The Ezra Klein Show on Smash Notes

The Ezra Klein Show podcast.

December 28, 2019

Ezra Klein brings you far-reaching conversations about hard problems, big ideas, illuminating theories, and cutting-edge research. Want to know how Mark Zuckerberg intends to govern Facebook? What Barack Obama regrets in Obamacare? The dangers Yuval Harari sees in our future? What Michael Pollan learned on psychedelics? The lessons Bryan Stevenson learned freeing the wrongly convicted on death row? The way N.K. Jemisin imagines new worlds? This is the podcast for you. Produced by Vox and the Vox Media Podcast Network.



Recently updated notes

Melinda Gates is the co-founder and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the United States. With more than $40 billion in assets, the Gates Foundation works on a dizzying array of issues, from eradicating polio to feeding the world to treating HIV to stopping climate change to reforming the US education system.

Gates has also been working, in recent years, on increasing diversity in the technology industry. “If you [only] have products created by white guys in their 20s, you’re gonna miss the mark,” she says.

I sat down with Gates at South by Southwest for an interview that covered a lot of ground. We talked, among other things, about bioterrorism, comic sans, climate change, the culture of Silicon Valley, the Damore memo about gender and technology, the future of food, the problems money can and can’t solve, what makes America culturally distinct, and more.

Books:

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

Updated on May 15

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I first met Cyrus Habib at a conference a few years ago. You don't forget him. He's a Rhodes scholar. Iranian-America. As lieutenant governor of Washington state, he was the youngest Democrat elected to statewide office in the country. And he's blind.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I read a piece in the New York Times that I didn't expect: Habib, who had a clear shot to be the next governor of Washington, is leaving politics to become a Jesuit. He is going to take a vow of obedience, of poverty, of chastity. He is going to give up his phone for years. And most fascinating of all, he doesn’t think of it as an act of sacrifice. “I don’t see it as a shrinking of my world,” he told the Times. "I see it as a shrinking of my self.”

That is not something you read every day. So I asked Habib if he would come on the podcast and talk to me about this decision. The result is a remarkable conversation about Habib’s intertwining faith and political journeys, what you can and can’t achieve through political service, whether religion is the modern counterculture, how the forces of meritocracy and achievement ensnare even their winners, what it means to lead a life of joy, whether freedom comes through choice or constraint, the Jesuit theory of social change, whether a decision like this is selfish or selfless, and so much more.

This conversation takes a bit of a winding path. But where it goes is really, really worth it.

Book recommendations:
The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin
Tattoos on the Heart by Greg Boyle
Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon
Laudato Si' by Pope Francis

Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas.
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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I’ve known Cornell economist Robert Frank for almost 15 years. And for as long as I’ve known him, Frank has been trying to convince his fellow economists of an idea that’s simple to state, but radical in its implications: social pressure is a fundamental economic force. We are not rational, individual economic agents; we are social animals trying to mimic, and best each other — oftentimes without even knowing it. The failure of the economics profession to see this is, in Frank's view, a crime against public policy.
Frank’s new book, Under the Influence: Putting Peer Pressure to Work, came out shortly before coronavirus reshaped daily life. But it is, for that very reason, extraordinarily timed: it’s an effort to show that the economics of social contagion could reshape the world, solving our hardest problems — from climate change to income inequality — and offering new ways to think about the power we have as individuals. Absent coronavirus, its argument might’ve seemed abstract, optimistic. But now we've seen it happen.
We are watching a version of Frank’s thesis play out right now, in real time. In the wake of coronavirus, social pressure has driven perhaps the single fastest behavioral transformation in human history. It is the example and pressure we face from each other that has made social distancing so effective, so fast. And if social pressure can do that — what else can it do?
What Frank offers here is a theory of how public policy can shape peer pressure for good and for bad. Some of the ideas in this podcast — "expenditure cascades," "positional goods" — are hard to unsee once you see them. Others — like his proposal to rebuild the tax system around a progressive consumption tax meant to curb the intra-wealthy competitions that drive inequality — would radically reshape vast swaths of the tax code.
Book recommendations:
The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells
Micromotives and Macrobehavior by Thomas Schelling
"How to solve climate change and make life more awesome" with Saul Griffith (podcast)

Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas.
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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Grocery store clerks. Fast food cashiers. Hospice care workers. Bus drivers. Farm workers. Along with doctors and nurses, these are the people who are putting their own lives at risk to keep our society functioning day in and out amid the worst crisis of our lifetimes. We call them heroes, we label them “essential,” we clap for their brave efforts, even though none of them signed up for this monumental task. And many of them lack basic healthcare, paid sick leave, a living wage, cultural respect and dignified working conditions. 
How did things get this way? Why did we end up with an economy that treats our most essential workers as disposable? And what does an alternative future of work look like? 
Mary Kay Henry is the president of the Service Employees International Union, a 2 million person organization that represents a huge segment of America’s essential workers. If you ask a traditional economist why essential workers are paid so little, they’ll talk about marginal productivity and returns to education; ask Kay Henry and she’ll talk about something very different: power.
Book recommendations:
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Lead from the Outside by Stacey Abrams
The Dowry by Lorraine Paolucci Macchello

Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas.
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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The Times of London called Mariana Mazzucato “the world’s scariest economist.” Quartz describes her as “on a mission to save capitalism from itself.” Wired says she has “a plan to fix capitalism,” and warns that “it’s time we all listened.
”Mazuccato is an economist at University College London and Founder and Director of UCL's Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. She’s the author of The Entrepreneurial State and The Value of Everything — two books that, together, critique some of the most fundamental economic assumptions of our time, and try and chart a different path forward.
This is a moment that demands critique. The workers who are being called “essential” now were treated as disposable before — paid low wages, offered little respect. The difference between states with innovative, capable public sectors and states where government agencies have been dismissed and defunded is on terrible display. 
The debates Mazzucato has been trying to open for years are now unavoidable. So let’s have them.

Book recommendations:
Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar 
The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas.
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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While you read these words, the universe is splitting into countless copies. New realities, all with a version of you, exactly like you are now, but journeying off into their own branch of the multiverse.
Maybe.
Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at CalTech, the host of the Mindscape podcast, and author of, among other books, Something Deeply Hidden, which blew my mind a bit. He is also a believer in, and defender of, the “many-worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics, which has to be one of the five most fun things in the world to think about. Science!
This is a conversation where I get to do something I’ve always wanted to do: Ask a real quantum physicist all of my questions about quantum physics. And then ask again, when I don’t understand the answer, which I usually don’t. And then again, when I sort of understand, but there’s still a part tripping me up. Carroll is wonderfully patient and beautifully clear, and the result is a conversation I haven’t stopped telling friends about since I had it. This world sucks right now. Let’s think about some other ones.

References:
The Biggest Ideas in the Universe! YouTube series
Book recommendations:
How Physics Makes Us Free by J. T. Ismael
How the Universe Got Its Spots by Janna Levin
The Calculus Diaries by Jennifer Ouellette

Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas.
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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In Michigan, African Americans represent 14 percent of the population, 33 percent of infections, and 40 percent of deaths. In Mississippi they represent 38 percent of the population, 56 percent of infections, and 66 percent of deaths. In Georgia they represent 16 percent of the population, 31 percent of infections, and just over 50 percent of deaths. The list goes on and on: Across the board, African Americans are more likely to be infected by Covid-19 and far more likely to die from it.
This doesn’t reflect a property of the virus. It reflects a property of our society. Understanding why the coronavirus is brutalizing black America means understanding the health inequalities that predate it.
For the last 25 years, David R. Williams, a professor of public health and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has been studying those inequalities. He was named one of the top 10 most-cited social scientists in the world from 1995 to 2005, and Reuters ranked him as one of the “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” in 2014.
At the center of Williams’s work is an attempt to grapple with some of the most difficult and sensitive questions in public: Why do black Americans have higher rates of chronic illness, disease, and mortality than white Americans? Why do those disparities remain even when you control for variables like income and education?
Consider this: The life expectancy gap between a white high school dropout and a black high school dropout? 3½ years. Between a white college graduate and a black college graduate? 4.2 years.
In this conversation, Williams doesn’t just give the clearest account I’ve heard of the coronavirus’s unequal toll. He also gives the clearest account of how America’s institutional and social structures have led to the most profound and consequential inequality of all.
References:
"Are Ghettos Good or Bad" by David Cutler and Edward Glaeser
David Williams's Ted Talk on racism and health
Book recommendations:
American Apartheid by Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton
The Highest Stage of White Supremacy by John Whitson Cell
The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas.
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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One of my favorite episodes of this show was my conversation with Jenny Odell, just under a year ago. Odell, a visual artist, writer, and Stanford lecturer, had just released her book How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy and we had a fascinating conversation about the importance of maintenance work, the problem with ceaseless productivity, the forces vying for our attention, the comforts of nature, and so much more. 

A lot has changed since then. Odell’s book became a sensation: it captured a cultural moment, made it onto Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2019 list and became, for many, a touchstone. And then, a global pandemic hit, radically altering the world in ways that made the core themes of Odell’s work more prescient, and more difficult. What happens when, instead of choosing to “do nothing,” doing nothing is forced upon you? What happens when all you have access to is nature? What happens when the work of maintenance becomes not just essential, but also dangerous?

So I asked Odell back, for a very different conversation in a very different time. This isn’t a conversation, really, about fixing the world right now. It’s about living in it, and what that feels like. It’s about the role of art in this moment, why we undervalue the most important work in our society, how to have collective sympathy in a moment of fractured suffering, where to find beauty right now, the tensions of productivity, the melting of time, our reckoning with interdependence, and much more. 

And, at the end, Odell offers literally my favorite book recommendation ever on this show. And no, it’s not for my book. 

Book recommendations:
Give People Money by Annie Lowrey
Lurking: How a Person Became a User by Joanne McNeil
What It's Like to Be a Bird by David Allen Sibley

References:
My previous conversation with Jenny Odell on the art of attention
"The Myth of Self-Reliance" by Jenny Odell, The Paris Review
"I tried to write an essay about productivity in quarantine. It took me a month to do it." by Constance Grady, Vox
The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman

Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas.
The Ezra Klein Show is a finalist for a Webby! Make sure to vote at https://bit.ly/TEKS-webby
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is the co-chair of the 95-member House Progressive Caucus. That means, in the aftermath of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, she leads the most influential bloc of progressive power in the federal government. And one thing that separates Jayapal from other elected officials: She’s actually willing to talk about it.
I know some of you skip over episodes with politicians because they’re interviews, not conversations. This one is a conversation, and it’s broadly about two things.
First, how do we prevent a Great Depression? In particular, Jayapal has a bill — the Paycheck Guarantee Act — that would replace payroll up to incomes of $100,000 for businesses slammed by Covid-19. And if it sounds wishful to you, recalibrate: It’s been endorsed by Nobel prize-winning economists, a former Federal Reserve chair, and more. And there’s even Republican support for the broad idea. 
Second, how does the left wield power? Are Democrats getting rolled by Republicans on stimulus? Why doesn’t the House Progressive Caucus act more like the Freedom Caucus? What leverage do Democrats or progressives have, and why don’t they seem willing to use it in the way Republicans do? I wasn’t sure if Jayapal would actually answer my questions here — most politicians don’t — but she did, and the result is an unusually frank discussion about how the left does, and doesn’t, wield power in Congress.
Book recommendations:
The Book of Joy by Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and Douglas Carlton Abrams
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen 
The Rumi Collection by Kabir Helminski

Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas.
The Ezra Klein Show is a finalist for a Webby! Make sure to vote at https://bit.ly/TEKS-webby
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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The coronavirus is “a nightmare scenario” for media, wrote New York Times columnist Charlie Warzel. “It is stealthy, resilient and confounding to experts. It moves far faster than scientists can study it. What seems to be true today may be wrong tomorrow.”
Warzel is right. We’ve talked a lot in recent years about fake news. But combatting information we know is false is a straightforward problem compared to covering a story where we don’t know what’s true, and where yesterday’s expert consensus becomes tomorrow’s derided falsehoods. In these cases, the normal tools of journalism begin to fail, and trust is easily lost.
There’s been a lot of criticism of what the media missed in the run-up to coronavirus. Some of it has been unfair. But some of it demands attention, reflection, and change. There’s also a lot the media got right, and those successes need to be celebrated and learned from. The questions raised here are hard, and go to one of the trickiest issues in journalism: how does a profession that prides itself on reporting truth cover the world probabilistically? What do we do when we simply can't know what's true, and when some of what we think we know might become untrue?
Warzel covers the way technology, information, and media interact with and change each other. He’s one of the people I turn to first when I’m churning over these questions, which is…not infrequent. And so what you’re going to hear in this podcast is a bit different than the normal fare: this is less an interview-with-an-expert, and more the kind of conversation that I — and others in the media — am having a lot of right now, and that I think we at least need to try and have in public. 
References:
What went wrong with the media’s coronavirus coverage? by Peter Kafka, Recode
What we pretend to know about the coronavirus could kill us, by Charlie Warzel, NYT
Book recommendations:
The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener
If you enjoyed this episode, check out:
Is the media amplifying Trump's racism? (with Whitney Phillips)

Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas.
The Ezra Klein Show is a finalist for a Webby! Make sure to vote at https://bit.ly/TEKS-webby
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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In 2015, I asked Bill Gates a simple question: What are you most afraid of? 
He replied by telling me about the death chart of the 20th century. There’s the spike for World War I. The spike for World War II. But between them sat a spike as big as World War II. That, he said, was the Spanish Flu, which killed an estimated 65 million people. Gates’s greatest fear was a flu like that, ripping through our hyperglobalized world. 
Gates saw this coming, and he tried to warn the world. But the virus came, and we weren’t ready. Now, we all live in his nightmare. 
Gates has reoriented his foundation and committed hundreds of millions of dollars to the world’s fight against coronavirus. He recently published a long essay detailing what we know and don’t know about the disease, and what we need to invent and deploy to safely return to normalcy.
I spoke with Gates to explore those questions, plus a few more. What does it feel like to be at the center of so many coronavirus conspiracy theories? What happens if we reopen too soon? Why are different cities seeing such different outcomes? Do rich and poor countries need different responses? What are the true chances of a vaccine in 18 months?
But above all, I wanted to ask him the inverse of the question I asked him in 2015: what does he hope for? What is his vision for life after coronavirus?
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It’s been a while since I’ve been able to introduce a conversation on this show as fun. But this one was. I needed it. Maybe you do, too.
Madeline Miller has written some of my favorite novels of the past few years. Her books — the Orange Prize-winning The Song of Achilles and the New York Times No. 1 bestseller Circe, soon to be an HBO series — are brilliant reimaginings of some of the most revered texts in the Western canon. Miller’s also a trained classicist, a Shakespeare director, a Latin teacher, and a Greek mythology obsessive. 
This is a conversation about story and myth, about how our conceptions of godliness and human nature have changed, about the difficulty of translation and the resonance of superheroes. We debate whether Achilles is the worst and agree that anyone who loves language should read Sandra Boynton. Miller reveals how to train yourself to write a beautiful sentence and how to steel yourself to tell the stories you burn to see but that the canon has wiped out. And we discuss what character from the Greek canon most resembles President Donald Trump.
This one was a tonic for me. Hopefully, it will be for you, too.
Book recommendations: 
The Odyssey by Homer (translated by Emily Wilson)
Mythos by Stephen Fry
Heroes by Stephen Fry 
If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho by Anne Carson
Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson
Mythology by Edith Hamilton 

New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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We have something a bit different today. Two episodes from our extraordinary colleagues at Today, Explained, both of them close to my heart. 
The first is an episode that I worked with them on, and appear in: The Loneliness Pandemic. It’s about the social consequences of social distancing, and the toll that isolation and loneliness takes on our health. It's about how the people most vulnerable to isolation are being told to quarantine, and what that will do to their lives. And it's about what the rest of us can do to help.
The second is simply one of the best, most important podcast episodes I’ve heard in ages: It’s about how we’re treating the same workers we call “essential” as disposable, endangering them and their families, and calling them heroes even as we refuse to give them raises. And it's about the possibility — and historical precedent — for labor action in this moment, to make sure essential workers are treated as essential. Do not miss it. And if you’re lucky enough to be working from home, think about what you can do to stand in solidarity with those making your safety possible. 
You can, and should, subscribe to "Today, Explained," wherever you get your podcasts. 
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The Democratic presidential primary is over. Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee heading into the fall. And this week, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren endorsed their former competitor.
On the left, the question is: What went wrong? How did Sanders lose to Biden? Why didn’t Warren catch fire? But too few of these postmortems have had sufficient data to build out their theories. And too many of them explain away strategic and tactical failures as media or establishment conspiracies.
Sean McElwee has a different perspective. McElwee is the co-founder and executive director of Data for Progress, an organization that utilizes cutting-edge polling and data-analysis techniques to support progressive causes. His aim is to fashion an agenda that is both progressive and popular. But he also sits atop mountains of data that let him test hypotheses with a lot more rigor than most armchair pundits.
As a result, McElwee has a fascinating, heterodox view of the 2020 primary, the Sanders and Warren campaigns, and what it will take for progressives to build power. We discuss the critical mistakes both major progressive candidates made, which progressive ideas are most popular with the American people, how the left’s theory of class politics interferes with its most obvious path to electoral victory, why maximalist policy agendas fail even when they look like they’re succeeding, what good (and bad) Overton Window politics look like, how progressives can shape Biden’s presidency, and much, much more.
References:
How Joe Biden won over Bernie Sanders — and the Democratic Party by Ezra Klein
Book Recommendations:
Deep Roots: How Slavery Still Shapes Southern Politics by Maya Sen

Confused about coronavirus? Here’s a list of the articles, papers, and podcasts we’ve found most useful.
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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When will social distancing end? When will life return to “normal”? And what will it take to get there? 
Scott Gottlieb is a physician and public health expert who served as Donald Trump’s first FDA commissioner, where he was the rare Trump appointee to win plaudits from both the left and the right. Now he’s a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute where he’s emerged as a leading voice on the coronavirus response. 
Gottlieb is one of the lead authors of a comprehensive roadmap for what it would take to end social distancing and reopen the American economy. The report divides coronavirus response into four distinct phases (we are currently in phase one, which requires the strictest social distancing measures) and documents key “triggers” that states need to meet if they want to advance to a phase with less intense social distancing and a somewhat normal economy. It’s exactly what we need right now: a specific proposal for what comes next that we can actually analyze and debate. 
Two themes drive this conversation. First, what are the challenges to simply getting out of lockdown? Why don’t we have enough tests yet? What’s stopping us from making more? And second, what does the world look like out of lockdown but before we get to a vaccine? What’s being imagined here isn’t a return to normal, either socially or economically, but a kind of limbo that it’s not clear we have the political will to sustain and that has few answers for the most vulnerable among us. 
For more on this topic, I looked at not just the AEI plan but three others for this piece. I thought immersing myself in the plans to reopen the economy would be some comfort. Boy, was I wrong. 

Resources:
"I’ve read the plans to reopen the economy. They’re scary." by Ezra Klein, Vox
The Weeds - How does this end?

Confused about coronavirus? Here’s a list of the articles, papers, and podcasts we’ve found most useful.
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Oxford philosopher Toby Ord spent the early part of his career spearheading the effective altruism movement, founding Giving What We Can, and focusing his attention primarily on issue areas like global public health and extreme poverty. Ord’s new book The Precipice is about something entirely different: the biggest existential risks to the future of humanity. In it, he predicts that humanity has approximately a 1 in 6 chance of going completely extinct by the end of the 21st century.
Wait! Stay with me!
The coronavirus pandemic is a reminder that tail risk is real. We always knew a zoological respiratory virus could become a global pandemic. But, collectively, we didn’t want to think about it, and so we didn’t. The result is the reality we live in now. 
But for all the current moment’s horror, there are worse risks than coronavirus out there. One silver lining of the current crisis might be that it gets us to take them seriously, and avert them before they become unstoppable. That’s what Ord’s book is about, and it is, in a strange way, a comfort. 
This, then, is a conversation about the risks that threaten humanity’s future, and what we can do about them. It’s a conversation about thinking in probabilities, about the ethics of taking future human lives seriously, about how we weigh the risks we don’t yet understand. And it’s a conversation, too, about something I’ve been dwelling on watching President Trump choose to ratchet up tensions with China amidst a pandemic: Is Trump himself an existential risk, or at least an existential risk factor?
Book recommendations:
Reasons and Persons by Derek Parfit
Doing Good Better by William MacAskill
Maps of Time by David Christian and William H. McNeill
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In January, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was the first presidential candidate to release a plan for combatting coronavirus. In March, she released a second plan. Days later, with the scale of economic damage increasing, she released a third. Warren’s proposals track the spread of the virus: from a problem happening elsewhere and demanding a surge in global health resources to a pandemic happening here, demanding not just a public health response, but an all-out effort to save the US economy.
Warren’s penchant for planning stands in particular stark contrast to this administration, which still has not released a clear coronavirus plan. There is no document you can download, no web site you can visit, that details our national strategy to slow the disease and rebuild the economy. 
So I asked Warren to return to the show to explain what the plan should be, given the cold reality we face. We discussed what, specifically, the federal government should do; the roots of the testing debacle; her idea for mobilizing the economy around building affordable housing; why she thinks that this is exactly the right time to cancel student loan debt; why America spends so much money preparing for war and so little defending itself against pandemics and climate change; whether she thinks the Democratic primary focused on the wrong issues; and how this crisis is making a grim mockery of Ronald Reagan’s old saw about “the scariest words in the English language.”

Confused about coronavirus? Here’s a list of the articles, papers, and podcasts we’ve found most useful.
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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There is no doubt that social distancing is the best way to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But the efficacy of social distancing (or really any other public health measure) relies on something much deeper and harder to measure: social solidarity.

 “Solidarity,” writes Eric Klinenberg, “motivates us to promote public health, not just our own personal security. It keeps us from hoarding medicine, toughing out a cold in the workplace or sending a sick child to school. It compels us to let a ship of stranded people dock in our safe harbors, to knock on our older neighbor’s door.”

Klinenberg, a sociologist by trade, is the director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. His first book, Heat Wave, found that social connection was, at times, literally the difference between life and death during Chicago's 1995 heat wave. Since then, he’s spent his career studying trends in American social life, from the rise of adults living alone to the importance of “social infrastructure” in holding together our civic bonds.
 
This conversation is about what happens when a country mired in a mythos of individualism collides with a pandemic that demands social solidarity and collective sacrifice. It’s about preventing an epidemic of loneliness and social isolation from overwhelming the most vulnerable among us. We discuss the underlying social trends that predated coronavirus, what kind of leadership it takes to actually bring people together, the irony of asking young people and essential workers to sacrifice for the rest of us, whether there’s an opportunity to build a different kind of society in the aftermath of Covid-19, and much more.

References 
Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg 
Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life by Eric Klinenberg 
“We Need Social Solidarity, Not Just Social Distancing” by Eric Klinenberg
“Marriage has become a trophy” by Andrew Cherlin 

Book recommendations: 
Infections and Inequalities by Paul Farmer 
Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Hochschild 
A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit 
The Division of Labor in Society by Emile Dukheim 

Confused about coronavirus? Here’s a list of the articles, papers, and podcasts we’ve found most useful.
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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The COVID-19 pandemic is a grim reminder that the worst really can happen. Tail risk is real risk. Political leaders fumble, miscalculate, and bluster into avoidable disaster. And even as we try to deal with this catastrophe, the seeds of another are sprouting.

The US-China relationship will define geopolitics in the 21st century. If we collapse into rivalry, conflict, and politically opportunistic nationalism, the results could be hellish. And we are, right now, collapsing into rivalry, conflict, and politically opportunistic nationalism. 

The Trump administration, and key congressional Republicans, are calling COVID-19 “the Chinese virus,” and trying to gin up tensions to distract from their domestic failures. Chinese government officials, beset by their own domestic problems, are claiming the US military brought the virus to China. The US-China relationship was in a bad way six months ago, but this is a new level of threat.

Evan Osnos covers the US-China relationship for the New Yorker, and is author of the National Book Award winner, The Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China. In this conversation, we discuss the past, present and future of the US-China relationship. What are the chances of armed conflict? What might deescalation look like? And we know what the US wants — what, in truth, does China want?

Book recommendations:
Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China by Alec Ash
The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom by John Pomfret

Confused about coronavirus? Here’s a list of the articles, papers, and podcasts we’ve found most useful.
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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"We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself!"
That was President Donald Trump, this week, explaining why he was thinking about lifting coronavirus guidelines earlier than public-health experts recommended. The "cure," in this case, is social distancing, and the mass economic stoppage it forces. The problem, of course, is COVID-19, and the millions of deaths it could cause.
This is a debate that needs to be taken seriously. Slowing coronavirus will impose real costs, and immense suffering, on society. Are those costs worth it? This is the most important public policy question right now. And if the discussion isn't had well, then it will be had, as we're already seeing, poorly, and dangerously.
I wanted to take up this question from two different angles. The first dimension is economic: Are we actually facing a choice between lives and economic growth? If we ceased social distancing, could we sustain a normal economy amidst a raging virus? Jason Furman, professor of the practice of economic policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School and President Obama's former chief economist, joins me for that discussion.
But the economy isn't everything. What is a moral framework we can us when faced with this kind of question? So, in the second half of this show, I talk to Dr. Ruth Faden, the founder of the Berman Institute for Bioethics at Johns Hopkins.
And then, at the end, I offer some thoughts on my own on the frightening moment we're living through, and the kind of political and social leadership it demands.
Confused about coronavirus? Here’s a list of the articles, papers, and podcasts we’ve found most useful.
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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“What is happening,” writes Annie Lowrey, “is a shock to the American economy more sudden and severe than anyone alive has ever experienced.”  
It’s also different from what anyone alive has ever experienced. For many of us, the Great Recession is the closest analogue — but it’s not analogous at all. There, the economy’s potential was unchanged, but financial markets were in crisis. Here, we are purposefully freezing economic activity in order to slow a public health crisis. Early data suggests the economic crisis is going to far exceed any single week or quarter of the financial crisis. Multiple economists have told me that the nearest analogy to what we’re going through is the economy during World War II.
I have a secret advantage when trying to understand moments of economic upheaval. I’m married to Annie Lowrey. I can give you the bio — staff writer at the Atlantic, author of Give People Money (which is proving particularly prophetic and influential right now) — but suffice to say she’s one of the clearest and most brilliant economic thinkers I know. Her viral piece on the affordability crisis is crucial for understanding what the economy really looked like before Covid-19, and she’s been doing some of the best work on the way Covid-19 will worsen the economic problems we had and create a slew of new ones.
But this isn’t just a conversation about crisis. It’s also a conversation about how to respond. I wouldn’t call it hopeful — we’re not there yet. But constructive. (edited) 
References:
"The Great Affordability Crisis Breaking America" by Annie Lowrey
If you enjoyed this episode, check out:
"Fix recessions by giving people money," with Claudia Sahm, The Weeds
Book recommendations:
Severance by Ling Ma
Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham
Crashed by Adam Tooze
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Ron Klain served as the chief of staff to vice-presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden. In 2014, he was tapped by President Barack Obama to lead the administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. He successfully oversaw a hellishly complex effort preparing domestically for an outbreak and surging health resources onto another continent to contain the disease.

But Klain — who co-hosts the podcast "Epidemic" — is quick to say that coronavirus is a harder challenge even than Ebola. And it’s not just the disease. The economy is in freefall. Entire cities have been told to shelter in place. There’s no telling how long any of this will last. In this conversation, Klain answers my questions about the disease and how both governments and individuals should respond to it, as well as questions many of you submitted. We discuss:

How to change the virus’s reproduction and fatality rates

Why public health experts plan backwards from health system capacity, not forward from infections

What it means to “flatten the curve,” and why it’s a mistake to think of the curve as singular 

What we miss when we shame people into social distancing

The difference between “social distancing” and “self-quarantine”

Why the "patience" of the virus means we're going to be social distancing for a long time to come

What the Trump administration needed to do earlier, and what they still can do now

The testing debacle

What it would take to surge healthcare capacity in the US — and how fast we could potentially do it 

The economic policy necessary to make social distancing possible

What kind of economic rescue package Klain, who helped manage the 2009 stimulus, thinks is needed now

The strengths and weaknesses of America’s particular health care system in responding to a pandemic like this one

Whether coronavirus is showing authoritarian systems perform better than liberal(ish) democracies

What Joe Biden is like in a crisis

The difference between how Obama and Biden run meetings

What Klain thinks Bernie Sanders has gotten right in his response

And much more. I’ve been covering coronavirus nonstop and this is one of the clearest, most useful conversations I’ve had. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the clarity of Klain’s analysis will help.

