political and economic essays

David Brin is best-known for shining light — plausibly and entertainingly — on technology, society, and countless challenges confronting our rambunctious civilization. His best-selling novels include The Postman (filmed in 1997) plus explorations of our near-future in Earth and Existence. Other novels are translated into 25+ languages. His short stories explore vividly speculative ideas.

Brin's nonfiction book The Transparent Society won the American Library Association's Freedom of Speech Award for exploring 21st Century concerns about security, secrecy, accountability and privacy.

As a scientist, tech-consultant and world-known author, he speaks, advises, and writes widely on topics from national defense and homeland security to astronomy and space exploration, SETI and nanotechnology, future/prediction, creativity, and philanthropy. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four Worlds Best Futurists, and he was cited as one of the top 10 writers the AI elite follow.


Some call his approach 'politics'; he calls it 'restore and repair.' Here are his net-accessible articles, interviews, and essays about how we find the money (economics) and will (politics) to achieve our brightest ambitions and dreams.

other pages on this site

where Brin rants, probes, questions & studies

  • tackling our science & technology needs
  • continuing our space & seti explorations
  • solving our privacy & openness, security & transparency crises
  • confronting our 21st century challenges & opportunities
  • creating outstanding near & far futures
  • discussing politics & economics

    jettison the orthodoxies & ideologies of prior centuries

  • Contrary Brin blog
  • public appearances: Brin as speaker and consultant
  • pinterest: Curating Our Economics
  • scoop.it!: The Economy: past, present & future
  • scoop.it!: History: the past vs. the future
  • pinterest: Curating Our Politics
  • scoop.it!: Politics in the 21st Century
  • scoop.it!: Public Policy Ideas & Suggestions
  • scoop.it!: Libertarianism: finding a new path
  • other great resources

    Brin recommends these books, articles & websites

  • Evonomics
  • Red, Green & Blue

  • will our generation succeed or fail?

    Time to free ourselves from the ideologies of the 19th and 20th centuries.

    don't play the zero-sum game!

    are we losing our opportunity for a positive-sum society?

    the rise of an American Commissar

    Brin predicted it in 2007: Just as Soviet commissars recited egalitarian nostrums while relentlessly quashing freedom in the USSR, many of our new clade of American Commissars mouth "pro-capitalism" lip service while doing everything they can to cheat and foil competitive markets. In "The Relevance of an Old Nemesis — as Even Older Ones Return," he reminds us: We always have to push uphill against a perilous slope of human nature.

    addiction to self-righteousness

    our most dangerous addiction

    is there a cure for self-righteousness?

    Could a single scientific breakthrough help get us past today's rising mass frenzy of self-righteousness that has poisoned politics in the United States and some other countries? Brin has long corresponded with experts, trying to find out. The resulting essay, "An Open Letter to Researchers In the Fields of Addiction, Brain Chemistry, and Social Psychology," led to papers in psychiatric journals and a speech at the National Institutes for Drugs and Addiction.

    an alliance for enlightenment

    an alliance for all

    losing the illusion of ideology

    Here's an idea: Why don't all reasonable people break free of the left-right stranglehold imposed on us by less-reputable politicians and form an Alliance for a Modern World? One approach may be to form coalitions that agree to promote — boldly and openly — a dozen consensus agenda items, and refuse to be drawn into other fights. Is it possible to negotiate a list of desiderata that all modernist defenders of the Enlightenment might stand behind?


    solutions (that might work!) to problems (we wish would go away!)

