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Populism and “The Worst of Both Worlds”
Episode 5931st October 2022 • The Secular Foxhole • Blair Schofield and Martin Lindeskog
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Today with returning guest Robert Tracinski who is here discussing his two recent articles on populism and illiberalism.

At the end of the show, Martin is giving a shout-out to fellow podcaster, McIntosh of Generational Wealth with Cryptocurrency podcast, for his support and boostagram with Satoshis (bits of Bitcoin).

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Episode 59 (54 minutes) was recorded at 2030 Central European Time, on October 27, 2022, with Ringr app.. Martin did the editing and post-production with the podcast maker, Alitu. The transcript is generated by Alitu.

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Transcripts

Blair:

Alright, ladies and gentlemen, this is another episode of the Secular Foxhole podcast

Blair:

and today we have a great returning guest.

Blair:

Rob Krasinski is here with us.

Blair:

Rob, how are you?

Robert:

I'm doing well.

Robert:

How about you guys?

Blair:

Doing great, doing great.

Robert:

Glad to be here.

Blair:

Thank you.

Blair:

It's always great to have you.

Blair:

The reason I asked you back is because of two of your most recent articles.

Blair:

I think it's important for to get both of these ideas and issues out to the wider

Blair:

audience.

Blair:

So that's why I want you here.

Blair:

Your Discourse article.

Blair:

Do the populist have a point?

Blair:

And the unpopulist article on illiberalism.

Blair:

I think they actually probably go hand in hand

Blair:

in a certain sense.

Robert:

Yes, they certainly do.

Robert:

They certainly do because the one in the

Robert:

unpopulous is talking about the populist leader, Georgia Maloney, the new populist

Robert:

Prime Minister of Italy.

Robert:

So it's sort of tying into what populism looks

Robert:

like.

Robert:

Populism looks like in the current era.

Blair:

Right.

Martin:

We have closed, at least for my view here in Sweden also, and more established part

Martin:

of it.

Martin:

So maybe we'll come back to that, but I see

Martin:

the parallel, so please continue there.

Blair:

Yes, I think Britain is another quick example of populism's perhaps terrible

Blair:

influence.

Blair:

I mean, what was her name?

Blair:

Liz Truss.

Blair:

She was a well, she wanted to be saturated,

Blair:

she wanted to be a saturate.

Blair:

And I guess those ideas just got blown out of

Blair:

the water of low taxes, less government.

Robert:

Well, okay, so we can talk about this trust in it because she's got lower taxes, but

Robert:

she wasn't going to reduce any spending.

Robert:

And then the bond market freaked out.

Robert:

Some people said she was scuffed by the bank of England.

Robert:

That created this exchange rate and interest rate crisis in response to that.

Robert:

But it really came from the fact that she was trying to be Market Thatcher, but she was

Robert:

elected here's where populism comes in that she was elected by the Tory party membership,

Robert:

which is this tiny little membership.

Robert:

It's like a couple of hundred thousand people

Robert:

in a nation of something on the order of 70, 8100 million people.

Blair:

Oh my gosh.

Robert:

So it probably has to do with how the British parties are oriented.

Robert:

That Boris Johnson, you could call him a populist, but he at least had the best

Robert:

character of a populist, which is he was actually popular.

Robert:

He actually got voted into office in an election and so he had a sort of popular

Robert:

mandate to do the big thing he wanted to do, which was Brexit.

Robert:

And when he left, they replaced it with Liz Trust, who was sort of chosen by this very

Robert:

interior inside the party, just a small number of people making the decision.

Robert:

And she didn't have popular backing, she didn't have a popular mandate.

Robert:

And I think that explains sort of how she lasted four scaramuchis in office.

Blair:

Right, well, first let's in a broad definition.

Blair:

What is populism compared to, like, Republicanism and democracy and so on.

Robert:

Well, that's a really interesting question because I think you sent me a couple

Robert:

of links and things like that that I thought were interesting because it is an interesting

Robert:

question.

Robert:

What is populism?

Robert:

Because it's a kind of an illdefined thing and oftentimes people don't have a clear idea what

Robert:

it is.

Robert:

I define populism as basically an idea that I

Robert:

think it's more of a style of politics than it is an actual agenda because there's populism

Robert:

of all different types.

Robert:

There was something for a while that people

Robert:

called the Tea Party movement libertarian populism.

Robert:

And now with Donald Trump in America, with some other leaders overseas, you have what is

Robert:

a very much not a libertarian populism.

Robert:

It's a sort of right wing, big government

Robert:

populism.

Robert:

But we've also had times in the past when you

Robert:

had left wing populism, when you had the populism was we represent the little guy as

Robert:

opposed to those big businessmen on Wall Street.

Robert:

And so you had almost a socialist or a big government, left wing style of populism.

Blair:

Sure.

Robert:

So populism is more a style of government or style of politics rather than an

Robert:

agenda because it could be a harness for different agendas.

Robert:

But the defining characteristic of populism, as I see it, is the appeal to we represent the

Robert:

people, the ordinary people, the regular man of the street, as opposed to the elites, as

Robert:

opposed to some sort of real or imagined minority cabal of people who are separate from

Robert:

it and hostile to the great mass of the people.

Robert:

Now, go ahead.

Robert:

But in practice, now, that sort of in theory,

Robert:

populism was an appeal to popularity, to we represent the people, the ordinary man, the

Robert:

common man in practice.

Robert:

And here's one of the ways that populism goes

Robert:

wrong in practice, it tends to end up referring to what we're for the real people.

Robert:

We're for real America and real Americans in the populist imagination.

Robert:

And one of the articles you sent me, links to me had a good summary of this.

Robert:

Basically, the idea of a unitary people, the people, quote unquote, the people sort of a

Robert:

trademark symbol on it, right? The people are one unit.

Robert:

And it's one unit that is supposed to all agree.

Robert:

And they all agree on something that just by coincidence, happens to be the exact agenda

Robert:

that the populist leader wants to pursue at this moment.

Robert:

Right? So it's this idea that the people is this one

Robert:

entity that are all agreed, and it's only this tiny little cabal.

