are more important than ever for risk-taking and innovation, the United States has an outstanding legal environment. In an age in which even the cleverest inventors and entrepreneurs have to tray and fail, sometimes repeatedly, before finding the business equivalent of a mother lode, the American business culture understands that failure is often the necessary condition for success.
And there you have it. Ideas for making American great again. You can get your copy on Amazon by clicking here (affiliate link).