Steven B. Smith (Patriotism, What makes a great political regime, socialism, European powers)

In this episode of the Judgment Call Podcast Steven B. Smith and I talk about:

  • 00:02:01 How Steven’s latest book about the Virtue of Patriotism has been received? What does patriotism actually mean? Is patriotism just an emotion? Does patriotism imply a sense of superiority?
  • 00:16:34 Should we start our own customized virtual countries? Is the nation state outdated and too many assumptions are ‘baked into the cake’ of the existing nation state?
  • 00:33:29 Do we live in the best possible ‘political regime’?
  • 00:37:23 Is Jean-Jacques Rousseau the original ‘father of socialism’? What are the advantages of his thought process and the direct democracy?
  • 00:43:23 An origin story of the ‘two sides’ of the US political system? Are we wasting too many resources in a ‘repetitive debate’?
  • 00:50:43 Why are we drawn to so many false dichotomies and narratives – especially on a federal level? Are we in a crisis of representative democracy?
  • 00:59:10 Is the uptick in the rate of change the reason for the return to authoritarianism? Is an authoritarian regime the ‘Venture Capital’ of political regimes? Does democracy need more competition?
  • 01:11:43 Why has there not been a revolution in the US since 1776?
  • 01:18:41 Is the ‘falling out with god’ the root cause of what happened in the 20th century in Europe? What was the role of Germany during the time?
  • 01:25:43 How the approach to (political) philosophy in Germany and East Asia so different.
  • 01:31:11 Why WWI changed European politics forever?

You may also watch this episode on Youtube – Steven B. Smith (Patriotism, What makes great political regime, socialism, European powers).

Steven B. Smith has been teaching at Yale since 1984. Steven’s lecture series ‘Introduction to Political Philosophy‘ has been viewed 700,000 times on Youtube. Steven also has been a prolific author including  Hegel’s Critique of Liberalism Political Philosophy (2012) and the Modernity and its Discontents .

His newest book “Reclaiming Patriotism in an Age of Extremes” is now available on Amazon.

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Welcome to the Judgment Call Podcast, a podcast where I bring together some of the most curious minds on the planet. Risk takers, adventurers, travelers, investors, entrepreneurs and simply mindbogglers. To find all episodes of this show, simply go to Spotify, iTunes or YouTube or go to our website If you like this show, please consider leaving a review on iTunes or subscribe to us on YouTube. This episode of the Judgment Call Podcast is sponsored by Mighty Travels Premium. Full disclosure, this is my business. We do at Mighty Travels Premium is to find the airfare deals that you really want. Thousands of subscribers have saved up to 95% in the airfare. Those include $150 round trip tickets to Hawaii for many cities in the US or $600 life let tickets in business class from the US to Asia or $100 business class life let tickets from Africa round trip all the way to Asia. In case you didn’t know, about half the world is open for business again and accepts travelers. Most of those countries are in South America, Africa and Eastern Europe. To try out Mighty Travels Premium, go to slash MTP or if that’s too many letters for you, simply go to MTP, the number four and the letter U dot com to sign up for your 30 day free trial. Stephen, thanks for coming. Back again on the podcast. You’ve been here a couple of months ago and thought it was exceptional and so much in our earlier podcast episodes and from the feedback that I got from listeners and viewers on YouTube, I think they shared this sentiment. So last time we ended our discussion just in the last couple of minutes and we talked about your new book, which really zooms in on the role of patriotism. Patriotism as a virtue and the way it is maybe misdefined in popular culture and common culture right now. So your book is out now, it’s been published. Maybe you can tell us a little more what happened and the reactions you’ve got and what is actually in the book. Thank you, Trosti. It’s a pleasure to be back with you and I’m really grateful to have the chance to talk about the book on patriotism, reclaiming patriotism in the nature extremes. It came out a couple of months ago. It’s a subject I began thinking about when I was doing the introductory class that we spoke about last time. I began thinking about when I got to the end of the most difficult part of any class like in a book or a movie or novel, it’s how to end it, where it ends, who is difficult. I began to think about the question, which is not often raised as much as I think it should be. What do people owe their country? How do they think about their own country? How does a study of political philosophy actually connect to their feelings of responsibility or gratitude or resistance, for that matter, to the country where they live? It became a very kind of almost existential question. I began thinking about patriotism, which I think is a very neglected virtue among students of philosophy. Don’t think about patriotism very much as a virtue. We think of all kinds of other virtues, and yet loyalty to country or love of country is something that really does not get the attention that I think it deserves by philosophers or political theorists, and especially in a light of, this was the course began quite a while ago, but in the light of what was then going on, the war in Iraq, the war on terror, all these issues, I began to think about the question of patriotism, what it means, and how I thought it needed to be reclaimed in some ways from both the right and the left. That was sort of what got me going on this topic. Yeah, so when we think of patriotism, I think a lot of people think of the 6th of January this year what happened at the Capitol, and a lot of Trump supporters were called patriots. They called each other patriot, right? Are you a patriot? Are you with me? Are you a patriot? So I feel the word patriotism has gotten, and especially the last two, three, four years, has gotten that meaning of almost like an extreme right symbol, right? So the idea is that we have to defend our nation state against, and something that emanates from within us, and that’s how it is perceived in popular media at least before I read the book. And when I read the book, I think what the tour that you gave me and the insight that you gave me by reading the book is that the idea of patriotism is relatively new also, right? So it was talked about in spotter and Athens, but it decides that it’s a relatively new thing, but people think about it as a virtue. Yeah, well, I’m glad you brought up the January 6th event because it is exactly that view that I want to distinguish patriotism from. One of the claims that I make in the book is that patriotism and nationalism, which are often sort of lumped together and thought out together, and why they have some overlaps really pull in very different directions. What we saw on January 6th was an upsurge of American nationalism. And nationalism feeds, I argue this at some length in the book, it feeds on the distinction between friend and enemy, between us and them, those who are in and those who are out. And nationalism always is concerned or eventually becomes concerned with identifying enemies, whether those are foreign or domestic enemies, who do not fit what is usually regarded as the ethnic dominant ethnic type of the nation, the ethnos of the nation. Patriotism speaks a very different language, I argue. It may grow out of a common concern with nationalism, which is to say the desire to have your way of life strong and respected. It’s a natural and legitimate aspiration. But patriotism is much more about feelings of loyalty and gratitude, especially gratitude, a kind of thankfulness for who we are and for our country for helping to shape who we are. And one of the things that distinguishes this most prominently and importantly from nationalism is that along with this sense of gratitude and loyalty that I argue patriotism is central to patriotism, is of course the flip side of that is a sense of shame when we feel our country has gone wrong or has committed injustices of different kinds. This is a feeling that is not really relevant to nationalism. Patriots are capable of sense of shame and of self correction. One example I use in my book is when the government recognized congressional medal of honor winners generations later who had been overlooked because of their race. This is an act of what I would think of as in many ways patriotic self correction. It is an attempt to enlarge the family, to enlarge the people who are recognized as part of the American family. It’s not about shrinking the family to its narrow as possible base, but it opens the door and allows people of many different types to join the family and be part of it. And I think that’s why I want to distinguish patriotism from nationalism. They push in different directions even though the nationalists right would prefer to appropriate patriotism for their own purposes. I think it’s a misuse of the term. The proper patriotism seems to be, it’s mostly an emotion and it seems to be very much bound to a nation state which when we look back seems to be somewhat random in a lot of places in the world, maybe not so much in the US and Europe, but even there we can make that argument that the actual borders and the origination is somewhat random. The trouble I think a lot of people feel is that when you think about patriotism it seems like we attach some superiority. There is the famous national German hymn that says Deutschland über alles, which basically means Germany is superior to anyone else, which had its context in the 18th century, very different one that it got later in the Second World War and beyond. But what I think all these people have trouble with patriotism is that it’s something you attach yourself to or not. There is no relative scale of patriotism, say in 0 to 100 and you can’t really change, you can’t really build it, right? It is a virtue that you either have or not. It seems to be something people cannot build over time, they cannot learn how to be a better patriot or maybe they can’t. I think I disagree with that. I mean one of the points I try to make in my book is that patriotism is a matter of education, it must be taught. It’s not just there in our DNA. We don’t inherit it. We’re not patriots by nature. It is something that needs to be taught and anything that can be taught well or it can be taught badly. And what we’ve seen is a lot of the bad uses of patriotism. You mentioned the question of superiority. Am I reading about patriotism? One of the arguments I make is patriotism is one of the loyalty enhancing virtues. We have loyalty to many different kinds of people and groups and