tv Book Discussion on The Fractured Republic CSPAN July 2, 2016 4:30pm-5:31pm EDT
mormon relationship and it's speaker have gone. >> host: when it that coming out. >> guest: that one is come ought in september. >> host: steve fast for the university of illinois press. [inaudible conversations] hello, everyone. thank you for joining us today for this lunch. i've never that the mic too low for me before. my name is oregon owen kansas,
senior fell lee here and our speaker is yuval levin, and the founder and editor of national affairs magazine. it's a real privilege for me to introduce yuval today. he is an outstanding mentor and role mod toll younger scholars such as myself, and really all you need to know about yuval is he has the wisdom not to use twitter. i should probably say more about him other than he doesn't tweet so less impressive but more relevant today, he is better than anyone in america at defining what conservativism means, showing its relevance to modern society, and applying its principles the challenges of today. and now he has written a book doing just that. "the fractured republic." i think this book is an extraordinary accomplishment just as a diagnosis of our
society's economic, cultural, and political maladies. probably not since myron magnet in dream of the nightmare have we had such a thoughtful and tour row account of the dramatic changes in society, the causes of those changes and the ultimate consequences of them. but even more notably he didn't stop there. and for me the most important and maybe overlooked message of the book is the importance of presenting a positive vision for america's future. it bright me back to my former career as a management consultant, and if you'll forgive me a moment of jargony consultant speak i want to quote something written by my former colleagues. people get excited by imagining themselves on the beach or the ski slope, not by reading a travel eye continue ray. effective change requires leaders who can inspire people and provide an internal compass.
this vision often works more through metaphors metaphors ands than facts and defines the destination the journey. successful change begins by asking, what is our beach? so maybe that sounds obvious puts i found it as universally ignored in business and politics. we have no shortage of writers telling us what is wrong, how great things used to be. why things used to work. some focus on legislative reforms that might help. like to count myself in that last group and i think that work is important, but even for me, the message was an ex-el rating -- exhilarating wakeup call. it starts with a picture of how things can look. not with an itinerary but a beach. and everybody thinks about the beach and actually provides a compelling one of his own. many people will disagree with his particular vision, but i really believe he will force
more of the donate occur on those terms, and that america will be better for it. so here to tell you more, yuval levin. [applause] >> thank you very much for that. i appreciate it enormously. the thought i would be a mentor to you is both scary and wonderful so i appreciate it. and thank you especially to the man hat tan institute for invite knowing talk to you, for bringing you together and for everything you do. i'm a grateful consumer of so much of what m.i. does, publishing in national affairs and read what you publish and learning from it. i appreciate it. i've never before thought of what i'm doing as describing a beach, and from now on i will. thank you. that said, i'm going to start with something a little bit more depressing than a beach. alas.
i will speak just briefly and give you a little bit of overview what this book is, and what it has to say, and then hear what you're interested in and what you're thinking about and what you -- and what you take away from what i'm trying to offer. i'll start where the book starts, which is with the simple fact that american politics today -- in some respects american society -- is drowning in a kind of frustration or at least anxiety. we're living through what seems to be a very uneasy time. that's reflected in the tone and tenor of our debate, and the kinds of candidateses that are arising and appealing to voters and can the sorts of concerns you hear people expressing. if you listen to our political conversationouts would have to conclude that america is deeply frustrated. at first glance it's not particularly hard to say why. it's not that hard to explain they attitude. one thing our economy has been
very sluggish since this 21st 21st century began and not only during the great recession or after it, the strongest year of economic performance in this century was 12 years ago, 2004, and even that year we saw growth that barely reached the average of any of the prior four decades, and the sluggishness of the economy leaves people feeling like they're running in place, which is certainly part of the frustration that people are feeling. at the same time, the century began with the worst terrorist attack in our country's history, and has left us with a sense that has not changed or abetted, that the hope we might have had for a somewhat peaceful post cold war order in the 90s has been shatters. our partisan politics has been very polarized and intensely divisive. cultural battles about very sensitive subjects from stem cells to marriage and sexuality to religious liberty to national identity have been fought at a
feverrerred pitch that has left everybody feeling like they're bee sieged and offended at the same time. and key indicators that cross the line between politics and economics and culture, things like family breakdown and inequality, have also pointed in the wrong direction for a long time, and have stood in the way of mobility and of the american dream. so the opening years of the 21st century have given americans a lot of reason to worry but also plainly been more to the frustration of this time than just the straightforward response to circumstances. our problems are very real but the way we talk about them is often disconnected from reality so that the kind diagnoses and prescriptions people offer up seem only to contribute to the kind of disorientation that is so defining our public life. and when you listen carefully to what is being said in politics you real a's it's disconnected in a particular way. a way of talking about our problems now as dominated by nostalgia, by a powerful and
widely shared sense that our country has lost ground, we have fallen far and fast from a peak that a lot of americans can still remember. give you an example that i think will strike you as very familiar, not because you have heard this line before but because you hear it all the time. how often have you haired a politician say something like this, i'll quote. many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. didn't always need a degree, your competition was pretty much himmed to your neighbors. if you worked hard, chances are you would have a job for life with a decent paycheck and occasional promotion and have the pride of seeing your kid work at the same company. that world has changed and for many the change has been painful. end quote. that happens to be president obama in the state of the union address a couple years ago but could easily be almost any politician in either party another this point.