Robert:

It's George Soros or this small group of people in Hollywood and Washington DC.

Robert:

They're the only ones who are on the other side.

Robert:

And so we're for the real voice of the real people.

Robert:

And anybody who's not part of that imagined majority in reality, of course, there is no

Robert:

such unified single voice of the majority of the people.

Robert:

There's a whole wide diversity of opinions.

Robert:

So I'm practice populism, come down to the

Robert:

idea that anyone who doesn't share the opinions of my particular faction is not a

Robert:

quote unquote, real American.

Robert:

He's one of the elites.

Robert:

He's one of these people, this small cabal or faction that needs to be pushed down and

Robert:

suppressed so that the real people can have their say.

Robert:

So in reality it sort of builds itself as being we're for the people, but in reality it

Robert:

always ends up being we're for a little minority or faction among the people.

Robert:

We've got 30% or 25% or sometimes less people who sign up for our full agenda, but we paint

Robert:

them as if they are the real people and everybody else is a tiny minority and then use

Robert:

that as an excuse to run roughshod over them and to suppress them.

Robert:

And you see that a lot in Europe where it takes on this very overtly ethnic character of

Robert:

populism.

Robert:

The real people are basically whoever has been

Robert:

here for 1000 years or 500 years or however far back, whoever came over with the Maggie's

Robert:

when they first came over into Europe.

Robert:

Those are the real Hungarians and immigrants

Robert:

and foreigners and especially refugees and people like that.

Robert:

Those are the threats to the real people.

Robert:

So it takes on this very ethnic

Robert:

majoritarianism that kind of casts to it, I would say.

Blair:

Then here in America, then it would be the Christians who are trying to pick up that

Blair:

mantle.

Blair:

Then would you say that?

Robert:

Absolutely.

Blair:

Christian nationalist?

Robert:

I think Christian nationalism is becoming basically kind of a mainstream

Robert:

philosophy of the Republican Party.

Robert:

Unfortunately, from ten to twelve years ago

Robert:

you had the Tea Party movement, which I saw as a sort of rapprochement between the

Robert:

conservatives and the libertarian wing of the right and the legitimately libertarian wing of

Robert:

the right, the small government wing of the right focusing around economic issues and all

Robert:

of that.

Robert:

And now what's happened is the religious

Robert:

conservatives have struck back and they've come back and taken over the ideology of the

Robert:

Republican Party.

Robert:

And so their form of populism is real America,

Robert:

is basically white Christian America and they adopted the sort of Christian nationalism.

Robert:

But I think one of the things that's common with all forms of populism is it's an

Robert:

assertion, this assertion that my particular faction of people, my 20% or 30% of the

Robert:

voters, they're the real people, they're the real Americans, they are the unitary voice of

Robert:

the people themselves.

Robert:

It is a reaction, it seems like this

Robert:

overclaiming that how come my little faction represents the entirety of the people.

Robert:

Well, I think that is in reaction to the fear underneath that that in fact they are becoming

Robert:

a minority.

Martin:

All right, Robert, I will not interrupt you, but I do that anyway because I

Martin:

was for a second almost getting depressed there.

Martin:

But I know that you have written in your letter two big trends, and one was the

Martin:

richness of the country and also the secular trend.

Martin:

So thanks for coming to that.

Robert:

Yeah, that's what I was coming to, which is that at the same time that the

Robert:

populist, the sort of rightwing populists in this country are trying to sort of claim the

Robert:

majority voice of the people on behalf of Christianity.

Robert:

There's new polls out showing that the number of Christians in this country, the number of

Robert:

people who declare themselves to be Christians, is rapidly decreasing.

Robert:

I think just recently, the number of people who describe themselves as none of the above

Robert:

may have no specific religious affiliation.

Robert:

Some atheists, some agnostic, some simply not

Robert:

having any formal religious set of beliefs.

Robert:

Those people now outnumber evangelical

Robert:

Christians in America.

Robert:

So evangelical Christians are like the most

Robert:

fanatical Protestant group in America.

Robert:

I think they either outnumber or just about

Robert:

outnumber Catholics.

Robert:

And the projection is by 20, 50, 20, 60,

Robert:

america will no longer be a majority Christian nation.

Robert:

It will be more like, well, what has happened in Europe, in many European countries, where

Robert:

the number of sort of practicing, committed religious believers is a minority in the

Robert:

population, that the large population is largely secular.

Robert:

And so I think it's a combination of that sense of feeling like they ought to be the

Robert:

majority, but then fearing that they are becoming a minority, that fuels this sort of

Robert:

populism, that in a way, they need the populism even more because they need the

Robert:

fantasy that, no, it's only the small minority that's causing people to be secular.

Robert:

We are the real Americans.

Robert:

We're the real majority.

Robert:

And if only we just asserted ourselves as the real majority, then we wouldn't have to be

Robert:

afraid that religious belief is going to be fading away and.

Blair:

They assert themselves by appealing to government force.

Robert:

Well, that's the other thing about populism is it's always about if we represent

Robert:

the voice of the people, therefore we should be unobstructed.

Robert:

We should have the complete ability to impose whatever the people want.

Robert:

So majoritarianism is another ingredient of populism, which is this idea that if you

Robert:

represent people, then therefore the limitations of government procedures and

Robert:

protections of the rights of minorities, protections of the rights of the individual,

Robert:

shouldn't be brought up as obstacles.

Robert:

They shouldn't get in your way for whatever

Robert:

your agenda has to be, because after all, you represent the people.

Blair:

Yeah. Now, in your Discourse article, I do admire how you've defended liberalism

Blair:

institutions like the rule of law, limited government, obviously individualism, which is

Blair:

all but unknown today.

Blair:

Can you expand on that a little bit?

Robert:

Yeah. The Discourse article, what I did is it sort of had an audience of one, at

Robert:

least when I first started out, because it's Scott Schiff, who I've done some things with

Robert:

when I know that I work for the Atlas Society.

Robert:

He's often there as sort of like a host to

Robert:

introduce the clubhouses that we were doing there.