    These viewpoints are not classically partisan; they are suggestions, seeking a broader perspective. After all, intractable problems often require multiple solutions from millions of minds, persistently applied.

    climate science meets the inquisition

    denialism is no longer an option

    creating a climate of change

    Every few years a new battle begins in the seemingly-neverending Global Climate Change culture war. Trained as a scientist, and knowing many who research the atmospheres of 8 planets or who propelled spectacular advances in weather forecasting, Brin tends toward listening to expert advice on this one — especially since we're only being asked to do things we should be doing anyway. In 2007 he posted an essay dealing with some logical flaws in the denial-movement, going after those who claim: "I'm not denying science, just asking questions!" Then because he knows some real skeptics (and is one himself!) he posted a follow-up essay, "Distinguishing Climate 'Deniers' From 'Skeptics'."

    detail from the Evonomics article

    the uses of government

    will we lose our knowledge "commons"?

    Before the hate-all-government narrative becomes official government policy, we may want to re-learn the lessons of the last 6000 years. During most of that time, independent innovation was actively suppressed by kings and lords and priests, fearing anything (except new armaments) that might upset their hierarchy. Moreover, innovators felt a strong incentive to keep any discoveries secret, lest competitors "steal" their advantage. As a result, many brilliant inventions were lost when the discoverers died — lost for millennia before being rediscovered after much unnecessary pain.

    why politicians run

    what do politicians do all day?

    reading our legislative records

    Why do so few politicians — especially incumbents — run ON their record? They run FROM it: Every election they vow to tackle problems they were elected 10, 20, even 30 years earlier to fix. What do they do between elections, when they are supposed to be exercising the power they've been given? Are there any statistically measurable accomplishments or proved positive effects? Don't effective leaders normally brag about their past effectiveness? In this article, "The GOP won’t run ON their record — they run FROM it," Brin takes a look at the notably substance-free 2012 campaign rhetoric.

    path to presidency

    fix the electoral college!

    how to buy time so we can end it

    Back in 2008 Brin wrote a series of essays proposing quick-fixes for seemingly-intractible problems with the way we conduct our politics. This essay issued alarms about the consequences of our failure to change the anti-democratic Electoral College. As he noted then, "Every four years we hear calls to replace the Electoral College with plurality popular voting (the worst of all possible alternatives). But nothing happens. Nor will it soon, because one party — the Republican — benefits from the status quo." Read his proposal to reform the Electoral College in a way that wouldn't require a Constitutional Amendment.

    telling the hard truths

    why candidates should stipulate

    what if radical honesty was part of the campaign ritual?

    Who doesn't like the idea of oppositional leaders finding a patch of consensus amid a sea of discord? We cheer when heads of state, overcome differences between nations in order to sign a treaty that finds common ground. Why shouldn't politicians within parties do the same? Wouldn't you like to see the list of issues and policies that candidates from both major parties stipulated, or "agreed that they agree" about a set of issues and policies?

    when a minority rules

    honor the losing majority

    can the minority rule without the consent of the majority?

    Face it: majority rule is no longer a part of America's politics. The winning Presidential candidate no longer earns 50% of the total vote (and is now beginning to be elected without a plurality win). Today, the House of Representatives is held by the party that received less than 50% of the vote; in 2014, Senate Democrats received 20 million more votes than the GOP and still lost seats. The long-term solution — equitable distribution — is unlikely to be implemented by a minority-ruling party. Back in 2008 Brin proposed honoring the losing majority by requiring the Minority Party meet with — and listen to — a delegation from the opposing party.

    making a promise

    whose tactics have achieved power?

    and whose have not?

    Those who feel only contempt for the Neoconservative Revolution are hurting their own cause by not studying how that revolution was achieved. After all, it's not the unctuous ideology or the charm of its snake-oil salesmen that convinces people to elect real-life versions of Frank Underwood or Bob Roberts. The neocons' relentless march from post-Watergate nadir to unprecedented dominion, aided by Newt Gingrich's Contract With America, ought to be studied carefully, especially by those who want to turn America away from amoral ruthlessness. Bottom line: people want promises.

    cracking and packing

    America's 'democracy' illusion

    we make no real choice at all

    Under conditions that are growing worse daily, millions of Americans who think they have a vote, do not actually have one. Not one that is meaningful, that is. They assume they have voted because they weren't stopped or turned away on election day by one of the more overt voter suppressions tactics, but when it comes to the elections that choose our legislative branches of government, most Americans have been denied any chance to choose their representatives. By quietly and gradually cranking up a process called gerrymandering, members of the Political Caste have managed to effectively deprive us of one of our most basic American birthrights — choosing our representatives.

    congress in action

    brimming with optimism...