with a little bit more emphasis on the cultural cohesion of that time that everyone so misses it might have been a republican, might have been mitt romney in the last election or any one of the candidates in this election with more emphasis on low inequality it could hey been hillary clinton or elizabeth warren, often is, with poorer grammar could be donald j. trump right now. calling for rolling back globalization and immigration and recovering what we have lost. america just isn't what it used to be. that's the theme of contemporary american politics and it speak towsack anxiety that comes down to a question that's asked in anguish. what happened to our country? you know, it's not a bad question. something big and significant certainly has happened to our country. and it's less cartoonish forms the know stall ya we see in today's politics is understandable. the america that our exhausted and wistful politics misses so much is a nation as it emerged
from the second world war, the great depression, and gradually evolved from there, was exceptionally huub identified and cohesive. had its first and amazing confidence in big institutions, big government, big labor, big business, managing the nation together and meeting its needs. that confidence is stunning when you look what what people were saying and think thing mid-century america. america result cultural life was not much less console dated. it was dominatedded bay broad traditionalist moral consensus, religious attendance was at a peek, families strong, billing rates high, divorce rates low, and in the wake of a war in which most of its competitors had literally burned each other's economies to the ground, the united states dominated the world economy which for a while allowed us to offer economic opportunities to all kinds of workers with all kinds of skill levels. almost immediately after the war that console dated nation started a long process of
unwinding, of fragmenting. over the subsequent decade the cultural liberalizedded and diverse feed have struggled against racism coincided with a massive increase immigration. it's important to recognize the las cher we don't think about the scale of it quite enough. because of immigration restrictions enacted in the 1920s, mid-century america as incredibly low level of culture diversity until those restrictions were lifted in the mid-1960s. in 1970 census the percentage of people living in america who had been born abroad was at an all-time low of 4.5%. today it's back near an all-time high of almost 20%. certainly part of what has happened to our country. meanwhile, some key parts of the economy were deregulated to keep up with rises come peat fors and the labor market was forced by the pressures of globalization to specialize in higher skill work with dim manipulating minimum issued opportunities for americans with lower level education, and in politics a
very uneu mid-century elite consensus on important issues gave way by the 70s to renewed divisions that have only been getting sharper and sharper since in one area after another, america in the immediate post war years would was a model of consensus but through the following decades that concept sunday practiced. by the end of the 20th century the fracturing of consensus grew from dediffusion into polarization of plate views, economic opportunities, incomes, family patterns, ways of life. less connell formist and more frommed. more diverse but his unified. more dynamic but less secure and all of this hat meant a lot of gains. in pros apart, in personal liberty and cultural diversify technological progress and just in options and choices in every part of life. but over time it's also minute a loss of faith in institutions. loss of social order and structure. a loss of national cohesion. a loss of security and illinois
stability for workers. a loss of cull tour and political concept sunday, and the losses have piled up in ways nat now often seem to overwhelm the game and have made our 21st century politics backward looking and unhappy. conservative and liberals emphasize disfacets of the changes. liberals remember the growing cultural diversetive but to lament the economic dislocation, logs of social solidarity, rise anyone equality, and conservatives celebrate the economic liberalization but lament the social instability, moral disorder, breakdown of families and other institutions. the trouble is these changes are awful tied together. the liberalization that the left celebrates the fragmentation that the right -- all functions of the essential driving force of american life since the end of the second world war,
individualism. in very broad terms, the first half of the 20th century through the second world war was an age of growing consolidation and cohesion in american life. as our economy industrialized the government grew more centralized, the culture became aggregated through truly mass media. a national i'd and cohesion were valued before individuality and diversity and great many of the powerful forces in the country were pushing every american to become more like everyone else and the done trip that emerged from world war ii was highly incredibly exceptionally co he's skiff. the second half of the 20th 20th century -- and these early decade odd of the 21st 21st century have marked an age of growing deconsolidation as the culture became more diverse, as the economy diversified and deregulated and individualism and personal identity is hemmed above conformity or national unity. in these years a lot of the most
powerful forces in our country have driven miami not to be more like everyone else but to be more like himself or herself. mid-20th century america, especially the 1950s and '60s, stood between these two distinguishable pends and for a time they were able to keep one foot in each, combining dynamism with cohesion to an extraordinary degree. that kind of straddling of cohesion and diffusion or unity and diverse tway as won to do tobe hold. it's no wonder we myself that time. it offer end us a stable backdrop for different kinds of liberalization. cultural liberation or a freer economics. but that liberalization now has done its work, and our country, our society, is its result. we're a highly individualistic, diverse, fragmented country. economically, politically and culturally, and none is about to be undone. so we'll have to solve the problems we have as that kind of society. both our strengths and our
