Change Will Come From the Bottom Up

Most of you have realized that our economy – in fact, the world economy – is moving through some large structural changes. Because the explanations of these phenomena change from day to day – even from our top leaders – you realize that the situation is not well-understood by anyone.

You also realize that the scale of events and consequences is so significant that it isn’t a good idea to remain blissfully ignorant and dutifully silent. So you scan the Internet looking for clear, actionable, balanced, unbiased information. We are all searching for clarity, but it seems the more you read, the less clear the subject becomes.

In late fall of 2008, someone on Nouriel Roubini’s RGE blog asked “what is the core economic problem we’re facing?”. Forty-three different people replied, and there were nearly forty different answers, many of which seemed perfectly plausible.  It’s not just the lack of agreement on the problem that’s remarkable – it’s the fact that some of the nation’s smartest and most informed people congregate at the RGE blog. What if the question had been asked at the supermarket?

Whether on the blogs or at the supermarket, the answers will almost certainly reflect a sense of rage and powerlessness. Greedy bankers, a Ponzi economy, corrupt or ineffective politicians, hope for a rebound and uncertainty about it – these themes almost always figure into the answers and much of the discourse on the economy today. These are real factors. They do effect our economy, and they are legitimate. But what can you or I do about them? And what good does it do to say or write or read or hear these same things over and over? We need to dig deeper – to understand the underlying forces that are causing these changes. It’s time to accept our emotions, learn to live with them, and try to find our way forward. This realization, crystallized at the height of the great TARP debate of the time, was the genesis of the Brain Trust project.

As the need became clear, some of those same RGE bloggers decided to pool their efforts  – to cooperate in order to build a composite, cross-checkable image of what is actually going on. We formed a group, and in a fit of whimsy we called it the “BrainTrust”. Then we started building the tools we’ll be using to collaborate on a massive scale. We’re using them to narrow down that list of 40 “problems” to a short list of fundamental “forces” that are affecting the economy. We will then make ourselves experts on the impact those forces are having and where those forces are taking us. No leader is going to tell us what to think – we’re going to discover this for ourselves, in a systematic, thorough fashion. You can be part of this, too, if you want.

The BrainTrust has evolved a great deal since its inception last fall.  We have a core team, we’ve got a strategy, and we’ve built the first crude version of the internet-based tools we’ll be using to support this “massive collaboration” concept. The system’s Early Adopters even use the toolset to collaboratively write articles.

As the project has developed, we have kept our friends at RGE informed of our progress, and they have been very supportive of our goals, and hopeful that we might actually achieve them. To help publicize the BrainTrust and to further the RGE mission of providing the  world’s best and most diverse economic thinking, RGE has offered to publish a series of articles written by the BrainTrust team. We’ll be posting those articles at RGE and also at the BrainTrust’s website at The article series will develop these two basic themes:

Top 10 forces affecting the economy. What are the top 10 structural forces that are affecting the world economy? What impact are these forces having, and what is the economy of tomorrow going to be like?

Bottom-Up Economic Re-development. What strategies should be employed at the bottom of the economic pyramid? What can the individual, the household, the small business and the local community do to re-position ourselves to cope with the new economic environment that we’re facing?

Our Strategy

The BrainTrust’s strategy is simple, and very difficult. We are trying to ask the right questions, and provide a facility that hundreds of intelligent, well-informed people will use to concentrate a massive intellectual force. Those people will use that intellectual force to build a composite image of what’s going on, and what to do about it. We think the most basic “right question” to ask is “what are the forces, and what impact are they having?”  Once we understand the forces, it will be much easier to interpret events, and project trends into the future. Best of all, as we understand the trends, we can develop coping strategies. Our ultimate goal is to help each of us adapt quickly and relatively painlessly to these massive economic changes.

The “Massive” Part

To become massive, this project must attract, enable, and inspire a lot of people. It’s our hope that you’ll read our first few articles and decide that we’re on the right track, but could use some help. You’ll respond to our articles and debate their merits. Maybe you’ll join the BrainTrust, and help write articles.

What do you think are the Top-10 structural forces that are affecting the world economy? Often things that look like a “force” are actually an “effect”. The actual forces are underlying currents in areas that may have little to do with economics. They may have their roots in cultural changes, societal evolution, global resource limitations, the vagaries of human behavior, and myriad other factors. Our aim is to examine these forces using a holistic approach, drawing understanding from many different inputs that contribute to the puzzle, not just from economics and finance. We are already quite sure the results will be very illuminating.

But there’s a lot more to the BrainTrust than writing articles. Achieving comprehension of our situation is a vital prerequisite to action, but it’s just the first step. We’re going to DO something with our knowledge, and we’re going to do things that each of us can implement from the bottom up, without asking anyone’s permission.

We have published our first article in the Economic Forces series, and it’s entitled Economic Force: Free Flow of Information. Free flow of information is a wonderful thing, but its impact on our economy has been both sudden and fundamental. This article explains a lot about why Globalization happened, and where it’s taking us.

4 Responses to "Change Will Come From the Bottom Up"

  1. Guest   April 11, 2009 at 12:31 am

    It seems to me that at the most fundamental level issues pertaining to income inequality in both the U.S. and globaly are at the very core of our imploding world economy. This rapidly rising inequality can be attributed to our politicians who are more concerned about raising money for there next campaign to the detriment of their constituancy. It has to be a very rare politician who is not susceptible to lobbyists promoting the agendas of the super wealthy. It could be quite easy to eradicate this scurge with something as simple as a grass roots campaign to create term limits for all politicians in the U.S., as well as around the world. Only then would politicians truely work in the best interests of the majority.

