|American Dreams and Nightmares|
|Guest||J. D. Vance|
|Release Date||29 April 2020|
It is said that there is not one American dream but many, and few have lived more than JD Vance. Growing up in Appalachia on the border between poverty and the lower working class, JD knew economic fear first hand as well as the cultural devastation of the region's post-coal era. Working his way up, he joined the elite US Marine Corps and entered Yale University to attend the countries most exclusive Law School. Not content to stop there, he found his way to Venture Capital in San Francisco while marrying into a multicultural relationship with a wife of Indian descent, herself supercharged with a dynamism informed by the classic immigrant experience.
So it was something of a surprise when JD became a national best selling author with his book Hillbilly Elegy which poignantly tells the tale of growing up in a family under pressure rocked by one of the most difficult economic experiences to be found anywhere in the United states.
Eric and JD sit down to discuss the history of coal and politics, the evolving American Left in the era after the demise of organized labor. Through it they discuss the difficulty of finding out footing in the collision and disappointment of so many American dreams which all too frequently remain tantalizingly out of reach for the majority of those who dare to dream them.
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Eric Weinstein 0:04 Hello, this is Eric with some thoughts before we get to this week's main conversation. What I want to talk about initially this week is the real raison d'être for longform podcasting as I see it. I would like to think that all listeners to this podcast understand the very real danger that cranks and crackpots pose to our society when they are not recognized as such. The idea of visiting a witch doctor, faith healer or tarot card reader to treat your infection with the Coronavirus hopefully sounds insane to you. If it doesn't, this likely isn't the podcast for you, as I'm just going to assume here that such actions are a priori crazy. You're probably fairly able to spot many such charlatans easily from their bizarre behavior patterns, which do not bear a moment's scrutiny. But what about people who have more complex presentations?
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been asked multiple times every day what I think about Stephen Wolfram's supposed announcement of a theory of everything two weeks ago, on April 14. I thought, perhaps, I would take this opportunity to clarify I do think. The short answer is that I don't think that this is what happened. I think he announced a program in line with previous investigations of his into the properties of cellular automata, where simple computational rules result in output of unexpected intricacy, richness and beauty. If you have ever toured the famous Mandelbrot set, played the late John Conway's Game of Life, studied Go, or even played Cat's Cradle with yarn, you're familiar with this phenomenon of explosions of unexpected structure from minimal assumptions.
My interpretation of Wolfram's announcement is that he believes he has a research program that will one day show that the richness of our world can be found to result from a specific computational rule that his team will be able to locate using tools of modern computing. I'm happy to be wrong if this is not what he announced, but that's what I gleaned, after a short look at some of the video and materials that he released. It looks to me like a program to search for a final theory, rather than something close to a final theory.
The next two questions, however, are often where things become complicated.
Question 2 can be phrased as something like, "Why do you suppose he doesn't simply write a paper and submitted for peer review?"
And Question 3 would be, "Do you think he's a crank?"
The short answer to Question 2 is, I think, like many other experts, he lost a good deal of faith in the ability and willingness of the community of theoretical physicists to fairly judge, in good faith, new idiosyncratic work via an anonymous and unaccountable system, which is always ripe for abuse.
As for Question 3, the simple answer to whether or not he's a crank has been: I'm not going to dignify your ugly question with an answer. Theoretical physics, you see, at its absolute highest levels, has been in some strange state of advanced crankiness for decades. But what does it really mean to say that the mainstream and leadership of a field are cranky? Can the mainstream truly be fringe? Wrong, perhaps, but "fringe", in some sense, means both distant from the center and wacky. There is no concept in English of which I am aware for a group of experts promoting a prima facia insane perspective from the highest positions of trust, expertise, and leadership. Stephen Wolfram, in my opinion, is far less nutty than the arrival of new high energy physics preprints that are posted daily on the so-called Arxiv server, used by all leading theorists. A quick review on any given day chosen at random reveals that these papers are generally not in any way tied to particles, forces, dimensions, or symmetries that have ever been seen in any experiment. They are not actually high energy physics theories at all, because they are not tied to any energy scale, they aren't attempting to understand the physical world, and they aren't even theories, so far as I can tell. As far as high energy physical theory, that would be zero for three, and beyond pathetic. What they really represent are the mathematical explorations of fragments of long ago exhausted dreams for unification, now 20 to 50 years past their due date.
This is why we need a new concept, which I have called the Knarc. Aside from being Swedish slang for hard recreational drugs, it's also the word "crank" spelled backwards. You can think of the two meanings as being related by virtue of the fact that our central institutions are almost all growth-dependent structures, now increasingly dominated in our low-growth world by leaders addicted to desperate measures to cover for their lack of competence, progress and honesty. Quite simply, the mainstream may still be tautological at the center, but it is often no less wacky than the fringe that it denigrates.
Think about it. President Donald Trump is a good example of a Knarc freestyling about getting disinfectant inside the body to kill COVID from the presidential lectern, and then lying about it, claiming it was sarcasm when he was caught. The Surgeon General, the CDC, and the WHO are all Knarc organizations for giving deadly, faulty, and transparently self-inconsistent recommendations on the use of facemasks, to say nothing of our friends in the People's Republic of China, who are blatantly lying about all aspects of the COVID epidemic, so far as I can tell. Joe Biden, Trump's likely opponent for perhaps the world's most demanding job, is a Knarc for running when he should be retiring, given embarrassing signs of mental decline, and his constant inability to remember what he's talking about from moment to moment, with alarming frequency for a mere septuagenarian.
Once you have a concept of a dependably crazy bipartisan center, ignoring reality to quickly extract as much as possible from the accumulated wealth and credit of civil society before the bills all come due and are sent to the next generation for payment, you realize that if there are any reliable experts left, you would expect them to be straddling the worlds between the central Knarcs and the cranks of the fringe. And this gets to the difficult problem we now face, but which we cannot face up to: the coming total collapse of authoritative sources.
You will notice that Wikipedia's history of surprisingly high quality comes from an insistence on using reliable published sources of information as primary material. But don't take it from me—in Wikipedia his own words, "If no reliable sources can be found on a topic, Wikipedia should not have an article on it".
In short, when reliable sources cannot be found, communal sensemaking breaks down and comes to an end. In my lifetime, I have seen the universities, the scientific journals, the papers of record all succomb to the political economy of perverse incentives in a low-growth world. Said differently, we now run the risk that if previously reliable, published sources, which prided themselves on a goal of objectivity, become captured by political incentives, secondary structures like Wikipedia will begin to degrade and unravel as a result.
Thus, we can—formally, at least—understand the logic of the CEO of YouTube, when she tells us that she must remove videos that contradict authoritative sources to protect the public health during a pandemic. But when she tells us that the World Health Organization is such an unquestionable source, we must, by the same logic of public health, actually consider whether YouTube should be nationalized, given that the WHO appears to be in thrall to mainland China, and unable to acknowledge the existence of Taiwan's efforts to control the virus, while they continue to spout nonsense about the transmission of the virus, and PPE.
A free and advanced society must question the now unreliable WHO, and do so vigorously and ferociously, whether or not YouTube and its parent company have continuing business interests involving East Asia. Of course, the idea of nationalizing YouTube because its CEO is chilling a conversation that needs to take place in the middle of a geopolitical health crisis is a confusing issue. Yet who can deny that she is blatantly exercising the privileges of a publisher, while retaining the legal protections of a platform? One senses immediately that it is a conversation that cannot take place within a framework of thoroughly nutty, yet central institutions that share a common interest in being spared difficult questions, particularly as regards Communist China. On the other hand, figuring out how to make it impossible for Google, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other publishers to exercise editorial control, while posing as platforms, is an essential conversation that must not be handed off to cranks, trolls and crackpots.
The lacuna that has opened up between the cranks of 4chan and the comparably nutty Knarcs of the great boardrooms lying and colluding to protect their empires from oversight, clawbacks, and regulation is therefore of utmost importance.
And this is where we find longform podcasting. By getting to know an individual host with all of his or her strengths and weaknesses, we have some hope for a new form of semi-reliable media. This sector may not yet fact check as regularly as the New York Times, but it is less likely to credulously quote the ridiculous China COVID statistics, Epstein autopsy report, or WHO mask recommendations. It is also more willing to take on the perverse incentives destroying the credibility of the platforms, elected representatives, scientists, universities, hospitals, and other previously-trusted institutions.
I wish I could say that this was because of something intrinsic to the medium, but really it is because of this: longform podcasting is something new. There's still room for growth, and it is still difficult to control. As long as those two features hold true, the sweet spot for sensemaking is likely to be found in longform podcasting, which lies in a no man's land between the cranks and the Knarks. It's not perfect, but it's the best we have a very difficult moment.
I'll be back with some words to introduce today's guests after these words from our sponsors.
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Today's guest is JD Vance, the author of hillbilly elegy, and he's a former colleague of mine from our mutual days in San Francisco. I don't think at the time I knew anything about him setting out to write a book, let alone such an outstanding and important one. Oddly, Judy's family and mind tangentially connect through the Appalachian experience. Once upon a time, the American political left was very focused on the economic plight of both American Southern blacks In the Appalachian poor, it's not hard to see why that both were subjected to different levels of enslavement and government supported terror from those who exploited and controlled every aspect of their lives and labor. in large measure, the left was drawn to both for two main reasons. In the first place, the brazen enormity of the exploitation made a powerful case that the left was truly interested in defeating the evils of legalized human exploitation, and control of the economically downtrodden. This also provided a large voting base within the wider category of organized labor. But in another vein entirely, these groups metabolize that injustice and somehow produced from it, much of the rich and interesting American folklore and ethnomusicology that, in part define us and bind us as a nation. These are, after all, what folklorist think of as the two most generative American sub communities where Southern blacks had tails that made Harriet Tubman into Moses. The Appalachian hillbilly had fashioned the Irish born Mary G. Harris into American labor's iconic Mother Jones, the woman who mother era's workers into a fearsome force to be reckoned with, in the deadly skirmishes with company armies of detectives that in fact define the period as such in my family far removed in Los Angeles, we grew up listening to the plight of both groups with respect to Appalachian in songs like 16 tons or Which side are you on or the lnn don't stop here anymore. Incredibly specific details like name checking or county by county level descriptions were dispensed in song of an Appalachian world far removed from my family, and a strategy this had the effect of getting lots of people far removed from Kentucky or West Virginia, to feel as if we knew the place intimately and wanting to learn all we could about the Battle of Blair mountain, or the evil gh Blair of Harlan County. But most of the left then moved on from this detachment, and they did so without the ability to get rid of all the evidence of historically critical connection. The publication Mother Jones, for example, continued on but now without a particular passion for the highly religious heteronormative family focused culture of mine steel workers and their descendants, which had been the object of Mother Jones original interest. The people of Appalachia increasingly felt that they were being abandoned by the American left and less they leaned to the right as they sent that they were now being treated as antiquated relics from the era of organized labor. It's hard to get the modern left to properly sing, Which side are you on when it tuns? Will you be a man or celebrates our ecologically disastrous reliance on coal in general, and coal mining in particular? Yet, there are some of us on the left, which still think that the minute that the Democratic Party truly abandoned southern Ohio or Eastern Kentucky, because they can't see their connection to these people of the region, well, then it ceases to be the left or even very American for that matter. In that sense, JDs obvious love and feel for this region during the largely post cold era, in some sense, feels like a great opportunity for a spiritual renewal of the left, and the reconnection as well with the national interest of the American family under stress. I know of course, this opportunity is very unlikely To be taken up by the leadership of the current Democratic Party, but of course it would be if the left actually wanted to win and furthermore make winning matter in the best tradition of the thinking left. He would also be therapeutic in my opinion for us all to reacquaint ourselves with just how much actual genius there is within our most downtrodden people. So, sit back, relax, and I hope that after a few words from our sponsors, you'll enjoy my unbroken conversation with JD Vance, the author of the incredibly moving hillbilly elegy
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Hello, you found the portal. I'm your host, Eric Weinstein and I get to sit down today with my friend JD Vance. JD. You're the author of hillbilly elegy but before that you were working with friends of ours inside of the sort of Peter teal universe. We Welcome to the portal. Thank you. Thanks for having me. It's a great honor. So this is kind of one of these funny stories where I knew you in one capacity. And the next thing I know, you've written the book that the entire country is talking about. Did you see that coming?
