Why Doesn’t the U.S. Have a Multi-Party Political System? | Sean Wilentz


The two party system is inevitable in America. The framers designed a constitution that they
thought would be without political parties. They didn’t like political parties. They thought political parties were divisive. They thought political parties would ruin
the commonwealth as they saw it. They didn’t like them, and yet they designed
a system in which parties very quickly arose and we’re never going to go away. And the reason is simple that in a country
as large, as diverse with so many clashing interests as the United States it’s going
to become necessary to find a focus, to find a focus for your political actions. Parties have become that focus. They very quickly became that focus. Now, the question is why don’t we have a multiparty
system? Why aren’t we more like Italy say or even
France or a European parliamentary system? Well that’s the answer is that we’re not a
parliamentary system. Because we have a system that we do and because
it’s based on the idea of first past the post, in other words the person who gets the most
amount of votes will win the election, they’re not going to have proportional representation. If you get ten percent of the votes you’re
not going to get ten percent of the power you’re going to get nothing. On that account then the pressure is very,
very strong for there to be eventually a two party system. Third parties can come in and they can have
a tremendous amount of influence in shaping the major parties, but as a great historian
once said third parties are like bees, they sting and then they die. So they make their sting, but because a third-party
will always almost inevitably help the party they’re most unlike, as you saw with say the
Nader campaign in 2000 who got elected, they have their effect but then they very quickly
disappear. So I think the two parties, it’s not so much
that I have some metaphysical or ontological love for two parties as a thing, it’s rather
that’s the way the American constitutional system works. Now, if you change the constitutional system,
of course, that would change as well, but it’s embedded in the way that our government
was set up in 1787/’88 and it continues that way to this day.

Episode 114: Politics and Principle in New Zealand (with Jamie Whyte)


Trevor Burrus: Welcome to Free Thoughts from
Libertarianism.org and the Cato Institute. I’m Trevor Burrus. Matthew Feeney: I’m Matthew Feeney. Tom Clougherty: And I’m Tom Clougherty and
we’re joined today by Jamie Whyte, a friend of mine from London but most recently the
leader of the ACT Party in New Zealand, a free market, almost libertarian party. He
led them through their general election of 2014. It didn’t go entirely to plan and
that’s part of what he’s going to talk to us about today, about being a libertarian
in politics. But Jamie has had a pretty interesting career
up until this point. He was a philosophy lecturer at the University of Cambridge. He was a columnist
with the Times of London. He was a management consultant, a currency trader. Trevor Burrus: And his column was called Free
Thoughts, correct? Tom Clougherty: Well, not the one in the Times.
That one was in City AM. But this isn’t his first rodeo when it comes to radio either.
He works with BBC Radio 4 on their analysis program, producing such hits as Yo Hayek!
and The Rule of Man versus the Rule of Law. Trevor Burrus: Now is that the kind of thing
that could only actually come out of state-funded radio, like Yo Hayek!? I mean is that an equal
time kind of thing? Is that what happened? That’s a good first question, right? Jamie Whyte: Well, the BBC is quite scrupulous
about trying to do that balance thing. It’s part of their charter and they go wrong not
out of intent but because most of them are such leftists, that you think they’re being
balanced even when they’re not. But the woman who commissioned me to do this work
isn’t really a typical BBC person. She was almost sympathetic to our kind of ideas than
most people in BBC, which may explain how I came to have the job. Trevor Burrus: What were those? Were those
like an overview of Hayek [Indiscernible] and life … Jamie Whyte: Well, this program is called
“analysis”. It’s I think a half hour show that looks at kind of ideas that are
behind the news and the Yo Hayek! one was done just after the financial crash and it
was looking at the argument between the Keynesian response and the Hayekian response. We thought
it was an opportunity to just introduce people to Hayek’s ideas because they always hear
the Keynesian ideas. Most people have no idea that there are people who disagree. For example another show I did was on riots.
Why were we doing a program on riots? Well, there had just been one in London and I was
– we were asking the question, “How come people are generally law-abiding? Why aren’t
there riots all the time?” When you think about it, it’s an interesting question.
So that’s the kind of program it is. Trevor Burrus: So Jamie, tell me a little
bit about running as a libertarian politician or maybe running libertarian politics in New
Zealand. Jamie Whyte: Well, I should be clear that
the party that I became a leader of in 20 – the beginning of 2014 and the elections
near the end isn’t strictly a libertarian party. It’s as close as you’re going to
get in a democracy. But there are elements of the party who oppose to legalizing drugs.
There are elements to the party who sometimes wanted kind of restraints on property rights
that they thought might suit them and it’s an impure party. But as I say, it’s as libertarian as you’re
likely to get. The main problem that I had was not really connected with being libertarian.
It was connected with being a novice in politics. So I made the mistake of often answering questions
honestly when that was clearly the wrong thing to do. The most obvious case of a mistake was when
I was asked if the government ought to interfere in consensual adult sex between brothers and
sisters. Trevor Burrus: I have been asked this question
before too. Not on the air, thank God. At a bar … Jamie Whyte: I said that the government shouldn’t
– well, since I generally thought the government shouldn’t have anything to do with consensual
acts between adults. You extend that principle out and you get the answer. But they knew
the answer I was obliged to give and this is one of the problems with being a libertarian
or being a person with any clear philosophical position which is that you cannot predict
what they ought to believe. Of course a lot of what is entailed by principles
is contrary to common opinion. Most people aren’t willing to take their – take ideas
to their logical limit and they find people who do. Not to be impressive. Isn’t it wonderful
how consistent he is? They think you’re nuts. They think you’re an extremist an
ideolog – and somebody to be frightened of. I actually do have some sympathy with that
idea even because I think humans are rather fallible and if you – you can lose a grip
on – you shouldn’t overrate your principles. If they start producing nonsense, then you’ve
got reason to step back. But actually I should just tell you something I didn’t earlier.
After this gaffe, a chap rang up the party … Trevor Burrus: So you did say – your answer
was yes, I guess … Jamie Whyte: No, I said, yeah, I guess they
shouldn’t interfere. But I said … Trevor Burrus: And that’s the number one
position of the ACT Party. Jamie Whyte: I said, no, this is not party
policy. It’s not an issue we care about. Let’s just forget it, right? This is a non-issue.
It turns out it isn’t quite as much of a non-issue as I had thought because some chap
rang up the party. I didn’t get the calls. Somebody else took it. He wanted to speak
to me about an organization that he runs that helps brothers and sisters who accidentally
got married. You may think, “How do brothers and sisters
accidentally get married?” Well, I will tell you how. In New Zealand, up until quite
recently – well, up until the benefits for single mothers, adoption was very, very common
in New Zealand. So imagine a town and there’s the local loose teenage girl. Trevor Burrus: I think the word you’re looking
for is “strumpet”. Jamie Whyte: Local strumpet and she’s churning
out the babies. They’re going for adoption and they’ve been adopted in that area. Then
you might bump into a girl. You’ve been adopted. She has been adopted. You meet at
school. You’re strangely drawn to each other and they end up getting married and they don’t
discover until much later that they are actually brother and sister. There’s so much of this. There was actually
an organization devoted to helping them out. So it’s amazing what you learn by being
… Matthew Feeney: That reminds me of a – I
read about an app that you can get in Iceland that will tell you if you’re on a date with
your – related to your date. I mean Iceland is a much smaller country. Trevor Burrus: A hundred thousand people or
something. Matthew Feeney: So I suppose the question
– I mean why do you think it’s that, that you – I mean perhaps your principles and
that you have these weird libertarian views. But is there another reason why you were asked
this question in particular and why it wasn’t put to perhaps the prime minster or any other
candidate? Jamie Whyte: Well, partly because I was a
novice and they thought of some chance that I would answer honestly. The other – I have
been a professional philosopher, an academic philosopher and I’ve written a lot for the
public. That means that I’ve laid out a lot of positions. So they can kind of fish
for them. Then they can put them to me. This happened
on many occasions and then they can put me in a position where I either have to admit
that I believe something that is contrary to popular opinion or I have to wriggle out
and then I will look corrupt. It’s very, very difficult not to be a politician
– as I said, not just when you’re a libertarian. But when you’re committed professionally
to intellectual honesty as you are as a philosopher, whether you are wrong or right, you ought
to have a kind of commitment to intellectual honesty. They knew that I came with all this. So I
was obviously vulnerable in a way that real politicians aren’t. I had a good adviser
and he – after this. And he told me. He said the way to answer these questions is
to say I’m no longer a philosopher. I am now the leader of a political party and I’m
speaking as the leader of a political party, but you’re asking me questions as a philosopher.
I’m not going to answer philosophical questions. I’m going to answer as a leader of a political
party. Now that probably was about all I could have
plausibly done. But I do advise anybody who wants to go into politics not to publish anything
interesting. Tom Clougherty: Well Jamie, now you’re not
the leader of a political party anymore. I hope I can put a philosophical question to
you. It’s really about the roots or the basis of your libertarianism. I kind of know
roughly what your answer is going to be. You’re really much more of a utilitarian libertarian.
Don’t really have a lot of time for the – I guess the natural rights tradition.
So if you can talk about that a little, but also maybe putting context, British libertarians,
New Zealand, Australian libertarians versus those in the United States. I think that there’s
a clear difference between the movements and I’ve always wondered whether it does come
down to that philosophical basis. Jamie Whyte: Well, let me begin by kicking
the Australians out of bounds. Trevor Burrus: You do not do that as a citizenship
test. Jamie Whyte: Yeah. I don’t engage with anything
Australian, Australian issues. I resent your question. Trevor Burrus: And Matthew who is half-Kiwi
is onboard with us too. Jamie Whyte: And also I just don’t know.
Anyway, let me – I will do the first bit first. I am indeed a libertarian who’s – my
commitment to liberal policies arises out of utilitarianism and certain ideas about
what utility is. If you’re a – roughly speaking, if you’re a sort of preferenced
utilitarian, that’s to say if you think that what’s good for somebody is a function
of their preferences, then you naturally end up – if you think we should broadly [Indiscernible]
maximize utility, the problems around measuring that and some, but just broadly speaking.
If you also preference utilitarian, you’re naturally led to a laissez-faire policy because
you can know what your preferences are. You can know what your circumstances are too.
They’re also vitally important and strangers can’t. So this is rather – it’s kind of Hayekian
in that it’s about – it’s a problem of information, trying to – it’s not just
about economic planning. Hayek talks about economic planning, the problem of the information,
but it’s across the board. Social policy, these issues about personal morality and so
on. That information-based argument works for
all of them and as I say, it rises out of being a utilitarian and a preferenced utilitarian.
So that’s the kind of libertarian I am. I don’t believe that rights have to be created
by law. I don’t follow Bentham in this view. But I think they have to arise out of something.
That is to say some kind of a convention. It may be a – it may arise organically amongst
people. They never agreed it. It just turns out that this is the way we do things around
here. So there’s what you might call a law, a
convention, a conventional behavior. It wasn’t legislated. It wasn’t created by politicians
but it’s real and it’s the foundation of the rights. If there was no such thing,
there wouldn’t be any right. So I think for example the – there’s one of these
declarations of human rights and nonsense. In a place like Somalia, let’s say, there
are no rights. There are no rights because there are no legal conventions or quasi-legal
conventions. There are no customary ways of behaving that if you break the rules you get
punished and there are remedies and there’s none of that. So there are no rights. More broadly philosophically, if you step
back from political philosophy, I’m what have come to be known as a naturalist. So
I think that all facts arise out of natural facts about the world broadly described by
physical science. I don’t believe in magical entities such as rights that exist no matter
what else exists. No matter what the word is like, there are these rights there. To
me, that’s just kind of crazy talk. So that’s the kind of libertarian I am. That’s a standard tradition. That’s Hayek.
That’s David Friedman. He’s the same. That’s where I stand. Now, how do things
vary? In Britain, which I probably know best oddly – better than – of them all, I think
most utilitarian – most libertarians are like me. I would say if I’m thinking about
the ones I know, the IEA, the Adam Smith Institute, not too many natural rights theorists. I think there are plenty of people who are
kind of Randian or Nozickian. But they’re not part of the – they’re not prominent
in the libertarian movement. I think that’s right. I don’t know if you agree. In New
Zealand, there are Randians blowing around. In fact, a chap that I’m quite close to
for my party – a good man, a leading barrister in New Zealand sent me a book about Rand’s
philosophy. I can’t remember who had written it. I tried to read it in the bath but it’s
just so turgid. Dreadful stuff. I’m all going bonkers. There was all this kind of
non-naturalistic stuff. So there are more of them in New Zealand but
the other thing that I will say, New Zealand does not have – it’s a small country.
It’s only 4.5 million people. It doesn’t really have libertarian organizations. It
has got a think tank that’s based on the capital Wellington called the New Zealand
Initiative. I think they would resent being called libertarians. They’re a very [Indiscernible]
market. Some of the people who work there are libertarians but you couldn’t call it
a libertarian organization. Just like my party, the ACT Party, is not
a libertarian organization. It’s just the best home for somebody who is a libertarian.
You’re not going to find anywhere better. I would say it’s not right that there’s
– there’s no libertarian movement in New Zealand. Trevor Burrus: Do you think that this sort
of tendency to utilitarianism as you mentioned in UK, in New Zealand, maybe that might explain
the difference on gun rights for example, that you might see between – I see even
in Britain a lot of people who consider themselves libertarians who are not very prone to believing
in gun rights, Tom notwithstanding. I’m looking at Tom. When I get over there and
– yeah, it’s – because there’s more of a deontological claim. Jamie Whyte: I think that’s – yeah, I
think you may be on to something. I think that may be one of the reasons. But I think
there’s also a historic reason. The history of America is one of people coming here to
get away from states, that they found in various ways oppressive. The view of the state as
something – a potential enemy, something potentially hostile against which you need
to defend yourself. That’s an American – common American idea. The right to bear arms is associated with
that idea. In New Zealand, the general view is that the state is benign. The state is
a mechanism through which you express yourself, through which you – the community expresses
kind of collective sentiments and is there to help you out and it’s not something you
need to defend yourself against. The United Kingdom is somewhere in between I would say
because it has had a history of kings. [Crosstalk] Jamie Whyte: Yeah, except that they now believe
that democracy makes all that irrelevant. There’s a common view. I ran up against
it all the time when I was in [Indiscernible] in the UK that all of my ideas about the need
to limit the state were wrong because the state just is you, right? Through democracy,
you’ve – that’s like saying you need to limit yourself. That idea is very prominent
in the UK and New Zealand, not so much in America I find. Tom Clougherty: Well, some people listening
might be thinking it’s interesting having this conversation with New Zealand because
New Zealand seems to always rank very highly on freedom indexes and I’ve heard New Zealand
described as a country designed by Hayekians but populated by progressives, which might
be a very American way of looking at it. But what is that for New Zealand – for libertarians
in New Zealand to do, given that it’s supposed to be some very liberal free place? Jamie Whyte: Well, before I answer your practical
question, I want to make a broad distinction. I think that what New Zealand as a – it’s
not liberals in the political sense. That’s to say they don’t believe that the state
should be strictly limited and that people should be free to make their own decisions
about things that affect any of them. What they are is liberal in the moral sense,
which is to say they’re permissive. They think that the state ought to only allow you
to do the things that they approve of, but they approve of almost everything. So it’s
not that they’re politically liberals. It’s that they’re – what I called in an article
once. They’re broad-minded fascists. Trevor Burrus: That’s really good. Jamie Whyte: This is what the political left
tends to be. They don’t mind lesbians. They don’t mind transsexuals. They don’t mind
drug-taking maybe. Maybe they do. But it’s – the reason they’re willing to have these
things legal is not out of any political principle about the role of the state. It’s just because
all those things are fine with them and if those things weren’t fine with them, well
then they should be illegal. That’s what New Zealand is all like. We are a very, very kind of laidback, permissive
place. But the view is that if something is harmful to people, they shouldn’t be allowed
to do it, even if it’s harmful only to them. So the drug laws, people defend the drug laws
by pointing out that drugs are harmful. Everything is harmful. I mean eating is harmful, right?
You can choke. You can get fat. But it has also got benefits and that’s why we tolerate
it. Drug taking has got benefits. Trevor Burrus: Every Pink Floyd album. Jamie Whyte: Feels great, feels great to be
high. But they don’t judge those to be worthwhile benefits. That doesn’t count. They don’t
count. The leftists decide what counts and what doesn’t count. In New Zealand, there
was about – there’s a rule in New Zealand that you got to wear a helmet when you ride
a bike. If you don’t, they fine you $200. Why, right? How do you threaten other people
by not wearing a – you threaten yourself and it’s the government’s job to look
after you. Everybody just agrees with that. So I wouldn’t
say New Zealand is a Hayekian country. That’s a crazy idea. What was the rest of your question? Tom Clougherty: Well, I think what – given
the – what’s there to do? Jamie Whyte: Well, there’s an awful lot
to do. Drug liberalization is one. Again, this is typical New Zealand. The only reason
people aren’t that uptight about it is that New Zealand unlike America doesn’t really
enforce the law that strictly. The prisons aren’t filled with people involved in drugs.
But it is illegal and occasionally, they don’t enforce it. Recently, there was a dreadful
case of a woman getting a two-year prison sentence of being found to be in possession
of marijuana. She was really a kind of community leader in the area where she lived, very respectable
woman. She just happened to have a dope-smoking habit and she has had her life ruined. Two
years in prison, she will never recover her social position. So they do occasionally do it. So there are
drugs. That’s one thing. The laws concerning the – restricting the use of your property,
of your land for – to fit in with the government’s plans. So planning laws as they called it.
I don’t know what you call them here in America. Trevor Burrus: Land use restrictions. Jamie Whyte: Yeah, all that stuff. That’s
out of control in New Zealand. The ownership rights you have of your property are highly
attenuated, extraordinarily attenuated. If I want to chop down a tree in my own land,
and it’s over 17 feet tall, I have to have permission from the local government. The effect of this is everybody chops their
trees down when they reach 16 feet. But that – you can’t change the look of your house
if you live in certain areas. It’s all very, very controlled and it’s having real effects
particularly on the price of residential property. The New Zealand dollar is currently worth
about 65 American cents. The average house price in my hometown of Auckland just hit
$900,000. This is the … Trevor Burrus: At San Francisco … Jamie Whyte: This is the average. The price
of property last year went up 25 percent in Auckland in just one year. That has been going
on. But you can’t – there is almost no new housing being built because of these restrictions.
So that’s another thing. More generally, the current government which
has been in power for about eight years, is returning to industrial policy. The reforms
of the 1980s right through the 90s, the government rejected the idea of industrial policy. The
government should direct the economy because there had been calamities in New Zealand.
But people always forget and there are people who lobby the government for favors for this
and that. The idea that the government can play an important role in directing investment
has returned even under a [Indiscernible] and that’s just a trend that’s going completely
the wrong direction. Another thing that has gone in the wrong direction
is they’ve bought under pressure from people complaining about property prices going up.
The government has just started to be more restrictive in allowing foreign buying. They’ve
always had the power to do it, but they haven’t used it. Now there’s kind of ad hoc and
arbitrary interventions in sales and the government just says, “No, you’re not allowed to
sell your land to that person because he’s Chinese.” Things are far from perfect. Trevor Burrus: I wanted to go back to – you
mentioned this and my favorite libertarian thing out of New Zealand is what you mentioned
in the 80s with the reforms, the free market reforms called Rogernomics in many circles.
It’s one of these big examples of ambassador reform, a deregulation done that I think we
don’t study enough because the actual – how you actually deregulate an economy is something
that hasn’t happened. A lot happened in New Zealand in the 80s. We did it in the late 70s with the interstate
shipping and the airlines and home brewing and these were both done by the left interestingly
enough. Can you talk a little bit about like what happened? What was it like before? The
figure – Roger Douglas, the figure behind it and what changed? Jamie Whyte: The New Zealand economy is leading
up to these reforms [Indiscernible] 1984 was the most state-controlled economy outside
of the communist world. You wouldn’t believe some of the rules. You couldn’t buy margarine
without a doctor’s certificate. The reason was to protect the dairy industry. Trevor Burrus: That law has existed here.
It used to be illegal to buy it – I think in Canada still. It’s illegal to dye margarine
in some – so you have to just – it looks like clear fat just to protect the dairy industry. Jamie Whyte: You couldn’t ship any goods
or use a truck. You can transport them on a truck more than 50 miles because they’re
protecting the railway. So you had to ship things and move things around on railways.
You couldn’t import anything without a license. You can bring anything into the country. The
government dispensed licenses to its political friends. You couldn’t get foreign currency to go
on foreign trips. There was no – television radio where – there was one television station
that was state-controlled. There were two but – that were state-controlled. They’ve
got two by then. They started – TV started at 2 o’clock
in the afternoon and finished at midnight. It was – you wouldn’t believe what it
was like and it was … Trevor Burrus: The best band was Crowded House. Jamie Whyte: That was much later. Trevor Burrus: Oh, that was … [Crosstalk] Jamie Whyte: And New Zealand is getting poorer
and poorer and poorer. I mean the history of the downturn was effectively – New Zealand
had basically been a big farm for Britain. It would sell all its agricultural projects
to Britain and it was reasonably affluent. It had very low levels of unemployment but
it was very barren. You couldn’t get foreign stuff and there are no entertainment goods.
There was virtually none of it. You couldn’t drink wine in restaurants. My parents always
told me a story on one of their first dates having to drink wine out of a teapot because
the restaurant wasn’t allowed to provide you with wine. So they drink it out of a teapot. Trevor Burrus: Everyone just accepted this
as just … Jamie Whyte: Yeah, that was the kind of place
it was. You just wouldn’t believe it. Anyway, after – Britain joined the European Union
I believe in ’72 and this meant that they became part of the trading block and mainly
out of pressure from the French. There were great barriers to imports and New Zealand
suddenly was taken off the [Indiscernible] of Great Britain. The government responded just by trying to
take more and more control of the economy, trying to – they had that model and there
was literally no economic growth between 1972 and 1984 and there was a crisis by ’84.
A new government came in and they made radical reforms. They removed all the exchange rate and capital
controls. They got rid of all agricultural tariffs. They deregulated transportation and
all the things we’ve been talking about. They just went to a completely free economy
more or less except in one regard, the labor market. They still had compulsory unionism.
In New Zealand, you had to join the union. Even when I was a student going to – as
an undergraduate, I was required by law to join the student union. I wasn’t allowed
to go to the university without joining it. The labor party made a lot of these liberal
reforms partly out of economic necessity but they didn’t have – they couldn’t make
the labor market reforms because the labor unions were still their power base. In 1990, a new government, the national government
came in. They had meanwhile – they had been converted to free market ideas and they liberalized
the labor market. So by the mid-1990s, New Zealand was a model free economy. You can start a business in no time for little
money. The government was almost uninvolved. Since 1996, there has been backpedaling. Partly
it was because of an electoral reform. We moved from [Indiscernible] to a proportional
representation system and this meant that lots of smaller parties emerged and they got
representation and it became difficult to form a government from a single party and
this meant that it was much harder to drive through reform. Everybody was trying to stop
it. So that system had an effect. Then we got
a labor-led coalition government in coalition with Greens and all sorts of dreadful people.
They started reversing things and reintroduced labor laws that made it hard to fire people.
They renationalized some previously privatized industries such as railways and New Zealand
is actually government … Just they haven’t gone all the way back.
Just a bit and the general tone – there’s no keenness anymore for liberal reform. I
can’t remember the last time there was any liberalization of anything. It’s the other
way around. Tom Clougherty: So I want to go back to the
Rogernomics, the liberalization of the 1980s, and my impression is that this was a big bang,
liberalization. They hadn’t campaigned on it. They hadn’t commissioned studies and
all that. They just kind of suddenly thought we have to do this and they did it and they
got rid of all the agricultural subsidies overnight. What were the dynamics then if
you can speak to that? I mean were they just terrified of what was
happening and they – it was necessity that drove them to these measures or was there
someone somewhere there who was secretly a liberal underneath and had been hiding the
whole time? Jamie Whyte: The official story is that it
was more a matter of necessity, so that they – I’m not going to remember this exactly.
They had one change forced on them. I don’t remember what it was. It was just basically
to make some kind of payment. Then they realized that that – they had to compensate for that
with something else and something else and it was a cascade effect. They ended up liberalizing
all these things. This can be found – there’s actually a
book where you can find this. It’s called I’ve Been Thinking by Richard Prebble. He
was a prominent figure in this government, working under Roger Douglas. Roger Douglas by the way was not the prime
minister. He was a minister of finance. The prime minister was a man called David Lange.
However, another element which I’ve only recently discovered is that the treasury which
is the – what you might call the Ministry of Finance. It’s the – where the top bureaucrats
around economic matters reside and they had prepared a report for the incoming government,
describing the situation, recommending a whole lot of liberalization policies and it was
really the treasury that had been infiltrated so to speak by free market guys. They had a program ready and waiting and I
think that if you really – the main contribution of Roger Douglas wasn’t that he was a visionary.
It was the ballsiness with which he went about doing it. He just – it was – as you say,
it hadn’t been announced. The population did not know what they were getting when they
voted for the labor. But the labor party was going to walk in because there was a crisis. They would walk in. So they kept their mouth
shut. They refused to publish a manifesto. They had no policies before the – they just
refused to say and – because they knew they were going to win and every time they got
asked a question, “What will you do if you get elected?” they said, “Well, we really
just don’t know what state the government’s finances are in. So you’re going to have
to wait. Trust us.” Trevor Burrus: That’s amazing. They had
no platform. Jamie Whyte: No, they had no platform at all.
They knew what they were going to do but they wouldn’t – they couldn’t announce it
because it would have cost them votes. So they always said, “We will get in to power.
We will have a look at the books,” as if the books weren’t actually publicly available.
But we will have a look at the books and then we will work out what we have to do. They had no mandate for it. However, they
did it immediately. We have a three-year electoral term. So they had to face election again in
1987 and they won even though they had – the country going through the pain of rapid reform.
But I think the people sensed two things. One was that it was necessary. The other was
that they were so free. I mean you cannot believe how the country changed and I don’t
just mean the economic results. I mean the mood. Imagine living in a country where you can’t
get the normal stuff that was common in America where you can’t travel without applying
to the government for foreign currency, where every element of the economy is controlled
by the government. You have to get permission to do things, where there are no decent restaurants. When they came in and liberalized that, the
explosion of pent-up energy was amazing and people’s lives were transformed for the
better. I mean even if you weren’t richer, you were so much better off. Nobody wanted
to go back. We haven’t been back. New Zealand is now a modern, free country, part of the
normal world. Tom Clougherty: I mean it’s probably going
to be fairly clear from what you’ve said to our listeners that New Zealand has a somewhat
different political culture from the United States. I just remembered a story you told
me about your father once ringing up the treasury to complain. I wonder if you could just share
that. Jamie Whyte: Well, he rang up Robert Muldoon,
who was the prime minister before this reform, right? He was the guy who was doing such a
bad job. My father rang him up. When they got his number, phone number … Trevor Burrus: Your dad, was he a bigwig? Jamie Whyte: No, no. My father was an ordinary
kind of entrepreneur but he never made that much money. He was – the prime minister
certainly wouldn’t have known who he was. So he looks up the prime minister’s number
in the phonebook. I’m not joking. He looks up his number in the phonebook, rings him
up at home and he answers the phone. I think his wife may have answered the phone. Oh,
I will just go and get him. Then my dad and he spoke on the phone for
about an hour and a half. I recall very well because I was coming back from the kitchen.
My father was still there on the phone with this guy. I will tell you another story. The prime minister
of this reforming government, David Lange, he had been a lawyer who worked for – in
a poor area. He was a member of parliament representing a very poor part of Auckland.
Out of genuine [Indiscernible] I don’t want the prime minister’s residence in Wellington
when I am there. I’m just – so he rented a bedsit and … Trevor Burrus: What was that word? Jamie Whyte: A bed … [Crosstalk] Jamie Whyte: He rented a studio flat and after
his work at parliament, he would go back on his own to the studio flat. He was a very
fat man actually and he – one night he would go there and – well, the police found the
fire brigade were called because they found smoke coming out from under the door of the
bedsit. What had happened is that he had put a tin
of baked beans on the stove to cook and he had gone to lie down on his bed and he had
fallen asleep because he was so tired. It boiled over and there was trouble. But this
is the prime minister. There’s no security. He has got no staff of any kind. He’s cooking
his own baked beans on a pot. It retains elements of it. I used to go to
a gym in Auckland and the prime minister Helen Clark who was prime minister up until 2008,
I would often bump into her on the stairs. She was running up the back to do some kind
of work at class. No security. She would just give you a smile and should be in the class.
No one would bother her. New Zealand is a very – because it’s a
small country. People tend to – if you meet anybody, you’ve probably got a connection.
You say to them, “Well, where are you from? I’ve got a cousin down that way too.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. That mood permeates interactions and it permeates
politics too. Politics is conducted in a much more – even if you disagree with each other,
you might be quite rude in the disagreement, there’s no sense of genuine hatred. There’s
no culture war. There’s no idea that you come from one part of the world and I come
from another and we’re really on conflict with each other. The worst – the most likely case you would
have gotten for that would have been – my party is considered the most extreme kind
of money-grabbing, dreadful, that kind of thing and cruel and we have – we want to
serve corporate interests. You can imagine the rhetoric. Trevor Burrus: It sounds a little familiar. Jamie Whyte: And then you’ve got the Maori
Party representing Maori people and – but not – they don’t in a way – there were
many very successful Maori. The head of the Bank of New Zealand, he went – no, the ASB,
it’s a big bank. He went on to be the head of – in New Zealand and went to Australia
and ran one of the big banks there. He’s Maori but Maori played – I’m thinking
about guys like him that are thinking about the kind of poor rural ones. So you might think that we are the most in
conflict but after debates, I got on very well with the leader of the Maori party. He’s
a nice chap and in general, when I was with others, there’s – there is some animosity
– sometimes it’s just individuals. It’s just these people. There’s no sense of a
class warfare, ideological warfare. Trevor Burrus: Do you think that’s because
of the relative homogeneity? I mean that’s – here we have people who write books called
What’s the Matter with Kansas. People from the East Coast who maybe have never been to
Kansas accept to write that book and to talk about how bad these people are because we
have such cultural differences. Is homogeneity a big part of that? Is there a Kansas of New
Zealand? Jamie Whyte: Is it all Kansas? Trevor Burrus: Or is it all Kansas? Jamie Whyte: This is a little complicated.
Compared to London, Auckland which is where I live is a very divided city. In London you
will get a councilor state. You know what I mean by that … [Crosstalk] Trevor Burrus: Thank you Tom. The translation
is very important. Jamie Whyte: You will get a housing project
slapped in the middle of one of a – a really wealthy neighborhood, the Kensington or something.
When I was living in Hampstead which is an expensive part of London, there was – I
was renting a house. It was costing me – it was a cramped little three-bedroom thing and
it was costing me 900 pounds a week or something insane like that. Just across the way and
the kids going to the same school, they counciled houses. They’re free, right? So they’re inhabitants
and then the kids go to the same school. Now this isn’t what goes on in Auckland. In
Auckland, you’ve got really the clear neighborhood distinctions and as I understand the States,
a similar result, which is that the schools in the wealthy neighborhoods are good schools
and the schools in the poor neighborhoods are bad schools. So that looks similar to America. But the
thing that it doesn’t generate, the kind of conflicts or resentments there, and it
is interesting why. I think that one reason is that so far at least, New Zealanders do
not believe that the successful people have gotten there out of some kind of unfair privilege.
They believe that if they’re successful, there’s probably some reason to do with
them. There’s no sense of a class-ruling set.
There may actually be one. I don’t think there is but there’s no sense of it. I feel
that this is – this is a rather wonderful thing about New Zealand. It’s probably what
makes living in New Zealand pleasant and often there’s – snobbery is considered the greatest
vice. Probably the worst thing you could ever come across as is a snob. But I suspect it is changing. It’s changing
partly for the reasons that are being discussed globally which is that education now confers
so much advantage and the kids of the rich get the better education. It’s a self-perpetuating
thing going on and also now that women – this whole stuff, you know. The doctor used to
marry a nurse. Now he marries another doctor. That’s all happening in New Zealand and
you are seeing … Trevor Burrus: Static. Jamie Whyte: Yeah. Maybe it’s not as mobile.
Again, some of the stuff is exaggerated but it hasn’t yet caused trouble. The left of
course politically wants to stir up resentments because they benefit from them. We’ve got
all this nonsense going on now about poverty. I mean if you – anybody can define statistically.
So apparently 20 percent of New Zealand children grow up in poverty and you can tell because
they’re overweight. No, honestly. They reason like this. You’re in poverty if you’re
earning under – less than half of the media income. Trevor Burrus: Which is half the people. Jamie Whyte: No, no, half the median. Trevor Burrus: OK, OK. Jamie Whyte: And then you say, well, OK, now
here we’ve defined this group. Now let’s have a look at this group. What characteristics
do they have? Well, their kids are overweight. They spend a lot of their income on smoking
and so on and so forth. So you can get to the preposterous position where you define
poverty by excessive spending on certain things. Then you say look at the – that poor person
forced to smoke by their poverty. Trevor Burrus: And drink soda … Jamie Whyte: And then of course we’ve got
to patronize them. We’ve got to try and control their behavior because they’re hurting
themselves and they don’t do it because they want to. They do it because they’re
victims of social injustice. Tom Clougherty: It sounds like notwithstanding
New Zealand’s impressive rankings in human freedom indexes, economic freedom indexes,
that there’s a fair amount of paternalism going on. You’ve talked a little bit about
some of the land use restrictions which seem pretty severe and yet there’s also something
in New Zealand that is perhaps awkward for libertarians to admit, which is that the state
seems to be fairly benign and efficient. Jamie Whyte: Yes, which it is. It is efficient.
They’re a joy to deal with. Trevor Burrus: You said that at the lunch.
There was a lunch before this recording and my head is spinning on this sentence. Jamie Whyte: Yeah. I will tell you a funny
little story. I was living in Belgium with my now wife. We live together and we had had
a child and we didn’t necessarily want to get married. But I got a job in Singapore
and we needed to get married because in those days, you bring your woman in with you – you
should be married to her. Now they do. So we had to get married and we had to get
married pretty quickly. So we decided since we’re living in Belgium, let’s get married
in Belgium. We go down to the town hall to get our license and then someone is going
to interview me about all this. They can’t just give me a license. During the interview,
I have a British passport and so they’re very – she’s saying, “But is it a bona
fide relationship?” I said, “Look, it doesn’t matter because I can live in Belgium
anywhere. I’m entitled to live here with my British passport.” She goes like this – I’m getting on her
nerves. Anyway, she says, “We have to come around to your house and interview you there
to prove that you got a bona fide relationship.” I said to her, “You know, some people think
it’s immoral to live together before your marriage. I’m surprised that the Belgian
government requires it.” Anyway, she wasn’t liking me and I said
– we finally – I said, “OK, whatever. When can you do it?” Oh, January next year.
Oh, never mind. So the other thing – I’ve got an alternative. We can get married in
England where we’ve been living just before. So I ring up the English authorities in – it
was my local – you got to go to the local council you’re living in. I said, “I want
to get married.” He said OK. So you come to the office to get a license on a Wednesday
morning. You can only do it on Wednesday mornings and it’s only open for three hours and there
are normally very long queues. So I suggest that you arrive at 8:00 in the morning. He said, “I must warn you. You probably
won’t get to the end of the queue.” I said, “So you’re telling me that I should
fly from Belgium to London every Wednesday and stand in the queue to get …” Then
I find I’m getting really frustrated. So I think New Zealand is our last resort. I ring up someone in New Zealand and I – I’m
explaining the situation and the appropriate government department. The man I [Indiscernible].
OK. So what’s your name? I give him my name. OK. And this woman you want to marry, what’s
her name? I give the name. And I said, “OK. Now what do I need to do?” He says, “Oh,
it’s done.” I said, “What?” [Indiscernible] and when you’re in New Zealand, you can
pick up the certificate. He just took the information over the phone and that’s what
it’s like. Taxes, those taxes are really simple and very
easy. You don’t need a tax accountant. It’s getting a little worse but after this reforming
government, the tax was so simple. They’re actually – one of the reasons they broke
up, they were going to introduce the flat tax. Roger Douglas was going to have a 25
percent flat income tax – no, 23 and Lange, the prime minister just couldn’t take it.
This was too much. [Crosstalk] Jamie Whyte: No, having a flat tax. He needed
progressive taxation for his socialist principles. But – because remember, this was the labor
party and the government fell apart over that. Roger Douglas quit and everything unraveled.
But – sorry, anyway, to answer your question, how come – well, I think it’s because
New Zealand is small. It’s – you will bump into these guys at the airport and they’re
going to look you in the eye. It’s very difficult to be – I mean take it down to
the limit case. Suppose that I say – there are just two
people in the country and I say I want some redistribution of wealth. That means it’s
you. It has got to be you. You’re the only other one. I’ve got to be able to look you
in the eye and say that was fair enough. So because we all know each other – I’m exaggerating.
But you know what I mean. It limits the predatory nature of politics a little. It also I think – it also explains some
of the socialistic tendencies in New Zealand because we don’t have other vehicles for
much of this stuff partly because the state has always been big in New Zealand. These
other vehicles hadn’t grown up. There’s a feeling that we’re all in it together
because it’s small enough. That is – this is why I’m very much in favor of small governments
and I don’t mean limited government. I mean literally governments that cover small areas
because then, they got to look you in the eye. Trevor Burrus: What lessons do you think we
can learn? Other than the one you just stated but also with the Rogernomics, with the sinusoidal
element here because we had a massive disappointment and massive deregulation to the point – I
mean you mentioned earlier that – before we started recording that the farmers are
killing themselves and huge problems and then a huge change in society and now it’s creeping
back. So what can we learn about the progress of government and those opinions? Jamie Whyte: Well, let me first draw another
interesting distinction between New Zealand and America. It’s not just size. The government
of New Zealand has a three-year dictatorship. Their ability to do what they did is – they
can just do it. If they got a majority of – there’s no upper house. There’s no
president. We have one layer of government in that sense and because the executive will
have a majority in the parliament, there’s no limit to what they can do. So I think even if you had a president let’s
say who had such an agenda, he would find it extremely difficult to get done. But doing
it fast is really important. As Roger Douglas said, he said the reason he did – some people
are saying to him, “Why did you do it all at once?” Why won’t you just a little
bit more – steady as you go? He said because – he said you might as well have a general
strike for eight reforms as for one, right? That’s the logic. His view was that if he
did it slowly, the forces of resistance would have time to gather. So he did all in one
go and I suspect that is the right way to go. Then why has he been backpedaling? Well, it’s
I think because he never had a mandate. He did get reelected in ’87 but that – as
I said, there was a sense of liberation and a great energy overtaking the country. But
what never happened in the UK either – or New Zealand was that the population understood
the connection between free market ideas and the benefits that they were experiencing.
They just didn’t get that connection. That’s where the backpedaling can work.
Politicians can come along and promote ideas that sound kind of commonsensical. The government
should fix this and fix that. The people aren’t mentally trained so to speak to go, no, no,
no, that’s – we don’t like that approach. So they like the results of the liberalization.
But they don’t understand where they come from and so eventually it gets eroded. I think this is a kind of natural cycle, depressing
kind of natural cycle and I wish democracy were more constrained so that it was – the
population was more limited in their ability to impose their will on matters that don’t
affect them. I mean they shouldn’t have any say in – they all agree they shouldn’t
have any say in my shoes. But they think they should have a say in all sorts of other things
that affect me. There’s no principal basis for it. So I would like to see – since I don’t
trust them, I would like to see some constraints on their ability to indulge those ideas. But
again, how do you do it? Because look at America. You’ve got a constitution which is supposed
to have some of those effects. All constitutions have to have courts that – enforcement of
the courts can’t be trusted. You get erosion. So I have no idea how to get – how to protect
liberty against populism. I guess we’re all in the business of trying to shift the
Popular Movement. That’s what we’re trying to do. If we can get everyone to agree with
us, it would be fine. Oh, it’s going to be easy now. Trevor Burrus: Free Thoughts is produced by
Evan Banks and Mark McDaniel. To learn more, find us on the web at www.Libertarianism.org.