weaknesses, our functions of the paste, that we have traveled together, and will now have to draw on those strengths to address those weaknesses. this in one important sense is what happened to our country. the essential challenge of the politics of the 21st under america enthusiasm use advantages of a diverse, dynamic society, to address the disadvantages of a fractured and insecure society. but itself that doesn't sound like the question our politics is asking is now, it's because it isn't out. political culture has not been very good at grasping either the challenges we face or the strengths we have in face them. it's instead been overwhelmed by nostalgia, by a desire to reverse the process of liberalization and diffusion that has tran formed our sew so it so whether in check terms for theft or cultural tomorrows for the right to recreate a consolidate it centralized consensus driven society that we were not all that long ago. the first step toured a
condition struck tipping 21st 21st century politics would have to be to see that kind of reversal is not an option and that we really want wouldn't to do it anyway. instead we have tophic about how to address they challenge of disillusion and diffusion, challenges like the breakdown of the family, loss of worker security, growing polarization, by making the most of strengths like die very tis, dynamism, specialization. that question could help point the way toward the next set of constructive political and policy debates. not this year, apparently but our politics is finally ready to face reality. how do we use 0 fragmentation as a strength. for all of our troubles in this election year, conservatives ultimately are actually well-positioned to offer a plausible set of answers to the question. using our diversity and fragmentation as a tool of problem solving would require approach to government that empowers problem solvers throughout society rather than
hoping that just one in washington can get things right. means bringing to public poll sill the disburse evidence incremental bottom-up approach to progress that you see in every other part of american life. an approach that solves problems by giving people lots of options and letting their choices drive the process. that vision of problem solving is not what the social democratic ideal of the left looks like. that looks like more like the ol' old industrial. it's how the modern post central economy works but also the logic of federallallism embodied in our stuffingsal order, the logic of sub said areaities, it's how a revitalized conservatism could be a tool of modernization and revival. some of the policy irenes where have been most active over the
years. that's what school choice looks like as o'toesed to central nights mod of public schools. what the conservative approach to healthcare looks like, what kiffin ideas on welfare and hire education look like. as though kinds of examples would suggest this bottom-up approach has been championed by conservatives in some areas for a long time, though with limited success against a very entrenched progressive welfare state but as the old progressive model exhausts itself and our politics of nostalgia is proving inadequate the time is growing ripe for a new conservative approach to make its case more boldly, both in familiar arenas and in new ones. that kind of modernized conservatism could also have a lot to offer or troubled cultural debate. the fragmentation of our see site is an enormous challenge for social conservatives who over the past half century have prep frequently been able to imagine they represented a kind of moral consensus that they were a moral majority, defending
commonly held views from a tiny but very aggressively recall minority. that consensus was always shake 'er than it seemed and dependent on the support of only loosely affiliated moral and religious traditionalists and as every nationalphone ten sunday weak enhis moral majority proven is increasingly unsustainable. the traditional lists have become unaffiliated and social conservatives need to get used to being a minority in a fractured country. in that kind of society, moral traditionalists would be wise to emphasize building an attract tariff subculture rather than fighting for dominance of the institutions on the main stream culture. while some national political battles especially about religious liberty with rye many essential to keep the space, and social services need to focus how to fill that space inner to own communities. hugh tryings divisionallist moral majority can survive, by
offer itself not as a path back to an old consensus that doesn't exist about an attractive, vibrant alternative to tee moralizing chaos of a permissive society in this sense and in general the revival of the institutions of community life would been a essential feature. this institutions and families to churches to civic and fraternal associations and labor good business groups, local government, can help to balance dynamism with cohesion and help us live out our freedom and keep our diety from evolving into adamism or vulcanization and your our multiplicity. it looks like about-up politics and use diversity as a means of solving its problems and that kind of politics could help us
do more than that by revitalizing the layers of sour society it could draws us back into the vital space between the individual and the state and to counteract the isolating individualism that increasing characterizes our culture and the overbearing centralization that rather naturally accompanies its and characterizes our politics. the process that can help to us reunite or fractured republic. to build in our communities the virtues necessary for american citizenship. we're lacking now the those virtue and that sense of common purpose. this election year has shown us that and has been leaving us increasingly concerned for the fate of our country. the frustration on display and the crude and angry populism working to channel it forces to ask what happened to our country, but they do not define what will happen next. this sorry election year marks not the beginning of a new phase in american politics but the end of an old one. exhaustion of a mid-20th mid-20th century baby boomer
model of national politics that just can't meet america's needs anymore. i'm afraid the exhaustion of that baby-boomer order is what will be on display this fall as two 70-year-old presidential candidates yell at each other about how best to go backward. to see the way forward we need to open i'ves to america's 21st century circumstances to grasp the challenges and opportunities they represent and to see how, again, applying our enduring american principles to novel circumstances can be the recipe for an american revival. thank you. [applause] >> we'll take questions from the audience.