Robert:

Clubhouse is another one.

Robert:

It's sort of like a combination of a podcast

Robert:

and talk radio because you get audience feedback.

Robert:

It's kind of nice, but unfortunately, the medium is not really growing that much.

Robert:

So we're sort of reevaluating what we're doing there.

Robert:

But Scott is sort of one who always expresses this sort of quasipopulist exasperation with

Robert:

the elites, basically.

Robert:

Well, in defense of the populist, basically

Robert:

said, what about the elites? Aren't the elites corrupt?

Robert:

Aren't they foolish? Don't they impose these intellectual fads on

Robert:

people? Basically, isn't the corruption of the elites

Robert:

an excuse for populism or a justification for populism?

Robert:

And so I was looking at that and saying, well, what about the elites part of it?

Robert:

I think the elites are not as bad as they're made out to be.

Robert:

So another aspect of populism in this idea that we represent the people as opposed to the

Robert:

elites, is there in populism, there's a contempt for expertise.

Robert:

And so anyone who is in a position of authority in academia or who has worked in

Robert:

government, or who has some sort of position where they are endowed with some kind of

Robert:

intellectual authority, is considered suspicious just by virtue of being an expert,

Robert:

right? And so they love to use the term the socalled

Robert:

experts to imply that all these people who are experts in academia or in science or in

Robert:

scientific institutions, et cetera, are all frauds.

Robert:

They say they're experts, but they're not really experts.

Robert:

And that's incredibly exaggerated.

Robert:

So oftentimes what you end up with with

Robert:

populism is by saying, oh, the elites are terrible.

Robert:

The experts don't know what they're talking about.

Robert:

So therefore, I'm going to do my own research.

Robert:

And doing my own research means watching some

Robert:

random guy who has a YouTube video in which he makes crackpot claims.

Robert:

So it's not substituting invalid expertise with real expertise.

Robert:

It's often throwing out all expertise and simply going on whatever you feel to be true,

Robert:

or whatever sort of random idea has been popping around that somebody has been

Robert:

promoting that you either haven't tried to check or that you don't have the knowledge of

Robert:

the background to check.

Martin:

QAnon.

Robert:

Yeah. QAnon because that's why you get an element of populism, is these rampant

Robert:

conspiracy theories.

Robert:

Because if you don't have a base of knowledge

Robert:

and you reject all the knowledge given to you by the experts and the fact checkers and

Robert:

everybody else, then you're going to be, what are you left with?

Robert:

If you don't have your own expertise and you don't have anybody else's expertise, then

Robert:

you're going to have to go with, well, whoever told me what I wanted to hear most recently,

Robert:

that's functionally, what's going to happen? And so somebody who's out there connecting the

Robert:

dots of some conspiracy is going to be able to get your ear.

Robert:

So the article is talking about that and talking about the fact that, yes, the elites

Robert:

do make mistakes sometimes things like Latinx.

Robert:

Here this idea you have to refer to people

Robert:

with Hispanic background, who, by the way, when you pull them overwhelmingly, we'll tell

Robert:

you we like to be referred to as Hispanic, but you say, no, the proper term is Latinx.

Robert:

The greatest thing about Latinx is it makes absolutely no sense in the Spanish language.

Robert:

Right.

Robert:

It doesn't even fit it with the Spanish

Robert:

language.

Robert:

You're trying to show how sensitive you are to

Robert:

Spanish speakers.

Robert:

I know.

Blair:

It's really absurd.

Robert:

Yeah. So oftentimes you said middle school.

Robert:

I remember they're like fads going through a middle school, that these weird ideas will go

Robert:

through the elite media or academia.

Robert:

And yet the problem is that the populace don't

Robert:

really have an alternative to that.

Robert:

They don't have an alternative way of saying,

Robert:

well, how do we counteract what's going on among the elites?

Robert:

They say, no, we're going to install our own elite.

Robert:

Our own elite of sort of political demagogues.

Robert:

So we're going to install our own people in

Robert:

power, give them even more power than anybody had under the old system.

Robert:

And we're going to be selecting people not who were selected because they're greater and

Robert:

better experts, but they're selected because they achieved Internet celebrity, or in the

Robert:

case of some of the older ones, tabloid journalism, celebrity back in the old days,

Robert:

right? But we're going to choose people who came up

Robert:

through the Internet or through television as celebrities.

Robert:

We're going to put them in place, and we're going to get a new elite that has even less

Robert:

expertise than the old one.

Robert:

So I go on and talk about what we actually

Robert:

need to have as the alternative to both sort of what you might call elitism and populism,

Robert:

is you need to have the institutions that were actually put in place as part of the a liberal

Robert:

society precisely to deal with this problem.

Robert:

So one of the things I point out is this

Robert:

problem of the elites might be corrupt is not new at all.

Robert:

The Founding Fathers were very well aware of it.

Robert:

They were dealing with the entrenched elite of an aristocratic society, and whoever had the

Robert:

ear of the king or whoever did the mechanisms to get his way up in parliament, and they were

Robert:

trying to come up with mechanisms that would limit the power of those people and allow

Robert:

competition and allow criticism.

Robert:

And they created all the institutions of a

Robert:

liberal, a bad liberal, I mean, a free society liberal in the political philosophers.

Robert:

And so those are the institutions that a lot of the populists want to tear down or shove

Robert:

off to the side and make an end run around instead of revigorating them and using them.

Blair:

Right.

Blair:

Now, let me throw this in there real quick.

Blair:

In my mind, there has always seemed to be a strain, if that's the right word, of, like,

Blair:

anti intellectualism in the culture.

Blair:

And then even in Rain wrote, the breach

Blair:

between the intellectuals and the American people, would that have anything to do with

Blair:

the rise of the populist ideas?

Robert:

Well, I think anti intellectualism is in a way I think it's the default mode of

Robert:

humanity because the idea of mediating the world through ideas, of doing deep and serious

Robert:

thinking about a subject in a relatively new way historically.

Robert:

So there's this unfrozen cavemen idea that I don't like, which is that we're all just

Robert:

cavemen really under the surface.

