Editor’s note: Below are the video and transcript of the panel What of America’s Future? at the Freedom Center’s West Coast Retreat, held at the Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes, California from March 21-23, 2014:
Brian Calle: So we have a very, two very distinguished authors today, and we have a continuing conversation, which is essentially about what is the future of America, and so I thought we would start by having a few opening remarks from both Michael and Charles and then we’ll do a little bit of discussion here and then we’ll open up to the floor with questions. So Michael how ’bout we start with you and you give your thoughts.
Michael Lotus: Sure the book is called “America 3.0” and of course there must be a 1.0 and a 2.0, right? We, my coauthor and I have been for many, many years conservatives, libertarians, and tryin’ to figure out what’s going to happen. Is this current, very serious situation we’re in sort of the beginning of the end of the United States, or is some period we are going to survive and get through and reach new broad sunlit uplands? And we decided that the second scenario is more likely; that there are fundamental strengths to the United States that are underappreciated and my coauthor is an anthropologist by training, and so we bring in a somewhat unusual set of analysis to this. There is a French anthropologist – and I’ll say that speaking to a room full of conservatives in a sentence that begins there is a French anthropologist isn’t likely to have a happy ending, but this does.
There is a gentleman named Emanuel Todd, and Todd has an extraordinarily interesting analysis showing that the political frameworks that exist and the political ideas that exist in societies are highly correlated with the type of family life they live, and we are all speaking English. Who in here is descended exclusively from people from England? No one. Okay. The English-speaking culture is very powerful, and one of the things that makes it so powerful and enduring is it is what’s called the absolute nuclear family. It’s the most individualist type of family. People pick their own spouses. They’re expected to leave the family home and start their own homes. They don’t rely on extended family networks. They rely on free association and civil society. I could say more about this, but that’s the gist of it. That’s made the United States and the other English-speaking countries very resilient, also very resistant to totalitarian-type ideologies. You need to be very sneaky to get a totalitarian-type ideology past the English-speaking people and that’s what political correctness is and the modern progressivism. It’s in the guise and wrapped in the flag of real American values and tryin’ to sneak things in in a clandestine kind of way.
So why is it that things seem so bad right now? Well what’s happening is the 20th century legacy economy, the industrial era economy of the United States, that’s America 2.0. America 1.0 is the era of the founding, muscle power, animal power, small face-to-face government, the world of the founders. The second version is falling apart, and the institutional arrangements that were made to accommodate it are also failing, and what happens when a system starts to fail is the people who are incumbents and benefit from it double down and try to be more coercive and to keep it going in that way, and that’s what we’re seeing now.
So the question isn’t whether or not the 20th century legacy state is going to disintegrate. It’s a question of how and when and on what terms, and what we wanted to do is start putting on the table proposals for what the next stage is going to look like, and a key feature of this is the technology we have today, and that’s coming and is improving all the time, plays to the strengths of the individualistic network-type free-associating American character and American mindset. What did we hear over this weekend? It’s just simply amazing. We hear black conservatives didn’t know there were any other black conservatives. They found each other through the net, right? We heard about counterattacking against attacks on people like ourselves who have our values using social media, right? So these new tools, both politically and of course on the business side.
I heard a talk the other day from a gentleman who was talking about business back-office functions moving to the cloud, and he was focusing on how programmers are gonna lose their jobs, which people always do, right? But what it means is the sophisticated possible back office computer technology that only big businesses can have now, the person with a one-person business is gonna be able to get virtually for free. Okay. So we’re gonna see fantastic improvements in what’s available to us to be productive, and so we need to move toward a government model that’s gonna facilitate that and make individual and startup-type businesses more possible, and I think I probably overstayed my introduction.
Brian Calle: Oh, you’re okay. Charles?
Charles Kesler: Is this a question about the future?
Brian Calle: Yes.
Charles Kesler: Well, I have written about, a book about liberalism, American liberalism and unlike David Horowitz’s many books, the library really of books, very excellent books that he has written, David’s entrée in the subject really came from radicals, from radicalism, and what I am focusing on is mainstream liberalism, the liberalism of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson and Obama. And I think it’s the first book to try to put Obama in the context of his own Democratic Party and his own sort of liberal milieu as a leading Democratic spokesman, and my argument is that he aspires to be the fourth face on the liberal Mount Rushmore beside Wilson and FDR and –
Brian Calle: Which is the cover of the book.