3 ways America is doing politics all wrong


So I am an eternal optimist about how and
why we should continue to innovate every aspect of our lives. And that’s science and technology imbuing
more efficiencies in how we run businesses, but also how we deliver healthcare and education. So as far as I’m concerned I’ve adopted
this same lens as we think about the political process. So just to give you some flavor for some of
the proposals, on the politician side I consider the argument that we should perhaps increase
the pay of politicians and actually force them to justify their compensation. Singapore is a great example of this model. In Singapore the head of state, the prime
minister earns over $1.4 million a year in compensation. But, to me, what’s even more interesting
is that the ministers who are responsible for education and healthcare and infrastructure,
et cetera, earn 30 to 40 percent bonuses based on certain metrics and outcomes—So how GDP
performs, whether life expectancy increases, whether inflation declines. I think that that is a very interesting model
for us to explore because I think it could impose discipline. By the way a discipline around reward for
performance which we already see, and it applies to many of us as we work in the private sector. So certainly worth of a consideration. I think that could actually force politicians
to think a little bit more long term. Another proposal on the politician side is
to basically think about minimum standards for politicians. And this is an idea that really, for me, stuck
out as I thought about how the British Parliament looked back in the 1950s and 60s. In that period the average age was higher,
on average about 60 years old. But also the skill set was incredibly varied. They had teachers, lawyers, doctors, farmers. And so people had had other careers and had
a better understanding of how the economy works because they came to become parliamentarians
having experienced different sectors of the economy. Today, some of the citations that I reference
in the book, the average age is closer to 40 years old and many politicians actually
have no experience except having been professional politicians. And I think that can be quite a disservice
in terms of not really understanding the complexity of how an economy works. A third – I’ll just very quickly give
you one more example of what we might consider in terms of politicians is we might think
about extending the terms of political office. This is essentially to get away from this
idea of having elections every two years as we do in the United States. Mexico is an example of a country where the
president is in office only once for six years. And so I think you get away from this desire
of politicians to constantly court or tempt and try to seduce voters with policies that
may be short term appealing but over the long term incredibly damaging for the economy (and
ultimately for generations to come). Brazil, the senators have eight- to nine-year
terms. Again it’s really picking on this theme
of extending the thinking to better match the economic challenges and economic headwinds
that the global economy faces.