institutions. We have loyalty to family. We have loyalty to beings. We have loyalty to institutions that we are part of. We have loyalty to country. It’s just a web. We live in a web of loyalties. I mean and in many ways patriotism is an extension of loyalty to family. When I say I love my family or I’m loyal to my family, I don’t mean by that my family’s better than your family. My family’s better than any other. I mean what would that even mean? It’s a posture statement. For the most part we love our families. You might say despite their flaws we are well aware of them and you know despite that. And I think love of country is much the same thing. It’s not a desire to again to say my country’s better than yours but it’s again a sense of gratitude that’s baked into patriotism. I think it’s a sense of gratitude and loyalty and those things need to be taught and they’re not being taught. They’re not only not being taught but they are being you know there are projects to reject any sense of patriotism as a loyalty. We are among educated people. We’re citizens of the world today. We’re no longer citizens of the country. Our problems are global problems. We have our loyalties to global humanity and the very worst off. And if you live in a you know by and large well to do country love the United States you should say well why shouldn’t my obligations then be to people who are much worse off than me. Not just the fellow citizens. And I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. It’s exactly the wrong way to look at the world. It doesn’t mean that we have to draw create walls between us. But we do have obligations and I think first order obligations to citizens first. I don’t think it is a question of economic nationalism to say that we do better when we look after and attend first of all to the interests of American worker of American workers. Then we can look to the interests of you know others. It doesn’t mean again we have no obligations to people outside our borders but we have we have obligations in the same way that we have obligations to our own families first before we can think about what what good we can do for other people. We have obligations to our children to our parents. Those come first. And again it’s not a recipe for for building a wall of separation around us. But it is a sense of a kind of structure of obligations and loyalties. And so I want to say that yes we have we do have obligations to our own to our own fellow citizens first. But that’s first. It doesn’t mean only just one final thought on what you said. Yes we we we live in a world of nation states. We live in a world of states. Those states were in many ways arbitrarily created. I don’t deny it. Look at the United States. It has changed its you know shape and configuration many times over 250 years or so. No state is written in you know there’s no algorithm for determining what the borders and you know boundaries of the state are. But I am a kind of I begin my political theory. I begin from the I guess I would call myself a political realist. I begin from where we are. We live in a world of states. Those states have for centuries been the basis of political legitimacy and a certain kind of world political order. We accept this. I mean the United Nations is again it’s a group of states. And I do think we have to begin with accepting the state or the nation state is the basic unit of political legitimacy. Are they where they created in many ways accidentally? Did they come into purpose? Did they come into being for all kinds of contingent historical purposes? Yes of course. But this is the world we inhabit and I think it’s the one that I want to know where my where my analysis begins. Yeah I had Sam Simon Enhold on the show and he was arguing well we should just start our own country with like minded people. People who see the world slightly differently who might prioritize global issues much higher than local issues or issues that are really important to the politicians of the nation state. Every country is slightly different run. Some are more federal. Some are less federal. So the U.S. probably the less but say France is like everything happens in Paris. Everything besides that doesn’t really matter so much. And I was curious the debate about patriotism maybe it illuminates a wider issue that I felt has kind of vexed a lot of us over the last 20 30 years. And I think you will see that that primarily when we talk about political philosophy and how states should be built. And the question is a lot of assumptions from the founding fathers that we have let’s take that example America are baked into the cake so to speak. So we have certain allegiances to America. We have certain allegiances to the free market economy. We have certain allegiances to representative democracy. We have allegiances to how we think how secular should this country be how should it deal with other religions. And we kind of trace it back to the book right that the Constitution instead of the Bible we use a more secular document the Constitution. But in the end a lot of what we see in the Constitution talk about right those are things that come straight out of the Old Testament. What I’ve been thinking about is this how much of the assumptions that we see in everyday life in the U.S. including the institutions including how the government is being run and even how most private individuals behave and what kind of malls they assume the other person on the other side also has and what kind of receptions they get if they talk to other people for instance how much of this is consciously baked into the cake. In my personal assumption I always feel very little is consciously known about that so we know certain parts of that equation. Some people are religious some are not so religious some are Christians some are Muslim but we seem to have this tearing apart of the United States. I see what happens is that a lot of people are questioning why are so many assumptions baked into everyday life and that’s not just true in the U.S. it’s everywhere in the world. But people are saying well is that actually a world that I where my values are being propagated or is this the values of someone else and I just have to live in that world in my life that has been made harder and what if we push back on those values if you just forget about the Constitution right that’s a very very popular saying these days why do we need the Constitution we don’t need to change it we just forget about it. Is this new world that could be built is it better A B what do you think is all these assumptions that are built into these nation states has that been something that was kind of a manipulative attempt by the founding fathers and other founders of other nation states or was it kind of an accident was it just just the best available system that was provided but people who started these countries who were foundational to these nation states they didn’t really know so much about these assumptions either. Wow that’s a profound arranging question about about foundations of legitimacy of any of any political order I mean America I don’t want to say is unique in this sense but we do have a constitutional tradition a tradition of a written constitution and ours was I believe the first today written constitutions are common the most common but I think in the 18th century I don’t believe there were written constitutions before before the US. America has always been I in term I use in the book we’ve always been a people of the book in that respect the Puritans the Puritans came over thinking that they were going to create a new Jerusalem and a new world the Bible would be their text for doing the book of Exodus and creating a new a new political order with new laws something like the ancient Hebrews in the Promised Land of New England and even after Puritanism disappeared is a religious sensation I mean the founding framers took over or retained this kind of textualist mentality creating a written constitution creating political institutions like the court that would be responsible for interpreting those constitutional issues as they emerge and we have created you know over 250 years or thereabouts a textualist understanding of sort of who we are as a people you could say in some sort of theoretical way well why don’t we just throw this aside start from the beginning and let’s see what works and you know a lot of courses in political philosophy it’s fun to begin with that idea you know here let’s play philosopher kings and start start our own city and speech I mean you might say that’s what Plato does in the beginning of the republic I live Plato seems to say we live in this in this democracy this is the democracy we don’t like it all that much but let’s let’s create our own city let’s imagine what an ideal city would be like and we spend an evening together creating just just such a city it’s a fascinating thought experiment and we can learn a great deal from similar kinds of experiments but ultimately you know we have to go back at the end of the day Socrates has to go back to Athens the dinner the dinner party where he’s at where they’re having this conversation is outside the city it’s in Paris and the end of the dialogue eventually they have to go back to Athens and that’s what I would say too eventually we have to return to the world in which we live which is our world without our constitution our traditions our laws and I think it’s very it’s very difficult to at least in this country maybe I’m not going to legislate for elsewhere it’s harder to harder to say but at least at least in our in this country it’s I think it’s it’s very difficult to to break outside of our constitution order and I don’t want to frankly I mean I don’t want to we have all kinds of ideas for what we could do I hear this from colleagues and other professors we should do this we should do that usually at the end of the day I think Madison James Madison and others tended to have the better I think they tended to have the better arguments so I I kind of always go back to where where where we started is the fundamental premise for for doing political philosophy well there is this part of postmodernism that tries to get to the bottom of these assumptions so that is it’s almost like a bias although this has become a bad word right it’s it’s something that we we feel applies to a certain set of moral issues or more problems but it isn’t completely done by rational observer and then the question that’s that’s what what what it what it appears to be right isn’t fully rational this is somewhat rational but there is some other agenda maybe in the background maybe it is right but it’s worth worth looking into these things like that’s what I said earlier with the institution that how the way daily life works I have a little bit of this this feeling I take this from from Socrates he was really upset with the