Charles Kesler: Right and LBJ, and that if ObamaCare — and today is the fourth anniversary of the passage of the Obama Care Bill — if Obama Care sticks, he’ll make it. I mean that will be his sovereign contribution. That will be a thing he’s remembered for. The one sentence that every president gets would be he passed national healthcare, and in his own view that is the only triumph he is going to get I think. He knows that the House of Representatives is unlikely to switch from the GOP. The Senate might become Republican in this election year, and so that’s it, and he’s got to defend that to the last because his whole legacy is invested in that achievement, and it is from the liberal point of view a great achievement. It’s something that liberals have been questing for for 100 years and no one was able to achieve before him, not FDR, not even LBJ. I mean liberals got healthcare for the poor in Medicaid, healthcare for the aged in Medicare but not cradle-to-grave, as we used to say. That only came really with ObamaCare. That’s really his achievement. But the problem is, he, as you may have noticed, his administration has run into some trouble, and the source of that trouble is that if you look at Europe today, you can see that the standard model of the welfare state is not working. And the same problems are coming to America. They haven’t quite hit us with force that they’re beginning to hit in Europe, but they’re coming to America.
And so I think liberalism really does face a crisis. In some ways it’s at its peak right now – I mean Obama persuaded us that liberalism could live again; that you could believe in progress again; that you could have breathtaking across-the-board rapid political change like the New Deal, like the Great Society. That’s what he tried to do and in part did deliver in his first two years in office. Now it’s all on the defense of trying to preserve those achievements. But unfortunately, there seems to me two causes of I think what will be a kind of crisis for liberalism in the next few years. One is fiscal – as in Mrs. Thatcher’s immortal words, the problem with socialism is you quickly run out of other people’s money, and we can’t pay for today’s welfare state much less tomorrow’s – welfare state, and the second crisis is philosophical because if you live on the campus of a modern university as I do, you see this a lot. Liberals don’t really believe, avant-garde liberals, academic liberals don’t believe in right and wrong, justice and injustice anymore. They’re thoroughgoing relativists or nihilists – so they can’t believe in liberalism.
They can’t believe that liberalism is really right in the old-fashioned sense of the term, and so it’s left as a kind of a hollowing phenomenon that gets more and more hollow every year, and all that’s left really is self-interest. Liberals like liberalism because it gives power to liberals, and that fact I think is becoming more and more transparent, and so it seems to me that something has to give in the next few years, and we hope of course it’ll be in a conservative direction, but my analysis doesn’t make that inevitable. I mean I think you could also move in a truly left-wing, much more openly socialist direction as well.
Brian Calle: And that’s a good place to pause for a second, but we go to a lot of these conferences and we hear bad news and we live under President Obama and Harry Reid, and that’s bad enough news, but what is the breaking point? Maybe Michael, I’ll throw this question to you and then Charles? But what is the breaking point? A lot of people have said we’ve already hit the breaking point –and you don’t believe that from your book –
Mike Lotus: Not yet. No –I live in Illinois. It’s much worse in Illinois and we still haven’t hit the breaking point yet. So Mrs. Thatcher said you run out of other people’s money and Herb Stein said if something can’t go on, it won’t. You’re absolutely right that the intellectual vision of liberalism is a non-realistic, areal vision and it can’t ultimately succeed. They’ll always spend a lot more money than they can have and they do things ’til they break. Okay. And we see that right now. We see the deficits going up and the debt going up so fast that it’s ultimately going to break. $130 trillion, whatever it is. So the question isn’t when, it isn’t if there will be a massive, painful default to hundreds of millions of people who have been relying on this and who have basically done nothing wrong, expected to have Medicare, Social Security and other things and whatever Obama Care purports to give them, and they’re not going to get it.
