I will be forever indebted to *Eric Liu and Nick Hannauer for coining the word “Gardenbrain” in their op-ed in the 7/10/12 edition of The New York TimesThe Machine and the Garden.” I’ve always had one. Turns out our economy needs one too. One of the best reads I’ve had in weeks. Rather than recirculating the same cliched buzz words for our economic woes, the writers show how “We are prisoners of the metaphors we use.”


The Machinebrain metaphor yields a picture of the world “where markets are perfectly efficient, humans perfectly rational, incentives perfectly clear and outcomes perfectly appropriate.” When we refer to economic “engines” and “fueling” the economy, that choice of metaphor impedes understanding because “economies, as social scientists now understand, aren’t simple, linear and predictable, but complex, nonlinear and ecosystemic. An economy isn’t a machine; it’s a garden. It can be fruitful if well tended, but will be overrun by noxious weeds if not.”

Government spending is not a single-step transaction that burns money as an engine burns fuel; it’s part of a continuous feedback loop that circulates money. Government no more spends our money than a garden spends water or a body spends blood. To spend tax dollars on education and health is to circulate nutrients through the garden.”

Wise regulation…is how human societies turn a useless jungle into a prosperous garden.”

Gardenbrain — what a fruitful metaphor. Nice potful of gears too…

*Authors of “The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy and the Role of Government.”

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3 Responses to gardenbrain

  1. Jason says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Thank you! I’m going to go find that article right now.

  2. Cindy says:

    Moi, aussi. I love the whole concept and totally agree… going to look for it as well – sounds like a wonderful read. You always provide much literary “food for thought” as well as for gardens, Denise. — Cindy H.

  3. Hoov says:

    What is so deeply disturbing is the number of people who think a “useless jungle” is just fine and dandy.

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