Recently, I wrote an op-ed about emerging role of cities as economic drivers in the US. In it, among other points, I really tried to drive home the point that while “cities” certainly means elected officials, it also means business leaders, universities, associations and others. It’s about working together, locally and regionally, to make more powerful cities.
Now, because I am human, I always read the reader comments on stories I’ve posted, but because I am sane, I never internalize or react to them. One exchange below this story stood out to me though, as one reader balked that businesses, not cities were the true economic drivers. Replying to that comment, another reader argued that it was the consumer that truly drives the economy. The brief argument, in which both and neither of them was correct, baffled me. How could anyone think a single group drives an economy? An economy is, if nothing else, a financial ecosystem. The idea that only “business” or only “consumers” can drive it is so silly, it’s almost cute.
We do this in a lot of areas though, don’t we? We are so passionate about one issue that we refuse to see it in any sort of context. One example might be those who are so passionate about ending all abortions that they do irreparable damage to the organizations that provide the very contraceptives that would result in fewer abortions. Another would be flying off the handle so vehemently about GMOs that they prevent 1.7 million children with Vitamin A deficiencies severe enough to cause blindness and death in the Philippines from having access to enriched rice that could easily save them.
We live in a complex world with complex problems. Just like an economy, the solutions are often multi-faceted and require many players and points of view. It’s important to be passionate about the causes that mean the most to us; it’s hubris to be singe-minded about them.