The "Globalism and Its Discontents: Point/Counterpoint" conversation series features Amherst College professor, and host of NEPR's In Contrast, Ilan Stavans and a guest engaging in thoughtful discussion and attempting to bridge the ideological divide growing in our nation.

“Globalism and Its Discontents: Point/Counterpoint with Ilan Stavans”

September 20, 2018

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist George Will joined Professor Ilan Stavans for a conversation in Johnson Chapel on Sept. 13, 2018.

Transcript

- My name is Ilan Stavens, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to this year's Point/Counterpoint lecture series that is also part of a semester-long exploration about globalism and its discontent that is sponsored by 36 members of the 50th reunion of the class of 1970, if they got that right. It is thanks to them and to the idea that there has to be, on campus, a more balanced, open, respectful, civil dialogue across ideological lines that we have begun doing this last year. We're doing it this year again. And hopefully, it will become something that will continue, not only in other forums of the Point/Counterpoint, but my hope is in other courses and in other aspects. For one of the biggest challenges I think that we face in small liberal arts college and in universities at large is the bubble effect of listening to our own voice, being exclusively receptive to messages and voices that sound like ours. And as a result of the 2016 election, the drive has been to try to open up to other viewpoints, to bring distinguished guests and emerging voices that can help us reason together, and the word reason is crucial here, what we are going through as a nation and as a planet in this particular time. Last time, we had a number of very distinguished guests that included Bret Stephens from the New York Times and Bill Kristol, among others. And this year, we're going to have five. We are starting with our guest today, George Will, about whom I'll say a few words in a second. A week from now, we will have the second of the fifth events. It will be at Stirn Auditorium, and it is with Professor Saskia Sassen, who teaches at Columbia, is from the Netherlands, and specializes in a unique and powerful way on globalism in the urban landscape. We will have after that the month of October, Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner, an Amherst alum, who will talk about economics in the global vision in the age of Trump. Amartya Sen, another economist and also political scientist, another Nobel Prize winner who teaches at Harvard, originally from India. And we will conclude at the very end of November with Martha Nussbaum from the University of Chicago, who will come and also engage us. Before we start, I want to stress that the purpose of these encounters is to humanize the other side, to recognize that others might not think the way we do, but they have the right, and they have the foundation to do that, and it is up to us to be respectful and to engage them and be engaged by them in a way that can be enlightening to both sides. There will be a conversation that will last approximately 40 minutes between George Will and I. And after that, there are going to be, there's going to be Q&A. Everybody is invited, students and faculty and the members of the larger community here in Amherst and in the Pioneer Valley. There is a microphone here to my left, and I just ask you to take your turn and ask any question you want. In the interest of keeping the rhythm of the evening, it would be best if those participations are brief and to the point and so we also give others the opportunity to talk and mostly that they are in the same spirit of respect, you will, I have no doubt, just based on the many years of reading George Will's columns and books, you will disagree with many of his takes. I hope you do. And he will disagree with many of the things that we are likely to say as well, and that is the point. So maybe just before I introduce you, I wanna also remind everybody that though technology makes us global, let's isolate ourselves from that technology and turn your cell phones off so that we can really concentrate on what we are about to do. There is an episode of The Simpsons that includes, I think it's The Simpsons, that includes a debate between two characters. And one of them tells the other, there are two conservatives, and this is one pope ago, there are two conservatives that really believe in evolution, the pope and George Will. And the other character says, that George Will? Meaning this is the figure that becomes a referendum for many of us. George Will is a nationally-syndicated columnist. His regular columns appear in 400 newspapers nationwide. He has been doing this for many, many years. He is a graduate of Trinity College, not too far from us, and he has a PhD. He went to Oxford first, to Magdalen College, and after that, he came back to this country, and then a PhD in philosophy at Princeton, an institution that he has remained close to and where he will be teaching a freshman seminar in the coming year. He is also a regular contributor to, well, for a long time, to Newsweek and to MSNBC and NBC. And he is a passionate, devoted, and very erudite baseball fan and baseball historian. He was telling me today that his, of the 16 books that he has published that won Best Seller, the one that outsells all the other ones together is Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball. And for many of us who have watched him on television or who have read his columns, not only on politics, but on baseball, we know that he is a Chicago Cubs fan. And he will tell us a little bit more, in the middle of Red Sox Nation, what the future of this season is going to be. I wanna start, George, with the, let me say one more thing. I have been privileged to have him in my seminar this morning and then as part of the NPR podcast in contrast. And so we have been in conversation throughout the day. And there might be moments through this conversation where I might or he might make a reference to something that he said or a student said in class. That would be the first session where he participated or to the conversation we had on the radio, and that will be aired in the podcast in about two weeks. So why don't we start with something--

