tv After Words Jonah Goldberg Suicide of the West CSPAN July 4, 2018 2:00pm-3:02pm EDT
>> you wondered who you could be? >> so that became a driving personal, well begun as journalistic curiosity became much more pressing on a quest and obviously thatmeant not just reporting on this but participating in the story . >> .. >> up next, on booktv's "after words," syndicated columnist jonah goldberg argues
tribalism, populism, nationalism, are threatening american democracy. he interviewed by jon podhoretz, editor of commentary magazine. "after words" is a weekly interview program with relevant guest hosts interviewing top nonfiction authors about their latest work. >> jonah goldberg, in your book, you posit that everything that we take for granted, every freedom that we have, every economic advantage that we possess as americans and as people of the west, all of these are actually a radically new development in the history of humankind, number one, and number two, are unnatural. >> right. >> that western civilization as we understand it, or contrary american western democratic civilization is unnatural.
what do you, what do you mean by that? >> well, so, first of all, great to see you, john. >> just following the brian lamb model acting as though we never met each other and have no preliminaries even though we're old friends and do a podcast together and constantly exchange insults on twitter, all that. >> life in prison. >> i did want to hue to the c pan model. >> i appreciate that. right, part of what i'm trying to do in the book, get people, not so much, sort of say i have all the right facts, i have the perfect version of what happened in human history and all that, i'm not claiming that. i'm doing something a little different. i'm asking people to just sort of tilt their head a little bit, maybe take a step back and look at the world around them with fresh eyes, alien from another
planet eyes. a big part of my argument simply just to say, that human nature is a thing, right? it is a constant. one of my favorite definition of conservatism human nature has no history. i mean take a baby from today, take a baby from new rochelle, send it back 1000 years to live like a viking, it will rape and pillage the countryside. if you take a viking babe into new rochelle, it will be growing up to be orthodontist. every western civilization is invaded by barbarians. we call them children. and so the place where children are born into, at fir is the family. that is civilizing them into a kind of culture. then other institutions play that role but if just take it as the human species, everything
around, c-span studios is not natural. this is not our natural environment. our natural environment for 250, 300,000 years, as semihairless aprils, fighting for food, killing each others with spears and rocks. we were not apex predators until recently. take a jar of ants, dump on virgin soil or alien planet or continentps ants instantly behave like ants, dig tunnels, start colonies, whatever ants do. if you take humans, clear them of all civilization education, put them in their natural environment we wouldn't be having conversations about books or doing podcasts. we would be teaming up into little bands and troops, defending ourselves against animals and other bands and troops. that is what our natural nature is. that is sort of the point of lord of the flies, right?
the lord of the flies, kids pinnacle of western civilization, kids from a brittish boarding school. almost instantly, you put them back into a natural environment, they go all tribal, superstitious, spears, attack each other, that is humanity. if capitalism were natural, if property rights were natural, if individual rights were natural, if democracy were natural, they would have showed up a little earlier in the evolutionary record than 300 years ago. that is really where, really only time they actually show up in a sustainable way is basically in late 1600s england, then coming to america. >> right. so you say in the eppy log of the book -- epilog of the book, you make a point of all for thousands of years, according to every serious economic student of human history, for thousands of years, there was effectively
zero percent economic growth on the planet earth? >> right. >> and that people lived on the equivalent of somewhere between 2 and $3 a day. >> that's right. >> everywhere. >> everywhere. >> everywhere on the planet. subsistence existence what it meant to be human being. >> right. >> there were spurts of creativity, moments of intellectual creativity but thises watt fact? >> yes. seems so counterintuitive to people because we have all wonderful history about rome, china, all the rest, well that -- the rich people left cool stuff. they words and written stuff, aristocrats left stuff, but they were living off the wealth created by subsistence farmers all the rest. they were a very small stratum of actual humanity. >> right. then you say around the late, in
the 1700s, basically, if you were to draw a chart showing human progress, at least economic progress, the chart's like this. the beginning of hope same yens, goes like this, goes like this, goes like this. then it goes like this. >> uh-huh. >> you say 96% of people on earth were living on $2 a day. >> two or three dollars a day. >> and that number is 9% on earth today. so that we have 90% of humanity. >> much bigger. >> three or four types, there are three or four times more people on the planet than there were in 1750. so we have this, and we think, because it's in our nature to think our parents, grandparents, everything else, we think that this is the, what it means to be human? >> right. >> to live with free speech. you have a certain level of
