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tv   Yuval Levin A Time to Build  CSPAN  April 4, 2020 3:00pm-4:00pm EDT

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program, visit type pandemics at the top of the page. .. .. next three months you can visit our website at or pick up one of our printed event calendars. before we get started today i would like to ask everyone to please silence your cell phone. so as not to disrupt the event. when it's time for the q&a i would ask you to come up to this microphone right here next to the pillar and please speak
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clearly into the microphone as we are recording it today. c-span, booktv is here as well. following the q and a will have a signing at the table. if you haven't already purchased books we had plenty at the front of the store at the registers. tonight i'm very excited to welcome yuval levin to politics and prose, celebrating his newest book, "a time to build". from family and community to congress and the campus, how recommitting to our institutions can revise the american dream. as the nation faces increasing divisiveness fueled by partisan politics, culture wars and populace anger on both sides, levin argues rather than trying to tear down existing institutional frameworks we should be looking to them as sources of strength and support.
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through "a time to build" he shows our current crisis isn't completely due to the presence of an impressive oppressive force but the absence of uniting forces and urges us to commit ourselves to renewing the vitality of institutions. ranging from the family and schools to churches and the military. to renew our ties to each of the festivities the founding editor of national affairs, director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the american enterprise institute's. contributing editor of national review, cofounder and senior editor of the new atlantis and has authored the fractured republic in the great debate. his essays and articles have appeared in numerous publications including the new york times, washington post and wall street journal among many others. please join me in welcoming to politics and prose, yuval levin [applause]
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>> thank you very much. thank you, i appreciate the welcome i appreciate you being here on a friday night. i am excited to chat a little bit about this book and what it might say to a moment that takes a little work to understand.this is a book about some of what's gone wrong in our country in recent years and what we can do about it. nothing has gone wrong is reasonably clear about exactly what it is, actually isn't as clear as we sometimes think or imagine or pretend.we americans are in a sense living through a social crisis. we can see that in everything from vicious partisan polarization to rapid culture war resentments and upsurge of isolation, alienation, despair that is sent suicide rates climbing and driven an epidemic
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of opioid abuse in recent years. these are deep dysfunctions and seemingly different parts of our society but they seem to have common roots. yet it's not easy to say what exactly those roots are. what exactly has gone wrong. part of the crisis, one of its symptoms as we can't quite seem to get a handle on just what that is. traditional economic concerns don't really cut it as explanations. we certainly went through a severe recession in 2007 and 2008 but ended more than a decade ago and was actually now been living through one of the longest economic expansions in the modern era. we are very low in employment and inflation and interest rates wages are rising. it's not that some americans aren't suffering economically with the problems we have on that front don't really add up to the enormous crisis we are going through. other familiar kinds of measures of well-being don't offer obvious explanations either. americans are as healthy and safe as we've ever been. you might say, what we complaining about? in fact, some people argue there isn't anything to complain about or that the frustration and anxiety that seems to overwhelm us now are rooted in some kind of
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imaginary grievances through and by our politics. that they themselves might be the problem. stephen pickard from harvard takes these kinds of complaints to be what he describes as irritable gestures of self-indulgent ingratitude. in a recent book he looks over mountains of data on wealth and health and safety and choice and he concludes that populace complaints on all sides of our politics are just detached from reality. he said they are dangerous too "indiscriminate pessimism can lead to fatalism to wondering why we should go time and money at a hopeless cause and can lead to radicalism to smash the machine or drain the swamp or empower a charismatic tyrant ". surely, although these kinds of responses are understandable and part, public frustration is not just some kind of self-delusion, especially frustration that runs this deep that's revealed itself in such a broad range of symptoms. pinker's happy data are not wrong exactly and neither are
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the encouraging economic indicators but if these don't explain training sentiments of our time we should ask ourselves what those kind of indicators might be ignoring. what signs we might be missing. our usual measures of wealth and health and personal freedom don't explain the problem because those familiar indicators, important as they are to understanding our society are largely material an individual. they assess our well-being on our own but none of us can really experience while being on our own. as exactly in the joints of society at the junctures of individuals, the interest disease of life that the trouble really shows itself. one way to put that point is that many of our struggles seem rooted in relational problems. loneliness and isolation, mistrust, suspicion, alienation, polarization conveys are kinds of problems we have now and failures of sociality. they fall into a blind spot for a very individualist culture. so how do we explain a crisis of connectedness like this?