think i felt the prerogative to ask the first questions i was in the audience. was going to ask you to say a little bit more about the mediating institutions that you were describing, and the ones you listed as examples are ones that were so prominent in the '50s and '60s whether it's fraternal organizations, churches, labor organizations. and so do you see a role for those in the future or there is a whole new wave of mediating institutions that you can are more likely to succeed? >> thank you. a great question. first of all, i think it's sometimes can seem like those were the institutions that were prominent in mid-center america but really by then, those insuspensions had already been subject to a half century of assault from a kind of centralizing politics that took away a lot of what they were doing. it's very something now treat the sociology of the 1950s be institutions. the quest for community, which
is a very timely book, was written in 1953 at a time that we think of as the peak of this kind of civil society america. he was writing that, no, civil society had been undone by essentially progressivism for half century and worried that the next step would be kind of adamism, rads tall individualism that would break us apart. he was right in a lot of way but look to that period to solve that problem. in a lot of respects, with the challenges we face now are like he challenges that the united states faced in the 19th 19th century. almost at any point in the 19th century, maybe put eight side the 1860s. if you had look at america you would have found a country that was very diverse intensely divided, had no confidence in it institutions. if you could have taken a poll in 19th century america, the approval rating for congress
would have been two percent. you don't have to read a lot of mark twain to get a sense of what people thought of american institutions, and for many of the same reason that we're in this situation now. we have reached this point as the country that lived through that mid-century moment, the country that lived through progressivism, that lived through this era of individualism. so, we can't just go back. we can't assume that those institutions have just been sitting there waiting for us to come back. that the rooms where they met are just sitting empty and we go back and do it again. it takes a did kind of revival and requires making those kinds of institutions significant, giving them some authority, making what they do matter. and that means giving them a role in trying to solve the problems we have, which to the extent that public policy can do much about that would require some decentralization of our welfare system, education still,
health care he can sim and -- healthcare system and other things, transportation. there's big role for a kind of decentralizing conservatism and helping that happen. we have other kind odd mediating institutions which it what you're getting at. that are crete tours of the internet age, for one thing, or that have come up in more recent times to solve our probable hems. those are like everything else a mixed bag. the internet in a lot of ways accelerates the kind of adamism and hyper individualism that we suffer from, because it allows to us be very selective about the experiences we have and the people we interact with. it lets us be more in more like who we already are all the time. that's not a bad thing. we all do it because we like it but it does mean that the affect it has on our social life can be -- can tend to weaken the middling institutions where
actual communities' but those can certainly be part of what it would take to bring people back into the genuinely mediating institutions of american life. >> your views of the future -- >> i think we are headed towards a moral fragmented future. however, looking back over the last 50 years, a thing -- major development is what is called the end of history. the end of deeply seeded ideological conflict about the role of government. the truth is the traditional left is defeated, it's dead, even in europe. we're not going to see a large government in the future in that sense where government takes over management of the economy. not going to happen. on the other hand the right has accepted the welfare state and may differ how to organize it
but how much we should have but in my time in washington, i've not seen vary men conservatives who are truly libertarian and want to eliminate the welfare statement talking about the future without ideological divisions. we're having fragmentation compared to 50 years ago. but that future that you're imagining is above all an individualist future in which people somehow take on what i call the burdens of freedom. ...
