Excerpts from the book, The Gardens of Democracy

by Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer (2011)


Of Gardens and Gardeners


Human beings, it is said originated in a garden. Perhaps this is why all of us understand so intuitively what it takes to be great gardeners.


Gardenbrain  vs. Machinebrain


We posit in these pages that this country has for too long been stuck in a mode of seeing and thinking called Machinebrain. We argue that the time is come for a new mode of public imagination we call Gardenbrain….


Gardenbrain sees the world and democracy as an in twined set of ecosystems — sinks and sources of trust and social capital, webs of economic growth, networks of behavioral contagion. Garden brain forces you to conceive of the economy as man-made and effective only eat well constructed and well cared for. Gardenbrain presupposes instability and unpredictability, and thus expects a continuous need for seeding, feeding, and weeding ever-changing systems. Be a gardener is not to let nature take its course; it is to tend. It is to except responsibility for nurturing the good growth and killing the bad. Tending and regulating the signify the same work, but tending frames the work as presumptively necessary and beneficial rather than as something to be suffered….


Gardenbrain sees people as interdependent creators of a dynamic world: our emotions affect each other; our personal choices cascade into public patterns, which can be shaped but rarely controlled. It is a dynamic mindset of influence and evolution, of direction without control, and is the basis of our future….


Gardenbrain recognizes social ills and the shape of our society as the byproduct of man-made arrangements. It is evolutionary and holistic, creating change as the norm, essential and full of opportunity. It leads you to acknowledge that human societies strive only through active gardening.


Gardenbrain changes everything….


Next we unpack how these ideas and metaphors impact what we think of as the three “gardens of democracy,” the interlocking organic realms that comprise public life: citizenship, economy, and government….


We Reap What We Sow


Throughout, we have understood and depicted our democracy as an array of gardens. The garden of our civic and community life. The garden of our markets and economy. The garden of our government, from local to national. In every variation, the theme is simple. We are more connected than we know. We and our systems follow the laws not of the clockmaker but of the gardener. Our imperatives are not to let things be once they are set in motion but rather to tend. Gardner understands the dynamics of the natural systems around him and has the humility to know he does not make nature. But he understands equally that it is his active hand that shapes it; that separates the garden from the wild.


We are all second generation Americans. Great seats have been some for us. Let us know tend, with wisdom and humility, the gardens of our democracy.