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some people argue the trouble is fundamentally philosophical and metaphysical that liberalism is failed because it fails to offer us a sufficient vocabulary or architecture for solidarity. other people say that although traditional measures growth and prosperity might look fine our problem is still economic in a deeper sense. it's socioeconomic. they say contemporary capitalism creates levels of inequality that make it impossible for people to feel like equal parts of a larger whole or believe in legitimacy of our political economic order. other people suggest that external pressures like trade or immigration or internal pressures like racism or identity politics have left us incapable of hanging together. there's some truth to all these
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things, surely, they all get something important right because they treat the human person as embedded in a larger hole whether metaphysical or moral or social or economic and see that what's wrong now has to do with the way in which we live out that embeddedness. i think they still are missing something crucial. when we think about problems in this way we tend to imagine imagine our society as a vast open space full of people having trouble linking hands. of joining together and recovering longing trust in legitimacy. what we are missing although we too were really pulled it this way is a structure, shape for our social rest. a way to get purpose and a concrete meaning and identity to the things we do together. if american life is a big open space it's not a space filled with individuals, it's a space filled with these structures of social life. it's a space filled with institutions. if we are too often failing to foster belonging in legitimacy and trust more than a failure of connection we confront the failure of institutions.
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in understanding social crisis in terms of what they are and what they do to help us to see that crisis in a new light. that's the understanding really that this book tries to advance. what is an institution? it won't surprise you to learn that there are a lot of different academic definitions of the term. the book thinks through a number of these but for our purposes let me suggest a general definition that draws together a lot of the academic work but also looks toward the problems we confront in our society now. bice institutions i mean the durable forms of our common life.the shapes, the structures and what we do together. some institutions are really organizations, they have something like a corporate form a university or hospital or school or business, civic association, these are all institutions, they are technically legally formalized. some institutions are durable forms of a different kind maybe
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shaped by laws or norms or rules but without corporate structure. the family, for example, is an institution, in some ways the first and foremost institution of every society. the talk about the institution of marriage or a particular tradition in a profession of an institution. the rule of law itself as an institution. that they are durable as ascension an institution keeps its general shape over time so it shapes the realm of life in which it might be said to operate. it usually changes only very gradually and incrementally. flash mobs don't count as institutions. most important was distinct about institution is that it's a form. in the deepest sense a form is a structure of contour. it's the shape of the whole the organization that speaks of its purpose and its logic and function and meaning. a social form an institution is not just a bunch of people it's a bunch of people order together to achieve a purpose to pursue a goal to advance an ideal and that means institutions are also by their
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nature formative. they structure our interactions and as a result of that they structure us. they shape our habits our expectations and ultimately shape our character as they shape our souls. they hope to form us in the formative role actually has a lot to do with how institutions relate to the social crisis that we are living through now. let me say a word about that. when we think about the role of institutions in american life now we might tend to think first in terms of our loss of trust or confidence in institutions. we talk about that it's a trend we hear a lot about it. measures very easy to find and paint a very grim picture. gallup has kept track of what it calls americans confidence and sin institutions for decades it continues to do it on a regular basis and the trend in those figures is unmistakable. from big business and banks and professions to the branches of federal government the news media academies, the in the early 70s 80% of americans said
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they had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in doctors and hospitals, for example. last year that figure was 87 percent. 40 years ago 65 percent of americans said they had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in organized religion.last year less than 40% said that.60% of americans express confidence in the public schools in the early 70s. just about a third did last year. even in 1975 a year after richard nixon resigned in disgrace, 52 percent of americans expect confidence in the presidency last year 32 percent did. gallup even found amazingly that 42 percent of the public had confidence in congress. that last year that was 12 percent ken seems really high. you have to wonder who are these people who say they have confidence in congress. this pattern holds for just about all the institutions that gallup asked about.the military is the only major
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exception and we will think about that in a second. the overall trend is really unmistakable. the american public is gone from extraordinary levels of confidence in our major institutions to really striking levels of mistrust.but what we actually mean when we say that we don't trust institution? i think the answer has a lot to do with what institutions actually are and do. it takes us back to that question of how the form us. every significant execution carries out some important task in society. educating children or enforcing the law or serving the poor just providing some service making some product. it does that by establishing a structure toward accomplishing that task. in the process that institution also forms those people to carry out that task effectively and responsibly and reliably. it shapes the people within it to be trustworthy. that's what it means to trust an institution. we trust an institution when it seems to have an ethic that
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makes the people within it more trustworthy. not just a political institution when it takes seriously some kind of obligation to the public interest and forms the people in it to do the same. we trust the military because it's values courage and honor and duty and carrying out the defense of the country and it clearly shapes people who do that too. we trust the business because it promises quality and integrity and meeting some need rehab and seems to reward its people when they deliver those. we trust to school because it builds a culture that makes its people devoted to learning and teaching and keeping kids happy and safe. we trust journalistic institution because it has high standards of honesty or accuracy in reporting the news and that makes its people reliable. we lose faith in institutions when we no longer believe that it plays that kind of ethical roof formative role. shaping the people within it to be trustworthy. one way that can happen is when institutions claim to enforce an ethic of responsible at a book plainly failed to do that.