>> the loss of individualism rather than the loss of unity, as you've been describing. >> thank you, larry, it's a great question. i was almost afraid you were going to ask a question without getting people around the room murmuring and upset, but you didn't. i appreciate it. >> [inaudible] >> yeah. i don't quite agree. in a sense, i came to write this book out of a question that's a little bit like that question. the book i wrote before this was a somewhat different kind of book, but it was about the roots of left-right divide which you suggesting have sort of come to an end. and, therefore, really the nature of the left-right divide. i looked at edmund burk and thomas paine but thinking about what the basic questions for.
and the for example of that, and i think -- the premise of that, and i think it's also ultimately demonstrated in that argument in looking at that history -- is that the left-right divide in genuinely liberal societies is not an extreme divide between radical libertarianism and socialism. the left-right divide is a disagreement between two kinds of liberalism, two kinds of liberalism that differ profoundly in their anthropology and their sense of what the human being is and in their ideas about how we come to know things in the world and how problems could be solved. the differences are real, but they're differences within the 40-yard lines. and i think american politics has really always shown that. so the history that fukuyama says ended never really happened in america anyway. we've always lived in a different way, and i think the
angl osphere in general, for the most part, has not experienced that struggle of fascism against communism or even a genuinely radical libertarianism against a truly, against a truly totalizing kind of socialism. and so the trouble that i see looking at our politics now through that kind of lens is not that our politics is small, but that it's totally disconnected from today's problems. thereto a kind of left-right -- there is a kind of left-right debate that we could have, not two radical ends, but a progressive sense of what to do about the 21st century and a conservative one. and both would have something to contribute, but we don't have that debate at all. that's not even what's going on. and in a sense, the question of why that is was the question i was left with at the end of the last book i wrote that led me to this one. because i think the reason fundamentally is neither of our
parties, neither of our large ideological coalitions is looking at the 21st cemently in its -- century in its own terms x. if they did, they'd actually both have a lot more to offer than they now have. and the leaders of both seem totally unaware of what they might have to offer the public. and instead, every election is a choice between 1965 and 1981. and the public looks at that and just thinks, what is this? and so i'm not sure that the end of history is really that big of change for america. whether, whatever you make ultimately of talk about fukuyama's argument about global politics, i think a midling politics in our country is what we have when things are working. and it's not what we have now, not in the sense that our politics is terribly radical, but in the sense that it's totally disoriented and not looking at the problems it might have something to say about.
>> [inaudible] you're saying, but the problem i see is we've had eight years of increasing centralization and increasing power to the central government, and the way the betting markets are saying, we're going to have another four or eight years of that. so how are these intermediate institutions to grow when the central government is, you know, health care is now much more centralized? just every day you read in the paper about another agency squeezing out some of these middle-level things. >> yeah. >> so how is it actually going to happen when we have this huge central government growing and growing and taking over things? >> yeah. well, look, we've had more than eight years of centralization, right? we've had 80 years of centralization. and i think that that puts the question in a slightly different light, because it seems to me that the last eight years have
not been particularly the most successful time for american progressivism. the last 80 years have been a pretty successful time for american progressivism. and we do stand now at a point where our way of thinking about politics and government is awfully centralized. and i don't see that, in fact, as intentioned with the dynamic of individualism that's been evident in our culture. i think those two things go together. a lot of people have made that argument. i mean, that's the argument that tocqueville was getting at. ultimately, individualism -- moral individualism and administrative centralization are two sides of one coin. they always go together because one needs the other and makes the other possible. and so conservativism doesn't take, doesn't choose one of those, it offers an alternative to the combination of the two of them. and that's why it seems to me that it has to focus itself on that middle space between the individual and the state. the how, you know, it's not hard
to persuade americans now that this isn't working. the problem americans had in the 1960s, the problem conservatives had was that a lot of americans believed that it could work, that the great society would succeed in solving the nation's problems. the sheer confidence in that when you look at opinion polls, when you look at what politicians sid in the '50s -- said in the '50s and especially the early '60s, it's just amazing. no one talks like that now. bernie sanders doesn't talk like that now. the fact that poverty is behind us, now we have to figure out how not to get bored in a society that doesn't have any problems. if you begin your approach to the public by telling people, look, this doesn't work. and, in fact, what we can offer you is something that is much more likely to work, that would be persuasive because in part it looks like what does work in american life.