New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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The Bernie Sanders campaign is an organizing tour-de-force relative to the Joe Biden campaign; yet the latter has won primary after primary — with even higher turnouts than 2016. So does organizing even work? And, if so, what went wrong?
Jane McAlevey has organized hundreds of thousands of workers on the frontlines of America’s labor movement. She is also a Senior Policy Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Labor Center and the author of three books on organizing, including, most recently, A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy.
McAlevey doesn’t pull her punches. She thinks the left builds political power all wrong. She thinks people are constantly mistaking “mobilizing” for “organizing,” and that social media has taught a generation of young activists the worst possible lessons. She thinks organized labor’s push for “card check” was a mistake, but that there really is a viable path back to a strong labor movement. And since McAlevey is, above all, a teacher and an organizer, she offers what amounts to a master class in organizing — one relevant not just to building political power, but to building anything.
To McAlevey, organizing, at its core, is about something very simple, and very close to the heart of this show: how do you talk to people who may not agree with you such that you can truly hear them, and they can truly hear you? This conversation ran long, but it ran long because it was damn good.
References:
No Shortcuts by Jane McAlevey
Raising Expectations and Raising Hell by Jane McAlevey
Book recommendations:
Democracy May Not Exist But We'll Miss it When its Gone by Astra Taylor
I've Got the Light of Freedom Charles M. Payne
On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder
New to the show? Want to check out Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Credits:
Engineer - Cynthia Gil
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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Ezra and Matt on dueling pandemic response plans from Sanders and Biden, and Trump's oval office address.
Resources:
President Trump's oval office address
Joe Biden's coronavirus address
Bernie Sanders' coronavirus address
Hosts:
Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias), Senior correspondent, Vox
Ezra Klein (@ezraklein), Editor-at-large, Vox

About Vox
Vox is a news network that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines.
Follow Us: Vox.com
Facebook group: The Weeds
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Before becoming the co-host of Pod Save America, Dan Pfeiffer spent most of his adult life in Democratic Party politics, which included serving as White House communications director for President Barack Obama. But in his new book Un-Trumping America, the former operative levels some sharp criticism toward the party he came of political age in. 
Contrary to the rhetoric of the leading Democratic presidential candidate, Pfeiffer doesn’t think of Donald Trump as the source of our current social and political ills, and he doesn’t believe that beating Trump will bring about a return to “normalcy.” For Pfeiffer, Trump is a symptom of much deeper forces in our politics — forces that will continue to proliferate unless Democrats get serious about, among other things, genuine structural reform. Among the things we discuss: 
- Pfeiffer’s view that Donald Trump is the favorite in 2020
- Why the core divide in the Democratic Party isn’t progressive vs. moderate
- The flaws in both Sanders and Biden’s theories of institutional change 
- The way Obama looms over the Democratic primary — perhaps even more than Trump does 
- The case for, and against, filibuster reform
- Pfeiffer’s biggest regret from inside the Obama administration
- What working with Joe Biden is like
- Why the Obama White House didn’t rally around Biden in 2016
- The damage the political consultant class does to Democrats
- What the left got wrong about the Democratic Party
- Why Democrats need to prioritize democracy itself
Book recommendations:
Nixonland by Rick Perlstein
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin

New to the show? Want to check out Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
The “Why We’re Polarized” tour continues, with events in Austin, Nashville, Chicago, and Greenville. Go to WhyWerePolarized.com for the full schedule!
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Credits:
Engineer - Cynthia Gil
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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Obsessively following the daily political news feels like an act of politics, or at least an act of civics. But what if, for many of us, it’s a replacement for politics — and one that’s actually hurting the country?
That is the argument made by Tufts University political scientist Eitan Hersh. In his incisive new book Politics is for Power, Hersh draws a sharp distinction between what he calls “political hobbyism” — following politics as a kind of entertainment and expression of self-identity — and the actual work of politics. His data shows that a lot of people who believe they are doing politics are passively following it, and the way they’re following it has played a key role in making the political system worse.
But this isn’t just a critique. Hersh’s argument builds to an alternative way of engaging in politics: as a form of service to our institutions and communities. And that alternative approach leads to some dramatically different ideas about how to marry an interest in politics with a commitment to building a better world. It also speaks to some of what we lost in rejecting the political machines and transactional politics of yesteryear — a personal obsession of mine, and a more important hinge point in American political history than I think we realize.
We are, as you may have noticed, deep into election season, and that’s when it’s easiest to mistake the drama of national politics for the doing of actual politics. So there’s no better time for this conversation.
Book recommendations:
Hobbies by Steven Gelber
Concrete Demands Rhonda E. WIlliams
Here All Along by Sarah Hurwitz

New to the show? Want to check out Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)
The “Why We’re Polarized” tour continues, with events in Austin, Nashville, Chicago, and Greenville. Go to WhyWerePolarized.com for the full schedule!
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Credits:
Engineer - Cynthia Gil
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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Super Tuesday winnowed the 2020 Democratic primary race down to two candidates: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. So how would their presidencies actually differ? Who would staff their administrations? How would they handle Congress? How would they handle key foreign policy decisions? What are their likely points of failure? How would they change the Democratic Party?
I asked my friend, colleague, and Weeds co-host Matt Yglesias to join me for this conversation, and it was a good one. We’ve both covered Biden and Sanders for a long time, but come away with somewhat different impressions of each. The points where we differ here were, for me, even more helpful than the points where we agreed.
I'll be interested, as always, to hear your thoughts: ezrakleinshow@vox.com.
References:
Matt Yglesias' case for Bernie Sanders
Ezra's piece on what Bernie needs to learn from Biden

New to the show? Want to check out Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide
The “Why We’re Polarized” tour continues, with events in Austin, Nashville, Chicago, and Greenville. Go to WhyWerePolarized.com for the full schedule!
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Credits:
Engineer - Cynthia Gil
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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Rebecca Solnit is one of the great activist-essayists of our age. Her books and writing cover a vast amount of human existence, but a common thread in her work — and a focus of her upcoming memoir, Recollections of My Nonexistence — is what it means to be voiceless, ignored, and treated as a unreliable witness to the events of your own life. 
“We always say nobody knows, and that means that everyone who knows was nobody,” Solnit says. “Everyone who was nobody knew about Harvey Weinstein.”
This conversation is, in part, about what it means to be a nobody and what we’d learn if we listened to the voices on the margins of society. But it goes wide from there, covering the psychic toll of sexual violence, the Weinstein ruling, how visual art infuses Solnit’s journalism, the changing cultural role of San Francisco, what climate change will do to social relations, the different narratives of violence that men and women grow up with, and much more.
A quick warning: We spoke just after the Weinstein ruling, and we discuss sexual violence both in terms of specific cases and larger cultural questions. It’s an important conversation, and Solnit’s thinking here is essential and humane, but listeners should be prepared for it.
Book recommendations:
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
There There by Tommy Orange

New to the show? Want to listen to Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out The Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide.
The “Why We’re Polarized” tour continues, with events in Austin, Nashville, Chicago, and Greenville. Go to WhyWerePolarized.com for the full schedule!
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Credits:
Engineer - Cynthia Gil
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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Welcome to Weeds 2020! Every other Saturday Ezra and Matt will be exploring a wide range of topics related to the 2020 race. 
Since the Nevada caucuses, Bernie Sanders has become the clear frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic primary, spurring lots of debate over whether he could win in the general election. We discuss where the electability conversation often goes off-the-rails, why discussing electability in 2020 is so different than 1964 or 1972, the case for and against Bernie’s electability prospects, and the strongest attacks that Trump could make against Sanders and Joe Biden. 
Then, we discuss Ezra’s favorite topic of all time: the filibuster. Ezra gives a brief history of this weird procedural tool, and we discuss why so many current Senators are against eliminating it.

Resources:
"Bernie Sanders can unify Democrats and beat Trump in 2020" by Matthew Yglesias, Vox
"The case for Elizabeth Warren" by Ezra Klein, Vox
"How the filibuster broke the US Senate" by Alvin Chang, Vox
"Running Bernie Sanders Against Trump Would Be an Act of Insanity" by Jonathan Chait, Intelligencer
"The Sixty Trillion Dollar Man" by Ronald brownstein, Atlantic
"The Day One Agenda" by David Dayen, American Prospect

Hosts:
Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias), Senior correspondent, Vox
Ezra Klein (@ezraklein), Editor-at-large, Vox

About Vox
Vox is a news network that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines.
Follow Us: Vox.com
Facebook group: The Weeds
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It’s the rare podcast conversation where, as it’s happening, I’m making notes to go back and listen again so I can fully absorb what I heard. But this is that kind of episode.
Tracy K. Smith is the chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, a Pulitzer-Prize winning poet, and a two-time poet laureate of the United States (2017-19). But I’ll be honest: She was an intimidating interview for me. I often find myself frustrated by poetry, yearning for it to simply tell me what it wants to say and feeling aggravated that I can’t seem to crack its code.
Preparing for this conversation and (even more so) talking to Smith was a revelation. Poetry, she argues, is about expressing “the feelings that defy language.” The struggle is part of the point: You’re going where language stumbles, where literalism fails. Developing a comfort and ease in those spaces isn’t something we’re taught to do, but it’s something we need to do. And so, on one level, this conversation is simply about poetry: what it is, what it does, how to read it.
But on another level, this conversation is also about the ideas and tensions that Smith uses poetry to capture: what it means to be a descendent of slaves, a human in love, a nation divided. Laced throughout our conversation are readings of poems from her most recent book, Wade in the Water, and discussions of some of the hardest questions in the American, and even human, canon. Hearing Smith read her erasure poem, “Declaration,” is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful moments I’ve had on the podcast.
There is more to this conversation than I can capture here, but simply put: This isn’t one to miss. And that’s particularly true if, like me, you’re intimidated by poetry.
References: 
Smith’s lecture before the Library of Congress 
Smith’s commencement speech at Wellesley College 
Book recommendations: 
Notes from the Field by Anna Deavere Smith 
Quilting by Lucille Clifton 
Bodega by Su Hwang 

New to the show? Want to listen to Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out The Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide.
The “Why We’re Polarized” tour continues, with events in Austin, Nashville, Chicago, and Greenville. Go to WhyWerePolarized.com for the full schedule!
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Credits:
Engineer - Cynthia Gil
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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In the late 90s Barbara Ehrenreich went undercover as a waitress to discover how people with minimum wage full-time jobs were making ends meet. It turned out, they weren’t. Ehrenreich’s book Nickled and Dimed revealed just how dire the economic conditions of everyday working people were at a time when the economy was supposedly booming. It was a wake up call for many Americans at the time, including me who picked up the book as a curious college student. 
Since then Ehrenreich, a journalist by trade, has written on a vast range of topics from the precarity of middle-class existence to the psychological and sociological roots of collective joy to human mortality to her own attempt, as an atheist, to grapple with mystical experiences. Needless to say, this is a widely ranging conversation.
References:
Living with a Wild God by Barbara Ehrenreich
Natural Causes by Barbara Ehrenreich
Dancing in the Streets by Barbara Ehrenreich
Nicked and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Fear of Falling by Barbara Ehrenreich
Had I Known by Barbara Ehrenreich

New to the show? Want to listen to Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out The Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide.
The “Why We’re Polarized” tour continues, with events in Austin, Nashville, Chicago, and Greenville. Go to WhyWerePolarized.com for the full schedule!
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Credits:
Engineer - Cynthia Gil
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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Hello! I’m Jane Coaston, filling in for Ezra. My guest today is Tim Carney, a commentary editor at the Washington Examiner and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. 
In the wake of the 2016 election, Carney began traveling across the country and poring through county-level data in an attempt to understand the forces that led to Donald Trump’s victory. The culprit, he argues, is not racism or economic anxiety, it's the breakdown of social institutions.
In his new book Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse, Carney posits that for centuries religious (and other private) institutions formed a much-needed social glue that kept communities together. That social glue, however, has decayed in recent decades, creating a void of despair, alienation, and frustration in so-called “Middle America." Donald Trump did not offer a compelling way to solve these problems, but he was the only candidate willing to name them — and in 2016 that was enough.
In this conversation, we discuss Carney's thesis at length, but we also talk about why white evangelicals love Trump so much, how communities of color have responded differently to institutional loss than white communities, the appeal of Bernie Sanders, how Trump's reelection strategy will differ from his 2016 campaign, and much more. I hope this conversation is as interesting for you to listen to as it was for me to have.
Book recommendations:
Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America by Chris Arnade
My Father Left Me Ireland by Michael Brendan Dougherty 
The Bible

New to the show? Want to listen to Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out The Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide.
Ezra's book is available at www.EzraKlein.com.
The “Why We’re Polarized” tour continues, with events in Austin, Nashville, Chicago, and Greenville. Go to WhyWerePolarized.com for the full schedule!
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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This one was a pleasure. Ta-Nehisi Coates joined me in Brooklyn for part of the “Why We’re Polarized” tour. His description of the book may be my favorite yet. It is, he says, “a cold, atheist book.” We talk about what that means, and from there, go into some of the harder questions raised not so much by the book, but by American history itself. Then Coates asked me a question I never expected to hear from him: Is there anything I could say to leave him with some hope? Don’t miss this one.

