Sorry for the cheap rhyme; my poet daughter just flinched. But it’s true, so I had to use it, since it does what a good title can by helping orient you to what I am up to.
One of the reasons Creative Populism’s behaviors and strategies can be a powerful addition to governance is that it invites a needed refresh of the conventional political language and behaviors, providing fresh perspectives, allowing for more inter-party collaboration.
My favorite example is Creative Populism’s advocacy for the growth of our Common Wealth.
I don’t mean Commonwealth, a label used historically to designate a specific political entity and its assets. At our Independence most of the founding 13 colonies chose to call themselves States. Three declared they were Commonwealths—Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts; later when Kentucky split off from Virginia it retained its self-identification as a Commonwealth—but historians and political scientists will tell you that today in the US there isn’t any difference of note between a State and a Commonwealth.
Once upon a time there was the British Commonwealth that included nearly half the world with its remnants now in the Commonwealth of Nations.
Common Wealth was first used in the 15th century to mean the “common well-being” though that meaning would certainly have been challenged during the colonial heyday of the British Commonwealth.
I have always sensed that Common Wealth existed and have relied on it time and again without ever examining it closely. It seems we all are well served by the existence of Common Wealth and we flourish when there is more of it for all of us to share and for each of us to leverage and that we stumble in decline when there is less of it.
We’ve pretty much abandoned the 15th century usage for Common Wealth as a “common well-being”—when I do a Google search on ‘common wealth’ as two words it corrects to one word whose search results show no evidence of the meaning for Common Wealth I am coming to understand and appreciate all the more when I find it has served us all in very important places.
1. When illustrating how Creative Populism offers a productive refresh of language as soon as I introduce the phrase Common Wealth I acknowledge that Socialism might be the word many would apply to what we’re considering here to then dismiss it without further thought or, at best, consider it from a prejudiced view point.
And then I frame the example of Common Wealth that fully illustrates Creative Populism’s meaning by inviting folks to see it as the proven effective ‘resource leveraging strategy’ behind all new venture incubators. All individual start-ups benefit when provided access to the Common Wealth each founder contributes—contacts, experience, resources, knowledge.
If you asked 100 first-time entrepreneurs which they would choose, attempting to start and grow their businesses outside a start-up incubator or inside one that provides easy access to other entrepreneurs who willingly share experiences and knowledge and networks with each other, along with the ready presence of experienced mentors and their networks and their physical resources attracted to the concentration of entrepreneurs, nearly 100% of our first-time entrepreneurs would choose the incubator, since leveraging that Common Wealth while contributing to it greatly increases the likelihood of success for each and for all.
2.There is Common Wealth supporting most all start-up successes whether inside an incubator or, at first glance, going alone.
Research finds that those entrepreneurs who do go it alone are more likely to be successful when they in fact don’t go it alone—when they have partners, when they tap into the Common Wealth of rich social capital networks, and especially when they find they are able to dip into the Common Wealth of a broad supportive community. Economic development analysis is clear: the richer the legacy of entrepreneurial activity in a region the more likely it is that there will be more entrepreneurial successes among entrepreneurs in that region because of all the creative and entrepreneurial Common Wealth that has been established over the years.
Much of that infrastructure has been the intentional investment of public funds by universities or state agencies.
Creative Populism starts with these examples of how Common Wealth plays a key role in the success of this fundamental expression of productive capitalism—investing in commercial innovations and growing enterprises—so right up front we clean the listeners’ palates and widen their perspectives so the following might be seen and discussed in the light of the preceding.
3. The next example was denounced as Socialism when during the Great Depression FDR acted to create jobs by putting folks to work on useful national infrastructure.
Let’s consider the Lincoln Tunnel, one of those ‘Socialist’ projects.
Here the individuals’ benefits of leveraging our Common Wealth are abundantly clear and clearly incalculable: think for just a moment how you would measure the commercial impact of the Lincoln Tunnel since its completion in 1937. What about just one day in 2023, when over 100,000 vehicles use it, some delivering goods and others carrying customers for those goods, back and forth between Manhattan, NY and Weehawken, NJ.
What has been the cascading impact of individual benefits from leveraging that Common Wealth?
Or the Grand Coulee Dam, employing thousands of workers from 1934 to its completion in 1942, providing affordable and renewable electrical power to a huge portion of the Northwest, including Boeing in Seattle and the ship yards of Portland, as well as re-directing water to irrigate farms.
4. The importance of these examples of the high leverage and compounding benefits of Common Wealth serving each and all of us should now frame our conversations about the Common Wealth investment that drives the growth of these first categories more powerfully than any other while delivering countless further benefit.
And that’s the Common Wealth generated from a vibrant and vital Public Education system preparing an educated citizenry. The investment we make in Public Education that helps generation after generation to be the most creative and entrepreneurial citizenry we can be, more and more capable of creating advantage for ourselves and for our communities from the Common Wealth we find around us as we contribute to it, able to create advantage from the surprises and opportunities the future has in store, this is the highest leverage Common Wealth investment we can make.
By introducing Common Wealth’s proven power to serve each of us as it serves all of us in an entrepreneurial context gives us a better chance of engaging in productive discussion about Common Wealth’s power in Public Education.