it's not, it doesn't make the assumption that somebody in the head office has all the answers. it makes the assumptions that by giving people a lot of choices, you could gradually and incrementally improve things. i think that makes sense in 21st century america. that's an old idea, it's what conservativism has also said, but it's also a new idea. so i think conservatives are in a stronger place than we give ourselves credit for. and there's no way to find out if we can succeed except by trying which, for the moment, is just not what we're doing. >> thank you very much for your brilliant review. breathtaking. be that candidate. let's hear the candidate that you would recommend rather than these two 70-year-olds that are screaming at each other? [laughter] so tell us, sir, as wannabe president what you would say. >> well, look, the last thing i would ever want to be is president. i used to work for a president,
and i don't know why anybody wants to be president. you have to be truly crazy, so we shouldn't be surprised that crazy people are running for president. [laughter] i think that what that candidate would have to say to the public would have to begin from a kind of humility about the nature of what he or she could do as president in solving problems. would have to begin from a recognition that not everything in 21st century america is a problem, not every fact of our contemporary national life is a problem, but that we face some discreet problems. some of them are economic, some of them are cultural and moral, and that to varying degrees there are ways for government to be helpful or at least less harmful in helping the country deal with those problems. i think that the kind of policy agenda that would have to be attached to that would be driven by the sense that solutions work best when they work from the bottom up. and so you can take any sort of issues you want. if we talk about health care,
the health care debate we've had in the last few years has been just the epitome of the left-right divide on how to solve problems. so that there's a certain amount of agreement about the nature of the problem, that our health care system is incredibly inefficient and lets costs run out of control. and what there is is disagreement about how you solve that kind of problem. and from the left you get a centralizing answer that says the solution is get just the right mit professor to set it up for you and make sure everybody has to buy what he's selling, and the right's answer is give people more choices. allow for more kinds of products and services to be sold and allow people to have the resources they need to become consumers in that kind of system. and gradually, you'll make your way toward a better system. i don't think you could find a lot of americans who have any idea that that's what conservatives say about health care. i don't think that conservatives
have done a very good job of explaining the basic difference in how we think about how to solve problems. and so whether you use health care as an illustration or, again, education or welfare or any of the massive problems that we have, it seems to me that as a practical matter a candidate inclined to think that way is in a pretty good position to have a lot to draw on from the manhattan institute, to what we try to publish in national affairs. in a funny way, we have more of the kind of programmatic policy ideas than we do of the vision of how this is different and why it makes sense. that's part of what this book is about, what a lot of people are trying to do. but i think the american public doesn't have the faintest idea that there is this basic difference in trying to solve problems. so to begin with, i think you'd want a politician who's capable of making that kind of argument. now, there aren't a lot of them. there are some.
they do tend to be younger. republicans now do have some more promising members of congress, for example. one of them is speaker of the house, there are a few in the senate. not a lot. but, you know, it doesn't take that many. and i think to change the tone of how you approach the public, to change the substance of how you approach the public and, frankly, to put aside kind of cataclysmic rhetoric that is just at the very core of how conservatives now talk to the public, even when we try to offer solutions, we say if we don't turn this around right now, it's the end of the american republic. well, that's just not true. it's also not helpful, and it's not the way to persuade anybody of anything. you listen to somebody say that, and you say that's probably crazy, and it probably is. the problem we have is actually worse than that. it's not if we don't do something, we'll face a cataclysmic moment when everything changes. the problem is if we don't change things now, we will gradually decline. and we could keep doing that for a long time, and we better not. that's a harder case to make to
people who just want to be ang angry, but i think it's closer to the truth and, ultimately, probably more persuasive. >> hi, yuval. i'll ask you the charles murray question, i'll call it, which is -- >> oh, no. >> -- you know, thinking about all these communities and decentralization across america, did you find in researching for the book evidence or hinges that we could -- things that we could count on for optimism that some of these communities are actually up to the task of decentralization -- >> yeah. >> or up to building these communities? it seems if you read murray and others, a lot of these communities have decayed so much that there isn't the social capital there to revive these communities as well as as the wealthy segregate off into super or zips and elsewhere. did you find anything that would be a sense of optimism on that score? >> well, thank you, dan. i would never want to be accused of optimism. [laughter] that's, that's not a good thing.
optimism is just expecting good things to happen. that's crazy. i would, though, want to be accused of being hopeful, and i think that's very different. to be hopeful is to believe that there are the resources for improvement and whether those are material resources or moral or spiritual resources, it takes all of them. and i do think that those are there. now, obviously, in the places that most need help, those resources are most lacking. that's how they got into the situation they're in and why they've remained in it, and it's what it means to be in the most trouble. so it's true that in a lot of communities, a lot of those that charles murray describes and a lot that you'd find not far at all from here, there are problems that aren't going to be resolved by someone on the outside just saying, figure it out. have a meeting. that's not what it means to have a little more faith in civil society.