50 Insane Cold War Facts That Will Shock You!


Ok, so before we start this Cold War epic,
we should probably explain to you what the Cold War was. The Americans and Soviets were more or less
buddies during the Second World War, fighting together against the Axis powers. But the U.S. was very concerned about communism
and the despotic Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. To put it bluntly, America feared that the
commies – as it liked to say – would take over the world. For that reason, the U.S. wanted to contain
communist expansionism. But the Soviets were building an arsenal of
arms, including nuclear weapons. Thus, an arms race was on the way. It’s thought Bernard Mannes Baruch, an American
financier and multimillionaire, coined the term Cold War, which basically means a war
without military action. And so, without further ado, welcome to this
episode of the Infographics show, 50 Facts About Cold War You Didn’t Know. Fact #50. So, as we said, it was Bernard Mannes that
coined the term Cold War. He was a rich man and also an advisor to all
U.S. presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Harry S. Truman. He’s famous for saying this: “Let us not
be deceived. We are today in the midst of a Cold War. Our enemies are to be found abroad and at
home. Let us never forget this: Our unrest is the
heart of their success.” 49. It was Winston Churchill who first used the
term, “Iron Curtain” in relation to the Cold War, which basically means the metaphorical
divide between the Soviet bloc and the West. 48. Churchill is often said to be one of the most
mythologized leaders that ever existed. He may have been a great orator during times
of conflict, but he has also been accused of being a bigot, a snob, a racist, and being
not too sympathetic to those who suffered at the hands of the British Empire. Perhaps one of the reasons why he was good
at talking was because he was a big fan of amphetamines. 47. Over on the other side of the iron curtain,
Joseph Stalin was responsible for around 2.9 million deaths. Those deaths, historians say, were related
to Stalin’s oppression, the Gulag, and forced resettlement. But if we include total deaths due to poverty
and famine while Stalin was in power, the number could be as high as 60 million. As far as evil dictators go, Stalin is often
said to take the number two spot behind China’s prolific paranoid practician of violence,
Mao Zedong. Surprisingly, Hitler only gets the bronze
for evilness. 46. Stalin wasn’t really named Stalin. He was born Josef Vissarionovich Djugashvili,
but that doesn’t really have a cool ring to it. He changed his name to Stalin ‘cos it means
Man of Steel. Superman’s currently rolling over in his
grave. 45. The Cold War started under American president
Harry Truman and ended while George Bush Sr. was in power. If you were around in 1989, you might have
read the headline, “Bush and Gorbachev suggest Cold War is coming to an end.” 44. The Soviets drew amazingly detailed maps of
the whole world during the Cold War. In fact, the U.S. and the UK were astounded
by how detailed and accurate they were, so much so that the US State Department uses
them today. Wired wrote in 2015, “University libraries
at places like Stanford, Oxford, and the University of Texas in Austin have drawers stuffed with
Cold War Soviet maps.” 43. In 1956, President Eisenhower signed off on
a resolution that made “In God We Trust” the official American motto. Some people didn’t like this, given America’s
religious diversity, but the president saw it as an important move against Communist
materialism. He also made it a law that the motto should
appear on all American coins and bills, presumably to make sure the American public would not
forget who they trusted the most. 42. “Under God” was added to the American
Pledge of Allegiance for pretty much the exact same reason. 41. Even though the Soviets and the USA were involved
in what was called the “Space Race,” at one point they were thinking about teaming-up
during the Cold War. According to NASA’s website, “Eisenhower
suggested creating a process to secure space for peaceful uses. Khrushchev, however, rejected the offer.” 40. Chinese Communist Party leader, Mao Zedong,
had been treated badly by the Soviets on many occasions. He got his own back, though, when he met Soviet
leader Nikita Khrushchev. Mao loved swimming, and he had learned that
Khrushchev couldn’t swim. On one visit, the latter was met by Mao, who
offered him some bathing shorts. He took Khrushchev to a private swimming pool. According to The Smithsonian, “Khrushchev,
meanwhile, stood uncomfortably in the children’s end of the pool until Mao, with more than
a touch of malice, suggested that he join him in the deeper water.” The embarrassed Soviet leader needed a floatation
device and apparently paddled like a dog. Mao was a happy man. Some years later, Khrushchev said, “It was
Mao’s way of putting himself in an advantageous position.” 39. When Mao visited Moscow in 1949, Stalin pretty
much left him in a hotel and kept feeding him lots of food. Little did Mao know that Soviet scientists
were secretly collecting his poo so that they could analyze it and see what he was made
of. 38. When Mao was 69, he had a 14-year old girlfriend. 37. According to the BBC in 2017, for decades,
the BBC hired MI5 to vet anyone who worked for it. If they were even slightly too left-leaning,
they would soon be made unemployed. The BBC writes that by hiring what they called
subversives, it might lead to a left-leaning government. You must remember that many American and European
intellectuals might not have been keen on Soviet rule, but many were so-called Marxists. 36. In the USA, Joe McCarthy created vast paranoia
regarding Reds Under the Bed and communist infiltration of good ole American society. McCarthy was feared, and his stringent witch
hunts pervaded all areas of society. He didn’t seem to have any scruples either,
but that may have been down to the heroin that he was addicted to. It’s said that America’s first “War
on Drugs” czar, Harry Anslinger, made sure McCarthy got his fix. 35. It’s said one of the most successful spying
operations from the UK and the U.S. was something called Operation Tamarisk. This involved rooting through Soviet trash
to find documents. The thing was, though, sometimes the Soviets
ran out of toilet paper and had to wipe themselves with said documents. According to one writer, Tamarisk was British
jargon for, “sifting through the detritus of military exercises.” 34. MI5 was almost as bad as McCarthy, believing
anyone with slight communist links was a threat to British security. They monitored and spied on left-leaning politicians,
anti-nuclear weapons groups, anti-apartheid groups, members of Amnesty International,
and Civil Liberties organizations. 33. The US planned to detonate a nuclear bomb
on the moon in the 1950s. It was known as Project A119 and Carl Sagan
was on the team. He was hired to study what the effect would
be if you detonated such a bomb in a low gravity vacuum. It was thought that such a thing would boost
American morale and demoralize the Soviets. 32. The Soviets wanted to do the same thing. Their plan was codenamed E-4. Apparently, the E project had certain steps. 1 was to get a spacecraft to the moon. 2 and 3 were to orbit around it, and 4 was
to bomb it. What a world we live in, eh? 31. The CIA used LSD on its own soldiers as mind
control experiments. They did the same to biochemist Frank Olsen,
who nine days later mysteriously jumped to his death from a 13-story New York City hotel. 30. In 1951, there was a mass poisoning in a French
town called Pont-Saint-Esprit. People died, but others suffered from scary
hallucinations and ended up in the madhouse. It was said to be something in the bread. There are many theories about what happened,
and one is that the CIA spiked the bread with massive amounts of LSD as part of its MKNAOMI
chemical warfare program. Writing about the incident of what became
known as the “cursed bread,” the Telegraph newspaper said, “One man tried to drown
himself, screaming that his belly was being eaten by snakes. An 11-year-old tried to strangle his grandmother. Another man shouted: ‘I am a plane’ before
jumping out of a second-floor window, breaking his legs.” CIA 1 France 0. 29. The United States Air Force in the 50s used
drugged bears to test ejector seats in powerful planes. Apparently, Himalayan and American black bears
were a good size. No bears died, but some broke bones. You can watch it on YouTube. 28. And Canada was just as bad. It forced some of its Inuit population to
relocate further north, just so it could show the Soviets it had sovereignty there. 27. It’s actually sometimes said that the Cold
War started in Canada. That’s because a soviet cipher clerk named
Igor Sergeyevich Gouzenko defected there just after WWII and handed over 109 documents relating
to Soviet espionage and future plans. Some of those plans of course were to build
massive bombs. 26. According to the BBC, during the Cold War,
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and US President John F Kennedy wrote each other lots of letters. They even sent each other gifts. One such gift was given to Kennedy’s daughter. It was a dog called Pushinka, who was the
offspring of one of the Soviet space dogs. It in turn had puppies which JFK called the
pupniks. 25. If you check out recently released secret
files from the National Archive, there’s a conversation with the CIA director in 1975
and an attorney. The attorney asks, “Is there any information
involved with the assassination of President Kennedy which in any way shows that Lee Harvey
Oswald was in some way a CIA agent. . .” But mysteriously, that’s where the
document ends. 24. The term ‘Third World’ was not related
to poverty or standards of living when it was first used, but it meant any countries
not in NATO. 23. The British satirical puppet show “Spitting
Image” showed Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev with what looked like a hammer and sickle
painted on his forehead. It’s actually a port-wine stain, a discoloration
of the skin. 22. If you look at secret files, you can see what
Gorbachev thought about 3,000 Chinese being killed at Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989. In a meeting, he discussed what would happen
if his own government met with resistance. “We must be realists. They have to defend themselves, and so do
we. 3,000 people, so what?” he said. 21. Later in life, Gorbachev teamed-up with former
U.S. President Bill Clinton to make a children’s music CD. They won a Grammy for their efforts. 20. During the Cold War, the Americans devised
a cunning plan. They would portray President Nixon as crazy,
so crazy he might press that red button at any time and start a nuclear war. They called this “The Madman Theory.” The theory was that if they could make someone
look so volatile, then other countries wouldn’t provoke the U.S. Some media now say Donald Trump uses the madman
theory, or at least it looks like that. 19. The USA spent 20 million dollars on a cat…We
should probably just leave you to think about that…But we won’t. Called the acoustic kitty, this cat was designed
to spy on Soviets, as it had a listening device implanted in its ear canal. On its first mission to spy on two gents in
a Soviet Compound in the US, it got hit by a taxi and died. Some people refute this and say the cat was
just useless. Either way it’s amusing if you don’t pay
taxes in the U.S. Declassified documents show how the CIA resigned themselves to failure,
stating that spying cats were just not practical. 18. The CIA didn’t stop at felines. They also trained ravens, pigeons, and goats. In fact, as was revealed years later, animal
training for spying purposes was a huge project at Langley. 17. In 2017, the New York Times wrote a story
about a man who had just died at 77. His name was Stanislav Petrov and it was a
decision he made that saved us from an all out nuclear war. In 1983, his missile early warning system
informed him that the U.S. had launched 5 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles
at Russia. Protocol was an immediate retaliatory strike,
but the man just couldn’t believe it was real. And it wasn’t, the machine was malfunctioning. “Twenty-three minutes later, I realized
that nothing had happened. If there had been a real strike, then I would
already know about it. It was such a relief,” he told the press. 16. This is the first line of an article in The
Guardian, “If you were born before October 27th, 1962, Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov
saved your life.” At the height of the cold war, during the
Cuban missile crisis, the Soviets were about to strike with nuclear weapons. They believed America was about to strike
a submarine with a nuclear weapon and so the giant USS Randolph became the target for a
ten kiloton nuclear torpedo. You need three high-ranking officers to launch,
and Arkhipov said no. It turned out the U.S. wasn’t thinking about
its own launch. Phew. 15. LA Times headline, July 25th, 1986: “U.S.
and Soviets May Stage Joint Mars Mission.” Apparently, Reagan changed his mind, which
must have been a bummer for the then child, Elon Musk. 14. in 1983 Korean Airlines Flight 007 was
on its way from New York to Seoul. It didn’t get there because the Soviets
shot it down, killing all 269 passengers and crew. It was thought to have been a spy plane, but
it was just a regular old 747 carrying mostly vacation-goers. This created a lot of anti-Soviet sentiment
around the world. 13. The reason we first got the Global Positioning
System (or GPS) was because of that plane getting hit. After the event, President Reagan made sure
that GPS became a technology available to anyone in the world. Prior to that, only the military had it. 12. In the 60s in the USA, planes would fly around
all the time carrying nuclear bombs. This was a ‘just-in-case’ scenario. 5 of these planes with the bombs on board
crashed. That included a B-52 that crashed in North
Carolina in 1961, and it was carrying two 3–4-megaton Mark 39 nuclear bombs. Two people died, but you won’t have heard
about it. This was classified information. And little did North Carolina residents know,
that the bombs almost detonated…Do you think they would have blamed Russia? 11. As is often the case, the Russian threat was
overblown. While it was reported that Russia had scores
of intercontinental ballistic missiles in the 50s and 60s, it was later revealed they
only had 4. 10. If you look at the CIA field agent training
manual from the 50s, you’ll find the secret CIA shoelace code. This showed how you could tie your laces in
certain ways to tell someone something. It might mean I have some information, or
keep following me. 9. In 1959, Soviet Premier Khrushchev wanted
to take his family to visit Disneyland when he was visiting the U.S. He found out he was barred. The State Department was later apologetic,
saying he could take his family another day to see Mickey Mouse and co. The U.S said the reason for the snub was only
because of safety reasons. Soviet leaders weren’t exactly popular in
the states in those days. Putin didn’t go either; he just made his
own version of Disneyland in Russia. 8. If your job is related to the destruction
of the world and you know how tenuous our safety is, you might as well have some bad
habits, eh? Well, check out the 1960s Semi-Automatic Ground
Environment computer for the department of defense. It’s got built-in ashtrays. 7. But health of citizens wasn’t a big concern
of the USA in those days. Indeed, during the 50s and 60s, the military
secretly used biological weapons on parts of the country to see what would happen. People got sick in San Francisco, but it was
worse elsewhere, especially if you were poor. A sociologist named Lisa Martino-Taylor said
St. Louis was particularly used for these experiments, and the reason was because there
were plenty of poor black neighborhoods you could spray with radioactive particles. Live Science says no one would have died because
of the experiments, but people were definitely exposed to toxic particles. “The Army exposed St. Louis residents to
a maximum of 14.4 cigarettes’ worth of cadmium over 31 months,” said the website. 6. During the cold war, U.S. air force pilots
were given eye patches. They were told that a nuclear explosion would
blind them and make flying impossible. So, if they got the Defcon 2 or “DEFense
readiness CONdition 2” alert, which means “Next step to nuclear war. Armed Forces ready to deploy and engage in
fewer than 6 hours,” they should put on the patch and save one eye. 5. The military had programs in the 50s and 60s
whereby they would tattoo children with their blood group. It seems the programs were only in Indiana
and Utah. These kids then became walking blood banks,
which is handy if everyone around you is dying. “I still have my atomic tattoo (O-), but,
as I grew it got distorted, so it’s pretty illegible today,” said one person, now an
adult. 4. Back to animals and a bright idea from the
Brits. MI5 didn’t need exceptionally expensive
cats, what they used were the entirely expendable rodents called gerbils. “MI5 sleuths planned to use gerbils to trap
secret agents, terrorists, and subversives during the cold war,” writes the Guardian. The plan was simple. Gerbils can smell sweat easily. Bad people at airports sweat and release an
adrenalin scent. So, gerbils were left at airport counters. Theses crafty creatures had been trained to
push a lever if they smelled someone releasing lots of adrenalin scent. And yes, this is real. 3. In 1962, the U.S. detonated a hydrogen bomb
in space, creating what it called a spectacular light show. Why did the U.S. do this? Just to see what would happen, of course. The test was given a cool name: “Starfish
Prime.” 2. When the Brits weren’t training gerbils
to work at airports, they were busy lying about H-Bombs. In the 90s, the US Department of Energy released
archives from 1958. In those archives were documents pertaining
to the British bluffing about an H-Bomb test in the 50s. H-Bombs are known as fusion bombs, while atomic
bombs are fission bombs. The former is much more powerful. The Brits wanted to be seen as a superpower
that shouldn’t be messed with, so they faked the whole thing – in that they blew up an
A-Bomb and said it was an H-Bomb. 1. We are going to end on something funny. The story goes that a man called Frank Wisner
who was managing psychological warfare for the US planned to drop thousands of condoms
over the Soviet army from the air. The condoms would be labeled ‘medium’,
and this was supposed to demoralize Soviet troops as they contemplated their well-endowed
American foes. Wisner was said to have had a great sense
of humor, but that didn’t stop him from killing himself in 1965. Hmm, I guess that story wasn’t as funny
as it was supposed to be… So, there you have it. 50 lesser known facts about the the Cold War. There are so many more secrets we didn’t
speak about today, but maybe we’ll come back to this another time. Can you think of a cold war fun fact that
we failed to mention? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video
called Average American vs Average Russian! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t
forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!

How to stop politics from controlling your emotions | Tim Snyder


History is actually the one thing I think
which allows you to get out ahead. It’s very ironic, because when people think
about history they think, “Well, history means that things are going on in the world
and a historian is off reading dusty books,” which, fair enough, I would love to be reading
lots of dusty books right now. I will concede the point. But when you’ve read all those dusty books,
what happens is that you have the ability to see certain patterns, you have a sense
of what fits together and what doesn’t fit together. Isaiah Berlin wrote an essay on the possibility
of the scientific history, in which he said that “history is not about knowing what
happens, it’s about knowing what can’t happen.” That is extremely useful. So a historian will never look at a problem
and say, “This is entirely new,” a historian will look at a problem and try to find the
familiar aspects of it. And that’s a very big advantage over other
forms of analysis, because if you look at something and say that it’s totally new,
that disables the mind right away, it also tends to disable, I think, political action. Because if something is totally new it’s
very easy to take the next step and say, “Well if it’s totally new then what can I do about
it?” Or you can say, “Since it’s totally new
all things are permitted,” which can also lead you in some really unproductive direction. So the first thing the historian will do is
we’ll say, “Whatever this problem is, it’s not entirely new.” When a historian is confronted by something
very surprising like the 2016 campaign in the United States, the historian is likely
to say, “Well, the things that this candidate is saying aren’t true, but the possibility
this kind of campaign could work is a real possibility.” So the historian is freed from, or should
be freed from the conviction of the day, and the historian automatically looks back to
other moments where similar things like this coalesced. So for example, we’re in a second globalization. There was a first globalization in the late
19th and early 20th century. The second globalization began, our globalization
began, with all kinds of promises that technology and export-lead growth would lead to enlightenment
and liberalism—the first globalization did too. The first globalization crashed. It crashed into the first World War, the Great
Depression, the second World War, Stalinism, the Holocaust. A historian looking at today won’t think
“Well that whole pattern is going to repeat itself,” but the historian looking at it
today can say, “Yeah, a politician who says that globalization is a problem not a solution,
a politician who says that globalization is a matter of particular people plotting against
us as opposed to objective threats to the country or objective problems, that kind of
politician has a chance. That can work. Things like that have worked before.” And once you see that it can come together
that way, it’s not that you’re sure, it’s not that you predict it (although I have made
some predictions that were right), but it’s more that you can see it coming together,
and then that allows you to get out ahead, and you can think, “Okay, well, if this
is going to come together this way then I can also steal from the past people’s correct
reactions to it or people’s wise reactions to it. I can use those things from the failure of
the first of globalization, I can just borrow them, I can now extract them and put them
in the 21st century,” which is what I did in On Tyranny. So rather than saying, “Okay I’m going
to wait” – because by the time the pattern actually coalesces it’s too late! You have to see that the pattern might be
coalescing and then start messing with the pattern, that the way that you see in coalescing
comes from history, and the tools that you use to start messing with it also come from
history. So in that way, ironically, history can allow
you to get out ahead of something, whereas the journalists naturally have to describe
that—that’s their job. The social scientists they’re going to wait
to categorize it, and they’re kind of trapped. I mean another irony is that historians are
comfortable with novelty, because we know things change all the time. When your perspective is a thousand years
or even a hundred years, you know stuff changes. You know there are turning points. And you know that the stuff which people thought
was unbelievable yesterday will not only be believable but will even seem normal today. Any historian can see that. So that gives us a certain edge I think. The second thing that a historian will do
is that a historian will be skeptical about sources. So if you say “the problem is X”, a historian
will instantly cock his or her head and think, “Okay well, this person says the problem
is X, but let’s cast our minds out immediately to try to think of what the other 15 relevant
perspectives on this problem are. Is it actually a problem? Maybe it’s something which is desirable
from certain points of view.” So that’s a methodological reflex that,
whatever your first person perspective is, that’s not the truth for me. The truth automatically has to come from comparing
your perspective to a whole bunch of other perspectives. And that’s useful also because it can preserve
the dynamism and the urgency of something while taking some of the subjective spin from
it. So ideally a historian or a historically-trained
person is less likely to be played by the presentation of a problem and more likely
to skeptically figure out what its contours are. And the third advantage that historians have,
and maybe this is the one which I find to be most relevant in the present, is that historians
see time as a flow or as something which is continuous. And this is incredibly important now, because
the way that the news cycle works or the way that what I call the “politics of eternity”
works is that you get your brain bludgeoned every day by the emotions of the moment as
transmitted by very skilled political actors through very efficient media, and the result
is that it’s so easy to either be elated or outraged every day and to experience the
day as a kind of complete unit—where you wake up, you’re shocked, you’re outraged,
and then by the end of the day you’re dissipated, you’re exhausted, and then you just begin
this cycle again. Historians don’t believe in cycles, or at
least good historians don’t believe in cycles. Historians think that there are long-term
patterns; however exciting or however exhausting or however terrifying the thing is today,
it’s part of some longer sweep. So to give an extreme example, even nuclear
war—so in the last few months the subject of nuclear war has come up from all kinds
of directions. Even nuclear war has a history. There’s only been one, and that was in 1945,
and there have been a lot of moments where it was likely or less likely (like Cuba). So even something which is dramatic and which
is, as it were, designed to shock you out of thinking in time, even that can be put
in some kind of context. In other words the weapons that are designed
to get you to stop thinking, like “Let’s be afraid of the foreigners” or “let’s
be afraid of nuclear war,” if you think about those threats over time as part as some
kind of larger flow you’re less likely to be disabled, and you’re more likely to distinguish
the rhetoric from what might actually be the risk.

Sharper Focus/Wider Lens “Doubting Science and Technology?”