No, definitely not. In fact, I remember. I don't know if you remember this, but I ran into you. And I think it was Kevin in the dining hall, and he Kevin Harrington at the, at the Presidio, and the book had, I think, just come out or was just about to come out. And it was sort of this throwaway thing like it was the side projects that I was working on. I always worked full time. And I just thought the book would come out I'd be proud of it happy about what I wrote. But that would be pretty much it. And of course, it really took off and you know, if I was going to quantify the expectations versus the reality, you know, the the initial print run on the book was 10,000 copies, the publisher thought that would be more than enough that it wouldn't sell that many and we sold out after a Couple of weeks, and it was just off to the races from there. It was pretty crazy.
And am I. So the book is hillbilly elegy. But you were just coming fresh today from having seen a movie being made out of your book. Can you say more about that?
Yeah. So Ron Howard at imagine is making, you know, making hillbilly elegy into a movie, and has been working on it for a couple of years. And I've been, you know, various stages of involved at various stages of the process. And I saw the first cut of it before I came in here. So if I seem like I'm on drugs, it's because I'm still sort of floating through Los Angeles unsure what exactly happened and what to make of it and how to process it. But as weird as I expected it to be to see my life story put into a movie it was even weirder, weirder still. So,
so you family members, played by anyone famous.
Glenn Close is playing my grandma. And yeah, and I think in big ways is sort of the hero of my own life and of the book Amy Adams is playing my mom. Frieda Pinto is playing my wife. The actor who's playing me is Gabriel by basso is playing the older version of JD. And really got to know these guys really enjoyed it, I actually started to appreciate that filmmaking is sort of an art form if you do it the right way, which was not how I went into the process expecting to feel about it. But it's a it looks pretty good. You know, knock on wood, I think it's I think it's going to actually come out pretty well. I, you know, I watched with my wife. And the thing that I told her beforehand is I just want to feel like they didn't screw it up. I recognize this as a first cut. It's a rough draft. It's not not the final movie, but I just want to walk out of there feeling like they didn't screw it up. And I really felt like that. So I'm pretty happy.
Well, this is fantastic. I couldn't be happier for your success now. Thank you. One of the so a couple of odd features. You're coming from southern Ohio with family in Kentucky. Sure. And of course, southern Ohio as more details With Kentucky than it does to do with, let's say, Cleveland or something like that, that's culturally closer to Appalachian. Now it happens. And you may not know this, that I was a folklore minor in college, and hillbilly culture and black culture, sort of two great wellsprings of American folk lore. So I was always of the opinion that this was like one of the great artistic regions of our country. And one of the things that that meant was is that we were left with a lot of folk song, which describes a world that I feel has been almost forgotten by Coastal America in particular, and this is quite funny left of center, coastal America. And one of the things that I'm dying to talk about is coal and its legacy, as we sort of distance ourselves from the sort of dirty form of energy that we share. We because we're so awake and climate aware, we sort of are embarrassed because of the environmental degradation. But this was really the wellspring of both culture and in some sense, the soul of the American left. And something absolutely bizarre has happened. And I wondered if we could, because the book has been out for some time. So we're not going to get really fresh questions about the book. Sure. But I thought what we might do is sort of examine the legacy of Appalachia with respect to politics, where the country is going, and what you were trying to do with the book when you wrote it. So can you say what it was you were intending to do when you wrote hillbilly elegy?
Yeah, so what I was intending to do, I think is right, a reflection on this idea of the American dream. And it's something that we become so jaded that It almost feels sort of trite or cheesy to even talk about it. But when I was like a kid growing up in the late 80s, early 90s, I really had this sense that America was a place where you could be anything where you could do anything. And of course, over the course of my life, I sort of realized that that that that notion is a little bit more complicated than I had expected that it would be, I realized it was a little bit more challenging. I realized when I got to law school, which was sort of the culmination of, you know, my sort of educational and work career up to that point, that the American dream was in a very real sense in crisis. And yet, I still sort of held on to it, it was still sort of a really important part of my identity. And I wanted people to sort of understand that to understand how you could simultaneously accept that America wasn't perfect, but still love it, that you could still believe that this is the land of opportunity, even though you recognize that most people around you weren't necessarily able to achieve the full measure of that opportunity. And that that kind of tension that really complicated The relationship that I had with the American dream was sort of the the message that I wanted to deliver. And, you know, my my ultimate hope is that somebody would pick up hillbilly elegy would kind of understand the people that I came from the people that I grew up around, why they thought the way that they did, why they, you know, sort of thought about the country the way that they did, and ultimately why those people are struggling in very real ways from, you know, the opioid epidemic to a host of other sort of sociological and economic factors. And that that's, yeah, that's, that's why I wrote it. I don't think I had any sort of super groundbreaking insights in the book. The one truly original thought that I thought that I had was that there were really high rates of religious identification in the part of the country that I came from, but religious participation and sort of fallen off a cliff. So you had this weird juxtaposition of people who are devoutly religious but not connected to a real church. And I thought that had all these sort of interesting implications. And I think Robert Putnam came out with a book like a year before mine that sort of just, you know, said everything I wanted to say on that front, but much more interestingly. So it sort of progressively evolved into more and more of a story about my own life and my family's history, so that people would sort of understand these things and understand where a lot of people were coming from.
So I love picking up the threat of the American dream because I'm a total believer in the American dream, and I more or less want to just fight anyone who wants to get in its way. Right. And so as a non as an unreconstructed believer, it's kind of interesting to hear somebody talk about it. Now, am I right? You did not grow up? particularly well off. You weren't, you know, because right now, we're living through a very bizarre moment in time, which white skin is assumed to be connected to a trust fund by many people.
Yep. Yeah. You know, I sort of grew up I think Let's say from the time I was born till when I was 13, or 14 kind of oscillating between working class, lower middle class and sort of right on the edge of, of what you would call poor. And then by the time I was in high school, I was living with my grandma full time, my grandfather died and we were genuinely poor. I think I never really felt hungry. Sort of ways in which the social safety net definitely worked for us. But we were very, very, you know, marginal. Yeah, we were very marginal resources were very tight. And the idea that you know, you could afford things that seemed necessary like a college education to get ahead in America just seemed totally out of reach. It's one of the reasons that I joined the military, not the only reason. I was very patriotic family of my, my grandma's six grandchildren, three of them joined enlisted in the Marine Corps. It was right after September 11. I think that I enlisted like three weeks after we invaded Iraq in March of 2003. So it wasn't just sort of that it was my pathway to a better life. But But definitely we grew up in a pretty rough environment in a lot of ways. And the fact that I made it is on the one hand, I think evidence of the American dream. But on the other, you know, I don't think you can read too much into one person's story because there is a lot of evidence that people are struggling and more I think that's true. But I don't I don't want to discount your particular story because
each link in your or each step on your ladder is like a different version of the American dream. Not only do you enlist in our military, but you will enlist in a branch that at least in my, in my family, and in my world still carries a lot of prestige, the Marine Corps. So you you do four years in the Marine Corps, and then you're off to a college education at Ohio State.
Yeah, so I go to Ohio State. I remember feeling this in 10th sense of being very old there, you know, so I got to Ohio State in September of 2007. I was 23 years old. And we would talk in like introductory political science classes about what was going on in Iraq. And you know, I had friends who were like, still there. And I just come back, you know, a year earlier, if you were wizened from direct experience. Yeah. And I think that I just felt you know, everything from the dating scene to most of my friends from high school, if they had gone to college, they'd already graduated. I was just desperate to sort of get out. So I graduated very quickly in a place like Ohio State. That was possible. You could take as many credit hours as you wanted. And as soon as you got the degree requirements met you were you were out of there. So I actually spent less than two years at Ohio State and then went to law school right after that the
arguably the country's top law school. From a theory perspective,
though. Yeah, yeah, definitely large Emily definitely, definitely the highest in sort of the objective rankings but I do think it's an interesting question about what it means to be the top educational institution. And in a world where things are as corrupt as they are right now, though, I mean, to your point, at that time, I was thinking that to me, Yale Law School was, that was my ticket, right? As soon as I got the call, because they call people and they let them and they don't send letters, wow. small classes. And I will never forget, I was at a friend's house. I got a phone call on my cell phone. It was a two or three number, which I knew from sort of law school admissions, messageboards, that wasn't New Haven area code. And I just knew I was like, Okay, I'm never going to have to worry about money. My life is going to be set. Things have worked out for me. That was sort of my instant reaction to that. It was a Yeah, it was a really transformational moment.
So it's interesting, so neither you nor I did very well in high school. We both have ended up in somewhat similar worlds a little bit. But when I, you know, when I got a PhD from Harvard, I had none of that feeling that things were going to be okay. Because it wasn't a professional degree. It was an academic degree. Yep. And I think people discount just how weird it is to both have a sense of being economically marginal and economically secure. And the message not being entirely clear one way or the other. I've met very rich people who can have because of the way in which they grew up, never get a sense of comfort that they are going to be okay. Yeah.
It's, it's interesting you say that, because I do think there's a way in which I've realized that that sense of scarcity is always going to be with me. But it's just not the same as like really being in scarcity. I always have you know, I think my wife has told me that there's always this way in which I'm terrified that things are going to go radically wrong very quickly. You know that Some investment that we made even though it's in, you know, a super safe public equity, it's just going to go to zero, right? The taxes are gonna go up so high on our on our house that we're gonna have to move out of her house, you grew up where she grew up in San Diego. So we're very middle class Daughter of Indian immigrants. I think herself very much a believer in the American dream. The reason I bring it up is
that both of us have married people from the subcontinent. Sure. And my belief is, is that partition casts a pall over people who come from India, whose families went through that I don't know whether that's a part of your story. It's certainly part of my wife's story, where they were Hindus living in Karachi. And so whether you interact with the Holocaust or partition, or the Armenian Genocide or anything like that, there are these weird intergenerational sort of traumas that get passed. Yep.
Yeah. So they grew up with South India and Chennai and to the best of my knowledge, no family members were implicated in the partition. Now I'm actually ashamed to say that I don't think I've actually asked her parents that question.
I thought they were Tamils. That's probably not Yeah. Yeah. They weren't. They weren't they were not they were they were. They're not what? Tamil? Chennai was Madras which would be in Tamil Nadu but so yeah, they might have been some other ethnic group.
Well, they they spoke Telugu at home. Okay. What does that shed any light on what they're likely? i?
I think so. When I
say that I don't know more about about my wife's family.
Well, let's get back to share Ohio then. So one of the things that really moved me is that you've invited me to gatherings where people who are very worried about inequality in the United States in the health of working families and the number of people Who are marginal and the disappearing middle class and the swelling ranks of the poor are are talking about these issues are and I can find myself as the only democrat invited to the table. And I can listen for hours upon hours to republicans pouring their heart out, trying to figure out how to help the working poor the people affected by the opioid epidemic epidemic and trying to figure out what the hell's going wrong with our country. And I have to say that when I come back to my coastal friends who are left of center, I feel like a lot of this has just fallen off the radar like people. If they weirdly looked down on this region, in ways that make me incredibly uncomfortable. Like we talked I gave you my idea for birthright Ohio. That like birth Israel, we should tour people from the coasts and show them, you know, what kind of standard of living they could have if they moved to the interior and brought some of their technical know how and got over their bigotry. Yep.