- Let me say something first before you do it. I'm glad to be back on a campus. I am a faculty brat. My father was a professor of philosophy at the University of Illinois. I went to Princeton intending an academic career and briefly taught at Michigan State and the University of Toronto. I went to Princeton because, and this is why I'm not a lawyer, when I was leaving Oxford, I applied to a distinguished law school and to Princeton in philosophy, and I chose Princeton because it's midway between two National League cities, which gives you an idea of my scholarly seriousness. Go ahead.

- That's a good place to start. Let me, I'm gonna go back to Princeton, and I'm gonna go back to a recent column that you have written about the state of undergraduate and graduate education. But before we do that, I wanna start in politics, and I wanna start at the Republican Party. And I wanna start with the elephant in the room, Donald Trump. You believe, George, that Donald Trump is going to win the next presidential election.

- No, I think it's possible that he will. It depends on the other party. The Democratic Party was indispensable to electing him in the first place, nominating one of the few bipeds on the planet that he could beat. And so we'll see if they want to repeat that performance. He should be very beatable. He's underwater in the approval/disapproval polling, and the Democratic Party has lots of talent out there. The problem is when their candidate debates begin in June, they've already set it early, in June 2019, they will have, as the Republicans had in 2015, they will have 18, 19, 20 people onstage. The danger is that the most lurid will stand out, as happened in the Republicans' case, and the rest is not pretty to see.

- Do you think anybody within the Republican Party can stand up and contest the possibility of the candidacy?

- No. Donald Trump's approval among Republicans, at this point in his first term, is 87%, and that's 10% higher than Reagan's approval was at the same point in his first term among Republicans. So it's Trump's party right now.

- And is the fact that it's possible that he will win the next election proof of the disarray, the fracturing of the Democratic Party? How do you see the Democratic Party after the 2016 election? Where are they?

- The Democrats have to decide whether they're going to make the mistake Republicans made in the early '60s. I cast my first presidential vote for Barry Goldwater and loved every minute of it, but the theory of the Goldwater campaign was that there were lots and millions of conservative voters who didn't vote because they were just waiting for someone to offer them a choice, not an echo, which was Goldwater's slogan that year. It turns out he was wrong, that there were 27 million of us who voted for him, but that was not nearly enough. He carried only six states. The Democrats may have a similar folly up their sleeve, which is to say, if only we offered the American people a pure, high-octane progressive agenda, abolish ICE, free college, $15 national minimum wage, Medicare for all, et cetera, et cetera, that we'll do just fine. I don't think so.

- Well, we we're talking through at dinner that you think that President Barack Obama's coming back to the campaign is actually going to be, it's gonna backfire, and it will make those that are supporting Trump even more enthusiastic about him.

- It will, and it will remind some of them why they are for Trump. Mr. Obama occasionally adopts a condescending and hectoring tone that I'm afraid is characteristic of a certain kind of progressive, as though he's addressing a rather slow class of fourth graders. And it annoys people, and it's grating, and I don't think very many presidents have done this, to get to immediately plunge into the first off-year election after he leaves the White House.

- Is this bad protocol, or is this setting us up for what post presidents will do?

- I don't know. I mean, presidential norms turn out to be more easily shredded than we hoped and thought, but this is another one being shredded.

- You have written in your columns, through those eight years, many, many things about President Obama. But as we are a year and a half plus, close to two years, what is your assessment of what was good in the Obama years and what was bad in the Obama years?

- I think what was bad was a kind of tone that he adopted. He was disastrous for the Democratic Party in terms of 1,000 or so state legislators they lost, lost control of both houses of congress. They suffered two wave elections in '10 and '14. His great achievement, I think, is now apparent. When he came into office, there was not a national consensus that the country should insist on universal access to healthcare. When he left office, there was. Now, the Affordable Care Act was not a success and was going to take a lot of revision, partly because he made one fundamental mistake, which was that when he started this, 90% of Americans had healthcare, and 90% of the 90% liked the healthcare they had. And the mistake that progressive Democrats are now making, Medicare for all, single-payer, and all the rest, is that 155 million Americans get their healthcare from their employer. It is untaxed compensation. It's an enormous, I mean, it's obviously compensation, and it's untaxed, and is therefore a good deal. So when you come out and say, Medicare for all or single-payer, you're gonna immediately get the backs up of 155 million Americans, which is enough to win an election twice.