New to the show? Want to listen to Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out The Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide.
Ezra's book is available at www.EzraKlein.com.
The “Why We’re Polarized” tour continues, with events in Austin, Nashville, Chicago, and Greenville. Go to WhyWerePolarized.com for the full schedule!
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Credits:
Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Hello! I’m Sean Illing, Vox’s interviews writer filling in for Ezra while he’s on book tour. My guest today is Martin Hägglund, a philosopher at Yale and the author of This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom, which I consider to be one of the most ambitious and important books in the last several years.
We begin by discussing what it means to live a free and purposeful life without regret or illusion. For Hägglund, this life is all we have. There is no heaven, no afterlife, no eternal beyond. We live and we die and that means that the most important question any of us can possibly ask is, “What should we do with our time?” 
We end by talking about the limits of capitalism, namely why it doesn’t really allow us to own our time in the way we ought to. And thus why, for Hägglund, democratic socialism is the only political project that takes the human condition seriously. 
This is an unusual conversation, but, I have to say, I loved it. I appreciate and admire Hägglund’s willingness to tackle the biggest questions any us can ever ask, and I think by the end of it you will, too.
Book recommendations:
Fellow Creatures: Our Obligations to the other animals by Christine Korsgaard
On the Soul (De Anima) by Aristotle 
Phenomenology of Spirit by G.W.F Hegel 

Follow Sean Illing at Vox or on Twitter @seanilling
New to the show? Want to listen to Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out The Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide.
Ezra's book is available at www.EzraKlein.com.
The “Why We’re Polarized” tour continues, with events in Austin, Nashville, Chicago, and Greenville. Go to WhyWerePolarized.com for the full schedule!
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Credits:
Guest host - Sean Illing
Producer - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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 I’ve been a fan of Tim Urban and his site Wait But Why for a long time. Urban uses whimsical illustrations, infographics, and friendly, nontechnical language to explain everything from AI to space exploration to Fermi’s Paradox. 
Urban's most recent project is an explainer series called “The Story of Us." It began as an attempt to understand what is going on in American politics today, and quickly turned into a deep exploration into humanity's past: how we evolved, the history of civilization, and the way our psychologies have come to interact with the world around us. 
My initial theory of this conversation was that Urban’s work has interesting points of convergence and divergence with my book. But once we got to talking, something more interesting emerged: Based on his reading of human history, psychology, and technological advancement, Urban has come to believe we are at an existential fork-in-the-road as a species. A hundred years from now, Urban thinks, our species will either advance so significantly that we will no longer be recognizable as human beings, or we will so lose control of our progress that the human story will end in a destructive apocalypse. I’m less convinced, but open to the idea that I’m wrong.
So this, then, isn’t just a conversation about politics and polarization in the present. It’s more fully a conversation about whether the politics of the present are distracting us from the forces that are, even as we speak, deciding our future.
References: 
Dave Robert’s piece on Tim Urban’s aversion to politics 
My conversation with Andrew Yang
Book recommendations: 
A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich 
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu 
Atomic Habits by James Clear

New to the show? Want to listen to Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out The Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide.
My book is available at www.EzraKlein.com.
The “Why We’re Polarized” tour continues, with events in Portland, Seattle, Austin, Nashville, Chicago, and Greenville. Go to WhyWerePolarized.com for the full schedule!
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Credits:
Producer - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Jill Lepore is a Harvard historian, a New Yorker contributor, the author of These Truths, and one of my favorite past guests on this show. But in this episode, the tables are turned: I’m in the hot seat, and Lepore has some questions. Hard ones.
This is, easily, the toughest interview on my book so far. Lepore isn’t quibbling over my solutions or pointing out a contrary study — what she challenges are the premises, epistemology, and meta-structure that form the foundation of my book, and much of my work. Her question, in short, is: What if social science itself is too crude to be a useful way of understanding the political world?
But that’s what makes this conversation great. We discuss whether all political science research on polarization might be completely wrong, why (and whether) my book is devoid of individual or institutional “villains,” and whether I am morally obliged to delete my Twitter account, in addition to the missing party in American politics, why I mistrust historical narratives, media polarization, and much more.
This is, on one level, a conversation about Why We’re Polarized. But on a deeper level, it’s about different modes of knowledge and whether we can trust them.

New to the show? Want to listen to Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out The Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide.
My book is available at www.EzraKlein.com.
The “Why We’re Polarized” tour continues, with events in Portland, Seattle, Austin, Nashville, Chicago, and Greenville. Go to WhyWerePolarized.com for the full schedule!
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Credits:
Producer - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Tom Steyer has worked for Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. He made his billions running a hedge fund for decades before moving into progressive activism on causes like democratization, climate change, and impeaching Donald Trump. Now, he is running for president of the United States. 
Steyer’s primary message on the campaign trial is that we need to get money, lobbyists and corporate influence out of politics. At the same time, he is the living embodiment of much of what he thinks is broken about our system. He used his wealth as a shortcut onto the presidential debate stage and, in doing so, essentially wrote the playbook for any future billionaire who decides they want a shot at winning the highest office in the land. 
So, is Steyer the solution to our dysfunctional politics -- or is he himself part of the problem? That question is a lot bigger than Steyer himself. It is about the kinds of people we think will best represent the interests of non-billionaires. It is about the sort of influence we think wealth should have in our society. It is about whether, in our current political moment, we want to trust the arsonists to put out the fires they helped create.
I’ll let you decide the answer.
Book recommendations:
The Holy Bible
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The Good Assassin by Paul Vidich

New to the show? Want to listen to Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out The Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide.
My book is available at www.EzraKlein.com.
Also, we’ve announced more tour dates! Go to WhyWerePolarized.com for all the details.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
Credits:
Engineer - Cynthia Gil
Producer - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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 The Why We’re Polarized book tour kicked off this week with a wonderful event at Sixth and I in Washington, DC. My conversation partner for this one was New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie. Our interview was great, and then the audience questions were so good we had to keep them in as well. We discuss:  
• Why things were far worse in the “golden age” of the 1950s and ’60s than they are today
• Why the key question isn’t so much “why are we polarized?” as “why weren’t we polarized?”
• Why “moderate” Republicans end up losing to conservatives
• Why demographic change is the core cleavage of American politics today
• How polarization makes bipartisanship irrational and political dysfunction the norm
• Why Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are not the causes of polarization but rather the most clear manifestations of it
• That more information doesn’t rescue politics
• Why America today is not functionally a democracy (and why I hate when people claim it is a “republic” to justify our current system)
• Why the most underrated divide in American politics is not that between left and right but between the informed and the uninformed
• Why we can’t reverse polarization and instead need to reform our political system so that it can function amid polarization

Also, we’ve announced more tour dates! Go to WhyWerePolarized.com for all the details.
My book is available at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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“The bad days are back” wrote Batya Ungar-Sargon in the Forward in December, “Orthodox Jews are living through a new age of pogroms. This week, as we celebrated the Festival of Lights, there were no fewer than 10 anti-Semitic attacks in the New York area alone.” 
Antisemitism is occasionally called “the oldest hatred.” It thrums across continents and eras, finding new targets for old prejudices. But where, exactly, does it come from? Why is it such a hardy weed? And why does this era feel so thick with it? 
Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, is the author of Antisemitism: Here and Now. We discuss the earliest forms, tropes, and rationales for antisemitism, and the cultural reasons for their persistence. Lipstadt explains the way right- and left-wing antisemitism differ, and examines the charges of antisemitism levied against some modern politicians, like Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn. We talk about antisemitism in the age of social media and rising party polarization. And we talk about the convergence and divergence of antisemitism and anti-Zionism: what distinguishes a legitimate critique of Israel from an antisemitic slur towards it?
This episode airs on National Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s a reminder that the very worst days lie in living memory, in an age more similar our own than we like to admit. 
References: 
“Why No One Can Talk About The Attacks Against Orthodox Jews” by Batya Ungar-Sargon
Book recommendations: 
If This is Man by Primo Levi 
Still Alive by Ruth Kluger 
The Unwanted by Michael Dobbs

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Engineer- Cynthia Gil
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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This is a podcast episode literally years in the making. It’s an excerpt — the first anywhere — from my book Why We’re Polarized.
A core argument of the book is that identity is the central driver of political polarization. But to see how it works, we need a better theory of how identities form, what happens when they activate, and where they fit into our conflicts. We’ve been taught to only see identity politics in others. We need to see it in ourselves.
If you’re a longtime listener, this excerpt — like the broader book — will tie a lot of threads on this show together. If you’re a new listener, it’ll give you, I hope, a clearer way to understand a powerful driver of our politics and our lives. 
Why We’re Polarized comes out on January 28. You can order it, both in text and audiobook forms, at WhyWerePolarized.com.
Find the audio book on Audible.com
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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With “reeducation" camps in China, religious disenfranchisement in India, ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, street violence in Sri Lanka, mass shootings in New Zealand, the flourishing of far-right parties across Europe, and the mainstreaming of Islamophobia in America, there’s been a global surge in anti-Muslim bigotry — often supported by the full power and might of the state. It’s one of the most frightening and undercovered political stories of our time.
Mehdi Hasan is a senior writer for the Intercept, the host of the Deconstructed podcast, and the anchor of Al Jazeera’s Up Front. He’s done some of the best reporting on anti-Muslim prejudice and persecutions worldwide, covering everything from Narendra Modi’s rise in India to the treatment of Uighurs in China to the role that social media plays in amplifying anti-Muslim sentiment. We discuss all of that in this conversation, but we also try to answer some deeper questions: Why Muslims? Why now? What is the ideology that drives and justifies anti-Muslim bigotry? What are the political incentives that foster it?
Not everything in this conversation is easy to hear. But understanding the scope and scale of the war on Muslims is central to understanding the world we live in, the Orwellian nature of the Islamophobic narrative, and the resentments and traumas we’re inflicting on the future. 
Book recommendations:
The Fear of Islam by Todd H. Green 
The Enemy Within by Sayeeda Warsi 
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Engineer- Cynthia Gil
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Vox's Matt Yglesias and I unpack the debate that did, and didn't, happen.
Related reading:
"Joe Biden will never give up on the system" by Ezra Klein
"4 winners and 3 losers from the January Democratic debate" Vox Staff
"The case for Elizabeth Warren" by Ezra Klein
"Bernie Sanders can unify Democrats and beat Trump in 2020" by Matthew Yglesias
"Joe Biden skates by again" by Matt Yglesias
"Elizabeth Warren’s new plan to reform bankruptcy law, explained" by Matt Yglesias
"The Third Rail of Calling ‘Sexism’ Warren tried not to talk about it." by Rebecca Traister

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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When the Democrats meet for their next debate, Booker won’t be on the stage. That’s despite a bevy of endorsements, killer debate performances, innovative policy proposals, and a resume that runs circles around many of the other candidates in the field. 
That’s a shame. There is a moral radicalism to the way Cory Booker lives out his politics. He lived for years in a housing project. He leads hunger strikes. He challenges political machines. He’s a vegan. He has a more ambitious policy vision than is often discussed, but beneath that is a far more radical ethical vision than he get credit for.
I think there’s a reason for that. When Booker turns his politics turn outward, they lose clarity. He shies away from drawing bright lines, his answers double back to blur out potential offense. As a result, his arguments for a politics of radical love end up emphasizing his love in ways that obscure his radicalism. As admiring as I am of what Booker demands of himself, I often can’t tell what he’s asking of me.
In this conversation, I wanted Booker to risk my discomfort, not just his own. And in his answers, I think you can hear both the remarkable promise and power of Booker’s politics, and some of the challenges that have held back his campaign.
References/Book recommendations:
Tightrope by Nicholas Kristof 
“Who Killed the Knapp Family” by Nicholas Kristof 
The Violence Inside Us by Chris Murphy 

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Engineer- Cynthia Gil
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is the way we often conflate two very distinct things when we assign political labels. The first is ideology, which describes our vision of a just society. The second is something less discussed but equally important: temperament. It describes how we approach social problems, how fast we think society can change, and how we understand the constraints upon us. 
Yuval Levin is the director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, the editor-in-chief of the public policy journal National Affairs, and the author of the upcoming book A Time to Build. Levin is one of the most thoughtful articulators of both conservative temperament and ideology. And, perhaps for that reason, his is one of the most important criticisms of what the conservative movement has become today.
There’s a lot in this conversation, in part because Levin’s book speaks to mine in interesting ways, but among the topics we discuss are: 

The conservative view of human nature

Why the conservative temperament is increasingly diverging from the conservative movement

What theories of American politics get wrong about the reality of American life

The case Levin makes to socialists

How economic debates are often moral debates in disguise

Levin’s rebuttal to my book 

The crucial difference between “formative” and “performative” social institutions

Why the most fundamental problems in American life are cultural, not economic

Why Levin thinks the New York Times should not allow its journalists to be on Twitter

Whether we can restore trust in our institutions without changing the incentives and systems that surround them

 
There’s a lot Levin and I disagree on, but there are few people I learn as much from in disagreement as I learn from him.
Book recommendations;
Democracy in America by Alexis De Tocqueville 
The Quest for Community by Robert Nisbet 
Statecraft as Soulcraft by George Will 
If you enjoyed this episode, you may also like:
David French on “The Great White Culture War"
George Will makes the conservative case against democracy

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Engineer- Cynthia Gil
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Introducing season 3 of The Impact!
The 2020 candidates have some bold ideas to tackle some of our country's biggest problems, like climate change, the opioid crisis, and unaffordable health care. A lot of their proposals have been tried before, so, in a sense, the results are in. 

This season, The Impact has those stories: how the big ideas from 2020 candidates succeeded — or failed — in other places, or at other times. What can Sen. Elizabeth Warren's proposal to fight the opioid crisis learn from what the US did to fight the AIDS epidemic? How did Germany — an industrial powerhouse that invented the automobile — manage to implement a Green New Deal? How did public health insurance change Taiwan?

Subscribe to The Impact on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app to automatically get new episodes of the latest season each week.

On this special preview:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is running for president with a plan to fight the opioid epidemic. Her legislation would dramatically expand access to addiction treatment and overdose prevention, and it would cost $100 billion over 10 years. Addiction experts agree that this is the kind of money the United States needs to fight the opioid crisis. But it’s a really expensive idea, to help a deeply stigmatized population. How would a President Warren get this through Congress? 

It’s been done before, with the legislation Warren is using as a blueprint for her proposal. In 1990, Congress passed the Ryan White Care Act, the first national coordinated response to the AIDS crisis. In the decades since, the federal government has dedicated billions of dollars to the fight against AIDS, and it’s revolutionized care for people with this once-deadly disease. 