but i think that when you ask yourself how do i help, how do we make a difference, the answer needs to involve ways of building things up within those communities rather than ways of mailing checks to just the right address. and that's hard to do from the center. that's just the difficulty you're going to have with a cash welfare state in a country as vast as ours. and so i think that the diversity of problems we have requires an enormous diversity of solutions. when you think about welfare, you always think of the opening line of anna karenina where tolstoy says all happy families are alike in their happiness, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. in other words, it's true that success has a certain look to it, but that doesn't help when you're trying to deal with failure which has its very own look to it. and people who try to think about how to help the most
troubled places have to begin in those places. and so that's an argument for a kind of devolved welfare policy. it's not an argument for assuming that all the resources are there. it's an argument for helping to build those and for believing that building those could make a difference. >> okay. i wanted to posit9 a scenario -- posit a scenario. uber in san antonio or in austin, i guess. so uber is not exactly a bottom-up solution, but uber is a technological, social transformation of how people get around, and then you have people using the means, levers of government to block the progressing that is itself -- progress that is itself entirely extra-governmental. like, it came out simply as a matter of people owning phones
and having wi-fi and gpss and cars being able to talk to them. fast forward 25 years and you have a self-driving car which means you don't have to own a car. that itself is a kind of gigantic socioeconomic transformation that you can see coming, and you can also see arrayed a colossal number of forces that will do can whatever they can to impede the progress to that point. and the question is, is there -- is it a political matter that a combined set of forces, voices, people have to build the case to help when those forces arise to make technological progress impossible? or does one live in a sort of technocratic fantasy in which it will simply happen, and you can't stop it, and it will
happen the way, you know, hollywood took over vaudeville or something like that. but in political terms, we can see the transformation that you're talking about, and we can also see how it will be, how the levers of government can be used to make it impossible. or at least to make, to slow it down so that the transition will be the worst possible kind of transition, slow, unwieldy can, costly, painful and, you know, without much benefit when it's all done. >> yeah. well, thank you, it's a great question. i think in a way the story of uber that all of us in our world are so obsessed with helps to tell every angle of that story. there's a reason we like it so much. so uber's a great example of how to try to overcome those limb taxes, because -- limitations, because what they did in a lot of large cities is just kind of do it. they didn't ask, they knew
they'd get in trouble, but they just went in and became popular pretty quickly. and in a lot of places that meant they couldn't be stopped. that's what happened in washington where there's a very strong cab drivers' lobby. it just got to a point where it would be crazy for the city council to do anything about uber, because there'd be a revolution. that's one way to think about this kind of problem that you're describing, but there's no question there will be -- as there always is -- resistance to changes to a system that helps incumbent actors. and that means there's no question that any kinds of reforms along these lines are going to be messy and slow and not ideal. now, i'm not of a view that messy and slow is the worst way for change to happen. i think in some ways messy and slow might be the best way for change to happen. because if it's too quick, it's very likely to involve the embodiment of some terrible ideas. if it's slower, it can over time
try to weed out those terrible ideas. messy, you know, we're a complicated society, and so a change that fits us is going to be messy. the problem is, i mean, i think the essence of the question is how do you deal with the inherent cronyism of the status quo that's going to try to prevent improvement? and i do think that is one of great challenges for people who want to advance this kind of vision. and so one of the great challenges for conservatives going forward is to become sworn enemies of cronyism which, if you look at the republican party, you would not say is now the case. i think it's very important for people who try to influence the politicians on the right to talk a lot about this and to make much of it, because it's extremely important. ultimately, it becomes impossible for the sorts of changes we want to happen if we, if we allow the people who are now in the system to have so much control of the process of changing it. and it's more than -- cronyism
is not just a way of try to send a populist message and show people we're on their side. i think it can be that. the notion that there's a lot of political gain from that has always struck me as overstated. i think cronyism exists because it benefits a lot of people, and people tend to like it. but it's an enormous problem to anybody who believes that the way to advance progress is through competition. because cronyism, if it is anything, is anti-competitive. and so it's really, it cuts to the heart of what i would want to see happen. so i do think that that's a question to constantly and constantly wrestle with and think about. and the only answer is to fight it and, knowing that you won't always win, but you can make some progress if what you're offering is attractive. >> yes, i'm michael meyers, president of the new york civil rights coalition.
my question relates to the proposition that you put out that america is not what it used to be. and for a lot of americans the answer to that proposition would be, thank god. >> yeah. >> you have blacks, you have other racial minorities, gays, lesbians, labor unions, you have so many americans who feel that america is not and should not ever be what it used to be. and so my question is with respect to the social change movement in america, that was not wrought through a left-right lens. you had people on the left, people on the right, people in the middle where you had a consensus. they brought forth a consensus based on public opinion and public change and the congress, legislative, executive and the judiciary branch. is how do you -- so how do you move us to a position where we can continue to protect, as benjamin franklin said, keep our republic based on not seeing a divide among americans between
left and right, but try and bridge the left and right divide to really address serious, real problems in our society? >> yeah. well, thank you very much for the question. and, first of all, i'd say i hope i was clear, eiffel one of the -- can i'm one of people who's critical of the view that america's not what it used to be. i think that's the wrong way to think about the present in quite a lot of ways. things have gotten both better and worse, and they're always getting both better and worse. that's what makes it so frustrating to be in and around politics, is that there's no easy argument to make about the direction of change. there's always a cost to progress, and there's always a cost to resisting progress. to your more general question, it does seem to me that in a lot of ways we are having too many of the most important fights in our political life at the national level.