– Good evening. Welcome to the session tonight on doubting science and technology. It’s good to see all of you. We are going to have a very
exciting and provocative presentation and later discussion. My name is Lee June, and I serve as a faculty
member in the Honors College, the department of psychology, and also associated with African American and African studies program. And I want to greet you also on the behalf of the Dean of the Honors College, Dr. Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, who is away, but is usually at these particular events. I also would like to introduce associate professor John Beck in the back, he will be facilitating the
question and answer period in a short, after the presentation. And without, Miss Stephanic
Cepak in the back, she does all the logistics, so we appreciate the role that she plays. So I want to thank you again
for joining us again tonight. Some of you are returnees. This also is being sponsored
by the MSU Alumni Association, and they’re also live streaming it. The Honor College continues
to be proud to sponsor Sharper Focus, Wider Lens. It gives us a chance to showcase faculty, academic and other staff, here
at Michigan State University, and the research that’s going on. I would also maybe like to say to you, if you have your cellphone, to please put ’em on silence
or vibrate, as we go ahead. But what the faculty does, and what this allows us to do, is to celebrate the work that happens here in a way that lets the local community, students, faculty, and staff, exchange ideas about big topics. We never answer all the questions. We actually come up in
many of these sessions with more questions, and these great faculty
members can go back and do some additional research. So, but we want to continue
the dialogue beyond tonight, in terms of the issues that we raise. My role really is just to
introduce the presenters, and to make sure that
everything goes smoothly. And the way that it’s gonna work, is after I introduce them, they will each have 10 minutes, and after that, we will give them a few minutes, if they wanna interact with each other, raise questions with each other. I might summarize a few
points, but maybe I won’t. And if not, we wanna
give you plenty of time to engage them in their discussion. So if you have questions, feel free to write them
down, keep ’em in your mind, and then we’ll have a chance
for you to engage the panel. I’m going to introduce them in the order in which they will be presenting. First we have Dr. Georgina Montgomery. She is an associate professor in the Lyman Briggs College
in the department of history. Her research focus on the
history of field science, particularly development
of field methods and sites within primatology and
animal behavioral studies. Dr. Montgomery teaches a range of courses on the history of field
science, gender and science, and the history of primatology and animal behavioral studies. Her publication include the book Primates in the Real World: Escaping Primates Folklore,
Creating Primate Science, and various articles, such as one in the Journal for the History of Biology and Endeavor, book,
chapters in various books, and she has also done a
chapter on teaching the animal, and a chapter on Darwin and gender; a very interesting article
if you haven’t read it. She earned her doctorate from
the University of Minnesota. And then following her
will be Dr. Kevin Elliott. He is an associate professor in Lyman Briggs College, the department of fishery and wildlife, and the department of philosophy; so you can see he spanned
several disciplinary areas. His research lies at the intersection of
the philosophy of science and practical ethics. His books include Is a Little
Pollution Good for You? Incorporating Societal Values
in Environmental Research, Current Controversies
in Values and Science, Exploring Inductive Risk, and A Tapestry of Values: An Introduction to Values in Science. He earned his doctorate from
the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Rick Wash is an associate professor in the department of
media and information. His works involve
understanding how people think about their interaction and
computers, with computers, and their interaction with
other people through computers. His research has a
particular focus on security and collaborative systems, a very important issue
in our society today. He’s currently the primary investigator on three National Science
Foundation grants, including a National Science Foundation Early Faculty Career Award. And he earned his doctorate, and we will hold this against him because of what happened Saturday, his doctorate is from where?
(audience chuckling) The University of Michigan. No, we won’t hold that against him. And finally, last but not least, Dr. Aaron McCright,
did I say that correct? – McCright.
– McCright. Is the chairperson and professor in the department of sociology. Employing a range of methods
and analytical techniques, he explains the structure,
strategy, tactics, and impact of the US based climate change
denial counter movement, analyzing theoretical
relevant pattens and trends in citizen climate change views, and investigating key
predictors of public views of science and scientists. He is the author of The
Risk Society Revisited: Social Theory and Governance, and Community and Ecology: Dynamics of Place,
Sustainability, and Politics. He earned his doctorate from
Washington State University. Four exciting panelists. And with that I will turn it
over to our first presenter, Dr. Montgomery. – Thank you very much. First of all I’d like to
thank the Honors College and John Beck for this
wonderful invitation. The talk I’m gonna give
today is an eight minute condensed version of an essay I wrote for an edited volume by
Michael Ruse that actually, I brought a copy just to
display on the table over there if you wanna look at it later, with the full citations
and more information from the talk I’m gonna give today. So, today, the scientific
and cultural clout of Charles Darwin’s name, which I’ve beamed up on the screen there, and his works, continue to be interpreted and
utilized in a myriad of ways to promote diverse political viewpoints. Issues of gender and evolution
continue to be discussed in the field of modern,
evolutionary biology, and also in the pages of
popular scientific books, magazines, on the stages of comedy clubs, and on the small and large screen. In fact, if you teach gender
and evolution like I do, you even have an article
in Playboy Magazine from the 1970s, and not may
professors can say that. So Darwin and gender truly is everywhere. In terms of how Darwin is presented, it’s often in these kind of ways. He’s alone, he seems to be
eternally elderly with a beard, and sometimes there’s
a little bit of humor, a little bit of criticism, like this well-known cartoon here, where you have Darwin’s
face on a chimpanzee. Always, however, he is
displayed as the lone genius. He’s never seen in a team, doesn’t seem to have other
scientists around him, often doesn’t even need props, ’cause he has so much scientific authority he doesn’t need props in early photography to demonstrate his scientific authority. And, of course, Charles
Darwin is probably best known for his 1859 publication,
The Origin of Species, where we set forth the theory of evolution by natural selection. And keep in mind that there
were theories of evolution before Darwin, so we need to distinguish that it’s evolution by natural selection. Perhaps less known are Darwin’s
later works, slightly later, Darwin’s Descent of Man in 1871, and his Expressions of Emotions
just one year later in 1872. Together, these three works
can be seen as a trilogy, or one long argument. I’ll pause here to note
that even if well known, texts like The Origin are
not necessarily well read. Indeed, most of the students I teach have never read The Origin, so we start off by even
looking at the contents page is new terrain, despite the fact that it’s
clearly a household name. These texts were published
during a time period characterized by a debate
called the woman question, or more accurately, questions. What were the moral, intellectual,
physical capabilities, and limitations, of women,
in the 19th century? What roles should be afforded to women in Anglo-American society? From which arenas should they be excluded? Where should they be included? And this political climate
certainly shaped the contents of Charles Darwin’s
Descent of Man in 1871, well also being
significantly impacted by it. Anti-feminists and feminists alike saw the opportunity to use the
power of scientific authority and specifically the
power of Darwin’s name and his theory of sexual selection to promote what were often diverse views of women’s place in nature and society. So what does the Descent argue? Well, one of the theories it sets forth is the theory of sexual selection. Male-male competition, and female choice, in non-human animals. You would assume this mechanism would function in human evolution, as it did according to Darwin
in non-human evolution. After all, Darwin quite famously stated that between human and non-human animals, there was a difference of
degree not kind, right? So there’s a lot of similarity between humans and other animals. However, in the Descent of Man, female choice and any degree
of agency that went with it, failed to transfer, in Darwin’s argument, to human evolution. Thus, according to Darwin,
in modern, civilized society, the male had become the
chooser of his mate. Despite Darwin being commonly understood as a great revolutionary, the human male and female
he described in Descent fulfilled, rather than challenged, the gender identities and
ideals of Victorian culture. Darwin saw man as, to
quote from Descent here, the rival of other men, he delights in competition,
and this leads to ambition, which passes easily into selfishness. Despite man’s failure to be highly cooperative and altruistic, or rather, because of these traits, he had achieved what Darwin
described as a higher eminence, in all areas, when compared
to the achievements of women. In Darwin’s view, the result
of this apparent superiority were plain to see. And this is probably
the most famous quote, in terms of gender and evolution, from Darwin’s work from Descent. If two lists were made of the
most eminent men and women in poetry, painting,
sculpture, music, history, science, philosophy, the list would not bear comparison. We may also infer that if men are capable of a
decided preeminence over women in many subjects, the average mental power in man must be above that in women. Okay, so he’s saying that far more men have achieved in all of
these areas that women, and therefore men are
mentally superior to women. And he’s seeing this as a
natural, biological phenomenon, not something that’s impacted
by cultural circumstances. Certainly, Darwin’s words reflect an incredibly limited view of womanhood, and manhood for that matter, and one that fully conformed
to his cultural context. Now here as a historian, my methodological approach must include what’s
called historical empathy; I must situate Darwin and
his views in his time period. For this reason, I will
not label Darwin sexist. Instead, his views reflect
the context of his times. Furthermore, for scholars
such as Evelleen Richards, Darwin’s conception of men and women were founded on his rigorous application of naturalistic observation,
rather than sexism, per se. This is a quote from Richards. It’s not only historically inaccurate to impute an anti-feminist
motive on Darwin, but unnecessary. His conclusions on the biological and social evolution of women were as much constrained by his commitment to a naturalistic, or scientific, explanation of human, mental,
and moral characteristics, as they were by his
socially derived assumptions of the innate inferiority
and domesticity of women. In recent years, Darwin scholars have increasingly
turned their attention to Darwin’s view of women, as well as his relationship with women, including family members, amateur scientists with
whom Darwin corresponded. For example, the work of a
scholar called Joy Harvey, and the Darwin and Gender section of the Darwin Correspondence
Project, a huge, wonderful, online database with Cambridge University, where you can read all the letters Darwin received and wrote, has revealed that Darwin had
115 female correspondents. Some of these women were family members or part of his social circle, others were not known
to him until they wrote. In short, he was not the lone
genius he was, and still is, often portrayed to be. In addition to women collaborators, Darwin attracted women who simultaneously
critiqued his conclusions, while seeing opportunity
in his data and theories for promoting gender equity. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, seen here, is one of those 19th century feminists, who used the power of scientific
theory and terminology to speak out in defense of,
not simply female equality, but what she believed was superiority, especially in regards to
cooperation and altruism. In Gilman’s books, some of you may have heard
of The Yellow Wallpaper, thank you, she weaved together her own interpretation of Darwinian evolution and socialism, to paint a vision of a world in which women were freed
from society’s shackles in order to fulfill their
evolutionary potential. In this case we see belief
in scientific authority, seeing opportunity in science, while simultaneously doubting and not trusting aspects of it, often because of being
limited or restricted in terms of their ability to
participate in scientific work. And this is a quote here, it does not do to trust people too much, it’s from The Yellow Wallpaper. Interestingly, another example
of a 19th century feminist who engaged in evolutionary discourse, comes from here, the State of Michigan. Eliza Burt Gamble, a Michigan woman who pursued
a career as a teacher she contributed to 19th
century women’s movements in varied ways, including presenting and writing about the women’s suffrage movement, and critiquing Darwin’s Descent of Man. She wrote a book, available in special
collections at the library here, in 1894, called The Evolution of Women, an inquiry into the dogma
of her inferiority to man, which is a thorough
analysis of Darwin’s failure to see female choice, which was so evident
in the animal kingdom, in human society. With eloquent and compelling prose, Gamble argued that Darwin’s
failure to follow through with his analogy between
humans and other animals, a foundational part of
his evolutionary argument in the Origin and Expressions of Emotions, was a significant flaw
in his analysis of human, gender, and sexuality. Here we see an exhibit, which was created as a partnership between Briggs and the MSU museum, showcasing the work of a
former undergraduate of mine, called Daniela Beck. Beck’s researched a biography of Gamble using archived materials
in Lansing and Ann Arbor, to form the best published
biography of Gamble out there. I’ve had professional scholars
come to me at conferences and tell me, Daniela Beck, that’s the article to read about Gamble. And yet, this work doesn’t make its way into mainstream histories of evolution. And I’m gonna end now, ’cause
I’ve done my 10 minutes, with four questions for
you to keep in mind, and I suspect these
questions will resonate with the other speakers as well. Why do topics of concern
in gender and evolution not start to be part
of scholarly discourse until the 1970s? Why did different people
see different opportunities in the scientific work of Charles Darwin in the 19th century? How does the work of Charles Darwin, and the authority of his name and image, continue to be used today? And perhaps most importantly
for the young scholars in this room today, what can we learn from
this historical story, in term of the importance
of discussion of diversity, and inclusion, in STEM today? Thank you very much. (audience applauding)
(panel applauding) – Oh, thanks. All right. So I’m gonna shift gears a little bit from Dr. Montgomery’s
historical perspective, to looking a little bit more
at a contemporary situation. And I want to give you my, sort
of three take home messages right off the bat. So first, I want to suggest, and this really resonates nicely
with Dr. Montgomery’s talk, because she pointed out cases
where it can be fruitful to be questioning science. I wanna look a little bit more at cases where it could be problematic, or it can raise challenges for society. So I first wanna acknowledge
that there are cases where doubting science can
have harmful consequences. But then my second key point is that there’s this temptation to figure, well, if there’s a problem
with doubting science, we ought to give people scientific facts, and get them to trust
and believe the science. And I wanna suggest that that tends to be a limited solution. And as I lay this out, I wanna acknowledge that
the real social scientists are down the table here, so the philosopher can
go ahead and, you know, throw these things out, and then they can say what I say is wrong, and, you know, what’s right. So, and then my third point, is that I think we need more
creative responses to doubt. If, just sort of harping
on scientific facts, hitting people over the head with facts is not the best solution, and so I’d like to invite
you to think with us during the discussion, you know, what might be more fruitful approaches. So my first point, I’ll
be very quick about this, is just, we all know about
cases where doubting science can have problematic effects on society. If we think, just
throughout the 20th century, the ways in which doubt contributed to delayed regulation of
tobacco and second hand smoke. We’ve been thinking a lot in
Michigan about the use of lead. And so, promoting doubt about
the science surrounding lead resulted in a lot of problems, obviously using lead piping
longer than it should have been, lead paint longer, you know,
leaded gasoline, and so on. We know about problems
with climate change, issues related to vaccines,
problematic responses to AIDS. I’m not positive about the statistic, but one of the books that I have read suggested that because of denial of the scientific information about AIDS in South Africa in the early part of the 21st century, possibly several hundred
thousand people may have died who wouldn’t have had to. And issues related to genetic
engineering and so on. So there are lots of cases
that we could look at. So my second point, though, is that just telling people, “Look, you’ve got the facts wrong, “let us give you more
scientific information,” is a really limited solution. And I think that’s the
case for two reasons. So, and probably more. But first, and this is more
my philosophical cup of tea, I think it tends to promote
misleading perceptions about how science works, making it seem like science
is very straightforward and we just need to give people the facts and they are correct for all time. But then, secondly, I don’t
think it’s very effective. And so, again, here I’ll
throw out some thoughts, and like I said, the social scientists can give us more empirical
information about this. So let me just discuss
these points in more detail. My worry that just telling people, “Look, you’ve gotta get the facts right,” promotes misleading
perceptions about science. You know, science is always tentative, and it changes over time. And actually, we often think now, because there’s so much discussion about the consensus around climate change, it can give people the
impression that, you know, there’s always a consensus around science. And actually, it’s somewhat rare, and usually it’s only
very simple, basic claims, like that humans are
contributing to climate change, where you could actually get
something like a consensus. And then often, when we’re
talking about doubting science, we’re thinking about
policy-relevant areas of science. And so there, we’re especially
often pushing the limits of science. And so it’s even less likely that the science will be
straightforward in a lot of cases. Again, there are a
tremendous range of cases, so, you know, one has to
consider the differences between different contexts. But in a lot of areas, like my specialty is
environment pollution, and they’re often, the
regulators and policymakers, are trying to make decisions, and the scientists would
be inclined to say, “Well, if you come back in 30 or 40 years, “maybe we can get this figured out for you “and really feel confident.” But the policymakers want
to make decisions now. And so, in most cases, there is going to be
reasonable disagreement when it comes to policymaking and science. And so stifling descent, I
think, can be harmful to science, and can prevent us from gaining insights. And we saw from Dr. Montgomery’s talk, that, you know, often important descenters can challenge really
problematic issues in science. So I also would suggest that just harping on
scientific facts and saying, “Look, you gotta get your
science straight here,” may not be that effective. And I’d suggest that, in a lot of the prominent
cases we look at, the doubting of the science
may just be more of an excuse for being able to do things or hold beliefs that
one wanted to believe, and it’s not really
doubting the science itself that would be driving the concerns. So if we think about
issues like climate change, it seems like, and again, Professor McCright can
set us straight on this, but it seems like it’s more a
matter of fear of regulation and big government that’s
really driving the issue, and that if you could address that, there probably wouldn’t be as much concern about the science of climate change. If one things about evolutionary theory, again, I think that what’s
often really driving the issue is concern about challenging
religious beliefs, and if that wasn’t such a concern, people probably wouldn’t
have so much concern about evolutionary theory. Again, genetic modification
or genetic engineering, you know, not to say that
everybody falls in this category, but a number, the opposition
may come from concerns about the way our agribusiness operates, and the way our industrial
food system operates, and that may be driving
a lot of the concerns. And, I gave the example of South Africa. A lot of the concern there about
the science related to AIDS may relate to concerns about
western colonialism and, you know, imposition
of a variety of aspects of our culture upon them, and so, thus their
concerns about the science. So, my final point, and this is where I just
wanna throw out some ideas and invite your thoughts, I’d love to have more
discussion about that. You might say, “Well, if
you’re telling us not to harp “on the scientific facts, “how should we address these controversies “if they can have important
social consequences?” And so I have two general suggestions. So first, you know, I
was just pointing out that it seems like there are often these deeper issues at play. I think we need to explore ways to relieve those deeper issues. And so I can offer a few examples here. My second suggestion is that maybe we need
to find creative ways, again, I’m thinking especially
about policy making, to fight less about the facts, and to sort of find creative
ways to address the issues in alternative ways. So let me give some examples. So with climate change, I know you’re gonna say this
is easier said than done. But if we could make clean energy easy, I think we would find
that people would be fine, I’ll just, you know, I’m happy to obtain my
energy in cleaner ways. And if that was easy to do, then I think a lot of the stress about the science of climate change would kind of fade into the background. If you think about an issue
like evolutionary theory, I think it would me much more effective if one’s interacting with somebody with skepticism about that
because of religious concerns, rather than telling
them, “Look,” you know, “I’m gonna show you why
evolutionary theory is correct.” If you can show ways in
that religious tradition can accommodate evolutionary theory, I think you’re likely to
have much more success. And again, this is the
philosopher speculating, we’ll see what the social
scientists have to say. I could say more about
genetic engineering. We’ll see if I have time here when I get my two minute warning. But I’d like to also talk about creative ways to fight
less about the facts. So this is an example
that actually comes from a colleague of ours, Mark Largent, who’s done a lot of looking at vaccines. And he points out that
in the State of Michigan, we really were able to
increase vaccination rates, just by changing our waiver policies. Not just sort of forcing
people with the science, or even just absolutely requiring
people to get vaccinated, but making it more complicated, requiring that people meet, say, with somebody from the
Public Health Department, before they could get their waiver signed. So it’s just a creative way
of addressing the issue. Just making it a little more complicated to avoid getting vaccinated, could probably be much more effective than trying to actually convince people with a bunch of facts. In the areas that I work in
more, environmental pollution, you know, there can be endless
debates about the details of whether a particular chemical ought to be regulated or banned. And so, there have been some
great examples of legislation, rather than trying to actually
establish that a chemical is definitely harmful enough to be banned. Just taking a list of
chemicals that were worrisome, and saying, “If industry is
going to use those chemicals, “they need to just report
how much they’re using, “and also report on any alternatives “that might be available.” And just requiring the
companies to do that, actually, they had some significant
success in the companies sort of feeling a little sheepish about using so many worrisome chemicals, and finding out, oh, there
are some decent alternatives. And thus, they were willing to shift, rather than fighting endlessly over the details of the science. And I would just point out my third point. Sometimes people may wonder, why do we have so much trouble
addressing climate change, as opposed to, say,
addressing the ozone hole? And I think part of
that, my understanding, is that there were alternatives available that the companies could shift to. And so, again, finding
creative alternatives can enable us to get out
of some of these conflicts where we might just otherwise endlessly debating the science, if there aren’t such good
alternatives available. So maybe I’ll stop there and we can talk further in the discussion. But I’d love it if you
all had further ideas along these lines of coming
up with creative solutions. (audience applauding)
(panel applauding) – So I really like the idea that Dr. Elliott was just talking about about not debating the facts, because I work in technology, and the facts are constantly
changing in technology, and that’s one of the things
I wanna talk about tonight, is the way algorithms have become more and
more common in society. I mean, right now, if
you just look around, we have algorithms that drive cars, that determine what classes you’re take, in some cases determine grades of classes. Algorithms are becoming
increasingly common in society, and one of the things that’s
been really interesting in the last two years or so, is that there’s becoming
additional skepticism about whether these algorithms
that are being produced are trustworthy. As part of a initiative from
the National Science Foundation I recently convened a workshop where we tried to figure out what are some of the major
challenges and opportunities for making algorithms more trustworthy and why is this actually
a really difficult and hard problem. And I want to talk
about some of the things that we uncovered during that work, that illustrate how algorithms, what makes algorithms so
hard to be trustworthy, and why it’s so difficult on society. So I wanna start by, there’s been a lot of news talking about different trustworthy
problems with algorithms. This is a news story about how
Uber is having this problem where all of the drivers will sign off of Uber at the same time. Uber will then think that
there’s not enough drivers, and will raise the prices. And then all the drivers
will sign back on, and everyone is paying higher
prices for their cars now. Another issue is, YouTube has an algorithm that is trying to identify which videos are safe for
children, and which ones are not, and there’s actually become
a kind of cottage industry of creating what people are
calling creepy kid videos, that are not actually safe for children, but pass through YouTube’s algorithms. And everyone’s familiar
with the recent challenges that Facebook has had
related to the election, and how many actors, but
Russia in particular, have been able to manipulate
Facebook’s algorithms to try to influence what
people know and think and talk about. So I wanna spend some time talking about three or
four specific examples of algorithms that have
had challenges in the past, and use those to illustrate
some of the big challenges that make making algorithms
trustworthy really difficult. So I’ll start with, a colleague of mine, Eric Meyer, at Case Western, he went through something that no one really should
have to go through. His five-year-old daughter died of cancer. She spent months going through treatments, and she ended up dying in June of 2014, and it was very sad, it was a very difficult time for Eric. He spent a lot of time taking care of her and dealing with all of the
doctors, and all of the grief, and all of the challenges
that come with losing a child. Six months later, in December, he’s using Facebook, and
Facebook presents this to him. It is their year in review. And it says, Eric, here’s
what your year looked like. And it showed him a picture
of his now-deceased, five-year-old daughter, surrounded by people with party balloons. This was a really challenging, like, he broke down crying when
he saw this, using Facebook. This is, it brought back a lot of grief, a lot of memories, a lot of challenges. Facebook didn’t know, actually, didn’t know how to deal with this. This was really challenging. This picture that they picked was his most commented and
liked photo from the year, when his daughter died. And so they didn’t have a way of telling likes that were happy from likes that should not
really be brought up again. This personal, social,
and cultural context, is completely absent from the
algorithms that they used. They just looked at likes
and comments and shares to try to figure out what
was the most engaged content. This was one of the biggest
challenges with algorithms, is they require large amounts of data, but most of the data is very similar, it’s likes and comments type of thing. It’s very similar to each other, and it’s very difficult
to take into account the full complexity of personal situations and social contexts, and to include enough data that you can take those into account. Facebook is still struggling with this, this is part of what led
to the fake news issues. It’s leading to a lot of other issues in many different contexts. Another context comes
up in my second example. So this is Eric Loomis. Eric Loomis is a convicted felon, he was convicted of a felony
in the State of Wisconsin, and when we went for sentencing, the judge in his case used
an algorithm called COMPAS to influence his sentencing. COMPAS tries to predict how
likely a person is to re-offend, to commit another crime in the future. In Eric’s case, he was predicted to be
highly likely to re-offend, he was actually a convicted
sex offender before this, and so he got a very
long sentence in prison, and he challenged this in court, because this algorithm is proprietary. It’s not available to the public, there’s no way to inspect it, to figure out whether it’s
trustworthy or reliable. It went all the way to the
Supreme Court of Wisconsin, who ruled that it was
legal that they do this, as long as that’s not the
only thing that they use in sentencing him. Partially in response to this case, and a couple of other cases, ProPublica went through
and tried to analyze how this algorithm works, and try to understand and
figure out how it works. And they came up with a
really startling conclusion. When they looked and compared
African American criminals with white criminals, they found that African
Americans were very consistently predicted to be a much higher
likelihood to re-offend. So, then this was actually, predictably, leading judges to give them
much longer sentences in prison, for equivalent crimes. And so this was a big deal. The company that made this
algorithm, called North, used to be called North Point, they changed their named after this. The company used to be called North Point. They actually, they took, they got a lot of bad press about this. But they actually had a
really interesting reaction. And the reaction to me is more interesting than that algorithm. Their reaction was basically, yes, our algorithm does
this, but it’s not biased. And they were trying to argue that their algorithm isn’t biased, because in their data, African Americans are
more likely to re-offend. And so, and they had data that showed that the African Americans
that they were studying were more likely to re-offend than the whites that were in their data, and therefore they were not actually, the algorithm was not biased
against African Americans, but instead, that they were
reflecting what was going on in the real world. Turns out though, by re-offend, their definition of re-offend
was really interesting, because it wasn’t commit another crime, that’s really hard to measure. They measured how likely they
were to commit another crime, by how likely they were
to get arrested again. And arrests are a human process, that have racial biases in them. And so, the underlying
data was what was biased, that they based the algorithm on, as opposed to some bias
in the algorithm itself. So when they looked at their algorithm they didn’t see a biased algorithm, it was accurately reflecting
the biases in the real world. That’s a really interesting challenge that’s really difficult to
deal with in algorithms, is how do you design algorithms that do what we want them to do, as opposed to reflect the
challenges and problems that are already existent
in the real world? To compound these issues that
are coming up in algorithms, we’re seeing also another
problems with algorithms, with a lot of the modern,
machine-learning based algorithms, that is, turns out, is really,
really difficult to stop. So, this is a photograph of a panda. Pandas are pretty simple, and it turns out this
photograph in particular is a really photograph among
machine learning researchers who are designing algorithms
for a computer vision that recognize what is in a photograph. And so it’s really easy, now
we have a ton of algorithms, that can recognize that this
is a photograph of a panda. It also turns out that one
of the things that we can do, is we can modify this image. So this is an example of, we take the image and apply the algorithm, and it says it’s a panda
with 60% confidence. If we take and add to that something that looks like random noise, but is actually carefully chosen, the algorithm will come out
and say this is a gibbon, a type of monkey, with 99% confidence. Other people have turned
this photograph into a llama, or a camel, or a giraffe, or a couple other different things. The basic problem is that most of our machine learning algorithms have this kind of fragility,
they’re kind of fragile, and there’re a lot of cases where, if we modify them in a specific way, then what humans perceive, and
what the algorithms perceive, turn out to not be the same thing. And so we can create situations where the algorithm
perceives something different than what the humans perceive. This is also really difficult to stop. The way a lot of these algorithms work, it’s really difficult to stop this and to make robust algorithms. So it’s really easy to find these, and it’s really hard to stop these. And this is becoming more
and more of a problem, as we use algorithms in more siutations, they’re also open to this type of gaining, and this type of manipulation. We’re also seeing a lot
of interesting cases where people are fighting
back against algorithms, that are then changing
the underlying data. So some of my favorite examples. There was a paper recently
about how people are doing what they’re calling Voldemorting. They’re referring to
something by another name. So instead of calling him Voldemort, they say, You Know Who, or
He Who Must Not Be Named. Another example is, there’s a really interesting
recent art exhibit in New York City. An artist tried to design
hair and makeup styles that were resistant to facial detection. And so all four of these pictures, if you run them through most of the modern facial
detection algorithms, will say that there is not a
human being in these pictures. And that’s really interesting to try to think about
how the world is changing in response to these algorithms. Thank you. (audience applauding)
(panel applauding) – Do you have to hold it in there? – Is this on already, no? – Here have this one.
– Okay. That shows you have
technologically adept I am. So I guess it’s fitting that
our first two scholars tonight talked about science, and the last two are gonna
talk more about technology, rather than science per se. So I wanna talk a little bit about values. In particular, I want
to talk about the value, or values, of cautionary tales. So, you all have heard cautionary tales. Growing up, you probably
read Aesop’s Fables and the Brothers Grimm. Some of you may have had a
class in Green mythology. But basically, like, your
textbook definition is, a cautionary tale is some
sort of folklore or fable, a parable, a proverb, something like that, that’s meant to warn an
audience about some danger, about a risk. So it’s usually a story
where one of the characters, typically the main character,
does something wrong, does something really
wrong, violates a taboo, or some sort of prohibition
against doing something, and then they face a terrible fate. So, let’s take a deep dive into some famous cautionary tales. So, let’s start back with Icarus. Icarus, of course, is the son of Daedalus. Icarus tries to escape Crete by creating wings of feather and wax. What happened to Icarus? Just shout it out. – [Audience] He flew too close to the sun. – Yeah, he flew too close to the sun. And so the sun heats the wax,
and he comes tumbling down and dies in the sea. Cautionary tale. Another cautionary tale, you might not know from the portrait here, well, I guess it’s not a
portrait, but a painting. Prometheus. He steals fire from the
Gods on Mount Olympus, and gives it to humanity
to help bolster, or foster, progress and civilization. What happens to Prometheus? – [Man] His liver gets eaten by an eagle. Yes. Doesn’t sound like a very nice fate. He’s tied to a rock, and every day an eagle starts
to eat away at his liver. The next day it happens all over again, and all over again, for eternity. Another cautionary tale. Now we have Pandora. Pandora, of course, is
Earth’s first woman. So Zeus gives Pandora to
Prometheus’ brother, Epimetheus, even though Prometheus
says, “Don’t take any gifts, “especially not from Zeus.” What happens to Epimetheus? Or what happens with Pandora? – [Audience] In the box (mumbling). – Yeah. It’s actually a jar, but
we’ll let that go, right? You know, translation and everything. So she gives Epimetheus her jar. Opens it up, and releases
all the evils of humanity. That doesn’t sound so good. Now we have Faust. So Faust is this pretty successful, but ultimately sort of like, less than fully satisfied scholar. He wants it all. He wants great knowledge, great success. What happens to Faust? (audience members calling out) Yeah. So the Devil’s got too much work going on, probably down at Ann Arbor
(audience laughing) And he decides, I got this
helper, Mephistopheles, I’m just gonna send him. And he makes the bargain
with Faust, saying, “I’ll give you all that, but
for the price of your soul, “and then you’ll be a slave
in Hell for all of eternity.” Not so good. And then, perhaps, one
of the most famous ones, especially in terms of science fiction, and our modern concerns about technology. Good old Victor Frankenstein
creates a monster, a hideous monster, though vivisection, and then experimentation. What happens to Victor? Yeah, someone made the back here. Yup. So he not only dies, but first his monster, his creation, kills his brother, then
his childhood friend, then his fiancee, and then Victor dies chasing his monster around the North Pole. So, all of these lend phrases,
catch phrases, quotes, into modern culture, at least modern western culture. We often use these over and over. We talk about Franken-food, and opening Pandora’s box. You may have used these,
like, just in this past week, to describe something like, oh, don’t do that, don’t go that far, you’re flying too close to the
sun, or something like that. I’m really interesting in a
lot of emerging technology, and so I’ve taught a class a couple times on different emerging technologies, which is one of reasons, I think, I was invited to be on this panel. So artificial intelligence
is in a lot of our lives, whether we know it or not. And modern culture, at least
going back several decades, up to just a couple years ago, is producing cautionary tales about AI. Whether they’re good movies
or not-so-good movies, I don’t think there’s a
Michael Bay movie up there, I don’t know, I’m not sure. But each of these movies,
if you’ve seen them, you’ll realize it’s some sort of warning about going too far,
going too far, too fast, not being humble enough, maybe getting too arrogant about ourselves and our inventions. So I wanna take a step back and put all of this in
a little bit of context, and sort of make use of
the anthropology minor I got 20-some years ago. So if we talk about human evolution. I guess this goes back to
Dr. Montgomery’s first talk. You might think at a very general level that human evolution is shaped
by these opposing forces. So you have, maybe, individuals, groups, organizations, societies, that are willing to take big risks; venture into the unknown,
advocate for change. And maybe they value
innovation and exploration, invention, try out something new, let’s do something no
one’s ever done before. But at the same time,
maybe in that society, there are individuals,
groups, organizations, that are risk adverse. And they prefer order
and stability, or stasis, and they value looking towards the past, looking at tradition, practicing rituals, not looking forward, not running into the
unknown full-speed ahead, but trying to get back to
where we were in the past when things were more stable
and known and comfortable. So you could imagine
this playing out, maybe, not among us well-dressed folks tonight, but all the way back in the caveman ages, or caveperson ages, these just happen to
be three dudes, right? So you could imagine
there’s these three cavemen, they’re just walking around the savanna, it’s like, “Hey, hear that in the bush? “Let’s go get it, it might be food.” Right? There’s your risk seeker. He wants to run into the unknown, because it might be a
good food source, right? He’s like, “Bruh, you always say that, “and it’s usually something
that can kill us.” So caution, let’s slow down. Maybe let’s just go back to camp, go back to the cave, right? So jumping forward to the current day, at least in the last 100 years or so, this ideology of
technological progressivism is pretty widespread, especially in the United States. So by technological progressivism, I mean this idea or
ideology or belief system, this strongly held worldview, that technology doesn’t
just produce progress, that technology itself is progress. When a new thing comes out, be it a phone, a computer, a robot, that is good in and of itself. It’s good just because it’s new. It’s progress manifested
in this thing, usually, sometimes it’s a non-tangible
thing like a code. It’s a belief that
technological development is sort of internally self propelled, it’s always for the better, and by definition then, never versions of technologies are inherently better than older versions. And it seems self-evident. A refrigerator these days is so much better than a
refrigerator 50 years ago, it’s probably better than 10 years ago. And so this ideology is
very strong in our culture, and in other cultures. But we, Americans, it’s probably the strongest
among other societies. So, if you think of cultural
evolution of societies, especially those societies
where scientists and engineers are routinely putting out new discoveries and new technologies, you might think about, now the two groups might be captured by this ideology of
technological progressivism of almost as a reflex. If you say the word technological, half the people in here