- You left the Republican Party in 2016, and you describe yourself, and you and I talked a little bit about this earlier today, as a Libertarian, or at least leaning in that direction. Is there a possibility, can you imagine returning to the Republican party, and what do you really mean by a Libertarian or Libertarian-ish?

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- You have stressed a number of times, and you did it today in the class, that you have a vision of a small government, never an absence of government. You're not an anarchist. What is the size of government that is, is it possible to imagine a size? What's a size, the advisable size of a government that doesn't interfere in the transactions, the negotiations of that one or two individuals and that is as un-clumsy, I don't know if the word exists, but is as effective and engaged as a government might be?

- Conservatives, the beginning of conservatism is to face facts. It's to respect data, respect the given in life. And I'm a big boy. I know that Social Security and Medicare are here to stay. They've made these choices. Social Security is an example of what government can do well, that is, it identifies a particular cohort, Americans over 62 or 65, and it mails them checks. It's good at that. What government is not so good at is delivering more ambitious goals, model cities, meaningful work, head starts. Government, when it undertakes a kind of ambitious social engineering, reform of the culture, that's when the government begins to find that it is prey to the second reason conservatives are conservative, which is the law of unintended consequences. The law is that when a large institution like government interferes in the complicated, spontaneous order of a free society, that the unintended consequences of its action are apt to be larger than and contrary to the intended actions. So government should be very wary that society is like a Calder mobile. When you jiggle something over here, things get in motion all over the place. And government is usually surprised, and often unpleasantly so.

- In this reduction or limitation of what government ought to do and not meddling in those other areas or spheres, you believe that it is the open market, the competition, what should come up with the solutions or the alternatives of how to handle life.

- What markets are are information-generating devices. A market, close down a market, you're closing down the generation of information. Does anyone here get a bagel on the way to work? Okay, you go to your shop, and you go, how did they know to have that there? Genius, weren't they? No, they weren't geniuses, because in fact, they've seen the information over the years, who comes in, who comes out, what bagels cost, what the market is for bagels at this price. If I had one thing I could hope that all American undergraduates, Amherst and elsewhere, would read, it's a little essay by Lawrence Read called I, Pencil. And the point of the essay is no one can make a pencil, the point being no one can make a pencil. To make a pencil, wood, little bit of metal, little rubber for the eraser, graphite for the middle, requires literally millions of people to make a pencil. Just does. From the people who, the lumberjacks who cut down the trees that make the wood and the milling and the shipping and the mining of the graphite, takes a million people to make a pencil. If we said, starting from scratch, we want the government to make a pencil, we'd have no pencils. So some sense of the tremendous complexity and creativity of spontaneous order of a market society.

- And that creativity and spontaneity should be left to its own device, untouched by larger extemporaneous forces, the question that I have, George, is that markets, as inspiring as they might be, and I'm thinking here of the theories of Milton Friedman and others, can also be cruel and savage and might leave some behind, which is generally the tension between the conservative and the liberal viewpoint. Should there be any help, any encouragement?

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- So progress is inevitable.

- No, no, no.

- Progress has its own--

- Change is inevitable. Progress is a loaded term. It suggests improvement. Change is not synonymous with improvement.

- [Ilan] And change has its own rules and should be left to them.

- There should be a presumption in favor of change driven by the consensual activity of people in a market free society.

- I wanna go to the granular aspect of this, but I wanna ask you, just to open a parenthesis here, George, I know that the word individualism is something that you extol in your columns and that you think America, is what makes America the great success story, with its problems. Can you define individualism for us?

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- I wanna go to the granular aspects by entering a number of different controversial issues, and let's start with affirmative action. You are ambivalent, can I say, about affirmative action, or have very strong beliefs on one direction or the other? I kind of see you in the middle, but could you, could you explore what the benefits of affirmative action and what the drawbacks are?