income. even if you're poor, all the stuff about how the poorest person in america today, it's not clear that the richest person in america in the year 1900 would want to change places. >> right. >> because he could get a septic infection, just die. >> right. >> that is unlikely, just from walking down the street. >> right. >> that is not what life is like now. but we think this is the natural order of things. >> right. >> where in fact this, this thing, this period, of 300,000 years is what people really are. >> right. >> and that we have built, this thing has been built to undergird our wealth, our freedoms, and it's precarious in part because it's new, right? also it's precarious because it is a construct of ideas and within it, and against it, is a
construct of ideas that looks at this and says, as you do, this is unnatural. but rather than you, you say this is unnatural, it is amazing. >> right. >> it is astounding, it is the greatest thing that's ever happened -- >> right. >> they go, this makes me feel uncomfortable. i don't feel like this is authentic and real. you call that romanticism. >> sure. >> you want to lay out this conflict. >> yeah, so, one of the people i'm deeply indebted to is the economic historian deirdre mccloskey. she runs in her books, several of them, bourgeois virtues, bourgeois dignity. she runs through the theories what i call the miracle happened. >> right. >> the miracle, the reason i should start by saying, the reason why i say these things are unnatural, the reason why the first sentence of the book, there is no god in this book, i'm not saying i'm an atheist,
i'm not an atheist, saying what i'm trying to do is actually persuade people, something you and i both probably agree on this, the art of persuasion is something that is kind of being lost in our political discourse these days. so i'm trying to model best behavior but persuading people, trying to persuade people. you can't appeal, you can't say, well, we have all this great stuff, we have america because god wanted us to have it. among other things you can appeal to authority when everybody agrees on the authority. so much on the left, progressives, liberals, so much of their touchstones, secularism, science, evolution, if i make an argument from god, i don't need to listen to you. what i'm trying to do argue on their terms. according to the most generous understanding of the left, what does the left care about? they care about income
inequality. they care about the condition, material condition of the poor. they care about things like tolerance and inclusivety and, literacy. just go down the list of things if you were having a sincere argument with a sincere liberal about things they really care about, say why they're liberal they would list these things and i'm trying to make the point that all of these things get better because of liberal democratic, not that we get richer. we live longer. literacy goes through the roof, we're much more tolerant so part of my problem with the suicidal part of my analysis here is that because, first of all we take this miracle for granted as you were saying before. we're born into it. we assume this is the way the world is supposed to work. so we take it for granted. we don't defend it. also because capitalism is
unnatural it, it angers our inner primitive and if you do intellectual, if you read intellectual history going back to at least rousseau, even further, this complaint about the capitalism, enlightenment, commercial order is constant one. it takes new forms in every generation, it is same, like one of the episodes of "the twilight zone," every time he wakes up, different actors are playing the same characters over and over again. it appears in different masks over time and, so rousseau is the father of romanticism. >> the french philosopher whose work takes shape around 1750. >> right. >> he is responding in great measure to the philosophical tradition began with thomas
hobbs in 1650, revolutionized by john locke. >> adam smith. >> adam smith was contrary of rousseau. loch lays out idea there are natural liberties. >> right. >> the basics of a civilization and a civil society is protect the individual's rights. >> right. >> this is totally new kind of idea. >> right. >> rousseau comes along two generations later, hold on a minute. that is not the purpose of society. >> right. >> the purpose of society is to enrich and allow people to live authentic, natural lives. >> right. >> so famous scene he describes himself where he's on his way to visit his friend in jail and he finds a totally different, sometimes the translations are little different but he finds a flyer, advertisement for an
essay writing competition, asking the question, have the arts and sciences improved morals in the state of manner, something like that. and the essay title was almost surely rhetorical, right? like finding a essay competition at bryn mawr or kenyon saying does diversity make us stronger? of course you're supposed to come up with a clever way to say yes. the essay was have the arts and sciences made us better? rousseau looks at this, he has a saul on the road to damascus moment. he passes out. wakes up drenched in his own tears. he is a bit of a drama queen, the essence of his view entirely backwards. this was inspired by his call vannist upbringing and christie