    Brin's modest to-do list for Congress

    2006 was the year when the people took a leap of faith and voted closer to their own interests — and action that took experts, pundits, and 'conventional wisdom' by surprise. Knowing that electoral victory is meaningless if it's botched, or implemented without imagination or with a mean-spirited zealotry that plays into the hands of those who want perpetual "culture war," David Brin posted "You Broke It, So You Fix It: A Modest To-Do List for Congress," detailing how Congress could change the nation's way of governance.

    climate change of mind

    is it culture war or climate war?

    originally published in SKEPTIC Magazine

    Nothing demonstrates the silliness of left-right "culture war" more than the illogical fight over human-caused climate change (HCC). People who take fierce positions over a scientific matter based on their politics should be ashamed of themselves. In fact, there are legitimate questions that a genuine HCC-sceptic can ask! "Climate Skeptics vs. Climate Deniers" shows you how to tell a true "skeptic" from an opportunistic "denialist."

    cartoon copyright Joel Pett

    climate change (past & future tense)

    our millennial war

    Every few years Brin weighs into a battlefront in culture war: Global Climate Change. Trained as a scientist, and knowing many who research the atmospheres of 8 planets, or who propelled spectacular advances in weather forecasting, he listens to expert advice on this one — especially since we're only being asked to do things we should be doing anyway. (Ironically, Brin coined the term "age of amateurs" and pushed citizen power! Still, expert knowledge matters.)

    The Republican War on Science original cover detail

    who's winning the war on science?

    will our Scientific Age come to a whimpering end?

    The one trait shared by anti-modernists of both left and right appears to be a disdain for our ability to learn and do bold new things. In reviewing Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science, Brin explores how politically-based interpretations explain much of this collapse of confidence. Alas, politics — despite centuries of hard refinement — is still far more ego-driven art than craft.

    glorifying the serial killer

    can we end mass murder sprees?

    a counterintuitive approach

    After every mass murder journalists, shrinks and the public fret over each killer's declared motivation, perhaps hoping that knowing what sparked that particular killing frenzy might prevent the next one. Yet, when we stop and look for common threads, a pattern emerges: these seem to be less about the killers' specific hatreds than a frenzied, bloody tantrum staged by a string of losers with one common goal: immediate, global fame. In "Names of Infamy: Deny Killers the Notoriety they Seek" Brin proposes a solution that spree killers are sure to hate.

    Karl Marx, class warrior

    what does a neoconfederate gop want?

    was it foolish to ignore Marx?

    What the deep-right calls "culture war," Brin suggests, is actually Phase Three of the American Civil War: "... an educated person knows that Marxists at least have thought a lot more than the rest of us have about this whole 'class' thing that most of us blithely ignored, during the anomalously flat era from 1945 to 2000."

    our ostrich farm

    our ostrich farm, run amok

    do you know an ostrich?

    There are still millions of our neighbors who are sincere in seeing themselves as reasonable (if conservative) Americans — who have agreed to look the other way while their beliefs are redefinition into its opposite. From prudence to recklessness, from accountability to secrecy, from fiscal discretion to spendthrift profligacy, from consistency to hypocrisy, from civility to nastiness, from logic to unreason — no cherished principle has been left intact. And still they aert their eyes. In "The Ostrich Papers: How It Will Take ALL Decent Americans To Restore Decency To America" Brin proposes begin a dialogue with the ostriches. Perhaps you might want to start by studying how the GOP so successfully demonized Bill Clinton during his Presidency (the tactics and techniques haven't changed).