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instead shielding and powering bad behavior. there are plenty of his examples in our time but there's plenty of examples in every time. another related and different way in which institution can lose our trust when it fails to impose an ethic and the people within it altogether. it doesn't seem to see that kind of formation as a purpose. when the people in the institution no longer see it as a mold of their character and behavior but just as a platform for themselves to perform on to raise their profiles to be seen in society. an institution like that seems not to be worthy of our trust not because it's failed to earn it because it doesn't seem to
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seek it to desire it. i think something like that has been happening to a lot of our institutions in american life in the last few decades. we don't think of her institutions as formative but as performative when the presidency and congress are just stages for purportedly political outrage when university becomes a venue for virtue signaling on one side or another when journalism is indistinguishable from activism on one side or the other when the church becomes a political stage to become a lot harder to trust because they are really asking for our trust or just asking for attention. our time the few exceptions, most notably the military the most unabashedly formative of our national institution seems to prove that rule because they tend to be the few institutions in which we aren't losing faith. many of the truly novel institutions of the 21st century especially the virtual
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institutions of social media are inherently shaped as platforms and not as mold. it would be strange to trust the platform and we generally don't. that change of attitude is kind of declined in the expectation the institutions should be formative of the people in them is at the heart of our loss of faith in institutions. it didn't turn at the heart of our broader social crisis because it institutions understood as platforms rather than molds stages to perform on more than as means to form and shape our character are less able to offer subjects of loyalty to the sources of legitimacy, ways of building neutral trust. examples of these kinds of transformations for molding platform are everywhere around us once you start looking for them. in many cases our institutions are being made to platforms not just for any performance but for a kind of performative virtue and performative outrage in that vast polarized culture war that so much of our society is living through. in one of the institution after another week on people who are
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to think of themselves as insiders shaped by distinct purpose and integrity of the institution they are in instead of functioning as outsiders displaying themselves building their own personal brand as we see now. this is obvious in politics is there any doubt that donald trump sees the presidency as a stage for performative outrage? what exactly is he doing when he treats his displeasure with something in the department of justice is done, for example? the department of justice works for him. if he had a sense of his job as shaped by institutional contours, he would direct the executive branch rather than complain about it. maybe it's a good thing he doesn't know he can do that but he could. the president normally would come the sense of his job is yet another stage for the reality television show that
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his life has been for so long. is there any question at the same time that many members of congress of both parties now run for office last to be involved in legislative work and more to have a prominent platform in the culture wars to become more visible on cable news or talk radio to build a bigger social media following. to use their elected office mostly as a platform to complain about the very institution they work so hard to enter. they see that is what their voters want. they're always performing for their core partisan audience. our two major political parties now really anything other than two platforms for performance today have a function other than displaying and elevating narcissist? do we even remember what the rules a political party is supposed to be at this point? we look beyond politics too, think about the profession of journalism as an example. it's institutional strength insistence on informative integrity. on a process of editing and verification that helps us to be sure that what it provides is reliable. today a lot of elite journalists, constantly step outside of those institutional constraints and address the public directly on social media or cable news, building their
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own personal brands on a platform rather than participating in the work of institutions. if you look on twitter right now you find a lot of professional reporters effectively d professionalized themselves. journalists inclined to complain about how donald trump is behaved in office should consider whether chuck's behavior relative to what the presidency is might be unnervingly similar to the behavior of a lot of leading political journalist relative to what journalism is. both are playing out a self-indulgent celebrity version of the real thing and in both cases that renders them less able to do their appropriate and very important work. you can see the same pattern in the academy, rather than serving the institutional purpose of the university which is to form some portion of the rising generation to teaching and learning we find a lot of people in the university using the institution as a platform for virtue signaling or political cultural or theatrics. there's a version of the same thing in some portions of
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american religion were institutions being exists to transform souls are instead being used for culture war drama so the cachet of the church is used less to form those within it than to let them express themselves. we can see that pattern throughout american life that distortion of institutionalism amounts in practice to the great unasked question of our time. given my role here, how should i behave. that's what someone who takes an institution they are involved with seriously would ask. a lot of the trouble that faces are core institutions now could be described as a widespread failure to pass that simple kind of question. given my role here, how should i behave? as a president as a member of congress as a teacher or scientist, as a pastor or worker or parent or neighbor emma what should i do here?
