Ezra Klein brings you far-reaching conversations about hard problems, big ideas, illuminating theories, and cutting-edge research. Want to know how Stacey Abrams feels about identity politics? How Hasan Minhaj is reinventing political comedy? The plans behind Elizabeth Warren’s plans? How Michael Lewis reads minds? This is the podcast for you. Produced by Vox and the Vox Media Podcast Network.
How do you feel right now? Excited to listen to your favorite podcast? Anxious about the state of American politics? Annoyed by my use of rhetorical questions?
These questions seem pretty straightforward. But as my guest today, psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett, points out there is a lot more to emotion than meets the mind.
Barrett is a superstar in her field. She’s a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, holds appointments at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, and has received various prestigious awards for her pioneering research on emotion. Her most recent book How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain argues that emotions are not biologically hardwired into our brains but constructed by our minds. In other words, we don’t merely feel emotions — we actively create them.
Barrett’s work has potentially radical implications. If we take her theory seriously, it follows that the ways we think about our daily emotional states, diagnose illnesses, interact with friends, raise our children, and experience reality all need some serious adjusting, if not complete rethinking.
If you enjoyed this episode, you should check out:
A mind-expanding conversation with Michael Pollan
The cognitive cost of poverty (with Sendhil Mullainathan)
Will Storr on why you are not yourself
A mind-bending, reality-warping conversation with John Higgs
Naming the Mind by Kurt Danzinger
The Island of Knowledge by Marcelo Gleiser
The Accidental Species by Henry Gee
Sense and Nonsense by Kevin L. Laland
Want to contact the show? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Recording engineer - Cynthia Gil
Field engineer - Joseph Fridman
The Ezra Klein Show is a production of the Vox Media Podcast Network
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In his brilliant 2014 book Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, Soviet-born TV producer turned journalist Peter Pomerantsev described 21st-century Russia as a political anomaly. He wrote about “a new type of authoritarianism” that waged war on reality by peddling conspiracy theories, disregarding the notion of truth, and framing all political opposition as the enemy of the people.Sound familiar?Upon leaving Russia, Pomerantsev found that the world around him had been infected with the same post-truth disease he had diagnosed in Moscow. The war against reality had spread across the globe, from London and Washington, DC, to Mexico City and Manilla, Philippines. All over the place, the same values that had once defined liberal democracy — free speech, pluralism, the open exchange of ideas — were now being used to undermine it. This development became the centerpiece of his dizzying new book This is Not Propaganda, and it is the focal point of our conversation. We discuss:- How information went from being the tool of dissidents to the tool of authoritarians- Why Russia developed modern, post-truth politics first- The tactics that spin doctors and troll farms use to warp our sense of reality- How the end of the Cold War triggered a global descent into relativist chaos- How liberal democratic values like free speech and pluralism are being used to undermine liberal democracy- Why “all politics is now about creating identity”- Whether it is possible to organize the internet democratically- Why the informational chaos of digital politics is much worse outside the US- The worst butchering of a guest’s name in the show’s historyAnd much more. Taking a step back from our current moment, American politics is now dominated by the internal machinations of the post-Soviet political systems Pomerantsev specializes in understanding. To see our politics clearly requires seeing their politics clearly.References: For a Left Populism by Chantal Mouffe On Populist Reason by Ernest Laclau Book recommendations: The Asthenic Syndrome by Kira Muratova (film) History becomes Form by Boris Groys If you enjoyed this conversation, you may also like: Jia Tolentino on what happens when life is an endless performance Want to contact the show? Reach out at email@example.comNews comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Subscribe to Today, ExplainedLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
As US surgeon general from 2014 to 2017, Vivek Murthy visited communities across the United States to talk about issues like addiction, obesity, and mental illness. But he found that what Americans wanted to talk to him about the most was loneliness.Loneliness isn’t simply painful, it’s lethal. Several meta-studies have found the mortality risk associated with loneliness is higher than that of obesity and equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day. So, Murthy decided to label loneliness a public health “epidemic,” a term that medical professionals don’t throw around lightly.Murthy’s advocacy has changed the national discourse around loneliness. However, this isn’t a conversation simply about loneliness as a public health problem: It is about loneliness as a deeply painful lived experience — one that both Murthy and I are all too familiar with.There’s a lot in this conversation. Murthy’s explanation of how loneliness acts on the body is worth the time, all on its own. It’ll change how you see the relationship between social experience and physical health. But the broader message here is deeper: You are not alone in your loneliness. None of us are. And the best thing we can do is, often, helping someone else out of the very pit we’re in. References: Ezra's conversation with Johann Hari on the causes of depressionMurthy's article that called loneliness an "epidemic" KFF/Economist poll of loneliness in US, UK and Japan Book recommendations: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albolm Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch Dear Madam President by Jennifer Palmieri Want to contact the show? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.orgNews comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Subscribe to Today, ExplainedLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Racism is one of the most morally charged words in the English language. It is typically understood as a form of deep inner prejudice — something that people actively feel and consciously express. My guest today, Ibram X. Kendi, wants to redefine racism. He defines the idea simply: support for policies that widen racial inequality.Kendi is a professor of African-American Studies and director of the Antiracist Policy Center at American University. His National Book Award-winning Stamped From the Beginning argued that racist policies beget racist ideas, not the other way around. His new book, How to Be an Antiracist, is a continuation of that project. It focuses on racism as a structural ecosystem that black people face, not a prejudice that white people feel.The implications of this redefinition are far-reaching. Are you a racist if you loathe people who aren’t of your race but don’t want to pass policy on it? Are you a racist if you tried to narrow racial inequality but your program backfired?In this conversation, we map the boundaries of Kendi’s definition and its implications. We discuss his admission that he “used to be racist most of the time,” his argument against racial integration, whether it’s giving too much power to policy to blame it for all racial inequality, whether the word “racist” is too charged for the more nuanced conversations we need to have, the meta-philosophy behind African-American studies, and much more.Book recommendations: Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told to Alex Haley)The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois Fatal Invention by Dorothy Roberts Want to contact the show? Reach out at email@example.comNews comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Subscribe to Today, ExplainedWe are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey hereRegister to attend the live Ezra Klein Show taping in SFLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Malcolm Gladwell’s work is nothing short of an intellectual adventure. Sometimes, as in his podcast Revisionist History, he takes something small and mundane — a hockey statistic, a semicolon, a verbal tic — and draws a broad, sweeping conclusion that shatters your worldview. Other times, as in his new book Talking to Strangers, he takes something big and contentious — the death of Sandra Bland, the wrongful conviction of Amanda Knox, the ponzi scheme of Bernie Madoff — and produces insights that challenge conventional wisdom, leaving you wondering how you missed what he saw all along. In either case, once you’ve experienced what Gladwell has to say, you can never see things in quite the same way again. This conversation is an adventure of its own. We cover everything from the secrets behind Gladwell’s creative process to the basic social ingredient that undergirds all of modern society to the story of how an entire field office of the CIA got infiltrated by Cuban spies — and what that teaches us about human nature.So, tune in and be a part of this adventure with us. Books recommendations:Exit, Voice, and Loyalty by Albert HirschmanThe Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran by Andrew Scott Cooper Want to contact the show? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.orgNews comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Subscribe to Today, ExplainedWe are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey hereRegister to attend the live Ezra Klein Show taping in SFLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Danielle Allen directs Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. She’s a political theorist, and a philosopher, and the principal investigator of the Democratic Knowledge Project. I talk about democracy a lot on this show, but it’s her life’s work.I've tried a bunch of different descriptions here, but they fail the conversation. I loved this one. Don’t make me cheapen it by describing it. Just download it.References: Talking to Strangers by Danielle Allen "Building a Good Jobs Economy" by Dani Rodrik and Charles Sabel Book recommendations: "Politics and the English Language" by George Orwell "What America Would Be Like Without Blacks" by Ralph Ellison Men in Dark Times by Hannah Arendt Want to contact the show? Reach out at email@example.comNews comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Subscribe to Today, ExplainedWe are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey here Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Samantha Power reported from the killing fields of Bosnia. She watched a genocide that could’ve been stopped years earlier grind on amidst international indifference. What she saw there led to A Problem From Hell, her Pulitzer-prize winning exploration of why the world permits genocide to happen. She emerged as a fierce critic of America’s morally lax foreign policy, a position that led to a friendship with Barack Obama, and then a series of top jobs in his administration, culminating in ambassador to the UN. Power’s new book, The Education of an Idealist, is a memoir of this journey.It is rare that an outspoken critic of the foreign policy establishment becomes so powerful within it. But that’s what makes Power’s career, and the lessons she learned, so interesting. In this conversation we discuss:- What causes ordinary people to participate in genocide- Why policymakers so often fail to respond to genocide before it is too late- Whether foreign policy decisions are too restrained by the overreaches and mistakes of the previous generation- Power’s reflections on Libya, Syria, South Sudan, and more- How the US’s inconsistent moral stances undermine its strategic interests- The blurry line between morality and strategy in foreign policy- How the next administration should handle US relationships with China and Russia.- The case for being “unreasonable,” even as a policymakerAnd much more. This conversation is weedsy at times, but in a way that I think is telling: It’s a window into the agonizing complexity and impossible choices that define foreign policymaking.Book recommendations: Switch by the Heath Brothers The Abandonment of the Jews by David S. WymanA Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf Want to contact the show? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.orgNews comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Subscribe to Today, ExplainedWe are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey hereLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In The Meritocracy Trap, Daniel Markovits argues that meritocracy — a system set-up to expand opportunity, reduce inequality and end aristocracy — has become exactly what it was set up to combat: a mechanism for intergenerational wealth transfer that leaves everyone worse off in the process.Markovits isn’t only challenging a system; he is challenging the system that I (and probably most of you) have been part of for our entire lives. For better or worse, Meritocracy is the water we swim in. We implicitly accept its values, practices, arguments, and assumptions because they govern our everyday lives.This interview was a chance for me to exit the water. Maybe it will be for you as well.Book recommendations: The Rise of the Meritocracy by Michael Young The Race between Education and Technology by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz"Technical Change, Inequality, and The Labor Market" (article) by Daron Acemoglu We are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey hereLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
“The truth is that as much democracy as this nation has today” writes Nikole Hannah-Jones “it has been borne on the backs of black resistance.”Hannah-Jones is an investigative journalist at the New York Times Magazine, the winner of MacArthur Genius Grant (among countless other awards), and, most recently, the creator of the New York Times’ 1619 project, which explores the ways slavery shaped America.As Hannah-Jones points out, no group in American history has more to teach us about what it means to live out the practice of democracy, in its most difficult and graceful form, than African-Americans. We also discuss:- The economics of slavery, and the role of the cotton gin- Why it took a civil war to end slavery in America, but not elsewhere- What it means to love a country that doesn’t love you back- Whether busing worked- Why Southern schools are the most racially integrated in the US- The long-term effects of school integration- Whether class-based policies can solve racial inequity- What America can learn from Cuba- Whether racism blocked social democracy in America- Whether any presidential candidates has a serious school integration plan- Why housing and education segregation are so rarely discussed by politicians- Why Hannah-Jones dislikes “gifted and talented” programs in schoolAnd much more.References: Hannah-Jones' opening essay of the 1619 project Hannah-Jones' essay on choosing a school for her daughter Book recommendations: Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880 W.E.B. DuBois The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel WilkersonThe Race Beat by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff Want to contact the show? Reach out at email@example.comNews comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Subscribe to Today, ExplainedWe are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey here: www.voxmedia.com/podsurvey. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
I’m not usually a fanboy on this podcast, but this episode is the exception.I love the web-comic XKCD. I’ve had prints of it hanging in my house for years. It’s nerdy and humane, curious and kind. And every so often, it’s explosively, crazily creative, in ways that leave me floored. Like the Hugo-award winning “Time,” a 3,099 frame animation that unspooled every hour for over four months. Or the book Thing Explainer, which used only the 1,000 most common words in the English language to explain some of the hardest ideas in the world.XKCD is the work of one person, Randall Munroe, and I’ve wanted to talk with him for years. Now he’s out with a new book, How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems, and I got my chance. The episode covers:- The simple places Munroe draws inspiration for his ideas- The fact that scientists still don’t know how lightning works or why ice is slippery- How pedantry kills creativity- Why aliens probably build suspension bridges like we do- The superpower of refusing to be embarrassed by what you don’t know- How to retain a sense of wonder as you age- Whether the water of Niagra Falls can fit through a straw- How to dig a hole- How a priest in 1590 intuited dozens of scientific discoveries centuries before they were officially discovered- And, most importantly, the best book recommendations I think I’ve ever heard on the showThis one was a pleasure.References: Jimmy Carter's Voyager letter Book recommendations: Natural and Moral History of the Indies by José de AcostaBecause Internet by Gretchen McCulloch Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record by Carl Sagan (and others) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