will say, “Advancement,” or, “technological progress.” It just sort of comes as a reflex. Like, we don’t know what
else to say after that but advancement, because that’s what technology is. And that high tech is
better than low tech, and that anyone who says,
“Well, let’s be cautious,” they’re just Chicken Littles, they’re nay-sayers, they’re irrational. Like, you don’t just, you don’t understand the facts of this, to what Dr. Elliott was saying. But then we have all
these cautionary tales that are, maybe, preventing
us from going too fast into the future, or taking on too many risks
with unknown technologies. And so I would basically argue that the cautionary tales in our society that keep popping up are some sort of check,
or a countervailing force, to mitigate, or to slow
down, or to weaken, the influence of this progressivism, and I am just going to skip, skip, and get to the very end. I know I’m a little over. So I just wanted to show
you in this year, 2018, the relevance of these cautionary tales. So it was the 2000th anniversary, or 200th anniversary,
of Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus, and so the January 12th issue of Science, the cover story was Frankenstein, and all sorts of other stories inside talked about the modern
relevance of Frankenstein in talking about science and technology. You’ve probably seen lots of Boston Dynamics robots recently. This was the dog that could open a door. The one that was doin’ parkour
just a couple weeks ago, that terrifies me. But you could see in very small print, this was called the latest
Promethean creation. Here’s a story about
CRISPR Cas9 gene editing. And encircled, it’s called perhaps, are we opening Pandora’s box? This article is talking about how adopting Facebook in Africa might be opening up a Faustian bargain in terms of all the information
that Facebook is gathering and big data analysis. (chuckling) For those of you
who’ve been around campus, you see all the scooters and stuff? Well evidently Charleston
has a problem with scooters, and so they’re saying, like, are these Bird scooters
flying too close to the sun? That’s sort of a lame headline
(audience laughing) but you get the idea. So I’ll just leave with this. If I think we need to
talk about big questions, I would throw these three out there. So whenever we talk
about a new technology, be it a big system, a specific artifact, a way of knowing, a way of doing, I would say “To what extent
does this new technology “actually facilitate
real, societal progress?” And progress is probably
another word we can define, but we can leave that for later. And then, to what extent is
control of this technology associated with power? It could help the powerless gain control. It could also help very
powerful people monopolize, or shore-up their control, and exercise their control over others. And then, finally, how can
we accurately perceive, and manage the risks associated
with these new technologies? At the very least, to
prevent the most serious, high consequence risks. And I’ll just leave it at that. (audience applauding)
(panel applauding) – I’d like to thank all four panelists, and just watching you as an audience, you seem to be very engaged, unless you were fooling me. But we’re gonna give you a chance to interact with the panelists. But before I do that, only one of the presenters had a chance to hear from all of the
others before they presented. So, are there any interaction
you’d like to have with each other? Or was there something
you really wanted to say, and didn’t have time to say it? Before we go into our question and answer. – Okay. Just one of the things that struck me how, and this was the first time we
all heard each other’s talks. I wrote in a circle here in
my margin for all four talks, power, power, power, power. And I just think power dynamics, be it talking about science, or be it talking about technology was, that was for me the key thread
that ran through the panel. – Just a quick comment would be that I think part of what makes this such an interesting topic, is that there isn’t a
nice, simple answer, like, that we should always be trusting
of science and technology, or we should always be respecting and trusting those who are doubting it. You know, I thought that
Professor McCright’s talk especially brought that out, the fact that, you know, we
see the value of progress, and we see the value of questioning, and, you know, I was kind of
pointing that out early on with our talks, the
ways in which, you know, there can be problems
to being too respectful of the scientific ideas of the day, but there can also be problems
to being overly skeptical, and it’s very complicated to figure out how to address these issues. So I think that’s part of
what makes this interesting. – Any thing from (mumbling)? Okay. Okay well, what I’m gonna do is, you know, if I were sitting out there, I would have had a lot of questions, but I’m not out there. The next phase of this, we’ll have Professor John Beck, and he is with the
School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, and he has a lot of credentials, but particular for this event he is an expert in
training and development, and also in workforce development. And he is gonna facilitate our
question and answer period. – [John] That’s a nice way of saying that I’m gonna walk around
with the microphone, which is one way for
chubby older professors to get exercise. So thank you for that. So do raise your hands. One thing I would lay out, the power, power, power, power is a great, I think, synthesis. But beyond that, think of the fact that naturally next week, or you know, very soon, is Halloween. And it’s like, no, you know, we aways look at the horror films and go, “Don’t open that door,” you know, which is to Aaron’s point. So raise your hands, and
I’ll come around to you. Who has a question? Okay, I’m comin’. – [Woman] Dr. Wash, you
mentioned the limitations of the COMPAS evaluation in judging, and I worked with ex-offenders, and so I’m aware of how
the COMPAS information was gathered from the inmates, and that also is somewhat
flawed (laughing). But my question is, are you aware of how police
agencies are using something, an algorithm no doubt,
called predictive policing? Yeah, would you compare that, pretty much, with a very flawed way, a very biased way, of saying that there’s
always crimes in the Waverly-Jolly area of Lansing, and so we’re gonna send a lot
of police people over there, because those black people are always committing
black-on-black crimes? It drives me crazy. – [John] Comments? – Yes. I think there’s, and
that’s actually another, that’s one of the things
I almost talked about, but I decided I didn’t want to
talk too much about policing. But there’s a really interesting example that comes from a colleague of
mine who works in Milwaukee. And he’s been working with police agencies to study how they’re
using predictive policing. And it really, and I really
like the example he uses. He went in, and he sat down with two
police officers who were, they actually weren’t police officers, they were recent criminology graduates form University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. And they had just gotten
their Master’s degree, they got hired because
they had technology skills, and they were given this algorithm to do predictive policing. And the algorithm was
trying to create clusters of where should we send police. And he asked them, “All right,
so part of the algorithm “is you have to tell it
how many clusters you are. “How did you choose to use five clusters?” And their answer was, “Well,
I went to my sergeant, “and he said that there’s basically “five different areas of the city, “and so I used five clusters.” In this case, they’re basically giving
technological credibility to what the police were already doing. And so that’s one of the real challenges, as these algorithms become more common, they also need to be able to be usable by people who aren’t PhD’s, and be able to be valuable in that way, instead of just kinda
reinforcing what we already have. – [John] Okay, other questions? – I’ll just follow up because I love making
connections to movies. So, if we think about COMPAS
and predictive policing, I guess someone might
say that there’s, like, the fatal flaw in both of those are the underlying data, right? It’s sort of, the input is flawed. If you guys have ever seen
the movie Minority Report, not the no-so-great TV show, that’s the essence of the
warning in Minority Report. So the main precog, the female precog, it was the murder of her mother that facilitated the
continuation of precrime that gave, I can’t
remember the guy in charge, that gave him the power
to run this precrime unit. So at one level, we’re talking about a
science fiction scenario, where we’re trying to
predict who’s gonna do what before they do it, which is sorta like what some
of these algorithms are doing, either predicting recidivism, or predicting crime to begin with, and that’s sorta captured in
the movie Minority Report. But also the same cautionary tale of, if something is flawed
from the very beginning, no matter how good your intentions, it might still be flawed throughout. So it’s sorta like the lawyer term of it’s fruit from the poison tree. It could never quite be
fixed, it’s always in there, it’s built into the system, that flaw. – [Man] For Dr. McCright and Dr. Elliott, I just sorta notice the similarity between the role of the cautionary tale and doubting science. So I wanna know, in your opinion, what is the role of the cautionary tale? Is it harmful? Or do you believe there is
just a balance to be struck? And you guys sort of implied this, you had brought up, Dr. Elliott, questioning, or harping
on facts, as harmful. Would you argue that cautionary
tales in the same way, are sort of a cop-out in journalism, of just another token phrase
to use over and over again? – So, what I end up thinking about when I hear the cautionary tale, because of my work related
to environmental pollution, is the precautionary principle, which is an idea that comes up a lot with environmental policy and regulation, which is the suggestion that, you know, even if the science isn’t all settled, even if you don’t have all the, you know, a precise, sort of, causal story laid out, that it’s still appropriate to take action to prevent, you know, serious
threats of various sorts. And what’s really interesting, again, as I was mentioning earlier, it would be nice if we could
come up with a simple solution and say, “Yes, we can
always be precautionary “and that’s the way to go.” In some ways, I think it does, it moves in the direction
I was suggesting, not getting lost in a
tangle of facts and saying, “We’ve gotta get all
these facts figured out “before we can do something.” So in that respect, I think
that this sort of cautionary, or precautionary approach is valuable. But, it would be, I think, too simple, to say we can solve our problems with it, because it raises all these
other difficult questions. What sorts of threats are serious enough that we’re willing to apply
the precautionary principle? We probably can’t just
apply it to everything. And how much and what kinds of evidence would we wanna see before we would trigger this kind of precautionary principle? And what kinds of actions would
be appropriate in response? So it creates this tangle
of further questions, which I guess is kind of, again, fits with Professor McCright’s point, that, you know, we’ve got
this realization that, yeah, precaution is warranted, but it gets awfully tricky
to figure out, you know, sort of how to actually
implement it effectively. So, that would be some initial thoughts. – [John] Other comments? – Yeah, I’m having an old
man moment right here. But I’ll say one thing
that I can remember. So I just as well could have sat up here and given a talk about
climate change denial, because I’ve been
studying that for a while. I just didn’t want to, because I’m sort of tired
of talking about it. (audience chuckling) Even though it’s not going away, I just don’t know what other
new stuff to say about it. So, from what Dr. Elliott brought up, and Dr. Montgomery brought
up with regards to science, there’s different reasons why we might, or might want to doubt, or be skeptical, of different arguments of
different pieces of evidence within science. I have focused most of my
attention, and my career, on sort of organized
climate change denial, whether it’s the fossil fuels industry, or conservative think tanks,
or certain politicians, and the motivations for that skepticism or contrarianism or denial. It’s almost never because
the people I just mentioned, or the groups I just mentioned, want to get the science right, because they have, at the
core of their endeavor, we wanna make sure that
we have the actual truths. It’s usually, they are attacking science, or critiquing science, or
trying to poke holes in science, because they’re concerned about
the regulatory intervention into the market, some sort of regulation or tax, that might result once
policymakers understand the nature of the science. So if science says we’re causing
this problem, and it’s big, and it’s not something that the market could
readily solve on its own, then that’s gonna require some sort of governmental intervention. And, of course, if it’s
climate change and it’s global, that means not just a State,
or a county, or a country, but many countries have to be involved. And that really flies in the
face of some core values, especially for US Conservatives
and US Libertarians. And so that’s why you see them doubting, or being skeptical, or
denying climate change, or the science of climate change. Not because they’re in it to make sure scientists get it right, and they’re really
concerned about, you know, peer review and so on. They’re just using a tax on science, or they’re just using science as a proxy for what they really wanna talk about, which is values, their worldview. So, this solution is antithetical
to the values we hold about private property rights,
and limited government, and free market, and it’s maybe easier
now to deny the science, then to have those battles, once we’ve accepted
that the problem exists. ‘Cause then people want
you to do something. And that often means
government intervention. – [John] Okay, we have
a question right here. – [Man] A house divided cannot stand, and I think that’s a big
part of where we seem to be in this country right now. About 50% or so on each side, 40-60. We seem to be talking past each other and I think, possibly, part of it might be that on the one side you have
a very religious organate, or, faith-belief type of approach to life, and the other side is more fact-based. So my question is, how do we bridge the gap and actually be able to communicate, where we can actually
start talking to each other and solving the problems that we have? Because right now, we just
talk right past each other, we’re not even on the same frequency. – Go for it (laughing). – That’s a big question,
and I wish I could solve it. I can’t. I’ll tell you one historical anecdote that speaks to what you
were just talking about. I’m British, you may have noticed that. I am also a US citizen, I’m
just gonna say that right now. And I will be voting on November 6th. So, I grew up reading a fairy
tale called the Water Babies, and I actually collect special issues of the Water Babies book now. And the Water Babies was a
fairy tale, is a fairy tale, written in the 19th century
by Reverend Charles Kingsley, who was friends with Charles Darwin. And it was written as a thick fairy tale, much longer than those
books we read kids nowadays, to teach children that they could believe
in Darwinian evolution and Christianity. And it had a figure called Mother Carey, who was a female representation of God, and she made the animals make themselves. So she made the mechanism
of natural selection, and then sat back and let that mechanism make all the different
organisms in the world, rather than bothering to individually curate
individual organisms, which is what was believed at the time. And one of the reasons I think I really still like to read that book, I mean, it’s a beautiful,
illustrated book, and two scholars, Piers
Hale and John Beatty, are actually analyzing
the (mumbling) of science, they’re writing a book about Water Babies, is I think it does a really
beautiful job, actually, of bringing together those
two sides of a debate that nowadays is a schism for many people, as Dr. Elliott was talking about too, so maybe there’s something
we can learn from… It’s an example, I think, of meeting in the middle and talking. Unfortunately, it’s from the 19th century. – So I also don’t have easy solutions, it’s a really interesting question. But it does relate a little bit to something I was just thinking about before you raised the question. Which is another connection
between a lot of these talks, is ways in which values of various sorts are intertwined with the
science or the facts. So I was thinking about Dr. Montgomery pointing out that Darwin was, you know, his thinking, he was doing this science, but he was very influenced by
the values and perspectives of that time. And then if we think about Dr. Wash’s discussion about algorithms, you know, we were seeing how, you know, the algorithms depend on what’s put in, and the values that go
into how they decide what the right inputs and so on are. And, of course, Dr.
McCright was, you know, emphasizing these very
value-laden perspectives on, you know, our views about technology. And I would say, I mean, one
of my themes in my research is the roles that values play in science, and especially in this
policy-relevant science, where the science isn’t settled, and so so much depends on, you know, sort of various interpretive
judgements and so on. So, I don’t know, maybe one way to think a little
bit about your question is, while we like to think about
the values and the facts being really distinct, that in actual practice, there’s this fascinating, you know, ways in which they end
up meshing together. I don’t know if understanding
that better would help us. And just one last comment. You know, as Dr. McCright
was just pointing out, often we may use factual
arguments, you know, sort of as sort of a
surrogate for these values that are really underlying it. So we say we’re all
concerned about the details of the science of climate change, but really, the debate is
about these political values, and so on. So, anyway, it’s a tough issue, but it’s really interesting
how these issues are actually intertwined
and practiced, I think. – [John] Other comments up
there, on that question? – I’ll just chime in, ’cause I’m a sociologist and we like to think we’re really smart, and know all the answers. But I’ll at least add some context. So if we think about why
there’s so much polarization, why there’s so much unrest
and instability and so on, I think some of that can
be explained by the larger, global context of rapid social change, rapid economic change. So just what we think it means
to be masculine and feminine is really changing, in terms
of evolution, very quickly. Now, in terms of, like, young adults, it seems like things are taking
forever to actually change. But, the whole idea of gender fluidity. I mean, for people who have,
maybe less hair in the room, or a little whiter hair, that probably sounds pretty foreign. So in the last couple decades, the US culture, the US economy,
has undergone rapid change. That means some people who aren’t as adept to handling change, or some groups that want
to have things like, the old way, or defend
the previous system, whether it’s patriarchy,
capitalism, whatever, that is being changed, they get threatened, right? Their worldview is threatened, their economic position is threatened. We saw this in a lot of the discussion about why do people vote against
their economic interests. Well, you know, it’s not just
about economic interests. It’s your religious interests, it’s your interests
about your masculinity, it’s, you know, all sorts of other things. And so, in times of rapid change, sometimes people just throw
their hands up and like, “Well, what am I supposed to do now? “How am I supposed to talk to people now?” So you can see the
frustration on people’s faces. And if we were living in a time in which there wasn’t as much change, or at least it didn’t
seem to happen as fast, I think we’d be able to sit
down and have conversations. So the piece of advice I would give is something I try to do
when I bring people together to talk about controversial subjects. Before I even let ’em know, like, what we’re gonna be talkin’ about, I just have ’em get on
a piece of scratch paper and just say, you know, “Write down your core values,
what you really value.” And they’re gonna be
writing for a few minutes. And then talk to the person next to you about what they value. And you realize there’s a
lot of overlap in our values. You know, almost everyone wants their kids to have a great life. Not a bunch of ordeals,
lots of health problems. They want their kids to go
to college, have a good job, meet someone, fall in
love, have everything. That’s something, for the most part, we all have in common, right? Some people, you know, have other things they want out of life, but our shared values are pretty strong. Those just aren’t the
topics of conversation on the news or in politics. Very few people are talking
about what we share in common, because I don’t think
that gets out the vote, I don’t think that sells
newspapers (chuckling), I don’t think that gets people
to click on links, right? What gets people to do all those things are controversy and drama and friction. So I think in the midst of all that we shouldn’t lose track of
what we share in common. – [John] Okay, we have
a question right here. – [Woman] My question is
also about the conflict between evolution and religion. So, I went to a private,
Catholic high school. And evolution was something that wasn’t necessarily
refuted in my classes, but just something that wasn’t
even brought to the table, like, it wasn’t a part
of the course material. So my question was, are there any procedures that
are being put in place today, specifically targeting religious
high schools, and, like, trying to facilitate a discussion about evolution in science classes, or are there any studies that are being done about this today, and would this be a relevant,
like, age group to look at when talking about that conflict? – So there’s a lot of
people looking at debates about teaching Darwinian
evolution in schools, versus and/or intelligent design. I mean, it changes a lot based
on geographical location. It changes a lot depending whether you’re
looking at public eduction or private schools. I would suspect private schools
have a lot more autonomy about what they do or do not teach. I would hope that if Darwinian
evolution is presented as one of multiple potential
theories for evolution, which it may be in some school context, it kind of goes back to what
Dr. Elliott talked about too, about how science is tentative, and by which all sciences are theories. True that Darwin’s is
a theory of evolution by natural selection, right? But my worry is, because
people like to think of science as this very linear, definite thing, that to say it’s tentative,
or to say it’s a theory, somehow undermines its authority, or undermines the fact that it remains the most
compelling theory out there. So I think part of it is
training young people as well about the complexities and the reality of how science is actually done, while simultaneously not, therefore, removing all of its legitimacy or value. Because, you know, rational is seen as better than emotional. There’s a lot of gender that goes behind those
value claims too, right? Tentative is seen as problematic, definite and permanent is seen as right. Truth with a capital T
versus truth with a little T. It’s difficult to teach
those things K through 12. I think they can be taught K through 12, and I say that as a mother
of an eight-year-old and a two-year-old, I confess haven’t taught
the two year old yet. But the eight-year-old
is able to understand a lot of these complicated power dynamics. Similarly, the historical methods, such as historical empathy
that they talked about, which I’m teaching in my
history methods class right now, we look at how to teach kids K through 12 some of those more complicated ideas of historical methods too. – So that’s a really good answer. I don’t know that I have a lot to add. And I’m hoping I’m not blanking on what I was thinking
I could possibly add. Oh, I think it was basically that, so again, a lot of this, I think, gets back to the question of, so, with the issue of
intelligent design and so on, there’s been, and with
creation science before that, there was a lot of argument that we ought to teach the controversy, or that we need to present, you know, sort of multiple perspectives and so on. What I think’s interesting, you know, you talked about coming from
more religious or private, you know, sort of high school context. So I think one of the worries I would have in a public context in a
biology class of, you know, teaching the controversy,
is that, you know, there we need to actually
consider, you know, what’s the goal of a biology class, and the goal of the biology class, even given my points about
the tentativeness of science, is to teach our best
biological understanding. And so, if you’ve got a really high quality biological theory, and then you’ve got some really, not very well developed, kind
of speculative suggestions, it doesn’t make a lot of
sense to sort of, you know, give the two equal time. But, I do think what’s interesting, is in that kind of religious
high school context, you know, it could be an opportunity to explore some really
interesting, kind of, you know, history of
philosophy of science, or, you know, connections
between science and religion. So in the biology context, I
think it really makes sense to focus on the quality biological theory. But one could really develop a lot of interesting sophistication on the part of the students, thinking more about,
you know, historically, different ways of relating, say, religious perspectives with the science, and I think it could actually alleviate some of the concerns, if one understands more
of the historical context, that, you know, a lot
of the kind of stress about the conflict between
the two is a much more, kind of recent phenomenon, you know, sort of the past 100 years or so, and that there could be a lot of other, more creative ways to relay the two, so. – I just wanted to add one thing, sorry.
– Yeah, please do. – And in addition, I think a great way to alleviate some of the stresses of the conversation, would be to step back and have a bit more of a global perspective. I mean, just, you know, in the UK, Charles Darwin’s on the 10 pound note. It’s not to say that everybody in the UK doesn’t have religious beliefs. So, I mean, to step back and
sort of have that perspective, I think, can be helpful too. – [John] Let me just throw in something, just for the fun of it, which is that, I think that the question
really alludes to the idea that these have been
dueling certainty systems; you move from one definition of certainty to another definition of certainty, which is why there was a
question mark on the end of doubting science and
technology question mark. Because the fact that we’ve
accepted that, really, science in such a strong certainty system, some people gravitate to that, and really eshrew the whole idea that science is not a
certainty system at all. I mean, I think that you’re really raising that it often raises more questions than it actually answers. And if we look at that, how do we get people from
moving from straight certainty, to actually harboring a
constructive feeling of doubt, rather than automatically flopping from one certainty system, in effect, to another certainty system? We had a question right here. (woman mumbling) Oh okay, right here. – [Man] Hi, so my question
is mainly for Dr. Wash. You mentioned algorithms and
how they tend to be faulty. The example I really enjoyed
you using was YouTube, and YouTube Kids, and
some of the awful things that have kind of come about because of an algorithm making the choices as to what children
can watch or not watch. I think part of the
challenge that YouTube, and Google in general, is having, is because they are putting
out these, kind of faulty, and semi-efficient algorithms
to be making these decisions. So my question is along the lines of, if you’re a company like Google, for example, producing YouTube, do you double down on the human element and having somebody like, physically there checking the algorithm making sure that it’s making
the correct decisions, or do you think society is leading to us curating a machine that is always right and thus will eliminate any
need for human interaction? Or is there a compromise between the two, between having a society that’s, technology that’s always
checked-up on humans, and technology that is self-sufficient? – So, I can tell you Google has a really quick answer to that, which is, it would take more
people than we have in the US to watch all of the videos being produced. So they can’t possibly do it
with solely human technology. More interestingly, I wanna go
back to Dr. Elliott’s point, that these tech company… So science is a, embeds
values of the scientists in the results. Technology is the same way. And so, the values that the people who are creating the technology possess gets embedded in the
designs and how they work. And so, YouTube has
actually been concerned about children and what they
watch since the very beginning, because, as you pointed out, everyone is worried about their kids. That’s a really important value that is actually really shared. And the political values
have not been embedded in, like, Facebook, for a long time, because that is a controversial value, and is not one that was
shared amongst the people who created that technology. I think the fundamental question,
then, is what values are, do the people who are creating and building that technology have, and how do those values end up manifesting through the technology and
the designs and the algorithms and the choice of the data, and the choice of which algorithm
to use and when to use it and how strongly to use it, and so is it recommendation
or a requirement? Things like that. Those values really come
through very, very strongly. And having a diverse group of people that have different values as inputs seems to be one of the, like, so changing the
process of development to have a diverse group of people that are inputting into those seems to be one of the stronger
ways to deal with that. – [John] Okay, we have time
for a couple more questions. We’ll go right down (mumbling). – [Man] Okay. So, regarding the most
recent climate change report that kind of claimed that
we need to reduce levels by 40-50% or something by 2030. One perspective that I read on this was that this report
did more harm than good because rather than kind of
motivating people into action, it scared people into defeat. And so my question is, how do you think that we can
use such harsh information in reports, in policy,
in such a way that they, instead of kind of promoting
this defeatist attitude, how can we use them in
our creative solutions that Dr. Elliott mentioned,
or just in general, to create climate change policy? – Even though I brought this stuff up, I’d like to hear what
the social scientists – Go for it.
– have to stay. – This is the perfect question
for a communications scholar, or somebody who’s doing
the empirical stuff, so. – Or someone who wrote a book
called The Tapestry of Values. – Well, I might be able
to talk about the values, but the question of how
to address those reports in thoughtful ways, I still think it’s a better
question for these guys, and I can jump in after if
I have any other thoughts. – So there are a lot of
communication scholars and social scientists in general, who have worked for
the last couple decades on how to message climate
science to the public. What’s the content of the message? What’s the medium of the message? Who is the messenger? Who are trusted messengers? And if you look at risk
communication research and health communication research, there are several principles that, it’s just sort of like, best practices. And, you know, simple things, like use trusted messengers, and try to turn whatever
it is you’re talking about into an opportunity. So, you know, if I was made, let’s say, climate czar or something, maybe not now, but let’s
say, 10, 15 years ago, when we had more flexibility
in what we could do. I would’ve just said, you know, “This is the beginning of
the next American century. “We can be the country,
the country in the world, “that creates a whole wide range “of new intellectual property “to solve problems like climate change. “Some of them will be civil engineering, “how we design houses,
food production systems, “alternative energy, batteries. “You know, we could be
the forefront of change, “and thus, if we have the
patents and everything, “then people in other countries “are gonna want those.” Right now, we’re not the
world’s leader in windmills, we’re not the world’s leader in solar. Other countries are beating us to it, because they have more
of a national priority. We have an okay solar panel industry. We have an okay wind turbine industry. But we haven’t made trying to
grow those areas a priority. And so, you know, you could look at climate
change as the biggest problem humans have created since
we’ve been on Earth, and most people would say,
if they’ve seen the science, it’s like, “Yeah, sure, that’s true.” But, it could be turned
into an opportunity to radically rethink how we live. You know, so if you bring
it down to someone’s level, do you really wanna spend
two hours driving to, or one hour driving to
work, one hour driving back, just to make all the
money to buy all the stuff you don’t really want, that
doesn’t really make you happy, that takes you away from
spending time with your kids, and just start questioning all that. Do you need the second house,
is that gonna make you happy? Maybe, you know, whatever.
(panel laughing) But, but if we start saying climate change might be the opening of the door that lets us to have bigger questions about what is the good life, right? It’s usually not acquiring more stuff, or burning more carbon. Up to a certain level, yeah. But, continuing to burn and burn and burn, it doesn’t give us that much
more marginal happiness, or whatever. So, you know, I would make
this into a positive message and say, “We could strengthen
our national security “if we weaned ourselves
off of foreign oil, “and made every part of our
military self sufficient “in terms of their energy use
and their water consumption.” I think any time we put
troops in some forward area, you also have to think, how’s the food gettin’ to ’em? How’s the energy gettin’ to ’em? How’s the equipment gettin’ to ’em? What if we stopped
powering all those vehicles on air, water, and sea, by, or land, I guess I forgot that,
(audience chucking) by fossil fuels, and made them solar, or something else, where they could be
totally self sufficient. You don’t have to worry about a supply chain getting cut off. You could keep going
as long as there’s sun or some other energy source. That wold make for a very nimble military, instead of, sort of, I
wouldn’t say albatross, but sort of like an albatross, if we have to put 500,000
people in some foreign country, that is a lot of stuff we
have to take with them, and then every few weeks, constantly keep bringing more stuff. Not that we should be
fighting wars, by the way. (audience laughing) – [John] Kevin, do you want in on that before we have another question here? – I think that’s a– – A philosopher could have said all of what I just said (laughing). – No, I still think it’s better
coming from the sociologist. – [Man] So I kinda wanted
to go back to the idea of values being so tied
up in the science today. And kind of raise the
question to your four of what responsibility do you think Michigan State University
and other universities, and just in general,
academic institutions have, especially in the education of their STEM majors and related fields, what responsibility do you
think those institutions have in making their students more aware of this tie-up of values and science, and what actions do you think can be taken by those institutions to ensure that the progress that we see, or
progress we see in technology, is truly beneficial to humanity? – Well as one of the two
Lyman-Briggs College professors on the panel. I think it’s an absolute requirement that a new generation of STEM scientists receive an interdisciplinary education that includes perspectives
from the humanities and social sciences. The fact of the matter is
the kind of wicked problems that Dr. Elliott listed at the
beginning of his presentation either cannot be solved
within one disciplinary bound. So I think it’s essential. I mean, in Lyman-Briggs
particularly, you know, all of our students do take classes in the history of philosophy
and sociology of science, clearly some Briggsys in the room here, based on those smiles (chuckling). So, you know, they’re doing freshman
class as an introduction, and then a senior seminar as a capstone, and some 300-level classes. I think it’s very important
if you’re going into medicine, to realize the history of different, how population have been exploited
by medical professionals, to understand ideas of trust. I think it’s incredibly important to understand ideas of
ethics, of public policy. I mean, this is the lived
reality of scientists. And to really have a
thoughtful understanding of the scientific method, that I think to understand
the scientific method in a really robust way, as
funny as this might sound, involves interacting with the
humanities and social studies. To think about the values in those words of things like tentative,
speculative, collaboration. As Kevin and I look, as
Dr. Elliott and I look at ideas of authorship, data sharing, credit, and also ideas of
inclusion and diversity, and the ethics of that. – Since Dr. McCright was so
nice to advertise my book Tapestry of Values,
(Georgina laughing) – I do offer–
– Do you have the Amazon link? – Well I can get that up very quick. No, I do offer three suggestions in there for responding to the
value-ladeness of science. So one is sometimes tricky to implement, and this kind of came out in Dr. Wash’s
discussion about algorithms. I think, where possible, it’s helpful for us to see
if we can be more transparent in various ways, about value issues in
science or technology. But sometimes that’s not always feasible, he really nicely pointed out. But this is where, I think, sometimes, that, what Dr.
Montgomery’s point about that, sort of humanistic, or sort of more social
scientific reflection on science can sometimes
bring that to light, as Dr. Wash really nicely did here. But then also, I think
we need to, you know, be reflecting on what values we want to be influencing science, if we are recognizing it. And that’s where, again, Dr. Wash’s point, he was talking about
the need for diversity, these diverse perspectives, and, you know, that’s something that Dr. Montgomery thinks a lot about, you know, how we can promote a more
diverse scientific workforce. If there are these values embedded, and if we’re not always aware of them, well then it becomes really
important to have a range of people with different kinds
of experiences and backgrounds informing our science. And then, finally I think,
if we can find ways, and again, these aren’t
always easy to pull-off, but, more fruitful engagement between the scientific
community and others. So there are really interesting, you know, steps being taken in
some areas of science, for example, to have citizen science, to have more engagement
between researchers and, you know, members of the public, where their work may be affecting them. I was just on a conference
call earlier today related to issues related to
environment health research, and, you know, the institute of the National Institute of Health that focuses on that is really interested in
environmental justice, and the ways in which their science is affecting communities, and how they can link up
researchers with those communities. So those would be three
points I would make. Exploring transparency where we can. Exploring diversity where we can. And exploring engagement where we can between the scientific
community and others. – I completely agree with everything, and I just want to add that technology is not immune from that. And there seems to be a
little bit more conversation about the values that
science and scientists bring to their endeavors, but there seems to be a kind of perception that technology is this
value neutral thing that just happens, and is a good thing. And that is absolutely not true, and the values that
technologists bring to the table when choosing what to
do and what to work on, what problems are important, what problems are not important, is just as important. I like, my favorite example is Apple, when they came out with the Apple watch, they had a health tracking app, that was able to track all kinds of different health related things; it could track your heart rate, it could track you exercise, it could track all kinds of things. And the engineers in Silicon Valley somehow forgot to track menstrual cycles. – [John] Well, I think we’ll
take one last question here. Was there one of you? And then we’re gonna turn
it back over to Dr. June to kinda take us outta here. Maybe last comments from the panel. – [Malcolm] This is more
so for Dr. Montgomery. So, your research talk on
Darwin had this key theme of diversity and inclusion, and having seen your devotion
to diversity and inclusion do you think that this topic
was transformative for you, and has it allowed you
to understand more so the faculty role in diversity,
inclusion, and science? – Oh, that’s a big question, Malcolm. Well, I’ll have to caveat as well, that as much as this is about
inclusion and diversity, they were all middle,
upper-class white women, in the 19th century, just
wanna have that as a caveat. It was the first time
I research something, when everything I read
to write that article, I made into a course. Because I was reading it all, and I was like, this is
such incredible stuff, and it would translate great. Literally every single reading for my Gender and Evolution, I’m giving it all away now, are things that I say
and use for my essay. So in that way it was a
much more direct translation from my research to my teaching. Probably part of a broader
professional development piece of when I started getting
more and more committed to issues of inclusion and diversity here at Michigan State in my
committee work, in my service, in my teaching, and in my
research, which I certainly do. It means an awful lot to me that every single person that I teach, if they want to be a scientist,
sees themself in science. And that’s why my 133 right now is, you know, we’ve redone all the
exhibits in the planetarium, wanna give a little plug out for Abrams Planetarium on campus. Only had depictions of
the work of white men. And when I went there with my
two daughters, and sat in the, to see the show with a
bunch of little girls, and realized none of them
saw themselves in the lobby, reached out to the director, who really wanted more diversity and inclusion in the exhibits, but didn’t have the person
power or the money to do so. Now there’s five amazing new exhibits made by Briggs students, to really celebrate diversity
and inclusion in that space. And that’s an example, going back to this
gentleman’s question too, about really making the
public spaces on campus, celebrate diversity and inclusion, and not as one token on one
week of my 16-week semester, but the core of everything you do. Have a diversity statement
on your syllabus, and talk about it, revise it, how is it going mid-semester? It’s not just some sort
of tack-on on page 12 that I’m not gonna talk about. And so really bring in home in that way and make people know it
actually mean something to me, I think is really important. – This has been a great
evening, I’ve enjoyed it. And I want to, any final comments that
any of you just must say? Okay. My final comments will just
simply be in the form of thanks. I wanna thank Professor
Beck for facilitating. Miss Cepak again, for your coordinating. The camera, audio-visual people, you were essential, thank you. And I’d like to thank
all of you for coming. There will be additional sessions. I think there’s on in January. Announcements are forthcoming,
so watch for them. And finally, I’d just like
for us to give the panelists, again, another round of applause. (audience applauding)
(panel applauding)