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i would bet that the people most respect these days seem to ask that kind of question before they make important judgments. i would bet that the people that drive you crazy if you think are really part of the problem in america seem somehow to constantly fail to asset to the question when they should. so we always find ourselves tanking, how could that person have done that? given what their responsibilities are. that's one way to understand the transformation of our expectations of institutions which has so much to do with the broader set of problems we are dealing with. the transformation is left a lot of americans with a sense that our institutions can't be trusted. but they aren't in the business of earning trust and that's left just short of sources of formation of belonging of legitimacy of social cohesion. the problem doesn't simply explain the social crisis we are living through but it's one important factor behind the crisis we are particularly likely to miss or ignore because we are very good at seeing institutions and grasping what they are for. we see through them in normal times like the air, we only notice it when something's wrong. and something is wrong now. what can we do about it?
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book like this very often have a final chapter were having diagnosed some complicated problem the author offers an agenda and it turns out that this moment calls for whatever it is this author has always wanted government to do and of course that's true this moment calls for whatever i've always wanted too but this book doesn't really have a chapter like that because i think dealing with this kind of problem requires to begin with the change of mindset. witnessing failures of this possibility as so many of our institutions were tempted to disposition to demolish the upper roof and tempted to conclude that only outsiders can save us. that's why so much of the energy of our politics is spent staring down supposedly powerful establishments. in fact we don't need more outsiders who pretend they are just critics with no power to act. we need more insiders. institutionalists who will be earnest both in efforts to build frameworks for common action and in their acceptance of the duties that accompany power. those in our society have the most powder delegate power
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needed especially to resist the urge to begin their outsiders are so many of them do so often now. everyone else does too. we should all try to embrace the response abilities that come with whatever positions we do hold and we should ensure that obligations and restraints actually protect and empower us. we need to inhabit the institutions that we each are a part of to love them when necessary to reform them to help make them more lovely to other people too. we need to understand ourselves as formed by these institutions and to act accordingly to ask ourselves in little moments of decision not just what do i want but what should i do here given my role or my position. questions like these might seem like an awfully small response to the norms comes problems that i started with that of course there only a start but it's how we can begin to work
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toward a change of mindset and they can add up and make a difference. if our leaders asked them more often our politics would be improved a lot if professionals in many fields thoughtlessly a little bit more it would be easier to trust her expertise to accept their claims to authority if the people who participate in all the institutions that were a part of try to think this way it would be easier to feel like we belong to something worthwhile. that change of mindset is not a substitute for institutional reform it's an essential prerequisite for it. we do need institutional reforms i want to be clear i don't think the problem to be solved is the people don't trust institutions enough. the problem to be solved is institutions are not trustworthy enough. it's important to recognize there serious reasons to be careful and skeptical about institutions in american society. they are obviously a lot of ways in which institutions can be oppressive they limit our freedom of choice they impose hierarchies on us they can be slow to change and hard to move, more than that some
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institutions in our society can be literally oppressive. the term institutionalized racism for example is not a metaphor it's reality of american life. the disposition against strong institutions arose for serious reasons. the arguments for transparency for individual using emerged as a corrective to excessively rigid and imperious institutionalism. all we have to see that populism and individualism and anti-institutionalism also involved serious trade-offs. institutions can be terribly oppressive and we can't do without them they can reinforce the rule of the strong or privileged in our society but without functional institutions sometimes it's embodied impressions they can also embody our highest ideal to defend institutions is not to defend status quo or the strong or privileged functional institutions are most important for people who don't have power or privilege. institutions could become cold and bureaucratic.