But by the time President George H.W. Bush signed the bill into law, hundreds of thousands of people in the US already had HIV/AIDS, and tens of thousands had died. 

In this episode, Vox's Jillian Weinberger explores how an epidemic begins, and how it ends. We look at what it took to get the federal government to finally act on AIDS, and what that means for Warren’s plan to fight the opioid crisis, today. 
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“Socialism” is simultaneously one of the most commonly used and most confusing terms in American politics. Does being a socialist mean advocating for the complete abolition of capitalism, markets, and private property? Does it mean supporting a higher tax rate, Medicare-for-all, and Sen. Bernie Sanders? Or does it simply mean a deep hatred of systemic injustice and the institutions that perpetuate it? 
In his new book Why You Should be a Socialist Nathan J Robinson, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Current Affairs magazine, attempts to shed light on these questions. In his writing, Robinson distinguishes between a “socialist economy” (think collective ownership, worker cooperatives, single-payer health care) and what he calls a “socialist ethic": a deep sense of moral outrage that animates agents of radical change. This distinction may sound like a dodge, but I think Robinson gets at something here that — while hard to understand from the outside — is crucial to understanding today's left politics. We also discuss: 
- The central role of democracy to the socialist worldview
- What it means to be a “libertarian socialist”
- What Robinson's socialist utopia would look like 
- Why so many socialists have turned on Sen. Elizabeth Warren in favor of Sen. Bernie Sanders 
- Robinson’s special loathing for South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- What he believes Sanders’s “political revolution” would look like
- The lessons of Jeremy Corbyn
- Whether the deep difference between liberals and socialists is temperament 
- Why “public vs. private” is often a false choice
- The challenge of economic growth 
And much more. 
Book recommendations:
Understanding Power by Noam Chomsky
The Anarchist FAQ by Ian McKay 
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
 If you enjoyed this episode, you may also like:
Leftists vs. Liberals with Elizabeth Bruenig
Matt Bruenig’s case for single-payer health care
Why my politics are bad with Bhaskar Sunkara

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Engineer- Cynthia Gil
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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The 2010s witnessed a sharp uptick in nonviolent resistance movements all across the globe. Over the course of the last decade we’ve seen record numbers of popular protests, grassroots campaigns, and civic demonstrations advancing causes that range from toppling dictatorial regimes to ending factory farming to advancing a Green New Deal.  
So, I thought it would be fitting to kick off 2020 by bringing on Erica Chenoweth, a a political scientist at Harvard specializing in nonviolent resistance. At the beginning of this decade, co-authored Why Civil Resistance Works, a landmark study showing that nonviolent movements are twice as effective as violent ones. Since then, she has written dozens of papers on what factors make successful movements successful, why global protests are becoming more and more common, how social media has affected resistance movements and much more. 
But Chenoweth doesn’t only study nonviolent movements from an academic perspective; she also advises nonviolent movement leaders around the world (including former EK Show guests Varshini Prakash of the Sunrise Movement and Wayne Hsiung of Direct Action Everywhere) to help them be as effective and strategic as possible in carrying out their goals. This on-the-ground experience combined with a big-picture, academic view of nonviolent resistance makes her perspective essential for understanding one of the most important trends of the last decade -- and, in all likelihood, the next one.
References:
"How social media helps dictators" by Erica Chenoweth
"Drop Your Weapons: When and Why Civil Resistance Works" by Erica Chenoweth
Book recommendations:
These Truths by Jill Lepore
Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Kurlansky
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keenga-Yamahtta Taylor

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Engineer- Cynthia Gil
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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It’s here. The final AMA of 2019. Among the questions you asked:
- If you believe that changing someone's mind about a topic, any topic is difficult, how do you function as a journalist?
- What’s your opinion on capitalism?
- What have you learned about yourself since being a dad that has surprised you the most?
- You talk a lot about polarization. But it seems your audience leans liberal. So how do you reconcile that?
- Do you believe in free will?
- What’s your take on the left/liberal divide?
- Red wine or white wine?
- We know 2020 will come down to a small collection of swing states. Shouldn’t the Democrats just run whichever candidate will be strongest in those states?
- What’s with Vox and NBER papers?
- What would get journalists to leave Twitter?
- What happens if Trump loses the election but refuses to leave office?

All this, plus you get to hear from the mysterious Jeff Geld…

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer, Editor, Guest Interviewer - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineer - Cynthia Gil
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Here, at the end of the year, I wanted to share one of my favorite episodes of 2019 with you.
Earlier this year, 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 had 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 Millennials by Malcolm Harris
White: Essays on Race and Culture by Richard Dyer
The Vertigo Years: Europe, 1900-1914 by Philipp Blom
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Engineers - Cynthia Gil
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Dave Roberts is an energy and climate writer at Vox, and a senior fellow at the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. He started as his career covering climate science and clean energy technology, but -- for reasons we discuss here -- he now writes just as much about political psychology, media ecosystems, political institutions, and how they intersect with climate change. We cover a lot in this conversation, including:

“Tribal epistemology,” and why it’s crucial to climate paralysis 

How the GOP went from the party of cap-and-trade to the party of climate denial 

Why the right and left-wing media ecosystem’s diverged so dramatically

What today’s climate activists get right about our politics that their predecessors got wrong

The carbon tax dead-end

How nuclear energy became so divisive

The conflicting moral and social visions at the heart of the climate movement 

Why it is impossible to separate technological innovation from the policy ecosystem that shapes it 

Whether climate change really is an “existential” threat 

What climate change will mean for the world’s poor

References:
Dave Roberts on America's "epistemic crisis."
Book recommendations:
Caught Stealing by Charlie Huston
"State of the Species" by Charles C. Mann

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Submit questions for our upcoming "Ask Me Anything" at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineers - Cynthia Gil
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Most analyses of how to “solve” climate change start from a single, crucial assumption: that carbon emissions and global warming are inextricably linked. Geoengineering is a set of technologies and ideas with the potential to shatter that link. 
Can we use them? Should we? Could they be used in concert with other solutions, or would simply opening the door drain support from those ideas? Even if we did want to deploy geoengineering, who would govern its use? And is mucking with the earth at this level more dangerous than climate change itself — which may, ultimately, be the choice we face?
Jane Flegal is a geoengineering expert at Arizona State University and a program officer at the Bernard and Anne Spitzer Charitable Trust. She’s able to parse this debate with an unusual level of clarity, fairness, and rigor. This isn’t an argument for or against geoengineering. It’s a way to think about it, and that turns out to be a way to think about the climate change problem as a whole.
Book recommendations:
The Planet Remade by Oliver Morton
Experiment Earth by Jack Stilgoe
Frontiers of Illusion by Daniel Sarewitz 

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Submit questions for our upcoming "Ask Me Anything" at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineer - Cynthia Gil
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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The climate series is back! The reason for the delay is that I wanted to make sure that this episode was next up in the series. Once you start listening, you’ll understand why. 
So far, we’ve spent the series talking about the problem we're facing and what the world will ultimately look like if we fail. Today’s conversation is different: It is about what it will take to solve climate change and what kind of world we can build if we succeed. 
Saul Griffith is an inventor, a MacArthur genius fellow, and the founder and CEO of Otherlab, a high-tech research and development company on the frontlines of trying to imagine our clean energy future. Griffith and his team were contracted by the Department of Energy to track and visualize the entirety of America’s energy flows — and as a result, he knows the US energy system better than just about anyone on this planet. As a result, Griffith is clearer than anyone else I’ve found on the paths to decarbonization, and how to navigate them.
Most conversations about climate change are pretty depressing. This conversation is not. We have the tools we need to decarbonize. What’s more, decarbonizing doesn’t mean accepting a future of less — it can mean a more awesome, humane, technologically rich, and socially inspiring future for us all. This conversation is about a vision of decarbonization that is genuinely awesome, and how we can actually get there.
References:
Otherlab's diagram of US energy flows
Griffith's piece on paths to decarbonization
Book recommendations:
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
Freedom's Forge by Arthur Herman
The Extinction Rebellion Handbook
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
The first batch of stops for my book tour is up! Get tickets at http://www.whywerepolarized.com
Submit questions for our upcoming "Ask Me Anything" at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineer - Cynthia Gil
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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It’s cliché to call podcasts wide-ranging. But this conversation, with Nobel-prize winning economist and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman, really is. A sample of what we discuss:
- How economists mucked up the climate debate
- What a Democratic president should pass first
- The politics and policy of Medicare-for-all
- Krugman’s three-part test to determine whether a program needs to be paid for (don’t miss this!)
- Why Pete Buttigieg is wrong on tuition-free college 
- Why Andrew Yang is wrong on automation
- What the Obama administration got wrong, and right, in the financial crisis
- The means-testing vs. universal program debate is a false dichotomy 
- What it would take to revitalize the economies of middle and rural America
- The productivity puzzle
- The antitrust problem
- Geographic inequality
- Whether elite or mass opinion is the key constraint on policy ambition
- Path dependence in social welfare states
- Whether private insurers should exist 
And much more. Don’t miss this one.
References:
Krugman's upcoming book, Arguing with Zombies
Book recommendations:
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume 
Plagues and Peoples by William McNeil 
Collected essays of George Orwell

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Submit questions for our upcoming "Ask Me Anything" at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineer - Cynthia Gil
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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After creating and running Parks and Recreation and writing for The Office, Michael Schur decided he wanted to create a sitcom about one of the most fundamental questions of human existence: What does it mean to be a good person? That’s how The Good Place was born.
Soon into the show’s writing, Schur realized he was in way over his head. The question of human morality is one of the most complicated and hotly contested subjects of all time. He needed someone to help him out. So, he recruited Pamela Hieronymi, a professor at UCLA specializing in the subjects of moral responsibility, psychology, and free will, to join the show as a “consulting philosopher” — surely a first in sitcom history.=
I wanted to bring Shur and Hieronymi onto the show because The Good Place should not exist. Moral philosophy is traditionally the stuff of obscure academic journals and undergraduate seminars, not popular television. Yet, three-and-a-half seasons on, The Good Place is not only one of the funniest sitcoms on TV, it has popularized academic philosophy in an unprecedented fashion and put forward its own highly sophisticated moral vision.
This is a conversation about how and why The Good Place exists and what it reflects about The Odd Place in which we actually live. Unlike a lot of conversations about moral philosophy, this one is a lot of fun.

References:
Dylan Matthews' brilliant profile on The Good Place
Dylan Matthews on why he donated his kidney
Book recommendations:
Michael Schur:
Ordinary Vices by Judith N. Shklar
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré 
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Pamela Hieronymi:
What We Owe to Each Other by T.M. Scanlon
Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre
Mortal Questions by Thomas Nagel

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Submit questions for our upcoming "Ask Me Anything" at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineer - Cynthia Gil
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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For most of his life, Wayne Hsiung was a typical overachiever. He attended the University of Chicago, started his PhD in Economics, became a law professor at Northwestern, was mentored by Cass Sunstein. But then, something snapped. In the midst of a deep, overwhelming depression, Hsiung visited a slaughterhouse and was radicalized by the immense suffering he saw. He now faces decades in prison for rescuing sick, injured animals from slaughterhouses.
Hsiung is the founder of Direct Action Everywhere, an organization best known for conducting public, open rescues of animals too sick for slaughter. These rescues are, in many cases, illegal, and Hsiung and his fellow activists are risking years of imprisonment. But the sacrifice is the point: Hsiung and his colleagues are trying to highlight the sickness of a society that criminalizes doing what any child would recognize as the right thing to do.
In our conversation, I wanted to understand a simple question: How did he get here? What leads someone with a safe, comfortable life to risk everything for a cause? What does society look like to him now, knowing what he faces? And the big question: Is Hsiung the weird one? Or is it all of us — who see so much suffering and injustice and simply go about our lives — who have lost our way?
References:
New York Times story on a DxE rescue mission
Video of the mission to save Lily the piglet
Book recommendations:
Everything is Obvious by Duncan J. Watts 
The Brothers Karamazov by  Fyodor Dostoevsky
Grit by Angela Duckworth

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineer - Jeremy Dalmas
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Imagine you’re walking to work. You see a child drowning in a lake. You’re about to jump in and save her when you realize you’re wearing your best suit, and the rescue will end up costing hundreds in dry cleaning bills. Should you still save the child?
Of course you should. But this simple thought experiment, taken seriously, has radical implications for how you live your life.
It comes from Peter Singer’s “The Life You Can Save,” one of the most influential modern works of ethical philosophy. Singer is perhaps the most influential public intellectual of my lifetime. His book “Animal Liberation” helped build America’s animal rights movement. His work helped create the effective altruism movement.
In Singer’s hands, the questions that motivate a moral life are startlingly simple. But if you take them seriously, living morally is very, very hard. And the way most of us are living, right now — well, we’re letting a lot of children drown. What happens if we force ourselves to recognize that fact? What does it demand of us?
That’s the topic of my conversation with Singer. We also discuss the differences between ethical philosophy and religion, why moral reasoning is a social act, the ethics of caring most about those closest to you, The Good Place, AI risk, open borders, where our obligations to others end, why Singer wouldn’t have become a philosopher if he’d been an effective altruist in his youth, and much more.

Book recommendations:
On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker
On What Matters by Derek Parfit
Reasons and Persons by Derek Parfit

To read Peter SInger's book please visit www.thelifeyoucansave.org

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineers - Cynthia Gil
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Happy Thanksgiving! Please enjoy a re-air episode from April 2018 with Lilliana Mason.