I’m careful about inviting politicians onto this podcast. Too often, questions go unanswered, and frustrated emails flood my inbox. So I only bring on candidates now if there’s a conversation directly related to themes of this show.In this case, there is.There’s a quiet moral radicalism powering Julián Castro’s presidential campaign. Laced through his policy agenda are proposals to decriminalize the movements of undocumented immigrants, to involve the homeless in housing policy, to establish American obligations to those displaced by climate change, to protect animals from human cruelty.This is an agenda to expand the moral circle. To redefine who counts in the “we” of American politics.I asked Castro if this wasn’t all a step too far, if Democrats didn’t need to play it safer to eject Trump from office in 2020. This broader moral vision, he replied, “is not just trying to backfill the negative. It gives people a positive purpose that they can reach for. That’s what I’m trying to do.”This is a candidate interview worth hearing.Book recommendations: Influence by Robert Cialdini The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley Want to contact the show? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.orgNews comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Subscribe to Today, ExplainedLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Imagine, for a moment, what it’s like to be an animal rights activist. Tens of billions of animals are being tortured and slaughtered every year. It is, to you, a rolling horror. But to the people you love, the world you live in — it’s normal. You’re the weird one.So what do you do? How do you engage, politically and personally, when so few see what you see?Leah Garcés is the Executive President of Mercy for Animals and the author of Grilled: Turning Adversaries into Allies to Change the Chicken Industry ,which documents her journey to reduce the suffering of chickens by building coalitions with none other than well… industrial chicken farmers.I wanted Garcés on the show because her story is about more than animal suffering. It’s about the core question of politics: the choice we face, every day, between condemnation and compromise. Whether your issue is health care or climate or civil rights or abortion or taxes or foreign policy, you’re faced daily with people working for a world you find repellent. What do you do when they’re the majority and you’re the minority? How do you maintain your own morality when the system itself is sick? When do you draw bright lines, and when do you erase the lines you’ve spent your life drawing?This conversation gets uncomfortable at times — the realities of factory farming are not easy to face. But, trust me, you will want to stick with it. Garcés offers an extraordinary lesson in the daily practice of politics, one worth hearing even if it’s not ultimately your path.Book recommendations: Meat Racket by Christopher Leonard Big Chicken by Maryn McKenna Illumination in the Flatwoods: A Season with the Wild Turkey by Joe Hutto If you enjoyed this podcast, you may also like: The Green PillBruce Friedrich on how technology will reduce animal sufferingWant to contact the show? Reach out at email@example.comNews comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Subscribe to Today, ExplainedLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Hello everyone. I'm Jane Coaston, senior politics reporter at Vox with a focus on conservatism (Ezra will be back from vacation next week). "Antiracism… is now a new and increasingly dominant religion” writes John McWhorter, “it is what we worship, as sincerely and fervently as many worship God and Jesus.”McWhorter is a Professor of English at Columbia University, a contributing editor to The Atlantic, and an outspoken critic of what he calls “third-wave antiracism.” He believes that our increasingly religious national discourse around race -- with its focus on “safe spaces,” “wokeness” and “white privilege” -- is not only wrongheaded, but even dangerous.But McWhorter isn't that easy to pin down. He acknowledges racism’s pernicious effects on communities of color, but believes that while we are busy calling out individual racism, we are ignoring the issues that most impact black lives: an endless War on Drugs, an unequal education system, and attacks on reproductive and voting rights.In this conversation, we explore what terms like “woke” and “diversity” actually mean, the types of issues that really do impact black communities, the legacy of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the potential virtues of virtue signaling, why The Phantom Menace was (objectively) a terrible movie and much more. I hope y’all have as much fun with this conversation as I did.References: John's essay "The Virtue Signalers Won’t Change the World" Book recommendations: A Death in the Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea by Don Kulick American Pastoral by Philip Roth Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey CepFollow Jane on Twitter @cjane87Want to contact the show? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.orgNews comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Subscribe to Today, ExplainedLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Hello, everybody! I'm Jane Coaston, senior politics reporter at Vox with a focus on conservatism.Today, I'm speaking with Conor Friedersdorf, a staff writer for the Atlantic, who has been navigating the fractious divides within the conservative movement since long before 2016.Friedersdorf is extremely hard to pin down. His intellectual hero is Friedrich Hayek and he believes the Supreme Court “ought to thwart the will of democratic and legislative majorities.” He’s also staunchly anti-war, an outspoken critic of police brutality, and has even occasionally praised Bernie Sanders.This is what makes Friedersdorf so interesting to talk to: He doesn't fall neatly along partisan lines. We discuss a lot here: the importance of police reform; the way the term “racism” is used and misused in American politics; the future of the GOP; and what it means to be politically homeless in Trump's America.References:"A question for conservatives: what if the left was right on race?" by Jane Coaston, Vox"What Ails the Right Isn’t (Just) Racism" by Conor Friedersdorf, the AtlanticBook recommendations:The Authoritarian Dynamic by Karen StennerKindly Inquisitors by Jonathan RauchThe Constitution of Liberty by Friedrich A. HayekWant to contact the show? Reach out at email@example.comNews comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Subscribe toToday, Explained
I don’t usually begin interviews with the question “who the hell are you?” But, then again, not every guest is John Higgs.I fell into Higgs’s work by accident. An offhand recommendation of his book on the KLF, a British band that burnt a million pounds but couldn’t explain why they did it. What’s unusual is that I’ve not quite been able to climb back out of it. Higgs’s work is reality-warping. Once you put on his lenses, it’s hard to take them back off.At the center of Higgs’s strange, brilliant books — his heterodox history of the 20th century, his biography of Timothy Leary, his tour of “metamodernism” — is a single, urgent question: How do we understand the world around us even as advances in physics, psychology, art, pharmacology, and philosophy shatter our frames of reference?This conversation takes some wild turns, but trying to describe it would do it a disservice. Just trust me on this one. It’s good to mess with your reality every once in awhile.References: John Higgs’s conversation with Alan Moore What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry by John Markoff Book Recommendations: The Patterning Instinct by Jeremy Lent Cosmic Trigger I by Robert Anton WilsonFrom Hell by Alan Moore
The introduction to Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, hit me hard. In her investigation of how American politics and culture had collapsed into “an unbearable supernova of perpetually escalating conflict,” she became obsessed with five intersecting problems: “First, how the internet is built to distend our sense of identity; second, how it encourages us to overvalue our opinions; third, how it maximizes our sense of opposition; fourth, how it cheapens our understanding of solidarity; and, finally, how it destroys our sense of scale." Yeah, me too.What sets Tolentino’s work apart, though, is that it’s not about the internet — it’s about how people are living their real, everyday lives in the age of the internet. This is a conversation about what happens when technology combines with the most powerful forces of human psychology to transform the nature of human interaction itself. It’s about how we construct and express our core sense of self, and what that’s doing to who we really are. References: The art of attention (with Jenny Odell)Book Recommendations: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vaughn Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlancEvicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond Want to contact the show? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.orgNews comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Subscribe to Today, Explained
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is an associate professor of African-American Studies at Princeton University and the author of multiple books, including most recently How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective, which traces the origins of the term “identity politics” back to its very first use.“Since 1977,” she writes, “that term has been used, abused, and reconfigured into something foreign to its creators.” Taylor’s intellectual history is driven by more than curiosity: it’s part of a larger vision that views racism and our contemporary economic system as inextricably linked.This is a conversation full of tough questions. What constitutes identity politics? When is it inclusive, and when is it exclusive? Is racism a function of capitalism or is it constant across economic systems? How did Barack Obama’s presidency lead to Donald Trump’s? What can stop future Democrats from running into the very same institutional strongholds that plagued Obama?Book recommendations: Black Reconstruction by W.E.B DuBois Selected poems of John Weaners Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis *******************************************************Want to contact the show? Reach out at email@example.comNews comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Subscribe to Today, Explained: http://bit.ly/todayexplained
Imagine a society whose rulers suppress free speech, free association, even bathroom breaks. Where the government owns the means of production. Where the leader is self-appointed or hand-selected by a group of wealthy oligarchs. Where exile or emigration can have severe, even life-threatening, consequences.My guest today, University of Michigan Philosopher Elizabeth Anderson, writes that workplaces are “communist dictatorships in our midst.” Her book Private Government: How Employers Rule our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It) draws an extended analogy between firms and tyrannical governments, each of which she believes hold extended, unaccountable power over people’s lives.Anderson is one for the most influential philosophers alive today, and her aim isn’t just to be provocative. It’s to argue that the ideals of representation, rights, and legitimacy that we apply to public governments should extend to private governments, too. And beyond that, it is to pose a question about the lenses through which we peer out at the world: “Why do we not recognize such a pervasive part of our social landscape for what it is?”I don’t agree with Anderson on every point, but she’s offering a gift: another framework for understanding the world in which we live. This is the kind of conversation that sticks with you, that leaves everything looking just a little bit different.Book recommendations: What is Populism? by Jan Werner-Muller Communicating Moral Concern by Elise SpringerThe Racial Contract by Charles MillsWant to contact the show? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org
“The Constitution must be adapted to the problems of each generation,” writes Erwin Chemerisnky, “we are not living in the world of 1787 and should not pretend that the choices for that time can guide ours today.”Does that sentence read to you as obvious or offensive? Either way, it’s at the core of the constitutional debate between the left and the right — a debate the left all too often cedes to the right through disinterest.Chemerinsky is trying to change that. He’s the dean of UC Berkeley’s School of Law, a decorated constitutional scholar and lawyer, and the author of We the People: A Progressive Reading of the Constitution for the Twenty-First Century. At the core of Chemerinsky’s vision is the idea that the Constitution must be interpreted through the lens of the preamble: a crucial statement of intent, and one that establishes the US Constitution as one of the most adaptive and glitteringly progressive founding documents in the world.This is a conversation about both direct questions of constitutional interpretation and the meta-questions of constitutional debate in a polarized age. What, for instance, does it mean that so much turned on Mitch McConnell’s blockade against Merrick Garland? Is this just a legal debating club disguising the exercise of raw power? What should progressive constitutionalists make of proposals to expand the Supreme Court? What would be different today if Hillary Clinton had filled Scalia’s seat?Book recommendations: Simple Justice by Richard Kluger (1975)American Constitutional Law by Larry TribeThe Federalist Papers by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John JayThe Boys of Summer by Roger KahnThe Chosen by Chaim PotokWant to contact the show? Reach out at email@example.com
The Democratic primary has been unexpectedly dominated by a single question: Will you abolish private health insurance?Wrapped in that question are dozens more. Why, if private health insurance is such a mess, do polls show most Americans want to keep it? What lessons should we take from the failure of past efforts at health reform? What does it mean to say “if you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it?”Matt Bruenig, the founder of the People’s Policy Project, is firmly in support of true single-payer. No compromise, no chaser. He’s frustrated by those, like me, who try to work around the public’s resistance to disruptive change, who treat past failures and current polls as predictions about the future. And, in turn, I’m often frustrated by Matt’s tendency, mirrored by many on the left, to treat people with similar goals but different theories of reform as villains and shills.In this podcast, Matt and I hash it out. The questions here are deep ones. When are political constraints real, and when are they invented by the people asserting their existence? If you already believe the political system is broken and corrupt, how can you entrust it to take over American health care? Can you cleave policy from politics? What would the ideal health care system look like, and why?Book recommendations:A Theory of Justice by John RawlsWhat Is Property? by P. J. Proudhon The Progressive Assault on Laissez Fair by Barbara H. Fried Ezra’s recommended reading:One Nation, Uninsured by Jill Quadagno Remedy and Reaction by Paul Starr It's the Institutions, Stupid! by Sven Steinmo, Jon WattsWant to contact the show? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org
I don’t ordinarily find myself scrambling to write down article ideas during these conversations, but almost everything Raj Chetty says is worth a feature unto itself. For instance:- Great Kindergarten teachers generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in future earnings for their students- Solving poverty would increase life expectancy by more — far more — than curing cancer- Public investment focused on children often pays for itself- The American dream is more alive in Canada than in America- Maps of American slavery look eerily like maps of American social mobility — but not for the reason you’d thinkChetty is a Harvard economist who has been called “the most influential economist alive today.” He’s considered by his peers to be a shoo-in for the Nobel prize. He specializes in bringing massive amounts of data to bear on the question of social mobility: which communities have it, how they got it, and what we can learn from them.What Chetty says in this conversation could power a decade of American social policy. It probably should.References: Atlantic profile Vox profile Books: Scarcity:The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar ShafirEvicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matt Desmond How to Catch a HeffalumpWant to contact the show? Reach out at email@example.com
Astra Taylor’s new book has the best title I’ve seen in a long time: Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone.I talk a lot about democracy on this show, but not in the way Taylor talks about it. The democracy I discuss is bounded by the assumptions of American politics. This, however, is not a conversation about the filibuster, the Senate, or the Electoral College — it is far more diverse and far more radical.Taylor and I cover a lot of ground in this interview. We discuss how what it would mean to extend democracy to our job and schools, whether animals, future humans, or even nature itself can have political rights, how democracy thinks about noncitizens and children, and what would happen if we selected congress by lottery.Something I appreciate about Taylor’s work is it’s alive to paradoxes, ambiguities, and hard questions that don’t offer easy answers. This conversation is no different.References: The link between support for animal rights and human rightsInterview with Will Wilkinson Book Recommendations: How democratic is the American Constitution? By Robert Dahl Abolition Democracy by Angela Davis The Two Faces of American Freedom by Aziz Rana *******************************************************Want to contact the show? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ezra sits down with Jason Del Rey, host of Land of the Giants, a new podcast from Recode and the Vox Media Podcast Network. Land of the Giants is about the major technology companies that have reshaped our world and explores the ways that they've changed our lives – for better and for worse. The first season is titled The Rise of Amazon. Enjoy this special conversation between Ezra and Jason, followed by a preview of the first episode, Why You’ll Never Quit Amazon Prime. Subscribe to Land of the Giants for free in your favorite podcast app to hear the rest of the episode and to get new episodes automatically.