Yeah, there definitely is that sense of bigotry. And, you know, the way that I would illustrate this is, when I was in law school, I was a third year student in a seminar. And, you know, in these seminars or 12 or 13 people, I made some point. And the point kind of implied that I was in the military in this sort of, you know, very nice student turned to me and said, Oh, you were in the military. I said, Yeah, I was in the I was in the Marine Corps. And she said, Oh, my God, that's so surprising. You just seem so nice.
And, you know, it's
so yes, somebody made the comment to me later, years later, when I told that story that if I sort of lived and hyper woke, you know, if that if that had happened 2017 2018 so 2013 I would have called it a microaggression. Yeah, it sort of hit me that that was like my, my, my brief flirtation with a microaggression. But there is this. There's this weird way in which whether it's the reaction to the Trump phenomenon, or just general lifestyle, voting habits, cultural attitudes, whatever the case may be. There's this way in which I think left of center elites, especially, are not comfortable with the idea that there is a population that will the country, primarily the non exclusively white, that's just doing very poorly, and they have specific class political interests, that are not really being given good expression and current American political and cultural discourse, in sort of the way that I think about this most strongly is like in response to Trump's election, you know, where there were all of these sort of absurd think pieces and actions emic research papers that back them up in the social scientists like, you know, let's try to quantify just how racist the average Trump voter is. And some of these studies, they wouldn't even control for age. Some of these studies, they wouldn't even control for income. There were these weird ways in which like basic, you know, basic research, practices weren't being followed. But then if you really looked at the questions that they were asking to sort of tease out whether people were racist, right? And you realize that they're basically just penalizing people who don't have college educated attitudes about race that what they're really sort of when they when they say that a person has a high degree of racial animus and a lot of these studies, it's Did you go to an elite University and learn to talk about race like a person who graduated from an elite versus an amazing point, and it's, you know, that that that has blinded a lot of people I think, to just you know, how much frustration how much hurt there is and And it is made left of center politics in this country. Really, really perverse. I don't think all leftist politics but I mean, there are these weird pockets of leftist politics in the country that still sort of get it. Yeah, but most most don't, especially at the elite level.
So this is actually, personally, really I don't get a chance to talk about this that often I have the sense that people who've worked on the same factory floor of different races, and we've actually come to understand each other, maybe have each other over to each other's homes, but maintain a certain sense of like, we can be close but we're also separate. I have to joke about our differences and sometimes it erupts into a fight, and sometimes you bury the hatchet and sometimes it's kind of the spice of life. That richness of actually races dealing with each other in a work environment
like sharing a life together,
like sharing a life together, but like maybe you're you belong to different neighborhoods, you know, because the neighborhood segregate and you sort of I mean, I think you know what I'm talking about. I'm trying to talk about it in terms that are actually weirdly, I mean, it's the inverse of what you're saying, I come from the group that is now. I mean, this is like, this is so complicated. Three out of my four grandparents never got a college degree, you know? Yep. And in the two generations since then, I'm supposed to pretend that I've always come from this exalted group of educated people. Well, of course, in Australia's strata. This isn't an issue, but like To me, this is just like the last four minutes we've been college, college educated and somewhat for you. Now, I want to go back and I want to try to talk about this The the way in which races actually interact, and men and women actually interact, right. And I can't use the college educated language of elite universities to talk about, there's this weird way in which you're separate. But you're also actually intertwined.
Yes. Yeah. And I actually think it's a very bad for like real race relations in the country, right? This, this sort of fake. We're not going to talk about 70% of the issues that you might talk about in normal conversation, because we're terrified that we're going to offend each other. Right? I think that's a really terrible way to actually again share a life and a conversation with somebody you know, I think about, you know, my real experience of this having never worked on a factory floor, I guess I've maybe worked at a factory for like three months out of my life was in the military, right, still, sort of like the genuinely multiracial, multiracial, multi ethnic Ethnic multi class institutions in American life. And so many of the conversations that I had with like my 19 year old, you know, friends that I was in boot camp with, would absolutely offend and scandalize the average college students introduced. Right? Yeah, absolutely. Right. I mean, you're gonna
joke around with Moses, right? The most offensive things in order to show Hey, if we can get through that, maybe I can maybe I can actually deal with you in a firefight and trust you.
Yeah, absolutely. You know, you know, some people like make fun of each other. That's a natural thing to happen among people who are genuinely friends, I think especially like young people, they're kind of ribbing each other, they're testing the boundaries a little bit. And there's a way in which that kind of real conversation is no longer welcome in elite circles. And I you know, I think sort of the the pro spin on it, is that, you know, maybe an environment that's multi-racial or jokes are flying everywhere. Maybe people were sort of secretly offended. But in a hyper cleansed environment in the average elite University people aren't as offended. I don't want it but i don't buy that. I don't
pretend that joking is just awesome. Because there's a lot of people have that simplistic adage, of course.
Yeah, you know,
there's a lot of harm that can be done by bad and unskilled jokes. But in my experience, you make too much of an unskilled joke. You learn very quickly. Not to do it again. Yes. And people get better over time. Yes, exactly. Rightly.
Yeah. So I think there were maybe imperfections and and certainly, you know, people said things to others that went too far in some in some way, I'm sure. But being I think probably our society, especially in elite circles, college educated circles, is too much in the direction of terror over offending somebody sincerely abilities. And it's really hard to build a relationship with somebody when that's when that's where you're going. I mean, I think you and I have had this conversation, maybe maybe in private or maybe I've had it with somebody else. But, you know, I've a couple of friends who are practicing devout Muslims. And there's a way in which people who are serious about their faith, Muslims, talk about terrorism, in a way Islamic terrorism. Yeah, in a way that 99% of public intellectuals and commentators would be terrified to talk about it. But again, when you like really know somebody, and you're talking about real issues in the intimacy of somebody's home, and you're not worried that everybody is saying something is saying, and in bad faith, you can actually have a lot of really interesting well, discussions.
You know, I'll be honest, I learned. I started off saying, you know, we can't talk about Islam as having a connection to terror and it was my Muslim friends who said what is Your problem? What are you doing? Have you have you touched a pod? Have you gotten mad? Did you blow a neuron out? You know, of course, there's a problem. That's what we talk about. And honestly, Eric, you sound like an idiot, you know? And it was a very powerful argument. Now, if you ask how we joke, you know, probably we Okay, I occasionally make a joke with very close Muslim friends about terror oil. And they make a joke about how I control all of the newspapers in the movie studios. Yep. And those kinds of jokes have this role in building intimacy. And of course, they're dangerous, but that's why they work to build intimacy, right. And what concerns me is that nobody's ever going to get intimate if everybody's terrified of being real. Yeah. And you can't just also say, well, the comedian's are right. Everything offensive is awesome. And we should just celebrate the First Amendment. Every time somebody says something hurtful, because You know, there really is something about learning to be decent, but we're not going to learn how to be decent by being terrified of each
other. Right, right. Yeah, you know, one of my, my best friends for law school is this guy Jamil Giovanni. I think you've interacted with Jamil at least a little bit. Very smart guy lives in Toronto, wrote a book called why young man about sort of the connection between young men and attraction to sort of violent, violent movements, be they you know, Islamic or white supremacist or whatever. And I was one of my favorite moments from law school was Jamil and I, and a bunch of our classmates we went to like this late night chicken restaurant. We were you know, gorging after a night of drinking. And afterwards, like all of our classmates, it just left this terrible mess. And Jamil and I sort of stayed back to kind of clean up so that the people who work there didn't have to clean up the entire mess and we sort of had this real moment of connection. That we're probably the only two people here who have actually had to clean up somebody else's mess before. And that that sort of sense of, you know, clearly different nationalities, different races. He's a black guy from Toronto. I'm a white guy from southern Ohio. But that that sense of commonality led to so many fruitful conversations about race, about class about Canada about America. And there's a way in which sanitized rhetoric actually prevents those types of relationships from developing. I don't know what to I don't know what to do. I mean, again, I'm not a super cynical about this. I think that it comes from a good place a genuine desire, at least in some cases, not all cases to prevent offense, but it can be just destructive to
Well, I also think it's really friendship. It's really important to understand what racism is is not what you can't do if you if you're not willing to sort of investigate and interrogate it in yourself. Sure. And in general, I find that everyone has program. I mean, our friend David Eagleman has made this point that if you put a bracelet on a rubberized hand that says, you know, Jew, Christian, atheist Hindu, and then you stab the rubberized hands with a fork, people react to the one that is labeled with their group differently. It's just very funny that we sort of have to deny that we have any kind of evolutionary programming sure towards tribe or group now. Okay. Once you once you actually have sort of wrestled with this in yourself, you know, then you're open to actually solving richer problems and I don't know how we get back to that because You know, what I see is that there's a very thin layer of people who have found their way to high leverage positions, particularly within media, within universities within HR departments. Who are hell bent on making sure that speech is policed in a very counterproductive way to actually making progress on on these issues. And I guess, you know, the weird thing that that I have to say is, is that I associate this much more with the left. And so one thing I would love to talk to you about is the way in which the left moved bizarrely by using our shared interest in Appalachia.
Sure, sure. Yes. You mentioned you mentioned coal earlier. And of course, one of the hotbeds of the American labor movement was, I mean, genuinely violent union reactions against what was going on. In coal country, and
let's say what it what it was, which is, I've almost never heard this word used in a modern context. So the form of slavery is 20th century. Yep. And the people enslaved were often whites. I mean, there was black slavery through coal as well.
Yeah. Yeah. What's right he had a lot of had a lot of black coal miners, other places did as well.
But yeah, no, it was I mean, the entire economy was different and segregated, right. They didn't pay people in dollars that they could use, they pay them companies script. They lived in houses that were typically owned by the company where very often the wages that they earn just covered the home and the food that they they ate, which very often was sort of at starvation level. There was this weird way
to shop in the company directly like the company, the script, the script kind of covered up for the fact that it gave people a sense of agency where they're really wasn't any white. Let's go further. These coal barons had private armies in the form of things like the detective agency. Yeah. And these were effectively private armies. Yes. And the unions had private armies themselves. Yeah. So you had like, You ever hear this group? I think was the dirty 11 Yeah, of course. Yeah. Okay, well, here's let's get into this because I think that one of the funny things is that the the culture seeped in to us culture in a way that the current lefties do not understand and I think of myself as left of center but I don't think of myself as a What are these guys now call themselves as progressives Be sure it doesn't seem progressive in any way, shape or form. So for example, our friend Christina Hoff Sommers, who is a feminist who associates with second wave feminism? Yep. You know is notable for saying that she doesn't think that the wage gap is what it is frequently quoted as being which is 25% discount for women doing the same work as men. Now she was protested at a university in Oregon, by a bunch of kids who were singing a rewritten song, and it went like this. No platform for a fascist, no platform at all. Which side are you on? Which side are you on? Now that song comes from 1931 I think from a woman named it's credited on Wikipedia, I think to Pete Seeger, but it's Florence Reese, who is the wife of Sam Reese. Yep. Who is a union organizer who is being hunted by the The army of the Union boss and they shot up protect her her house. I believe she's even you mentioned 20th century. I mean, this was like
going into the sort of mid to late 20th century. There's a brilliant documentary 70 right. It is a brilliant documentary called Harlan County, USA, which, which I believe that she's featured in this documentary is much older at that point, of course, but she's singing the song in the documentary, and you're putting up private arms, which is incredibly violent attempt to suppress people from demanding actual tear is actual tyranny. It's like corporate tyranny, and people fought back against it and of course, sort of extracted some measure of wage protections, health protections and so forth with
with guns with explosives. Let's celebrate. That's because one of the things is it's very weird to hear people I don't know if you've ever seen this cartoon Where there's like a giant chalkboard and it's got like a bunch of hash marks on it. And on one side it says like number of school killings, numbers of people killed in schools. And on the other side, it says, number of times the guns have been used to fight off tyranny, something like that. Yeah, yeah. And there's no, there's no hashmark. Right? I think you guys just don't know anything,
right? You're just ignorant.