So the question is starting to put proposals in place to wind this up, basically have a national bankruptcy, and have an open process rather than one that’s done behind the table and done in a sort of crony capitalist fashion. And I think it’s important to start proposing big and radical changes because you are going to get vilified and attacked, full-scale nuclear attack, no matter what you do. One of the things we talk about in the book is breaking up the larger states that are going bankrupt. They’re ungovernable. Okay. All the scholarships shows that thriving economies attend to be small, a few million people. The genius of the founders was creating a federal system that allowed lots of local activity with a fairly minimal overlay to create a free-trade zone and a single unitary defense policy and let everybody play their own game, and we have to move back toward that.
So the stress and ultimate giving way of this 20th century legacy state is an opportunity for us, even though it’s gonna be a difficult transition and it’s gonna be difficult to persuade people this is happening until very bad things are happening like welfare checks bouncing and things like that.
Charles Kesler: Yeah, I mean I think we live in a period when big thinking by conservatives is more necessary. I mean Mark Levin’s book on possible constitutional amendments. Michael’s book is very much worth reading for the picture he paints of what America could look like after we successfully negotiate this coming time of troubles. And knowing there is a possible future – this is really the nice thing about your book – knowing there’s a possible future encourages you, empowers you to think more radically –about what’s possible.
Michael Lotus: Right. Right. And it ties into your book too ’cause your book is really the story of the 20th century liberalism which is always motivated by a vision. They always have a vision, and how often are we just reacting? Reacting tactically, reacting to their initiatives. What are we caught up in? Stopping ObamaCare. Right? We want to be initiating action. One thing we need to do to do that, and my coauthor and my’s vision is to think through what the future would look like if we got our way. One of the things that happens – try this with your friends. You ask a conservative, and you say all right, things go our way; two, four, six, eight-year election cycles. We elect great people. We’ve got 42 governors. We’ve got two terms of a great president. We’ve got eight Supreme Court justices. We get everything we want. What does America look like? What is the America where your grandchildren are starting school look like? And they almost never have any picture. They tend to say we gotta go back to something, or they’ll just start talkin’ about Barak Obama again, and one of the things we did in our book that’s conscience is at the beginning of the book we say we go back 1,500 years to our cultural roots and we go forward to the Year 2040 to try to imagine one generation down the road. So in that span of time any one president is gonna be relatively modestly consequential. So this is the only sentence in this book that will contain the name Barak Obama, and that required some self-discipline, but we all need to think that like that. This guy has been elected twice. We’re stuck with him. Reagan said we aren’t going to defeat communism. We’re gonna transcend communism. We’re gonna transcend Barak Obama.
And by the same token, one of the very interesting paradoxes of this weekend is we hear two things; one big message and one more muted, and I think we should turn the volume up on the more muted one. The big one is the menace of progressivism and what a threat it is to us and how destructive it is and how powerful it is and how it dominates this and that sector of American life, but the subtext is it doesn’t work. It never works. It doesn’t make people happy. It doesn’t put food on the table. It’s ruinous, and we know what happened. The Soviet Union fell apart, and I was old enough to think when Reagan started talkin’ to Gorbachev, he’s being duped. The Russians, they’re the communists. They’ve got thousands of ballistic missiles. They’ve got the tanks. They’ll never go away. We’re just gonna have to be on guard forever and they went whoof. This thing we’re up against is – Americans are smarter. American progressives are smarter than Soviet communists. What they’ve built is a little stronger. Okay. But the epic failure of that website, that’s a sign that these guys are taking on things so far beyond what they can dream of accomplishing that they’re gonna fail. So we don’t wanna be standing there without a game plan when they fail. We wanna be ready. Just like Milton Friedman said, they don’t wanna turn to us ’cause they know it’s gonna hurt. We’re gonna have to get the inflation out of the system. We’re gonna have to change the way we’ve done things. They will turn to us when everything else has failed. So we wanna be ready with the alternatives ’cause everything is going to fail.
Brian Calle: So let me turn to you for a second Charles. So let’s assume – you said a couple minutes ago that it could go either way with the crisis of liberalism. Sure they could fail and then we have this conservative resurgence in our country, but what’s the alternative and what’s the catalyst for that alternative where maybe things fail, and I mean for example, I mean Sally’s work on ObamaCare. Say ObamaCare fails. I mean and the two options are single payer or going back to a more market-based system.