Robert:

And this modern, sophisticated society where

Robert:

we deal with ideas and principles and abstractions is artificial and sits very badly

Robert:

on.

Robert:

Jonathan Goldberg wrote a whole book based on

Robert:

this, where I described it as being sort of like a it's the old conservative argument from

Robert:

Depravity or original Sin, but it's active, right?

Robert:

So the idea is that the original sin is we have a caveman's mind and psychology, which on

Robert:

top of which there's a thin veneer of intellectuality.

Robert:

I don't think that's true because human beings have been thinkers from the very beginning.

Robert:

But it is true that intellectuality, that being able to think about things is an

Robert:

achievement.

Robert:

It's something that people need to learn how

Robert:

to do, and it's something that a culture needs to be able to support, and a culture needs to

Robert:

as a whole needs to learn how to do that.

Robert:

And we're often very bad at that.

Robert:

And there's a lot of institutional and I see especially in the media business.

Robert:

I often say that the market signals from the media business to me.

Robert:

Tell me I should be running a grift.

Robert:

That is.

Robert:

I should be I should be running a con.

Robert:

I should be starting a podcast where I lie to

Robert:

people and tell them whatever they want to hear.

Robert:

Or start a substantial newsletter where I do that.

Robert:

And then I would get huge numbers of subscribers and people would love me and I

Robert:

hate my work.

Robert:

But there are people out there who do that.

Robert:

So there is a lot of there's always this sort of ground for people who want to be told what

Robert:

they want to hear and to not want to have to think very deeply or very independently about

Robert:

what's going on in the world and about morality and about politics and about what

Robert:

ought we to be doing.

Robert:

So there's always that tendency of anti

Robert:

intellectuality.

Robert:

And so I think you're always going to have

Robert:

that sort of populist movement underneath that sort of gives people permission to say, you

Robert:

don't have to think about this.

Robert:

Just go with your emotions, go with what you

Robert:

feel, go with your tribal affiliation.

Robert:

Whichever group you happen to identify with,

Robert:

you can go with that.

Robert:

And that's all you need to do because it is a

Robert:

certain freedom from effort that populism is selling to people.

Robert:

You are right, because you are one of the quote unquote, the people.

Blair:

I hear you now you mentioned the irony of the left answer to today's elites is to

Blair:

hand over even more power to the unelected bureaucracy.

Robert:

Well, actually, I think the right answer to today's elites is to put our

Robert:

populist debit cards in place and give them more power.

Blair:

Okay?

Robert:

Now, the elites on the left that they're complaining about are yes, they're the

Robert:

people who become more entrenched in the permanent bureaucracy, which is a real

Robert:

problem.

Robert:

That the populist.

Blair:

Right.

Blair:

I want to push back a little bit on that, but

Blair:

not necessarily the deep state, but the administrative state, the unelected people in

Blair:

the administrative state.

Blair:

There's so many agencies and miles and miles

Blair:

of laws.

Blair:

I know my wife who ran a business.

Blair:

She was constantly, what if I do this, I break the law, but if I don't do it, I break the

Blair:

law?

Robert:

Yeah.

Blair:

So she had to choose.

Blair:

And finally, it just wore out again.

Robert:

Yeah. Hernandezotto, who dealt with this even more chaotic environment societies,

Robert:

he's looking at, like, Third World countries and South American countries.

Robert:

He has some very interesting things to say about that, about how basically, when you have

Robert:

enormous amounts of regulations to start a business, and often in these Latin American

Robert:

countries, tons and tons of paperwork you have to fill out.

Robert:

And he says, basically, what happens is it means that the average a poor person who's not

Robert:

well educated basically cannot legally start a business.

Robert:

Now they start them anyway.

Robert:

They just run them in the, quote, unquote,

Robert:

informal economy, the black market economy.

Robert:

They run them without a legal basis.

Robert:

But then they're always sort of on the edge of ruin because they have no legal claim to

Robert:

anything, right? They could be shut down at any moment.

Robert:

They're in a legally precarious position, and they can't raise capital or take out loans

Robert:

because, again, they have no legal organization.

Robert:

It ends up being basically a subsidy to lawyers, and it ends up giving a monopoly to

Robert:

people who can afford lawyers.

Robert:

So if you are well off and can afford a lawyer

Robert:

to do all the amounts and amounts of paperwork, then you can legally run a business

Robert:

in that society, and you get all the advantages of being the one person who can

Robert:

legally do this, and it shuts out everybody else who could potentially compete with you.

Robert:

So, yes, that is a serious problem.

Robert:

We don't have it in America as badly as they

Robert:

have it elsewhere, but it is a problem.

Robert:

But one thing I want to point out is that a

Robert:

lot of that bureaucratic administrative state, ironically, it is the leftover of a previous

Robert:

wave of populism.

Robert:

And these are the people actually called

Robert:

themselves populists the capital P. This is the early 20th century progressives, and they

Robert:

were the economic populists.

Robert:

They were the left wing populist who said, oh,

Robert:

no, we have to have we can't have these big businessmen running them up.

Robert:

We have to have big government, we have to have more regulations.

Robert:

And they're the ones who pushed for the massive regulatory state with the idea that

Robert:

being, well, we're going to be tying down JPMorgan and all these other malefactors of

Robert:

great wealth, I think that was FDR's phrase.

Robert:

And we're going to tie them down with all

Robert:

these regulations to make sure they can't run roughshod over again, quote, unquote, the

Robert:

people.

Robert:

So it was an economic populism that then

Robert:

produced big government as a reaction to the elites on Wall Street.

Robert:

And then, of course, big government became its own group of elites that were.

Blair:

Less susceptible to the permanent bureaucracy.

Blair:

The permanent bureaucracy.

Blair:

What is liberalism's answer to today's

Blair:

epistemological? Chaos.

Blair:

That's how I look at it.

Blair:

It's all about epistemology how you think

Blair:

about it.

Robert:

Well, okay, so liberalism has several answers, and I guess that liberalism has

Robert:

actually developed as an answer to this.