Yeah, and the, and I'm not a gun that like I'll talk gun control. But I'm not going to tell my friends who enjoy firearms, and the fact that it may be a hedge against tyranny that they have no point.
Well, if you think about the cultural legacy that leaves for the women who grew up in that part of the country, right, so my grandmother was born into deep poverty and Appalachia. She was born in 1933. She left in sort of the mid 40s, but kept on coming back. And Glenn Close. Yeah, this is Bobby Wade like this. Glenn Close. But my grandma when she died, she own 19 handguns. Yeah. And many of which were loaded. And we would find them sort of stocked when she died, we would find them stocked all over the house, you know, in a cupboard, in a wardrobe and sort of a coat pocket because she couldn't get around very well. And she wanted to make sure that no matter where she was, if somebody came in, she was within arm's arm's reach of a gun. And, you know, for Malmo, I don't think she was ever a member of the NRA. But guns were part of her sense of her cultural identity. And
women shot man right? They had to these women were so tough, like yeah, Lawrence Reese. How tough was she? Do you know? Do you know? I don't know if I exactly am I? folkloric tradition, right? There was another song called lay the lily low, which I think she borrowed the tune from Okay, which was a song about a woman who crossed dresses to join The army to take care of her man. I don't know this. Okay, so this is like the issue. Right? I'm so fucking fed up
with the left. Because like,
if you actually look at the traditions that you're spitting on, it's highly feministic. It's violent in the face of oppression. It speaks to labor and inequality and redressing inequality in a very forward fashion. Yep. And now there's like this. were two good for this. So my claim is, is that the word deplorable? Most of my left of center friends don't understand this the way I do. I view it as the word for democratic prostates. People who left the democratic party when I don't know if you remember Hillary Clinton went to Bombay. And she said, Well, the parts of the country that are productive For me, and I thought, okay, so you go to foreign soil to complain about those of us who are shit out of luck at the moment. And I showed you before we started like so. You mentioned the movie by Harlan County, USA or you know, people can look up Harlan buddy Harlan. There's a lyric in Which side are you on, which goes they say in Harlan County, there are no neutrals there. You'll either be a union man or thug for gh Blair. Harlan, because it showed up in the song I thought it'd be interesting to look at its voting pattern. And it was more or less blue throughout the 20th century up until 1980. Yep. And suddenly, the blue starts plummeting. And by the time you get to Trump, it's like 8% blue. And it's just otherwise it's just Trump country.
why did you lose these people? Because they started detecting In my opinion, you correct me if I'm wrong. They're not wanted. They're there. They're backward. They're pitiful. They're violent. They're benighted. Mm hmm. You know, they're the kind of people who might say nucular rather than nuclear and we can't have that right. WTF man?
Well, you know, of course, they're they're all just racist reacting to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It just, it just took them nearly two decades to actually react to it. Right. That's, that's one of the things that's always falls apart about the white working classes, just racist narrative is that they stuck with the Democrats. Most of them Well, after the passage of the 19 one
Rights Act. Maybe I'm ignorant. I think a lot of racists voted for Obama.
Yeah, I'm sure that there were. I mean, I don't think racism what is what people think it No, I I agree. So your point about Harlan County, your point about the voting patterns, the deplorable is comment. There's sort of so many reactions That I had to that. So let me, let me try to organize my thoughts into sort of three separate categories. And I'll say what I'm
saying you didn't read on it had alcohol here because I
know I know, I know.
so the first is a comment about the connection that's always existed between a sort of social and cultural conservatism and a concern for working class Americans. I don't like to use the term progressive because it's so perverted, but a broad belief that we should be using various apparatuses of power to actually make it easier for working middle class people to have a good life. Right. Call it economic leftism, call it whatever you want. That's always been deeply connected to social conservative. So we're going to talk about race. One of the facts that I often bring up about or that nobody knows is that she had 10 children. Right. And she was a deeply committed family woman in addition to a you union organizer. And the coal miners who were striking whether it was in the early 20th century, the mid 20th century, they understood their occupation and you talked to coal miners today and you still hear this. There's this sense that they're doing something that actually powers the rest of the country. Like Malmo, my grandma would talk about the way in which coal miners won World War Two, they defeated Nazis and they defeated fascism because what was powering all those ships? What was making it easy for the American economy to catch up to Nazi Germany super quickly? It was coal powered industrialization, the United States there was this sense that their work was connected to their love of country in a way that I think most left of center people were deeply uncomfortable with. I'm I'm surprised by how uncomfortable people who are left of center who are under 40 years are under 40 years old are at talking about their country as is as if it's a lovable place. that people could have pride and there's there's a real discomfort with patriotism among the under 40 crowd because it's left of center let's let's
let's call this out because this is one of the reasons I think that I'm allowed to hang out with you guys yeah that patriotism is connected to nationalism nationalism is connected to ultra nationalism ultra nationalist connected to like National Socialism right and Nazi ism so somehow it's like you've got an American flag you must be a Nazi. Yes like cheese's did you realize what you did there?
Yeah, no. So it's it's it's totally insane.
But it's I think it's a significant part to me of what is driving the the left of center, disconnection with the white working class that used to be a real important part of the base, the Democratic Party. So that's, that's sort of one category of responses I have to what you said.
The second is that
J. D. Vance 58:55 there is a way in which the narrative that Clinton tells about left coast or blue America being more productive than red America, that it actually just is kind of true. And it's also kind of false. And that's sort of my third point. But there is a way in which Los Angeles is a more economically vibrant part of the country than where I grew up. It just is people make more money, they fly to more places, they have more economic activity. There is a real sense in which my party, I'm a Republican, I've sort of been involved in conservative politics since I was able to be where we still very often act like we represent the people who are in the most productive parts of the country. And not in a lot of the parts of the country that have been it's an overused phrase, but it's true have been left behind. And there is this disconnect. I mean, you know, I know knew, you know, you're sort of a guy on the left who likes to beat up on the left and I'm a guy on the right. I don't like very dissatisfied I have
Eric Weinstein 1:00:05 you beat up on the left picture?
Well, I'll say that I'm the guy on the right. It feels like I have to beat up on the right. You have to be on the right. I know. I think the the adoption of like a hyper neoliberal economics, right, right, has been absolutely devastating for the people who actually vote for Republican candidates to say nothing of their like moral claim to having a good life separate from what they do in politics. And I do think that this this point about representing people who are not doing as well, economically, it's sort of out of fashion. People don't like to be the party that has the parts of the country that sort of aren't doing as well, economically. And I just really hate that. I think that one of the shibboleths that needs to die in the Republican Party is that we represent as mitt romney and paul ryan said in 2012, the good noble entrepreneur who built their own business And yeah, those people are great. And obviously we know a lot of them. And I admire a lot of them. But they're not everything. And there is some degree worse than that there is some dignity just in having a job. Yeah. Whether it's in coal mining or manufacturing or, you know, legal support, where you do something that you're reasonably proud of, you put food on the table, and you go home at the end of the day, and you feel like you can look your kid in the eye and said, say, I did something. I'm proud of what I did. And I have enough material comfort that I can actually spend time quality time with my family. There. They're just, in other words, I think there's a way in which politicians aren't comfortable on the right with the fact that workers are much more likely to be voting for republicans these days than business owners and that has changed from 40 years ago. And they haven't quite caught up to that.
Let's talk about our mutual disease on both left and right in in recent times. So to me I have a theory which doesn't win me a lot of friends at fancy dinner parties, which is that the idealism of an age is usually the cover story of how some small group of people has learned how to make money. So what we are living with in large measure is Davos idealism. You know, we are the world is a story about breaking your tie to your fellow countrymen. It's about learning to hate your country. Yes, because I Why should I be shackled to some guy? You know, in in Perry County, Kentucky. Yes, we were talking earlier about gene Richie. Yeah, I'll get back to that. But like, what, why is that important? When there's somebody in Laos who can be lifted out of poverty and aren't all people I just don't have any of these feelings at all? Yeah, there's this whole thing about like the rauzein veil. My feeling is, yeah, that person in Laos, maybe just as maybe a much better person, that person in Kentucky, but the person Kentucky is my responsibility the person in Laos is not right. And I have more responsibility for my family than I do for my city than I do for my, for another state. Yes, but there is a way in which, like, just the rings of responsibility, the way we freed up this ability to make money recently was, let's tell a story that divorces us from each other at a national level, and then talk about how we're going to uplift people in Africa and Asia. So that we can ignore the people that were hurting at home. Yeah, so I think that's a left and right bipartisan effort to screw over on country. So
I agree and this sort of goes to something else I was gonna say in response to the the point about, you know, the labor movement in Appalachia coal and how it got divorced from the left and I think a big part of what happened is that the economic trends that we we both worry a lot about, yeah, had a geographic expression that we weren't fully cognizant of when it was happening. And now I think it's just hit us in the face. And it makes all these problems even worse, right? More. So if you live in Los Angeles, you're more likely to travel to Beijing, China or to Paris, France than you are to Morgantown, West Virginia, even though Morgan towns a university town or, you know, Mingo County, West Virginia, which is a much more rural and sort of economically depressed part of West Virginia. There's a way in which the logic of a hyper globalized economy has made it harder for people to actually spend real physical time with their fellow citizens, right. So one of the reasons the military always worked super well is because it has this sort of forcing function of making people who came from all across the country, share a room together, share a mission together, right? That was like a very powerful creator of national solidarity and cohesion. Not surprising. I think that the Congress that passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act was almost 90% veteran primarily from World War Two. But of course, some folks from Korea, you basically had a generation that it fought together, bled together, died together, felt invested in something, and then they were able to sort of accomplish like one of I think the great legislative things in American history. You don't have that sense of solidarity, because these people don't live with each other anymore. You are a medicine in the global economy. almost by definition, you're invested in geographies, you're more likely to see that poor person in Laos because you own the factory or more likely you manage the factory.
I don't think you lost me there. Everything else I was with you into okay. I really think that this has to do with a giant mimetic complex that got pushed out. You could never have gone to Laos. You're not really I took your point about Shanghai, you know, Hong Kong. That's closer.
Maybe Laos is too far. Okay, but look,
there is some way in which if you're on this archipelago of bustling cities, you're closer in some metric between LA and Shanghai, then you are LA to Bakersfield. Yes,
yeah. Well, even in just in, like the amount of time that it takes you to get to certain parts of the country, it takes you much less time to go to certain parts of Europe. And I think that's that I think that does have a really powerful psychological effect when you spend more time with one group of people and less time with another.
Well, you know, I was talking to my contractor, I was working on my house today, or maybe this yesterday and I was saying you found out that I had this podcast because people that he works with listened to it. I said, you know I have a huge following in construction. I my take on it is is that people in construction are constantly improvising. It's it's a fundamentally creative activity. Yep, you're given some problems. Some somebody else screwed something up, you have to you have detective work to figure out what what was there before? Then you have a question, but will this work? Will that work? Then there's the engineering problem. So I view a lot of that stuff is much more intellectual than a lot of the paper pushing, because a lot of the paper pushing is just you know, you have to be aware of certain rules. I mean, if you're doing truly creative accounting, you might get go to jail, but maybe that's really creative. Yeah. But a lot of what I see is that people who listen to this program are spread out all over the economic spectrum, but they tend to be grouped by are the question of, are they thinking for themselves? Are they forced to think for themselves? Sure. And what I see there is that we're very uncomfortable. with how the sort of new intellectual ism shakes out and because that's my audience, like when I went to visit you in Ohio, the person who shuttled me to you was a huge fan of the show. I didn't know and working some very regular job, but super highly intellectual. And this is what he was doing with his mind. Right, you know, right. I think we're nuts. I think we've gone crazy. I think we just absolutely can't bring ourselves to realize that farmers are wrestling with genetics, that people who are working with their hands are very often solving puzzles that have incredible rate.
Unknown Speaker 1:08:42 That's really interesting.
Eric Weinstein 1:08:42 And we've come up with a an explanation, which is that everybody should learn how to assign pieces of paper to make money which is not I would write works well.