Internet Citizens: Defend Net Neutrality


Hello Internet, Enjoying your Internetting session? Perhaps
watching this video with lots of tabs open and full of interesting things to check out.
The Internet is amazing and that’s because of the rules which govern how it works, an
important one of which is Net Neutrality: treating all data equally. But some Internet Providers want to ditch
this rule to insert themselves betwixt you and your data as the most meddlesome middlemen
in human history — to their benefit and our detriment. How? Well think of the Internet as a series
of pipes. Some are ocean-and-continent spanning pipes through which vast rivers of data flow. You don’t get access to those — they’re very
expensive, and you couldn’t handle it anyway. But you do have a little pipe that connects
to the big pipes, through which you can pull down and send out data. Your pay your Internet
provider to maintain this pipe. This rule means that your little pipe, cares
not what flows through it: cat videos, discussion forums, calls or games. Whatever you’re doing,
you’re using the whole pipe to do and no website gets preference over another. Everyone wants faster Internet, but that requires
more metaphorical pipe in the ground, the building of which is slow and expensive. Now you may have heard your Internet provider
on the news talking about how this rule prevents them from building ‘fast lanes’ for special
kinds of data — they want you to think they’re expanding your access to the information superhighway.
But removing this rule also gives them the power to speedbump the existing roads and
charge more to use the ‘fast’ lane that was just what you had before. The power to preference some data over others
is the power to favor one video site over another and to limit a tiny part of the pipe
for the video you’re watching right now or trying to anyway. We’ve been through this before: and constrain
other companies in similar ways. Take the electricity. You pay for a certain amount
and when it arrives in your house you can do with it what you wish. The electricity
company doesn’t get to decide that rather than build more power plants it’s going to
dim your bulbs and then offer a ‘brighter bulbs’ monthly subscription. And so it should
go with the Internet. Watts are watts and bits are bits and we’ll always need more and
more. And preserving this rule for the Internet
has much wider impact than just if some company takes more of your coins. Not to be overly
dramatic here, but preserving data equality may be one of the most important issues in
a generation. Because without this rule Internet providers could cripple competitors they don’t
like. Ever notice the same company that sells you
internet also sells Cable TV and Landlines — stuff The Internet totally replaces? Without
data equality your Internet Provider could narrow the pipe for competitors until they
either go out of business, pay the meddlesome middleman, or both. It’s like if one store in town super-promised
to pay for fast roads everywhere as long as the town gave them absolute power over all
the roads no backsies. If you agree to that deal don’t be surprised when years later all
traffic to them is fast and free while the roads elsewhere are slow and neglected. This town is basically the Internet without
net neutrality which some Internet Providers would love, but actual Internet citizens,
not so much. Having the pipes treat all data the same lets
one guy with a good idea and a bit of programming knowledge make something today that’s seen
by millions tomorrow. But only because his data is treated equally with everything else
in the pipes. An Internet that treats data equally is an
internet that continues to shower us with wonder. But an Internet where middlemen pick
and choose what comes through the pipe is an Internet of stagnation for all and profit
for few. Which is why some Internet providers will always want that control, so the cost
of preserving our awesome Internet is eternal vigilance on the part of good citizens to
defend Net Neutrality.

Free Thoughts, Ep. 205: Ten Things Political Scientists Know That You Don’t (with Hans Noel)