“How do successful companies create products people can’t put down?”That’s the opening line of the description for Nir Eyal’s bestselling 2014 book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. Hooked became a staple in Silicon Valley circles — it was even recommended to me when I started Vox — and Eyal became a celebrity.Today, Silicon Valley’s skill at building habit-forming products is looked on more skeptically, to say the least. So I was interested to see him releasing a second book that seemed a hard reversal: Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.But Eyal doesn’t think big tech is addictive, and he sees the rhetoric of people who do — like me — as “ridiculous.” He believes the answer to digital distraction lies in individuals learning to exercise forethought and discipline, not demonizing companies that make products people love.Eyal and I disagree quite a bit in this conversation. But it’s a disagreement worth having. Life is the sum total of what we pay attention to. Who is in control of that attention, and how we can wrest it back, is a central question of our age.Book Recommendations: Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope by Johann HariDrive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel PinkMoby Dick by Herman Melville
This is one of those episodes I want to put the hard sell on. It’s one of the most important conversations I’ve had on the show. The fact that it left me feeling better about the world rather than worse — that was shocking.Varshini Prakash is co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement. Sunrise is part of a new generation of youth-led climate-change movements that emerged out of the failure of the global political system to address the climate crisis. They’re the ones who made the Green New Deal a litmus test for 2020. They’re the reason there might be a climate debate. They’re the reason candidates’ climate plans have gotten so much more ambitious.Behind these movements is the experience of coming of age in the era of climate crisis and the new approach to organizing birthed by that trauma. We also talk about Sunrise’s theory of organizing, why it’s a mistake to say you’re saving the planet when you’re saving humanity, Sunrise’s motto “no permanent friends, no permanent enemies,” the joys of organizing in the face of terrible odds, and, unexpectedly, the Tao Te Ching.This is a conversation about climate change and about political organizing, but it’s also about finding agency amid despair. Don’t miss it.Book recommendations:Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? by Martin Luther King Jr. This Is an Uprising by Mark Engler and Paul EnglerTao Te Ching by Laozi *******************************************************The Ezra Klein Show has been nominated for best Society- culture podcast in this year’s People’s Choice Podcast Awards! Cast your vote for The Ezra Klein Show at https://www.podcastawards.com/app/signup before July 31st. One vote per category.Please send guest suggestions for our upcoming series on climate change to email@example.com
Some podcasts I do are easy. There’s a problem and, hey look, here’s a great answer! Some are hard. There’s a problem and, well, there may not be a good answer. This is one of those.When Donald Trump tweeted that four new Democratic members of Congress (commonly known as ‘the Squad’) should “go back” to the “corrupt” countries he said they are from, the media went into frenzy. When he said he didn’t worry if the comment was racist, because “many people agree with me,” it got worse. Trump’s racism — and his justification of it — dominated the news.Under the “sunlight disinfects” model of media, that’s a good thing. But, as communications scholar Whitney Phillips argues, sunlight also does something else: it makes things grow. What if, by letting Trump focus the national conversation on his most vile comments at will, we’re nourishing the very ideas we’re trying to bleach?Behind this conversation lurks some of the hardest questions in media. What makes something newsworthy? When do we let Trump set the agenda, and when don’t we? And is the theory under which we give the worst comments the most coverage true, or is it making us part of the problem? Book Recommendations:Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer Klu Klux by Elaine Parsons White Racial Framing by Joe Feagin Check out Whitney Phillips’ previous appearance on the show. *******************************************************The Ezra Klein Show has been nominated for best Society- culture podcast in this year’s People’s Choice Podcast Awards! Cast your vote for The Ezra Klein Show at https://www.podcastawards.com/app/signup before July 31st. One vote per category.Please send guest suggestions for our upcoming series on climate change to firstname.lastname@example.org
Universal basic income. A 15-hour work week. Open borders.These ideas may strike you as crazy, fantastical, maybe even utopian... but that’s exactly the point.My guest today is Dutch historian Rutger Bregman, whose book Utopia for Realists is not only about utopian visions but about the importance of utopian thinking. Imagining utopia, he writes, “isn’t an attempt to predict the future. It’s an attempt to unlock the future. To fling open the windows of our minds.”He’s right. And so this isn’t just a conversation about his utopia, or mine. It’s a conversation about how to think like a utopian, and why doing so matter most when the days feel particularly dystopic.Citations: The Lost Boys by Gina Perry "Socially Useless Jobs" by Robert Dur and Max van Lent"Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren" by John Maynard Keynes "I was a fast-food worker. Let me tell you about burnout." by Emily GuendelsbergerBook Recommendations: Bullshit Jobs and Debt by David Graeber A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit The Entrepreneurial State by Mariana Mazzucato *******************************************************The Ezra Klein Show has been nominated for best Society- culture podcast in this year’s People’s Choice Podcast Awards! Cast your vote for The Ezra Klein Show at https://www.podcastawards.com/app/signup before July 31st. One vote per category.Please send guest suggestions for our upcoming series on climate change to email@example.com
Tim Alberta’s new book American Carnage documents “the Republican Civil War”: a decade-plus struggle over whether the Republican Party would build itself around white identity politics or try to reach out to a changing America.Trump’s election settled the argument, and Alberta’s book tracks the way top Republicans processed that resolution — and submitted to their new reality — in real time. The profiles in courage are few and far between; the capitulations, however, are everywhere. Alberta takes us deep inside that process, and the quotes and stories he’s revealed already have top Republicans at each other’s throats.This is a conversation about what the Republican Party has become, why Donald Trump won the fight for the party’s soul so decisively, why so many conservative politicians abandoned their loathing of Trump to embrace the power he offered, and what comes next. Alberta brings the receipts, and if nothing else, it’s a helluva portrait of how principles are traded for power.Book recommendations:The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright War by Sebastian Junger Moneyball by Michael Lewis *******************************************************Want to get in touch with the show? Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Ezra Klein Show has been nominated for best Society- culture podcast in this year’s People’s Choice Podcast Awards! Cast your vote for The Ezra Klein Show at https://www.podcastawards.com/app/signup before July 31st. One vote per category.
It’s a good time to be a Republican. But it’s a bad time, George Will argues, to be a conservative. Hence his new, 700-page manifesto, The Conservative Sensibility, which tries to rescue conservatism from the perversions of the Trumpist GOP.Will’s conservatism is rooted in a deep mistrust of majority rule, and an almost religious veneration of the Founding Fathers, or at least a certain understanding of them. Remember, he writes, “the Constitution of the first consciously modern nation, the United States, protects the sovereignty of private individuals, not the sovereignty of a public collective, ‘the majority.’”Will is articulating a tendency that’s always been present on the right, but is becoming more central today: the belief that majority rule will be the death of the American experiment and that the conservative project is at odds with democracy. Will is more forthright than most on this point: He chides conservatives for blasting activist judges, for instance, arguing that the right needs a judiciary willing to make sweeping rulings to curb the power of the state.There’s a lot to discuss here. And discuss we do.Book recommendations:The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John JayFreedom: Virtue and the First Amendment by Walter Fred Berns *******************************************************The Ezra Klein Show has been nominated for best Society- culture podcast in this year’s People’s Choice Podcast Awards! Cast your vote for The Ezra Klein Show at https://www.podcastawards.com/app/signup before July 31st. One vote per category.
Every time I do an episode on polarization, I get a few emails asking: What about deliberative democracy? Couldn’t that be an answer?Deliberative democracy, if you’re not familiar, refers to a broad set of approaches in which citizens get together, with or without their representatives, to deliberate on political questions. Not just vote, or donate money, but actually work through hard questions, in a structured process, together.Jane Mansbridge is the Charles F. Adams professor of political leadership and democratic values at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a past president of the American Political Science Association, and co-editor of the book, Deliberative Systems: Deliberative Democracy at the Large Scale. So she’s not just a pioneering theorist on deliberative democracy, she’s specifically studied the question where I’m most skeptical: Can it scale?Book recommendations:Politics with the People: Building a Directly Representative Democracy by Michael A. NebloDemocracy When the People Are Thinking: Revitalizing Our Politics Through Public Deliberation by James S. FishkinInsecure Majorities: Congress and the Perpetual Campaign by Frances E. Lee
[A quick note about this episode - we have fixed an error that caused some listeners to hear overlapping audio in the first portion of the show. Thank you for your understanding, and we're sorry for the issue]In 2017, Rod Dreher published The Benedict Option, a book arguing that America has grown so hostile to Orthodox Christian practice and morals that believers need to retreat into sealed communities to wait out the cultural storm. It’s a window into a mindset that is increasingly powerful in politics but befuddling to those who don’t share its premise: How have so many white Christians come to feel like America’s most persecuted class?Dreher writes about the monastics, but he lives the engaged life. He’s a senior editor at the American Conservative, where he writes a popular blog confronting American politics and culture from an Orthodox Christian perspective. I asked him on the show to try to see the world through his eyes and better understand some of the debates splitting the country.How can a country so suffused in Christian culture seem so hostile to Christians? Why does the Christian right focus so much on sexuality rather than poverty, lust rather than greed? How can a religion built around such radical openness to strangers embrace Trump’s approach to borders and migrants? What is the line between protecting religious liberty and accepting widespread discrimination? And do blogs like Dreher’s, which trawl the culture for the stories meant to make Christians feel persecuted and appalled, just drive a deeper wedge into our politics?Dreher is thoughtful, eloquent, and open, and this is a conversation that left us both questioning some premises. A lot of the points we differ on can’t be settled by debate, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for understanding.Book recommendations:The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas MertonA Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy TooleLaurus by Eugene Vodolazkin
This conversation with Yale psychologist and MacArthur genius Jennifer Richeson first appeared a year ago, and it’s one of my favorites. But I wanted to repost it now for two reasons.First, it’s as a necessary companion to Monday’s conversation with Robert Jones over changing religious dynamics. Richeson focuses on racial demographic change, and in particular, how the perception of losing demographic power pushes people’s politics in a sharply conservative direction. I don’t think it’s possible to understand our politics in this moment without understanding this research.Second, it’s July Fourth, and this conversation makes me feel patriotic. America has its problems, but it’s to our great and enduring credit that we are at least trying to navigate a transition to being a true multiethnic liberal democracy. Other countries have collapsed into violence and civil war over far less.It’s easy to look back on history and think that the great political challenges belonged to past generations and we’re merely drafting off their achievements. But it’s not true. We’re navigating an unprecedented political transition in our own time. If we make good on its promise — on this country’s promise — we’ll deserve our place in the history books, too.Recommended books: White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson Change They Can't Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America by Christopher S. Parker and Matt A. Barreto The Space Between Us: Social Geography and Politics by Ryan Enos
About seven in 10 American seniors are white Christians. Among young adults, fewer than three in 10 are. During the span of the Obama administration, America went from a majority white Christian nation to one where white Christians are a minority. That’s an earthquake, and we’re living in the aftershocks.This is a story that Robert Jones, the head of the Public Religion Research Institute, tells in his book The End of White Christian America. Much of Donald Trump’s support is driven by a sense of religious loss, not just racial or national loss. Many of the debates playing out on the American right — particularly the Sohrab Ahmari-David French fight — reflect the belief that these are end times for a certain strain of American Christians, unless emergency measures are undertaken.This is not, to put it lightly, a perspective that’s treated sympathetically on the left. What could carry more privilege than being a white Christian? But that’s why, if you want to understand American politics right now, it’s important to try to see the other side of this one. I’m going to be exploring this more on the show in the weeks to come, but I wanted to start with Jones, who knows the data here better than anyone. This is part of the deep context of American politics right now. Seeing it clearly makes a lot of our fights more legible.If you liked this episode, you may also like: “David French on the Great, White Culture War” and Jennifer Richeson on “The most important idea for understanding politics in 2018.”Book recommendations:Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement by Carolyn Renée DupontOur Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America by James Fallows and Deborah FallowsOut of Many Faiths: Religious Diversity and the American Promiseby Eboo Patel
“Liberalism is as distinct a tradition as exists in political history, but it suffers from being a practice before it is an ideology, a temperament and a tone and a way of managing the world more than a fixed set of beliefs.”That’s from Adam Gopnik’s new book A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism. It is, by turns, a bracing, charming, insightful, irksome defense of the most successful political movement of our age. Liberalism is so successful, in fact, that its achievements are taken for granted while its shortcomings throb through our politics.What caught my eye about Gopnik’s book is his argument that liberalism is a temperament more than an ideology, an approach more than a prescription. As I read his argument, it felt to me that he had identified something essential and often missed in discussions of agendas and plans. But he was also developing a definition of little use in settling the core debates of our age, a liberalism that could be seen as too flexible to mean anything in particular.And so, as liberals do, we argued it out. This conversation has something to thrill and frustrate every listener. In that way, it’s like liberalism itself.Book recommendations:Life of Johnson by James BoswellThe Open Society and Its Enemiesby Karl R. PopperNo Other Book: Selected Essays by Randall Jarrell
If you’re a Parks and Rec fan, you’ll remember Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness. Right there at the base sits “Capitalism: God’s way of determining who is smart and who is poor.”It’s a joke, but not really. Few want to justify the existence of poverty, but when they do, that's how they do it. People in poverty just aren’t smart enough, or hard-working enough, or they’re not making good enough decisions. There’s a moral void in that logic to begin with — but it also gets the reality largely backward. “The poor do have lower effective capacity than those who are well off,” write Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir in their book Scarcity. "This is not because they are less capable, but rather because part of their mind is captured by scarcity.” They show, across continents and contexts, that the more economic pressure you place on people, the worse their cognitive performance becomes. Mullainathan is a genius. A literal, MacArthur-certified genius. He’s an economist at the Chicago Booth School of Business who has published foundational work on a truly dizzying array of topics, but his most important research is around what scarcity does to the brain. This is work with radical implications for how we think about inequality and social policy. One thing I appreciated about Mullainathan in this conversation is that he doesn’t shy away from that.This is one of those conversations I wanted to have because the ideas are so important and persuasive. I didn’t expect Mullainathan to be such a delight to talk to. But since he was, we also discussed the economics of our AI-soaked future, the power of rigid rules, the reason conversation is so much better in person, why cigarette taxes make smokers happier, what Star Trek got wrong, and how he’s managed to do so much important work in such a vast array of disciplines. We could’ve gone for three more hours, easily. If you liked this episode, you should also check out the Robert Sapolsky and Mehrsa Baradaran podcasts. Book recommendations:One Hundred Years of Solitudeby Gabriel García Márquez Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven JohnsonMan's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Nice Try! is a new podcast from Curbed and the Vox Media Podcast Network that explores stories of people who have tried to design a better world, and what happens when those designs don't go according to plan. Season one, Utopian, follows Avery Trufelman on her quest to understand the perpetual search for the perfect place. Enjoy this special conversation between Ezra and Avery and an excerpt from the recent episode Oneida: Utopia, LLC, and subscribe to Nice Try! for free in your favorite podcast app.