problem that he felt 90 of the population wouldn’t rise up to the level of his his thinking they wouldn’t see the argument they wouldn’t see the light of day of his argument right because either at a time to really interact with them or they simply were too uninterested so but let’s just run with this assumption you probably have done this many times with your students when we run with this assumption that say a certain percentage wants to create a better world 10 percent of the population 90 doesn’t care right they just want their life and I think this is for every nation’s day that seems to be the problem let me let’s think back to the French Revolution we we see this 10 percent is has thought about this has a lot of abstract solutions they don’t know if they work or not they have some of them have been tested during times before some are completely new and everybody wants to be a little progressive right everyone wants to innovate a little bit I’m an entrepreneur I need to innovate all the time and when we when we combine these things together we we we put in assumptions that we feel are for the common good so everyone will be better off but 90 percent of the population doesn’t really care or doesn’t want to care doesn’t have the time struggles for survival we just make assumptions for them so the the common good is being served but the individual might not be served so well and that’s what I’m trying to to to say is this bias there’s there’s a lot of assumptions that we kind of bake into these institutions we say okay this is how we run this thing with or without a bias again this is a bad word I think it’s probably not fitting so well but then this kind of gets a life of its own it’s 50 years 100 years later on is that something that nation builders have done they tried to manipulate the outcome because they feel that the greater good and I know this happened in socialism the greater good is much more important than the 10% that basically had to go to the gulags or had to disappear to somewhere else because they simply were not allowed to to just argue their way argue their opinion because that was too dangerous for the system for the utopia the utopia doesn’t come alive right lennon’s utopia doesn’t come alive if there’s 20% of capitalists left right because they exploit everyone else and they have unlimited profits so they need we need to get rid of them and that’s what he did right but is a similar thing just not enforced by gulags also happening in other countries well I think what you put your finger on is the danger that is sort of implicit in all political reformers so many people that they genuinely want to make the world better they have some ideas about what would make it better for the common good for most people and some of those are very good ideas and then they begin with what is a good idea and eventually that becomes for them the only idea out there and they begin to regard people who don’t accept their views of reform or their their ideas of the good society as enemies of progress as reactionaries as enemies of the people and before you know it right you’ve created gulags reeducation camps and other kinds of things to get rid of people who don’t we don’t agree with you that’s in the extreme case of course obviously but I think one of the things reformers have to learn is you know we live in an imperfect world we live in we live there has to be some acceptance of human imperfection the federalist authors were deeply aware of this that we we are deep we are fallible human beings they often hold up the city of play dough is the rule by philosopher kings is an example of the kind of perfectionism that we can’t achieve and you know we have to we have to settle usually for we have to understand that politics is a matter not just of choosing the best but of choosing the less of bad alternatives if you understand if you see what I’m getting at the choices are rarely between good and evil the choices are between what lesser lesser types of goods and lesser types of evil in choosing the one you can do the most good under the circumstances or do the least evil under the circumstances and I would that’s that’s how I tend to think about things you know the famous phrase that I think is sometimes a treatable tear I’m not sure they what is it the best is the enemy of the good I think something to that effect and we can’t allow ourselves to be to be utterly bewitched by the ideal the extent that we overlook the fact that our ideals may may also be imperfect as well you know one of the one of the one of the things I learned from the great political philosopher Isaiah Berlin is that the great ideals do not simply exist in kind of perfect harmony with one another our ideals clash how much equality should we have how much liberty should we have should we how much how much should we attend to the needs of the of the of the of the least advantaged how much should we attend to the pursuit of excellence all of these are are in conflict with one another and we have to understand that politics is a matter of negotiating and and and managing managing this conflict of goals and conflict of goods that the idea of the good is really I think a kind of false solution it is always a question of competing goods competing virtues competing goods and learning how to best learn to balance and adjust and moderate our our idealism statement I I’m with you I’m fully with you it’s the example what I’m trying to put forward is a bit like computer code right so you write a lot of source code and that source code is basically the algorithm like the european union wants the the whole european union to run like an algorithm that is there is maybe a little bit off work that you adjustments you need to do from it from a human point of view but generally it’s an algorithm and let’s imagine someone writes most of this code and it’s clean and it does what it’s supposed to do and it works 99 percent correct it’s a big bureaucracy that works like an algorithm but some people hide like a trojan hoe or horse in there and they feel whenever there is this 0.1 percent where the denormal algorithm doesn’t really work this trojan horse takes over and steers it say all the way to the right all the way to the left so it’s this edge case decisions that basically don’t work on the normal algorithm because the algorithm doesn’t really work so well in these edge cases but the a code takes over that wasn’t planned for so it should put it back to the humans right it should basically give a human intelligence a human democracy it should bounce it back to them so they can make a decision but instead the strojan horse takes over and just makes it pretty far out of the what’s kind of the accepted normalcy case decision and a lot of people think a lot of our institutions are maybe that way right so there’s a lot of assumptions baked into the cake that they feel they don’t share and so they feel the institutions need to go away I think that’s wrong but I want to understand if this is maybe something that’s true because that’s what a lot of postmodernists argue the world was built this way because this was the best available tool at the time but maybe it isn’t the best available tool anymore I mean maybe it is that’s that’s obviously open for debate I’m not I mean I guess my answer would be well okay then not only show me the better one show me the bet the bet the better model on which to go by but show me how to get how we should more just as importantly show me how to how we should get there it’s not enough just to say here’s here’s my here’s my model of the the constitution was created in the 18th century it had dealt with problems various problems that don’t really exist any longer it’s not applicable to the kind of society you know live that the framers hardly have imagined we need is a new constitution we need a better model I say fine show me that model but just as importantly show me how we get there how do we yeah how do we implement how do we implement it you know we have to live in a world where once again politics is not a it’s not quit it’s not simply a question of a seminar where the you know in a seminar we could say here’s if I can use it first from Habermas Habermas says you know that you know the ideals what he calls the ideal speech situation is kind of model of society is the what he calls the ideal speech situation where the best argument wins well that may be true in a seminar where the best argument wins but we all know in the world in which we inhabit it’s not just about having the best argument it helps if you can have the best argument but it’s not always the case that the best argument simply wins there are powerful interests there are powerful passions there are powerful forms of resistance to even it to everything so it’s not just a matter of being able to prove that you know I have a better vision of of the just society than you do but it’s a question of okay show me how yours is how your vision of society can be institutionalized how can it be implemented and that that’s a that’s a question that often philosophers don’t want don’t want to go down that’s a road they’re resistant to go down because they think well all we have to do is show the argument and if I have the if I have the best argument that’s that’s all I need to do but in the real world of course it’s it doesn’t that doesn’t yeah it doesn’t bring you success necessarily you just described I believe in democracy and meritocracy okay I’m just kidding I’m just kidding one thing that you mentioned in your lectures and I think he’s dear to your heart is Jean Charbonneau and he came up with a very interesting model very different than than hops and Locke to an extent and Smith I think he based his on on on similar worldviews where they said well the world is basically a lot of brutes is a lot of people who basically compete for resources and they struggle to stay alive and and Rousseau went out on an arc and said well that’s not how he sees the world it’s people are good right people are born good they come with intrinsic morals and society corrupts them and it’s something or he had a very different worldview and I think a lot of people are rediscovering this when we talk about socialism right where they feel there is say computer code is better than laws or computer algorithms are better to make decisions because they’re less biased right that’s kind of the theory they put forward I’m not I don’t think that but it’s that’s a very popular theory it’s a lot of what we’ve seen over the last couple of years our outbursts of socialism that that that seemed to when I read Rousseau a parts of Rousseau and then obviously when I listen to your lecture I I felt strangely reminded I thought he maybe he is the father of socialism well I think there’s there’s much in there I mean there is certainly Rousseau’s powerful sense of egalitarianism can can be seen