Trevor Burrus: Welcome to Free Thoughts. I’m Trevor Burrus. Joining me today is Hans Noel, the associate
professor at Georgetown University. He is the author of “Political Ideologies
and Political Parties in America” from Cambridge University Press. He has also authored many articles, one of
which is the subject of today’s episode, “10 Things Political Scientists Know That You
Don’t”, and Hans actually informed me that he is turning that into a book, which [00:00:30]
makes me very excited because I have recommended this article many times to many people because
I think it is very important that people realize this, so welcome to Free Thoughts, Hans. Hans Noel: Thanks, thanks for having me. Trevor Burrus: What prompted you to write
the “10 Things” article? Hans Noel: I was approached by the editor
of the journal that it’s in, North Forum, they were doing a special issue on things
that political scientists could learn from practitioners and so forth, which is a great
issue. I go, “That’s really great,” and they said,
“Oh, do you want to contribute something to that?” It’s [00:01:00] really good, but I’m a political
scientist, so I don’t know what we can learn from them. I know things that maybe others don’t always
know that we could teach the other way, and so that led to that conversation. I said, “Let’s put this piece together,” and
it has been very well received. I know a lot of people use it and assign it
in classes. It’s getting a little bit older now, which
is why I’d like to update it with the book, but I just sort of felt like there’s a lot
that political scientists can and should learn from people who are actually doing politics,
[00:01:30] but there is a lot of commentary about people doing politics from people who
are doing politics that is a little bit ignorant of the things that social scientists have,
at this point, figured out. Trevor Burrus: In the interview article you
write, “People would probably be better off if they knew more than they do about a lot
of things. Politics might, however, be the last thing
on that list.” That seems a strange thing to say. What do you mean by that? Hans Noel: For me, and for you, and presumably
for a lot of the listeners now, politics is really important because we’re really interested
in it. [00:02:00] We have other things that are interesting
in our lives, so I’m spending the year now in Florence, Italy, as we mentioned a minute
ago, and there’s all these great arts, and architecture, and history here, none of which
really has anything to do with politics. You can, and should, be able to live a very
full life without being that involved in politics. As I go on to say in the piece, as much as
we’d like to think you’ll be able to live a lively and happy life [00:02:30] without
involvement in politics, we think that people have a responsibility to know about politics
or at least to know about it if they are going to participate in politics. We may as well figure out what it is that
the experts on politics has, to this point, managed to learn. Trevor Burrus: That might be the case that
people are disappointed in that, though. Some of the things that the experts know might
disappoint some people. Hans Noel: I think that’s definitely true,
and unlike in most other disciplines, we think if this isn’t how it works, maybe we should
be able to [00:03:00] change it. That’s probably legit in some cases, but it
would be useful to have a better understanding of what we think we already know before we
start going around saying, “Oh, I don’t like how our system works, and we ought to be different
and it ought to be changed, it’s not common sense, those eggheads in Washington don’t
know what they’re doing.” Maybe they don’t, but if we knew better what
they think that they do know, we’d be better off. Trevor Burrus: Let’s start at the beginning
of the list. The number one thing is, ” [00:03:30] It’s
the fundamental, Stupid.” What is that “thing” that you know? Hans Noel: That’s a riff on a line from the
Clinton campaign in ’92 … the Bill Clinton campaign, which their mantra for their campaign
was “It’s the Economy, Stupid,” meaning let’s keep our focus on the economy because the
economy is the thing that we think people are going to vote on, and that’s going to
cause them to vote for Clinton, which in fact is what happened. That phenomena, that strategy that Clinton
[00:04:00] had in that campaign generalizes. We think in general that the thing that drives
most election results is how happy our people … in particular, how happy are they with
the big things that the government is responsible for, like the state of the economy. When the economy is doing well, incumbents
tend to get re-elected. When the economy is doing poorly, incumbents
tend to get booted out. Of course, when the economy is doing so-so,
then you tend to get really close elections, which is what we’ve had in the last couple
of presidential elections in the United States. In that sense, you don’t need to know anything
else [00:04:30] about Clinton versus Trump, or whatever else was going on in 2016. The state of the economy was that you’d expect
when the incumbent party, the Democrats, who have been in power for two terms, to have
a hard time winning. In fact, Clinton outperformed that expectation
by a couple of points, but you sort of expect that that would be a year when the Republicans
would probably win. That tends to be what happens. So, we really want to over-interpret every
election and to all the different nuances of [00:05:00] what happened, and there’s nothing
wrong with that because the other subject also probably matters, but a baseline is when
things are going well people return the incumbent to office, and when they’re not going to so
well they like to throw them out and replace them with someone else. Trevor Burrus: Does that mean that campaigning
doesn’t matter, or at least doesn’t matter as much as people might think it does? Hans Noel: Probably not. I mean, campaigning definitely matters in
some ways, and there’s two broad things that campaigns are doing. One is they’re mobilizing voters and they’re
getting them to the polls and so forth, and what we basically [00:05:30] have seen is
that in most good elections both parties do a pretty good job of that. It’s a little like saying, “Does advertising
not matter because the market share between Coke and Pepsi hasn’t changed very much.” Well, but if one of them stopped advertising,
things might be different. There’s a little bit of that that’s going
on. The other thing that campaigns do is they
can focus and shape the conversation around the state of the economy. Bill Clinton said, “It’s the Economy, [00:06:00]
Stupid. Let’s talk about the economy, let’s talk about
the fundamentals and push it in that direction.” He could have done something different, and
then that might have had some other effects into the direction. Things matter on the margins, and if elections
are going to be very close, then all kinds of other things that are in the campaign probably
matter. In 2016, the election came down to fewer than
100,000 votes in three or four states. Those people are going to be affected by the
campaign. The magnitude of the campaign effects might
be small, [00:06:30] but if the race is close, then it can still matter. So, we really want to think campaigns don’t
matter at all, but they matter in the context of a sort of baseline that is set by its fundamentals:
how popular is the president, how is the economy doing, and so forth. Trevor Burrus: It seems that if they both
stop … if they agree to stop campaigning, which of course is this huge pie in sky, all
these political ads. I mean political scientists say this is almost
wasted money. A lot of people think they have huge effects,
and people spend [00:07:00] hundreds of millions of dollars on ads, and it sometimes seems
like a destructive equilibrium, which is if everyone stands up at the concert … if one
person stands up at the concert, then everyone has to stand up. But, if everyone could just agree to sit down,
then we can be relaxing, and then if someone brings a box and everyone else will bring
a box, eventually you can have the entire crowd standing on 200 boxes because no one
can agree to just, “Okay, let’s take away all the boxes and just stand on the floor.” It seems kind of destructive sometimes. Hans Noel: [00:07:30] Maybe it is, but one
thing that’s important is … empirically we find this pattern that the economy has
this effect and the fundamentalists and generalists of the things like foreign policy have this
affect. We only observe it in a world in which there
are campaigns. It might be that if there were no campaigns
at all, then things wouldn’t work out this way. The other thing about campaigns is that we
talk a lot about how there’s like all these ads that it seems annoying and destructive. Again, to people like us who pay a lot of
attention to politics and maybe don’t need advertisements [00:08:00] to know what’s going
on with politics, it seems like it’s a distraction. One thing that we know is that the more ad
campaigns that exist, the more that whole phenomena plays out, the more informed people
are about politics. It might be that while the campaign is not
necessary to someone who wins, it does actually inform people a bit about who is running and
what they stand for, what direction they are, and that may not necessarily be a bad thing. Given that the cost of campaigning isn’t … it
seems like a lot and we talk about [00:08:30] a lot of money, but it’s nothing like the
cost of campaigning for a consumer product or something. It may not be such a bad thing that people
have a high attention to campaign. You might worry about the tone, or what if
it could be more positive and all of that, but now it seems like we’re on a level of
fine-tuning something, like, “Oh, if only some people would just be nicer,” while I’m
sure that would be nice, I’m not necessarily … if I were work with you on reforming the
[00:09:00] political system, that’s one thing in a way, which put politics as different
than some other disciplines. Like, in chemistry this is how it works, but
in political science and other social sciences, learning about it we can actually change what
we do and we could actually see things in different directions. If I were working on doing that, I think getting
rid of campaigns wouldn’t be high on my list of reforms that I’d be interested in [00:09:23]. Trevor Burrus: Number two, “The will of the
people is incredibly hard to put your finger on.” Hans Noel: The [00:09:30] issue that I’m getting
at here is that it’s … we like to think about like, “I took a poll, and the poll says
this is what people believe and what they’ve said.” Most people are not that interested in politics,
and therefore they don’t actually have well-defined opinions about things. It maybe makes more sense to say people just
don’t have an opinion on something, rather than saying that 60% support something and
40% disapprove. If you ask people, if you call them up and
say, “Hey, [00:10:00] what do you think about the death penalty? Or, do you approve of the job that the president
is doing as President?,” they’re going to give you an answer, but it’s not a well thought
out answer. It’s not their fault, like I said before,
people have more important things to do with their lives than to know about politics. But, they will give us an answer and the reason
why that’s important is because maybe a different context where an election was say, to come
up, well then there would be a campaign and there would be a conversation and that might
change people’s minds about things. So, we do a survey and we say, “Oh, you know,
60% of [00:10:30] people approve of the job the president’s doing,” or, “Right now Donald
Trump’s approval ratings are really low.” Okay, that something that tells us that he’s
not going to win re-election. Oh, but what’s going to happen when the campaign
turns around and he starts trying to sell some people on himself? Then, they might change their minds. It’s not that you can’t ask surveys, or can’t
do these things, but you want to realize that the public opinion of people are very responsive
to things. Particularly responsive to partisan [00:11:00]
messages, so what Republics are telling people Republican voters are going to believe, and
what Democrats are telling people, Democratic voters are going to believe. Given that that’s the sort of dynamic, we
shouldn’t sort of imagine that public opinion is this independent force in the world that
I’ve tapped it by asking this question, and now I know what the people want. Well, they want what they’ve been told they’re
supposed to want because they’re only answering the survey questions and the survey questions
are asked in an information environment [00:11:30] that was shaped by partisan politicians who
are trying to shape that information. Trevor Burrus: Yeah, this issue comes up … I
do a lot of work on campaign and finance policy, and it comes up a lot. What I see is kind of an implicit premise
that is often unstated when people criticize spending money in elections as they often
say, “Oh, the Koch brothers,” or “George Soros are distorting the will of the people,” or,
“They are distorting American democracy,” and it seems like the implicit premise there
is that there is some sort [00:12:00] of real political opinion will of the people almost
Rousseauian and when someone comes in and spends money to speak to the electorate, sometimes
that’s distorting, but I don’t even know what that would mean. Hans Noel: I think that’s right. It’s sort of nonsensical to talk about there
being this pure thing that could be distorted. You could still say, “I’m concerned that too
much money from these people is going to create an information environment that’s going to
steer things this direction, or that direction,” and what we’d like to do is have a [00:12:30]
conversation that includes … let everyone have a voice, or whatever, you can worry about
that. That’s very different than saying, “We just
can’t people spending money. We just need to get at their pure thing.” There is no purer thing, so then we’ve got
to be thinking about are we getting a diversity of voices that are affecting the information
environment? Are the facts that are in the information
environment true? Those kinds of things. It’s a very different question when, “Well,
I just need to know what people really think.” Trevor Burrus: [00:13:00] Number three … that
leads into number three, which is, “The will of the people, not only is it hard to put
your finger on, it may not even exist.” Hans Noel: Yeah, this is an interesting finding
that’s been known on political science for a long time, and economics for a long time,
that as we tend to think about we’ll just aggregate our people’s preferences, do we
want to change our immigration policy to where we make it more difficult for immigrants to
enter the country, and let’s see what everyone thinks. Let’s lay aside the question that they maybe
haven’t even thought [00:13:30] about the issue already. Let’s figure out what they mostly think, let’s
inform them, whatever … and then they want this policy. Oh, so now we know what they think. The thing is, if the dimensions of policy
that exist are in any way more complicated than just there’s one question; yes or no,
which of course they are, on all issues, then it’s quite possible that a majority might
prefer some Policy A to Policy B, but B is preferred to Policy [00:14:00] C, and the
C is preferred to Policy A. This can get a little technical, and I don’t
want to get too deep into it here, but the idea behind this was at the era it was an
economist working at Rand in the 50’s, it’s kind of interesting in the question of, so,
we keep talking about our international competition, and the Cold War, and we keep thinking that’s
just to understand if we’re rational and they’re rational, and everybody else understanding
what happens when you kind of get things up, so you’re going to get off on this question
of like, “Can we aggregate [00:14:30] up people’s preferences into something that’s sort of
coherent and rational?” What they said, “Well, we don’t want it to
be a democracy, so what should a democracy have?” And, a democracy, so like, one person doesn’t
decide everything, that would be a dictatorship, and if everybody wants something, well they
should get it. He’s laid out a handful of things that he
thought you might expect a democracy to have, and in the end is, you can’t do that. Trevor Burrus: Right. Hans Noel: Something that we think is important
for democracy is at least clausibly going to fall apart. The thing that’s most likely to fail is we
think that a democracy should work [00:15:00] no matter what people want. We should have any possible set of preferences,
and we just set them in to go that those preferences are all kind of mushy and they could go in
all different directions. Any possible set of preferences should be
acceptable, we have to be able to aggregate them up. The truth is, any aggregating system that
we have, whether it be majority rule, or some other super majority … anything we do might
possibility give us some sort of perverse outcome where the whole country [00:15:30]
votes for Donald Trump, but in fact, somebody else the whole country would prefer, but the
system didn’t allow them to make that choice and we never observed that. That’s possible. It’s a mathematical fact. I’m sorry, go ahead. Trevor Burrus: We saw that in 1912, right? We saw that in 1912, kind of, with Woodrow
Wilson. Hans Noel: Yeah, I think that 1912 is probably
the most clear example. The Republican party in 1912 was represented
by Taft, who was probably the least progressive [00:16:00] of the major counting candidates
progressive, being of particular dimensions. It’s not quite the same as progressively meeting
today, but at any rate, Taft. Then he was challenged by Theodore Roosevelt,
who had been a Republican president in the past, and he wants to run again, and he’s
probably the most progressive again, in the historical context. So, it splits the Republican party and then
they face off against Woodrow Wilson and the Democrats, and Wilson wins, but it is quite
possible that had Taft or Roosevelt [00:16:30] by themselves been the candidate, that either
one of them would have beat Wilson. If you look at the votes across the country,
in most states the Roosevelt vote and the Taft vote add up together to about what Taft
had gotten previously, so we match. That’s like the Republicans literally are
splitting their vote, and there were more Taft and Roosevelt votes together than there
were for Wilson. So, maybe we got the wrong president. One thing to say is, “Oh, well we got the
wrong president because the Republic [00:17:00] party was split, and we shouldn’t have let
them be split.” But, that’s not completely the answer because
well, how do they not split? Should they have nominated Taft? Should they have nominated Roosevelt? Which one was better? Well, they faced off within the party and
we got one answer, but it’s hard to know. I think the end result is, whatever you do
in a collective action, you can’t be too confident that it really is what the people wanted. It just depends on the system that you use. It depends on the rule that we had in the
application, and there’s not [00:17:30] anything wrong or right about those rules, but different
rules give you different outcomes. If that’s the case, if different rules give
you different outcomes, then it’s very hard to be very confident about any particular
outcome because a different set of rules that are just as reasonable would have given you
a different one. Trevor Burrus: Which leads nicely to number
four, “There is no such thing as a mandate.” I’m sure probably Woodrow Wilson might have
said something like … giving his inaugural speech in 1912, they don’t have a mandate
from the people, but that seems [00:18:00] probably a stretch. Hans Noel: Yeah, at least what we think of
as a mandate is … the people have said that I should be the president, or people have
said this policy platform is the one that we should implement, if given all of the squishiness
about what people want, and the problems with aggregation, it’s hard to believe that is
ever the case. Instead, what happens with mandates is it
becomes a rhetorical argument that politicians use to convince you that you should go along
with this. I think maybe we shouldn’t trust it very much,
but more, again, political scientists have studied [00:18:30] this directly and said,
“What happens when people say that they have a mandate?” We found that they try to create this narrative. There’s a nice book by Julia Azari that argues
that presidents use the mandate argument, in some cases, exactly when they need it the
most because their political support is the weakest, and instead they don’t have an overwhelming
majority, they have majority everywhere else. So, they have to use that rhetorical argument
to justify what they’re trying to do. If [00:19:00] they weren’t using the word
“mandate language,” that might be because they didn’t need to because their party has
control of everything so they can just implement policy. Trevor Burrus: Like Roosevelt would in the
30’s, or Reagan in ’84. Not having to say you have a mandate because
you won by such a huge amount that it wasn’t really necessary to build it up. Hans Noel: That’s right, yeah. And, you don’t have to make an argument to
the other party in congress that you should be listening to because the other party in
congress is a minority already, and your party is there doing what you want. The key there [00:19:30] is that the notion
of a mandate, we should think of it as a rhetorical strategy and not as some kind of true, “Well
he won, so whatever he wants to do we gotta do.” That’s a rhetorical strategy. What we do with that as a citizen, then they’re
like, “Well if you like what the President wants to do, you probably want to say, ‘All
right, he should do it.’ That’s how our system works, and if you don’t
like it, then you’re going to be ‘Ah, there’s no mandate.'” It doesn’t really tell us what much to do,
but we should be thinking about it as a rhetorical strategy rather than some sort of right of
the leadership [00:20:00] because they were represented by a majority through some particular
system. Trevor Burrus: Number five … is it “Duverger
[phonetic doo vurg er] or [phonetic doo verg er]?” Hans Noel: It’s going to be [phonetic doo
ver jay]. It’s French. Trevor Burrus: Duverger, okay well that was
number three. “Duverger, it’s the law.” Hans Noel: The Duverger’s Law is the one of
the few things that I think political scientists would be willing to call “a law.” It’s probably not fair to do that. We don’t have laws in the same way that we
have Newton’s Laws of Physics, or anything like that. [00:20:30] We don’t have those kinds of laws
in social sciences. Duverger’s Law has been called the [“addonist”
inaudible 00:20:35]. In fact, it doesn’t really hold up perfectly
empirically, but it’s still an important one. The idea behind this is, “Why is it that we
only have two parties in the United States?” The answer that Duverger would propose is,
“In the United States we have first past the post-election rules, and so when you have,
that is to say in order to win a seat in congress, you just get the most votes in the congressional
district, and then you’d get it.” [00:21:00] Places that have that kind of system
tend toward fewer parties, and maybe especially even to two parties. The reason is that say you’re running for
office … well, let’s talk about the presidency, which is a similar thing. Say you’re running for office for the presidency,
and you’ve got Clinton running, you’ve got Trump running, and you’re like, “I don’t like
them, I want a third party choice.” But, now you go to vote and you’re going to
go vote between Clinton or Trump, but no, you don’t like either of them, you’d rather
a third party choice. As much as you might like Jill Stein or Gary
Johnson, you gotta be pretty confident they’re not going to win [00:21:30] because you can
see the polling and you can see that it’s unlikely that they’re going to win. Meanwhile, you probably have an opinion between
Trump and Clinton, so why vote for the third party candidate when you have an opinion over
the two people who are most likely to win and you could affect the outcome in that direction. Duverger doesn’t tell you what to do, it isn’t
saying that’s right or wrong, it’s saying that both people are going to think that way. If they’re going to think that way and on
both politicians, therefore are going to think that way, so then really steeled politicians
are not going to run as third party candidates. [00:22:00] This is the smart thing that both
Trump and Sanders did, for instance. Both of them were outsiders and neither of
them said, “I’m going to run as a third party independent candidate,” because that wasn’t
going to work. They said, “I’m going to run and capture one
of the party nominations because that’s what’s going to be a ticket to winning.” If that’s what’s going to happen, you’re going
to reduce yourself down to two parties. People who complain in the United States who
say, “I wish I had a third party choice,” I think there’s a legitimate sense that maybe
that would be a good thing. I won’t take a side one way or the other on
that. But, people who complain about that tend to
think, ” [00:22:30] We just need to let these third parties flourish, and we should stop
saying nasty things about Jill Stein,” or whatever, if they’re running, “We should be
nice about the third party,” in that they’ll win votes. The system is not geared toward having that. If you want to have a viable third and fourth
party, as we do have in many countries around the world, you need a different system. Probably a system that is proportional in
some way, a proportional representation system where instead the way that you would get [00:23:00]
seats in the legislature is by what proportion of the vote you get. If you get 20% of the vote, you get 20% of
the seats. Then, you don’t lose anything and there’s
no harm in voting for a minor party, because you can still help them get a little bit. It also matters that some countries have a
parliamentary system rather than a presidential system. Presidential system is sort of like a single-member
district on steroids, like the presidency is a single seat and you have to win it, whereas
in a parliamentary system like in Great Britain or in Canada, where they [00:23:30] do have
slightly more viable minor parties that still tends towards two large parties, but you tend
to have more viable third parties. Thereto, though, you can send them to parliament
and they can make a coalition government and something in parliament, whereas in our system
a third party would just be an appendage that would have to rely with one of the new parties,
and they would not be able to succeed at trying to influence the executive, or it’s a problematic
system where you’re choosing your executive, you’re choosing your Prime Minister from the
legislature, [00:24:00] and the legislature is selecting them. Having a voice in the legislature is enough. Those dynamics, again, the rules that we have
affect the outcome there, and if you really want a third party then we ought to be changing
institutions. Until you do, the metaphor I like is … it’s
a little bit like saying, “I really wish we had better public transit in my city, so let
me go down to this corner where the train ought to be there, and wait for the train
to come.” Until you build the transit, there’s no point
in going and waiting for the train. [00:24:30] You want to change the institution
first and then you can vote for your third party. Trevor Burrus: Occasionally third parties
in America, as you said, it’s not a perfect model and a perfect law, but occasionally
third parties like Ross Perot in ’92, who a lot of people decided that they weren’t
throwing their vote away with him getting 20% of the vote, and then 1860 is another
example of third parties. It happens. Is there any sort of theory about why at these
times [00:25:00] third parties might be more successful, because a lot of people thought
it might have been this year, or this last election, with distaste for Republicans and
Democrats, and it ended up not being a very big third party year. Hans Noel: Yeah, I think when you have a clear
division within an existing coalition, that’s going to happen. Again, in 1912 we talked about earlier, the
Republicans basically nominated two people and so some Republicans thought this was the
right person, and some thought that was the right person. Much depends in this Duverger logic. Much depends [00:25:30] on who we collectively
think are the top two candidates. Trump and Clinton are the representatives
of the two major parties, so they’re the two that everyone should vote for. But, if everyone believed that the race was
really a Johnson versus Stein race, then everyone should switch and vote the other way. There are going to be times when the political
alignments and shifts and so forth are such that the parties are torn apart a little bit,
and there are some uncertainties about the direction, and then that’s [00:26:00] going
to lead us to these kind of unusual places. 1860 is a perfect example of that where you’ve
got slavery as a key issue in politics that both parties have been trying to avoid, and
then the Republican party now has an element that is going to talk about it so you have
divides within the North and the South, and meanwhile you already have the existing divisions
over the tariff and other things that were divided in the parties. That kind of creates these pockets and it’s
not clear at who your partner is supposed to be, [00:26:30] so then the voting plays
out. If you kept voting, if they voted and you
saw the outcome and then you got to vote the next day and you kept doing that, which is
a little bit like what Poland does, you might eventually get to a place where, “Oh, now
we’ve all figured it out, and we’re going to vote this way.” It may take a while to get to that new equilibrium
with its clear two parties. There is always a pressure towards two parties
in the system, but there is also a pressure towards tearing this apart, because we all
want what we think is right. [00:27:00] My policy preferences, they do
not match up with any party. I disagree with this party on this thing,
and I disagree with that party on that thing. That’s what politics is about. It’s about coordinating with people, but we
don’t like that. We want to be able to say, “I want my own
choice.” The metaphor that I like here is about going
to buy ice cream. You know, you go for ice cream in the United
States and you’ve got your 31 flavors and there’s a million flavors, different things,
and sometimes people say things like, “If I have 31 choices of ice cream, why can’t
I have [00:27:30] at least three choices for politics?” I can see why people might think that. The difference is, if we go to the ice cream
place and I want chocolate and you want vanilla, and someone else wants rocky road, well, that’s
what we’ll get. Each of us gets what we want, and we get to
take it home. Politics isn’t like that because we only get
to have one president, and we all have to share. So, it’d be a little bit like at the end of
the day after everyone’s gone to buy ice cream, we tally it up and we found out which ice
cream sold the most, and then we all have to eat the same ice cream. It’d be a terrible business [00:28:00] model,
right? That’s why we don’t do that for businesses,
but politics is literally … in some ways politics is that set of things that we don’t
get to be that way about. We all have to have one immigration policy. We all have to have one tax policy. Even to the extent that we would say, “Well,
different states can do different things.” Right? That solves that problem. We all have to either live in a world where
every state can set its taxes, or they can’t. And then each state gets to do what it does. So, [00:28:30] you have to agree on and you’ll
have to coordinate in some way. That changes your logic completely. Now it’s not which ice cream flavor is the
one that I want the most, it’s of the ice cream flavors that lots of people want, which
one do I want the most? That changes your thinking about it, and therefore
drives you to different logic when you’re voting and building parties and everything. Trevor Burrus: You put it very clearly in
the essay, “Perhaps the most important to draw from Duverger’s Law is that voting is
not about expressing your opinion, [00:29:00] it is about coordinating with other voters,
and your institutions determine how you must coordinate.” That says it all right there. Hans Noel: Exactly. Trevor Burrus: That gets us into parties,
which is number six, where you attack the fantasy of it seems every election, especially
presidential elections that someone is going to come into Washington and just sit down
and put aside partisanship, and just make good decisions for the country. Candidates like to say [00:29:30] they’ll
do this, they like to be outsider candidates that say that they will do this. Why don’t they do that? Hans Noel: We saw that just this week. There’s this conversation about whether or
not Donald Trump is an independent or not. It eventually came around to, “Oh, I see this
potential for a third party in Donald Trump,” and journalists love this, they really do. But, it’s a little bit of a strange idea that
what matters … just do good policy. The reason is, we [00:30:00] disagree on stuff,
we really do. Those disagreements would be easier to set
aside … if we are talking about ice cream, something where we all can just go our own
way, but on a set of things that involve politics, we don’t agree about those things. Even on the question of let’s let people decide. So, should we have a minimum wage? Or, should we let businesses go their own
way? … and sort of buy their own ice cream in terms [00:30:30] of that. That’s a policy decision about they want to
live in a world with minimum wage or not, or if you want to let people define what they
think marriage is on their own? Or, are we going to impose that as a system? Different people have different census about
this is something we have to impose to have a social sective order, and these are things
that we don’t. I don’t think that anybody thinks there should
be literally nothing that we have. Okay, we all at the very least follow the
traffic laws, and drive on the right side and not be able to rob, and steal, [00:31:00]
and harm one another. So, what are the things that we have to … and
we disagree. If we’re going to disagree, we may as well
disagree in a way that’s sort of about systematic, the thing that parties do is that they encourage
people to set aside internal disagreements. Again, the ice cream metaphor is a question
of … there’s your fruit-based ice creams, and then there’s your chocolate-directioned
ice creams, and maybe you don’t like either of those, and you’re really frustrated. At the very [00:31:30] least, you could say,
“I’m going to go in this direction, and maybe I really would rather have Oreo something,
and instead I’m going to end up with a double chocolate fudge, but at least they’re both
in the chocolate direction, and I can sort out that compromise there.” What parties do is they force groups to form
compromises in smaller levels, and then they go together and say, “Set aside some of our
disagreements for the goal of trying to capture government and implement the things that [00:32:00]
we do agree on.” That’s how the system is going to work. Both as a normative thing, it’s okay fine,
so let’s accept parties and expect them to do that. Even independent of that, that’s what people
are going to do. So, you need to get rid of parties and get
rid of this stuff, people are going to coordinate like that. The nice thing about parties is it makes it
very transparent, and you know which coalition you’re buying yourself into and which one
you’re supporting and which one you’re opposing. Trevor Burrus: You have a quote from Schattschneider
from the 40’s, “Democracy is unthinkable.” [00:32:30] Say, in terms of parties, which
we always also hear when you study the founding era that everyone was sort of lamenting the
fact that the parties arose, but it seems that they’re necessary. Hans Noel: The interesting thing, in modern
democracy anyway, and you can have a small scale town hall-type democracy of 20 people
maybe, but any kind of modern democracy requires that. The interesting thing about the founders is
yes, the modern founders said they were, didn’t like the parties, Washington in his farewell
address is concerned about factions, Madison’s [00:33:00] worried about factions, and the
Federalist papers Jefferson said if he could only go to Heaven with a party, he’d rather
not do it. And yet, within a few elections, they were
building parties. Trevor Burrus: Oh yeah, they were at each
other’s throats. Yes. Hans Noel: They were going out and organizing,
they were saying, “We need to win this election, so who do I need to win, who are my allies,
who are not?” Even if you didn’t want to have parties, people
are going to do it. So, we might as well, from a perspective of
trying to organize and understand our [00:33:30] politics, we have to accept that we have them
and then maybe try to steer them in useful directions, because people out of one side
of their mouth say, “Parties are terrible,” and then the other side of their mouth, actually
start to organize them. I’d much rather it be transparent that that’s
what they’re doing. Trevor Burrus: I imagine that Jefferson and
Hamilton, as leaders of their respective parties, probably would have said something like, “Well
the only reason I am doing this is because Hamilton is organizing his party,” or vice
versa, which ultimately we shouldn’t [00:34:00] be doing this, but when you have people on
the other side who are organizing, you have to do it. Maybe we can get past it someday, and not
thinking that, “Nope, we’re never going to get past that.” Hans Noel: It kind of touches back to this
idea of if only … Trevor Burrus: If only they would stop, that’s
the thing- Hans Noel: If only they would stop- Trevor Burrus: Yes. Hans Noel: The other side is doing it, I’m
only doing it because they’re doing it. I think a lot of the founders had this idea
that we talked about a little bit earlier, about there really is some public will, [00:34:30]
and I am on the side of what’s in the interest, and then their interest in special interests- Trevor Burrus: They’re a faction. There are special interests. Hans Noel: They’re a faction, they’re special
interests, but I am not. I think that’s where a lot of it grows. Like sort of just re-appreciate that that’s
not really how things work. Then, the naïveté of trying to get rid of
parties becomes seen as exactly that naïveté. Trevor Burrus: I studied the Founding Era
a lot, because I do constitutional law here as one of the things, and you look at opinions
[00:35:00] about public opinion, which to me are some of the most fascinating opinions
around. Not so much your own opinion, but a person’s
opinion about how other people form their opinions. Those are usually incredibly biased and partisan
to … they’re just being manipulated by their party, whereas my party is not manipulating
anyone. They are being manipulated by their donors,
well, we’re not being manipulated at all. Of course, you see that throughout all of
American history. Hans Noel: Yes. Trevor Burrus: That’s a good way to [00:35:30]
go into number seven, which is, “How most independents are closet partisans.” We talk about independents all the time as
this great, rare thing out there with people who just dispassionately look at the issues
and have a voting record that goes back and forth between parties, but that’s kind of
a myth, isn’t it? Hans Noel: Yeah, I’m sure that there are some
people who are like that, who really is paying a lot of attention and thinking through all
of the issues, and building on several of the points that we’ve [00:36:00] mentioned
already; if people don’t have the will to find opinions, and if they also don’t pay
attention a little bit, and they need the ques to help figure out what they’re thinking,
and if politics is organized by elite sense of parties, then when you go to vote, it’s
probably not the case that you’re carefully evaluating the two choices. You kind of are leaning in one direction,
or another. One of the things that we’ve found is while
it is in the case that more and more people today claim to be independent than used to
be. Though if you ask, if you are you a Democrat
or Republican, or [00:36:30] you’re independent, it’s, “Oh, I’m an independent.” But, the increase in people who are independent
is mostly amongst people who still, when they go to vote, vote consistently for their party
and not for the other. It’s not something that’s very sensible
to say, well this huge group of voters out there that are up for grabs, because most
of them actually aren’t. One of the interesting things about this,
I don’t want to diminish the importance of independence, because there is a change there,
and it must mean something. There’s a really great book by Samara Klar
and Yanna Krupnikov, it’s just [00:37:00] out a couple of years ago, on the subject
of independent voters. What one of the things that they find is that
people are more likely to say that they are independent when you remind them that politics
can be contentious and some people in politics are nasty, and hostile, and jerks. Part of it is, people are just like, “People
are mean and they argue with each other, and I just want a sensible common sense compromise,
that’s what I would like to have,” and so then that’s what they say [00:37:30] that’s
what they want, and they say that they’re independent. Of course, what most of us, when we want a
sensible compromise, what we really want is we want the other side, that’s crazy, to compromise. There’s some research on this too, there’s
a nice piece by Laurel Harbridge and Neil Malhotra, I think, that shines where they
asked people, “What do you want in terms of a compromise?” and, what they mostly boiled
it down to is they’d like the other side to stop being so intransigent and to [00:38:00]
come over to where they are for us. Trevor Burrus: Yes. Hans Noel: So, that’s common sense. People would think that way, and if so, it’s
sort of not surprising. But, as a consequence, it’s not reasonable
to say, “Most people are independent,” most people have chosen sides, and what they believe
is going to be shaped by what side they’re on, so really what we have is this contest
between the two sides and therefore it very much matters what the leaders of those two
sides decide what the battle lines are going to be about. Trevor Burrus: That’s the common sense phrase,
which aggravates [00:38:30] me to no end, sort of always betrays that. We see common sense solutions to “x”, which
of course is considered crazy by the other side. Hans Noel: Right. Trevor Burrus: The other interesting thing
about independents is the idea of someone who is super interested in politics, but does
not have partisan allegiances. It’s kind of … someone who is really independent
probably doesn’t care about politics at all, correct? Hans Noel: Yeah, you think that. Again, [00:39:00] there are surely some people
like that. Anybody who is like that, or really cares
about politics but they’re kind of “above the fray,” they might be the person who’s
listening to this podcast. For the most part, no, people like that tend
to take sides. Even if you don’t think that you’re taking
sides, odds are you probably are still tend to find one side to be more persuasive than
the other, and therefore you’re going to lean in that direction. Even if you think you’re arriving at an independent
decision every time. Trevor Burrus: Number eight is a provocative
[00:39:30] sentence, especially for this town and Washington D.C. where I am, that “Special
interests are a political fiction.” Hans Noel: Yeah, I think it’s built on the
topics that we’ve just been discussing over the last couple of items here, in that we
like to think there’s some right thing that’s common sense, or is the general in everyone’s
interest, and then there’s these special interests that are there trying to undermine things. The problem is like, “What’s a special interest?” A special interest is any interest that is
mainly shared by a particular group and not everyone. We have [00:40:00] diverse society, and there’s
almost nothing that we all want exactly the same. Even the things that we broadly all want,
we’re still going to have one of them accomplished in slightly different ways. So what is the special interest? The special interests are business leaders,
that’s a special interest, and labor groups, they’re a special interest. They disagree on things, so they both have
their interests. Pro-Life and Pro-Choice activists are going
to be that, just about anything that you can imagine is going to be a particular group,
and that’s everybody. A reasonable approximation of what a special
interest is, [00:40:30] is it’s the interest of anybody whose not me because what they
want is not what’s in the common good. Of course, whatever I want is in the common
good. Again, we’re echoing this notion about common
sense principles and compromise. This is what the founders understood as a
problem. The founders said, “We’ve got all these different
groups, these different factions, we can’t expect them all to agree, we can’t expect
people not to have their difference, so we’ll just try to have a system that prevents them
from organizing.” [00:41:00] Political parties do more organizing
than Madison imagined would happen in when he was riding his federal stint, but that
landscape of people who want different things is sort of how political scientists approach
things. We come to this and say, “There’s a lot of
different interests, and how are we going to aggregate them, the other parties, what’s
their ideology, what sort of structure is this?” But we approach this question initially as
there’s lots of diversity in what people want, and we don’t tend to imagine that there exists
some kind of general interest [00:41:30] that if only we could just set aside our biases,
we could arrive at a good policy. We recognize that just about every policy
affect help some people, and maybe doesn’t help some other people, and that’s what political
conflict is about. Trevor Burrus: Yeah, you’re right that the
most important distinction is not between special and general interests, but between
organized interests and unorganized interests. Hans Noel: Exactly, yes. When you think about some broad groups that
are maybe thinking policy doesn’t help, and it’s [00:42:00] not helpful for those groups,
so, I think this is a classic example of this is the unemployed. There is a large group of people who perhaps
face difficult just because they are losing their jobs, but that group changes from year
to year. Some people, first are unemployed now, and
they’re not later, and so policies that might help the unemployed and help reduce the unemployment
level, or whatever else, are hard to do because that group isn’t going to organize it in the
same way that say, a religious group is going to organize whether this group always identifies
that [00:42:30] way, and they’re going to move, or a racial ethnic group is going to
say, “We have particular interests, and we know who we are.” So, organization is important. Again, cutting back to political parties,
there is a certain way, which this whole essay could have been about the importance of political
parties in one way or another, because one of the things the parties is they help to
mobilize and organize otherwise potentially unorganized groups, and pay attention to policies
that might sort of bring a bunch of small diffuse groups … bring them together, [00:43:00]
and form a majority coalition. Without somebody doing that, the interests
of certain groups are going to be under-represented. Trevor Burrus: Number nine, I think grows
from this too, “The grass does not grow by itself,” which is the question of what is
a real grassroots movement versus what is an AstroTurf, and I think this question is
very tied to things we’ve discussed where a lot of people … they think the other side
is somehow faking their political coalition, or it’s somehow created by dastardly and special
interests who are manipulating [00:43:30] public opinions. All these things we’ve already discussed,
whereas my grassroots movement is real and natural. Why is it that this whole attitude is mistaken? Hans Noel: I think that’s exactly what I meant. I wrote this essay right as the Tea Party
was becoming a major movement, and so a lot of people were saying that “The Tea Party
isn’t really this movement, it’s just the Koch brothers, or the so and so is fueling
this,” and no one really has these grievances. The thing is, you could point to organizers,
you could point to groups who are doing things to [00:44:00] mobilize the Tea Party Activists,
you could point to Fox News running news stories that were clearly having the effect of mobilizing
people and making them think of themselves as part of a movement. So then you’re like, “Oh, that’s what’s happening.” But, that’s always the case. Every movement is like that. The Civil Rights Movement had leaders who
were mobilizing and the like. I think, again, it’s sort of unfortunate that
we want to imagine that people just wake up one morning and say, “I’m frustrated, and
I’m just going to walk down the street, and if I’m [00:44:30] lucky, maybe when I get
to the town square, there will be other people who are also frustrated, and we’ll have a
protest.” All protest is going to get organized in some
way. Now, you’ve got the flip side where you have
the town hall meetings where people are showing up and it was before to people showing up
at the town hall meetings … it was liberals who were saying the only people who are coming
are being dragged there by some nefarious funding organization. Now, it’s “No, no, Soros is paying these protestors
to go these [00:45:00] groups.” Nobody is pulling out a checkbook and paying
protestors to show up at these things, but someone is mobilizing them. They’re saying, “Hey look, there’s going to
be this town hall meeting, you’ve got to go down there and talk, and we need you to come
and we need to have a larger voice.” So, again, that’s the dynamic of grassroots
popular politics requires that kind of seating. The difference is, if there was nothing [00:45:30]
to mobilize, or no public opinion to get down there, then people wouldn’t respond, you’d
say, “Oh, we have to go down there and protest against this policy that’s going to raise
marginal tax rates on the wealthiest people; I’m the Koch brothers, and I don’t want that
to happen.” No one is going to show up, unless there is
some interest. That’s not the message that they have, they
sell the message in some other direction and if you don’t like that message, then that’s
a concern. But your concern is not just with the Soros
or [00:46:00] the Koch brothers, it’s also with the other voters who brought that message
and then went and were mobilized by it. Trevor Burrus: Number ten, is all these things
that political scientists know. Number ten is, “We do not know what you think
you know,” which is the things that a lot of myths that people believe about politics. Hans Noel: Yeah, and a big part of what was
behind my mind as I was writing this essay, and then I’m thinking about in general on
this, is some of the things that we say, including some of the things that we’ve said in the
last hour that we’ve been talking, [00:46:30] people are like, “Oh well, that’s obvious.” Of course, the mandate is just a rhetorical
thing, and that’s obvious. A part of that is, yeah, it’s obvious now
that we laid it out and we had some people went out and found examples and so forth,
but the exact opposite could have seemed obvious to you, too. That’s part of what social science is about,
is taking some things, some of which seem obvious, and sorting it out and figuring it
out. Is this really what’s going on, or is it not? There’s a lot of “seems obvious” things that
we don’t think are true. [00:47:00] One of the really common ones that
political scientists get upset a lot about is this idea that gerrymandering is what’s
responsible for polarization. I think there probably is some kind of gerrymandering
… that the way in which districts are drawn does have consequences, but among their consequences
is probably not that you have increased polarization. It’s not like you draw lots of safe Republican
districts, and lots of safe Democratic districts. If you think about it a little bit, it actually
doesn’t make sense that gerrymandering would do this because if I was a partisan person,
[00:47:30] I wouldn’t want to draw districts that would be good for both parties, I want
to make them good for my party, and not good for the other party. Then of course the other party is going to
be pushed back the other direction, and you’re going to end up with changes. We don’t think that gerrymandering is why
polarization, and of course one way that we know that is not true is that if were the
case, that changing and drawing districts is what is causing things to become more polarized,
then you’d see polarization in the house that we draw districts. Well, we wouldn’t see polarization in the
senate, because those districts are states and have [00:48:00] been the same since the
beginning. In fact, you do see polarization in the senate,
so that suggests that polarization is about something more than just Gerrymandering districts. People all around think the way to solve polarization
is to get rid of gerrymandering districts, and like I say, there might be other consequences
of gerrymandering that we’re concerned about, but that is not probably one of them. We have this, “What exactly is the story of
polarization?” That, I don’t know. I have a bunch of theories about what might
be driving things, but we try to disabuse people [00:48:30] of some things that we think
that they do now, but the real tricky thing, and the real point of this last item in the
list is, there’s a lot of stuff that we don’t know, and it might be that it really matters. How much affects does the economy have versus
a campaign? I don’t know exactly what the numbers are,
but this is why we keep doing research and we keep trying to find good answers. Trevor Burrus: Maybe the most common belief,
I don’t know if this is true, but belief about congress in Washington D.C. is that everyone
is sort of purchased by their ” [00:49:00] special interests,” and money just buys the
votes of your average congressman. Even this widely-accepted truism, which I’m
sure most people think that political scientists can easily prove, is not easily provable. Hans Noel: Yeah, one obvious alternative explanation
is it’s not so much that I want certain outcomes, so I’m going to bribe you, well I’m going
to give money to the kind of candidate who I think is going to do the things that I want. So then, [00:49:30] the pharmaceutical industry
gives money to a candidate, and then that candidate does good things for the pharmaceutical
industry, or maybe it’s because what that guy would have done, anyway. There probably is some influence of money. We think most of it is actually more about
access than bribing. So, it’s not like if I give this donation
from this interest group, or this pack, then I’m going to do whatever that pack wants. Honestly, you could just go somewhere else,
if that was the case, right? You could say, “Okay, fine. I know you’re voting that for that thing,
it’s going to be bad for my constituents, [00:50:00] I can find resources someplace
else on that one thing.” What’s more likely is the pharmaceutical industry,
or whatever the pack is, now they get some access. They get to come talk and influence things. That might have some consequences, but it’s
much more indirect. Trevor Burrus: Yeah. Hans Noel: It’s more about signaling … of
course, politicians are like, “I don’t know what the right policy is. I’ve got a bunch of different things. This group has a lot of money, and a lot of
organized, and they say this is a good idea, well maybe I’ll listen to that.” It may not even be a bad idea to have that
ability for different groups to organize [00:50:30] and try to impress folks. We talk about lobbying as if it’s some kind
of nafarious vote-buying kind of thing, but a logic on lobbying is just here’s some people
who know a lot about something, they’re going to camp out in the lobby and try to tell us
stuff. Yeah, that’s at least not obviously a problem. So, how big of it if one of the consequences
… I think money does have some pretty serious affects on politics, but it’s very tricky
to figure out exactly what it is. Trevor Burrus: It would be a strange way to
try and change the world. I often [00:51:00] make an analogy, let’s
say there was a billionaire who was a flat-earther, who was trying to change the world and make
sure that we could have better policies for a flat earth, it would be a weird strategy
to find politicians who do not currently believe in the flat earth position and give them enough
money until they believe it, as opposed to finding people who believe in flat earth and
then giving them money to try and get them elected. Hans Noel: Yeah, that’s a much more reasonable
strategy. Part of it becomes you don’t even need to
[00:51:30] do that because what political parties are doing is they’re recruiting people
who believe in a whole host of ideological things, and if flat earth becomes part of
what it means to be one of the parties, then you’re going to bring along people who are
educated in that information environment and so you end up with flat earth sort of bonus
from supporting that ideology. If flat earth were to be that thing. Yeah, I think that exactly makes more sense,
but we’ve both described a way now in which money could influence outcomes, [00:52:00]
it’s just more complicated and so it makes sense for her to think about how does that
work. Then, what kind of policies should we implement? If it’s the case that the way in which money
influences outcomes, isn’t by buying people of straight, but is by steering and shaping
things. Then, one thing that I would imagine is the
more in which that money goes through central organizations like political parties, where
they have to balance off lots and lots of interests, that’s better, whereas [00:52:30]
the money is going straight at people and then they can mobilize a flat earth person
and just get flat earth people on the party’s platform. We should have camping finance regulations
that don’t undermine parties, but undermine individual contributions for example. That’s one plausible thing, if that’s the
case. There’s some research that suggests that that’s
what you ought to do. There’s a book by Ray La Raja and Brian Schaffner
that makes that … I don’t know if that’s right, and I’ve talked to lots of really smart
people in campaign finance who don’t think that’s true, I don’t know, [00:53:00] and
that’s exactly the point. We’re not quite sure about exactly how it
is that money influences outcomes. Trevor Burrus: When we look at our politics,
and I’m not sure if it’s opinions about politics, or opinions about Washington, D.C. have ever
been lower than they are today, shared by both sides, and we have Donald Trump, much
to everyone’s surprise, and polarization and all these things. One lesson I think people can learn from your
excellent essay, and I’m excited about the forthcoming book, is we might be expecting
too much from politics. If [00:53:30] we don’t accept it as sort of
a nitty-gritty, “This is how we hash out compromises and make deals,” then we might actually have
a difficulty using politics for what it is, which is a way of trying to get people with
many different interests and attitudes to live together cooperatively, rather than combatively. Hans Noel: That’s a fair reading. We do have a large expectation. We want things to work, and the same goes
beyond politics. “Why is this traffic this [00:54:00] way,”
or “Why do these roads steer in this direction,” and, “Why can’t we have a better more effective
way of getting to the beach,” and all these other things we just think that somebody -they-
did it wrong. The difference is in politics it’s actually
a place where we are able to influence and get involved in outcomes. It’s not just being angry at the system, we
could actually participate in it. So, yeah, it would make a lot more sense to
appreciate that what we could expect out of it won’t [00:54:30] be a policy that makes
you happy, or that makes me happy, but it’s going to be something that’s going to be from
an algorithm of the various forces that were allowed in to the system. Trevor Burrus: I think that’s a good ending,
unless there’s something that you think I missed. Hans Noel: One final thought I’d make for
people who are going to be steered towards this article is that a lot of people read
it, I think it’s a good piece, I’m glad to have written it, I am writing a book link
version, and part of the reason I’m writing a book link version [00:55:00] is because
there’s been a lot of demand for it, but also because some of the stuff that’s in the piece
… social science has marched on, and we have a better understanding of things, and
I would say things slightly differently here. Which isn’t going to say I can give you
all the caveats here, but that’s part of the point about social science, it’s that we keep
learning, we keep building on things. Yet, there are some sort of enduring things,
you don’t need to be up on the latest research to know what’s going on. The important thing is that you have access
to a political science journal, and the important thing is that you have access to your sophomore
[00:55:30] in political science lecture notes in a lot of ways, because there are some enduring
things to be found there. If you find out in the article that I wrote,
that’s great, but you can also get that from your own education. Trevor Burrus: Thanks for listening. This episode of Free Thoughts was produced
by Tess Terrible and Evan Banks. To learn more, visit us on the web at www.libertarianism.org.