  2. Thomas Fisher   April 11, 2009 at 2:24 am

    The absence of trust. Deceit, distortion, lies. Nouriel has suggested that this crisis is systemic. Just how systemic? I would suggest that we have “root rot of the very soul” The perception from the dirt and pavement level of existence the entire hierarchy is riddled with self justifying,self promotional,self serving plutocracy of “I am going to get mine” and to hell with those that will not or can not compete. A burn off of who is going to control the world. We are in the midst of a modern “tower of babel.”Genesis 11:”1 The whole earth was of one language and of one speech.2 It happened, as they traveled east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they lived there.3 They said one to another, “Come, let’s make brick, and burn them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar.4 They said, “Come, let’s build us a city, and a tower, whose top reaches to the sky, and let’s make us a name; lest we be scattered abroad on the surface of the whole earth.”5 Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built.6 Yahweh said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do. Now nothing will be withheld from them, which they intend to do.7 Come, let’s go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”8 So Yahweh scattered them abroad from there on the surface of all the earth. They stopped building the city.9 Therefore the name of it was called Babel, because Yahweh confused the language of all the earth,…..”I place this here to elucidate an ancient “human” condition of being able to get “lost” within the mind trails of the intellect. Intellect not in service to the timeless values of the heart is a form of insanity. It is this insanity that “wills” now the NWO. Without “truth” there can be no justice. Without these the maturation to higher states of being is denied, and thus the very purpose that is the unique potential of the human is thwarted and thus becomes a very sick primate. He has abandoned his timeless purpose. As the crisis stands at this moment it is assured untold billions of humans are going to suffer intensely, and then perish. Why? Dr C. Jung suggested in the “Undiscovered Self” that a great fear exists within the individual to “know” ones greater “Self” such that few break that barrier during the journey from the crib to the grave. The barriers are many and they are difficult.A purge is essential. Let us begin with an honest inquiry into the very engine’s themselves. Begin with the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers, the imperialists, the souls of the jumping puppets they have purchased. We stand at a unique ( either : or ) moment in history. Totalitarian, where the favored flourish and all other things exist solely for it ( OR ) the higher potential is our north star.I pray for the latter.And task, accordinly.Thomas Fisher04 10 2009

  3. Guest   April 19, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Essentially in our current market the top bottom up concern, I am concerned with layoffs, massive layoffs are a huge problem. The stimulus package contains money for State’s to pay out unemployment so the gov. is effectively trying to remedy this problem. There are two areas that I would like to do further study the first is market application, if company A and B both similar in every aspect allthough A does not layoff instead they institute other solutions, hour cuts, days off, ect. and company B institutes layoffs, when the market essentially turns around company A is in a better position, they can increase their employee’s hours, while B is less efficient because they have to reemploy talent, and that takes time to train ect. Secondly, should the feds actually regulate the amount of massive layoffs or at least restrict the time the layoffs take place? If company B would like to layoff a percentage of the work force, they have to stretch that time between a few month period? ect. Along this, would be the banking (credit squeeze) dilemma, because this would be the pre-curser to corporate lay-offs and small business closing doors.1.5 Would be inflation, or as it maybe stagflation. (even if it could balance out the housing market, it will cause other problems.)The second is the study of effects that send ripples through a global market, for instance on CFO there was an article about risk-management about CISCO systems, it is a great article, the note in it stated that last year in China 70,000 (small essentially) (factories) closed because they couldn’t receive credit to continue operations. There seems to be an disagreement in politics for instituting international regulations, considering this is not an option can their be an international reporting agency that specifically involves them-selves with crisis centers, where individuals can report where there may be potential market bubbles. Essentially international risk management, companies are left to do this on their own. Although it would be to everyones advantage if their were such an international agency, especially considering the future, where markets will be even more tied together. And I am not asking for an authority figure to manage any type of international policy, it could be a branch of the IMF or World Bank or WTO. I heard they essentially already have ad-hoc groups. It would be just to expand this department. Maybe one in each of those IMF WB and WTO that essentially communicates with each other, (now that is a dream).Third, the economy as a whole, and its sectors. And the housing market where the millions that had properties foreclosed upon, when can they essentially by a house again? If they bought a house for X price, can they afford a house for half that cost? Doesnt that make them viable consumers if its half the price than they previously agreed to?Fourth, baby-boomers retiring. (and all of its implications)Fifth, would be sustainable-development along side the environment.Sixth, would essentially be fraud, from all levels of the pyramid, and does recession invoke more scrupulous activity?Seventh, Future investments, does this recession postpone growth in essential sectors of interest, that would essentially help 1-6.Eighth, the war in Afghanistan, it costs to much, cant the WTO or EU or U.S. say plant this seed instead of opium? I guess ask Russia/ their conditioning to China.Ninth, trade relations, hope no one starts to do things that are stupid.Tenth, would be that the U.S essentially needs to revitalize. I live in Southern California, the epic center of what is popular around the world, and I have the same music on our local radio since the mid 1990’s (seriously most of this music is 12 years old). Those record companies make so much money on the same stuff, because it gets distributed to other markets. Economic change is usually created when there is a shift to a new generation and music and art are at the center of it.