as a forerunner of socialism is I mean obviously the other side of his egalitarianism this is passionate denunciation of the ills of inequality probably probably even more than his support of equality Rousseau is a critic of inequality and particularly not not just he’s not just concerned with the material dimensions of inequality economic and wealth and the economy he’s interested in the moral and psychological consequences of inequality attitudes of entitlement and domination on the part of the rich attitudes of civility and in acquiescence on the on the on the side of the poor and Rousseau was a suit psychology as much as anything Rousseau was a was a kind of moral psychologist of inequality what he called he’s an analyst of the term he calls amour pro sort of vanity which he found to be the domineering quality of you know modern society so there’s a lot in Rousseau you can and you can see as the root of certain kinds of socialist theories and socialist socialist theories absolutely I mean there’s much more in Rousseau than that I mean I could push back and say Rousseau is himself he did not unlike Marx for example he did not support the evolution of property he believed in the importance of private property he he was if anything also a kind of nationalist too he believed in the importance of nations and creating a sense of national spiritedness he created he wrote constitutions for Poland and Corsica obviously the swiss model was very important to him he was a kind of egalitarian a democrat I think I think in many ways more than socialist democrat kind of a strong democrat who’s what defines Rousseau’s political theory he believes in the ability of people of the people to shape the laws to give the laws to themselves that shapes their societies he opposes sort of representative government because he believes that it’s the people who should determine their own laws not not their representatives and a to powerful view kind of direct democracy probably only plausible and in relatively small societies he admitted that himself he wasn’t legislating for France or big big countries but there is a there is a strong again egalitarian democratic and at the outside I would agree socialistic dimension to Rousseau and I was curious maybe this came up earlier in political philosophy but Rousseau seems to be you put his finger on the wound the best there seem to be these two worlds we live in there is the one we know people we want to the family right where we want to separate resources in an equal manner we want to be friends with everyone we want to avoid conflict as much as possible and then we as we further go further outwards where we have that the tribe maybe a hundred people that used to be the number seemingly that anthropologists put forward where we know people but we don’t necessarily want to share everything equally with them maybe to an extent but not it definitely becomes less of a desire and then as we go further out we become more and more anonymous right especially now we have these huge cities where we go along people and we don’t recognize anyone ever right so you can go through say Hong Kong and even never see the same person twice in your life even do your in the same subway every single day and all these people seem to matter less to us right so we we fear that they that we compete with them that we take they take resources away from us we don’t I really have a trust model for them we don’t know we should trust them we know they are human beings and they have similar interests we have but as further we go out I think from this this hierarchy and as big of these cities that we have become these two mindsets I think but which we so so properly have incorporated in the US as Democrats and Republicans these two mindsets struggle at each other maybe they’ve been struggled they should they’ve always struggled right so this is probably not a new thing but it’s interesting that in most political theory and I I like Friedrich Hayek who’s more an economist but I think he does a lot of work also for for politics in terms of political theory most of what I’ve read and again this might be a bias is really towards how do we establish enough freedoms that people can prosper which I think is absolutely elementary to make people the best but on the other hand there seems to be this this the social trade that we all have where we know we are part of the society and we know if the society does bad and it’s it’s at some point not really based on merits anymore it’s based on the lock it’s based on your your inheritance we feel we we need to change the equality picture but that must be an age old problem right so I think the Greeks must have the same problem I believe you’re right that is that is an age old problem um how do we combine liberty a society especially like ours that values liberty maybe first of all is the is the first but how do we balance that with a sense of uh what I call from my book patriotism a sense of belonging a sense of being part of a national community of some kind uh that is there are there is equally important uh we are not simply uh I remember hearing one time Mark her I didn’t hear it but I think a statement that was a part of her where she said there’s no such thing as society they’re just individuals competing with one another for goods and services and you know contractual relations have come high but to me it’s kind of a Hayekian view of the world there is no society there there are just individuals and the world we should organize laws and institutions simply to maximize the freedom of choice of individuals uh but I don’t really accept that view uh I think it’s it’s false to the psychology of who we are I think we as individuals want we have a need to belong we have a feel feeling of belongingness is important to us we want to be members of a community a national community a local community uh and but the question is how to balance these these competing good and I agree uh that this is there very well you go back to a term used earlier there is no algorithm for determining this uh some societies will uh will put their chips or more of their chips on the side of liberty other societies will put them more on the side of equality france for example france for example the two if we take the us in france is the two great republican experiments of the you know late 18th century uh our understandings of republicanism are different or rather are rather different and I think the french model moves in the direction of greater equality the american model in the direction of great liberty there’s not an ideal inflection point in which we can say you know one side or another found the right you know the the right key it’s it’s a question of judgment and practical experience I think and sort of what works for different people but I think you you put your finger that that is that is the issue that we continually struggle with I mean it’s in a way a little bit the difference between democrats and republicans democrats want more equality republicans want more room for individual freedom and uh you know we we argue and what’s the result we argue about those things sometimes the balance chips one way sometimes the other way the point I think is just to resist the extreme it says that it’s all one thing or all the or all the other and you have a recipe for tyranny yes there is a designer for computer code I feel that’s an imperfect solution at one point you should have an AI that that will be able to tell us what is the right way but that obviously is very scary right that once that sounds like the one world government that sounds like something where we outsource our decision making to an AI but we’re looking at it at something that at least in a country like ours that it allows for slightly more liberty we’re looking at an enormous amount of domestic strife of conflict and and time wasted right well I feel when I when I go around San Francisco but but I can go around most of the country I feel people are using a tiny percentage of their potential of their actual potential what they do is they’re they’re not necessarily caught in emotions but a lot of these distractions that we have and debates that we have on Twitter and and on TV they’re never about the real issues they’re never as you said earlier they fall very short of solutions like they pinpoint a certain particular issue that seems to be arousing emotions and then millions of people are affected by that in a positive or negative way often in a more negative way for seemingly because that sounds better and we waste so much time and resources from all these smart people 350 million people in the US who also have that debate to an extent right in an open debate and should come up with their solutions and this is rarely being done I feel like we’re wasting a bit of the resources that this great country and all the countries in the world but especially the US has to offer because seemingly this maybe this goes in cycles and that I experienced that in Europe a lot that people are very interested in certain federal national politics but they’re completely uninterested on a local level they’ve never they don’t even know their mayor they’ve never heard of him really odd to me so there seems to be this attraction right now also to certain federal politics how we design this country in a better way but nobody cares about what’s going on like my city San Francisco which is not a very livable city to say the least well I think there’s a lot of truth to what what you’ve just said I mean Tokyo found the you might say the seedbed of American democracy in local local forms of government and yet government become increasingly federalized or nationalized we don’t really know what’s going on at the local level and we rather we rather think that any changes that are going to happen will have to come from above and not and not from below and we’ve sort of lost touch with that you talk about your city of San Francisco I mean if you look at you read the New York Times for example I get a warning it’s very very little in the New York Times about New York at least New York said local news it didn’t cover you know it doesn’t really cover local news to a great degree covers national news international news sports other things but you want to know what’s going on in New York City you have to you have to buy another paper the elite magazines the elite opinion really looks not at the local level but at the national and increasingly international thing is this story is you know we’ve lost we’ve lost touch with we’ve lost touch with our localist roots which don’t know what we’re central for democracy do you feel that might be a problem of representative versus direct democracy it’s something that Rousseau Rousseau really advocates for is direct democracy which seems to work very well in Switzerland one of the very few countries where it actually