tl;dr: We can reboot a civic culture that builds in NYC, and Maximum New York is producing the fundamental social technology needed to do that. If you want to help that process go further, faster, fund the Friends of Maximum New York Grant by June 29. You can read the full announcement of this project here.
Since Marc Andreessen’s “It's Time to Build,” many have noted that this doesn’t just apply to private industry, but also government—we need to not only empower private innovators, but also reshape our governing institutions. Government, after all, is the substrate in which all of private industry grows (or not), especially by its capacity to define and enforce property rights; it hardly matters how much innovation you have in the private sector if your government fails. Venture capital can only pick up so much slack from a failing state, not supplant it.
However, our task isn’t therefore “create a government that builds.” We must go further upstream than that, because the quality of a government (and broader society) is a consequence of the quality of its citizens, specifically the civic culture they do or do not build. Government is the emergent sum of citizens’ agency, of what they will and will not tolerate. Its shape is determined by what each of us does, or, more likely, doesn’t do .
Our government does not build, because our civic culture doesn’t build, because most of us do not build. But it wasn’t always this way; America has a brilliant past of thriving civic culture, a broad-based can-do attitude that tackled problems directly, diffused into governmental and private efforts, and demonstrated immense institution-building sophistication possessed by vast swathes of the populace.
This is not a theoretical exposition on how someone might go about regenerating civic culture, or how “we” (a convenient rhetorical tool often used to mean all of us in aggregate, but practically excusing any reader or writer individually) should encourage the development of these people. My project, Maximum New York, reveals how I understand the problem, and what I am doing about it. Along with my friends, I’m rebuilding the kind of civic culture in New York City that will result in a government that builds. My hope is that you will join, or do it better.
This grant is for me (Daniel) directly, and it funds three months’ worth of my and MNY’s operating costs. Instead of applying for institutional grants, this is an experiment in civic culture. If my project is what I say it is, and I’ve explained it well enough, I think it will be an appealing trade for some of you. I will continue to produce the social technology needed to power New York’s new civic structure, which I think is valuable, and you can incentivize more of that value production with the Friends of Maximum New York Grant.