A wide-ranging appeal for a saner way of living.
With a background that spans science, philosophy and humanitarian service, Robinson has the ability to grasp some of the country’s most pressing problems, filter them through observant, objective eyes and make recommendations for ways to set things right. Robinson focuses on America’s materialism as a root cause of malaise, which is hardly new territory, but he expands the palette to include a discussion of our changing workplace, the growth and importance of nonprofits (the “third sector”), our consumptive attitude toward energy and the weakness of political leaders who focus more on raising money for re-election than on serving their constituents. Robinson acknowledges widespread societal unrest but, with a hint of cockeyed optimism, writes that “suffering is not all bad, because it tells us that something is wrong, and if we just listen, it will direct our lives in new ways.” The most intriguing, provocative section of Robinson’s book is the final chapter, in which the author details “ten remedies” that could move the United States forward in a radically new direction. His first remedy, “Sing a New Song: Craft a singable national anthem,” seems a bit trivial, if only because it lobbies for replacing “The Star-Spangled Banner” with a tune that “would have all of America singing not only better, but all together.” This, writes Robinson, might lead to Americans “cooperating on even more things, such as sane driving or going to school meetings.” Subsequent remedies are to be taken more seriously. The author proposes, for example, a “high-exemption flat tax,” changing the gross domestic product (GDP) to the “GDWB” (gross domestic well-being), taxing waste and not work, imposing public funding of political campaigns and living by the rules of a “civil economy” that brings equity to inequality. Robinson writes well and thoughtfully; his impassioned argument has spiritual overtones that can be inspirational at times, even if some of his ideas stretch the boundary of realism.
In an era when both the U.S. and the world are witnessing unprecedented upheaval, Robinson’s innovative, thoughtful treatise may be on to something.