works and we have fallen out a little bit with the representation that we get because we these most of these campaigns and that’s a very cynical argument they’re driven by money primarily they are driven by but really shortcutted emotions on social media and then we elect these representatives and they obviously might do something completely different so we are not really aware what what kind of their the mode of thinking is before we elect them because the message that we have is too short we that that’s obviously changing but when we think of tv ads and social media ads there’s not a lot of content in there and then once they go to DC we feel they’re really going along party lines and they’re being hijacked by the same political themes that we see on social media and they don’t really allow for a lot of decision making and are we fed up with this representative democracy and maybe we need some more direct democracy because we feel we have a voice well I think yeah I think in part yes I mean one thing you mentioned Rousseau again I’m glad you did one of the things that’s important to remember for Rousseau is he thought he wasn’t very much in favor of direct democracy but direct democracy for him required at least two things it required small scale not going to work he understood in a large much less a vast country it required as we talked about earlier a pretty sizable degree of social and economic equality couldn’t extend great great differences direct democracy is not possible in a world where there’s great differences of wealth but sort of also the other thing it seems to require for Rousseau is there’s a it requires a kind of cultural and ethnic homogeneity it requires people with basically similar what we would call similar values similar religions similar outlooks when Madison and Hamilton began thinking about things they well they were they were legislating first for what was a sprawling barbed society it was would be a society with a variety of interests which is to say for him different degrees of wealth and it would be a pluralist society it was not going to be just of a you know he understood or they understood what would eventually become that our societies are far more pluralistic than the ones that Rousseau had imagined so in such a society it doesn’t appear it appeared for them at least it appeared that representation representative government was the was the was the thing that you needed and today i think you’re right uh there is a question how well representative representative democracies are are working i have a i have a colleague who’s new book i’ve just been reading elaine landamore she’s a book called open democracy which is in an attempt to rethink the theory of representation and sort of based on an experiment that took place in iceland uh with their constitutional uh when they when they went to reform their constitution they went to kinds of what kind of uh the these these experiments with citizen participation with the many many publics i think that was the term uh uh yeah i mean i think represent representative government is is in a bit of a bind today uh it seems sporadic if you look at you look at the two parties if you look at the way washington functions uh it seems very very entrenched and sporadic i suspect something like that was led a lot of perhaps well meeting people in 2012 or 2016 rather to vote for donald trump because they thought he would shake things up he would be an agent of change and he would bring something different i i i understand the sentiment although i disagree with you know what would be what they thought was the answer to it but i do think our ordinary systems of representation uh are are in some are in some serious degree of i would say kind of crisis of confidence but whether they can deliver and the present part of it from my point of view is people many people are increasingly turning to authoritarian models like the chinese model as an alternative to representative democracies because they think simply because they think they are more efficient uh the french poet and philosopher around the first world war shall piggy uh said tyranny is always better organized in freedom and he had a point uh tyranny seems better organized maybe it would say tyranny seems better organized in freedom and it’s what leads people to despair of their own freedom and look for salvation in these large authoritarian movements and countries um that’s that’s what i think we’re seeing to some to some degree in the west not just in the u.s but throughout the west i’ve been talking to george dyson and we talked about the history of technology and we also incidentally talked about what happened in world war two and world war one and one thing that we debated about was there was this rapid seemingly to to the minds of people we would look at it extremely slow but to the minds of people at the time there was this enormous increase in the speed of change the speed of innovation there’s a ton of innovations in the early 20th century that were groundbreaking that changed how we see the world and also how we experience the world not just the automobile that the the experience of flight um so many chemicals that were able to um to synthesize we were able to synthesize the energy price of energy dropped so much and maybe the reaction of people especially in europe that suddenly saw these innovations kind of what we see right now where we also feel this this this uptake in the speed of progress at least in certain areas not not everywhere but that’s another problem is that democracies are always quite a bit behind right they are always a debate club they are always years behind before the real issue actually has passed and then they start debating and they can’t make up their mind until it’s almost late and then they usually more or less get arrived with a couple of different trials i think that’s this is the way democracies run and people are looking to these authoritarian ideas and as you say that the tyrants are more organized because they only have one simple worldview but they get their act together pretty quickly usually and maybe this is what people are missing is that there is all this speed of technology that seems to change the way we see reality and maybe i think we talked about that last time was that people are going into this cloudified world they’re retreating from the real world i’m very strongly and they with or without covid and because they do they feel this representative democracy that served us so well it’s just so slow it’s just so many years behind so why don’t we try something more aggressive i think this is what is kind of this gut feeling that people have had over the last couple of years well your statement that democracy lags behind i think is very true and in many respects certainly lags but it seems it seems slow in comparison especially to the to the speed with which science technology the internet these these kinds of development these kinds of activities progress and improve and yet i think about democracy to some degree in the way that what Churchill said about America he said America can always be counted on to do the right thing after every other alternative has been tried yes exactly i think that’s very true about democracy as well can democracy will will do the right thing after every other alternative has has been tried and uh i’m sort of a believer in that and in that in that view but i i think the emphasis should be on do the right thing i i i do have i do have perhaps uh in on i i’ve talked earlier i mentioned earlier about realism and describe but i do have sort of in many ways an unrealistic faith in democracy i think in the long run uh i’m i put my i put my my chips on the democratic uh number rather than the authoritarian number oh i’m with you i feel like democracies a don’t have enough competition right now if you think about a hundred years ago it was a ton of competition from authoritarian regimes right there were very few democracies so the pressure is gone because there’s democracy everywhere and everyone is slowing down in terms of never ending debates it seems wherever you go in the world that’s why i think we open up this this window for china because it’s in theory should never have worked right china shouldn’t exist at least not in that current incarnation and it does and it seems to get more successful by the day at least from the outside so i think this is kind of a failure of competition because there isn’t enough pressure on on democracies and maybe there’s there’s something else where we feel the the democracy is a bit like buying index fund right if we are a mutual fund it’s it’s probably going to be okay but it’s really slow and you you have to wait 30 years but an authoritarian regime so to speak is something that’s that’s more aggressive with a bit like mentor capital yes it does make a lot of errors but it might put you as much higher returns if you can hedge your bets obviously that’s tough with the nation state right because we only have one one federal government but we can think about that with the states right so we have 50 different states and some are diverging really far out which is kind of a venture capital approach we just go for the most risky thing we can afford to put money in well i do think that’s an interesting metaphor that you know in many ways authoritarian regimes are like kind of risky stock you know it may go up it may may have great returns but the dangers of collapse are also are also just just as real i think there’s much to what you say in the question of competition with non democratic regimes you know in the years immediately after the cold war in the early 90s you know when it appeared to many people that democracies that democratic regimes were the only the only really legitimate kind of regime you know we had books like francis foucais book the end of history that market democracies were going to be the only kind of regime there there’d be some holdouts but for the most part the world is moving in the direction of this kind of market market liberal democracies and that was a view even though fuqiyama’s version of it was widely kind of ridiculed it was nevertheless a view that was in different forms was widely held that the old authoritarianism of the 20th century were no longer viable but the two great alternatives communism and fascism had been defeated and that there was no real viable alternative there were these kind of maybe middle eastern holdouts but they tended to be sort of on the margins and they weren’t all that they didn’t really hold out an attractive and plausible alternative to again market market democracies of the west and of course the last 20 years or so has shown us just exactly how utopian that that way of thinking was i mean that idea on the morning of 9 11 realized that there was a serious alternative to you know western style