christie -- christianity. noble stage of savages, we were individuals, totally not true. and that society corrupted us. and that science corrupts us. he says, man was born free but everywhere he is in chains. the first person who put up a fence protecting his property, this is mind, that is the original sin of mankind is private property. very different than loch, right? so rousseau's whole orientation, why he is the father of romanticism, i think there are other people you can call the father of romanticism, he certainly deserves as much as anybody else, his argument is arguing from his own personal feelings and saying that my feelings are more authentic than your facts, right? personal authenticity is, the highest bar. and that emotions tell us so much more. that is what early romanticism
was, embracing wild side of our nature. we felt the enlightenment was pushing away. he makes another leap, says, that we can only be realized when everything is in perfect harmony. what i call the cult of unity, right? so the is society, everybody in society has to work together towards the same ends. the general will rules everything. contrast between loch and rousseau, rights come from god, not government, fruits of our labor from us, individual is sovereign. rousseau the group is more important than individual. private property is evil. morality can be determined by the group. and, but the reason i bring this up, i reject this idea of doing this as intellectual history. we don't get the ideas from locke and rousseau. they represent ideas in us. >> from the very beginning of
the material, which is you haven't quite defined, term describes this bizarre fact the door, in a column i wrote about the book, that something happens in the late 17th century, early 18th century a door is opened into human possibility and human creation and 300 years later, we're flying to the moon. >> right. >> we've invented a worldwide communications system. you know, the things that we can do, the who we are, how we live, how long we live, our health, are things that have been unthinkably, unimaginable to anybody before that door was open. >> you describe it, sound like "heaven on earth" if you described it to somebody 500 years ago. >> right. so the miracle starts. and the countermiracle or the counterargument against the miracle happens -- >> simultaneously. >> almost simultaneously, these are the two sides of humankind.
>> that's right. the differences between locke and rousseau uses emblems, is a divide runs straight through the human heart. we're all a little tribal. we all want to have sense of belonging we're part of a group more important than the individual. we all want to have, subscribe to things that give us meaning in ways beyond our own individuality. we're also lockian. we're wanting to be recognized as unique person on this earth, makes unique contributions and inherent tension in our heart and inherent tension in our civilization. part of the suicide part is that i think romanticism never really went away, right? this compulsion, this
rousseauian idea, we mead something more authentic. it comes up in generation in different terms. take the form of populism. take the form of nationalism. or rank radicalism, communism, socialism, all very, reactionary tribalism, in the sense they're trying to restore that sense of social solidarity that we missed. and this is a fundamental flaw of capitalism. it is inevitable, capitalism is the greatest system ever created for peacefully i am loving the estate of mankind in a cooperative non-violent way. one draw back. it doesn't feel like it. it is so unbelievably efficient at the cooperation that we just, we don't notice the cooperation. and so, one of my favorite essays, you know as well as i do, one of the great essays in history of libertarianism, by leonard reed, i, pencil. it is written from the feeling
of pencil. i'm a number two pencil. this is everything every college kid should read and take away from it, one, he says, first of all, you have all of these people, you know, he says my rubber cost from indonesia, my wood comes from canada, my tin comes from argentina and my zinc comes from zinc land. all these people, different gods, different faiths, different languages, different heritages, working seamlessly all around the world to produce a pencil at a fraction of a penny, whatever it costs. the second point you take away, no one knows how to make a pencil. even pencil manufacturers don't now how to make a pencil. they put together the last ingredients to make a pencil. there was a exhibit in england a few years ago, called, i, toaster, a guy made a toaster from scratch. he mined the copper, forged the
tin, galvanized the rubber, took him maybe eight years, was a crappy toaster. cost a couple thousand of dollars. that is the beautitive capitalism. gets everyone to work together. marx was right about this, rousseau was right about this, capitalism is inherently alienating. it can only work, where i go to shumpeter, it can only work if you have institutions of civil society and family that can provide that kind of meaning for people. >> right. >> because if they're not there, we start yearning to look for meaning in other things like politics, like tribalism. in other words, human nature always comes roaring in. >> so we came to call these in the world of postwar socialology, mediating institutions. there is the government. there is the individual. there is massive side for the individual.