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without them we go isolated, alienated, disillusioned. we see that around us.this is the irony we confront now in american life. the failures of our institutions have led us to demand that they be uprooted or demolished. we can't address those failures without renewing and rebuilding those very institutions. we are right to be fed up with them sometimes but we need them to be respectable and legitimate. it's right that anti-institutionalism should guide our reactions against the excesses of institutional strength in american life but our problems today are much more like excesses of institutional weakness so they require recommitment and reform rather than resentment. there's nothing weaker in american life now than the establishment. i say recommitment and reform in that order because our attitude has to change first. the book gets into some structural institutional reforms that can help particular institutions that talk about. the professions, the academy, civic and religious life but the common denominator when it
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comes to those times reforms is that the people in those institutions have to want them to happen. that means they have to first see that the ways they are now behaving is a big part of the problem. as i make key institutions a possible to trust for contributing to a profound and set of social dysfunction in america. we face the challenge of drawing alienated people back into our institutions. we can point to all kinds of complicated theories of how to build the trust at required to accomplish that but the sublist way is to for the people who inhabit our institutions for all of us to try to be more trustworthy. we each can work at that. we can give our institutional responsibilities more of our time and effort we can give them more of our identity or self-consciousness we can understand ourselves as defined by those institutions that
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matter most in our own lives. we can judge ourselves by their standards, hold ourselves up to their ideals and take seriously their forms of integrity. we can work to reform them where they are failing to help them work better and be more worthy of trust and confidence. we can you're not for the formless economy of the independent contractor but for the rootedness and responsibility of the member and the partner and the worker and the owner and the citizen. there is a word i think for attitudes like that of the word is devotion. what's required of us now is devotion to the work we do together with other people in the service of a common aspiration and therefore devotion into the institution so we compose and inhabit. that kind of devotion does call for sacrifice and commitment. it calls on each of us to pledge ourselves to some institution we belong to unabashedly to abandon ironic distance and dispassionate analysis and jumping sometimes. that kind of devotion is not only necessary it's actually very attractive just now we want objects of devotion we want something to commit to but we often don't see that what were looking for is right
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within our reach. it's easy to be fashionable rebels it's harder to remind ourselves why our core commitments are worthwhile. that's the kind of case institutional ãas were imposing in another words is a modest change in our stance toward our country and for the social crisis it confronts. not social revolution or political transformation, not directly come a greater awareness of how integrity and trust and confidence belonging in meeting our establish our lives in the greater cairo habit to get into that tend to cut us off from them. these habits of left us feeling like there is no one we can trust except cynics and outsiders and nothing we can do except register outrage at people and ideas we disagree with. that's at the life of our society would look like without functional institutions. the fact is, our society has many functional institutions and could have many more if we
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devote ourselves to strengthening and reforming those we are a part of and if we respond to needs and problems by building and rebuilding institutions rather than just expressing frustration from the outside. taking and speaking a little bit differently about how we live together can make a bigger difference than we might imagine it can help us see what we been missing to do what we been neglecting to say what we've only assumed or taken for granted small steps like those are what make great changes possible. they are constructive they build upon each other and turn us all into builders. that in the end is the character of the transformation we need now. the demolition crews have been allowed for too long to define the spirit of this era in american life but where we are headed is going to be up to the builders and the rebuilders. that is what each of us should seek to be. thanks very much. [applause] gives an overview of the book. i'm happy to take questions and dig in a little bit deeper there is a microphone appear. >> that was a great talk.
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>> thank you. >> i'm curious the extent to which you think this is specifically american problem. if you look beyond the u.s. of countries where this is more or less a problem what are the lessons we can learn from that? >> i think it's certainly not uniquely un-american problem. if think about the picture of the crisis i start with similar crisis are certainly happening around the west politics of populism and breakdown of trust and confidence trust in hing is quite low. but i do think there are some distinct ways americans look because confidence in government in the united states through institutions and treat them as invisible aware that we identify authenticity with unmediated directness in a different way than many other people in the world. our culture is rooted in a kind of protestantism we've always been attracted to outsiders and
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mavericks our politics has always been drawn that sort of figure. there was an exception to that in the middle of the 20th century in america where coming out of the second world war and the depression add decades of mobilization we had very unusual confidence in institutions. very high confidence stop i think that was not the norm that was an odd moment but it was an odd moment to cutter to find our sense of default. living now in america that has so little trust in institutions feels to us much more broken a prehearing we still with the norms of baby boomers grew up with. our leaders still are those baby boomers.were really testing how elderly our leaders can get and it turns out pretty elderly. so i do think there's something distinct about this american approach to institutions that contributes to this problem that understanding are we part of the solution but the
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breakdown of social trust and the rise of populism is certainly not just an american. >> thank you for your talk. we watched two different versions of reality play out in our politics recently. your points in institutional failures and the performative nature of some actors are very well taken but i think you have it properly addressed another contributing factor in opposition to both expertise and experts. this is a long-standing pattern. the declining trust in major newspapers. i tell my students to read more than they watch and avoid news as engineered to give them a dopamine hit of righteousness. but what would you do to address this problem. >> you are right, your students are lucky to have that advice. i think this is very much connected to what i get out