democracies and in the form of these middle eastern caliphates and other other forms of i’d say theological politics that existed throughout throughout the middle east and the near east and then of course more recently with the rise of china and the reemergence of authoritarian uh what were called ill liberal democracies and countries like you know small countries maybe like hungary and poland but also big countries like india modi again nationalism is very much on the table we see we’re living in a moment now we’re 20 years ago the belief was that liberal democracies and market democracies was the only game in town now we’re beginning to see how fragile democracies really are when confronted with these powerful authoritarian and nationalist and theological alternatives so i think at the moment we’re living in a moment but there’s plenty of competitions plenty of competition for democracies and the question is will we will we rise will we rise to will we rise to this as we’ve done in the past uh it’s it’s an open question i mean i i want to be optimistic about this but i’m not uh i i i’m but but i would be foolish to say that it’s a foregone conclusion we’ll have to see what happens and it will very much depend on the quality of leadership and enlightenment that different that the united states in particular but other countries bring to the table i think i learned that from you either ours total or marcia valley you have to help me with who it really is or maybe they did it both they compared each political regime without any real notion which one is their favorite um they had the monarchy they had authoritarian regimes and they had democracies and they kind of felt each of them was a tool for certain kinds of jobs they didn’t really build a hierarchy of what is best or what is worst right no that’s true there was a great uh sense of the comparative in many ways a comparative study of of regimes and uh you know what one of the people who sort of began to turn away from that a bit actually was toqueville uh in the pre in the excuse me in the introduction to democracy in america he has one sent a one sentence paragraph that is very captivating he said we need a new political science for a world itself quite new and he didn’t say exactly what he meant by that we need a new political science for a new world what is that new political science and what is that new world the way i interpret that sentence is that the political science of the new world or of a new world will be this will be increasingly the science of democracy toqueville thought there were historical kind of tendencies there was a kind of historical movement in the direction of greater equality and greater democracy at least i mean he was thinking of america and and in france and probably west west probably western europe i don’t know he was if he was thinking much beyond that but he thought that the that the political science of the future would increasingly be the study of democracy uh to a large extent he he’s been right uh about that but now i think we’re seeing the limits of that idea and with the rise of different again alternatives the china model different kinds of what we think of as the ill liberal democracies coming especially from eastern europe and elsewhere we we’re confronted with a very different kind of situation than the one that toqueville might have imagined is the future yeah i grew up in the part east in germany in a part of europe where the the whole population was kind of accustomed to a major revolution every 40 to 50 years and i know when you go further east these things are even more common i mean it’s often like in kyrgyzstan every seven years or whatever reason for every seven years they had a major revolution and a couple of people were shot including the president and then he moved on and did the same thing again seven years later in europe there seems to be that idea for the longest time that this was part of improving themselves the part of the betterment that you select the system you you you put your chips on the table you live with it and then you drop it after a certain time frame usually it’s about a generation or half a generation that does seem to be the case in the us where we have this huge continuity that made us rich rights because we we kept all the investments and we never had to put them to zero that’s what usually happens in a revolution not just that we start from scratch in terms of politics and also in terms of property it’s not always the case but that’s often the case or was the case in europe i think that’s been an enormous success in the us well why do you think is the us so resilient so we’ve never had this overthrow and throwing of the government which is kind was kind of common for the longest time in europe it wasn’t the last 70 years which is the exception but before it happened all the time why do you think is is that the constitution is that something we’re this is maybe because we are patriots and we all believe too much of your too attached to america but what makes america so special and maybe it’s something that we can teach around the world with the wonderful question and observation and of course the one the one the one fact that in a way resists that of course is that is the massive fact of the civil war that happened you know in the 1860s where not exactly half the country but a large you know about a third of the country decided to reject the result of a popular election and to attempt to see and form a slave holding republic in the south in many ways an event that has a lot of parallels to what happened on january 6 the people on january 6 often said they were reviving the spirit of 1776 i i dispute that they were reviving the spirit of 1860 when confederates in the south rejected the result of an election and decided to overturn it by ceding that that was that’s what we saw but on the most part you’re right ours has been a fairly continuous tradition although there was a debate about that early on uh jefferson take one example famously said that no constitution that the that the dead cannot bind the living and that no constitution should exist beyond a generation which he thought of as 19 years so that every 19 years there should be there should be some kind of referendum on the constitution or maybe even a new constitutional convention called because why should the past have claims on the unprecedented or the or the future and that was debated uh in the federalist papers they considered it you know they considered this and for various reasons uh sort of that i agree with i have to say they rejected jefferson’s view in many ways from the standpoint of the need of continuity and the needs for um stability and continuity which are are genuine needs but also the people have a kind of this kind of gets me back to my my theme of patriotism from the beginning people people have a need for reverence to you reverence for the past uh there’s something exhilarating about jefferson’s view in a way why should the past bind us you know we should make up our own minds about the past about but but that that is in some ways to condemn us to live in a perpetual present we have a need also i think for reverence uh i talked earlier about gratitude about making making us who we are the the past are constitutional traditions that have made us who we are doesn’t mean we are slaves of the past or slaves to tradition we’re always free to improvise and to improve but i think that’s one of the things that distinguishes the american case from what what you were describing is we’ve sort of tried to achieve some kind of balance between the the need to adapt always to adapt and improve as the situation demands but also also not not forgetting where we came from not forgetting our heritage not forgetting our beginning points our roots our our framer the framers who who shaped it a kind of reverence for gratitude and reverence for the past and i think american patriotism is kind of a balance of of those two of a sense of reverence as well as a sense of possibilities and progress and and aspiration and it’s a common ability to hold those two those two things together that i think we find the kind of pull the right the right balance the right mix yeah one one thing that jim rott put forward when i asked him a similar question he said you know what america has gotten really lucky because there was never a state religion at least not officially so religion always competed and because of that competition we have the most interesting religion on the planet religious subgroups and they outcompete in just because they’re they make it interesting they make it entertaining and there’s always a split off that comes up with a new idea might that be the Mormons might that be the pentecostal church there’s always someone who who draws in the crowds and that just hasn’t happened in europe for hundreds of years basically since the reformation there was no progress is little progress but not in a major scale progress in terms of how these religions evolved over time and what people been saying is that since the 18th century probably the the the ability to be deeply involved deeply involved with religion has withdrawn quite a bit in europe much more than in the united states 19th and 20th century because we had so much more interesting religions and when you spin this further again that’s a hypothesis is that so people became less guided by judaeo prussian heritage or any heritage that came out of a religion might that be islam might that be hinduism or something else so the they broke with religion even though the churches are all still around it’s not in the buildings are not there but the the the way how people are guided in their daily life in their friends by religion and when we go further maybe that’s the reason why why people are very ready to take bigger risk to to to install paradigms that were completely alien to what judaeo prussian heritage would tell us when i say this is more closely to the u.s constitution and we see this in germany right we have so many ideas that took off in germany in relatively short order that were complete opposites so we had the weimar republic which was extremely liberal right extremely set on progress and it stood on the on the destruction of the first world war but also on the all the scientific discoveries in the early 20th century which which really improved gdp and then they kind of invented nazism and even worse they implemented it even as a theory is probably around before but it it was implemented in an extremely destructive way and scale and then just later on we see the the frankfurt school with our darno and we see a new incorporation of socialism maybe it is the the core root of a lot of these things is that people have fallen out with their relationship with god and they’re reinstalling a certain god and then they take as more further away they