- Well, there are two rationales for affirmative action. One is that it's remedial, and that it is to make up for prior injuries, and therefore, is theoretically time-limited. And one of the affirmative action cases coming out in the early years of this century out of the University of Michigan, Sandra Day O'Connor said, "This is remedial, and it's to make people whole "who have been injured, and therefore," she said, "in 25 years, it should not be necessary." We're 15 years into that period. So in 10 years, perhaps that need for affirmative action, if she was right, will expire. There's another rationale for affirmative action that is not remedial, but it is an exercise, an ongoing, unending exercise in the attempt to formulate, in the interests of academic freedom, as an exercise of academic freedom, a diversity conducive to maximizing the university's mission. That affirmative action never ends. And there will be constant readjustments as to what should count as the ideal mix. And this gets the admissions departments of selective universities into the business of constant engineering of their student bodies. I was four years on the Princeton Board of Trustees. I'm quite familiar with Janet Rapelye and the work she does as the dean of admissions for Princeton and how hard it is. Princeton could probably fill a freshman class with young people with 1600s on their SATs. They don't wanna do that, for very good reasons. We're gonna go over these reasons in about three weeks when Harvard's lawsuit, being challenged by some Asian Americans, is going to come to litigation in Boston, I guess. So we're going to explore this. I do not want the government stepping in. God knows it's not telling Harvard how to shape its student body. On the other hand, the civil rights acts are quite clear, which is that institutions receiving federal funds, and Harvard gets its fair share of federal funds, shall not have racial discrimination. It's pretty clear they do discriminate, in some sense, racially, involving Asian Americans.

- But in the shaping, maybe the social engineering of any class in any college or university, by virtue of the fact that there is some building of what would be necessary in one area and not necessary in the other, there is inadvertently some discrimination. We are excluding some because we need to create some sort of artificial balance. You're in favor of that.

- Sure. Being discriminating is a virtue. It's making distinctions. And we make distinctions for good reasons and not-so-good reasons.

- And what is your, we talked a little bit in class, but not enough, to me, what is your view on the lawsuit that Harvard has received from some Asian Americans?

- Well, about to read it on the plane back tomorrow, big stack of stuff on this.

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- It will be. There's one in your future.

-Okay. Now that we are in the topic, and of course, in the setting of a college and education, and this is of enormous interest to many of us, I would like to, there's a column that you wrote maybe you published a couple of days ago about how we in higher education pamper, or how the students are overprotected. You talked about topics like microaggressions and safe spaces. In the parenting, you and I have talked about the word parenting, you mentioned in the radio conversation how it has recently entered the English language as a verb.

- Yes.

- Where are we failing? This is a perfect audience. Where are we failing as teachers, administrators, as students in how we are perceiving what education is about?

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- And if the root of the problem, George, is that parachuting or helicopter or intrusive parent that will get involved at all times and not let the child fail, to figure out what failure is about, how did we get here, how did we get to that parenting?

- I don't know. I have four children. My youngest son was a really spectacularly bad athlete, just no talent whatever, and his room is full of soccer trophies because he showed up, you know, the participation trophy. I don't know how we got started on this, but I'm sure at age 26 now he can look at that glittering gold with an appropriate irony. But that's a symptom that no one's gonna fail.

- But is it also a symptom of the excesses or the caricaturing of individualism? We want, everybody's a winner, as long as they compete. Everybody gets a trophy, and thus, nobody really gets the taste of--

- I don't think that's individualism. I think the theory of individualism is what Robert Frost said when he said, "I don't want to live in a homogenized society. "I want the cream to rise." Individualism is meritocratic. Individualism is unapologetically elitist. Individualism says and conservatism says, the question for any society at any time is not whether elites show rule, it's which elites. And the problem in democracy anywhere at any time is to get people to consent to worthy elites. So all this talk about elites is not just grating, it's fundamentally absurd.

- You have said, you said it again both in the class and on the radio, that the purpose of institutions like Amherst and Princeton and others is really to create an elite, to shape and allow that elite to retain its power and its presence.