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here and is very much part of the discussion in the book is this loss of trust and expertise. the question is, why do we trust experts. i think that has a lot to do with why we trust institutions which is to say we trust them when we think they are formed in a way that gives them greater authority than the average person on some particular subject. the scientific method gives scientists more authority because it's clear that before they say something they've gone through a process that helps them figure out what's likely to be true and what isn't. and we do trust that that happens. though even our trust in scientists has declined quite a lot in america. i think journalism as i mentioned, strives for something like that to show that it has a message that makes it worthy of our trust. think expertise in general works that way in that the transformation of a lot of the professional institutions that form experts that way into and in some cases really stages for political performance but in any case the sense that the public has that all of these
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institutions of authority no less than they say has a lot to do with the public's loss of trust. it's connected to the populism in our politics. it's also driven by a set of technological advances that gives everybody the misimpression that they know as much as their doctor. people show up at all this stuff we all now because of the kind of fragmentation of the media and culture we imagine that we have access to all the knowledge in the world and therefore we don't need experts but that's not actually what experts are. experts don't just have knowledge they have experience, they have a certain kind of prudence that's built from the practice of applying knowledge in the world and i think it's an idea that our culture does want to hear he can see it and politics that's a little bit of the outsider. politics requires knowledge and
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experience. you wouldn't think so now when people run for office they proclaim how little experience they have. they take pride in the fact that they've never done this before. i'm not sure that's a great way to prove you can be president. i think this pattern has a great deal to do with what i try to get at is the sense in which our idea that institutions exist to form people to give them a certain kind of shape in the life of a society is a way to make them trustworthy and make individuals trustworthy. we still want expertise at some level you don't hear from your surgeon it's kind of average. that's not great news. we want to hear that this is somebody who knows what they are doing and can prove it. and a lot of our public life we don't really admit to ourselves that that kind of expertise has value and i think that's part of this cultural diction i'm trying to draw. >> thank you very much for the
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presentation. , i enjoyed it a lot. your most recent comments there i think have a lot to do with my question may be answering my question. one of the things that you said was that you wanted to include the professions and among institutions and your comments about doctors and medicine and so forth were along those lines. what i'm not clear about though is whether it sounds like the loss of faith in professions as institutions in your mind is true for people from the outside of those but i wonder, i don't get the sense that from with inside the scientific community or inside the medical community for that matter or inside the engineering community for that matter that there is a crisis of confidence in their own institution. >> i think it's hard to sustain that confidence when the public doesn't trust you.
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i would actually say that and a lot of what we think of as the core professions there is a sense that the educational institutions and institutions of practice that really give you a place in the profession have lost some of their authority and that people do look for shortcuts look for ways to gain prominence of public profile more than to work their way through the kind of normal steps involved in gaining expertise. i don't think it's collapsed and it's different from one institution to another. medicine at some level you actually have to know some particular things in order to practice medicine. and you can't really just pretend to know them. i do think that there is a way in which the larger society's loss of trust in institutions is connected to a decline in confidence and not just confidence but satisfaction. people in our major professions now are much less happy with
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their professional lives and you can see why because if the larger public doesn't value you in the way it valued your professional generation ago and it does become much harder to justify to yourself the kind of commitment necessary to become an expert and rise in the field. some places more than other it's not the same everywhere but i think you see it in the legal world you see it certainly in journalism, which is a profession that is especially subject to these pressures and forces. and i would argue that to some extent in medicine too american doctors are much less satisfied than they were even a generation ago. just with their place in society. thank you. >> i found myself agreeing with your analysis almost en>>that's.
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i would like to push you more toward specific policies. the concern, i look at this politics and prose audience and i see people at the american enterprise institute and other think tanks and those who are so inclined and intentional will hear your message and maybe try but for the vast majority of americans this is almost speaking a foreign language. just wondering what you think about. >> i'm not sure i agree it doesn't speak to some people's angry dumb experience in some ways in the sense that it's harder now to find people to trust as a problem for everyone, not just for people in washington or people of a certain level of education. ways of trying to diagnose that in terms that relate to
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people's experience could apply more than that but i agree with you that at some level they also have to take the form of institutional reforms. in the institutions that are broken, congress is a great example. congress is really the broken institution in our politics at this point is that whatever you think of donald trump could take an hours telling you what i think of donald trump, i think the failure comes a much bigger problem. that the various complaints we have about the other branches of government are largely functions of various failures of the legislator to take its responsibility seriously. reforms of the congress that would encourage its members to think of themselves as insiders not outsiders and think of themselves as legislators not performers. we have to look like changes to the budget process the committee system in ways that invest people more in the actual work of the institution i think we've gotten to a place