Yes, identity politics is breaking our country. But it’s not identity politics as we’re used to thinking about it. In Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity, Lilliana Mason traces the construction of our partisan “mega-identities”: identities that fuse party affiliation to ideology, race, religion, gender, sexuality, geography, and more. These mega-identities didn’t exist 50 or even 30 years ago, but now that they’re here, they change the way we see each other, the way we engage in politics, and the way politics absorbs other — previously non-political —spheres of our culture. In making her case, Mason offers one of the best primers I’ve read on how little it takes to activate a sense of group identity in human beings, and how far-reaching the cognitive and social implications are once that group identity takes hold. I don’t want to spoil our discussion here, but suffice to say that her recounting of the “minimal group paradigm” experiments is not to be missed. This is the kind of research that will change not just how you think about the world, but how you think about yourself. Mason’s book is, I think, one of the most important published this year, and this conversation gave me a lens on our political discord that I haven’t stopped thinking about since. If you want to understand the kind of identity politics that’s driving America in 2018, you should listen in.
Books recommendations:
Ideology in America by Christopher Ellis and James Stimson 
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi 
The Power by Naomi Alderman

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Gretchen McCulloch is a self-described “internet linguist,” host of the podcast Lingthusiasm, and author of the recent book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language. In it, she demonstrates that the way we've come to speak on the internet -- from emojis to exclamation points -- is not random or arbitrary, but part of a broader attempt to make our written communication more vibrant, meaningful, and, genuinely human. Far from ‘ruining’ the written English language, internet-speak, McCulloch argues, is revolutionizing language in unprecedented, and ultimately positive, ways.
We discuss why I feel bad if I don't use enough exclamation points (or use too many), why postcards are the pre-internet predecessors to Instagram, how emojis act as written equivalents of our body language, why sarcasm is like a “linguistic trust fall,” the meaning of “Ok boomer” and much more.
Book recommendations:
It’s Complicated:The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd 
You Look Like a Thing and I Love You by Janelle Shane
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
If you enjoyed this episode, you may also like:
danah boyd on why fake news is so easy to believe
You will love this conversation with Jaron Lanier, but I can’t describe it

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineers - Cynthia Gil
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Yancey Strickler is the co-founder and former CEO of Kickstarter, and he’s just released a new book, This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World. In Strickler’s telling, our society has been so thoroughly captured by the value-system of financial maximization, that we don’t even view it as such. Kickstarter was an affront to that value-system, a way that groups could fund ideas outside of the realm of profit. And this new book is trying to dig deeper into that worldview, unveil its fallibility, and offer an alternative way of imagining our society.
So, in this conversation we talk about profit and the economy, but also about climate change, the founding story of Kickstarter, what makes great fiction so great, Alan Moore’s notion of the “idea space,” the bizarre way that Strickler went about writing his book, and much more.
Book recommendations:
Time Loops by Eric Wargo 
Value and Ethics in Economics by Elizabeth Anderson 
Dune by Frank Herbert 

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineers - Cynthia Gil & Chris Shurtleff
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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I’ve wanted to have Dave Eggers on the show for a while now. Eggers has not only written a vast range of books (a deeply ironic personal memoir, a heartwarming novel about a Sudanese refugee, a futuristic story about a tech dystopia) but he's also founded the national tutoring nonprofit 826 Valencia, started the literary magazine McSweeney’s, co-authored the screenplay of Where the Wild Things Are, and much more. I’m fascinated by people who are able to do a variety of wildly different things, all successfully. Dave Eggers is one of those people. 
So, we start this conversation by discussing Eggers’s life’s work, his recent book The Captain and the Glory, and Donald Trump. But then — somewhere around the halfway point — the conversation transforms into something I can only describe as, well, therapeutic. Eggers doesn’t own a smartphone or have wifi in his house, and hearing the way he talks about the internet, social media, and our relationship to them put me in a sort of quasi-meditation state that I can’t describe adequately with words.
This one is a little strange, but it may just make your day. It certainly made mine.
Book recommendations:
The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton 
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton 
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton 
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineer - Cynthia Gil
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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If you're anything like me, this episode will make you think about the way you shop, learn, eat, parent, and exercise in a whole new way.
My guest today is Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, a professor of public policy at the University of Southern California whose most recent book The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class documents the rise of a new, unprecedented elite class in the United States. Previously, the elite classes differentiated themselves from the rest by purchasing expensive material goods like flashy clothes and expensive cars. But, for reasons we get into, today’s elite is different: We signify our class position by reading the New Yorker, acquiring elite college degrees, buying organic food, breastfeeding our children, and, of course, listening to podcasts like this one.
These activities may seem completely innocent — perhaps even enlightened. Yet, as we discuss here, they simultaneously shore up inequality, erode social mobility, and create an ever-more stratified society — all without most of us even noticing. This is a conversation that implicates us all, and, for that very reason, it is well worth grappling with.
Book recommendations:
Just Kids by Patti Smith
 Art Worlds by Howard S. Becker
The Gold Finch by Donna Tartt
If you enjoyed this episode, you may also like:
When meritocracy wins, everybody loses
Work as identity, burnout as lifestyle

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineer - Jeff Geld
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Andrew Marantz is a writer at the New Yorker who, for years, has been deeply immersed in the world of conservative trolls, alt-right social media personalities, and online conspiracy theorists. His most recent book Antisocial has been viewed as a brilliant ethnography of the bizarre universe that is the alt-right. 
But I’m interested in it for a different reason: Somehow, these folks have figured out how to manipulate the social media ecosystem that frames our political discourse. Thus, they represent an important window into understanding how that ecosystem functions, who it advantages, and where it dramatically falls short. We discuss:
- Why Mark Zuckerberg’s defenses of Facebook so obviously fail
- Where the conversation about “free speech” in America went completely off the rails
- How alt-right personality Mike Cernovich cracked social media algorithms to influence the 2016 news cycle
- What Marantz calls the “primary laws of social media mechanics” and how they can be manipulated to bring out the worst in human nature
- Why conflict has become the primary way to garner attention and influence online while more constructive social interactions remain in obscurity
- How a kid from a progressive, upper-middle-class family became one of the nation’s leading neo-Nazis
- The role the social justice left plays in fomenting online extremism
And much more.
Book recommendations:
Contingency, Irony and Solidarity by Richard Rorty 
The Captive Mind by Czesław Miłosz
Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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You’ve heard of Edward Norton. He’s starred in critically acclaimed films like American History X, Fight Club, and Birdman, been nominated for multiple Academy Awards, and, most recently, wrote, directed, and starred in Motherless Brooklyn, a film about a detective with Tourette’s syndrome who ends up taking on the most corrupt and powerful forces in New York City politics.
Motherless Brooklyn, as it happens, is one of my all-time favorite books.
And so this conversation was an unexpected pleasure. In addition to a joint love of Motherless Brooklyn, Norton and I share an unusual number of interests: Meditation, the uncontrollable nature of the mind, the difficulty of solving problems by thinking about them, the psychology of power, media analytics, cultural ideas of heroism, thwarted masculinity in politics, Ralph Nader, and more.
It’s rare that I think a conversation could’ve gone for hours more. But it’s true for this one.
References:
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
This Could Be Our Future by Yancey Strickler
Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch 
 *The world according to Ralph Nader*
Book recommendations:
Barbarian Days by William Finnegan 
Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Buddhism without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor
If you like this episode, check out:
What Buddhism got right about the human brain
You will love this conversation with Jaron Lanier, but I can’t describe it

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineer - Jeff Geld
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Thanks for listening to Reset from Recode and the Vox Media Podcast Network. Today's episodes were Can A.I. Tech You To Write Better and Quantum Supremacy, WTF.

If you enjoyed these episodes, If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe to Reset for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app to get new episodes every week.
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Michael Lind is a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Austin, the co-founder of the New America Foundation, and an important contributor to American Affairs, a journal originally created to reimagine a more Trumpist conservatism.
Lind is by no means a supporter of Trump. But, for decades now, he has been developing a coherent intellectual worldview around many of the same issues that Trump intuited, however crudely, during his campaign. He’s one of the intellectuals that the nationalist conservatives trying to imagine a Trumpism after Trump tell me they read most closely.
There are three big pieces of Lind’s thought that I think help to illuminate this era. One is his idea of the “new class war,” which builds a deep cultural component into class identity and maps much better onto populist resentment. The next is his approach to China, which has long been skeptical of Washington’s optimistic consensus. And the third is his insistence that political conflicts — be they class wars or partisan ones — don’t end in victories, they end in “settlements.”
Book recommendations:
The Machiavellian defender’s of freedom by James Burnham 
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Welcome to episode 2 of our climate cluster. The more I prepared for this series, the more I realize there was a big blue gap in my understanding of climate change.
Oceans cover 70% of the earth, absorb 93% of the heat from the sun, and capture 30% of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Forty percent of the world’s population lives within 60 miles of the coast, and half a billion people rely on oceans as their primary food source. As go the oceans, so goes humanity.
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is the founder of the Urban Lab and the Ocean Collective, she’s held positions at the NOAA and the EPA, and was named by Outside Magazine as the most influential marine biologist of our time. And she’s able to do something a lot of people aren’t: communicate not just the science of climate change from the ocean perspective, but the role oceans play in the human story.
This is not a dry, complex disquisition on climate science. This is a vivid tour of the way oceans shape our lives, and the costs and consequences of reshaping them.
Book Recommendations:
Eat like a Fish by Bren Smith 
Water in Plain Sight by Judith D. Schwartz
Emergent Strategy by Adrian Marie Brown 

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineer - Ernie Erdat
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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You’ve heard of Edward Norton. He’s starred in critically acclaimed films like American History X, Fight Club, and Birdman, been nominated for multiple Academy Awards, and, most recently, wrote, directed, and starred in Motherless Brooklyn, a film about a detective with Tourette’s syndrome who ends up taking on the most corrupt and powerful forces in New York City politics.
Motherless Brooklyn, as it happens, is one of my all-time favorite books.
And so this conversation was an unexpected pleasure. In addition to a joint love of Motherless Brooklyn, Norton and I share an unusual number of interests: Meditation, the uncontrollable nature of the mind, the difficulty of solving problems by thinking about them, the psychology of power, media analytics, cultural ideas of heroism, thwarted masculinity in politics, Ralph Nader, and more.
It’s rare that I think a conversation could’ve gone for hours more. But it’s true for this one.
References:
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
This Could Be Our Future by Yancey Strickler
Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch 
 *The world according to Ralph Nader*
Book recommendations:
Barbarian Days by William Finnegan 
Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Buddhism without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor
If you like this episode, check out:
What Buddhism got right about the human brain
You will love this conversation with Jaron Lanier, but I can’t describe it

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.
Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineer - Jeff Geld
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Welcome to the first episode of our climate cluster. This isn’t a series about whether “the science is real” on climate change. This is a series about what the science says — and what it means for our lives, our politics, and our future.
I suspect I’m like a lot of people in that I accept that climate change is bad. What I struggle with is how bad. Is it an existential threat that eclipses all else? One of many serious problems politics must somehow address?
I wanted to kick off the series with someone who knows the science cold. Kate Marvel is a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a professor at Columbia University’s Department of Applied Physics and Mathematics. But Marvel isn’t just a leading climate scientist. She’s also unique in her focus on the stories we tell each other, and ourselves, about climate change, and how they end up structuring our decisions. We discuss:
- How a climate model actually works
- Why this is the good place
- Why there is so much variation in climate scientists’ predictions about global temperature increases
- Why global warming is only one piece of the much larger problem of climate change
- Why a hotter planet is more conducive to natural disasters
- The frightening differences between a world that experiences a 2°C temperature increase as opposed to a 5°C temperature increase
- Whether the threat of climate change requires solutions that break the boundaries of conventional politics
- The underlying stories that animate much of the climate debate
- Whether the planet can sustain continued economic growth
- What it means to “live morally” amid climate change
And much more...
Book recommendations:
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler
Annihilation by Jeff Vendermeer
My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.

Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineer - Ernie Erdat
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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“Neoliberalism” is one of the most confusing phrases in political discourse today. The term is often used to describe the market fundamentalism of thinkers like Milton Friedman and Frederich Hayek or politicians like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. At the same time, critics often place more progressive figures like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and even Elizabeth Warren under the neoliberal banner. This raises an important question: what the hell is neoliberalism?
I decided to bring on two guests today to help us answer that question. Wendy Brown is a professor of political theory at UC Berkeley, author of Undoing the Demos and In the Ruins of Neoliberalism, and one of the foremost critics of neoliberalism, not only as a set of economic policies but a “governing rationality” that infects almost all aspects of our existence. Noah Smith is an economist, a columnist at Bloomberg, and is known for his robust defenses of some (though not all) neoliberal positions, which earned him the prestigious title of Chief Neoliberal Shill of 2018. We discuss:
- The differences between neoliberal theory and “actually existing neoliberalism”
- Neoliberalism as not only a set of economic policies but a form of “public reason” that influences our very conception of what it means to be human
- How neoliberal thought came to dominate almost every aspect of our lives
- Whether neoliberalism is an inherently anti-democratic project
- The relationship between neoliberal economic policies and traditional morality
- The differences between New Deal liberalism and Obama-era neoliberalism
- Whether a growth-driven economic model is compatible with our planet's ecological limits

Book recommendations:
How Asia Works by Joe Studwell
Law Without Future by Jack Jackson
Democracy in Chains by Nancy McLean

My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.
Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com
You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app.

Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineer - Topher Routh
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Hey EK Show listeners! Something different today. The first episode of my new podcast: Impeachment, Explained.
This was the week of confessions. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitted to a Trump administration quid quo pro with Ukraine, with cameras rolling. EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland confirmed that President Trump made Rudy Giuliani the hinge of America’s Ukraine policy. And then the administration announced that the location for the upcoming G7 summit: Trump’s own resort in Doral, Florida. We break down the three stories that mattered most in impeachment this week.
And then we dig into the four words that will shape the entire impeachment fight: “High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” What did they mean when they were added to the Constitution? How have they been interpreted through American history? And do Trump’s acts qualify?
Listen to the first episode here, and subscribe to Impeachment, Explained, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app to get stay updated on this story every week.

References:
"Indispensable Remedy: The Broad Scope of the Constitution’s Impeachment Power" by Gene Healy
"The case for normalizing impeachment" by Ezra Klein

Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com

Credits:
Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
Engineers - Malachi Broadus & Jeremey Dalmas
Theme music composed by Jon Natchez
Special thanks to Liz Nelson
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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
Book recommendations: 
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 ezrakleinshow@vox.com
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Credits:
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 history

And 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






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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 depression

Murthy'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 






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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

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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 Hirschman
The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm
The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran by Andrew Scott Cooper

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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


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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 policymaker

And 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. Wyman

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

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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


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“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 school

And 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 Wilkerson

The Race Beat by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff

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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 show

This one was a pleasure.