are from god there’s more there’s more risk taking they are which in certain sense is probably good because it has a short term optimization but as a long term optimization it’s probably not such a great idea if you talk about what happened in the 20th century in europe with two very destructive world wars right and do you share this or do you think that’s that’s that’s too too far from the truth no i i share some of it i would maybe frame it a bit differently let me just put it put it in my own my own terms i think in many ways uh germany if we go back to the late 18th early 19th century germany was always in a way the chep stepchild of western europe it was always sort of aware that it was behind what they thought of as behind the revolutionary movements especially in france but in england and as a consequence german philosophers in the 19th century in particular developed philosophies that set themselves largely in opposition to what they thought of as the bourgeois west embodied in commerce embodied embodied in representative government embodied in all of the institutions that you know modernity had sought modern science uh german philosophers marks nature heidegger the francford school you mentioned developed philosophy largely is a kind of response to and in opposition to the kind of movement of the of the liberal the liberal west and this produced in many ways some extraordinarily rich and and and powerful theories and philosophies and yet at the same time we saw how those philosophies became translated into practice in many ways in the form of fascism and communism uh there were there were exceptions obviously you know cunt was a great you know the great advocate of the enlightenment and liberal liberal internationalism cunt uh hegel who was a great uh advocate of a kind of constitutional welfare state in many ways i’m uh hegel but is that is the 19th century war on cunt german philosophy increasingly took an anti liberal turn and nicha clearly was the chopenhauer nicha was was the dominant voice it was the dominant voice series dominated the the philosophical world of the late 19th 20th 20th centuries that everybody had to had to respond to and in many ways had to incorporate and uh i think a lot of german thoughts today is uh when you think of you know the most famous contemporary german philosopher jordan habermasz habermasz just tried to recapture that more the contian enlightenment conception of german philosophies turned against her very much turned away from the uh radicalism of the earlier forms of critical theory and marxism and uh i admire him for that i admire habermasz for that i have to say uh i think he’s uh provides an admirable an admirable model but the the german case is a fascinating one i mean uh we can never get enough german philosophy it’s just uh you know it’s it’s it’s the land where philosophy seems to have most fully developed all of the all of its potentialities yeah when you when i say this a lot when i go back to europe and you you literally sit in a random uh part of a plane or a train or take a bus you can always stare up a conversation about philosophy right away everyone will have an opinion more sophisticated or not right um but they will have an opinion they have they will tell you about it if you if you ask honestly which is i feel quite amazing um and there is this this desire in germany and i think this is also true in other countries maybe japan is another example of this where there is a desire to not look into all the problems in the world we call it the big picture it’s it’s a desire to look into a subset of problems solve those and you know understand them perfectly until they are fully solved and then move them up later on to solve the big picture right it’s kind of we reduce we reduce variables in an equation and when you fully solve parts of that equation you go back to the main equation but that somehow never happens in some of these countries like in germany right so it becomes lost in the conversation that there’s more out there that we are looking at a small subset and whatever perfect solution was found is being used as a model in lots of places have nothing to do with the original problem and that’s that’s a very strange shortcutting in general in german society right when we see this in awesome and when we look at innovation and other places of thought and intellectual freedom and we see this in japan too it’s it’s an odd way to see the world and i i can’t really explain where it comes from it’s very different than the french view of the world right which is it’s kind of carving out the best way as you said earlier to to create equality and to to to create a brotherhood and at least in spirit maybe not in practice but at least find a giraffe either way for everyone in society and i think germany and germany and france are complete opposites there and i wonder if you ever thought about how these school of thoughts or these just mental models of the world how they develop and then they become very persistent i mean this has been going on in germany for hundreds of years and it seems to not die out well um i think that um again i’ll just sort of repeat one of the one of the things i said maybe in a slightly different way i think uh what we think of is the enlightenment and therefore what we think of is modernity was slower in coming to germany and it wasn’t in trees like france and england yeah and for many german intellectuals of that period uh they felt they felt in some ways correctly that germany was backward it was um it was always many ways um um yeah it that it that it had failed to achieve what this created this created uh i think resentment and it created philosophies that in many ways set themselves in conscious opposition to the french model the french model thought of itself as universe clearly thought of itself as universalist uh what did the french revolution stand for the rights of man and the citizen what did napoleon attempt to do he attempted to universalize to export these revolutionary ideas through with armies and with guns and uh the i there were and there was so there was obvious backlash to this and resentment of it and resistance to it and the german philosophy i think in german were looking at looking at things often developed that that’s why in many ways nationalisms developed in germany is in opposition to the kind of universalism represented by the french revolutionary doctrine of the rights of man of course always led by france they were universal so long as france was was on the top and in a certain way and it is this you’re right there was there was this uh you know two centuries or longer conflict between france and germany and what these two very different models of of of what they of what each each represented yeah so nationalism isn’t that sense kind of a defense mechanism like a mechanism like an immune system that comes up and kind of fights new ideas and we just go back to the basics and go back to the nation state and everything else we kind of you forget about is is that how we could think of nationalism right except that you know at this time you know i’m speaking of the early 19th germany wasn’t a state it was you know it was a bunch of different principalities it was uh when fichte gave his famous lectures what was called lectures in the german nation i think in berlin in 1807 and eight uh they were exercises in nation building how to create a german state a german nation from this uh from these kind of medieval principalities and in duchies and dukes so the germans had to first create a state before they could create you know a people in a certain way and that was the that was the great german project of the 19th century creating this state this mark uh and it um and i think in many ways that was always seen as a project in opposition in opposition once again to the enlightenment model to the to the french model the rights of man and the citizen were creating a very different kind of state yeah there was a lot of a lot of thought that was being spent on the um on what happened between the first and second world war the big powers of europe right so as you just said the nation building was done and then that everyone was kind of joyful in the beginnings of the the first world where people were looking forward to it um pretty much all of the participants and all of the countries and i think this goes down to citizens that changed pretty quickly once the big um slaughter and and and friends and in belgium came to into the public’s eye but something strange must have happened in that generation i don’t know if you ever looked into this between the first and second world where there seems to be this this horror this this this much stronger tolerance for violence this this this almost and we see this with the treaty of russia and we see this later on with what happened in germany it is kind of a revenge project of the second world war obviously driven by this extremely nationalist idea but have you ever looked into psychology to people who survived world war one maybe by being part of it or by just seeing it but by here say and how this reflected into world war two there seems to be something really dark going on in europe that wasn’t the americans were ineffective by this well sure of course both throughout in the in the 1920s there was a whole segment of the german intelligentsia who were deeply resentful of the versi treaty who saw it simply as a form of winners justice imposing harsh terms on the on a loser and maybe that view became most famously articulated by a german jurist and legal philosopher named carl schmitt while i talk also a little bit about in my book because schmitt took the view that politics was about distinguishing friend the friend from the enemy this was the basic existential term of distinction around which what he called the political dust politicia turned the ability to identify the enemy the enemy from without and the enemy from within and you’re right that took a very that took a violent turn schmitt rejected appeals of international human rights of humanitarianism all of these ideas he thought were just disguised forms of domination and that the real distinction was between being able to isolate the enemy the existential enemy his book was somewhat abstract in the sense that it didn’t it didn’t he himself didn’t identify any specific enemy but it didn’t take long of course before those who followed him began to do just that that they began to see jews they began to see communists they began to see liberals they began to see all of these people as enemy as enemies of the state you know of course the next step of course was was the extermination so this became you know a deeply ingrained you know a problem in german in german thought in the in the 20s in the 20s and 30s we still struggle we still struggle with the legacy of the schmadianism and i think