cover image The Next Deal: The Future of Public Life in the Information Age

The Next Deal: The Future of Public Life in the Information Age

Andrei Cherny. Basic Books, $24 (280pp) ISBN 978-0-465-00971-8

A former Gore speechwriter and author of the 2000 Democratic Party Platform, Cherny offers a sweeping analysis of past, present and future American politics. He writes with the conviction that he and his generation are at the cusp of a major historical transformation, and he has a catchy name for everything: We have entered the ""Information Age,"" which has spawned the ""Choice Generation,"" the unjustly decried cohort that has grown up at the computer and expects immediate individual access to everything. This new incarnation of American individualism has asserted itself in the ""New Economy"" and can be credited with the politics of a ""Choice Revolution,"" resisted by ""Treadmill Liberals"" and ""Blockhead Conservatives."" Just as agrarian, 19th-century individualism was replaced by big, centralized and hierarchical government suited to an urban and industrialized world, we now must move toward a decentralized system in which government programs provide citizens with the opportunity to tailor benefits to match their particular needs. No less important is the fulfillment of the ""New Responsibility,"" which Cherny sees as ""a necessary counterbalance to the individual autonomy of the Choice Revolution,"" through the ""Citizen Corps,"" a program of universal national service for young people. However, the theoretical foundation for this combination of personal decision-making power and compulsory public obligation is unclear, and Cherny presents little outside evidence of a demand for linking individual choice with civic responsibility. Cherny may represent a new breed of socially responsible techno-pseudo-Democrat, but he fails to convince that this is America's future. (Feb.)