and part of what i mean by arguing that our politics needs to be somewhat decentralized, is that some of these arguments need to be had by people who are looking at one another. and that is surely one way to get around that divide. that's a lot easier to sustain in the abstract than when it's you and your neighbor. and so i cannot for the life of me see why we have to decide who gets to go to what bathroom in the white house. i just don't think it's necessary to do that. and it would be a lot easier to live with one another if we didn't have to have one answer for the entire country to that question decided by the president. and so i think there are a lot of issues like that, and that for both practical reasons and for these kind of civic peace reasons and social progress reasons would be better taken up now at a level closer to the ground for the most part. not every question is like that. there are questions that we just
have to resolve as a people. but i think we take way too many questions to that level now. and what it does is just raise the temperature of our politics to such a degree that it becomes unsustainable, and all we ever do is yell about how the whole world hinges on the results of this next election. we could change that. and i think we ought to. >> all right. i think we are out of time, thank you for the questions and the fantastic discussion. >> thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> booktv recently visited capitol hill to ask mens of congress -- members of congress
what they're reading this summer. >> well, i plan on doing four things specifically. the first one that i'm in the middle is bully pulpit which is, of course, about teddy roosevelt and william howard taft. as an old history teacher, i specifically wanted to go into that, because it's a fascinating era. and i take from the title they're going to talk a lot about journalism. the author gave, i think, short shrift, but it whet my appetite for it. for instance, last year i read a book about speaker cannon, the relationship cannon had with teddy roosevelt would be fascinating. barely mentioned it so i need to go deeper into it. i'm at least through it now, taft has been elected, let's see what happens from here on in. roosevelt's in africa, life is god. so that's the first one. so since i love baseball, i'm going to pick up a baseball book
called the bullpen gospels, right? bullpen gospels. which i actually have read before. i wanted to reread this thing. it's about a kid who becomes a relief pitcher in the major leagues after a long wait coming up through the minors, but it is written in such a funny style, i have to admit in the first three chapters i was laughing out loud which was kind of embarrassing on the planes when i'm sitting next to people. but it's a well-written book, and it's cool about baseball. i has a lot of the inside stuff taking place in that era. the fourth is last year one of my staffers gave me a book about joe cannon, speaker. year he's going to continue on with that trend and give me one about sam rayburn. so that gives me two of the four great speakers in the history of the house. what to me is so fascinating about rayburn is not only was he the longest-seven serving speak ore -- speaker of the house, he
was one that always said, you know, when i meet a chairman of a committee, i bow at the waist. he got his way, but he had to do it through persuasion and cajoling. well, whatever he did, that's what i hope to find out. what was his secret of being such a powerful force in the house without having some of to overt tools that other speakers have had to force compliance? because he had to do it just by the force of his personality. >> and then the last one is another retemporary tread. -- retread. when i was teaching, i always did 1776 to try to give people a concept of what it was like during the signing of declaration, realizing full hand it's close history, but it's not history. since it was written in the end of the '60s, there's a lot of 1960 concepts are thrown in there, and also the characters are compilation. john adams is a compilation of sam adams and john adams, but i think the authors have done a
good job in capturing the personalities of the people who were involved, and that comes out so so clearly in the play. but the other thing i like about it which was fascinating to me is they use actual language and writings of these individuals. so we've done the play several times, then you read other stuff by these individual, and you're like, wow, i remember that. that was actually in the play. and it's kind of cool the way the authors, i think, have done a brilliant job in weaving an actual history. because, let's face it, the language style is much different in the 1700s, than it is today. but they were able to the weave that into something that was very entertaining and enjoyable. and when i was teaching school, it was great. although i do have to admit one time i had a kid that was debating me on whether this was realistic or not, and i said, yeah, it was pretty close to history. and he finally looked at me and said, you mean they sang back then? we went on with it, and one time
we were watching the movie, and he turned around and said what war are they talking about? the revolutionary war. he waited a few minutes and said, dud we win it? i realized i had a lot of work to do with this kid. >> booktv wants to know what you're reading this summer, facebook.com/booktv. >> here's a look at some of the current best selling nonfiction books according to indy bound, a group of independent bookstores that are members of the american booksellers association.