- Amherst exists to exacerbate American inequality. Let's face it. No, we have an increasingly cognitively stratified society, and the more, look, 200 years ago, the great source of wealth in America was land. We had so much of it, we were giving it away. 100 years ago, the great source of wealth in America was heavy fixed capital. Think of Andrew Carnegie steel mills or Cornelius Vanderbilt's New York Central Railroad. Today, the great source of wealth is mind information, what we call human capital. The market is saying, at the top of its considerable lungs, stay in school. And the more we educate, the more we're going to create a cognitively stratified society. Now, various things can probably be done to ameliorate this and to encourage social mobility. But 50 years ago, the great sociologist at Harvard, Daniel Bell, said, "You're gonna find out." The meritocracy is a word put in the language by a British sociologist named Michael Young. So it was mentioned in academic interest back in, 50 years ago, and Bell said, "You just watch." The cognitive stratification will be accompanied by great skills in entrenching the top winners of this society who will be very good at transmitting family advantages. Andrew Ferguson, one of the really great writers in Washington, wrote a wonderful book called Crazy U, Crazy, number U, about the university application madness that we now go through in this country. And he made the acute point, he said, "The least diverse classes in America "are SAT prep classes." It's just because the middle class and upper middle class know how to do this. They know how to transmit this. Now, we have learned an enormous amount in the last 50 years about early childhood development. We know that the difference between the number of words a child in a poor family hears, particularly if it's a single parent with several jobs, and the number of words a young child hears in a middle class or upper middle class family is millions, millions, in the first six years of life. A teacher in Chicago's public school system said, not long ago, she said, I get children, seven-year-old children coming into my classroom who don't know numbers, shapes, or colors because, this teacher said, no one, while making dinner, ever turned to the child and said, here are three green, round peas, because they are raised in a culture of exhaustion and silence. What you would do about this, I do not know.

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- Sure. We want to be governed by elites, but we want them to be elite elites, that is, we want them to be elites not of inherited privilege. I mean, the Great Revolution affected, how far are we from Boston here, how many miles?

- About two hours.

- Okay, about two hours from here, in the 1930s, when James Conant and others said, you know, we're tired of Harvard educating the children of Boston Brahmins and, he did not need to say, excluding the Jews. Therefore, they came up with something we now know as the SAT test. And it changed American education in American society more than any single educational reform ever, because, we said, we're gonna measure different things. Now, you do that, and different, you replace one set of winners with another set of winners. Moral of the story, you're gonna have winners, so let's not flinch from that fact, and the fact that you have winners, you're gonna have losers. And that's why this lawsuit is going on, because an enormous number of Asian Americans, because of the culture of their families and the culture they brought with them when they did the wonderfully entrepreneurial act of immigrating in the first place, gives them social capital that other people don't have. Now, you have to say, well, gee, do we want that social capital to pay off? I think yes. I don't think we'd wanna discourage families from trying to transmit advantages for their children. That's a wholesome thing. But there are going to be winners, and there are going to be losers.

- One of the maybe injustices or partial approaches that I often see in the opinion pages, yours, the New York Times, and others, is that whenever there's discussion about education, there's discussion of Amherst, Williams, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, but the real educational experiment in this country is in community colleges. It's where the American dream is being made. And seldom do I see a columnist that is exploring the challenges that those community colleges face, which seems to me a way of blinding us to the same type of rhetoric that institutions or newspapers are guilty of.

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- And George, the topic of this year is globalism and its discontents. We are at a moment in which the, with the rise of populism, there seems to be a backlash, represented by Trump, on what the globalist ideology and the globalist mission is about. But you are an unapologetic supporter of globalism.

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- But just as in--

- Let me, give me a minute. How many of you here have an iPhone? Show of hands, okay. Poor Samsung, can't win, can it? But anyway, used to say on the back, in print so small, it was clear they didn't want you to read it, they've now taken it off, it said, designed in California, assembled in China. This is not, in any meaningful sense, made in China. It's assembled in China from parts that come from South Korea, Taiwan, Italy, Wisconsin, all over the world. The Chinese add about $6 value to this thing, about what you pay for a latte on the way to work. That's what they add. And the reason this costs as little as it does, I mean, you've got more information in this than the Library of Alexandria had. You've got more computing power than the NATO Alliance had in the 1960s. And it's dirt cheap. And the reason it's cheap is globalization. Wanna have a $5,000 iPhone? Build enough walls, we'll have a $5,000 iPhone. The first cell phone, Motorola, 1983, was as big as a brick, charge lasted half an hour. The cost of calling New York to Los Angeles for 30 minutes was what you paid a day for a month of roaming across North America. It cost $4,000, 4,000 1984 dollars. Globalization produced this.

- Now, just as in the open market where there are winners and losers, in the question that I asked you before, which is at the heart of what liberals and conservatives think. In globalization, there are winners and losers. There are the losers in developing countries that don't have the resources or don't have the history or don't have the infrastructure or have not the ingrained vision of individualism and enterprising that will automatically, again, put them at a disadvantage in that they will be makers of that phone or providers of the factory, but not leaders or leveling themselves with others.

