Author: Matt Harrison
Publisher: Prometheus Institute Press
ISBN: 978-0-615-28204-6

Click Here To PurchaseThe American Evolution: How America Can Adapt to the Political, Economic, and Social Challenges of the 21st Century

Matt Harrison, author of The American Evolution, has penned 200 articles, been guest to numerous talk radio shows, been invited as guest blogger for CNN, and has been written about in the Chicago Tribune. (2009, p.203) Mr. Harrison founded the Prometheus Institute for public policy.  He is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Business Administration and Political Science (Bachelors degree) and is currently working on his law degree and Master’s degree in Public Policy at the University of Southern California.

Mr. Harrison states that the purpose of his book is (2009, p.191) “to help expand the principle [of evolution] to the development of ideas and technology.”  The first three chapters speak about evolution and rehash several economic models that are currently, or have previously been, used to depict the progress (i.e. evolution) of American industry. Those models range from the “long tail” model (p.16) to evolutionary choice theory (p.25) to “general equilibrium theory” to the “law of the vital few” (p.71) to “Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Theory” (p.73) and finally to the “Chaos Theory” (p.74). A common denominator throughout this book appears to be Harrison’s emphasis on differentiation or the “creation of multiple options”, which is his personal best path toward achieving evolution.(p.43) As an aside, ideas and theories that do not support his own ideas or theories about evolution are discounted entirely.   

According to Harrison evolution follows three steps: selection, differentiation, and amplification. (2009, p.43-7) Each step is driven and shaped by positive and negative feedback. “The more people involved…the more effective that process becomes.” (p.50) Mr. Harrison quotes many sources from various backgrounds throughout this book in the process of building and shaping his theory of, and for, evolution.  For instance, Seth Godin said (p,59) “where there is competition there is evolution.”  Hegel (p.63) says that [paraphrase] the confluence of opposite ideas creates a “mediated synthesis.” Pirsig (p.66) “….quality, a concept with no precise definition.”  Harrison accepts those quotes as his reality and tends to build his theory around them without question or information to the contrary.

When speaking about the economy Harrison states that “…economic evolution can only occur through collapse of companies that took excessive risks….” And that “as long as our government continues to subsidize these terrible business models in their current form, it inhibits our financial system from evolving.” (2009, p.76) He goes on to say that “banks need to start making better decisions.” (p.77) Toward this end I tend to agree. Then Harrison states that “markets….self regulate”  (p.80)  and that “…entrepreneurial growth is continually stunted by the government’s artificial resuscitation of existing corporations.” (p.84) How do we solve this problems? On page 86 Harrison says “Policy should be dedicated to enabling a system where everyone can freely choose their calling and have the necessary opportunity to pursue it.” In a perfect world I would agree, but we live in a far from perfect world and opportunities are still grotesquely unequal.

About health care and retirement (social security) Harrison said that we should have personal health care/retirement funds (p.90) and that state governments could subsidize those funds “without thrusting a one-size fits all health care technologies on a diverse public.” And that “Citizens could withdraw funds to cover unexpected expenses, invest in new businesses, bequeath them to family and more, all of which would yield an extra layer of financial protection.” (p.91) Didn’t President Bush try to push this argument through congress during his tenure? Yes. And it did not fly!

Harrison writes about immigration, trade, science, the Department of Defense, religion, automobile manufacturers, and more in the mid to end portion of his book. In one portion he quotes another source as stating that “…the American economy has a higher rate of growth in years with the highest trade deficits.” (p.103) Mr. Harrison offers this statement as an absolute, yet he provides no charts, graphs, or numbers to substantiate this statement. If this reasoning holds forth we must be able discern via proofpositive that if we have gargantuan trade deficits we can note there is maximum growth occurring. Harrison goes on to state “…the Federal Reserve’s monopolistic control of American currency unfortunately inhibits the evolution of our monetary system.” To which he suggests we offer “alternative currencies”. (p.110-11) Following through with that “alternative currency” option means that “…..people would be free to find currencies that fit their needs.” Does Harrison fail understand how complex that prospect would be or how hideous that prospect is?

To me it appears that Mr. Harrison attacks too many complex issues with his one vision fits all---choice. If solving the world’s problems were as simple as offering more choices we would have no problems with health care, education, welfare, social security, government, or more, but it is not. My suggestion would be that Mr. Harrison go back to research a few of the topics he writes about briefly in this book and write another book(s) that is/are based on facts with accurate and credible information substantiating his arguments and flowing in a logical framework. 

Click Here To PurchaseThe American Evolution: How America Can Adapt to the Political, Economic, and Social Challenges of the 21st Century