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now where most members take one big vote a year on a big budget bill they have nothing to do with creating it was created and leadership offices and midnight before the government shuts down. the structure of the work of congress has a lot to do with their institutional reforms that could change that. i think in some ways it's dangerous to say this on c-span there are ways transparency has gone too far in congress there are no quiet spaces for members to talk to one another. the only productive spaces are the leadership offices and midnight before the government shuts down and those of the places where all the work gets done. c-span is a godsend but i think there also has to be some places for members to bargain and deal with each other and there is no such thing as bargaining in public. if you see people bargaining in public you're watching a show you're not watching the real work of the legislature. i think congress has to be much more self-conscious about the way that it structures its
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work. the last real bipartisan big bipartisan bills i would say they happened in the early bush years which is a long time ago now. congress hasn't really sort of felt itself functioning in quite a while. i use that as an example because that's an institution that really makes its own rules and could change them and if it understood the problem in these terms i think it would have some incentives to do that. part of the reason to write a book like this is to try to surface problems in these terms because it's not how we tend to see them. it actually points in the opposite direction from how we tend to see them so that rather than thinking we need to tear these things down some of the establishment is too strong we can understand actually need to build these things up we need functional institutions and right now we just don't have
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them. >> i have sort of two questions but i want to start by saying thank you for your presentation i think you're making a wonderful contribution to the discussion and the issues. the first part is sense you are from what i gather from your presentation is you are asking for a new attitude and a change of mindset. what would it take for us culturally for that to really get launched in addition to more than just writing this great book and getting us all to read it but what culturally. >> you said i'll read it. [laughter] the second part is actually at the other end which is with reform part what kind of it seems to me that part of the problem is not has to do with the way we've organized our society and that we are organized our institutions have been handed down to us from ãb
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we now we are in industrial and digital age. the structures the hierarchies that we created that worked then don't work now and we have in a sense undermined how we used to be organized by the personal connections and community in the way the personal relationships. what kind of structural reforms can you think of that might help restore personal connections and things that restore a sense of order so the organizations are just different. >> these are great questions in the sense that they are impossible questions. those are the best questions. i would say they are related. if one thing you ask is how do we start to change attitudes, i honestly think the only answer to that is to articulate for ourselves the problems in a
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particular way that causes us to think about our everyday decisions differently. i don't think we can do much better than that but that can be a very powerful way to change. i don't think this can be really a top-down change. ultimately the trouble with the need for institutional reform is that it has to come from within. the people who are now empowered by the way things work have to want them to change. it's very hard to get to has to be a demand for it to so there has to be if you can write a book may be read a book but when you ask what kind of most forms might be possible in some ways american life has changed in dramatic ways over the years
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and we've seen big changes in our culture and society before. some of our institutions have proven very durable in the face of those kind of changes and some have not. i think what's troubling about this moment is that we have seen a response to it and taken the form of a lot of new institution building. the goal the argument i'm making is not just to restore and recover what we have but to respond to novel problems with new institutions. if you think about the last time our country went through a period of such intense dynamic change at the end of the 19th beginning of the 20th century where we had similar problems in some ways, dramatic economic change, growth in the scale and scope of the economy, massive waves of immigration we responded to those with institution building. it was a lot of institution building. we think now on one hand is the progressive movement but you can think of it as the emergence of a set of both bottom-up and top-down institutions the american society to deal with really new problems. i think that spoke to a kind of
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tendency in american life to respond to problems by building institutions. it is an american thing. alexis was here in the 1830s he wrote a letter to his father which he said if you get for americans together they were they will elect the treasurer. that's one way to understand our national character but i think we lost a little bit of that tendency now to see a problem and respond by organizing around it. we have all these ways now to just express our dissatisfaction. we inclined to expressive forms of response rather than to structural organization forms. we think that by just signaling on facebook we agree with that guy we've done something about the problem. saying on facebook you're on the right side of something, that's not doing anything at all. very often it's a way of avoiding doing something. in some ways it's even worse than that because the forms of reaction that twitter and other forms of social media encourage lead us to respond to problems
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in a kind of confrontational way rather than think about how to build around them. further we need is a recovery of institution building instinct and the only contribution i can really make to that is to try to articulate that as a need and try to help people see that when they face a problem maybe that's one way to think about it. >> thank you for your talk. i have good news, given the context of this evening. i work at georgetown and i lead a research on modernizing congress there's a whole committee created a year ago this month to update and modernize institution. it's got six democrats and six republican, it's run in a proletarian presbytery way. i work very closely with them. they all ask questions and all contribute that's what's called unified staff which means the
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staff work together all the time. just three weeks ago they introduced a bill that was based on a set of i think 29 recommendations over the last year that came out of committees. the legislation to reform the institution and its huge because it takes into account building digital infrastructure, bring back the delivery of process. devolving power back to the committees and allowing members more chances to lead in the process. i think relating to the other comments this evening when congress is down to 30 to 50% of its hearing. we see that show pony hearings like then yazdi and the impeachment but it's really not it has stopped doing the deliberate of process. it's now finding itself at 1980 levels of in-house expertise. the thing that i really noticed a lot, i would love to hear your comments on this is that the problem with data and