The debate over polarized media can make the two ecosystems sound equivalent. One is left, the other right, but otherwise they’re the same. That couldn’t be more wrong. They’re structured differently, they work differently, they value different things, they’re built atop different aesthetics. And behind all these differences is something we don’t talk about enough: their audiences, and what those audiences demand.Danna Young is an associate professor of communications at the University of Delaware and author of the forthcoming Irony and Outrage, a fascinating study of the differing aesthetics of the left and right media universes, and how those differences are rooted in the psychological composition of their audiences. This is tricky stuff to talk about, but it’s necessary for understanding why political media looks the way it does today.Book recommendations:Constructing the Political Spectacle by Murray EdelmanThe Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility by Jeffrey M. Berry and Sarah SobierajMessengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics by Nicole HemmerIrony and Outrage: The Polarized Landscape of Rage, Fear, and Laughter in the United States by Danna Young (pre-order)
“The phrase ‘identity politics’ is a weaponization of the Democrats’ structural advantage in elections from now until eternity,” says Stacey Abrams.In this live interview from 2019’s Code conference, Kara Swisher and I sat down with Abrams and her campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo. Abrams lost the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, but became a Democratic superstar in the process. She was tapped to give the party’s response to Trump’s State of the Union, and she’s mentioned often as a top-tier vice president pick for 2020, and perhaps a candidate for the presidency herself.This conversation makes it clear why. Abrams says more interesting things in an hour than most politicians do in a year. Her take on identity politics is worth the conversation alone, but she also offers one of the clearest discussions of the role of regulation in an advanced economy I’ve heard. We also talk about her 2020 plans, why she’s not running for Georgia’s Senate seat, why she thinks Democrats aren’t in as much Senate recruiting trouble as the conventional wisdom holds, whether America is still a democracy, and much more.It’s particularly interesting to hear Abrams alongside her longtime friend and campaign manager, Groh-Wargo, who’s now the CEO of Fair Fight Action, the organization they founded to push for free and fair elections. Where Abrams is effortless with narrative, Groh-Wargo is tactical and specific. Listening to them play off each other, you get a much clearer sense of the strategic partnership and electoral theories at the core of Abrams’s 2018 run, and that might power whatever she does next.
Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology and philosophy at the University of California Berkeley. She’s published more than 100 journal articles and half a dozen books. She runs a cognitive development and learning lab where she studies how young children come to understand the world around them, and she’s built on that research to do work in AI, to understand how adults form bonds with both children and each other, and to examine what creativity is and how we can nurture it in ourselves and — more importantly — each other.I worry when I post these podcasts with experts in child development that people without children will pass them by. So let me be direct: Listen to this one. I didn’t have Gopnik on the show to talk about children; I had her on the show to talk about human beings. What makes us feel love for each other. How we can best care for each other. How our minds really work in the formative, earliest days, and what we lose as we get older. The role community is meant to play in our lives.There is more great stuff in this conversation than I can write in an intro. She’s changed my thinking on not just parenting but friendships, marriage, and schooling. Some of these are ideas you could build a life around. This is worth your time.Book recommendations:A Treatise of Human Natureby David HumeAlice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis CarrollThe works of Jean Piaget
Oligarchic capitalism? Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that. Opioid deaths? She’s got a plan for that too. Same is true for high housing costs, offshoring, child care, breaking up Big Tech, curbing congressional corruption, indicting presidents, strengthening reproductive rights, forgiving student loans, providing debt relief to Puerto Rico, and fixing the love lives of some of her Twitter followers. Seriously.But how is Warren going to pass any of these plans? Which policy would she prioritize? What presidential powers would she leverage? What argument would she make to her fellow Senate Democrats to convince them to abolish the filibuster? What will she do if Mitch McConnell still leads the Senate? What about climate change?I caught her on a campaign swing through California to ask her about that meta-plan. The plan behind her plans. Warren’s easy fluency with policy is on full display here, but it’s her systematic thinking about the nature of power, and what it takes to redistribute it, that really sets her apart from the field. I don’t want to shock you, but: She’s got a plan for that too.Vox’s guide to where 2020 Democrats stand on policyBook recommendations:Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas PikettyEvicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer
Michael Lewis needs little introduction. He’s the author of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Big Short, The Blind Side, The Fifth Risk. He’s the host of the new podcast “Against the Rules.” He’s a master at making seemingly boring topics — baseball statistics, government bureaucrats, collateralized debt obligations — riveting. So how does he do it?What I wanted to do in this conversation was understand Lewis’s process. How does he choose his topics? How does he find his characters? How does he get them to trust him? What is he looking for when he’s with them? What allows him to see the gleam in subjects that would strike others, on their face, as dull?Lewis more than delivered. There’s a master class in reporting — or just in getting to know people — tucked inside this conversation. As in the NK Jemisin episode, Lewis shows how he does his work in real time, using me and something I revealed as the example. Sometimes the conversations on this show are a delight. Sometimes they’re actually useful. This one is both.Book recommendations:Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainA Collection of Essays by George OrwellThe Right Stuffby Tom Wolfe
I’m not sure what I expected Sen. Michael Bennet’s answer to be when I asked him why he was running for president. I didn’t expect it to be “Mitch McConnell.”Since arriving in the Senate in 2009, Bennet has built a reputation as a senator’s senator. He’s smart and measured, thoughtful on policy, and good at working across the aisle. I’ve had colleagues of his tell me they wish he’d run for president, that he’s the kind of guy the country needs. But Bennet’s been radicalized. He believes America’s government is broken. So what happens when you radicalize a moderate? How far will an institutionalist go to save the institutions he loves? And at what point do you decide the problem is inside the institutions themselves?That’s the conversation, and at times argument, Bennet and I have in this podcast, and it’s an important one. His critique is angry and sweeping. But are his solutions as big as the problem he identifies? We also talk about his plan to end extreme childhood poverty, which I think is one of the most important proposals in the race, his view that rural America is the key to passing climate legislation, why he opposes Medicare-for-all, what to do about the filibuster, and much more.Book recommendations:There Will Be No Miracles Here: A Memoir by Casey GeraldFrederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. BlightThese Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore
Richie Davidson has spent a lifetime studying meditation. He’s studied it as a practitioner, sitting daily, going on retreats, and learning under masters. And he’s pioneered the study of it as a scientist, working with the Dalai Lama to bring master meditators into his lab at the University of Wisconsin and quantifying the way thousands of hours of meditation changed their brains.The word “meditation,” Davidson is quick to note, is akin to the word “sports”: It describes a huge range of pursuits. And what he’s found is that different types of meditation do very different things to your brain, just as different sports trigger different changes in your body.This is a conversation about what those brain changes are, and what they mean for the rest of us. We discuss the forms of meditation Westerners rarely hear about, the differences between meditative and psychedelic states, the Dalai Lama’s personality, why elite meditators end up warmhearted and joyous rather than cold and detached, whether there’s more value to meditating daily or going on occasional retreats, what happens when you sever meditation from the ethical frameworks it evolved in, and much more.Book recommendations:Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama by Dalai LamaThe Principles of Psychology by William JamesIn Love With the World: A Monk's Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying by Yongey Mingyur RinpocheThe Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happinessby Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche10% Happierby Dan HarrisThe Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guideby John Yates
I’ve been learning from, and arguing with, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig for a decade now. We have a long-running debate over whether money or polarization is the root cause of our political ills. But our debate works because we share a crucial belief: Bad institutions overwhelm good individuals.In his latest book, America, Compromised, Lessig is doing something ambitious: He’s offering a new definition of institutional corruption, then showing how it plays out in politics, academia, the media, Wall Street, and the legal system. This is a definition of corruption that doesn’t require any individual to be corrupt. But it’s a definition that, if you accept it, suggests much of our society has been corrupted.Here, Lessig and I discuss what corruption is, how to understand an institution’s purpose, whether capitalism is itself corrupting, our upcoming books about the media, how small donors polarize politics, Lessig’s critique of democracy, why good people are particularly susceptible to institutional corruption, whether we should ban private money in politics, and ways to reinvent representative democracy. So, you know, nothing too big or heady.Book recommendations:The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalismby Edward E. BaptistPolitical Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy by Francis FukuyamaThe Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Powerby Shoshana Zuboff
“For some, there may be a kind of engineer’s satisfaction in the streamlining and networking of our entire lived experience,” writes Jenny Odell. “And yet a certain nervous feeling, of being overstimulated and unable to sustain a train of thought, lingers.”Odell is the author of How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. And she’s a visual artist who has taught digital and physical design at Stanford since 2013, as well as done residencies at Facebook, the San Francisco Planning Department, the Dump, and the Internet Archive.All of which is to say she’s the perfect person to talk with about creativity and attention in a world designed to flatten both. In this conversation, we discuss the difference between productivity and creativity, how artists orchestrate attention, the ideologies we use to value our time, what it means to do nothing, restoring context to our lives and words, why “groundedness requires actual ground,” lucid dreaming, the joys of bird-watching, my difficulty appreciating conceptual art, her difficulty with meditation, and much more.Book recommendations:Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer by Barbara Ehrenreich The Nature and Functions of Dreaming by Ernest HartmannCults: Faith, Healing, and Coercion by Mark GalanterThe Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World by David Abram
Brian Stelter is the host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, as well as the network’s chief media correspondent. But before he was the host of Reliable Sources, he was just a kid with a blog — a blog that obsessed over the coverage decisions, business models, and consequences of cable news.So he was the perfect person to have this conversation with. I’ve done — and continue to do — a lot of cable news. So I think a lot about the effect cable news has on the political system. How does it change the stories it covers? How does it decide what is and isn’t news? What are its biases? Who actually watches it? How has it been changed by Trump and Twitter? And, with apologies to Jon Stewart, is cable news hurting or helping America?Brian and I see the answers to some of these questions differently. But he’s one of the most thoughtful media analysts going today. Love it or hate it, cable news matters. So it’s worth trying to understand how it works, and why it works the way it does.Book recommendations:American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas BrinkleyThe Culture of Fearby Barry GlassnerEcho Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishmentby Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph N. Cappella
YouTube is where tomorrow’s politics are happening today.If you’re over 30, and you don’t spend much time on the platform, it’s almost impossible to explain how central it is to young people’s media consumption. YouTube far outranks television in terms of where teens spend their time. It’s foundational to how young people — and plenty of not-so-young people — form their politics. And it features a political divide that’s different than what we see in Washington, but that I think predicts what we’re going to see in Washington.Natalie Wynn, of the channel Contrapoints, is one of YouTube’s political stars. The former philosophy PhD student dropped out and found her calling producing idea-dense and aesthetically rich explanations of everything from capitalism to Jordan Peterson to incels to “the West.” In this conversation, we talk about the political divides on YouTube, how the YouTube right differs from the YouTube left, why obscure ideological movements are making comebacks online, her experience transitioning gender while in the public eye, why you need to take trollish questions seriously, and the anxieties of modern masculinity.