And if you think about globalization, this is a very fascinating point. And if you think about the effects of globalization on what I broadly call the professional managerial class, Is it it's taken people who, you know, by the objective measures that we have si t scores, l SAT scores, whatever, are sort of at the top of the cognitive pyramid. And it's fundamentally turn them into people who are more who spend more of their time finding labor and tax arbitrage and actually creating something new. Right. So this is like, my, my, my hyper bullish, sorry, my hyper bearish version of globalization is not just that it, you know, there's all of the Okay, so we lost 7 million jobs to china from 1999 to 2006. Like, Oh, my God, that's catastrophic, especially in the region, the country that I came from, I think you can see sort of a whole host of things that happen in the wake of that the opioid epidemic, rise and family breakdown, family trauma and so forth. That that is all very, very bad. But in effect that we don't talk enough about it, you know, you know the stuff better than I do, right. Labor is a substitute for capital and vice versa. And if you're investing in just taking some function that already exists, and paying a guy in China a third what you paid a guy in Ohio to do, right? They're not invested in creating new things. And so, you know, the the tech slowdown thesis that I know you and I are both very much on board with, I think is partially that not entirely. It really is a globalization story because it's turned our creative class into paper pushers. And the way that you see this anecdotally, of course, is you know, I talked about sort of feeling like, once I got to Yale, my ticket was punched, like there was the sense of relief that I would never face real economic scarcity of the of the kind that I had experienced when I was a kid. And the weird thing is, then you get to Yale Law School. And everybody talks about how much they hate their jobs, right? Like investment bankers are the people who sort of won the meritocratic game. People who are working At the best 50 law firms in America, they're sort of the people who won the game. And yet they all hate their jobs. And there's something very bizarre about that about winning every single competition that you were supposed to win, okay, and the prize at the end of the rainbow is a hyper non creative and miserable position.
So I think this is this is really something that I've been talking with Peter about for years sharp, teal, same and more or less, the claim that I make is that every named occupation is over. If you can name something, okay, if you can name something that's a track by the time you win that game, and maybe not the ultimate huge winner, but if you've more or less ticked all the boxes on your way through that track, that track is now so pressurized that you are weirdly precarious in one way or another, either you're working yourself to a crisp to maintain your position, right? And so maybe there's money rolling in. But in fact, you're actually not doing healthy things to your body to your family. You're putting everything at risk all the time, or it's more precarious than you would imagine. So, for example, you may feel that Yale Law prepared you to have that, that secure position. But what if you had gone to Juilliard? As a cellist? Do you really believe that there's always going to be an orchestra? Like, what if you Mangle your hand? You know, I don't think I think that there's this very weird thing. I started to hear about the precariat. precarious people. Yeah. I have never felt other than precarious You and I both didn't do so well in high school. Yeah. Yeah. So you know, I trained for a position in mathematics and I just went through My applications for my first postdoc in 1991. Yeah. And it's I got rejected from all sorts of tiny schools, which said, we have no jobs this year. I don't think people who say, Well, you know, of course, we'll be fine. I worry about the rest of the country. Yeah. I think very often those people have no real, honest connection that they feel much more precarious. There's almost no thing that is low variance. Am I wrong? Or can you think of a named occupation? which you'd feel great if your kid made all the hurdles?
No, not not at all. And I think the precarious point is interesting, though, I think it's it's it's related. But it is separate from the fact that these jobs, even if they weren't precarious, are still kind of miserable. They're just not creative. They're not interesting. But the something you said is is it gets to sort of my my theory about a couple of the Democratic presidential candidates and so there's this friend of mine, his name is Julius crying. I don't know You know, Julius, but he wrote this article recently called the real war of American affairs. And one of one of the arguments is sort of interesting is if you think about you, there's this weird question of if you feel it from 30,000 feet. Yeah. Why is Elizabeth Warren, the most favored candidate of Silicon Valley in terms of donations? You know, Google employees are donating more to her candidacy than anybody else. She's saying she's gonna break up the company where a lot of their sort of, you know, wealth and income is tied up in like, you know, how does this make sense? And in one way of viewing it is that it's a class war. Elizabeth Warren is the candidate of the precariat and their class war against the super rich. So if you think of her big proposals, student debt relief and free college, that doesn't benefit my family. Well, most of my family, it doesn't benefit. It really benefits the person who went to Harvard undergrad and Then Yale Law School and Columbia Business School and has $300,000 worth of debt. There's this really interesting argument that Medicare for all, though I'm, you know, a fan of universal health care and sort of the abstract question how to do it is really difficult. There's this really good argument that in a society where the bureaucracy is as corrupt as ours is that Medicare for All is basically just a massive wealth transfer to the hospital physician industrial complex. Right. So So the question is, like, does Medicare for all, you know, what, what industry in America? Is the government effectively the sole buyer of goods and services? And has that have this massive monopsonist deflationary effect on cost? Hmm. And the answer is, of course, not the only examples the defense industry. And so you can maybe imagine a scenario where Medicare for All is just a pretty big giveaway to physician networks and hospitals, in the same way that our defense industrial complex doesn't matter. Have giveaway to Boeing, Raytheon, and so forth. And if you sort of tick off through the list of proposals, they're there, they're not benefiting the top 1%. But that really benefiting the bottom 50%. Either. They're really targeted towards the precariat. And I and I do think that this sort of this dynamic in American politics is is very important. So might this be like, upper five figures to low seven figure families? That's sort of how I'm thinking of, and of course, it depends on cost of living, right, you know, mid six figures in Google and the Bay Area means something much differently. Right. But yeah, that's basically how I'm thinking of it as you're, you're not a person who consider make a living off of capital income, you still have to vary. You have to work for a living, you feel to your point about being precarious. It's not just that you could sort of lose your job and lose your good life. But it's all of these sort of, you know, what we think of as creature comforts Really just things that help you establish some sense of social prestige in a world where social prestige is very scarce, right? So the best schools for your kids, you have the the dynamic of, you know, the wives of bankers waiting in line for two days outside of the nicest preschool in lower Manhattan. Because, you know, they just that's like the only school that will both give their kids a good education, but make them sort of feel proud about what their kids are doing when they're talking about it at their dinner parties. And there there is just this weird way in which the precariat is like the most unexplored political grouping in the country right now. Well, it's most of them are Democrats.
And it's very mysterious. Like, I don't know whether I've ever told you this crazy story, but when I moved to New York, we needed preschools and I didn't know In that New York had gone insane. And so there was one preschool on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that you had to call to get an application. And we then learned that you were supposed to get your entire family to call at the same exact moment. But it turned out that we were all calling the public number, and that the people who were really supposed to go to the preschool, were given a second private number, like the whole thing screwed up is that well, it did have the effect of making me not want to go there under any circumstance.
Yeah, but there but but the
look, I think we're destroying ourselves. I mean, I think that, you know, if I look at my relationship to Harvard, Harvard is two separate things. One, it's a feather in the cap for people I don't give a shit about and maybe they pay some extra money or whatever. But they in their douchey children, you know, can go and have at the power structure and do whatever the fuck they want. I'm sorry, I'm hearing passion come out of my voice. And then the real Harvard, in my opinion, is not this power mad group. Yeah. It's like the actual smart people. And that's a resource. Mm hmm. And maybe that's somewhat prestigious, but that's not the thing that makes Harvard you know, makes you associated with sticking your pinky out when you when you take tidier lips. You know, there's the question about the actual geeks who push forward mathematics, physics, biology. And that's a different kind of glamour. You know, that's a that's a very different world. I am furious that these two things are fused the way they are. Because my feeling is is that one of those things, which is this prestige game. Putting the other one at risk. like these. This is where, you know even what you said before about the creative class. I don't know who the creative class is or the smart class. I have better conversations with people who've left the educational system and gone and done something technical and unforgiving than I do with the people who study, you know, how to arbitrage tax regimes in different countries. Yep.
I guess I share your concern that the bad Harvard is affecting the good Harvard,
though I don't.
I mean, I lived it where the bad Harvard wanted to raise everyone's taxes and slashed their benefits by messing with the CPI. Right? The same year that the good Harvard was trying to say, hey, there's an entirely different framework for calculating CPI that none of you know, that solves a lot of your long standing problem, right? And I watched the bad Harvard hold the good Harvard's head under the toilet, water, you know, until it is fixed. And I said, Okay, now Now I understand how the game is played. We have a problem right now we're we're fighting for the soul of our institution. So
I agree with you in that.
The thing that really weirds me out about the universities, especially the elite universities, and you've talked about, I think, on this program, it certainly in, you know, in conversation with me about this sort of an embedded growth expectations of a lot of these institutions, right. So, law firms kind of make sense, when, you know, 10% of people making partner 10% of people were getting hired. 20% of people were sort of cycling out, and you're sort of replacing the various people in the cogs in the wheel. You know, the same is true of investment banks or financial firms of companies, these sort of things, so many of them work being constitutional government, right? It works when the pie is growing, and there are taxes to distribute to the priorities of left and right. What What is weird to me about universities is that they've become sociopathic, even though they're still growing. Now, maybe the growth is like fake, and everybody knows that it's gonna unwind, actually. But like Harvard is, has an unlimited amount of resources. Basically, a relative relative to its unlimited is overstating it. They have a lot of resources, right? Harvard is not a law firm, where the partners are sticking around, and they can't hire new partners because they don't have any revenues coming in. Harvard's endowment grows every single year, probably more than they're paying their salary, professionals. And yet, it's still so jacked up, right? In other words, like some of these institutions that we talked about as being screwed up, I can tell a story about them not growing as driving a lot of why they're not why they're why they're not healthy.
Well, but I think a lot of what this has to
do with why is Harvard so screwed up basically, is the question I'm asking.
Okay, well, I refuse to answer that on principle, because I do love Harvard. But I will answer why is Harvard Why is Harvard, MIT Princeton, Yale. so screwed up and why, why are we left with only a tiny number of institutions, maybe Caltech and Chicago that aren't completely succumbing to this disease? Yeah. I think it has to do with the idea that the generations First of all, let me say something controversial. I think that the baby boom takes a lot of heat for the silent generation. A lot of these problems began with the generation before the baby boomers. They tried to figure out how to save the world from stagnation and low growth. And when they couldn't do it, they started realizing Okay, well, these these fake growth stimulus techniques are sufficient to grow certain slices of the pie at the expense of others, if not the entire pie. Hmm. And the baby boomers just sort of signed on to that and made everything completely insane. The weird thing about the universe is, is is that if there was a cultural thing, all of these people go back and forth between different universities with different levels of endowments, right. So here's the weird thing. Choose any one of the great research universities without knowing which one you chose. It is almost certainly headed by a baby boomer. Whereas in the 1970s and early 80s, it would have probably a 50% chance of being headed by a Gen X or or a millennial. So they changed the retirement age. And you couldn't be couldn't discriminate on the basis of age. So now almost all of these institutions are headed by baby boomers. without knowing anything further, I can also say that almost all of them have had the number of administrators on payroll skyrocket above the number of new enrollments. The tuitions have climbed above medical inflation. The number of old professors getting grants has climbed relative to the number of new professors getting grants. In other words, there's one super arching overarching story, which is a story of intergenerational warfare. And the funniest part about it was that if you were part of the generation that had declared intergenerational warfare on the Gen Xers and millennials, and then now the Gen Z crowd, if anyone mentioned what you were doing, you would accuse them of intergenerational warfare.