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digital is that it has weapon eyes transparency. every public place you can imagine has been weapon eyes at this point and the hearing people want to watch you can watch all of them, their tremendous and they bring in a lot of people working on this. is that congress has ways to curate the incoming. we love c-span by the way but we need something like a c-span channel for which is doesn't exist at this point but it would be far more curated, far more local and create a voice that talks to congress on its calendar like it's committees of jurisdiction not all members can care about everything all the time. it seems that there has to be some sort of fundamental coming to terms with is not serving deliberative democracy right now and that has to do with everything being in this sort of free market fundamentalist
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model and unless we come to terms with like unregulated capitalism as it's going, that's another massive institutional set of changes that we need. i would love for you to talk about that because you are from aei. i received a lot of your memos on the other side as a whole staff. >> thank you for that, first of all, thank you for the question and the work you are doing a been involved with that committee too because there's a kind of twin committee of the american political science association that i've been a member of and recovering political scientist myself. we've offered some recommendations to the house reform committee and they taken some of those. i think the work they are doing is enormously important. i would say at the core of it there's a question that needs to be asked in a more explicit way which is really what is the purpose of congress? i think there are two answers to that question that cut in opposite directions and we are
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going in both directions at the same time we try to reform congress. on the one hand he can say the purpose of congress is like the purpose of european parliament which is to empower majorities to govern while their majorities until the public takes away their power. on the other hand you say the purpose of congress is to compel accommodation among differing groups and factions in american life to force compromise. i think that's the original purpose of congress is the madisonian purpose of congress i also think it's absolutely essential and the american national legislature is decidedly not a european parliament. it's intended to force people with differences to come to some agreement. congress has become very very bad at this. because implicitly at least both parties now want it to function like european parliament so that when they
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have majority they want to say, now we've got it we should do everything we want to do and get whatever we can push through, the trouble is you lose it and the other party takes away everything you did and tries to do everything and we lived now since the 1990s through a period where we haven't really had a stable majority party in congress which in itself is pretty unusual both parties always think next time will win everything. don't compromise now, just wait until our people get in and we will be able to do everything we want. it never works that way. congress basically always just sits around waiting for the next election one will really be able to finally do our work. i think accepting the fact that ultimately the people you don't like are going away is the beginning of the civil democratic politics. our politics now is premised on the idea that maybe next time the people we don't like will just go away. that's how we approach every election cycle and both parties do this and it's just bonkers. it's completely disconnected from any understanding of what american life actually looks like right now which is a very decided, divided society that needs help coming together. i think a set of congressional
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reforms that try to address itself to that need would try to force unless majorityãb the filibuster forces you to have more than their majorities to get anything significant done. i think those kinds of changes that break down the sort of big two where we have these two parties that each hope next time will win everything and instead try to create some dynamic coalitions that change over time that reflect a little more of the actual quite complicated political society we live in. that might require some electoral reforms, it would certainly require some structural reforms of congress, re-empowering the committees, i think the power is much too centralized in the leadership now.all these things were done for a reason but we have to see that this is a moment
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when the institution is not functioning and as happened in the 1940s as happened in the 1970s congress needs to take itself by the arms and make a change. members are not there. those 12 members of that committee, those are basically the only tool people in the house want to do anything right now. there are maybe 10 senators between the two parties who are really interested in structural reform. i think getting more of them interested is absolutely essential to anything happening that helps a workout. i think that's it, thank you very much. [applause] >> i want to thank you all for coming tonight, especially yuval for being here. we will have a signing here at this table. the books are available at the registers, if you could fold up your chairs and leaned them against something solid would be fantastic.thank you. we are showing some authors to
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look at disease and pandemics. use er doctor jeremy brown discussing social isolation during the 1918 influenza epidemic. >> the plague build momentum more people die, and by october 2 on the front page of the washington post we were told that work hours have changed that the federal day has been staggered to check the influenza spread and the people take shifts. washington dc was not the only city to do this by any means. in fact, it happened in most of the cities that were affected. the idea was that if we could stop people from mangling, although we didn't know it was a virus that was causing this, we did understand somehow that keeping away from people was probably a good idea. theaters were closed down in some places, restaurants were either closed or staggered their hours.
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stores had staggered hours and in an attempt to keep people spaced away from each other. the working hours of the federal government changed around the beginning of october. i talked about this piece of this report in the book is a particularly sobering one and comes a couple weeks after that announcement about closures. by october 13, 1918 the washington post reported in this headline the ghoulish coffin trust that the price of coffins had skyrocketed. and that this was an example of people taking advantage of the terrible situation. in fact, they write, the coffin trust is holding the people of the city of washington holding the people of this city by the throat and extorting for them outrageous prices for coffins
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at disposal of the dead. in fact, the washington post goes on to suggest that the department of justice should step in and instantly put a stop to the high prices of coffins. it cost more to bury your dead because the coffeemakers figured they could make a buck. ...... [applause] book, me and white supremacy ground of an online effort to get


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