“Between 1830 and 1860, there were more than seventy violent incidents between congressmen in the House and Senate chambers or on nearby streets and dueling grounds.”Here’s the wild thing about that statistic, which comes from Yale historian Joanne Freeman’s remarkable book The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War: It’s an undercount. There was much more violence between members of Congress even than that.Congress used to be thick with duels, brawls, threats, and violent intimidation. That history is often forgotten today, and that forgetting has come at a cost: It lets us pretend that this moment, with all its tumult and terror, is somehow divorced from our traditions, an aberration from our past, when it’s in fact rooted in them.That’s why I wanted to talk to Freeman right now: to remind us that American politics has long been shaped by people who used the threat or practice of national violence as a way to force the political system to accept ongoing injustice. This conversation isn’t as easy as just saying political violence is bad. It’s also about recognizing that political violence has a purpose, and weighing the conditions under which it’s right and even necessary to provoke it.Book recommendations:Witness to the Young Republic: A Yankee’s Journal, 1828-1870 by Benjamin Brown FrenchFirst Blows of the Civil Warby James S. PikeThe Impending Crisisby David M. Potter
Time for another AMA! You all hit the big stuff in this one. What’s the purpose of this show? How do I prep for it? What did I think of the Whiteshift conversation? What has fatherhood changed in my worldview? What weird work habits do I recommend? How about weird techno sets? How about comic runs?Should we be optimistic about humanity in 100 years? How about 1,000? Why did I describe Elizabeth Warren as a “fighter” rather than “professor” candidate? What’s the likeliest sci-fi dystopia?All this, plus some vegan recipe recommendations and the proportions for a Vieux Carré cocktail!
2013 was David Brooks’s worst year. “The realities that used to define my life fell away,” he says. His marriage ended. His children moved out. The conservative movement was undergoing the crack-up that would lead to Donald Trump, and to Brooks’s excommunication.For Brooks, the past few years have been a radicalization. His new book, The Second Mountain, is an effort to work out a more service- and community-oriented definition of the good life. But on a deeper level, it’s a searing critique of meritocracy, of productivity, and, as I try to get him to admit in this podcast, of capitalism itself. But is Brooks really willing to embrace what that critique demands?If you liked the “Work as identity, burnout as lifestyle” episode a few weeks back, you’ll love this one.Book recommendations:Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund BurkeAnna Karenina by Leo TolstoyThe Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
I’ve read a lot of Emily Oster over the past year. Her first book, Expecting Better, has become the data-minded parent’s bible on pregnancy. Her new book, Cribsheet, extends that analysis to the first years of life.Oster is an economist at Brown University, and what she brings to this particular pursuit is a passion for good evidence. And here’s the thing: it turns out that much of what we think we know about pregnancy and parenthood isn’t based on good evidence. Sometimes it’s not based on any evidence at all.This is, on one level, a conversation about some topics of particular interest to me right now — breastfeeding, sleep training, brain development — but, it’s also a conversation about a meta-topic of interest to us all: how we assume experts are basing their confident pronouncements on good data, when, in fact, they often are not.Book recommendations:Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted Americaby Beth MacyThe Shakespeare Requirement: A Novelby Julie Schumacher The Odyssey by Homer (translation by Emily Wilson)
This is a special episode for me. Vox turns 5 this week! So I sat down with my co-founders, Melissa Bell and Matt Yglesias, to discuss what went right, what went wrong, what changed in the media environment, and what we learned along the way.Matt’s recommendations:Vox’s Explained on Netflix — Episode 4: “K-Pop”“Our incel problem” by Zack Beauchamp“We visited one of America's sickest counties. We're afraid it's about to get worse.” by Julia BelluzVox’s The Weeds podcastMelissa’s recommendations:Vox Observatory by Joss Fong“Apollo astronauts left their poop on the moon. We gotta go back for that shit.” by Brian ResnickToday, Explained: “Friends without benefits”Ezra’s recommendations:“Hospitals keep ER fees secret. We’re uncovering them.” by Sarah Kliff“The rise of American authoritarianism” by Amanda Taub“Show me the evidence” by Julia BelluzToday, Explained: “HQ2-1”This special episode of The Ezra Klein Show was taped in celebration of Vox’s fifth anniversary. Today, we’re hosting live tapings of The Weeds and Recode Decode with Kara Swisher at The Line Hotel in Washington, DC. Subscribe to those shows for free in Apple Podcasts, or in your favorite podcast app, to be the first to hear them when they’re released.
In the past few months, two essays on America’s changing relationship to work caught my eye. The first was Anne Helen Petersen’s viral BuzzFeed piece defining, and describing, “millennial burnout.” The second was Derek Thompson’s Atlantic article on “workism.”The two pieces speak to each other in interesting ways, and to some questions I’ve been reflecting on as my own relationship to work changes. So I asked the authors to join me for a conversation about what happens when work becomes an identity, capitalism becomes a religion, and productivity becomes the way we measure human value. The conversation exceeded even the high hopes I had for it. Enjoy this one.Book recommendations:Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennialsby Malcolm HarrisWhite: Essays on Race and Cultureby Richard DyerThe Vertigo Years: Europe, 1900-1914by Philipp BlomA Visit from the Goon Squadby Jennifer EganIf you’ll be in Washington, DC, on Thursday, April 25, join us for a morning of live podcasts in celebration of our fifth birthday. RSVP here: http://voxmediaevents.com/vox5
Democratic socialism is on the rise in the United States, but it’s been a dominant force for far longer in Europe. Ask Bernie Sanders to define his ideology and he doesn’t start naming political theorists; he points across the Atlantic. “Go to countries like Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden,” he says.The populist right is on the rise in the United States too, and that’s also been a powerful force for far longer in Europe. The mix of economic populism and resentful nationalism that Donald Trump ran on in 2016 and Tucker Carlson offers up nightly on Fox News might be unusual here, but it’s commonplace there.Understanding Europe’s politics, then, is of particular help right now for understanding our own. Sheri Berman is a political scientist at Barnard College, as well as the author of multiple books on European social democracy. We discussed what separates social democrats from progressives and neoliberals, how the populist right co-opted the European left, why social democrats lost ground in the ’90s to Blairite technocrats, whether multi-party political systems work better than our own, and why identity issues tend to unite the right and split the left. Berman is masterful in clearly synthesizing politics across countries and time periods, so there’s a lot to learn in this one.Book recommendations:Nation Building: Why Some Countries Come Together While Others Fall Apartby Andreas WimmerThe Meaning of Race: Race, History, and Culture in Western Societyby Kenan MalikMulticulturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognitionby Charles Taylor and Amy Gutmann
“The big question of our time is less, ‘What does it mean to be American?’ than, ‘What does it mean to be white American in an age of ethnic change?’” writes Eric Kaufmann in his new book Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities. Kaufmann’s book is unusual in two respects. First, it’s explicit (and persuasive) in its argument that demographic change and the white backlash to demographic change are behind the rise of rightwing populism across the West. Second, it argues that the right response is to slow demographic change and calm the fears of white majorities.I think Kaufmann’s framework of what’s driving political conflict right now is correct. I have more trouble with his vision of what to do about it. But this is a book, in my view, that gets to the core debate of contemporary politics and takes it on directly. That’s why I wanted to have this conversation.Book recommendations:The Ethnic Origins of Nationsby Anthony D. SmithThe Cultural Contradictions Of Capitalismby Daniel BellNEXT AMERICAN NATION: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolutionby Michael Lind
Michael Brendan Dougherty is a senior writer at National Review and the author of My Father Left Me Ireland, a moving, lyrical memoir about fatherhood and identity. It’s also a stirring defense of nationalism, an attack on wonks, and a critique of some of the core assumptions of liberal modernity. When I opened it, I didn’t expect it to be quite so on point to my interests. But here we are.This conversation starts a little slow, but it accelerates into an exploration of some of the biggest questions this podcast has approached. What’s the purpose of the nation-state? Where does identity come from? What kinds of historical inheritances matter? How do human beings discipline their emotions and intuitions without losing their souls? When is violent revolution or resistance merited? And what does it mean to be a wonk?One of the nice things about a conversation like this is it required both of us to articulate and defend some core beliefs that often go unquestioned. So there’s a lot here, including, at about the 32nd minute, probably the clearest description of my moral approach that I’ve offered on this podcast. Enjoy!Recommended books:The Everlasting Man by G.K. ChestertonPolitical Writings and Speechesby Patrick Pearse The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom by James Burnham
Nothing would do more to repair American politics than for the center right to regain power in the Republican coalition. But before that can happen, the center right needs to exist — it needs a theory of both policy and politics, one that would allow it to organize a new right if the Trumpist coalition ever collapses.The Niskanen Center is a new Washington think tank started by refugees from the libertarian right who’ve decided to do exactly that. Will Wilkinson, Niskanen’s director of research, is one of them.A former Ayn Rand devotee, philosophy grad student, and Cato Institute staffer, Wilkinson has come to believe, among other things, that the freest economies feature the biggest welfare states, that unchecked capitalism and unchecked democracy pose similar threats, and that polarization is a function of density and psychology. This is a podcast about those ideas, but also about whether a center right like this is actually possible, or whether it’s a doomed project that misunderstands conservative psychology from the outset.Sometimes conversations go in very interesting directions you didn’t expect. This is one of those. I don’t want to spoil too much of it, but we could’ve, and perhaps should’ve, talked for twice as long. Enjoy!Book recommendations:Open Versus Closed: Personality, Identity, and the Politics of Redistributionby Christopher D. Johnston, Howard Lavine, and Christopher M. FedericoThe Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequalityby Brink Lindsey and Steven TelesThe New Geography of Jobsby Enrico Moretti
“Race isn’t about black people, necessarily,” says Eddie Glaude Jr. “It’s about the way whiteness works to disfigure and distort our democracy, and the ideals that animate our democracy.”Glaude is the chair of Princeton University’s department of African American studies, the president of the American Academy of Religion, and the author of the powerful book Democracy in Black. And this is a conversation about some of the hardest issues in American life: the way racism is intertwined with America’s political system, the worldviews we force ourselves to adopt to justify racial inequality, and the way white fear sets boundaries on black politics.These aren’t easy topics to discuss, but they’re necessary ones. As Glaude says, “We have to have a politics that can interrogate it honestly, and do it in such a way that is mature, that opens up space for us to imagine ourselves otherwise.”Book recommendations:The Quest for Certainty: A Study of the Relation of Knowledge and Action by John Dewey James Baldwin: Collected Essays by James BaldwinNo name in the street by James BaldwinMore Beautiful and More Terrible by Imani Perry
First off. Hello! I’m back from paternity leave. And this is a helluva podcast to restart with.Pete Buttigieg is a Rhodes scholar, a Navy veteran, and the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He’s a married gay man, a churchgoing Episcopalian, and a proud millennial. He’s also, according to CNN, “the hottest candidate in the 2020 race right now.”There’s been plenty of discussion of Buttigieg’s biography, and of whether a midsize-city mayorship is appropriate experience for the presidency. But I wanted to talk to him about something else: his theory of political change. How, in a broken system, would he get done even a fraction of what he’s promising? To my surprise, he actually had an answer.Before I did this podcast, I was surprised to see Buttigieg catching fire. Now that I’ve had this conversation, I’m not.Book recommendations:Ulysses by James JoyceArmageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000 by Stephen Kotkin We are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3X6WMNF