- Well, first, let's be clear. The biggest winners from globalization, Americans have been wonderful winners. European Union, wonderful. Biggest winners are India and China, which are just going like that. Give you a staggering figure that gives you a sense of the velocity of life in a globalized world. In the 20th century, the United States comes up with the internal combustion engine, the Model T, Model A, Chevrolet Impala. We pave the country, roads everywhere. Interstate highway system was just the cherry on the top of this sundae of infrastructure growth. Century of building. In one recent three-year period, China used more cement than the United States used in the 20th century. That's what's happening out there. This is fast, and it is enormous, and it is wonderfully beneficial in Benthamite, utilitarian terms, greatest happiness for the greatest number. There hasn't been anything remotely as good as globalization for increasing happiness and decreasing misery.

- All right, I wanna ask you one more question, and then we're gonna open it to the public, and that is that you, I don't know how to put it, but in the dinner conversation, it was a fascinating and sometimes heated discussion on climate change, where you are, to put it mildly, skeptical.

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- But there's a crowded field of scientists beyond what's happening on MSNBC or on Fox, that are stating time and again that the climate is warming up.

- Absolutely. Absolutely, and if repetition established the truth, the truth would be established. And if we took a vote to establish science, scientific propositions, that would win. But as I mentioned to you at dinner, when Einstein left Germany, the Nazis organized 100 scientists to denounce him and his theories, to which Einstein said, you know, if I'm wrong, one scientist would suffice. We don't vote on scientific propositions. We do science.

- Maybe some scientists will come forth. This is the time to begin having a conversation. If there is anybody who wants to start, there's a microphone right here. Please.

- This working?

- I think it should be working now, Nishi.

- Okay. Thanks so much for coming here. I think we definitely need to hear voices outside of our, what seems sometimes, like an echo chamber here. You can't hear?

- Come closer to the microphone.

- Okay. Put my mouth right on it.

- Lean in, lean in.

- Lean in, right. So I kind of wanna ask you about the op-ed you wrote, but I'm hoping one of my students does. I wanna actually ask you, then, about the beginning of the conversation, which was now a long time ago. But at the beginning, you were explaining, I think, the role that, the kind of foundational role that Libertarianism plays in your political views. Whenever anyone says that, my ears perk up, because I'm trying to figure out exactly what that means. And here's what it sounded like you were saying. It sounded like when you articulated your Libertarianism, what you were saying amounted to the following. Government intervention into people's lives, into free markets, is bad, except when it isn't. And that just amounts to a tautology. So if that's all you ended up saying, which is what it sounded like, then it couldn't possibly be playing any--

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- It seems to me that if that's what you're saying, a lot of liberals could agree with that. You just disagree about where and when government intervention is actually justified. But it has nothing much to do with the Libertarianism.

- Degree matters.

- Yeah.

- Yeah.

- Okay, thank you.

- Yeah.

- Yes, hello. So people were speaking about the 2016 election, and there were two political surprises. There was the nomination of Donald Trump on the Republican side, but there was also the remarkable success of Bernie Sanders on the other side. And those seem to me in some way connected. And I guess I would like you to address the question of how you see, for example, the popularity, particularly among millennials, at least a certain subset, of the word socialism, whatever that means to them, Bernie Sanders. And the second question I would like to ask, which is related to that, is there's a tendency now among many people all across the political spectrum to see the election of Donald Trump as kind of a freak accident. It doesn't seem to me like a freak accident. So the question is, given, for example, this wave of what I would call right-wing populism, is it possible that globalization could be reversed? It was reversed earlier in the 20th century, for example.

- Sure, it could be reversed, with predictably calamitous results. It would mean economic stagnation. It would mean rewarding those who are already entrenched at the top. I mean, Alcoa, they're ready to get rid of globalization.

- [Man] So how much do you see Donald Trump as sort of a contingent, or do you see it as a culmination of broader trends? Do you think that if Donald Trump loses or is impeached or if somebody else comes into office that the effects will, things will go back to normal, or do you think things have already shifted in some--

- Things have shifted. Nothing lasts. What was normal wasn't gonna last. But this can be changed and tempered and produced. But he will have left his mark.

- [Man] Sometimes you sound more like Heraclides than Hayek.

- I'm an, Heraclides was the first Hayekian. I am absolutely Heraclides and Lucretius. That's exactly where conservatives come from. But let me get to, what was the first part of your question again?

- [Ilan] It's about Bernie Sanders.