Charles Kesler: Well I think on that narrow question, I think the left is already preparing the post-ObamaCare debate. I mean there is a lot of chatter on the left now, hearings in the Senate about single payer again because I think we’re set up now for a failure of ObamaCare. They may not wish it but I think it’s dawning on them that it’s likely, and so how do they react to that, and their reaction will of course be to blame it on the insurance companies, blame it on the surviving private part of the healthcare economy and say, well, we tried it. We tried capitalism. We tried free-market economics.
And now we have to go to, the only alternative is full socialist nationalized healthcare, the single payer plan, but I think in the larger question, where do they go? The only way to pay for modern liberalism is with massive tax increases on the middle class. That’s where the money is. And so that’s the plausible alternative to turning towards a more conservative or free-market model of America, and a value-added tax, a wealth tax, there are disincentives to simply raising the income tax enormously or adding brackets, though they would be happy to do that I think. But to get the amount of money they would need you really have to socialize the economy. And in order to do that, that means more than 50 percent of the economy has to be run through the government. And the only way to do that is probably a massive new tax, a new kind of tax – On top of all the existing ones.
Michael Lotus: Which will provoke outrage and resistance and hopefully successful resistance, and if the resistance fails when they do it, socialism will fail in America at a lower level, and we’ll be more damaged and need to recover from a lower level, but it ultimately cannot work, and it especially can’t work in a country like ours. You can get away with a little bit of socialism in Denmark where you’ve got a couple of million people who all eat the same food and they’re all cousins and they all get along and they all trust each other. This is a county of hustlers. This is a country of people who are individualists, and they cooperate by voluntary agreement, and when you tell them do it or else, and they don’t see what’s in it for them, they gonna resist it.
And I’ll just mention – we seem to be having a dramatic technical effect to my left here. Whenever things get really bad and we start to see a major institutional failure in American life, mass political movements arise. The progressive movement just didn’t come out of the blue. It didn’t come off of flying saucers. It came around because the transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy was incredibly disruptive, and millions of people wanted something different to happen. They wanted the government to protect them when there were downturns because they couldn’t go back to the farm ’cause there was no farm to go back to. By the same token we’re gonna have change on that scale.
It’s funny we saw the Tea Party start with the TARP bailouts, and I thought this is right on schedule. Right? In all mass political movements, just like the anti-war movement that ultimately at least got the draft repealed, right, and probably caused us to lose the Vietnam War, but mass political movements start out with enthusiastic amateurs who look like kooks, who then mature into more effective and more productive politicians and then they take over one of the major political schedules. I think we’re more or less on schedule. But yeah, it’s certainly the case we could get to a much more damaged level in America before we begin to turn it around. I hope that doesn’t happen.
Brian Calle: I think the NSA didn’t like what you were saying Charles, because they turned off your mike but we got you a hand mike.
Charles Kesler: President Putin? President Putin? Who knows who’s listening?
Brian Calle: Yeah. Who knows? Let me play devil’s advocate for a second here. Newt Gingrich in private conversations we have had when he comes into town and public conversations probably in front of this group on many occasions had said that California is the harbinger of things to come for the rest of the country.
So let me channel the assertion, or challenge the assertion of both of you about the appetite for taxes. I mean Californians in large numbers, I mean a large majority passed income tax increase and sales tax increases that affected not only the wealthy, but will also impact, or already are impacting, the middle class.
So is there a new generation of Americans who have bought into this idea that we need to pay more in taxes because government should be bigger and doing more?
Michael Lotus: Well I don’t know why he thinks – California is a one-party state the way Illinois is and Massachusetts is. There is no organized resistance to it. So you’re punching into a vacuum here. But another thing is this, if we had a federal government that had a less-heavy hand, different communities in this country are gonna want different levels of a welfare state, and people in Minnesota are gonna have more progressivism and more of a benevolent state than people in Texas, and we should have that diversity. We have 320 million people. We should have a wide variety of ways to do this, and if the Californians think we wanna not have offshore drilling in our seacoast. I’ve never been to this part of California before. It’s just so beautiful. Why would anyone wanna leave, right? And I have to go back to Chicago. It’s 30 degrees colder. Say we just won’t drill ’cause God forbid something should happen, right? Well let them. It’s their state, right? So I don’t know if everyone is suddenly gonna buy into the idea that we’re gonna have to have more taxes across the nation. I just don’t see that happening.