Last month, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey introduced a Green New Deal resolution, outlining a bold effort to decarbonize the US economy and forestall the worst effects of climate change. Ever since, it has been the talk of the town in Washington, drawing praise and criticism from all quarters.But most critics completely misunderstood the resolution. It is not a policy document. It is a set of goals and principles meant to guide the development of policy.The work of fleshing out the policy details is largely in the hands of Rhiana Gunn-Wright, working out of a think tank called New Consensus. Gunn-Wright is busy consulting a broad slate of experts, with the goal of assembling a policy framework that will be ready to go when/if Democrats take power in 2021.Vox staff writer David Roberts sat down with Gunn-Wright to chat about how she’s approaching this monumental task, why the Green New Deal includes social and economic goals (like full employment) alongside environmental goals, and what she makes of the criticism that the plan is “unrealistic.”Book recommendations:The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths by Mariana Mazzucato Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time by Ira KatznelsonWe are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3X6WMNF
Matthew Continetti, editor-in-chief of the Washington Free Beacon, sits down with Vox senior politics reporter Jane Coaston to discuss intellectual conservatism, the legacy of William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan, neoconservatism, and the role Donald Trump is playing in both the GOP and conservatism more broadly.Book recommendations:Crisis of the House Dividedby Harry V. JaffaNixon's White House Wars by Patrick J. BuchananWe are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3X6WMNF
I’m Vox’s interviews writer, Sean Illing. Lately, I’ve been interested in the following question: Is the decline of institutionalized Christianity making our politics worse? The answer may be yes, but I’m not convinced it’s for the reasons many people suppose.Ross Douthat is a conservative columnist for the New York Times who has been one of the more thoughtful writers on this topic. Douthat believes that Christianity’s collapse has not only helped destroy civic bonds in America, it’s also amplified our tribalism problem. As more and more Americans lose any connection to a shared religious or moral worldview, he argues, they’re increasingly drawn to transgressive movements like the alt-right or to the vulgar politics of Donald Trump.My sense is that Douthat’s view of Christianity is somewhat nostalgic and overlooks the racial hierarchy that undergirded previous eras of American politics. But I’m open to his point of view, and admit I might be mistaken. In this conversation, we discuss the forces behind the decline of Christianity, how it’s fueling tribal politics, and why he thinks the left should really be worried about the post-Christian right.Book recommendations:Religion: If There Is No God-- : On God, the Devil, Sin, and Other Worries of the So-Called Philosophy of Religionby Leszek KolakowskiBlack Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca WestThe Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis We are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3X6WMNF
Vox senior politics reporter, Jane Coaston speaks to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee at South by Southwest about climate change, his 2020 candidacy, why it's time to eliminate the filibuster, and the Green New Deal.We are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3X6WMNF
For this episode of The Ezra Klein Show, we're digging into the archives to share another of our favorites with you!*At least in politics, this is an era of awful arguments. Arguments made in bad faith. Arguments in which no one, on either side, is willing to change their mind. Arguments where the points being made do not describe or influence the positions being held. Arguments that leave everyone dumber, angrier, sadder. Which is why I wanted to talk to Julia Galef this week. Julia is the host of the Rationally Speaking podcast, a co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality, and the creator of the Update Project, which maps out arguments to make it easier for people to disagree clearly and productively. Her work focuses on how we think and argue, as well as the cognitive biases and traps that keep us from hearing what we're really saying, hearing what others are really saying, and preferring answers that make us feel good to answers that are true. I first met her at a Vox Conversation conference, where she ran a session helping people learn to change their minds, and it's struck me since then that more of us could probably use that training. In this episode, Julia and I talk about what she's learned about thinking more clearly and arguing better, as well as my concerns that the traditional paths toward a better discourse open up new traps of their own. (As you'll hear, I find it very easy to get lost in all the ways debate and cognition can go awry.) We talk about signaling, about motivated reasoning, about probabilistic debating, about which identities help us find truth, and about how to make online arguments less terrible. Enjoy!Recommended books: Language, Truth, and Logic by A.J. Ayer Seeing Like a State by James Scott The Robot's Rebellion by Keith Stanovich We are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3X6WMNF
What draws someone into an extremist movement? Is it about ideology? Race? Politics? So many of our discussions about extremism try to explain away the problem by reducing its complexity, but that brings us further and further away from actually solving it.Deeyah Khan is a British documentary filmmaker and human rights activist. She’s the creator of two extraordinary films airing on Netflix right now, White Right: Meeting the Enemy and Jihad: A Story of the Others. The films do a remarkable job of showing why these opposing brands of extremism are both similar and reciprocal, and why the people they attract mirror each other in so many ways.Khan spent hours with the most extreme figures she could find, and made a real effort to understand what’s motivating them. She sat down with Vox’s interviews writer, Sean Illing, for a conversation about what she discovered, why the roots of fanaticism are much deeper than we suppose, and what we have to do win the battle against hatred.Recommended reading:It's Not About the Burqa by Mariam KhanFrom Fatwa to Jihad by Kenan MalikFaith and Feminism in Pakistan by Afiya S. ZiaWe are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3X6WMNF
For this episode of the Ezra Klein show we're digging back into the archives to share another of our favorite episodes with you!***On October 24, 2016, in the final days of the presidential election, Paul Krugman, the Nobel-prize winning economist and New York Times columnist, tweeted, "When this election is finally over, I'm planning to celebrate with an orgy of...serious policy discussion.” Then, of course, Donald Trump won the election, and serious policy discussion took a backseat to alternative facts, at least for awhile. But now it’s time! In this podcast, Krugman and I cover a lot of ground. We talk taxes, net neutrality, universal basic incomes, job guarantees, antitrust, automation, productivity growth, health care, climate change, college costs, and more. Krugman explains why more information doesn’t make people better thinkers, the “kitchen test” for assessing how much technological progress a society is really making, and what the role of policy analysis is when the policymakers don’t care about evidence. Enjoy! Recommended books: The Foundation novels by Isaac Asimov An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume Plagues and Peoples by William McNeil We are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3X6WMNF
Vox takes culture seriously. Our coverage of movies, TV, books, and music delves deep into what our cultural touchstones reveal about who we are and what we care about — and how what we consume influences our world in turn.That's why I'm so excited to introduce you to Switched on Pop. It's a podcast that digs into both the musical theory and the cultural context of pop music, and it's now part of the Vox Media Podcast Network. As a big fan of the show, I wanted to introduce you to the hosts, Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding. In this bonus episode you'll hear some of their favorite interviews, as they pull back the curtain on how pop hits work their magic. Subscribe to Switched on Pop wherever you get your podcasts.
After years of hovering on the periphery of American politics, never quite the star of the show, it seems that climate change is having a moment. An ambitious Green New Deal, backed by a large and active youth movement, identifies global warming as a national emergency and seeks to completely decarbonize the US economy. While it’s a long way from becoming law, it has forced all the Democratic candidates to take very public positions on the subject. Climate, it seems, is finally becoming a priority.But do people really understand it? According to journalist David Wallace-Wells, no, they do not. “It is worse, much worse, than you think,” his book begins, and over the course of several hundred pages, it makes that case in rich, harrowing detail.The sheer variety and scope of physical damages — droughts, storms, heat waves, sea level rise — is greater, and coming faster, than most people appreciate. But that’s just the beginning. Wallace-Walls also considers how a century dominated by global warming will change our politics, our art, and our very self-conception.David Roberts sat down with David Wallace-Wells to discuss the latest science of climate change, the way that political and scientific reticence have caused us to underestimate it, his hopes (such as they are) for the future, and the stories he tells himself about the world his daughter will grow up in. It’s not happy news, but it’s a fascinating conversation.Recommended reading:Between the World and Meby Ta-Nehisi CoatesThe Really Big One by Kathryn SchulzThe Fever by Wallace ShawnWe are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3X6WMNF
The Democratic Party is quickly coalescing around an ambitious Medicare-for-All platform — and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is shaping up to be a major voice in that debate.Jayapal co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus and, earlier this week, released a sweeping new plan for single-payer health care in the United States. Her proposal is arguably the most ambitious we’ve seen yet. It envisions a wider set of benefits and a much quicker transition to government-run health care than the plan offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).Vox Senior Policy Correspondent Sarah Kliff, who is filling in for Ezra, sat down with Rep. Jayapal to walk through how this Medicare-for-All plan came together. We get into why Rep. Jayapal thinks it’s possible for the United States to move to government-run health care in just two years, and which countries’ health systems she thinks of as good models for where the United States should head.In this conversation, you’ll get a sense of Rep. Jayapal’s theories of governing, how they differ from those of Obama-era Democrats, and why she doesn’t think she needs buy-in from the powerful hospital and insurance lobbies to pass new legislation.
I'm Jane Coaston, senior politics reporter at Vox with a focus on conservatism and the GOP.For the last three years or so, there has been an ongoing discussion among conservatives about identity politics and what many view as the corrosive use of identity politics in the pursuit of "social justice." As they argue, "social justice warriors" are using so-called "identity politics" -- debates around race, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity -- as cudgels, often against the Right. In general, to put it mildly, I disagree.Which is why I invited Noah Rothman, an editor at Commentary magazine, an MSNBC contributor, and more relatedly, author of "Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America," released on January 29th, to join me in a discussion on this very topic. We discussed how identity politics are in no way new, and are inherent to our politics, and we talked about his view on where "social justice" went wrong. The conversation was contentious, but hopefully, productive.As you may have noticed, I am not Ezra Klein. Ezra is away on paternity leave (congratulations, Ezra!) and will return in a few weeks.Book recommendations:The Victims' Revolution by Bruce BawerSuicide of the West by Jonah GoldbergThe Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt
Stony Brook University’s Stephanie Kelton is the most influential proponent of Modern Monetary Theory, a heterodox take on government budgets that urges a focus on inflation, rather than deficits. Jason Furman was President Barack Obama’s chief economist, and while he’s firmly in the economic mainstream, he’s been pushing his colleagues to recognize that the economy has changed in ways that make our debt levels less worrying. I asked the two of them to join the podcast together because I wanted to understand some questions at the intersection of their competing theories. Should we worry about government deficits, and if so, when? Does MMT actually offer a free lunch, or is it just a different way of calculating the bill? When can the Federal Reserve print money without triggering inflation? How would an administration that followed MMT actually diverge from what we've seen in the past? Why did so many mainstream economists make such bad predictions about deficits after the financial crisis? And does Medicare-for-all actually need to be paid for?This is a weedsy conversation about one of the most important questions in American governance. Enjoy!Book Recommendations:Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan CottomUnderstanding Modern Money: The Key to Full Employment and Price Stabilityby L. Randall Wray Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists by Raghuram G. RajanThe Worldly Philosophers by Robert L. Heilbroner
To celebrate The Ezra Klein Show's third anniversary, I’m listening back to the very first episode: a conversation with Rachel Maddow. Rachel is, of course, the host of MSNBC's primetime news show and a best-selling author. But she took a winding path to cable news — a path that included scheming to disrupt skinhead rallies, radical AIDS activism at the height of the plague, a gig as a sidekick on drivetime morning radio, and a stint at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. We talk about all of that in this conversation. We also cover our shared love of dogs, Rachel's favorite graphic novels, and why part of her show preparation process is to avoid reading op-ed columns.