- Oh, well, Bernie Sanders appealed to people because, as a grumpy old grandfather, he looked authentic. It wasn't so much what he said, it was that he said something he seemed to care about and believe in, which contrasted ruinously with Mrs. Clinton, who just looked entitled, to a lot of people. Socialism, and I said one thing about... When Marx came along, he said, socialism is the government ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, good, clear stuff. Lenin, in about 1921, and when his new economic program got criticized as being insufficiently radical, he said, well, no, actually, socialism is government ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, heavy industry, communication, transportation, et cetera. After the Second World War, the British Labour Party and others further watered it down. They said, actually, we don't need to own industries. Socialism is heavy regulation and aggressive redistribution of wealth, which is approximately what we have in the United States of America. Redistribution of wealth, 67% of the federal budget is transfer payments. The sky is dark with checks going back and forth to farmers and old people and ship owners, and it's just one, our government does almost little else but redistribute income. So when people say they want socialism, ask them to define their terms, and the argument will dissipate pretty fast.

- Thank you for being here with us tonight. My name is Sophie. I'm a student at Smith College down the road. I was interested in your story about the child who lives in a home where the parents are too exhausted to say, you know, words while making dinner. And it just, it made my wonder, you've spoken a little bit about negative rights or freedoms, the role of the government to stay out of people's lives when unnecessary. And I'm curious about your thoughts about the role of small government in granting positive rights, so things like public education in the US.

- I don't think governments give us our rights. I believe, as Jefferson and the other founders did, in natural rights, first come rights, then comes government, basic, conservative proposition. First come rights, then come government. Government does not give us our rights. It exists to secure preexisting rights. That's the heart of the American Creed, the essence of it. But within that, government, we have clearly said, we're the first nation to embrace it in a sort of full-throated way. Universal free public education, that's a government job. Now, Oregon, for a lot of peculiar reasons, finally decided in the '20s, 1920s, to ban private schools. And the Supreme Court said, no, no, no. No, that's a basic liberty interest that parents have. They can educate their children as they want, so long as it meets certain state set requirements. So, we accept that is it the job of government, government has a huge role in equipping people to take advantage of the opportunities that a free society offers. And that's not controversial. Now, you can have huge arguments as to how best ought to do this. I mean, I would completely voucher-ize public education. If I were State of Massachusetts, I'd say, this is how much per student we wanna spend on public education. I'd send everyone a voucher, let them cash it at whatever public school they wanted, or private school, and watch the competition.

- Thank you.

- Thank you.

- So in the beginning of the talk, you said that conservatism, I think, is primarily about facts. Is that correct?

- Correct. It's reality-based. Starts with what exists and what we cannot change, like human nature, stuff like that.

- And I wanted to connect that to your statements about climate change. So you said you were skeptical about climate change--

- No, again--

- Well, sorry, I--

- No, no, no, no, no. It's important that we not get careless here. What I said was the one thing I'm not skeptical about is the fact that the climate is changing, 'cause it always is. That's very different from the way you phrased it.

- So you're skeptical about climate change as it's commonly talked about on MSNBC as global warming.

- You're fortunate in that you have in the world's foremost authority on what I believe. So let me say what it is. I am skeptical that we have so mastered climate science that we can isolate the contribution of human activity to climate change. That's what I'm skeptical about. Go ahead.

- Okay. So right now, sorry for the, okay, so there is a consensus among the climate scientists about the fact that humans have an impact on global warming. And moreover, there is a world consensus, as seen in events like Paris Climate Accords, that governments maybe should do something about it. And so my question is, in your opinion, when will you be personally persuaded that the government needs to do something in order to reduce the impact on the environment?

- I'm, see, there's nothing, to me, counterintuitive about the idea that seven billion people riding motor scooters and driving cars and burning fossil fuel have an effect on the climate. Nothing counterintuitive about that. I'm profoundly unimpressed by, and indeed, uninterested in the fact that a bunch of governments got together in Paris, and the majority of them decided that the minority of the governments should send them money. That was not a scientific judgment they arrived at in Paris. That was kleptocracy. That's not how we do science. We don't vote. I will be convinced when the science is more convincing. And do not, I mean, it's constantly repeated, again, the idea that repetition establishes truth. It's 'cause 97% of all scientists believe in man-made-driven climate change. Know where that came from?

- No.

- No, well, point one. Aren't you curious? Wait, wait, who took that poll? It came from one paper. I think it was written by a woman at the University of Illinois, and now it's an established fact. But in fact, there is dissent among climate scientists. If there weren't, no one would wanna be a climate scientist, 'cause there'd be nothing left interesting to discover.

- Okay. Thank you.