So my claim is is that Harvard could afford to buck this trend they could lead. You know, oddly, I think Ohio State where you were decided to lead against the protesters who showed up in the office, you know, and said something to the effect of I, we understand that you feel very strongly about your views, and we're going to give you the right to go to jail for them. And you'll notice that there's no administrators. There's no office staff here because they've all gone home because this is no longer a safe space for them. And by reading them the riot act, Ohio, led the way and Chicago led the way saying this is not a safe space. This is an educational institution. There are a tiny number of schools that are bucking this trend. Harvard could have been one of them. But Harvard doesn't believe enough in itself and this is the thing that really makes me angry, which is There's a pride in believing in the United States. You know, what I love about your story is how many American Dreams Have you lived? Sir? There's one about the Marine Corps. Sure. There's one about going to college. There's another one about going to Yale Law. There's another one about working in finance and venture capital. And then there's another one about becoming a best selling author. Okay, the reason that you're so out of bother that's, you know, a interracial relationship with with, you know, the melting pot in your house. Yeah. Okay, you are the American Dream on steroids, JD. And the reason that you have this backwards, right of center perspective, is that it's worked for you over and over again, like you have a weird ability to throw off the learned helplessness that the country is in, and I don't think that it's any longer impossible. I mean, it's still possible to Do what you're doing. But the amount of will to buck that thing has gotten hard. This is no longer within reach of the median individual. The American Dream is still alive. Yep. But our problem is, is that we've got to put it in reach of the median human being who is not going to do something this agenda. And it's ridiculous. I'm sorry. It's offensive. It makes me sick. When we start talking about well, you can always become an entrepreneur. Well, okay, well, what if I'm, I'm supposed to be a mathematician. Yep. I wanted to do math, man. That's a job. Right? Okay. So maybe I can push pieces of paper. Maybe I can have a podcast. That's a crazy thing. To train somebody in mathematics and say, oh, boohoo, you don't get to do what you train. No, that's ridiculous. If you train in this kind of a specialized way, because your government tells you that there's a shortage. Just what you said before the coal miners, the steel workers thought they were part of a something. Yep. This idea that we are going to try to turn this into a pin factory in the market gives you your full worth by telling you what your paycheck is. Fuck that shit. I mean, that that is a destruction of narrative at the at the hands of a crowd who have disconnected us from each other.
Yeah, so let's play this out in the context of Harvard or Yale or sort of whichever elite University we're going to pick on because I buy the argument that sort of the boomers, the Gen Xers have sort of screwed this up. And I'm consistently frustrated by when some campus protests happens, and some administrator or somebody else sort of folds. But there's also the question of why those protests are even happening in the first place. And it occurs to me that if Harvard did exactly what we wanted it to do, and the president of Harvard in the face of it I'm ridiculous sit in his office just said, you guys are children get out of my office, you're going to prison. Maybe that fixes some of the problem, but it still seems like a lot of the problem with the institution is the kids who are there. Right?
Look to Chicago. Yeah, I don't you know, if we didn't have
the least of all the elite places, okay,
University of Chicago. They are. They become more and more and more important as time goes on.
Because how much of that is selection bias that they've, they've planted the flag and said, we're going to be the place that isn't screwed up. And so they're just getting the non screwed up. I think
it has something to do. There's some of that, but it didn't happen by accident. It was founded by the Rockefellers in the late 1800s. So it's a very recent entry. Like I think Stanford is kind of comparably recent. This isn't from the 1600s or the 1700s. This is you No, this is yesterday. Yeah. I think Chicago had black and women graduates and PhDs from the beginning. So they don't have a lot of guilt. Yep. And this is one of the reasons I think like people ask me, Eric, why do you not go in for all of this hand wringing about whiteness and reparations? And I think it has to do with the fact that my family has been giving it the office since the 19. teens and 20s. So we've always been good on this stuff. So I don't, I'm really not interested in in guilt and hanging my head and I'm not embarrassed. Yep. Just not. Chicago isn't embarrassed. They've been meritocratic, and they actually believe that women and blacks can survive in a meritocracy without putting your finger on the scales, because they've proven it. Yeah. Right now, that that kind of bad attitude means that They can buck a trend that the rest of the country can't Harvard, you know, has had uncomfortable relationships with Jews. It's had uncomfortable relationships with women. Sure. So of course it now you'll know Asians
with Asians, right.
Can't do anything. Right. Right. Right. Okay. That's a big problem. And I think that that has something to do with the idea that if you're really meritocratic, you just don't have the same kind of weird guilt.
Yeah, I'm sympathetic to that, though. I still don't think it sort of solves the problem for why my many of the kids who are going to other institutions, I mean, I, I guess I'm getting in a slightly separate question, which is, even though we assume that heart, Chicago for you know, all the reasons that you said is managed to avoid the most sociopathic tendencies in American life right now. It'd be interesting to actually see what's happening in the hard sciences in Chicago like, you know, we should revisit Question in 10 years, what's happened to sort of their commercialization efforts in the hard sciences, it'd be me, it's sort of an interesting way to gauge how healthy a university is. And
by the way, this by the way, Chicago isn't healthy and standard terms, when your unofficial slogan is where fun goes to die. The point is, you're you're selecting for kids who are just pathologically series, right? Serious and not necessarily well rounded. Sure. Like, I don't understand why we keep asking for well rounded applicants. Why do you want Why do we want you to have started a fake NGO as an 11th grader? to show us, you know, and why do we care about your Nordic skiing abilities? None of that makes sense.
Because we're Yeah, I mean, I, my answer to that question is that we're selecting and I don't like this, but yeah, I think the the, the institutional answer to this question is, we're selecting for managers. I don't know if you're familiar with James Burnham, or his book on the managerial elite. But it was his sort of argument is that the whole marks class for dynamics sort of misses that there are all of these like managers who are hyper technocratic, who, in a lot of ways are sort of the most important you might call them to carry. And I think that you know, Burnham's managerial lead is very similar to your, your precariat. And what what that sort of what's required for that skill set? like think about this, if you're going to be a mid level bureaucrat at the EPA, yeah. Then well rounded is actually pretty useful. Because you have to, you have to be kind of a chameleon. You can't be too deep on any one thing. You can't be too interesting on any other thing that would be.
I'll take polymaths but polymaths aren't the same thing. Well, yeah, exactly.
well rounded. It's almost sort of assumes a certain level of shallowness, right.
Well, polymath can be somewhat shallow. Certainly what you do is is that you try to figure out what's the 80% that I need from that subject. For 20% of the effort, right, like it's a very much a parado aware thought process. But the key thing is, what happens to the freaks, the mutants, the disagreeable, the people that we've used to power our society historically, right when they can't get access to their own institutions. And this is where I get very revolutionary. My feeling is it's not your Harvard, it's our Harvard. Just let's just let's just break open the doors and let the freaks in the mutants play and get the douchebags out. Right. Heart Chicago is much more about that. And, you know, we have to appreciate that. It's really important that MIT not focus on well rounded people. well rounded for the second string. That's for the betas. Give us the freaks, the mutants, the poorly adjusted yearning to breathe free. That's what we need.
That's a slogan that can go on the Statue of Liberty. I mean, the thing is, I mean, I think that I agree with everything you said. I am certainly terrified of the quality of the research that's coming out. You know, I do like a lot of Life Sciences stuff. And there's this way where I'm like super optimistic on life sciences, because it seems like we figured a lot of things out that we have to figure out to sort of make next level innovations, while at the same time, the people who are getting an NIH grants, like often aren't the most exciting young scientists, it's, you know, people who aren't that exciting and aren't that young.
We'll look at the difference between NIH and Howard Hughes, Howard Hughes has historically had more risk taking because it's not under the same administrative structure. Okay, so now start thinking about how do we find a skunkworks right for really crazy stuff. stuff more DARPA more. Yes, like turn that stuff, right Jeff Epstein and all the sort of weird stuff he was doing and get rid of the creeps and do it as a government project. Right? We've got to realize that, like, here's a great test in the life sciences, we should have a test which looks at all of the disgusting things that nature actually does. And if you look at biology, biology is absolutely abhorrent, vile, it's vile, okay. It should be a test to enter any biological program that you can get the the analysis of these things right without a whiff of political correctness entering your analysis. These aren't even human systems.
Well, yeah, I mean, but things are sleeping things are so broken right so so i'm i'm, i'm very good friends with a guy who I won't use his name because I would want them to get in trouble. You know, Democrat certainly voted for Hillary Clinton. brilliant, brilliant guy like a credible Nobel Prize winner in neuroscience and neuro psycho psychiatry. They don't give it for notice neuro psychiatry, but that's sort of his field. Right? Okay. What is the what are brain circuits do? How do they change? And what does that mean for sort of various neuroscience conditions that we're still not very good at treating, and he's a brilliant, brilliant scientist at one of our 10 bests research institutions. Now, I came across an article a few years ago in the Atlantic, and the basic gist of it was a very well credentialed neuroscientist, had said effectively that there are no structural differences between the male and female brain. And she said this at the Aspen Ideas Institute. I forget the name of the neuroscience. But sort of a pretty easy article to Google based just on that description, got it. And like, I've invested enough and looked enough at neuroscience companies like I know that there are sort of some important structural differences in the amygdala, for example, I know that different hormones, testosterone and estrogen have different effects on sort of different structures within the brain. And so I just emailed my buddy, and I said, you know, this article, like, jumps out at me is kind of absurd. And he immediately wrote back, he's like, this is the dumbest thing I've ever heard if we had a healthy, right academic culture, like this person would not be able to get away with saying these things like there would be professional repercussions for being an expert in the field, but being so wrong about that, right. But there aren't, and not even that, but she was at one of our most elite gatherings saying this. And he is saying, This is both absurd, but you can't tell anybody that I'm telling telling you this, because while every single neuroscientists who works at my university would agree with this email that I'm sending you, we would be terrified to actually say, this is what I can't.
This is why
that brokenness like I do. And I agree that that is there something.
It was frightening our
Ambassador literalization that's like threatening our civilization. But why is it happening like that? Is the question that I still just haven't figured out. Because, of course, you know, if you want to solve it, like, you've got to get to the why, well, let's look at Okay, look
at the dangerous
I don't know, I don't know if I'm gonna be helpful here. Because I, you know, I think about this all the time, I have figured it out.
Well, let's imagine that you just look among biological females, right? And you just look at the ratio of the second and fourth digits as some indication of you know, what hormones somebody was exposed to in utero, and then you start to find some differences in brain structure. That's okay. Yes. As soon as it goes, male female Look, here's the big problem are men better at Then women, then don't answer. Okay, we know that we're allowed to say that we were better at being standing up, but that's it. Yeah. Okay. Right. That would be very weird to have an entire gender that has effectively no function. Comparatively,
yeah. help it stand out for selection. What? That would help it stand out to election.
Well, if we're. So then you look at something like chess. Sure. Chess does not know male from female. And you can paint the pieces black and pink or you can you can put fur trim on them. You can do anything that you want. Yep. You could pour money into it. I don't know. But I have this terrible statistic. I don't like the IQ and race or IQ and gender stuff. Sure. Neither do I. But I can't stop people from playing chess. Sure. And the chess Statistics are horrible. Sure, I don't want to over focus on them. But people ask this question. Okay, well, what if it's 99 to one of the top hundred chess players are male. Now, do I think that none of that is structural oppression? No, I think some of that is retro pressure. I'm no doubt that there's a path dependent thing where we've traditionally had boys playing chess more than girls, blah, blah, blah. Do I think that you would get to 5050 in chess stability. If boys and girls were started on a completely equal playing field, I do not. Do I think it's because girls are not as good intellectually at that. Not necessarily. I think it's a very weird kind of solipsistic activity where you know, you can play against a computer and find it satisfying. Yep. Okay. Whatever that is, I've got too much information about a difference between men and women and a skill that doesn't appear to know J. Under, you know from Adam. Now I have to retreat from the amount of information I have, I need something that is so strong that it can undo. Because 99 to one, it's just, it's too much, you know, I'm, no one will be happier if 50 years from now This podcast is on earth is like, Can you imagine this guy didn't realize it was all structural, fresh, right? I just want to say, you know, congratulations to my future critics. But I think that the problem here is we don't want to confront the fact that biology carries implications. Yeah. We have too much information about ourselves. And it's in conflict with some of what I think of our best traits. I love the idea of all men are created equal. I know from marathon running that Ethiopians and Kenyans are not quite created equal. Either that or they're very, very lucky. Or maybe they've just got more heart than the rest of us. Right. But you know, my brother's point is well, or maybe they radiate heat really efficiently. Is that true? That's what his belief Oh. But you know, certainly if you look at a variable like height, you know, pygmies are not the same average height, there's no reason that any continuous variable will have a mean value. That's the same in any widely separated population. Okay. forget forget IQ, you know, wait height. Yeah, it very weird. He's an Eskimos in it with we're right. We're exactly the same. Sure. So we know this. And we know that this is going to get us into trouble if it starts to conflict with our founding fictions, and I love our founding fiction, but they're fictions. I know. They're fictions every smart person supposed to know that our founding fictions are fictions. You know, I always bring up the fact That Elizabeth Taylor apparently had a mutation says that she had two rows of eyelashes, which was pretty flattering, huh? Right. So is it? Is it surprising that somebody with two rows of eyelashes is pretty hot? Right? I don't know. Yeah, I mean.