References:

Jimmy Carter's Voyager letter

Book recommendations:

Natural and Moral History of the Indies by José de Acosta

Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch

Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record by Carl Sagan (and others) 

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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


Read the transcript of this interview here

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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 Pill

Bruce Friedrich on how technology will reduce animal suffering

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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 Cep


Follow Jane on Twitter @cjane87

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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 Atlantic

Book recommendations:

The Authoritarian Dynamic by Karen Stenner

Kindly Inquisitors by Jonathan Rauch

The Constitution of Liberty by Friedrich A. Hayek



Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com


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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 Wilson
From Hell by Alan Moore

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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 LeBlanc
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

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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

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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 Springer

The Racial Contract by Charles Mills

Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com


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“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 Tribe
The Federalist Papers by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay
The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn
The Chosen by Chaim Potok

Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com

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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 Rawls
What 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 Watts

Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com 

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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 think

Chetty 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 Shafir
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matt Desmond
How to Catch a Heffalump

Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com 



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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 rights
Interview 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 

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Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com






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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.



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“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 Hari
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
Moby Dick by Herman Melville

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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 Engler
Tao Te Ching by Laozi 

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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 ezrakleinshow@vox.com






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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

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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 ezrakleinshow@vox.com






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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 Guendelsberger

Book Recommendations:

Bullshit Jobs and Debt by David Graeber
A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit
The Entrepreneurial State by Mariana Mazzucato

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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 ezrakleinshow@vox.com








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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

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Want to get in touch with the show? Send us a message at ezrakleinshow@vox.com

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.




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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 Jay
Freedom: Virtue and the First Amendment by Walter Fred Berns


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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.















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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. Neblo
Democracy When the People Are Thinking: Revitalizing Our Politics Through Public Deliberation by James S. Fishkin
Insecure Majorities: Congress and the Perpetual Campaign by Frances E. Lee

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[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 Merton
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin







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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



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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 Dupont

Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America by James Fallows and Deborah Fallows

Out of Many Faiths: Religious Diversity and the American Promiseby Eboo Patel
 

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“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 Boswell
The Open Society and Its Enemiesby Karl R. Popper
No Other Book: Selected Essays by Randall Jarrell

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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 Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl




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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.

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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 Edelman
The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility by Jeffrey M. Berry and Sarah Sobieraj
Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics by Nicole Hemmer
Irony and Outrage: The Polarized Landscape of Rage, Fear, and Laughter in the United States by Danna Young (pre-order)

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“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.

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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 Hume
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The works of Jean Piaget



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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 policy

Book recommendations:

Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty

Evicted: 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







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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 Twain
A Collection of Essays by George Orwell
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe








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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 Gerald
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight
These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore

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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 Lama
The Principles of Psychology by William James
In Love With the World: A Monk's Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happinessby Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
10% Happierby Dan Harris
The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guideby John Yates






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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 Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist
Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff

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“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 Hartmann
Cults: Faith, Healing, and Coercion by Mark Galanter
The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World by David Abram





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In this special crossover episode, Brookings Institution’s Jenny Schuetz joins The Weeds’ Matt Yglesias to discuss subsidies, zoning reform, and much more.

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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 Brinkley
The Culture of Fear by Barry Glassner
Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment by Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph N. Cappella


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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.

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“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 French
First Blows of the Civil Warby James S. Pike
The Impending Crisisby David M. Potter

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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!

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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 Burke
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris 

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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 America by Beth Macy
The Shakespeare Requirement: A Novel by Julie Schumacher
The Odyssey by Homer (translation by Emily Wilson)


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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 Belluz
Vox’s The Weeds podcast

Melissa’s recommendations:
Vox Observatory by Joss Fong
“Apollo astronauts left their poop on the moon. We gotta go back for that shit.” by Brian Resnick
Today, 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 Belluz
Today, 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.





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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 Millennials by Malcolm Harris
White: Essays on Race and Culture by Richard Dyer
The Vertigo Years: Europe, 1900-1914 by Philipp Blom
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

If 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

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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 Wimmer
The Meaning of Race: Race, History, and Culture in Western Societyby Kenan Malik
Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognitionby Charles Taylor and Amy Gutmann

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“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. Smith
The Cultural Contradictions Of Capitalismby Daniel Bell
NEXT AMERICAN NATION: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolutionby Michael Lind

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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. Chesterton
Political Writings and Speeches by Patrick Pearse
The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom by James Burnham 

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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. Federico
The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequalityby Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles
The New Geography of Jobsby Enrico Moretti



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“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 Baldwin
No name in the street by James Baldwin
More Beautiful and More Terrible by Imani Perry

 


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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 Joyce
Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000 by Stephen Kotkin

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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 Katznelson

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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 Divided by Harry V. Jaffa
Nixon's White House Wars by Patrick J. Buchanan

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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 Kolakowski
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West
The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis

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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.

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For this episode of The Ezra Klein Show, we're digging into the archives to share another of our favorites with you!
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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

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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 Khan
From Fatwa to Jihad by Kenan Malik
Faith and Feminism in Pakistan by Afiya S. Zia


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For this episode of the Ezra Klein show we're digging back into the archives to share another of our favorite episodes with you!

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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

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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. 

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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 Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Really Big One by Kathryn Schulz
The Fever by Wallace Shawn

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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.






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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 Bawer
Suicide of the West by Jonah Goldberg
The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt

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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 Cottom
Understanding Modern Money: The Key to Full Employment and Price Stabilityby L. Randall Wray
Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists by Raghuram G. Rajan
The Worldly Philosophers by Robert L. Heilbroner



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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. 






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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 religions
America, land of brutal binaries
The political tribalism of Andrew Sullivan
Democrats can't keep dodging immigration as a real issue




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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 Schickler
Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensusby Rick Perlstein
Law and Order: Street Crime, Civil Unrest, and the Crisis of Liberalism in the 1960's by Michael W. Flamm

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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 Augustine
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Malaise of Modernity by Charles Taylor

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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 Clifford
The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis
Impeaching the President: Past, Present, and Future by Alan Hirsch
Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

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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 Irvine

Book Recommendations:
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt
Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View by Stanley Milgram
Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom

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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 Shapiro
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

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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 Dubois
Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick
The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit by Melvin Konner








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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. Mayhew
Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time by Ira Katznelson
Congress's Constitution: Legislative Authority and the Separation of Powers by Josh Chafetz







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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. Grawe
The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity by Kwame Anthony Appiah
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

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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 Ellul

Medieval Technology and Social Change by Lynn White

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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!

Book Recommendations:

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

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“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.

Book Recommendations:

Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin by David Ritz

Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984 by Duane Tudahl

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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.

Recommended books:

Fear Itself by Ira Katznelson

A Godly Hero by Michael Kazin

The Warmth of Other Sons by Isabel Wilkerson

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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.

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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.

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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! 

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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. 

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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

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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. 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

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“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

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“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

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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.

Subscribe to Future Perfect:

Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Overcast | Pocket Casts

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

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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

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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.

Recommended Books:

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

The Authoritarian Dynamic by Karen Stenner

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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

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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.

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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

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You had questions. Smart, interesting questions. Questions about the zero-sum logic of markets, about whether compromise is possible or even desirable in today’s politics, about where the left goes too far, about local vs. national politics, about how to break into journalism, about Sam Harris and the “Intellectual Dark Web,” about deep work, about spirituality and politics, tribalism and democracy, and whose job it is to persuade racists, anyway. I have, well, not answers, exactly, but thoughts. Musings. Reflections. This is the long-awaited AMA episode. I’m joined by Vox’s master of interviews, Sean Illing, who agreed to make sure I wasn’t weaseling away from the hard questions or completely missing the point. This was a lot of fun. Hope you enjoy it.

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Slow Burn is one of my favorite podcasts of the past few years. Its first season, on Watergate, relived the confusion, chaos, and strangeness of the Richard Nixon presidency’s collapse. Its second season, on Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky and the surrounding allegations of sexual harassment and even assault, demanded a reckoning with one of the Democratic Party’s living icons. But where some histories use the past to comfort, Leon Neyfakh, Slow Burn’s host and creator, uses it to complicate: His show raises hard questions about presidential corruption, political accountability, public morality, and the partisan mind. This podcast was recorded before the midterm elections. For my take on the elections, head over to the latest episode of The Weeds. But if you want a conversation about whether liberals need to reassess Bill Clinton, whether Watergate would’ve been punished by a Republican Congress, and what all this teaches us about Donald Trump’s presidency, you’re in the right place. Recommended books: Quick Studies: The Best of Lingua Franca ed. by Alexander Star A Wilderness of Error by Errol Morris The Crime of Sheila McGough by Janet Malcolm 

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Here’s something to consider: For families in which the lead earner has a college degree, the average white family has $180,500 in wealth. The average black family? $23,400. That’s a difference of almost $160,000 — $160,000 that could be used to send a kid to college, get through an illness, start a small business, or make a down payment on a home that builds wealth for the next generation, too. Sandy Darity is an economist at Duke University, and much of his work has focused on the racial wealth gap, and how to close it. He’s a pioneer of “stratification economics” — a branch of study that takes groups seriously as economic units, and thinks hard about how group incentives change our behavior and drive our decisions. In this podcast, we talk about stratification economics, as well as Darity’s idea of “baby bonds”: assets that would build to give poor children up to $50,000 in wealth by the time they become adults, which would in turn give them a chance to invest in themselves or their future the same way children from richer families do. Think of it as a plan for universal basic wealth — and people are listening: Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a past guest on this show, recently released a plan to closely tracked Darity’s proposal. I know, I know, the election is in a day. But right now, we don’t know who will win. So how about spending some time thinking about what someone who actually wanted to ease problems like wealth inequality could do if they did have power? Recommended books: Caste, Class, and Race by Oliver Cox Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams Black Reconstruction in America by W.E.B. DuBois

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Identity Crisis is the most important book written on the 2016 election. Based on reams of data covering virtually every controversy, theory, and explanation for the outcome, it settles many of the debates that have raged over the past two years.

More importantly, it offers a framework for thinking about American politics in this era. The authors — political scientists John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck — show how identity drives American politics, why our political identities are getting stronger and angrier, and how the Obama and Trump eras have changed our parties and made conflict more irresolvable.

Only some of the conversations I have on this show really change how I think about politics, but this was one of them. Don’t miss it.

Recommended books: 

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild

Divided by Color by Donald Kinder

The American Voter by Angus Campbell, Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller, and Donald E. Stokes 

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Mark Sanford was elected to Congress in 1994, where he quickly established himself as one of the most conservative members of the chamber. In 2002, he was elected governor of South Carolina. He was, again, one of the most conservative elected officials in the country. Many expected him to be the GOP’s nominee against Obama in 2012. Then it all happened. The disappearance. “Hiking the Appalachian trail.” Sanford left public life. He was done, it seemed. And then he wasn’t. He won a House seat in South Carolina. He overcame the kind of scandal that usually destroys a politician. But he couldn’t overcome Trump. Sanford was a rock-ribbed conservative, a Republican, but he was no Trumpist. He accused the president of fanning the flames of intolerance, of being reckless with the truth. He wrote a New York Times op-ed calling on Trump to release his tax returns. Sanford got a primary opponent for his troubles, Trump endorsed her, and Sanford lost. Weeks after Sanford's defeat, Trump appeared before House Republicans and mocked Sanford in front of his colleagues. The president, unusually, was booed. I sat down with Sanford in his final weeks in Congress to talk about what he’s learned about the Republican Party, about Donald Trump, about America, and about himself.   Recommended books: Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? by Graham Allison Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook by Niall Ferguson

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If you’ve got a question, Doris Kearns Goodwin has a charming, insightful, well-told presidential anecdote for you. Actually, a couple of them.

I interviewed the Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential historian live onstage for the release of her new book, Leadership: In Turbulent Times, and left the building slightly in awe: Some people are truly masterful storytellers, and Goodwin is one of them.

In the book, Goodwin examines how Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson became the men we remember. She focuses, in particular, on the periods of suffering that softened them, eras that preceded the soaring leadership etched into history.

Threaded through the book’s pages, then, is a lot of pain, a lot of mental illness, a lot of uncertainty. That opened space for a conversation about the recurrent link between the presidency and mental illness, about how Goodwin researches the personal lives of presidents, about who the best analogues to our current president may be, about how history will have to be researched and written differently in an age when few write letters but text constantly.

Goodwin makes the humanity of our past vivid enough that it is able to provide ballast, just for a moment, to the inhumanity of our present. Enjoy!

Recommended books:

The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

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This close to an election, who do I want to hear from? Nate Silver, of course.

I sat down with the FiveThirtyEight founder and math wizard to talk about how he builds his forecasting models, what they’re saying about 2018, how big the Democrats’ structural disadvantage in the House and Senate really is, whether there's a purpose to predicting election outcomes, which campaign reporters he reads, and whether Trump is the favorite for 2020.

Silver and I also share the experience of building journalism outlets trying to do things a bit differently over the past five years, so we discuss what he’s learned along the way, what he wishes he knew at the beginning, and how he hires.

Silver brings unusual clarity and rigor to the topics he focuses on, and right now, given the speed and intensity of the elections news cycle, a bit of rigor is a welcome thing. Enjoy!

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom

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This is a tough conversation. It was a tough one to hold, and it’s a tough one to publish.

I’m a journalist. I’ve been a journalist for 15 years. I believe in journalism. But right now, I’m worried we’re failing. I’m worried we’re making American politics worse, not better.

That’s not because we're not doing remarkable, courageous, heroic work. It’s not because we’re fake news or biased hacks. Look at the #MeToo movement, the investigations of Donald Trump's finances, the remarkable reporting that journalists do every day from war zones and Ebola outbreaks and authoritarian regimes.

It's because everything around us has changed — our business models, the way people read us, the way we compete with each other, the way we’re manipulated — and we’re getting played, particularly in political reporting and commentary, by the outrage merchants and con artists and trolls and polarizers who understand this new world better.