    Reagan and Kissinger

    messy neo-romanticism

    mired in yet another Crusade

    American neoconservatism and Islamic fundamentalism would — at first sight — appear to be polar opposites. Indeed, that appearance deliberately cultivated by both groups. After the folly of the Iraq War, Brin wrote a nuanced, abstract dissection, "Neoconservatism, Islam and Ideology: The Real Culture War," describing the weird symbiosis between the various neoconservative movements. Now the façade that the two are ideological opposites has crumbled.

    the Tytler cycle

    the "Tytler" calumny

    is democracy failing?

    The widely-circulated nostrum called the "Tytler Calumny" is the great example of what has gone wrong with the mental processes of our friends on the right, who used to be represented in sage debate by great minds like Barry Goldwater and Friedrich Hayek and William F. Buckley... but who are now reduced to slinging around aphorisms and fact-free faux-assertions.

    J. Edgar Hoover

    Brin's not-so-subtle warning

    beware the hidden danger

    We don't yet live in a civilization that rewards openness and forgiveness, Brin reminds us, and in a warning to enthusiastic-yet-incautious neophytes and idealists, he advises a little "protective paranoia." Powerful people will see idealism as a threat to their interests, and some of the more unscrupulous may seek to neutralize that threat using one of the most basic ancient techniques — going back to biblical times — of entrapment and blackmail, which can systematically undermine even the most well-meaning person.

    measuring our beliefs

    a struggle among memes

    the new style of war

    Naturally, we needn't look at this struggle over human hearts and minds as a "war." When Brin called it that in a speech at Brigham Young University in 1989, few had heard about memetics. At the time, we were in the final phase of a Cold War waged mainly through propaganda. So warning about a coming meme war was intentionally a bit provocative. Subsequent events have established "Survival of the Fittest Ideas" as a predictive hit.

    an all-too-real culture war

    defining the battleground

    None of the observations Brin offers can be made to fit the most pervasive, misleading and mind-numbing political metaphor of all time: the left-right political axis, which trivializes complex issues, masking their inconsistencies and contradictions. Yet, we cling to obsolete oversimplifications because they have proved effective at just one thing: enforcing alliances between people who disagree deeply about everything excepting their hatred for a common enemy. This is how our quadrennial culture war was fought in 2004.

    Bill Kristol

    did "pax Americana" end in 2004?

    when we were neo-conned

    David Brin is devoutly loyal to the Enlightenment and — yes — patriotic toward a version of Pax Americana representing our best and smartest virtues. This passion can be roused by events to express vigorous partisanship toward or against a particular candidate in an election, not because he prefers the simpleminded "left" or "right" solutions that candidate espouses, but because overwhelming evidence leads him to conclude that civilization is in danger from a particular gang of manipulative rascals. He posted this unabashedly political just before the 2004 election. "War in the 21st Century," is specifically about that election, but also about whether "Pax Americana" is a viable concept for the next few decades.

    economics of opportunity and outcomes

    is fairness equitable?

    will an emperor ever acknowledge his wardrobe malfunction?

    Every election American taxpayers watch, wait, and hope for the candidate who will turn to the camera and say, “Of course the rich pay too little tax!” — and just like that Supply Side economics would end. In "The Fairness Divide: Intervention That Liberals and Conservatives Can Agree On," Brin looks what we could choose to replace it with. Do we prefer interventions that increase opportunity for all, or interventions that aim at fairness in outcomes?

    tax forms

    time to talk taxes

    nobody likes to pay taxes

    David Brin's blog post on how to improve our current tax system got picked up by both Pop Sci and io9. He expanded on it and turned it into an article here: "The 'No-Losers' Tax Simplification Proposal."

    stockbroker gift ideas

    would a stock transaction fee control trading?

    why stock trading is not positive-sum

    What's a Transaction Fee, why do we need it, and how would it save us from the Terminator? The answers to these questions — and to a number of other economic conundrums — may surprise you!