Robert:

Yes, that if you go back to the Enlightenment,

Robert:

into the Founding Fathers, and to the Lockyer ideals that led to this, among other things,

Robert:

freedom of speech was one that the institutions of freedom of speech were created

Robert:

as a way of basically preventing dogmas and groups of insiders from being able to control

Robert:

what people believe and to control what people thought was true.

Robert:

And so they created these standards where the standard of free speech, which is that you

Robert:

have to allow criticism, you can't shut out criticism, you can't ban anybody.

Robert:

You have to allow a vigorous debate to go back and forth.

Robert:

And so the institutions of freedom of speech are tremendously important.

Robert:

I also think political institutions, that the institution of free elections is a way of

Robert:

basically saying that the leaders have to answer to the people at regular intervals.

Robert:

They have to constantly be defending and being put on the spot for, well, you did this and

Robert:

people don't like it, so why justify yourself? And then somebody can come up with a better

Robert:

argument.

Robert:

Free markets are one of the great liberal

Robert:

institutions that are meant to fight corruption.

Robert:

The irony of the left wing populace is they see all those are free markets that cause all

Robert:

these big businesses that have too much power, not realizing that actually free markets are

Robert:

one of the institutions that helps distribute power.

Robert:

Because what it means is that anybody can come compete with you.

Robert:

And also, it means that free markets also mean that you are not dependent on the goodwill of

Robert:

a politician to be able to make a living and to be able to run a business and to be able to

Robert:

survive.

Robert:

And that's hugely important.

Robert:

That one of the character we talked about, the different characteristics of populism.

Robert:

Right.

Robert:

One characteristics of populism, it generally

Robert:

ends up leading to sort of what we used to call very inaccurately called crony

Robert:

capitalism.

Robert:

It's not capitalism at all.

Robert:

It was just called cronyism.

Robert:

But it's the idea that you have a system where

Robert:

you have a government controlled either by unelected bureaucrats or by demagogues,

Robert:

depending on your style of populism.

Robert:

But the government has so much control over

Robert:

society that in order to survive, all businesses have to basically be on good terms

Robert:

with whoever's in charge politically.

Robert:

And so you see this, the right has developed

Robert:

this, adopted this.

Robert:

They've gotten very enamored with this idea

Robert:

that well, wait a minute.

Robert:

So Ron DeSantis in Governor of Florida

Robert:

basically said, well, Disney opposed me on a piece of anti woke legislation and so

Robert:

therefore now I'm going to use my power as governor to cause problems for them.

Robert:

And he went and revoked the basically took the organizations in charge of the utilities and

Robert:

the power and the sewers at Disney World in Florida and said, well, I'm going to basically

Robert:

exert control over this.

Robert:

I'm going to appoint people as governor to run

Robert:

that.

Robert:

And basically Disney will then be disney World

Robert:

will then be at my mercy.

Robert:

I could shut it down.

Robert:

If I don't like the way they're acting, I'll have them by the throat.

Robert:

And this is very much populist thinking.

Robert:

And of course there's the bureaucratic left

Robert:

wing version of that because they love to do the same thing too.

Robert:

But it's this idea that if you don't have free markets and everyone is dependent for their

Robert:

livelihood and their ability to run a business and make a living, they're dependent on the

Robert:

goodwill of politicians.

Robert:

Politicians get this tremendous amount of

Robert:

power over people and ability to crush dissent, which we see in a lot of popular sort

Robert:

of quote unquote populist silent dictatorships, right?

Blair:

Well that's a perfect segue into your unpopular article about the illiberal

Blair:

synthesis between which is what I call the worst of both worlds, the liberal left and the

Blair:

liberal right.

Robert:

Can you so the jumping off a point for that.

Robert:

Now by the way, I love the fact that I just got published in the unpopulous.

Robert:

I love the name of it.

Robert:

This is a longtime libertarian writer

Robert:

sympathetic to objectivism.

Blair:

Nice.

Robert:

She said dealings and connections over the years.

Robert:

She started this thing called the unpopulous, which basically meant to oppose populism.

Robert:

But I quickly got a kick out of being published there because I've been writing

Robert:

unpopular things for years.

Robert:

So it's great that I'm in the unpopulous.

Robert:

Anyway, that piece launched off with there was a speech given by Georgia Maloney.

Robert:

She was the presumptive.

Robert:

She's now the new Prime Minister of Italy and

Robert:

her party won like 26% of the vote.

Robert:

But in the crazy coalition politics of Italy,

Robert:

that meant she got the prime ministership and she gave this fiery speech.

Robert:

And the interesting thing about the speech got a huge reaction among conservatives here in

Robert:

America about, oh, this is a great speech.

Robert:

And when I looked at it, what I found is

Robert:

there's this conspiratorial anticapitalism that's mixed in with the traditionalist anti

Robert:

woke conservative social policy, right? So you have the conservative traditionalism,

Robert:

the pro religion profamily traditionalism, combined with this anticapitalist rhetoric

Robert:

about how well the reason why corporations are forcing this wokeness laws.

Robert:

Is that we'll be perfect consumer slaves and we'll be at the mercy of financial

Robert:

manipulators.

Robert:

And what I saw there, this is basically

Robert:

something I've been dreading for.

Robert:

I've been dreading constant fear of mine for

Robert:

decades, which is that the Right or left would finally discover how little difference there

Robert:

is between them and join forces.

Blair:

Yeah, the ominous parallels, one of the.

Robert:

Things that helped us over the years is that the Left will come with terrible,

Robert:

terrible policies.

Robert:

And because they have these superficial

Robert:

differences with the Right, the Right will oppose them.

Robert:

The Right has its own terrible policies, but because they disagree on certain in the style

Robert:

and oftentimes superficial differences around the margins, they never figure out how to make

Robert:

common cause.

Robert:

And my great fear is that maybe someday

Robert:

they'll figure out how to make common cause.

Robert:

And that's why this synthesis of this

Robert:

anticapitalist rhetoric with the social conservatism, the traditionalism, that

Robert:

basically we should be using government to support traditional religious values and

Robert:

impose them on people, that is the thing that I've been looking for, and I'm starting to see

Robert:

more signs of in the west.