Charles Kesler: Yeah. California is increasingly atypical I think. But you also have the strangely unacknowledged fact that at the lower levels of political office in cities and in counties within California half of the elected officials are Republicans. I mean so the party which does seem dead as a statewide party, there are no statewide officeholders in California who are Republican. But there is a lot of local and county officeholders who are Republican, so at the grassroots there are still signs of life, and indeed real strength in the Republican Party. So even in California it’s not impossible that if things get worse before they get better that you could see a kind of recrudescence of the Republican Party and even of some version at least of conservatism.
Brian Calle: Let’s open it up to questions from the audience. Michael?
Audience Member: As a physician, there are other alternatives to the way that single payer can work. I’m against them all, but the way it can work is not just by taxing people, but reducing services. Reducing the opportunity of individuals to get their hips replaced or their knees done, cutting off expensive equipment for MS, cutting off chemotherapy if you’re over 60, and look at Medi-Cal in this state. I mean as a physician we can’t afford to take care of these people. They get absolutely horrible quality care, but they do have insurance, so that’s a way that single payer can work. It’s devastating. It’s not a system that anybody would really, any of us would want to be a part of. But it’s another alternative.
Charles Kesler: No, that’s quite true, and my wife, Sally Pipes, knows much more about the subject than I do, but her cousin who is a cataract surgeon in Canada was just told by a regional regulatory agency that he’s doing his surgeries too quickly, too many patients. He is seeing too many patients, and so instead of an average wait time of five weeks, seven weeks, now there’s a, what is the? Five months. Five months a patient must wait for the cataract operation, and that’s to save money. Because the government doesn’t want to spend more. But there are plenty of patients who want them. But it’s an entirely amoral or immoral top-down bureaucratic nightmare.
Michael Lotus: Right. The only way that we’re gonna improve delivery of healthcare is if we give people a voucher-like sum of money to then have it provided competitively. That’s the only way anything is ever improved. It’s the only way you ever drive cost down to drive innovation, and unless Republicans start perhaps at the state level proposing these types of alternatives and pushing them and proving them in the field so that people will believe in them then we’re not gonna get anywhere. We’re just saying we’ll give it to you but not funded as much, you just look like a scrooge. There is a guy who was running for the Senate in Illinois who lost to one of the old guys, a guy named Doug Truax, who I think we’ll hear from again. Doug’s an insurance broker and he did some arithmetic and said for a fraction of what we pay for the – the overwhelming majority of people who are uninsured are in something like 30 locations. They’re basically inner-city-type locations. You could set up health clinics where you have young people come out of medical school. You forgive their loans, and you have older doctors who are retired or close to it supervise them so you got the people with the brand new skills but who aren’t experienced, and the guys who are highly experienced and they’ll work. It’s not gonna be that expensive and you can treat all these people. You think this is creative thinking. This will cost something like a tenth of what it would cost to do it through the ObamaCare-type approach. We need to have 50 laboratories of democracies at least with these types of innovations coming, and we need to be thinking and proposing this stuff, ’cause if we try to oppose ObamaCare with just, “please, stop!” It’s awful. Stand in front of the train, we’re gonna get run over.
Charles Kesler: Michael’s book calls for what, 71 states?
Michael Lotus: Well it’s so funny, we wrote this thing and the stuff we mentioned supposedly happening 2040, we tried to be ultra-conservative, all this stuff started coming along. California is ungovernable. California should probably be multiple states, right? So we say three, and then a fairly realistic and well-supported effort to turn it into six starts makin’ it into the newspapers.
So it’s not like we’re just delusional. These ideas are afloat out there in the world.
Brian Calle: Yeah. Art Laffer in his book, his most recent book on California, suggests that California should be cut into multiple states, and then the gentleman you’re referring to, Tim Draper, the venture capitalist from the Bay Area is going around the state. I met with him last week and he’s hell bent. This will and eventually has to happen.