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- Thank you for being here. I also read your op-ed in the Washington Post published yesterday. One sentence I found interesting, you were talking about campus diversity administrators and how much they've grown. And you said, "These people find vocations," quote, "and micromanaging student behavior "in order to combat imagined threats to social justice," social justice in quotation marks. "Can anyone on a campus say anything sensible "about how the adjective social modifies the noun justice?" So my question is, why doesn't the word social lend any meaning to the word justice, and how does social justice differ from justice proper?

- I don't think it does. And here, I'm echoing Hayek again. Hayek constantly said, well, how does the, adjective's a modifier. How does the adjective social modify the noun justice? Can someone tell me that? I'm genuinely, I'm not trying to be disagreeable. Well, I am a little bit. I don't think, I think justice is justice. There are various theories of justice. John Rawls' famous book on justice isn't about social justice, it's about justice. I just don't understand what social adds to it. I'm truly bewildered, and I was hoping someone would be able to tell me, but not yet.

- [Student] Thank you.

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- A negative income tax?

- Yeah.

- Which is essentially a guaranteed income?

- Yeah.

- Yeah. We have a bit of one. It's called the Earned Income Tax Credit, which was radically expanded by Ronald Reagan because it reinforced a bourgeois virtue, work, that is, if you have an income, you're eligible for a negative income tax. And I'm against a guaranteed income, regardless of what you do, but like, I'm for things like the GI Bill, which said, if you do certain, I'm deliberately trying to provoke you, bourgeois virtues, buy a house, we'll help you do that, which means you'll start a family, go to school, we'll help you do that. And so the GI Bill said this wasn't a general entitlement, this was an entitlement for people who were willing to commit to certain things. So I'm all for that.

- Okay, and my second one is, recently, in the news, Hungary's been facing charges from the EU about not following regulations concerning Viktor Orban, the famous populous in Hungary, and his stance on immigration. And so, I'd like to know what your stance on the EU is.

- Good question.

- Yeah, just what your stance on the EU is

- That's an excellent question.

- in its current predicament with Hungary.

- When the Cold War ended, my friend Pat Moynihan said, all right, well, you can't hate Moscow. What are you gonna hate? I said, I'm gonna hate Brussels. The EU is, well, the way they politely put it, they have a democracy deficit. The EU is the progressive nightmare come to life, all kinds of unaccountable bureaucrats. And, I mean, the European Union has a flag no one salutes, an anthem no one sings, a president no one can name. You know, it's just a concoction, however, it's at its best when it does something like what it's doing to Hungary, saying, there is such a thing as European civilization, and you're discordant with it. And I think it's an excellent thing. And Poland should be next on their list.

- Thank you.

- Yeah.

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- Well, I don't have faith in their motives. As Adam Smith says in The Wealth of Nations, we do not get our dinner because the baker wanted us to have our dinner. The baker was gonna make money selling us the bread. The genius of The Wealth of Nations is exactly that, that people pursuing their own interests serve larger social interests. The difference, one difference between large entities like Amazon and the government is Amazon can fail. Government's here forever. You can't get rid of it, can't make it go away. You don't want it to, but it can't fail in the way that companies can. There was a time when local businesses were terrified of the A&P, Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. It was the Amazon of its day. It was gonna put all the grocery stores out of business. And they went to government and said, you must stop Amazon, it's this behemoth. Well, along came Piggly Wiggly, see? A&P had all their stores downtown. Henry Ford over here invents the Model T, and people start going to the suburbs. And Piggly Wiggly said, we're gonna build our stores with big parking areas. And when's the last time you saw an A&P store? Sears was a huge deal. Amazon's about to put Sears out of business. Sometime, somewhere, someone's gonna put Amazon in its place, just will. Nothing lasts. Third basic conservative principle, nothing lasts, and aren't we glad?

- Thank you very much.

- Thank you.

- Hi. It's my understanding that you're generally unconcerned by lots of money flowing into the political system in terms of, sorry, it's not a great characterization, but I was just hoping you could--

- You're absolutely, you're right. Go ahead.

- I was just hoping you could talk a little bit about campaign finance and your belief that it constitutes a kind of freedom of speech.

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- Thank you.

- Hi. I was curious about your political background and development, you know, past Wikipedia. So I was curious, what are some of the most influential political events that have changed your perspective?

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- Thank you.

- Hey, George, one last question. Why do you think that, you were telling me, you don't get invited to campuses.

- No, because I say things that trigger anxieties.

- It has been terrific to have you around.

- Thank you.

- Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody. We appreciate it very much.