and then if there is nothing between them, government will either inherently drive to restrict and, you know, tyrannize the individual and institutions exist for individual richness and involvement, connection, prevent you from being swamped by the mass or by the tyrant. >> right. >> those meaning institutions, one which is not meaning institution because it is an institution that precedes the society in some sense is the family. >> right. >> then you have your church, your neighborhood, your union, your communal organization, you know, your bowling league. >> friends. >> friends, right these are all institutions of the so the suicide of the left thaw lay out has to do, a lot of it, with the weakening of these meaning institutions partially as a result of some of the corrosive
effects of capitalism. partially as the result of an idealogical assault on them that is oddly from the perspective of the crazed, romantic authenticity addict. >> right. >> who say, it is these institutions that are robbing us of our authentic selfs. >> right. >> the family abuses us. church abuses us, does terrible things to us. all these things, so they're bad, but it turns out you attack them, and you go after them, and some pretty lousy things can start to happen. >> that's right. so part of the problem we essentially have, like an autoimmune syndrome in this country where the anti-bodies ever the body politic are attacking all of our healthy organs. and, joseph shumpeter, mid
20th century economist who predicted the end of capitalism, the children of the industrialists and capitalists would become intellectuals and become dedicated to restoring capitalism. he turned marx on his head but got closer than marx did. shumpeter makes the point, capitalism, the relentless efficiency of capitalism, is water seeking its own level. it doesn't stop at destroying just bad customs and institutions. it erodes all these customs and institutions but i think the family withstand the problems of capitalism of well. institutions with stand the problems of capitalism pretty well. the other part of his is this romantic thing, the way we teach western civilization today. the way we teach american history today. it is this all the negative stuff, right?
howard zinn is open about this. >> the author of the peoples history of the united states, which is the most assigned, now one of the most -- >> still most widely used history text in america. >> it is deliberate idealogical reading of the united states that suggests that from its very origins, the government of the united states was, was more oppressive than it was liberating. >> that's right. then it was systemic persecution. he says openly. >> professor at brown, i think right? no he says openly. i'm writing my history from the perspective the slaves in the carol chinas. from the women here. from the irish there. coal miners there. always these guys victimized. i have no problem with teaching that stuff, right? but here is the thing about flipping people's perspective on this. yes, hugely important how we had slavery in western civilization but the fact is, every civilization had -- slavery.
what is interesting about slavery in western civilization we got rid of it. slavery is not natural in sense we talk about. it only comes after the agricultural revolution, because when we lived as know maddic tribes, slavery was heavy resource. you killed the men and took the women. wasn't a lot of slavery if you couldn't put them to work. slavery comes with the agricultural revolution, since then, 10, 12,000 years, there has been a lot of slavery everywhere, what people don't seem to understand the reason why we should be horrified and should teach about slavery in america is because of the grotesque moral hypocrisy of it. we preached about all of us being equal in the eyes of god, that all men are created equal. we didn't live up to it. and so the reason we should teach about it, that hypocrisy illuminates the ideal. instead what we get today from
the zins, zares, very romantic argument, that the ideal was a con, impressive, intended to enslave people. this idea, lots of people, i think i quote someone in the book, there are a lot of people who think it is somehow racist for conservatives to quote martin luther king saying we should judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. so in my telling the amazing thing about the founding that they got it perfect day one, is that they dropped basically these mental algorithms, put them in writing logic of this idea of human equality and human dignity inherent in the declaration of independence, it took time for it to work its way through american consciousness. lincoln at gettysburg, he invokes, rewrites the understanding of our country living up to the ideals. martin luther king essentially
later saying the founders wrote this country a promissory note, all men, white men, black men, are created equal, deserve to be treated with inalienable rights, blah blah. what he was doing there to that appealing to the ideal of best self of white america. all civilization, all rhetoric is the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. the best version of ourselves. he was appealing to the best version of ourselves and that was incredibly compelling. today, that whole vision is sort of in tatters because there is, identity politics part of this, people are basically saying, you can never get past your whiteness. all white people are racist, white privilege, white supremacy, demonizing white people, while celebrating other differences. a simulation is evil. melting pot is evil. saying that the essence of identity politics that i can reduce a vast, diverse
population of people to a single historical grievance based on their skin color. that is one of the things i found fascinating working on the book, trying to find all the things, if you were visitor from mars you would see see see see more continuity than see change. this identity politics, you have to be taught hate. the data is settled on this you have to be taught not to hate. we have inherent trust of strangers. babies are born with accented cries. they almost instantly like people of their, the race of their own mother, right? their own parent and -- paul bloom at yale did amazing work how much of this stuff comes encoded in just babies there. is basic moral sense to them, but hugely wired in us, friend versus foe, stranger versus kin