Understanding the rise of China | Martin Jacques


The world is changing with really remarkable speed. If you look at the chart at the top here, you’ll see that in 2025, these Goldman Sachs projections suggest that the Chinese economy will be almost the same size as the American economy. And if you look at the chart for 2050, it’s projected that the Chinese economy will be twice the size of the American economy, and the Indian economy will be almost the same size as the American economy. And we should bear in mind here that these projections were drawn up before the Western financial crisis. A couple of weeks ago, I was looking at the latest projection by BNP Paribas for when China will have a larger economy than the United States. Goldman Sachs projected 2027. The post-crisis projection is 2020. That’s just a decade away. China is going to change the world in two fundamental respects. First of all, it’s a huge developing country with a population of 1.3 billion people, which has been growing for over 30 years at around 10 percent a year. And within a decade, it will have the largest economy in the world. Never before in the modern era has the largest economy in the world been that of a developing country, rather than a developed country. Secondly, for the first time in the modern era, the dominant country in the world — which I think is what China will become — will be not from the West and from very, very different civilizational roots. Now, I know it’s a widespread assumption in the West that as countries modernize, they also westernize. This is an illusion. It’s an assumption that modernity is a product simply of competition, markets and technology. It is not. It is also shaped equally by history and culture. China is not like the West, and it will not become like the West. It will remain in very fundamental respects very different. Now the big question here is obviously, how do we make sense of China? How do we try to understand what China is? And the problem we have in the West at the moment, by and large, is that the conventional approach is that we understand it really in Western terms, using Western ideas. We can’t. Now I want to offer you three building blocks for trying to understand what China is like, just as a beginning. The first is this: that China is not really a nation-state. Okay, it’s called itself a nation-state for the last hundred years, but everyone who knows anything about China knows it’s a lot older than this. This was what China looked like with the victory of the Qin Dynasty in 221 B.C. at the end of the warring-state period — the birth of modern China. And you can see it against the boundaries of modern China. Or immediately afterward, the Han Dynasty, still 2,000 years ago. And you can see already it occupies most of what we now know as Eastern China, which is where the vast majority of Chinese lived then and live now. Now what is extraordinary about this is, what gives China its sense of being China, what gives the Chinese the sense of what it is to be Chinese, comes not from the last hundred years, not from the nation-state period, which is what happened in the West, but from the period, if you like, of the civilization-state. I’m thinking here, for example, of customs like ancestral worship, of a very distinctive notion of the state, likewise, a very distinctive notion of the family, social relationships like guanxi, Confucian values and so on. These are all things that come from the period of the civilization-state. In other words, China, unlike the Western states and most countries in the world, is shaped by its sense of civilization, its existence as a civilization-state, rather than as a nation-state. And there’s one other thing to add to this, and that is this: Of course we know China’s big, huge, demographically and geographically, with a population of 1.3 billion people. What we often aren’t really aware of is the fact that China is extremely diverse and very pluralistic, and in many ways very decentralized. You can’t run a place on this scale simply from Beijing, even though we think this to be the case. It’s never been the case. So this is China, a civilization-state, rather than a nation-state. And what does it mean? Well, I think it has all sorts of profound implications. I’ll give you two quick ones. The first is that the most important political value for the Chinese is unity, is the maintenance of Chinese civilization. You know, 2,000 years ago, Europe: breakdown — the fragmentation of the Holy Roman Empire. It divided, and it’s remained divided ever since. China, over the same time period, went in exactly the opposite direction, very painfully holding this huge civilization, civilization-state, together. The second is maybe more prosaic, which is Hong Kong. Do you remember the handover of Hong Kong by Britain to China in 1997? You may remember what the Chinese constitutional proposition was. One country, two systems. And I’ll lay a wager that barely anyone in the West believed them. “Window dressing. When China gets its hands on Hong Kong, that won’t be the case.” Thirteen years on, the political and legal system in Hong Kong is as different now as it was in 1997. We were wrong. Why were we wrong? We were wrong because we thought, naturally enough, in nation-state ways. Think of German unification, 1990. What happened? Well, basically the East was swallowed by the West. One nation, one system. That is the nation-state mentality. But you can’t run a country like China, a civilization-state, on the basis of one civilization, one system. It doesn’t work. So actually the response of China to the question of Hong Kong — as it will be to the question of Taiwan — was a natural response: one civilization, many systems. Let me offer you another building block to try and understand China — maybe not sort of a comfortable one. The Chinese have a very, very different conception of race to most other countries. Do you know, of the 1.3 billion Chinese, over 90 percent of them think they belong to the same race, the Han? Now, this is completely different from the world’s [other] most populous countries. India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil — all of them are multiracial. The Chinese don’t feel like that. China is only multiracial really at the margins. So the question is, why? Well the reason, I think, essentially is, again, back to the civilization-state. A history of at least 2,000 years, a history of conquest, occupation, absorption, assimilation and so on, led to the process by which, over time, this notion of the Han emerged — of course, nurtured by a growing and very powerful sense of cultural identity. Now the great advantage of this historical experience has been that, without the Han, China could never have held together. The Han identity has been the cement which has held this country together. The great disadvantage of it is that the Han have a very weak conception of cultural difference. They really believe in their own superiority, and they are disrespectful of those who are not. Hence their attitude, for example, to the Uyghurs and to the Tibetans. Or let me give you my third building block, the Chinese state. Now the relationship between the state and society in China is very different from that in the West. Now we in the West overwhelmingly seem to think — in these days at least — that the authority and legitimacy of the state is a function of democracy. The problem with this proposition is that the Chinese state enjoys more legitimacy and more authority amongst the Chinese than is true with any Western state. And the reason for this is because — well, there are two reasons, I think. And it’s obviously got nothing to do with democracy, because in our terms the Chinese certainly don’t have a democracy. And the reason for this is, firstly, because the state in China is given a very special — it enjoys a very special significance as the representative, the embodiment and the guardian of Chinese civilization, of the civilization-state. This is as close as China gets to a kind of spiritual role. And the second reason is because, whereas in Europe and North America, the state’s power is continuously challenged — I mean in the European tradition, historically against the church, against other sectors of the aristocracy, against merchants and so on — for 1,000 years, the power of the Chinese state has not been challenged. It’s had no serious rivals. So you can see that the way in which power has been constructed in China is very different from our experience in Western history. The result, by the way, is that the Chinese have a very different view of the state. Whereas we tend to view it as an intruder, a stranger, certainly an organ whose powers need to be limited or defined and constrained, the Chinese don’t see the state like that at all. The Chinese view the state as an intimate — not just as an intimate actually, as a member of the family — not just in fact as a member of the family, but as the head of the family, the patriarch of the family. This is the Chinese view of the state — very, very different to ours. It’s embedded in society in a different kind of way to what is the case in the West. And I would suggest to you that actually what we are dealing with here, in the Chinese context, is a new kind of paradigm, which is different from anything we’ve had to think about in the past. Know that China believes in the market and the state. I mean, Adam Smith, already writing in the late 18th century, said, “The Chinese market is larger and more developed and more sophisticated than anything in Europe.” And, apart from the Mao period, that has remained more or less the case ever since. But this is combined with an extremely strong and ubiquitous state. The state is everywhere in China. I mean, it’s leading firms — many of them are still publicly owned. Private firms, however large they are, like Lenovo, depend in many ways on state patronage. Targets for the economy and so on are set by the state. And the state, of course, its authority flows into lots of other areas — as we are familiar with — with something like the one-child policy. Moreover, this is a very old state tradition, a very old tradition of statecraft. I mean, if you want an illustration of this, the Great Wall is one. But this is another, this is the Grand Canal, which was constructed in the first instance in the fifth century B.C. and was finally completed in the seventh century A.D. It went for 1,114 miles, linking Beijing with Hangzhou and Shanghai. So there’s a long history of extraordinary state infrastructural projects in China, which I suppose helps us to explain what we see today, which is something like the Three Gorges Dam and many other expressions of state competence within China. So there we have three building blocks for trying to understand the difference that is China — the civilization-state, the notion of race and the nature of the state and its relationship to society. And yet we still insist, by and large, in thinking that we can understand China by simply drawing on Western experience, looking at it through Western eyes, using Western concepts. If you want to know why we unerringly seem to get China wrong — our predictions about what’s going to happen to China are incorrect — this is the reason. Unfortunately, I think, I have to say that I think attitude towards China is that of a kind of little Westerner mentality. It’s kind of arrogant. It’s arrogant in the sense that we think that we are best, and therefore we have the universal measure. And secondly, it’s ignorant. We refuse to really address the issue of difference. You know, there’s a very interesting passage in a book by Paul Cohen, the American historian. And Paul Cohen argues that the West thinks of itself as probably the most cosmopolitan of all cultures. But it’s not. In many ways, it’s the most parochial, because for 200 years, the West has been so dominant in the world that it’s not really needed to understand other cultures, other civilizations. Because, at the end of the day, it could, if necessary by force, get its own way. Whereas those cultures — virtually the rest of the world, in fact, which have been in a far weaker position, vis-a-vis the West — have been thereby forced to understand the West, because of the West’s presence in those societies. And therefore, they are, as a result, more cosmopolitan in many ways than the West. I mean, take the question of East Asia. East Asia: Japan, Korea, China, etc. — a third of the world’s population lives there. Now the largest economic region in the world. And I’ll tell you now, that East Asianers, people from East Asia, are far more knowledgeable about the West than the West is about East Asia. Now this point is very germane, I’m afraid, to the present. Because what’s happening? Back to that chart at the beginning, the Goldman Sachs chart. What is happening is that, very rapidly in historical terms, the world is being driven and shaped, not by the old developed countries, but by the developing world. We’ve seen this in terms of the G20 usurping very rapidly the position of the G7, or the G8. And there are two consequences of this. First, the West is rapidly losing its influence in the world. There was a dramatic illustration of this actually a year ago — Copenhagen, climate change conference. Europe was not at the final negotiating table. When did that last happen? I would wager it was probably about 200 years ago. And that is what is going to happen in the future. And the second implication is that the world will inevitably, as a consequence, become increasingly unfamiliar to us, because it’ll be shaped by cultures and experiences and histories that we are not really familiar with, or conversant with. And at last, I’m afraid — take Europe; America is slightly different — but Europeans by and large, I have to say, are ignorant, are unaware about the way the world is changing. Some people — I’ve got an English friend in China, and he said, “The continent is sleepwalking into oblivion.” Well, maybe that’s true, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But there’s another problem which goes along with this — that Europe is increasingly out of touch with the world — and that is a sort of loss of a sense of the future. I mean, Europe once, of course, once commanded the future in its confidence. Take the 19th century, for example. But this, alas, is no longer true. If you want to feel the future, if you want to taste the future, try China — there’s old Confucius. This is a railway station the likes of which you’ve never seen before. It doesn’t even look like a railway station. This is the new [Wuhan] railway station for the high-speed trains. China already has a bigger network than any other country in the world and will soon have more than all the rest of the world put together. Or take this: now this is an idea, but it’s an idea to be tried out shortly in a suburb of Beijing. Here you have a megabus, on the upper deck carries about 2,000 people. It travels on rails down a suburban road, and the cars travel underneath it. And it does speeds of up to about 100 miles an hour. Now this is the way things are going to move, because China has a very specific problem, which is different from Europe and different from the United States: China has huge numbers of people and no space. So this is a solution to a situation where China’s going to have many, many, many cities over 20 million people. Okay, so how would I like to finish? Well, what should our attitude be towards this world that we see very rapidly developing before us? I think there will be good things about it and there will be bad things about it. But I want to argue, above all, a big-picture positive for this world. For 200 years, the world was essentially governed by a fragment of the human population. That’s what Europe and North America represented. The arrival of countries like China and India — between them 38 percent of the world’s population — and others like Indonesia and Brazil and so on, represent the most important single act of democratization in the last 200 years. Civilizations and cultures, which had been ignored, which had no voice, which were not listened to, which were not known about, will have a different sort of representation in this world. As humanists, we must welcome, surely, this transformation, and we will have to learn about these civilizations. This big ship here was the one sailed in by Zheng He in the early 15th century on his great voyages around the South China Sea, the East China Sea and across the Indian Ocean to East Africa. The little boat in front of it was the one in which, 80 years later, Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic. (Laughter) Or, look carefully at this silk scroll made by ZhuZhou in 1368. I think they’re playing golf. Christ, the Chinese even invented golf. Welcome to the future. Thank you. (Applause)

House of Cards: Frank Underwood’s Top 3 Lessons on Politics – Learn Liberty


In a world where politicians will do almost
anything to punish their political enemies, from closing down lanes of bridge traffic
to turning loose the IRS, Netflix’s series House of Cards and its tale of the ruthless
and ambitious congressman Frank Underwood straddles the line between fiction and reality.
Here are the top three lessons to help you better understand the much anticipated second
season of House of Cards. Number one, as a general principle, we should
be very skeptical of politicians. After all, the motives of people who desire to rule others
should be regarded suspiciously. The series presents politicians as no different from
any other human being in their desire to satisfy their own interests first. For example, Frank
was passed over for the Secretary of State position he was led to believe would be his,
and sets his plan in motion to essentially get revenge and higher office. House of Cards
is a strong realistic alternative to the romantic view of politics so often seen in the media. Number two, House of Cards shows the constant
backroom trading of favors among the politicians, their staffers, special interests, and, occasionally,
the public. Politics is yet another way in which people try to make themselves better
off through exchange. Take Peter Russo for instance. Frank saves Russo from the cops,
who busted him for DUI and solicitation, and now Russo is effectively Frank’s pawn. He
encourages Russo to flip-flop on the shipyards that employ his constituents in order to promote
a green project for the Underwoods’ own goals, with only a fig leaf of public interest. Unlike
the market, where mutually beneficial exchanges tend to produce unintended benefits for society,
the consequences of political exchange are often harmful. Number three, politics attracts those who
are especially skilled at public relations, favor trading, and power plays, not necessarily
those who best affirm the public interest. Where the object is to manipulate other people
into doing your bidding and to look good publicly while doing it, those who have a comparative
advantage in wielding this ugly form of power will rise to high office. As the economist F. A. Hayek put it in his
book The Road to Serfdom, this is why the worst get on top. If we want to prevent more
Frank Underwoods from climbing the political ladder, we need to change the incentives of
politics in order to reduce the power of politicians. We need a more limited government without
the possibility of dealing with these kinds of special favors. Though some might call House of Cards deeply
cynical, it’s better described as an unromantic and realistic view of politics, and one that
finds support in political and economic theory. You can learn more about this in our interactive
Learn Liberty Academy taught by yours truly and fueled by passionate Facebook discussions
and riveting content. And we might even be able to provide you with some ideas on what
you can do about the problems raised in House of Cards. Please register now.