How to Use (and Contribute to) this Book

A book, whether read in print or on a smart phone, is an in-depth examination of a topic, or the telling of a complex story.  Larger Pie is both. Read it from beginning to end, or skip around as topics and ideas interest you.

Whatever approach you choose, you will encounter movies, novels, poems and songs.  And however you “read” this book, you will be strengthened by new ideas and insights, many of which you have created yourself.

We hope this book will foster a Community of Discussion.  Computer software experts have a motto: “release early, revise often.”  They know no one  person or two people have a monopoly on wisdom and insight, and that from interested, skilled and knowledegable people can come corrections, facts and ideas with a huge impact. So, you will see here the beginnings of discussions led and curated by Mayu Takeda.  Mayu is also a coauthor of the main text because so many revisions were made at her suggestion.  As other people make contributions put into the main text, a footnote and “Contributing Authors” biography will mark their role.

 

As we redefine “economic growth,” we will construct what Thomas Kuhn called a “conceptual vocabulary”–words and ideas which are both generated by our analysis and make it possible. This vocabulary must include words–such as “industry” and “fairness” that we use frequently but cannot define with precision.  Other words like “innovation” have come into vogue, causing overuse that can kill their meaning and value.  It will also include discussion of “conceptual lags,” (an expression that, as far I can tell, I have created) the time period–sometimes centuries long–between the emergence of a phenomenon or an idea and the advent of a word or concept to describe it.

Such a list may seem overwhelming. Taken step-by-step, however, it provides a new way of thinking–which, by the end of this book will seem remarkably easy. Constructing this conceptual vocabulary will reveal when: (1) we use many words to mean the same thing and different things; (2) a word that we very much need has not yet emerged; and (3) a word has evolved, acquiring a range of assumed implications differing from person to person.

 

Also note, please:  This book relies upon original documents, including books (you won’t have to do this reading; I will). The reasons:(1) To stimulate new thinking, we must move beyond regurgitating accepted wisdom and the usual suspects in terms of what a famous person or document “says;” (2) a fresh reading of documents can yield insights and quotations taking us far beyond the one or two basic facts or statements we may have encountered in high school or college; and (3) digitization and search engines now may make it easy to extract a quotation without actually encountering or absorbing the document–reading an entire document can counterbalance such wisdom-via-search engine. Thus, to cite a random example: reading Henry David Thoreau’s Walden provides stories and insights whose value extends far beyond what is known or said by most people who “quote” Thoreau.

Those of you who do not think you are interested in “history,” remember please: The past is (in a poetic but nonetheless true way) an ever-changing part of the present–which we use to shape the future.  If this makes sense to you, great. If not, be patient. To see the role of past can be particularly difficult for Americans because as a country and a culture we orient ourselves towards the future.

“The past is not dead. It is not even past,” William Faulkner, who won the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature, tells us (Requiem for a Nun, 1951). Faulkner’s meaning is easy to grasp, if only intuitively, as is the message from fellow novelist James Baldwin (The Fire Next Time, 1963):

History does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.

This book will, among other things, strengthen and enlarge your “history” muscles.

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