thing. so identity politics really is just another variant of the natural human tendency to form aristocracies because one of the greatest things founders did never gets taught as a big deal anymore, they got rid of titles of nobility. they got rid after the notion of blooded aristocracy, they thought aristocracy would come back, you shouldn't be because considered accident of your birth should be better than somebody else. that is what identity politics says, by virtue of your birth, these people are more deserving, less deserving than other people and that is deeply pernicious to the sort of core principles that make the miracle wonderful. >> so, the suicide then is the overlay of a set of ideas that you and i, and people like us,
people i think who would read this book, the man from mars who would come and read this book, the overlay, we think are destructive, overlay on top of a system system that is extraordinary achievement. the question is, since, what is 250, 300 years old, that is a long time. you know, like amazing thing. or you can say, 250 years old? i mean, as you say in the book, all of human, if you took all of humankind and said it was, all of humankind's lifespan were a year, that all all human civilization or progress, was in the last 14 hours on december 31st. >> that's right. >> okay, not a lot of time. >> nope. so the question is, how hardy,
my presumption is, for a lot of people who aren't the most idealogical. and are not the most consumed with romanticism, not creatures of roman is a system. they say, yeah, this is bad. people leave, it is okay for people to express their pain. feel like they're part of this kind of group. , america says you can take this criticism, they don't think it is fragile. >> right. >> they just assume that individual liberty, you know, they will get to keep their stuff. there will be a revolution, but they will keep their stuff. >> right. during the revolution, they're always the first to go. the fellow traveler is always the first to face the chopping block. >> right. >> and so, this is the aspect of the suicide question. you state there are ideas. we come up.
we don't respect our history. we don't say this thing that you have is something that you have is something that happened because a bunch of people at a certain point in time saw something how life could be constituted. forgetting of that, will lead inevitably to its disintegration, right? >> yeah. >> or, or, you know what, we can take it. we're going through a bad patch. we'll come out of this, it will all be fine. i think we all bounce a little bit between this depending on the day. >> yeah. >> whether there is some horror story, we go, we're done, we're finished. somebody beat up charles murray's escort on a college campus, okay, the dark ages are upon us, no one can speak freely
anymore. or look at this, we're about to have 3% unemployment in the united states. >> yeah. look i agree with all that. i feel like a little bit bringing coals to newcastle is talking about judaism. the reason judaism survived for three thousand years, what is the official number? >> 3,000. >> jews worked hard to keep memory alive. you read the passover, it's, it's thousands of years later, we're still expressing gratitude for, for deliverance, right? and, gratitude is part of my argument is that, if you don't, conservative is gratitude. that you look around. these are things i'm thankful for. these are things i'm blessed for, conserve them, pass along
to your children, right? i think a lot of liberalism properly understood is based on a kind of gratitude too just that kind of liberalism seems to have trouble, not to say our conservatism isn't. and so started to say before, deirdre mccloskey, deals with a lost explanations people use where capitalism comes from. i think she is overwhelmingly persuasive knocking them down. less than 100% bought into her explanation but i think it is almost better than anybody else's explanations it was words. just words. the way we talked about ourselves and world around us and rhetoric. for almost all of human history, certainly almost all of western european history, innovation was considered a sin because our economics was dominated by guilds, the monarchy, which took a gig off the guilds and church
which took off the guilds. the established powers, establishment of guild, nobility and church, did not like any of the ubers of europe, right? so innovation was considered a sin. it was a sin of curitas. bottom up reason this bourgeois thing starts to emerge where innovation is celebrated. all of sudden this loch idea that fruits of your labors belong to you. it only happened in england because england is weird, right? there have been places with property rights before. places allowed innovation before. the chinese had printing presses long before europe did but time and again the established powers shut down innovation because it was disrupting and destablizing to the status quo. for whatever reason england had weak central government or
authoritarian monarch the way france did and standing armies, all sorts of reasons, this genie gets out of the bottle there, the way we talk about ourselves is changes. so for me a big part of the argument is simply that if we don't talk about this stuff, we'll forget about it. you know, that is what, bible says remember the sabbath and keep it always. the remember is not translated as honor. it is an activity. it is not recall. it is like these things you have to physically do, and we don't do any of that right now in our culture. just, because i people like this, on your point how recent all of this stuff is. so i write in a footnote on page 9, think of this way. my father was born when oliver wendell holmes was on the supreme court. holmes fought in the civil war. underling con.
in 17575 john quincy adams heard gunfire in boston where george washington commanded forces. washington was born in 1732. that was five lifetimes. make it six. washington's father died at ripe age of 48, 14 years past the average life compensate -- expect tan sy of englishman at a time. it was just getting started. more most of man's live he lived no better on go legs than he lived on four. there is another guy points out the average english citizen in material terms lived no better than the average roman citizen did. the steady state of poverty was just unbelievable. just six lifetimes, all of that changes, you know? there are. there were bars, there are pubs in oxford i've been to -- >> oiler than that.