So obviously, like, I'm not uncomfortable with the idea of biological differences, you know, missing men men are well, so I recognize that it is socially disfavored. But I also just as a basic rational matter, understand that men are better at some things and women are
I have that part of my brain too. Sure. And then I'm raising a girl and a boy. Yeah. And I've got another part of my brain that's not at all comfortable with this. I've got an inner conflict. And rather than saying, like, I'm fine with this, and anybody who isn't is a pussy. I'd much rather say look, this is a struggle, man. Yeah, and the idea that you're just going to Socially execute anyone who is struggling with these conflicts, like, you know, take multiculturalism. You and I are both benefiting from multiculturalism. I know that cultures are based on exclusion, and multiculturalism is based on inclusion. Right. So it's a conflict between the inclusion of exclusive groups. Now, there's no question like, is tolerance of intolerance tolerance? Or is it intolerance? There all of these puzzles that come with adulthood. And the terrible thing is being told by this kind of robotic army that if you struggle with these things, you're the bad person no means you're a leader means you're possibly going to drag us out of our madness. Maybe you're going to upgrade the ideas that are behind the founding of our nation on around an enlightenment document. What do you think?
Well, I this is a lot of thoughts. Sorry. Wanna I do think that the
you're right that there's a way in which, you know, if you're just focusing on gender, there are like obvious biological differences, that you're still sort of allowed to acknowledge, like, differences between average height differences between average weight. There are sort of less obvious ones that I think that even 30 years ago, were not controversial to acknowledge. So for example, I think the data is very clear that the average woman is much more unhappy right now. Sorry, the average Mother of young children is much more unhappy right now with the time that she's able to spend with her family as opposed to at work than the average, you know, father of young children. And it's not to say fathers aren't unhappy with sort of the work life balance issue, but if you look at the data It's just very clear that women express a stronger dissatisfaction with their current waiting between the time spent at work time spent with kids. Now, I'm sort of kind of saying that because that's rooted in the data, though, I sort of acknowledge that there are people who even think that is, you know, structural or cultural. That's sort of the era that it's some part of it probably is that, though I just don't think that there's any argument that all of it is structural or that that's the point
that you're at least looking at things where some amount of it is probably structural and the people who don't get out. Go ahead. Yeah, it's so there.
There are two separate issues here. Right. There's sort of the tension between acknowledging that there are cultural drivers for some of these problems, and there are biological drug drivers. I wouldn't say problems I don't think differences necessarily a problem. Cultural drivers for some of these differences. There are biological drivers for some of these differences and so forth. But there's also that that tension, I guess, is probably existed in every, like reasonable or rational person. But something about the way in which those tensions are resolved publicly, in institutions that are in some ways designed to resolve them is really, really warped right now. And the fact you know, for example, that, you know, when when Elizabeth Warren came out with her sort of big family proposal, and one of the things was universal daycare, right? Like a lot of women in my family, a lot of women I know with young children are sort of saying, Well, why are we subsidizing professional class are putting in these terms? Why are we subsidizing professional class preferences when it comes to child raising, because the idea of putting your kids in daycare and getting back to work as quickly as possible is something that's like very unique to our time and to the well educated. Again, if you look at preferences, a lot more women would prefer to spend a little bit more time at home. Like why isn't that a reasonable policy intervention to our current moment? Make it easier for
I don't I'm not even comfortable with well educated I want to say, university Well, well trade dental.
But why is it not a reasonable thing to say? We should, as a policy as a pro Family Policy, right, make it easier for parents of small children who want to spend more time at home to do it. Like why that seems to be a thing that's reasonable. And to acknowledge that if you do that, probably more women than men are going to take advantage of the option to spend a little bit more time at home as opposed to a little bit less time at work. Or of course, you probably know this but one of the takeaways of family leave policies in Europe, especially Northern Europe, is that the more generous the family leave policies are the More that women over time tend to withdraw from the workforce. And one of the theories for why is, you know, they actually enjoy spending time with children. And if it's economically feasible, a lot of people choose to spend time with their kids instead of at work. That is a reasonable thing for people to choose to do. And there are actual critics, especially on the right, by the way, but I think you see it, you're starting to see on the left as well. There are critics on the left who say about those policies, that they're anti feminist in pro patriarchy, because their long run effect is to enable women to make preferences that they apparently actually have. Now, here's another here's another version of this, and I'm like, really, that really, really bothers me. So my friend Oren Kass, you've spent some time with I think he's a brilliant, brilliant sort of right of center, policy thinker. He's made an argument that one of the goals of American economic policy should be not just higher consumption, meaning more money in people's pockets to buy things. But a well functioning labor market is one of the things that Warren is really into. And his argument is that a well functioning labor market, especially for men, is a major driver of weather. Weather, whether families are intact and stable. In other words, for whatever reason, maybe it's biology or culture. When men lose their jobs, divorce rates go up, addiction goes up. Family trauma shows up.
I'm seeing this in my friend group where so many men lose their footing in this treacherous labor market. Yes, and the home goes haywire. And we can't talk about it. Because in part, let's swim all the way upstream on this one end.
J. D. Vance 1:52:50 But anyway, so let's let's do that just to break it up, for sure. And the point I want to make is that the tension between how much of these choices is driven By culture versus structure, and I agree with you that it's both. And in different areas, the waiting is different. But that is an issue that I think people of goodwill are sort of meant to sit down and try to figure out. But you can't even have these conversations in certain circles. You cannot talk about family policy on the left right now in a way that acknowledges that the way that mother's preferences, change is different from the way that father's preferences change.
Eric Weinstein 1:53:34 Well, so, first of all you have so you have to start adjusting, which is, like, my basic take is, I want to talk about households that raise babies with two people in the household.
J. D. Vance 1:53:50 Sure.
Eric Weinstein 1:53:51 Okay. They don't have to be male and female. They don't even have to be nonbinary. There's like a breadwinner, breadwinner and a caretaker because—and I'm just gonna hopefully lose a percentage of my listenership that can't take this—but, societies are about babies.
J. D. Vance 1:54:07 Yes.
Eric Weinstein 1:54:08 And it's a sidebar degree. The society is not about babies is not a long term society.
J. D. Vance 1:54:15 It's a dying society.
Eric Weinstein 1:54:16 It's a dying society. So all I know is that there's no way we could have built what we saw out of our window when it was still light in one generation. Rome wasn't built by a single collection of adults.
J. D. Vance 1:54:29 Yes.
Eric Weinstein 1:54:30 Okay. When you can't talk about babies, and the fulfilling nature of babies, and, having had two of my own, it is very hard to construct work to compete with kin work, because babies are friggin satisfying. They're maddening.
J. D. Vance 1:54:51 Yeah,
Eric Weinstein 1:54:51 I think we overdo it. We don't we don't give women respite when they stay home with kids,
J. D. Vance 1:54:56 Sure.
Eric Weinstein 1:54:56 And that's also true for gay couples where one dad is staying home, or if there are two mommies, doesn't matter. Babies are fulfilling. And—
J. D. Vance 1:55:08 Yes.
Eric Weinstein 1:55:09 —if we can't say that. So one of my theories about universities is that we withhold tenure, for reasons that we don't talk about. It's that a certain number of women will have children and find it more satisfying than the incredibly productive career they used to be very engaged with. Okay. Now the idea is you want to make sure that they're essentially aging out of fertility before you give them a permanent offer.
J. D. Vance 1:55:38 Yeah.
Eric Weinstein 1:55:39 So when you take your ovaries to work, and the fact that you have—you're bequeathed a legacy of certain maternity, and uncertain paternity, that's part of the human endowment—so mothers have always known it was their child; fathers have never been exactly certain, until the present. Okay, so now we have this situation in which females are built to invest in the continuation of our species differently than males, because sperm is cheap and eggs are dear, and paternity is uncertain. I feel entirely comfortable saying that, just from the biology, and anybody who doesn't want to agree to that is just incompetent, and they need to leave the conversation. I'm not even gonna bother having it with them.
With that said, we now have a new set of issues, which is that, let's assume as I do, that mean intelligence for females is the same as for males, by fishiarian equivalence of some kind. Okay, what are we going to do with all these super well educated females who now have this trade off? I think we need to start doing is to talk about the trade off. Do you want to engage in kin work? Do you realize that there's a high probability that you will find this very satisfying? And I keep saying should we pay women more than men Because of the unincorporated burden of kin work, which they are a symmetrically shouldering. So I think what you see is that there are these sort of two constellations. There's the constellation that says, you know, we should base ourselves around adjustments to a traditional family structure, because that was honed by evolution. And there's another constellation that says, We now know that we can, using birth control using paternity tests get much closer to gender equality, we should start from something that thinks of us as a worker before thinking of it as a breeding engine. And start from there. So whether the office or the savanna, in essence, is your basic idea of the point to expand around. I know that the solution is going to be more office than the savanna would say, and it's going to be more Savannah than the office will admit. It's somewhere in its somewhere Between these things.
Yeah. And to your point about how fulfilling children can be, I just don't think that
Unknown Speaker 1:58:10 we can.
Eric Weinstein 1:58:12 Or I should say, it's very hard to overstate the cost to mothers and fathers of not spending an appropriate amount of time with your kids. And while there are real advantages to having, you know, it's sort of a classic division of labor argument, that you want people doing the thing that they're most inclined to do that they're going to be most productive and doing that, that that logic if taken to too much of an extreme. It doesn't just lead to a world in where, you know, where mothers and fathers aren't spending any time with their kids. It sort of leads to a world where you have, you know, the the people who are of a certain social class, making and caring for all the kids, while all the other people in a different social class. are the ones doing productive labor, which, by the way, is a world that we're getting much closer to than I'm comfortable with. So I share your view that you don't want to sort of cut people out of the labor force. My wife is a working mother, we have somebody who helps us take care of our kids, she loves her job, she's very good at it, I think it would be bad for the productive economy for her to be sort of taken out of it. At the same time, I think it's bad for both of us to spend not enough time with our kid. And I think it's terrible for the kid as well. And we've got another one on the way.
J. D. Vance 1:59:33 And I
Eric Weinstein 1:59:33 Congratulations,
J. D. Vance 1:59:34 Thank you. And I think that we've gotten to a point in our society where we're simultaneously having a lot of our citizens engaged in work that actually isn't that meaningful or fruitful or productive on the one hand, and on the other hand, we're having people spend more and more time on that. Less and less time on things that are a little bit more fulfilling and sort of ultimately, you know, necessary for the sustainment of civilization. And one of the weirdest things about the American economy of the past 20 or 30 years, is that for as long as we've had good data on this fact, working class people tended to spend more time at work than upper class people. That's like completely inverted now. So you have this weird situation where again, the managers calling the precariat, whatever you're going to call them are spending much, much more time at work. And then they have it sort of any generation in the past and consequently they're spending less time with their kids. They're having fewer children. And I think that just makes the entire world of professional America kind of sociopathic and icky. And well, you go to you go to a you go to the neighborhoods in Los Angeles is like one of them. My favorite cities, I really like it here, actually. But you go to DC, I think DC has the lowest fertility rate of any major American city. Los Angeles probably isn't far behind. I think San Francisco's maybe second lowest.