I’ve been arguing with Andrew Sullivan online for almost 15 years now. It’s one of my oldest and most rewarding hobbies. In the past, I’ve always felt we understood each other, even in periods of sharp disagreement. Lately, that’s changed.Sullivan and I have both been writing about identity politics and demographic change, though from quite different perspectives. Our arguments of late have felt more like we’re talking past each other, or about each other, than to each other. We decided to do this podcast to talk it out, and trace where our differences really cut, and where they can be bridged. This is a conversation about political movements, American religiosity, and identity. It’s about whether the illiberalism of today is really worse than the illiberalism of yesteryear, and whether the critiques of the campus left accurately describe anyone who holds real power. It’s about how much demographic change a society can absorb, and at what pace that change should occur. It’s about what conservatism is versus what it says it is. A lot of what I try to do on this show is dig beneath the daily fights over whatever is in the news to the differences in worldview that power our disagreements. I think this conversation was unusually successful in doing that. Some background links, if you want to dig into the articles we're discussing:America's new religionsAmerica, land of brutal binariesThe political tribalism of Andrew SullivanDemocrats can't keep dodging immigration as a real issue
The Republican and Democratic parties are not the same. I’ll say it again: The Republican and Democratic parties are not the same.I don’t just mean they believe different things. I mean they’re composed in different ways, they argue from different premises, they’re structured in different ways. We treat them as mirror images of each other — the left and right hands of American politics — but they’re not. And the ways in which they’re different make it hard for them to understand each other, and hard for American politics to function.Political scientists Matt Grossmann and Dan Hopkins literally wrote the book on how the parties are different. In Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats, they argue that the differences between the parties stem from a central and longstanding split in the country’s political personality: We are a country of philosophical conservatives, and policy liberals. We want a small government that does more of everything.I asked Grossmann on the show to walk me through the ways the parties are different, and how those differences explain everything from the GOP’s repeated shutdowns to asymmetric polarization to the rise of Fox News. This is a conversation about the fundamental structure of America’s parties, public opinion, and media institutions. It’s worth the time.Book Recommendations:Racial Realignment: The Transformation of American Liberalism, 1932-1965by Eric SchicklerBefore the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensusby Rick PerlsteinLaw and Order: Street Crime, Civil Unrest, and the Crisis of Liberalism in the 1960's by Michael W. Flamm
What separates Obama-era liberalism from Sanders-style democratic socialism? What are the fights splitting and transforming the Democratic Party actually about?This is a conversation I’ve wanted to have for a while, in part because I often find myself simultaneously in these debates and confused by them. Sometimes, arguments that are framed as deep ideological disagreements seem to actually be about differing political judgments about what public and political institutions will permit. But perhaps those political judgments are just ideology posing as pragmatism. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole here. Elizabeth Bruenig is an opinion columnist at the Washington Post, co-host of the podcast The Bruenigs, and a thoughtful champion of the democratic socialist worldview. I asked her on the show to help me trace the boundaries of this debate and highlight where the divides really are. This is a conversation about ideology, but it’s also about the limits of persuasion, whether civility is a weapon wielded by the powerful, what Medicare-for-all means, the left’s definition of freedom, the contradictions of being “socially liberal and fiscally responsible,” Howard Schultz, and much more. Book Recommendations:The Confessions of Saint Augustine by Saint AugustineCrime and Punishment by Fyodor DostoevskyThe Malaise of Modernity by Charles Taylor
Ralph Nader needs no introduction. But if your knowledge of Nader mostly consists of his 2000 campaign for the presidency, his career does demand some context. Nader is one of America’s truly great policy entrepreneurs, and arguably one of its great ideologists. The consumer safety movement he founded and led has saved, literally, millions of lives. His idea of what it means to be a public citizen is deeply rooted in American traditions, but largely, and lamentably, lost today in national American politics.And Nader is still active. Writing books. Writing columns. Releasing podcasts. He’s never stopped. He has led, and continues to lead, one of the most fascinating lives in American political history.In this conversation, we talk about everything from his theories of the media to his approach to political change to how he hired and advised “Nader’s Raiders.” We discuss Howard Schultz’s third-party presidential campaign, whether America is a better country than it was 50 years ago, the differences he sees between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and which parts of life he believes should be de-commercialized. I’ve long wanted to interview Nader, to ask him about the parts of his career, and of his philosophy, that I knew less about. It was a pleasure to get the chance.Book Recommendations:The CEO Pay Machine: How it Trashes America and How to Stop It by Steven CliffordThe Fifth Risk by Michael LewisImpeaching the President: Past, Present, and Future by Alan HirschSkin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas TalebThe Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff
Misogyny has long been understood as something men feel, not something women experience. That, says philosopher Kate Manne, is a mistake. In her book Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, Manne defines misogyny as “as primarily a property of social environments,” one that not only doesn’t need hatred of women to function, but actually calms hatred of women when it is functioning.Politics is thick right now with arguments over misogyny, patriarchy, and gender roles. These arguments are powering media controversies, political candidacies, and ideological movements. Manne’s framework makes so much more sense of this moment than the definitions and explanations most of us have been given. This is one of those conversations that will let you see the world through a new lens.In part because her framework touches on so much, this is a conversation that covers an unusual amount of ground. We talk about misogyny and patriarchy, of course, but also anxiety, Jordan Peterson, the role of shame in politics, my recent meditation retreat, Sweden, the social roles that grind down men, and a piece of satire in McSweeney’s that might just be the key to understanding the 2016 and 2020 elections. Enjoy!Information about Peltason Lecture at UC IrvineBook Recommendations:Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah ArendtObedience to Authority: An Experimental View by Stanley Milgram Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom
You often hear that eating animals is natural. And it is. But not the way we do it.The industrial animal agriculture system is a technological marvel. It relies on engineering broiler chickens that grow almost seven times as quickly as they would naturally, and that could never survive in the wild. It relies on pumping a majority of all the antibiotics used in the United States into farm animals to stop the die-offs that overcrowding would otherwise cause. A list like this could go on endlessly, but the point is simple: Industrial animal agriculture is not a natural food system. It is a triumph of engineering.But though we live in a moment when technology has made animal cruelty possible on a scale never imagined in human history, we also live in a moment when technology may be about to make animal cruelty unnecessary. And nothing changes a society’s values as quickly as innovations that make a new moral system easy and cheap to adopt. And that’s what this podcast is about.Bruce Friedrich is the head of the Good Food Institute, which invests, connects, advises, and advocates for the plant and cell-based meat industries. That work puts him at the hot center of one of the most exciting and important technological stories of our age: the possible replacement of a cruel, environmentally unsustainable form of food production with a system that’s better for the planet, better for animals, and better for our health.I talk a lot about animal suffering issues on this podcast, and I do so because they’re important. We’re causing a lot of suffering right now. But I don’t believe that it’ll be a change in morality or ideology that transforms our system. I think it’ll be a change in technology, and Friedrich knows better than just about anyone else alive how fast that technology is becoming a reality. In a rare change of pace for the Ezra Klein Show, this conversation will leave you, dare I say it, optimistic.Book Recommendations:Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism by Melanie Joy Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World by Paul ShapiroEating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Robert Sapolsky is a Stanford neuroscientist and primatologist. He’s the author of a slew of important books on human biology and behavior. But it’s an older book he wrote that forms the basis for this conversation. In Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Sapolsky works through how a stress response that evolved for fast, fight-or-flight situations on the savannah continuously wears on our bodies and brains in modern life. But stress isn’t just an individual phenomenon. It’s also a social force, applied brutally and unequally across our society. “If you want to see an example of chronic stress, study poverty,” Sapolsky says.I often say on the show that politics and policy need to begin with a realistic model of human nature. This is a show about that level of the policy conversation: It’s about how poverty and stress exist in a doom loop together, each amplifying the other’s effects on the brain and body, deepening their harms.And this is a conversation of intense relevance to how we make social policy. Much of the fight in Washington, and in the states, is about whether the best way to get people out of poverty is to make it harder to access help, to make sure the government doesn’t become, in Paul Ryan’s memorable phrase, “a hammock.” Understanding how the stress of poverty acts on people’s minds, how it saps their will and harms their cognitive function and hurts their children, exposes how cruel and wrongheaded that view really is.Sapolsky and I also discuss whether free will is a myth, why he believes the prison system is incompatible with modern neuroscience, how studying monkeys in times of social change helps makes sense of the current moment in American politics, and much more. This one’s worth your time.Book Recommendations:The 21 Balloons by William Pene DuboisChaos: Making a New Science by James GleickThe Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit by Melvin Konner
There aren’t too many people with an idea that will actually change how you think about American politics. But Frances Lee is one of them. In her new book, Insecure Majorities, Lee makes a point that sounds strange when you hear it, but changes everything once you understand it.For most of American history, American politics has been under one-party rule. For decades, that party was the Republican Party. Then, for decades more, it was the Democratic Party. It’s only been in the past few decades that control of Congress has begun flipping back every few years, that presidential elections have become routinely decided by a few percentage points, that both parties are always this close to gaining or losing the majority.That kind of close competition, Lee shows, makes the daily compromises of bipartisan governance literally irrational. And politicians know it. Lee’s got the receipts."Confrontation fits our strategy,” Dick Cheney once said. "Polarization often has very beneficial results. If everything is handled through compromise and conciliation, if there are no real issues dividing us from the Democrats, why should the country change and make us the majority?”Why indeed? This is a conversation about that question, about how the system we have incentivizes a politics of confrontation we don’t seem to want and makes steady, stable governance a thing of the past.Book Recommendations:The Imprint of Congress by David R. MayhewFear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time by Ira KatznelsonCongress's Constitution: Legislative Authority and the Separation of Powers by Josh Chafetz
Sean Decatur is the president of Kenyon College and the first African-American to hold that job. He’s also one of the most thoughtful voices in the debate over free speech and political correctness on campus."Colleges and universities have been charged from their very origins to advance civility, and this has meant regulating student behavior on campus,” he says. "If anything, the approach taken earlier in history was far stricter than anything that 21st-century critics of higher education see as a product of 'political correctness.’” Decatur manages these conflicts as a college president, looks at them as a historian, and brings a perspective that’s unusually alert to the larger social context. As such, this is a conversation that begins in the fights over speech but quickly dives into more fundamental questions, like what kind of learnings we value, whose definitions of civility matter, what we ask colleges to teach, and what the role of the student has become.This debate often plays out with far less nuance than it deserves. Decatur's perspective is an antidote to that.Book Recommendations:Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education by Nathan D. GraweThe Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity by Kwame Anthony AppiahLab Girl by Hope Jahren
Cal Newport suspects you’re a digital maximalist — someone who believes that any potential for benefit is reason enough to start using a new technology. Don’t feel bad. That’s how most of us are. That’s how society teaches us to be.Newport wants us to become digital minimalists. He defines digital minimalism as “a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected activities … that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”Newport is making a bid to be the Marie Kondo of technology: someone with an actual plan for helping you realize the digital pursuits that do, and don’t, spark joy and bring value to your life. This is a conversation about becoming a digital minimalist: why to do it, how to do it, and what it might get you. Whether you want to try Newport’s whole plan or just pick and choose some good ideas from his buffet, there’s a lot in here that will help you find a healthier, more intentional approach to technology.Book Recommendations:The Technological Society by Jacques EllulMedieval Technology and Social Change by Lynn White
Eric Holder was attorney general during the first six years of Barack Obama’s presidency, and there are days when it feels like he’s the attorney general of Obama’s post-presidency, too. Holder chairs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a cause close enough to Obama’s heart that the ex-president recently folded his Organizing for America operation into it.
Holder calls the project “a partisan effort for good government,” a line rich with both the promise and problems of Obamaism. The NDRC doesn’t want to build a redistricting operation to match the GOP’s machine, they want to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians altogether. But critics worry that their organizing will work in blue states, fail in red states, and lead to Democrats unilaterally disarming in the redistricting wars.
In this conversation, Holder lays out his strategy to end redistricting and answers his critics. We discuss whether there’s still the possibility of a Supreme Court ruling on the subject, and what tools Democrats have in red states. We also revisit Holder’s famous “nation of cowards” speech on race, and discuss whether more bankers should’ve been sent to jail during the financial crisis. Enjoy!
An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917 - 1963 by Robert Dallek
The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes by Langston Hughes
1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History by Jay Winik
“Marc Andreessen famously said that ‘software is eating the world,’ but it’s far more accurate to say that the neoliberal values of software tycoons are eating the world,” wrote Anil Dash.
Dash’s argument caught my eye. But then, a lot of Dash’s arguments catch my eye. He’s one of the most perceptive interpreters and critics of the tech industry around these days. That’s in part because Dash is part of the world he’s describing: He’s the CEO of Glitch, the host of the excellent tech podcast Function, and a longtime developer and blogger.
In this conversation, Dash and I discuss his excellent list of the 12 things everyone should know about technology. This episode left me with an idea I didn’t have going in: What if the problem with a lot of the social technologies we use — and, lately, lament — isn’t the ethics of their creators or the revenue models they’re built on, but the sheer scale they’ve achieved? What if products like Facebook and Twitter and Google have just gotten too big and too powerful for anyone to truly understand, much less manage?
You know the topics that obsess me on this podcast. Polarization. Identity. Attention. I’ve come to believe that all of them are downstream from the technologies on which they rest. If you feel like society has gone a bit wrong, it’s likely because the internet has gone a bit wrong. And Dash’s arguments help explain why.
Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin by David Ritz
Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984 by Duane Tudahl
Jill Lepore is a Harvard historian, a New Yorker contributor, and the author of These Truths, a dazzling one-volume synthesis of American history. She’s the kind of history teacher everyone wishes they’d had, able to effortlessly connect the events and themes of American history to make sense of our past and clarify our present.
“The American Revolution did not begin in 1775 and it didn’t end when the war was over,” Lepore writes. This is a conversation about those revolutions. But more than that, it’s a conversation about who we are as a country, and how that self-definition is always contested and constantly in flux.