>> built in 1300, you know? >> the striking thing that comes up whenever we, if you take say the 2016 election, move into more contrary, something deal with toward the end of the book. >> yeah. >> the question of what our current political situation tells us about where the west is, that we have these two narratives, right? we have the, one of them is pretty solid. that is the trump narrative. and then the democratic narrative shifts and dodges around, largely because it decides to center itself on the trump narrative and be its antithesis. so trump says, america's lost. america got off track. everything, we've done everything wrong and, and, there are all these people who have been left out. and i'm speaking for you. i'm your voice.
you didn't get, you got nothing. you haven't got raises. your salaries stink. financial situation stinks. basically in coded terms your cultural dominance has been taken away from you. and it's not fair. it's not right. and i'm going to take it back, right? then you have hillary clinton and the democrats who, remarkably first time in my lifetime or since really, from the democratic convention on start going, this is, this country is great. >> yeah, yeah. >> this country is, i don't like to hear donald trump running down my country. this is terrible. this is michelle obama eight years earlier first time she was proud of her country. >> exactly. >> now they're, you know, they're merle haggard. when you're running down my country, hoss, walking on fighting side of me. >> right. >> so trump makes this sort of tribal appeal to white america.
>> uh-huh. >> let's say. and democrats become universalists. even though they are the party of identity politics. that is everyone is proportional representation by race and gender at, in their political convention. >> right. >> staffing of the political convention, all that. and so trump is maybe effectively the first really successful national identity politics politician. >> uh-huh. >> it is identity politics that the identity politics never expected to be the identity politics. that is the great danger of identity politics, if the majority, or plurality, decides it is going to act as though it is oppressed minority, well there is no telling where that leads. >> no, i think that's right and it is amazing, if you look at
the polling, everybody thinks they're oppressed right now. >> yeah. >> you can't name a demographic group doesn't feel they are oppressed or demeaned or set upon by the other people and look, i historically, i think you do too, i have considerable sympathy for a lot of the people in the trump coalition who feel they're put on. i mean the way in which our popular culture, our, sort of, campus culture, consistently and relentlessly denigrates flyover people for wont of a better word. >> gun owners. >> gun owners. >> church-goers. >> clinging to their god and their guns, worshiping their crazy sky god, hunters, right. i think some of that is, i think some of those feelings of
cultural resentment are legitimate in the sense that they are being put down upon. you can get away with making fun of those people, coastal elite culture you could never could for other people, right? and, so i, but i also think, you know, this is something very controversial with the left these days, that whenever you talk about the left having some responsibility for the backlash that led to donald trump, they get furious. we didn't vote for this guy. this is you. this is the way the republican party has been going a long time. there is some truth to all that. you've been beating up the republican party. you've been beating up the republican party. but you can't go around saying, you know, yes, all white people are racists, right? you can't go around talking about, how it is amazing, how the white working class, you know, blue-collar guy, joe lunch bucket, was centerpiece of the democratic coalition from fdr up
until the day before yesterday. i mean, joe biden bragged about that. that is where the votes came from, these sort of union guys. >> archie bunker was a democrat. >> the second they vote for donald trump, they're all champions of white supremacy, they're all racists. like the day before the 2016 election, the electoral college, the, what would they call it, the blue wall that they had, advantage in the electoral college, democrats touted it, celebrated it. the day it worked against him, they said it is institution of white supremacy. but the point i'm really getting at, you can't demonize people forever, to expect them to say, my gosh, you're right, i'm horrible. what people will do, wait a second. my dad was a pretty good guy. my grandfather fought in world war ii. my great-great-grandfather, he fought for the union in the civil war. so you know, white people did
some pretty good things in this country, right? you get defensive. normal human response. tribal response. and, so now we're seeing increasing numbers of white people, identifying, of saying that their core identity comes from being white. which was not the case. >> 25 years ago, thirty years ago, when pat buchanan's protest candidacy arose in 1992 against george h.w. bush, and i started hearing in certain precincts of the right, i worked at "the washington times" at the time, there were a great many people on staff who would end up working for buchanan, populating sort of early trump stuff. and they started talking about european americans. >> yeah. >> this was, startling almost seemed parodic at the time. it is ludicrous, one thing to say you're an american jew as we both are.