Eric Weinstein 2:01:14 Yeah.
J. D. Vance 2:01:14 It's bizarre. It's like a wasteland with no children. And there's a way in which it's very short term productive, because you have all these, you know, "knowledge economy", quote, unquote, workers in San Francisco, who don't have to go home and take care of kids, or maybe they have one kid that they can pay somebody else to take care of. But they're losing something about, like, what makes life worth living. And I tend to think that that over the long term has really negative effects on society. So like, there's this really interesting study that came out at Pammi. Maybe it came out a year or so ago, but it sort of tracked economic dynamism against fertility rates in rural locations. And one of the things that consistently finds is that places that have more kids are more technologically innovative. There's a good argument to made that the most advanced Western economy, in terms of technological innovation right now, is also the one with the—it's the only one with a above replacement fertility rate. That's Israel. That hasn't been teased out enough, that the short term trade off between productivity and spending time with kids has made our society pretty wicked.
Eric Weinstein 2:02:23 Well, I'll go further. I look at these millennials who are having trouble forming families, and a lot of them are about to go over the border of 30.
J. D. Vance 2:02:35 And we're lied to by the way about how fertility changed
Eric Weinstein 2:02:38 I think that—
J. D. Vance 2:02:41 Sorry,
Eric Weinstein 2:02:41 No, no, no, no, no, go—just, I'm emotionally reacting in real time.
J. D. Vance 2:02:46 Well, I've seen this with a lot of people in my friend circle, my wife's friends and so forth. I had no idea how much harder—and my wife and I've been pretty lucky on this front, we haven't had to do any sort of significant therapeutic interventions on the fertility front. But it is just much easier to have a baby when you're 22 than it is when you're 32. And it's easier when you're 32 than it is when you're 38.
Eric Weinstein 2:03:14 I keep talking about the—
J. D. Vance 2:03:15 I'd be like nobody told me this
Eric Weinstein 2:03:18 Well, and we need financial products to get young people money earlier in their lives, and I'm going to say, let's just—maybe I'll burn all of my listenership—a lot of the money that Baby Boomers are spending on weekend getaways and new toys, and third homes, and second homes, and all this stuff, is actually money that you were supposed to be putting towards your children's security so that they can enjoy it while they're young to raise families, so that you get grandchildren.
J. D. Vance 2:03:49 Yes.
Eric Weinstein 2:03:50 And this idea of we don't want to push anybody to have grandchildren. We don't want to push anyone to get married. We don't want to do it. I mean at some level This is what? So this is what a self extinguishing strategy sounds like on its way out. Yep. It's so pure. It's so loving. It's so giving. It's so forward thinking that it doesn't make any sense. Yes. Right. Like, in essence, you either care about things that go past your lifespan, and just maybe there's a place to close it out and invite you back. I was thinking about how weird it is that the American left doesn't relate very strongly to the concept of the American family. But something weirds it out, just waiting weirded out by the flag and an excessive patriotism. It's also weirded out currently by traditional families, which make up the majority of families. Okay. Who was Mother Jones? Like, why is there a magazine named Mother Jones? Why those two words because there was an actual woman named Mother Jones. Fight memory serves correctly. She lost a mess of sons. And so she had nowhere to mother. And so she decided that she was going to mother. These dangerous bad boys of coal and steel and their fight for masculinity and dignity and teach them to fight like hell. Yep. And, you know, I was thinking about this thing that you were saying about Glenn Close portraying your grandmother. This is another thing that makes me crazy. We're supposed to hold up older women. postmenopausal females are very rare in the natural world in general, almost no species has them. Hmm. grandmothers and great grandmother's are super special. Yes to say nothing of grandfathers and great grandfather's. The idea that you're honoring your own grandmother by getting Glenn Close the player in a Ron Howard picture. There's version of that in every family where we hold up our old women, for all the service they've done at home, they're the celebrities of a house. And one of the benefits about doing your stuff, or doing your work inside of a home and inside of the family structure is that you get celebrated as a super important person by a collection of people who've tracked your entire life history. And that really concerns me that's the other side of babies if you're not taking care of your grandmothers and you're not taking care of your babies What are you Yes.
Well, your your worker bees and you're sort of living in a in like a Marxist conspiracy dystopia? I mean, this even worries ready for even worker bees are taking care of the Queen's offspring who are more closely related to them than they would be to their own. Well, there definitely is a way in which you know, I'm obviously not Marxist. But where I think that there's like a Marxist conspiracy version of the modern American work environment that we all became sort of hyper liberated, and we could sort of, you know, buy and sell our labor on the free market. And we're in some ways sort of less encumbered in our jobs and more able to switch than we have been in sort of any recent period. And yet, the end result is that it's made us much more willing to sacrifice ourselves to the interests of a corporation than for our own families. And I think that's really, really icky.
And I do want people with real choices as to whether or not to invest in work, or in 100 professional work because like if somebody on the on the trail of a vaccine, you know, I don't want to tell them no, no, you need to have two babies in order
to make everybody happy.
100 percent, like, I think it's super important that we, 1) not idealize especially the 1950s version of an American housewife, because as my grandma told me, it was very lonely. It was not the multi-generational world that she, you know, her mother and her grandmother had grown up in. It was very often not chosen, even a little. And and I do try to emphasize the point about choice, you know, whether it's structurally driven, culturally driven, individually driven, you want it to be informed choice, that was your honor percent. But there is this weird way in which, you know, there's this curve of fertility rate versus preferred fertility rate, how many children are women having versus How many children do they want to have? And for like the first time the past 10 years, that curve is inverted. So women are now saying they want more children than they are having. And that was like not true for any period in American history. That's pretty disturbing, right? We finally reached a point at which family preferences have become converted against Are you open to
paying women more money than men in order to renew our society? if that's what it takes? If it would work?
Yes. Well, I mean, there's a there's a good argument that one of the real one of the real screwed up incentives that's built into our tax code is that we don't treat unpaid domestically, we don't treat homework, as work can work for tax purposes. And that creates these sort of massive incentives to join the paid labor market as opposed to do the things that you might well and also with with divorce structures, you know, that it's much harder to use it. Yeah. So there's the marriage penalties, all these weird ways in which a traditional family life is in some ways disfavored, right? By by our public policy, but you said something that really is important to me. One of the great things that I admire about Appalachian culture is that There's a prevalence of multi generational families in a way that most at least most sort of American subcultures, I haven't seen the same thing. Like it was super common for three or four generations of family members to live under the same roof, by the way, that was sort of something that public policy for certain parts of our country's period, tried to actively fight against, tried to turn these multi generational families into their rivals, as your point of exotic says, I believe is that
you can be very far left of center and progressive and still hate Marxism. You know, which is you know, where my family right is, and the point there is, when you start hearing the market, fundamentalists say, Well, why should you be allowed to die near where you grew up? I hear something else than that, which is like, Wow, you really want the market to replace the family. Yes. Because if you can If you can bike to your to your uncle's place, you've got a very strong fabric that can be an insurance policy when the you know, somebody in the economy isn't fired, you know, you can do your work at home like that there's there's this issue that the family yes as an economic unit has to be re examined because of the atomistic pressure in the previous era to disconnect ourselves from each other. And I just, you know, this is this is sort of where it cashes out for me, we're being induced to see ourselves through the lens of capital versus labor, the market our wages are worth and this is this is ending, I can tell
ya so. So when I mean, strongly, we're in the multi generational point is especially important. You know, my I love my wife's family, you know, grew up in India. granted the country about a year before my wife was born, just devoted to my wife to the grandchild to future grandchildren just like very great people. And you can sort of see the effect it has on him to be around them, like they spoil them and sort of all the classic stuff that grandparents do two grandchildren, but it makes him a much better human being to have exposure to his grandpa. Well, I don't know. And the evidence on this, by the way, is like super clear. That's the whole purpose of the postmenopausal female in theory, but let me ask you a question not knowing the at least.
When your child was born, did your in laws and particularly your mother in law show up in some huge way? She lived with us for a year? Right?
So you know, I
know the answer that no, so that was weird, unadvertised feature of marrying an Indian woman.
It's Yeah, it's in some ways the most transgressive thing I've ever done against sort of the the, the hyper neoliberal approach to Yeah to work and family, is that when we sort of got to the point of wanting a family, and we both just said, you know, my wife had a clerkship starting with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, right? And it was, it was about a year down the road, and we sort of start doing the math like, Alright, if we start now and we get pregnant early, you're gonna have not a very long maternity leave before you have to do this super demanding, super important job. And I was kind of like, and you know, in hindsight, maybe it was like, a little stupid. But we had this conversation where we just said, whatever, like, let's just do it, and we'll deal with it. Right? There wasn't this moment, you know, 70,000 years ago, where the caveman would say, like, Oh, we've got a mayor, we're gonna move into a better cave, right? I've got, I gotta get a better job hunting woolly mammoth before we can have this baby. You just make family life work. And it was sort of easy for us because my wife had this baby seven weeks before she started The clerkship was still not sleeping any more than an hour and a half in a given interval. And her mom just took a sabbatical. She's a biology professor in California, just took a sabbatical for a year and came in live with us and took care of our kid for a year. Okay, so it was just one of these things where it's like
this. This is what you do a biology professor, PhD, yes. Drops what they're doing.
Unknown Speaker 2:14:24 Yeah.
Eric Weinstein 2:14:26 To immediately tend to the need of a new mother with her infant
Unknown Speaker 2:14:30 painfully economically inefficient.
Eric Weinstein 2:14:32 Can I can I just propose
Why Why didn't she just keep her job? Give us part of the wages to pay someone else to do it, right. Because that is the thing that the hyper liberalized economics wants you to
do. We got kicked out of our bedroom. Because my in laws just like moved in. And it's like, okay, you need to learn how to do this. You need the relief. You need the help. Yeah, I want to honor these two women by name at the close of this podcast.
Yeah. So Lucia chilla Corrie now who should have answers my wife and Lakshmi chilla, Korea's her mom, and I love them both very much. And, you know, life wouldn't be worth living with without them.
Okay, and so in my case, my wife is pm Alani, which some of my listeners will know. But Esther Silliman, who became Esther Milani is my wife's mother. And she's the one who moved in and show us showed us how it's done. And, you know, I just think that in part, one of the things that we need to do is to recognize that these are really celebrated roles. And then if, if you get any notoriety behind you, you should be able to say thank you, and to put that out there. And I hope that this Glenn Close role in your own family, I mean, what a great honor for your grandma to
Well, I appreciate that. And certainly, it looks like Glenn, having watched the movie for the first time really, really knocked out of the park. So I'm very, very excited about that. But I'll say you know what, One of the things that just to sort of bring this full circle to where we started is that the the, the economic logic of always prioritizing, paid wage labor over other forms of contributing to a society is is to me it's actually a consequence of a sort of fundamental liberalism that is ultimately gonna unwind and collapse upon itself. I think I think it's Yeah, it's it's the abandonment of a sort of Aristotelian virtue politics for a hyper market oriented way of thinking about what's good and what's desirable. If people are paying for it. And it contributes to GDP, and it makes the economic consumption numbers rise, then it's good, and if it doesn't, it's bad. I think that That entire sort of, to me, that's sort of the root of our political problem.
Families are maddening things, but we've had families for a lot longer than we've had offices. Yes, we have. JD You're welcome back anytime as an absolute thrill for you to come and visit his book. His hillbilly elegy soon to be a major motion picture Fingers crossed. You've been through the portal with JD Vance. Please subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, wherever you listen to podcasts. And after you're done, head over to YouTube and both subscribe and click the bell icon to make sure that you're notified when our next episode drops. Thanks, everybody.