And beyond all that, Lepore is just damn fun to talk to. Every answer she gives has something worth chewing over for weeks. You’ll enjoy this one.
Fear Itself by Ira Katznelson
A Godly Hero by Michael Kazin
The Warmth of Other Sons by Isabel Wilkerson
This is the most fun I’ve ever had on a podcast. Nora Jemisin — better known by her pen name, N.K. Jemisin — won the Hugo Award for best novel this year for the third year in a row. No one had ever done that before. Jemisin is also the first author to have every book in a single series — her Broken Earth trilogy — win the Hugo for best novel, and the first black author to win a Hugo for best novel. She’s a badass. But what made this episode such a delight is it isn’t just a conversation. It’s a demonstration. Here, Jemisin takes me through the way she builds new worlds, and in doing, she offers a master class on how to think more rigorously, clearly, and thoroughly about our own world. Don’t miss it.
Here, at the holidays, I wanted to share some of my favorite episodes of the show with you. Bryan Stevenson tops the list. He’s the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, the author of the remarkable book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, a MacArthur genius, and so much more. There are some people you meet who seem like they’re operating on a higher plane of decency, grace, and thoughtfulness. Stevenson is one of them. His thoughts on justice, on poverty, on racism, and on shame have stayed with me ever since this conversation, and they’ll do the same for you.
When I decided to start an interview podcast, the first person I went to for advice was Kara Swisher — founder of Recode, host of the Code Conference and the Recode/Decode podcast, and one of the most legendary interviewers in the business. Since then, she’s been a guest on this show, and Vox and Recode have started up a partnership that’s given me the gift of working with her much more closely. Recently, Kara interviewed me in front of a live audience at Manny’s in San Francisco for Recode/Decode. We talked about the future of journalism, the culture of DC, and so much more. One of the secrets to Kara’s success as an interviewer is that even when she’s grilling you, no one is more fun to talk to, and that comes out in this conversation. Enjoy!
You know TED. Black stage, red accents, wireless mic, one speaker. Billions of views each year. TED is more than a conference now; it’s a meme: “Thanks for coming to my TED talk” closes Tumblr and Twitter posts. Chris Anderson is the guy that took TED from tiny conference to global juggernaut. Today, he’s TED’s chief curator and the host of the TED Interview podcast. But I wanted him on the show for something specific — his success with TED relied on answering two questions this podcast has left me obsessed with: 1. How do you convince an audience, or even yourself, to listen openly to what’s being said? 2. How do you find ideas, research, and activists that the media is otherwise overlooking? In this conversation, Anderson offers a visual I love: "the steel door of skepticism" that can slam down on us when we know we don't want to listen to what we're about to hear. How to get control of that door is a topic worth meditating on, and it's the focus of this podcast.
Katie Porter is the Rep.-elect from California’s 45th District, which happens to be the district I grew up in. She’s part of the brigade of Democrats who turned Orange County blue for the first time since the Great Depression. But that’s not why I asked her on the show. I asked her on the show because she’s one of the most interesting members of the incoming House majority. Porter grew up on an Iowa farm, watching the debt crises of the ’80s devastate her family and her region. At Harvard Law, she took the class of a particularly charismatic professor whom you might have heard of: Elizabeth Warren. That class changed Porter’s life. Porter’s academic work explores how rarely markets work the way they’re supposed to, and how often banks and other lenders play by different rules than the law says they need to. In 2012, then-state Attorney General Kamala Harris appointed Porter to be California’s independent monitor of banks, where she saw the lengths they went to to avoid abiding by the settlements they’d signed. In this conversation, Porter and I talk about how all this informed her path to Congress, why she thinks Americans are losing faith in capitalism, whether the Obama administration failed homeowners in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage collapse, and why lenders are always making you fax them documents (the answer is, honestly, infuriating). I know, I know, interviews with politicians are often a bit bland. Trust me. This isn’t one of those. Recommended books: Evicted by Matthew Desmond Denial by Jessica Stern Lonesome Dove Larry McMurtry Notes from our sponsors:LEGO: In today's show you heard advertising content from The LEGO Store. With LEGO, every gift has a story. Start your story today at https://LEGO.build/EKS-Pop
In Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj’s new Netflix show, he does three things political comedians often don’t do. First, he makes political comedy personal. Second, he makes it visual. And third, he makes it last. Minhaj was the last correspondent hired by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. Since then, he’s hosted the 2017 White House Correspondents Dinner, debuted the critically-acclaimed special Homecoming King, and now, with the new show, he’s creating a unique space in the post-Stewart world. In this conversation, we talk about what Minhaj learned from Stewart, what political comedians owe their audiences, and whether creativity requires safe spaces. We also nerd out on process: how he writes his jokes, the difficulty of knowing what you actually think amidst so much noise and so many takes, and how it changes the editorial process when you know people will be watching what you produce a year from now. And most importantly, I force Minhaj to answer for his many, many slurs against my beloved UC Santa Cruz. This is definitely a conversation: Minhaj turns the tables on me more than once. And don’t miss the end, when Minhaj explains his three favorite stand-up specials. Learn more about show sponsors, HERE.
“What a society finds offensive is not a function of fact or truth,” writes Adam Serwer, “but of power.” Serwer is a writer at the Atlantic, and he’s been looking at the identity politics and political correctness debates from a direction that’s too often ignored. What do identity politics look like when they’re white identity politics? What does political correctness look like when the people enforcing it have so much power that no one dares dispute the boundaries on speech? In general, the debate over identity politics and political correctness is a debate over how those terms apply to the priorities of traditionally marginalized groups. Applying those ideas to the priorities of traditionally powerful groups casts the conversation — and American history — in a whole new light. Recommended books: The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter Black Reconstruction in America by W.E.B. DuBois Strangers in the Land by John Hingham
“To have a self is to feel as if we are, in the words of neuroscientist Professor Chris Frith, the ‘invisible actor at the centre of the world’.” That’s Will Storr, writing in his fantastic book Selfie. Ignore the very of-the-moment title. Storr dives deep into the cultural, evolutionary, and psychological construction of that thing that feels to us like our self, but is not actually ours, and is not a single thing. This is a mind-bending conversation that should, truly, change your understanding of your self. Definitely in the top five EK Show episodes to listen to stoned. ––– Recommended books: You Could Do Something Amazing with Your Life [You Are Raoul Moat] by Andrew Hankinson The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville Personality by Daniel Nettle ––– Notes from our sponsors:LEGO: In today's show you heard advertising content from The LEGO Store. With LEGO, every gift has a story. Start your story today at https://LEGO.build/EKS-Pop
Here are two things I believe. First, the way we treat the animals we kill for food is shameful. Second, only a tiny percentage of the population will go vegetarian or vegan and stay that way, at least until lab-grown meat gets a lot better.
The middle ground is treating the animals we kill for food more humanely. Take fish. In the United States, most of the fish we eat die by slowly suffocating to death on the deck of a boat, struggling for air. That’s horrendously cruel — and it makes for acidic, rubbery, smelly food.
There’s a better way. And in this episode of Dylan Matthews’s Future Perfect, he explores it. This podcast is also a powerful example of living your deepest values. Dylan is a vegetarian because he cares about animal suffering, but because reducing suffering is what he cares about most, he’s willing to go to a place vegetarianism alone could never have taken him. I can’t recommend it enough.
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Notes from our sponsors:LEGO: In today's show you heard advertising content from The LEGO Store. With LEGO, every gift has a story. Start your story today at https://LEGO.build/EKS-Ship
This is a conversation I’ve been putting off, if I’m being honest. I can’t hold it from the safe space of journalistic distance. It’s about the strange, vulnerable space that many Jews, myself included, find themselves in today. The first part of this conversation is about being Jewish at a time of rising anti-Semitism in the Western world. The October massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue was the worst act of anti-Semitic violence ever committed on American soil. In 2017, Charlottesville, Virginia, protesters waved torches while chanting “Jews will not replace us.” It’s often said that anti-Semitism is a light sleeper. It feels like it’s stirring. The second, and separate, part of this conversation is about Israel. The peace movement in the Jewish state has collapsed, and the country has decided a repressive illiberalism is the best guarantor of safety. They’ve found plenty of allies on the American right for that project, but it’s one that shreds the humanistic and pluralistic ideals that many diaspora Jews, myself included, believe in. All of this is coming at a time that has reminded many of us of the core lessons of Judaism: the importance of remembering what it’s like to be a stranger in a strange land, of knowing that bigotry takes whatever forms it requires to justify itself, of maintaining humanity amid struggle. Peter Beinart is an associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York. He’s also a columnist at the Atlantic and the Forward, a CNN contributor, and author of The Crisis of Zionism. He’s a thoughtful and courageous writer on these issues, and I’m grateful he joined me for this conversation. Recommended books: Covenant & Conversation series by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Spiritual Radical: Abraham Joshua Heschel in America by Edward Kaplan The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz
Jonathan Haidt is a psychologist at New York University and the co-founder of Heterodox University. His book The Righteous Mind, which describes the different moral frameworks that animate the left and the right, was a key influence on my work. But these days, Haidt is worried about something new.
"Teen anxiety, depression, and suicide rates have risen sharply in the last few years," he writes in The Coddling of the American Mind, co-authored with Greg Lukianoff. "The culture on many college campuses has become more ideologically uniform, compromising the ability of scholars to seek truth, and of students to learn from a broad range of thinkers."
The kids, in other words, aren't all right. Haidt sees a generation warped by overparenting and smartphones and flirting with illiberalism. He worries over a culture of "safetyism" that confuses disagreement with violence. He sees political correctness on campus as a threat not just to speakers' incomes, but to students' psyches.
I often find myself a skeptic in this conversation. The panic over campus activism seems overblown to me. It's suffused with bad-faith efforts to nationalize isolated examples of college kids behaving badly in order to discredit serious critiques of social injustice. But that's why I wanted to have Haidt on the show: If anyone could convince me I'm wrong about this, it'd be him.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
The Authoritarian Dynamic by Karen Stenner
Notes from our sponsors:LEGO: In today's show you heard advertising content from The LEGO Store. With LEGO, every gift has a story. Start your story today at https://LEGO.build/EKS-Pop
For Thanksgiving listening, I have an episode of The Impact, from my Weeds co-host Sarah Kliff. The Impact is a show about how policy shapes our lives. This season, Sarah and her team are focusing on the most exciting, innovative ideas at the state and local level. They crisscrossed the country and found that state and local officials are trying to fix some of our country’s biggest problems: campaign finance, affordable housing, educational inequality, and more. This episode focuses on immigration. While the federal government is trying to deport as many immigrants as possible, Oakland, California, is running a policy experiment to help immigrants stay in their communities. Immigrants have no constitutional right to attorneys in immigration court, but Oakland is giving as many immigrants as possible attorneys in court, free of charge. In this episode, find out how Oakland pulls this off when the federal government is against it — and how immigrants’ lives change when they get representation. Find The Impact on Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Overcast | ART19
The midterm elections are being interpreted almost entirely as a referendum on President Donald Trump. But it was also a referendum on Paul Ryan’s speakership, which drove Trump’s domestic policy agenda, and Nancy Pelosi’s opposition strategy. In its aftermath, the two parties need to work through a very different question. How do Republicans understand the failure of Ryan’s brief speakership, which managed to betray key promises (like cutting the debt) while crafting an agenda so unpopular that House Democrats ran more ads about Ryan’s plans than Trump’s words? On the Democratic side, Pelosi’s strategy won the day — but she’s still facing significant opposition from within her caucus. She’ll likely be the next speaker of the House, but what kind of speaker will she be? How will her style have to change for this era in the Democratic Party? Molly Ball is Time’s national political correspondent and one of the sharpest analysts, and best reporters, around today. I always feel like I have a much better handle on the deep forces of American politics after talking to her, and this conversation was no exception.
Here’s a fun fact: The best training for understanding the president’s media strategy is to have studied internet trolls for years and years. Okay, maybe that fact wasn’t so fun. Maybe it’s incredibly depressing. At any rate, Whitney Phillips did exactly that. She was one of the earliest scholars of online trolling (yes, that’s a job). She was studying trolling when it was a tiny sideshow. And she was there, studying it, as online trolling got amplified by algorithmic platforms and a click-hungry media. As Gamergate made it a political movement. Then, most importantly, she was there, watching, as the media manipulation tactics that she had seen perfected by the trolls became the playbook for how Trump controls the media’s agenda, and the national conversation. I’m in the media. I’m inside this machine looking out. It can be hard, from inside, to understand what the hell is happening. But Phillips is outside the machine looking in. And she understands, better than anyone I’ve talked to, what’s gone wrong, and how hard it will be to fix. Recommended books: Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Noble Custodians of the Internet by Tarleton Gillespie