Michael Lotus: One curious historical fact, when Texas came into the union the treaty provided that it could divide itself into five states without having to get permission from the federal government. So if the Texans ever want to divide themselves up and gerrymander themselves, we’ll probably have two dark blue senators and four red senators, I mean eight senators all the Texas’s.
Brian Calle: I’m afraid if we divide California into six states we’ll have 12 dark blue senators –It was a little bit of a commentary on what’s going on in Canada and the healthcare system there. There are 60,000 or so I think he said refugees that would be coming to the United States would not be able to and a critique on how we need to be using those resources and the data coming out of the Canada system to help fight ObamaCare in the U.S. I think that’s a fair.
Michael Lotus: That’s a fair summary. Yeah. I mean it’s interesting too that we have Canadians fleeing to the USA. We also have medical tourism, right? Where people are flying to India and all kinds of other places. One of the things that happens to is you build up a bureaucratic monster and market forces start to eat at the edges. As it gets worse and worse, people are paying their property taxes, but then they’re doing other things to educate their kids outside the public school system, right? Or people are looking for tutoring and after a while you gotta hope they’re gonna say wait a second, why am I paying twice? Right. And that can be a point of entry to revolt against the system we have now.
Brian Calle: I mean, Norm go ahead.
Audience Member: What you’re talking about, Michael, is sort of what Walter Russell Mead is talking about in his death of the blue state model. I see two difficulties in the transition from where we are now, 2.0, to 3.0. The first is a huge debt overhang that’s already there and encased in law. The second is the sclerotic, purposefully sclerotic nature of our government. And it’s very difficult, and then the founders set it up that way to get from where we are now to somewhere else.
And there are so many people with vested interest in the status quo. It’s gonna be a huge revolution anyway, but hopefully a peaceful one, hopefully a political, strictly political one. I think you’re gonna see – and thank you for mentioning Walter Russell Mead. He’s great and we’re influenced by him, and it’s, we seem to be thinking along very similar lines. You’re right. The debt overhang is unbelievable, and so what’s gonna happen? We say it’s gonna get repudiated. It’s not gonna be paid. So the only question is how is that gonna be worked out, and what’s gonna happen is we’re gonna see people losing their medical care and nickels and dimes and they’re gonna try to save money on the margins and your taxes are gonna go up and the quality of what you get is gonna come down, and we’re gonna basically be surfs and not get anything for our money.
Now I don’t know about you, but the American I live in is composed of people who tend to get irritated if their hamburger doesn’t have a tomato on it when they ask for it, and if their app on their phone doesn’t work exactly right they raise hell. I’m hoping that if the basic things we need to live are being taken away from us we can get ourselves organized. This event shows that people are getting themselves organized. So hopefully they’ll be resistance to that throughout and we’ll be able to stop that kinda doubling down. The rest, all the people who are incumbents who benefit from – that’s what happens every time there’s a major change, right? We fought a Civil War against a huge community of people who had a vested interest in something that was completely embedded in our society. The first slaves were sold a few years after the first Europeans settled here, right? That was part of America. Then it went away. We don’t wanna do it with armed conflict, but we’re gonna have to make a lot of that go away, and what you might do is the public sector workforce you tell ’em look the money is not there. The taxpayers aren’t gonna pay it. The technology is letting people hide their money.
You know bitcoin is like the ModelT of what’s coming. Bitcoin is like this like thing that’s like what is it, but it’s gonna be harder and harder for the government to find the tax money from people who are determined not to let the government see it. Okay. We have the creepy state that spies on us all the time. But some of those tools are gonna be available to us, and the government’s gonna have to get things by agreement. So we’re gonna have to tell ’em look, you’re gonna get so many number of pennies on the dollar of what you are promised, and they aren’t gonna like it and they’re gonna fight politically, and I see no other way it works out. So we should be ready for them. We should be ready with our proposals. Here is what you guys are gonna get.
Well that ties back into the whole business of kind of losing the cultural battle ’cause we haven’t fought it. Really. Charles’ book shows that. All the smart people, the novelists and the creative people all are on the left. I never understood why that is, but we need to try to keep that from always being the case, and you’re right. People are being energetic and creative about trying to solve problems who might say, well, of course I’m a liberal ’cause I care about poor people. That’s just ’cause they don’t know who we are or understand what we are.