Robert:

And I think it's the big thing to be concerned

Robert:

about.

Robert:

Now, in that piece, I also look at how that

Robert:

applies, how that parallels a speech recently given by Vladimir Putin, a fairly recent one,

Robert:

where he's reacting to the war in Ukraine, where he does the exact same thing.

Robert:

And in Putin's case, it's really funny because you can see how, like, a whole section of the

Robert:

speech is basically warmed over anticapitalist, anti imperialist rhetoric from

Robert:

his old KGB days in East Germany, right? Yeah.

Robert:

It's the old Sovietstyle, anticapitalist propaganda, but then combined with him quoting

Robert:

a Russian fascist philosopher and talking about authentic cultures and traditional

Robert:

values.

Robert:

So he's doing the same thing there, where he's

Robert:

taken the social and religious conservatism and then combined it with the world, with

Robert:

parts of the old world view of the Communist, this anti capitalist conspiracy theory that

Robert:

America is this horrible capitalist empire he's taken us to and combined them.

Robert:

And I think that's how he's providing a model that is now being adopted by American

Robert:

conservatives and European conservatives.

Blair:

Yes, he was even saw something where he was blessed by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Robert:

Well, he formed a true attila in the witch doctor partnership.

Robert:

This is one of Ein Rand's analogies, right? You have atilla is the man of muscle and

Robert:

strength, and the witch doctor is the man of mysticism.

Robert:

And they have this partnership in Russia.

Robert:

That partnership is totally there.

Robert:

It is Vladimir Putin as the mystic of muscle, the attila.

Robert:

And the witch doctor in that partnership is Patriarchy, who's the leader of the Russian

Robert:

Orthodox Church.

Robert:

And the partnership is the Russian Orthodox

Robert:

Church gets official support, it gets legal support.

Robert:

The Russian government goes out and tries to actively suppress other kinds, other

Robert:

religions, including other versions of Christianity.

Robert:

Underneath this conflict, in Ukraine, there's actually a bit of a religious conflict, which

Robert:

is the Ukrainians, just in the last few years, petitioned to create a Ukrainian Orthodox

Robert:

Church that's separate from the Russian Orthodox Church.

Robert:

And it's basically under the leadership of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who is based in

Robert:

Istanbul and not the Patriarch of Moscow.

Robert:

So there's this sense if the Russian invasion

Robert:

of Ukraine had succeeded, there's this sense that while Archbishop Kuro would have made

Robert:

sure that all the Orthodox churches in Ukraine were Russian Orthodox and under his control

Robert:

because he's in this sort of struggle for power with the Patriarchal constant snaple.

Blair:

Oh, my goodness.

Blair:

All right, a side story I didn't know.

Robert:

Yes, that's something to look at, but it shows you it's something that seems

Robert:

medieval in a way, that power struggle between the Patriarch of Moscow and the Patriarch of

Robert:

contacts in Opal.

Robert:

But that stuff is still there.

Robert:

It's still around.

Robert:

It's still a basis for geopolitical

Robert:

wranglings.

Robert:

Yeah.

Blair:

So the answer today, though, is advanced towards liberalism.

Blair:

Again, the rule of law, the reimbursement of individualism, and the proper definition of

Blair:

capitalism.

Robert:

I also think, too, is that I said earlier, this poll showing Americans becoming

Robert:

a secular nation.

Robert:

Yes.

Robert:

All of those Christians will probably be a minority sometime in the middle to second half

Robert:

of this century.

Robert:

And I think it also creates the need for if

Robert:

we're going to be secular, we have to decide what that means.

Robert:

We have to have a secular ideology, a secular philosophy, a secular morality above all else.

Robert:

I think the thing is people and you can see Europe became secular and it did not

Robert:

immediately fall apart.

Robert:

Most people actually live according to, I

Robert:

think, a fairly decent secular morality.

Robert:

They live it implicitly in their regular life.

Robert:

Most people go out and they get a job.

Robert:

They find the work they want to do, they buy

Robert:

houses, they have families, they do all the things that, you know, peaceful, productive,

Robert:

decent, normal do.

Robert:

They live according to an implicit morality of

Robert:

what I call rational selfinterest or enlightened selfinterest.

Robert:

But at the same time, they don't have the theory, they don't have the idea to defend

Robert:

that and to define fully what that means.

Robert:

And that's what leads to the sense of over

Robert:

going off a cliff and we don't know what we're doing.

Blair:

Right.

Blair:

Martin, do you want to step in?

Martin:

Yes, please.

Martin:

Yeah. I have some short questions and also

Martin:

ending on we haven't had a good note here in between, but also a shout out, but an

Martin:

expression or a word called your boning job.

Robert:

You want to explain that one?

Martin:

Yes, please.

Robert:

Okay. Jawboning is an example.

Robert:

So this is an example of one of these free

Robert:

speech issues.

Robert:

This is an interesting one because it's kind

Robert:

of a gray area or a hard to define issue.

Robert:

But jawboning is a word used.

Robert:

So, yeah, your job boating, you're moving your jaw, you're talking to somebody sort of flying

Robert:

term for talking to someone.

Robert:

But what it refers to is when a government

Robert:

official goes out.

Robert:

And so, for example, the example being used

Robert:

here is during the beginning of COVID you had some government officials, including people

Robert:

from the Centers for Disease Control.

Robert:

So these are scientists or people in the

Robert:

science bureaucracy who are in charge of dealing with infectious diseases.

Robert:

And they were going to places like Facebook and saying, well look, these are what we see

Robert:

as the main sources, including sometimes specific people.

Robert:

We see these as the main sources of disinformation of wrong information about

Robert:

COVID And we think you should be and basically suggesting that they should do something to

Robert:

prevent the spread of that misinformation.

Robert:

And in many cases they were actually really

Robert:

correct about the misinformation that the people who were spreading this were people who

Robert:

were crackpots, who were denying provable scientific facts about the pandemic.