make up 2% of the population of the united states. and it is defining characteristic of my life. so not quite enough for me to say i'm just an american because this is a very big thing but it is also, i do it because we're so small. >> i know. >> but then they, then, europeans were absolute majority. you can't -- so they were attempting to don the man tell of an oppressed minority while being the majority. that was, that was a for runner to what is happening now where white americans still constitute, this -- >> 67% of the electorate. >> they still constitute a majority, but the idea somehow that they, the only way you get standing in a society that is at tommizeing in this fashion, to retreat into a subtribe, right? neil: they --
>> they have a grievance, right? i think this is a huge problem. again i'm all for calling out problems on our own side but this is a problem that is a cultural problem and, the left commands the commanding heights of most of our culture and so say they have no role in this cultural problem i think is bizarre. i'm not trying to scapegoat the left. i'm trying to persuade them in the book. i'm the house goya at npr now. i do want to say one things, i hear this from a lot of people, i hear this from trevor noah, a lot of people on the left, it is funny. in the subtitle, got rebirth, how the rebirth of tribalism, poppism, nationalism, identity politics is destroying american democracy. all the people agree with the populism, and nationalism, and get furious with the identity politics. they're with me on the
anti-politics but don't like the other stuff. you never get rid of ethnic politics. i have no problem with ethnic politics, right? from ben franklin talking about germans in pennsylvania to the irish in tammany hall, it is not necessarily always a good thing, right? can go too far and all the rest, right? it is very different than the identity politics thing which is essentially trying to create an abstraction of, you know, that, i can tell all i need to know about you by some abstract adherence to something. one of the things that makes ma madernit we can have so many different identities. one of the things about tribal mind, all politics was personal in our natural environment. >> the tribe, or troop, platoon, whatever you want to call it, was our nation.
it was our family. it was our politics. it was our spirituality. we worshiped our group. the group was in relation to god. everything, all the meaning was stacked up on each other, one of the great things, has downside, alienating, comes with ma dernty, instead of tacking up all meanings, it spreads out. one moment you're going to church. another moment you're going to the movies. at another moment you're committed to your job or family. we split up sources of meaning. that is one of the things that makes madernity possible. it gets in the role of institutional pluralism, if you have enough buy in with institutions you're willing to create open space for other people to have different points of view, right? in the tribe, everyone has to agree on everything. >> yeah. >> we're losing a lot of that in our politics. >> amy chu written a book called, "political tribes."
she posits, what america can be, should be, at its best, the what it can be with a definition, being an american, you're part of a supergroup. so your tribe can be part of the larger tribe. >> right. >> which is tends not to be a rule of tribes. >> yeah, yeah. >> if you're an israelite. >> right. >> you're not a moabite. you want to kill the moabites. the super group, talking about spreading out institutions, the idea you also understand that for yours to remain healthy, free what it needs to be. you can't poach on the other guy that is different from you. you're giving him permission to come in and go at yours. >> right. >> it's a mutual defense agreement. there is dmz.