And your point about the world decentralizing, that’s absolutely right, and one of the things we say in the book is our constitution is futuristic. Woodrow Wilson thought it was outdated. He might have been a tough fit for an industrial era hierarchical society, but we’re moving completely away from that. What the founders actually lived with is kind of like the future we’re heading towards except we’re gonna be massively more productive. Our work and our homes are gonna be located in the same place much more as they lived in. The idea of a job, that’s like everyone gets a job where someone else owns the capital in a building away from where you live and you go there and come back and they write you a check, that’s gonna disintegrate. I don’t know about you, but I’m not psychologically prepared for that new world yet. I don’t know quite what it’s gonna be like, and our government certainly isn’t built to accommodate it. So it’s gonna be big changes.
Charles Kesler: But on the other hand, I mean the danger of excessive personalization, decentralization is that you retreat into a series of private communities and you lose the sense of a public good that you have in common. And so there are many scenarios where increasing decentralization goes with increasing centralization in government because people retreat into their private world of their friends and their work peers. And pay no attention to politics. They lose any sense. They are alienated from politics. And one of the differences with the founding period and today is that I think that’s much more prevalent today than it was then, that we’ve given up on that. The market is much superior, and it’s so superior it can satisfy all of our needs for the playlists that we want, the kind of food that we want, the kind of television or movies that we’d like to see. So what do we need government for? And it maybe it’s easier to just turn your back on it than it is to overthrow it. And so one of the problems is it may be that in today’s hyper decentralized economy you lose the sort of critical mass you need to make a political revolution to make a political difference.
Michael Lotus: And I detect a fourth person on the stage. Alexis de Tocqueville is the ghost speaking there a little bit. But I quibble with this still. I think that the network technology and the social media, which is gonna get better and better and better, doesn’t create a mirage of companionship and friendship and new association. It’s real. My coauthor and I did not meet in person once when we wrote the book, and we probably only had four or five hours of telephone communication over a year. It was all email, and our friends who would look at things, it was all – there are people who I talk to every day who are very close to me, who are very dear to me who I never see in person, and those are real friendships, right? And the black conservatives who found each other, this is fantastic, right? These are real connections. Okay. And the means to do that are gonna get better and better. So the prospect of the kinda Tocquevillian retreat into your personal world and shunning the outer world is certainly always possible, and there is always gonna be some of that, but I hope that that’s not going to be a general trend, and I don’t think the technology necessarily pushes us in that direction.
Brian Calle: I was in a conversation about this in the Bay Area this week with another venture capitalist who is actually starting a ballot initiative that would do not exactly what you’re proposing, not by congressional district, but by percentage of votes statewide. So Democrats get 65 percent of the vote, they get 65 percent of the Electoral College that’s for that presidential nominee. Likewise, Republicans get 35 percent, they would get 35 percent. I’m not sure I would be ready to pass judgment as to whether or not it’s a good or bad idea just yet, but I would say we must look at this holistically, which is that if we do it in California where that might be beneficial to a particular party, what if they do it in Texas that way? Or what if they do it in Arizona that way? And so I think you have to look at the consequences as a whole, but on face it’s more representative so it might be a good idea, but there are some proposals for that already floating.
Charles Kesler: Hmm. Yeah. I mean one of the downsides is it potentially opens you up for recounts in every district, whereas now you have a statewide recount which involves every district, but still it’s the aggregate total that you’re fighting over. The amount of chicanery possible. If every district has a delegate and the popular vote decides it, it would be enormously multiplied.
Michael Lotus: Right. There is also a positive to the winner-take-all version because if you had it that it’s divided pro rata or divided by district in somewhere, you’re gonna be able to run national campaigns focused on national-type issues and not have to go to each state and seek to make local-type deals and the smaller states are gonna get left out entirely. They’re not gonna be considered. You can win the whole election from California, New York, Illinois, a couple of other places, and I think the system we have now forces you to pay attention to at least the medium-size states and try to get a few of those into your column. So the Electoral College is something people always seem to not like, but I think it’s very much a not broke and don’t fix it part of the U.S. Constitution and I’m not super, super inclined to see it changed.
Brian Calle: And on that note we are going to end. Thanks very much to our two panelists.
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