Robert:

But the problem comes in.

Robert:

And when you have a government official now,

Robert:

on the one hand, a government official in charge of fighting infectious diseases has a

Robert:

responsibility that can be communicating to the public.

Robert:

It's part of his job to say here's what we think is true and here's what we think is not

Robert:

true.

Robert:

On the other hand, whenever somebody who works

Robert:

for the government says something or suggests something, it's not 100% just a suggestion or

Robert:

just somebody's opinion.

Robert:

It also carries the implication that, well,

Robert:

maybe there would be some legal repercussions should you not comply with what I'm

Robert:

suggesting.

Robert:

And so that's one of the things that we sort

Robert:

of have to deal with here is that and this technique of jawboning is not just a pyramid,

Robert:

it's been used on other things.

Robert:

But there's the sense of what happens when you

Robert:

have people who work for the government who express their opinion about what you ought to

Robert:

do.

Robert:

And even if it's not an explicit direct

Robert:

threat, it is still someone from the government saying, gee, it's a nice business

Robert:

you've got here.

Robert:

It'd be a shame if something were to happen to

Robert:

it.

Robert:

So it could be an implicit threat.

Robert:

And so I had a link to some fascinating discussions about ways to sort of determine

Robert:

the certain legal standards and this has been adjudicated in certain Supreme Court cases

Robert:

about what constitutes a legitimate, quote ungovernment, speech, the speech that's

Robert:

permissible for because you can't say to somebody just because you're a politician or

Robert:

just because you work for the CDC, you can't state your opinion on anything.

Robert:

But at the same time you have to have like, under what conditions can you state it?

Robert:

Under what disclaimers you have to state it.

Robert:

And I think the big issue here comes this is

Robert:

another example of why you need capitalism, why you need free markets, because the less

Robert:

power government has to force people to do something, the less danger there is that a

Robert:

politician shooting his mouth off or a government official expressing an opinion

Robert:

could be even remotely conceived as an implicit threat.

Robert:

Right.

Robert:

Because to threaten you, they have to have

Robert:

power over you.

Robert:

The less power they have over you, the less

Robert:

possibility that they could implicitly abuse that power.

Martin:

Great.

Martin:

Could you clarify and tell a little bit more

Martin:

about the label the new classical liberal?

Robert:

Classical liberal? Yeah.

Martin:

The neoclassical it's a new term, you could say, but at the same time.

Robert:

A couple of people have used it occasionally referred to something.

Robert:

It never really caught on.

Robert:

So I figured it was available out there to be

Robert:

granted.

Robert:

So I grabbed it.

Robert:

I use it as a title for my column at Discourse magazine and it's sort of my attempt to appeal

Robert:

to or try to make.

Robert:

So if we're going to have this alliance

Robert:

possibly forming of left wing and right wing populists of the right wing traditionalism

Robert:

combined with the left wing anti capitalism as I was describing this liberal synthesis.

Robert:

My attitude is we better have our own coalition.

Robert:

Liberal coalition to go against that and to basically do if people are going to see what

Robert:

they have in common across party lines or across left and right lines when they're

Robert:

opposed to freedom.

Robert:

We should be making efforts to try to reach

Robert:

across ideological lines and across traditional sort of divides to make an

Robert:

alliance of liberals.

Robert:

And so neoclassical liberal comes from it's

Robert:

sort of a portmanteau, a combination of the classical liberal.

Robert:

And so most people who are premarkers, we usually describe ourselves as classical

Robert:

liberal.

Robert:

The idea is that liberal, the word liberal

Robert:

just means pro freedom.

Robert:

And so liberalism in the 19th century referred

Robert:

to being a pro free marketer, being basically free speech and free markets.

Robert:

That's the classical liberalism.

Robert:

And then in the 20th century, the progressives

Robert:

and the populists came along and the big government guys came along and stole the term

Robert:

liberal to refer to this big government ideology.

Robert:

But more recently, there's been a wing that calls themselves the neoliberals and they sort

Robert:

of define themselves as more market friendly.

Robert:

They're sort of left of center, but more

Robert:

marketfriendly.

Robert:

And they're more likely to be, for example, to

Robert:

be YIMBYs.

Robert:

So NIMBY means not in my backyard.

Robert:

It's the sort of person who opposes any development project that's happening.

Robert:

You want to build a 20 story apartment building and they'll turn out at the local

Robert:

meeting and they'll yell and scream and try to block it and they'll sue you.

Robert:

Well, these are the yes in my backyard people where they say, no, we need to be building

Robert:

more housing.

Robert:

If you don't build housing, it gets expensive.

Robert:

People can't afford.

Robert:

And sort of from a more of a leftist center

Robert:

perspective, they said, well, if you're going to be able to have affordable housing for the

Robert:

poor, you need to be building more housing.

Robert:

So we should be more open to profit driven

Robert:

free market approaches in housing.

Robert:

So these are what's called the neoliberals and

Robert:

they've kind of tried to make a brand out of the term neoliberal.

Robert:

So I said, well, what if we could get some sort of coalition or cooperation between the

Robert:

neoliberals, the center left neoliberals and the center right classical liberals?

Robert:

As I said, let's call that neoclassical liberalism.

Robert:

And so that's sort of what I'm trying to promote as a liberal synthesis where we try to

Robert:

find this even though there are disagreements and philosophy and disagreements and

Robert:

priorities.

Robert:

We try to find the things that we can

Robert:

cooperate on and work together on because I think if we don't.

Robert:

Then the advantage of forming a big coalition could potentially flip over to the illegal

Robert:

symphony that I've been worried about.

Martin:

Great, thanks for that.

Martin:

And you have also recently a course fair on

Martin:

effective writing.

Martin:

Do you want to tell a little about that?

Martin:

And your articles there, all your work that you're doing?

Robert:

Well, yeah, so this is something I've been wanting to do for a while because 20

Robert:

years or so ago I used to do a course it was through the Ingrand Institute.

Robert:

I did a course on writing where I was dealing I did some with undergraduates and some with

Robert:

graduate students and got a tremendous amount out of teaching that to those students and

Robert:

have wanted to do it again.