    gop iconography

    rules for Republican reinvention

    losing battles while winning wars

    What makes the Republicans so successful at building unlikely coalitions? How are they able to bring together groups that — on the surface — have nothing to gain in becoming allies? Strictly in terms of practical realpolitik, that accomplishment merits respect and careful study, the kind of respect any foe ought to give, if grudgingly, to opponents who can reinvent themselves, adopt compelling new messages, recognize unlikely opportunities, and seize the slimmest advantages — the kind of respect that precedes an effective effort to fight back.

    the 1/3 option

    essences, orcs and civilization

    the case for a cheerful nonpartisanship

    Most third-party and non-partisan voters know — far better than others — that the hoary old left-right political spectrum is worse than useless. Alas, some of the "better alternatives" only serve to muddy the waters. This speech-transcript to the Libertarian convention offers a few insights into the paradoxical appeal of ideology that could be useful for any truly alternative party.

    dem iconography

    even failure can have positive effects

    re-evaluating the failing strategy of ingenuousness

    For the last three decades the American people — when polled in a neutral manner — tend to prefer Democratic positions on policies, like transparency, low-secrecy, accountability, energy research, moderate environmentalism, tolerance of individual eccentricities, and responsible attention to international affairs. BUT the Republican Party has proved incredibly adept at using politically innovative tactics to win despite these policy disadvantages: Democrats won the Presidency in 2008 and again in 2012, but succumbed again in 2016. In 2005 Brin wrote "How Progressives Can Win Back America", which proposed both strategic and concrete plans. Perhaps it's time for a re-read?

    wall street

    don't jump off the fiscal cliff!

    8 causes of the deficit, decoded

    To many U.S. voters, one issue towers foremost — the Fiscal Cliff of rising public debt. Frightened by the much-worse debt crises in Greece, Spain etc, Americans fret about floods of red ink that reached more than a trillion dollars a year under George W. Bush, and that have gone down only slightly under Barack Obama. Want to invest some time into understanding the deficit and the debt? Brin lists and appraises the EIGHT major reasons that deficit so quickly grew. We need to understand these 8 factors — how they happened, and how the decisions were made — before we're lulled into another cliff-dive.

    The Irony of Faith in Blind Markets

    losing faith in blind markets?

    the irony of faith in a blind market!

    Across 4,000 years we’ve seen that whenever a small group of men become powerful enough to control an economy and command-allocate its resources, they will do so according to biased perceptions, in-group delusions and fatally limited knowledge. Whether they do the normal oligarchic thing — cheating for self-interest — or else sincerely try to "allocate for the good of all," they will generally do it badly. Time to stop using Adam Smith and F. A. Hayek to rationalize oligarchy.

    Gen. George Marshall at Harvard

    a real 20th century miracle man!

    the quiet, capable American

    In 1999 Time Magazine had crowds throng to its web site eagerly voting for who should be named "Person of the Century." Brin's pick was George Marshall, who — as he explains in "My Candidate for Person of the Century" — gave the world a few decades of respite from the slaughterhouse of ideologues like Hitler and Stalin.

    Marshall was also the strategist behind a miraculous event that happened seventy years ago — when liberals and Democrats went through a wrenching, painful self-transformation to preserve that hard-won peace.


    DAVID BRIN's interviews and discussions

    It's time to free ourselves from the old left-right axis of the 19th and 20th centuries.

    what happens to elections after Trump?

    Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson interviews Brin and Boise State University professor Justin Vaughn how our cameras-everywhere culture is affecting the candidates, presidential campaigns and us.

    can we crowdsource environmental politics?

    In Living Planet Magazine, takes on the role of science fiction in proposing solutions to our environmental challenges.

    can the internet restore its credibility?

    A panel discussion at Arizona State University on reputation systems, surveillance technologies, and the future of the Internet as a problem-solving tool.


    a brief intro to science fiction author DAVID BRIN

    To learn more, visit his books page, or see his "about me" page or detailed biography.