it’s returning with the new nationalism today is really rediscovered rediscovering the claims of schmitt about about enemies look at the way we we talk we talk about i mean every every is every society needs a immigration policy every i believe in borders and immigrant immigration policy i don’t believe in open borders but listen to the way in which many people talk about immigrants the dehumanizing language in which in which they’re described uh enemies they’re coming to pollute us they’re coming to you know they’re a horde this this dehumanizing language comes right out of this kind of schmidian doctrine of of of existential enemies and what i what i my book on patriotism is very much uh opposed to yeah it’s we have this notion of seeing of describing the other side as something dark right so it’s it’s it’s especially happening on twitter steven yes i’m here oh okay and and we see how how this works right so we we see this is picked up by the algorithms and in in turn it’s being picked up by by by an emotional brain of ours so it seems to be almost like a natural response that we have to to problems when they arise we we we go back to these default algorithms for maybe from a limbic brain or from an older brain structure that that make us comfortable and make the world explainable again to us because i think for a lot of people today the world is just not fully explained it’s really complicated it’s changing so quick nobody can can can keep up with this fire hose of twitter um even if you spend 20 hours of reading just the most important things you’re overwhelmed by it and it’s easy to trigger this return to comfort this return to okay this strategy worked i don’t know 10 000 years ago when we were all tribes right living as hunters and gatherers or 20 000 years ago before we really had civilization and it’s easy to trigger this defense mechanism i actually think when i i’m curious i didn’t think we want to talk about this but i think this is a wonderful policy suggestion is to bring in 750 million 650 million new immigrants to the us and matthew glasius had this idea that we bring america to one billion um not immigrants but citizens by bringing in most the immigrants from pretty much anywhere in the world whoever wants to calm the certain restrictions and certain roles but generally we kind of reinvigorate the spirit of the early 20th century and what i thought is with given what happened to america the question is do you feel we don’t just need an immigration policy we need like like something that supports the the rebuilding of america with such an amount of immigration if if we can make this happen politically and then on the second notice there is so much so much competition for talented immigrants out there do you feel and since it was always a problem since day one where most talented people would go was that always a thought when people thought about political regimes so not just you know secure the status quo and not make people kill each other but also to bring as many talented people into the society they were building i think that’s in fact the exception rather than the rule for the most part societies have been fairly homogeneous they have you know medieval cities had walls around themselves to keep people out not to invite people in america was we have a you know this story of american immigration policy is a complicated and not always a pretty one but for the most part america is as we all know is it is an immigrant society it has been built by progressive way waves of immigrants who have come here and modified the country changed it and ended and while adapting to it at the same time but i think we’re the exception in certain in certain respects when you look at the way in which i mean europe uh today is handled the waves of kind of recent immigration that has come mainly from africa in the middle east it’s not been a very happy picture uh why because these have not been traditionally immigrant societies immigration to them is relatively on is relatively rare has been until recently and now they’re struggling with uh how to respond we see the debates going on particularly i’ve been following in france the debates over pluralism and laicite and whether or not this model famous french model laicite still works uh today with the world of a large large muslim population that feels very disenfranchised from the mainstream so i think it’s the exception rather than look at china with the way in which it treats it’s it’s ethnic minorities i mean it’s really it’s just it’s criminal it’s criminal the ethnic cleansing that is going on in china today with the Uighurs and the various ethnic minorities so i think society is based on immigration and well it’s very far more the exception rather rather than rather than the rule and even even the u.s immigration policy is is clearly something we it goes up and down and in terms of how we how we have accepted new new waves of immigrants i think the idea of bringing in 650 million new immigrants is not such a good idea yeah i thought so the same initially but i kind of like the plan by now and i asked who argued for this metheo glaciers he does foreign policy right okay yes yes okay but he’s also a journalist um i don’t think it’s it’s a serious proposal yet who knows what what’s going to happen the and obviously then we need to attach rules to this but i really like that part of the old testament the most right when you when you think about exodus it was a very diverse group of people it was obviously restricted by a certain belief right the belief in god and they had to prove that and then you know obviously they failed and then eventually they got it right but if we institute a certain set of covenants and obviously i feel this is this is a really superbly hard political task to solve how to basically create a new state within in use within the existing state obviously they want to it shouldn’t be separate states what i’m what i’m saying is how do we get a 650 million just as a thought experiment very motivated individuals to believe into and to merge with the values that we already have granted we might have to change a couple of values too but this is kind of what we talked about earlier we get the chance to to redesign america completely because suddenly these 650 million obviously they will be the majority right so whoever lives here now is the minority so we we can do this grand experiment everyone dreams of as a as a philosopher and as a political scientist maybe we get to do this with this kind of plan well um thankfully matthew glasius is not going to have his wish fulfilled with an immigration policy like 650 million new people and which would be you know for all kinds of purposes kind of uh impossible but you go back to the question i i think is very central how do you how do you get people to believe in a kind of common creed in a common purpose it’s largely it’s largely through education it’s through what they’re it’s it’s it’s through it’s through teaching and what they’re what they’re taught to believe in schools and high schools and colleges and i think we are not doing a very good job at that at the moment teaching people about the what i’ll call the american creed which you know the principles of the founding of the constitution of our of our constitutional beginnings and principles this is this is what we need this is what we need more of of if if we are going to have a people what what are we in the united states what what makes a people in unlike you might say unlike countries of the old world where people have lived there for generations if that’s centuries where there’s you could say land and soil is the basis of the nation and a patriotism or unlike you mentioned you mentioned the old testament unlike israel which can be claimed to be based on divine promises and you know and and and holy texts the united states doesn’t have those but what we do have or what we might have is a set of shared ideas and beliefs that derive from a constitutional heritage and if we don’t have that uh then we don’t have anything else we don’t have anything to replace that with and so that’s why i feel it is so important that the that these principles be taught and be you know be studied in schools and they form the basis of our of our common heritage and our patriotism yeah i feel you do a wonderful part of this with the electors i think they’re instrumental to learning about that society 11 i always feel schools are not really the best place because frankly when i was that age i had no clue i that you could you i could listen to all your lectures and forget about them in a month just because i didn’t have the mind for it i didn’t have the life experience i didn’t have the the possibility to possibly see what it all means and probably other people have the same problem and we would have to delay this maybe until their 30s and the 40s early 40s even but then you know this took the stay of people have a job to do they have a family to feed at least that’s how it used to be so i don’t know if this can be solved and i know the old greeks envisioned that idea that we all become philosophers at a certain age i don’t know if there is a solution like that because generally people now need more and more time to be protective parts of society so maybe they should become philosophers first and then take a job in their 40 or 50 because the job market is not that great for a lot of people in their 20s and 30s right now at least not for something that looks like a career i i was i felt the same way you did as a school kid school student growing up i mean i didn’t you know i wasn’t really taught in school uh you know the the sorts of things i’m speaking about but but i’m not on the other hand i’m not requiring on my view everyone to be a philosopher that would be that would be impossible i mean we don’t we don’t we don’t need to have a nation of philosophers but what we do what we what we do require i think what we do need is people with some who have a some appreciation and gratitude once again for the basic core principles and core values of the american experience and that’s a question of of some history of some political theory and of course some literature and the way people are taught this and again it doesn’t require us to be be a nation of philosophers but it does require i think a greater attention to our core core principles and values yeah and maybe well that’s a perfect way to end this probably um thanks thanks so much for coming on against even that was awesome um again i learned so much i really appreciate your time you’re an amazing interviewer you ask you ask great questions and you have a way of getting right to the core of issues which is very very very important so thank you for saying this i’m honored i’m humbled okay uh all the best steven talk soon talk soon well

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