there is cultural dmz. you don't attack me. i don't attack you. the question, how do we, so your argument is teaching our history and creating a space in which we allow our children, you and i both have teenage children. i have younger children. so we're going through this experience having them educated without this, that we need to give them the tools to feel the gratitude for what we have. even if they don't want to accept the idealogical basis of the miracle or anything like that. >> sure. >> also just to say, get in a time machine. go back to 1600, see how many minutes you could survive. >> yeah. that's right. >> you know. as opposed to living now. >> and this is sort of, i keep distracting myself, that is the suicide part. is that, i don't think mccloskey fully appreciates, anything that can be created by words can be destroyed by words. we can talk ourselves out of this, and, we seem to be doing a
pretty good job of doing this. and the reason why it's fragile is, the only thing that differentiate us from the jungle are the institutions that we're born into, and our institutions are in bad shape, and, starting with the family. and so, you know, people keep asking me, what do you do about it? what are your policy suggestions? and i don't do a lot of poll sy in here but one of the things i do say, and that i really firmly believe, we need to shove as much power to the most local level as possible for a bunch of reasons. primarily, the first is, so much of this resentment and tribalism and all the rest comes from this sense that has its roots in capitalism, has its roots in politics, has its roots in our media, a lot of places where
this comes from, there is sense people out there controlling my life. i have no power over my life. people are making decisions for me. people are conspiring against me. the system is rigged. i keep hearing that. the system is rigged. some of that is paranoia. some is totally legitimate. the way you fix it, if you send as much power over people's lives to the most local level possible you knee who the powers that be are. see them at kids school. see them at baseball game. see them at church. there is accountability fix in there. can't claim powerful unseen globalists are doing everything, right? some people talk about globalists, they make it sound at age 13, every good globalist get as bar mitzvah some of that is going on too. you still have culture war fights. but the advantage is, winners
have to look losers in the eye the next day. they will see them. parents of their kids friends, all that, that creates a certain amount of humility and certain amount of open hardness to these -- open heart he he open . reason why nationalism doesn't do what people want it to. >> in america. >> in america. americans don't live in the united states of america. they live in this neighborhood in cleveland, you know, cul-de-sac in san diego or whatever. they leave in actual communities with real human beings. there is a thing, dunbar's number, there is upper limit to a human being can actually know as a human being, 150, 200 people and that's where all of real life happens, is with human beings. virtual communities are not
communities. only five things give us happiness. faith, family, friends, experiencing, genes, because some people are born miserable bastards, and earned success, which is not necessarily or even often money. this feeling that you made a difference in people's lives. that you respected for making contribution. the government can't give you earned success. it can't increase net worth, but self worth. only things for success are people who love you, care about you, respect you. that has to be done at the ground level. giving people more resources to find that, where they actually live is i think really the only answer. it has to start with the family. did a wonderful piece for "the weekly standard" a couple weeks ago, identity politics is offshoot from the breakdown ever the family. this tribal desire to feel a
part of something doesn't go away. if you didn't get those feelings satisfied in the family or local community, go off and look for it in abstractions. you see with the four chant idiots on the right who think they will fine meaning in their life calling themselves airyians or whatever. it is cheap and shabby. the way you fix it by reaching out to actual human beings. >> right. you say, you start saying this is a book without god. god is not a factor in this book. but just to conclude where we began, you nonetheless refer to this kind of seismic, intellectual event, 350 years ago, as a miracle. >> yeah. >> as a rabbi says in the pages of my magazine commentary this month, a miracle is supernatural event, because it's a an event
that otherwise wouldn't naturally happen. >> right. >> the word miracle is an interesting one because what it suggests, this is i think with gratitude, even though this is a book, it is not atheist, but does not bring god into it, is that what you're supposed to do with a miracle is kind of gawk at it, and realize, gratitude is one thing but there is something awesome, but a miracle is something awesome. >> yeah. >> this simply laying out the fact of what happened to mankind over the last, 250, 300 years, if these people in england, britain, ireland, scotland, had not these ideas, come mon common concert, this set wouldn't be here. we wouldn't be here.
>> right. >> i don't know where we would be. >> yeah. >> we would be in some stettle. there is that aspect of the book. i think i read it twice. it is just kind of an awe-inspiring thing that this thing was created. i went to see cc l.h. artra, greatest building on earth in france, i can't believe how did they do that. how was this done? didn't even have power tools. they had nothing. and that's what suicide of the west, even though extremely depressing title. >> i know. >> but made me feel. is that, we are witness, we are the living witnesses to a thing that is without precedent in the, you know in the america and
the world. >> i appreciate that. sort of what i was really going for, i appreciate that. the miracle part for me, i know we have to wrap this up, the miracle part is not to suggestion divine intervention, we also call things miracles that are inexplicable. part of my argument no one intended this miracle to happen. it was an accident. and by virtue of the fact it is an accident, and it was created not through human will but through this weird convergence of contingency, we should be all the more grateful for it because, our reaction should be, oh, crap, i don't want to mess this up, you know? have a certain amount of reference for it. the story of the goose that lays the golden egg, it is taught as story of greed, it is story of gratitude. this goose is giving unbelievable treasure, you ask for more, i can't. in out of rage entitlement or
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