    DAVID BRIN author

    novels

    David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!). Learn More


    shorter fiction

    Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form. Learn More


    Contrary Brin blog

    Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore. Learn More


    social media influencer

    Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages. Learn More

    DAVID BRIN scientist

    scientist

    David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research. Learn More


    transparency expert

    Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy. Learn More


    speaker & consultant

    Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 200 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings.Learn More


    future/tech advisor

    Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was cited as one of the top 10 writers the AI elite follow. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More


    other points of departure

    visit other pages on this website

    pages about DAVID BRIN

  • latest news and activities
  • information about DAVID BRIN
  • public speaking and consulting & popular topics
  • speaking/consulting references and testimonials & a list of past appearances
  • lists of interviews and podcasts
  • video interviews and talks
  • Brin's presskit and complete biography
  • traditional media and social media
  • Brin quotes
  • pages about science fiction

  • Brin's novels and books
  • Brin's short stories and novellas
  • all about Brin's uplift universe
  • a selection of book reviews
  • Brin's advice for new writers
  • Brin reviews sci fi films — including The Postman
  • a compilation of great sf books to read
  • recommended sf films
  • science fiction that teaches
  • nonfiction explorations

  • The Transparent Society
  • privacy, security, accountability and transparency
  • designing and crafting our amazing 21st Century
  • predicting and projecting our near and far future
  • leading and following our politics and economy
  • keeping track of changes in science and technology
  • scanning our sky for habitable (inhabited?) worlds
  • an ornery, contrary blog, and other insightful rants!

    Do not enter if you want a standard "Party" line! Contrary Brin's community pokes at too-rigid orthodoxies, proposing ideas and topics that fascinate and infuriate.

    wormholes

    A few spacetime anomalies and side-trips, for your entertainment.

    Questions? Concerns? Email Me

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    references and recommendations

    See more references and recommendations for Brin's public speaking and consulting and his novels and books.

    praise for The Uplift War

    "Even the more advanced and older alien races are not just godlike beings of infinite wisdom, anymore than the Gubru and similar nasties are simply scientific demons. Brin's gift for diversity and for showing paradoxically the human side of alien races is something extremely rare in science fiction authors."
    — Fantasy Book Review

    praise for The Transparent Society

    "New tech is handing society tough decisions to make anew about old issues of privacy and accountability. In opting for omni-directional openness, David Brin takes an unorthodox position, arguing knowledgeably and with exceptionally balanced perspective."
    — Stewart Brand, Director of Global Business Network

    praise for Earth

    "The struggle to save the planet gives Brin the occasion to recap recent global events: a world war fought to wrest all caches of secret information from the grip of an elite few; a series of ecological disasters brought about by environmental abuse; and the effects of a universal interactive data network on beginning to turn the world into a true global village. Fully dimensional and engaging characters with plausible motivations bring drama to these scenarios."
    — Publishers Weekly

    praise for Kiln People

    "This is a fun novel, rich with ideas, that examines on a very human level the ramifications and side effects of our ambitions and the things we take for granted. It's also a hard-boiled murder mystery with levels of physics and metaphysics that work your brain. But for me, as always, it's David Brin's characters that really pull me into the story and keep me up until three in the morning."
    — Barnes and Noble Review

    final thoughts ...

    ... for this page, at least ...

    how science fiction looks at politics

    "We all create monsters in our minds. The only important difference may be which of us let our monsters become real." — from Earth

    "What if this was all a fight between two factions of the government or aristocracy? Such things happened all the time, and when dragons battle each other, peasants are better off ducking out of the way." — from Existence

    "But there is another reason to protect other species, seldom mentioned. Perhaps we are the first to talk and think and build and aspire, but we won't be the last. Others will follow us in this adventure. Some day we may be judged by how well we served, when we alone were Earth's caretakers." — from The Uplift War