Robert:

So a friend of mine convinced me last spring

Robert:

to sort of do another round of it as she set up a group of people.

Robert:

And I said, well, I decided having gone back to that and realizing, oh, I not only was able

Robert:

to put back together a lot of the old material that I had, but I was able to approve on it

Robert:

because I've been writing for 20 years since then, doing a lot of writing and I've learned

Robert:

even more.

Robert:

So I decided to do other round of it.

Robert:

So I got a group of students going through it just started on Tuesday.

Robert:

And it's one of the things that I feel strongly about is basically having learned so

Robert:

much of sort of passing on those skills and the hard run wisdom and not just about little

Robert:

tips.

Robert:

Tricks and techniques but I've also done a lot

Robert:

of thinking about the process of writing and I think most people find the process of writing

Robert:

to be very difficult.

Robert:

To be very psychologically brutal and

Robert:

challenging.

Robert:

I got one of the people who interested in the

Robert:

class said I think I'm actually I like the product of my writing but I find the process

Robert:

to be incredibly painful and difficult.

Robert:

And that's exactly trying to sort of address

Robert:

is there's a whole process of how you have to manage the actual act of writing, how you can

Robert:

break it down into sort of smaller constituent parts that are not as sort of brainbustingly

Robert:

complicated or as anxiety inducing.

Robert:

And so they turn it into something where you

Robert:

have a series of discrete steps you can take that will make it manageable.

Robert:

And I think it's one of the keys to doing a lot of writing.

Robert:

As I've done over the years.

Robert:

Is being able to have that sort of to know the

Robert:

process you need to go through to keep just to keep chugging away at being able to do it

Robert:

without stumbling over the process of how do you manage this ability to take this complex.

Robert:

A lot of facts.

Robert:

A lot of ideas.

Robert:

And you have to put them together in an order and give them a structure.

Robert:

How do you go about doing that? Well, I've got a series of techniques that

Robert:

I've developed over the years, insights into how to break that into a manageable process.

Martin:

That's great to hear, Robert.

Robert:

The funniest thing is one of the people in the class said they asked what is

Robert:

your writing process? They got something more specific because I

Robert:

never voluntarily get up, I have frequently stayed up till 05:00 a.m. A lot of my writing

Robert:

is done in a dark room alone at 03:00 in the morning because then nobody will interrupt

Robert:

you, I hear you.

Martin:

So we will do a bit of call to action here and then outro and thank a fellow

Martin:

podcasting called Mac in Torch and he has podcast called Crypto

Martin:

Generationwealthcrypto.com and he sent us a booster gram, like a digital telegram with a

Martin:

note and says 48 Satoshis.

Martin:

That's a bit of a bitcoin.

Martin:

Part of a bitcoin, yeah.

Martin:

And he says, Good job, gentlemen.

Martin:

Keep stacking those sets, Macintosh.

Martin:

And that was sent after the latest episode

Martin:

there, episode 58 and in October, so that was great to hear.

Martin:

At 11 October.

Blair:

Very good.

Martin:

Thanks Macintosh, for your support and for your note.

Martin:

That may be something.

Martin:

What's your crystal ball for that in, Robert,

Martin:

with how you could support content creators and writers and podcasters and others in a

Martin:

more direct, in a free way.

Martin:

Do you have any thoughts about that?

Robert:

Yeah, you can subscribe to my Substack.

Robert:

It's resistantletter substack.com.

Robert:

They have to shoot me if I lose my writer's

Robert:

card if I don't put that out there.

Robert:

I love substative platform.

Robert:

It's actually the platform.

Robert:

For a long time I was basically doing a

Robert:

Substack, but before Substack existed because my career sort of started a little before the

Robert:

beginning of the blog era and blogs were great, but there was no way to get make money

Robert:

at it, right? You could put all this information out, you

Robert:

could get it out there for free and people get used to everything for free.

Robert:

The thing I hate, the slogan I hate the most is information wants to be free because it's

Robert:

usually set by people who are getting paid well to build the technological

Robert:

infrastructure, not to actually provide the information.

Robert:

So my view is information needs to get paid, right?

Robert:

We need to find a way that people who are producing good ideas and producing good

Robert:

information can actually make a living at it, because there's no way I could do as much as I

Robert:

do if it weren't what I'm doing full time.

Robert:

If I were doing this on the side, I could do a

Robert:

small fraction of it.

Robert:

So finding ways that people can get rewarded

Robert:

for doing this and unfortunately, in the digital era, the media business has been going

Robert:

the other direction.

Robert:

So, definitely, if you have a podcast you

Robert:

like, like this one, if you have a newsletter you like, subscribe to those things.

Robert:

Find ways to support them financially.

Robert:

But the great thing is the barriers to entry

Robert:

have been knocked out.

Robert:

They've been knocked down.

Blair:

That's true.

Robert:

Anybody with interesting idea can go and start writing.

Robert:

Anybody with an interesting idea, I can start a podcast so you don't have to get into The

Robert:

New York Times, get over the parapets of the boiling oil and all of that, and to get into

Robert:

the citadel of the mainstream media, you don't need to get there anymore to get an audience.

Robert:

The downside of that is it's very hard to make money at doing it.

Robert:

But if you want those barriers to enter, to be open, if you want people with your ideas that

Robert:

you like to be able to find an audience, then the responsibility goes to you individually to

Robert:

say, well, if I want that to happen, I should find the people I like and find ways to give

Robert:

them support.

Robert:

You guys probably have, like, a tip jar kind

Robert:

of thing where people can send in support and you can subscribe to my newsletter and

Robert:

substack.

Robert:

It's a way of supporting what I do at the

Robert:

various ventures that I do.

Blair:

Yeah. All right, Robert, we're coming up on the hour mark, so I know you've got to

Blair:

go.

Blair:

And once again, we thank you for manning the

Blair:

Foxhole with us today.

Robert:

It's always a pleasure.

Martin:

Thank you very much.

Robert:

Bye. Thank you.

Robert:

Bye bye.