President Trump is the most successful media hacker out there, but he’s not the only one. They’re using us as tools to fracture American democracy, and I don’t think we know how to stop them.

Jay Rosen is a professor of journalism at New York University and the founder of PressThink. He’s one of our sharpest, clearest critics and interpreters. I asked him on the show to help me think through what’s wrong in the press, and what I’m doing wrong in my own work.

Recommended books:

Deciding What's News by Herbert Gans

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

Exit, Voice, and Loyalty by Albert O. Hirschman

Making Democracy Work by Robert Putnam

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“To put it bluntly,” wrote Bill and Melinda Gates in their foundation’s annual Goalkeepers Report, “decades of stunning progress in the fight against poverty and disease may be on the verge of stalling. This is because the poorest parts of the world are growing faster than everywhere else; more babies are being born in the places where it’s hardest to lead a healthy and productive life.”

There is no topic in the philanthropic world more fraught than population growth. The history of efforts to analyze and address it is filled with bad predictions and cruel solutions. The Gateses, though, are trying to take a different approach to the issue. Rather than seeing a population problem in the demographic projections, they’re framing it as a poverty problem — and, for that matter, an opportunity.

In this conversation, I talk with Bill Gates about the report and about much more: the geographic and political forces that have held African development back, whether economic growth brings political freedom, the risks posed by artificial intelligence, and how we should weigh future human lives and current animal suffering.

This conversation also marks the launch of a new Vox podcast and section, Future Perfect, which focuses on evidence-based ways to make the world a better place. You can find the section at Vox.com, and you can find the podcast, which is hosted by my colleague and friend Dylan Matthews, wherever you get your podcasts. Enjoy!

Recommended books:

The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe

Educated by Tara Westover

Big Debt Crises by Ray Dalio

Find the Future Perfect podcast on Apple Podcasts | Spotify | ART19

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In his new book, Melting Pot or Civil War: A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders, Reihan Salam tries to do something difficult: build a pro-immigrant case for a more restrictive immigration system.

This is an argument, interestingly, that’s as much about inequality as it is about immigration. “Diversity is not the problem,” Salam writes. “What’s uniquely pernicious is extreme between-group inequality.”

Salam, the executive editor of the National Review, thus makes a two-sided case: He argues that a socially sustainable immigration system is one where America is more deeply committed to equality, which means both focusing on higher-skilled immigrants who need less support and radically raising the amount of support we’re willing to give immigrants who do need it. And that compromise, he argues, should be paired with a more serious American effort to improve the economic conditions of the places immigrants travel here from.

Is this a synthesis that makes sense? Does it really address the cleavages preventing us from moving forward on immigration? And what are the fundamental values that we should base our immigration system on anyway? That’s what Reihan and I discuss in this episode.  

Recommended books:

The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants Are Changing American Life by Tomas Jimenez

Replenished Ethnicity: Mexican Americans, Immigration, and Identity by Tomas Jimenez

Who Are We?: The Challenges to America's National Identity by Samuel Huntington

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Jose Antonio Vargas was born in the Philippines in 1981. When he was 12, his mother sent him to America, to live with family. When he was 16, he went to the DMV to get a driver's license and found out his green card was forged; he was an undocumented immigrant.

Vargas went on to be a decorated journalist, winning a Pulitzer as part of the Washington Post team covering the Virginia Tech shootings. He profiled Mark Zuckerberg for the New Yorker and led a technology vertical at the Huffington Post. But he lived in fear of his secret, of the fragile foundation upon which he'd built his life. So he did something few would have the courage to do: He told the world himself.

In his new book, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, Vargas details what happened both before and after his confession. "This book is about constantly hiding from the government and, in the process, hiding from ourselves," he writes. "This book is about what it means to not have a home.”

Vargas has spent the better part of the last decade doing something no one should have to do: asking people to see him as a human, not a category; asking the country he lives in to decide what it wants to do with him, or what it wants from him. It is a testament to how strange and broken our system is, how uncertain our values are, that it has refused to give him an answer.

Immigration politics is at the core of Trumpism, which means it’s at the core of our politics right now. But the stories of actual immigrants aren’t. In this raw conversation, Vargas and I discuss his life, how being undocumented changes not just your path but your psyche, and what Vargas wants to say to those who see him as the problem they elected this president to fix.  

Recommended books:

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

There There by Tommy Orange

America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo 

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Why did Christine Blasey Ford have to smile and politely ask for breaks while Brett Kavanaugh could rage at the cameras and dismiss the hearings as a farce?

The answer is in Rebecca Traister’s essential, perfectly timed new book, Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger. It’s a book, Traister writes, about how anger works for men in ways it doesn’t for women. I happened to read it the weekend before the Kavanaugh/Ford hearings, and it was eerily prescient: The book was essential to understanding not only what I was seeing at the hearings but, as importantly, what I wasn’t seeing.

My conversation with Traister is about those hearings, but about much more too: When is anger constructive and important? Can it tie us together, rather than just pulling us apart? How is the #MeToo movement navigating the fact that sometimes the people it’s angry about are also the people it loves — that our bad guys are also our good guys, as Traister puts it? And what does it mean to see each other in our full humanity, including in our angry humanity?  

Recommended books and essays:

Intercourse by Andrea Dworkin

The Uses of Anger by Audre Lorde

The Power by Naomi Alderman

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Liberalism, write Patrick Deneen, "has been for modern Americans like water for a fish, an encompassing political ecosystem in which we have swum, unaware of its existence.”

Deneen, a political theorist at Notre Dame, isn’t talking about the liberalism of the left, the liberalism of Elizabeth Warren or Nancy Pelosi. He’s talking about the liberalism that drives both the left and the right, the one that elevates individual flourishing over groups, families, places, nature. That’s the liberalism that is wrecking our societies and our happiness, Deneen says, and while the left and the right often disagree on how to achieve it, they're both disastrously bought into its core ideas. 

Deneen’s book, Why Liberalism Failed, has become a quiet sensation, gaining plaudits from conservative pundits and even showing up on Barack Obama’s reading list. His is a radical critique, and while I disagree with much of it, the things it gets right are important.  

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Is all politics identity politics? And if so, then what does it mean to condemn identity politics in the first place?

That’s the subject of my discussion with Stanford political scientist Francis Fukuyama. In his new book, Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, he builds a theory of what identity means in modern societies and how spiraling demands for recognition are tearing at the fabric of our politics.

"The retreat on both sides into ever narrower identities threatens the possibility of deliberation and collective action by the society as a whole," he writes. "Down this road lies, ultimately, state breakdown and failure.” Yikes.

Fukuyama’s book revolves around a question I’ve become a bit obsessed by: When do we see political claims as identity politics, and when do we see them as just politics? What’s obscured in the passage from one boundary to another? Whose agendas are served by it? And in a country whose narrative of progress and perfection is inextricably bound up in the success of past moments of identity politics, how did this come to be such a vilified term today?

So I asked Fukuyama on the show to discuss it. This is a great conversation with one of the foremost political thinkers of our age.

Recommended books:

Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government by  Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

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The president of the United States was the runner-up in the popular vote. The majority in the US Senate got fewer votes than the minority. And even if Democrats win a hefty majority of the vote in 2018’s House elections, Republicans, due to gerrymandering and geography, may retain control of the chamber.

But it’s not just the structure of our system that eats at America’s democratic claims. It’s the rules being layered on top of it. In 2017, 99 bills to limit voting have been introduced in 31 states. Recent years have seen an explosion of laws meant to make it harder for Americans — particularly nonwhite, young, and poorer Americans — to vote. America calls itself a democracy, but it's elected officials are actively working to make democratic participation harder.

This is nothing new, says Carol Anderson, chair of Emory’s African-American studies department, and author of the new book One Person, No Vote. Efforts to limit the franchise, to ensure power remained where it was even as the trappings of democracy gave it legitimacy, are as old as the country itself.

“Right now, our democracy is in crisis,” she says. This is a conversation about the distance between what America claims to be, what it is, and how much worse it can get. It's about the continuity between past violations of our democracy that we all understand and condemn and present violations that cloak their true nature.

With the 2018 election around the corner, this is a conversation we all need to be having.  

Recommended books:

Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America by Ari Berman

One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin Kruse

White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism by Kevin Kruse

It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein

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In her new book Monarchy of Fear, famed philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum identifies fear as the oldest and deepest of our emotions. Fear takes hold in our earliest infancy, when we can experience need but we can’t act. And it lurks underneath our psyches, communities, and polities forever after that.

This is a conversation about what fear is and how it shapes our worldviews and our politics. It’s also a conversation about what hope is, and whether embracing it is a choice we can, and should, make. Nussbaum is one of our greatest living philosophers. The way she thinks about politics, and her effort to recenter emotions at the core of both political and philosophical inquiry, is worth hearing.

The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela by Sahm Venter

To Shape a New World: Essays on the Political Philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by Tommie Shelby and Brandon M. Terry

The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics by John Hickenlooper

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David French is a senior writer for National Review and one of the conservatives I read most closely. About a month ago, he published an interesting column responding to some things I had said, and to the broader currents cutting through our politics.

“Conservative white Americans look at urban multicultural liberalism and notice an important fact,” he wrote. "Its white elite remains, and continues to enjoy staggering amounts of power and privilege. So when that same white elite applauds the decline of 'white America,' what conservatives often hear isn’t a cheer for racial justice but another salvo in our ongoing cultural grudge match, with the victors seeking to elevate black and brown voices while remaining on top themselves."

I asked French to come on the podcast to discuss this idea — and the controversies that motivated it — more deeply, and he quickly accepted. The result is a tricky conversation about very sensitive territory in our politics. It’s about how we talk about race and class and status and gender and sexuality and religion, how we understand and misunderstand each other, how our political identities turn conflicts about one thing into conflicts about all things, why groups that are objectively powerful feel so powerless, and much more.

I always appreciate the grace, openness, and intelligence French brings to his writing, and all of that is on full display here too.

Recommended books:

The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt

Coming Apart by Charles Murray

The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey

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Life is the sum focus of what you pay attention to. You hear that a lot. But look at the verb there: “pay” attention to. As if attention is something we consciously spend out. As if it’s something we control. But do we?

Not these days. There’s a war on for our attention, and we’re often losing it. Chris Bailey’s Hyperfocus looks, from the outside, like a book about productivity. But it’s really one of the best books I’ve read about attention: what it is, how much it can hold, how we lose track of it, and how to get it back.

This is a conversation about paying attention to your attention, making sure you’re controlling it rather than accidentally letting it — and all the multibillion-dollar companies working to hijack it — control you. This is one of those conversations that, if you can apply it, will actually make your life a bit better, a bit more your own.

Recommended books:

Getting Things Done by David Allen

Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

How Not to Die by Michael Greger

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“How can there be anything wrong with trying to do good?” asks Anand Giridharadas in his new book, Winners Take All. “The answer may be: when the good is an accomplice to even greater, if more invisible, harm.”

Giridharadas has done his time in elite circles. His education took him through Oxford and Harvard, he spent years as a New York Times columnist, he's a regular on Morning Joe, he’s a TED talker. And so when he mounted the stage at the Aspen Institute and told his fellow fellows that their pretensions of doing good were just that — pretensions — and that they were more the problem than the solution, it caused some controversy.

Giridharadas’s new book will make a lot of people angry. It’s about the difference between generosity and justice, the problems with only looking for win-win solutions, the ways the corporate world has come to dominate the discourse of change, and the fact that elite networks change the people who are part of them.

But for all the power of Giridharadas’s critique of elite do-goodery, does he have better answers to the problems they’re trying to solve? And what of the very real problems that have left so many disillusioned with government, or the very real accomplishments that exist in the systems we’ve built? If we are pursuing change wrong, then what needs to be changed to pursue it better?

Recommended books:

There Will Be No Miracles Here by Casey Gerald (forthcoming)

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment by Francis Fukuyama

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I’m just going to say it. This may be the most fun I’ve ever had on a podcast.

Nora Jemisin — better known by her pen name, N.K. Jemisin — just won the Hugo Award for best novel 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 win the Hugo for best novel, and the first black author to win a Hugo for best novel. She’s a badass.

What makes Jemisin’s work so remarkable is the power and detail of the worlds she builds for her characters, and her readers, to inhabit. In this podcast, she shows us how she does it: Jemisin teaches a world-building seminar for sci-fi and fantasy authors, and here, she leads me through that exercise live. It’s a master class not only in building a new world but in understanding our own. You don’t want to miss this.

Recommended books:

The Murderbot Diaries series from Martha Wells

Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler

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Zephyr Teachout is a law professor at Fordham University and one of the nation’s foremost experts on political corruption. She’s also, after a glowing New York Times endorsement this week, arguably the frontrunner in the race to replace Eric Schneiderman as New York’s attorney general. The Democratic primary, which will likely decide the race, is on September 13.

The NY AG position is unusually important right now. President Trump’s businesses are in New York, his family works in New York, his associates worked in New York. When special counsel Robert Mueller referred Michael Cohen for prosecution, it was to New York prosecutors. And for all the talk of Trump’s pardon power, he can pardon against federal prosecution, not state prosecution.  All that means that the New York attorney general is uniquely situated to investigate, and prosecute, the corruption swirling around Trumpworld.

I had Teachout on this podcast in June 2017. We talked about how political corruption was defined by the Founding Fathers, and why, during the Constitutional Convention, they discussed the threat posed by corruption more than they discussed the threat posed by foreign invasion. And we talked about the way today’s Supreme Court — in the Citizens United and related decisions — has narrowed the definition to be almost meaningless. We also discussed an emoluments lawsuit Teachout was involved in against Trump, as well as the power of corporate monopolies in American life.

It was a great conversation then, and it’s all the more relevant now. Enjoy!

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"The future without jobs will come to resemble either the cultivated benevolence of Star Trek or the desperate scramble for resources of Mad Max,” writes Andrew Yang.

Well then.

Yang is the founder of Venture for America, the author of The War on Normal People, and an outsider candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2020. His campaign is based on a grim view of the economy he sees coming: AI, automation, and globalization leading to mass joblessness. The only things that can save us, he says, are a universal basic income (UBI), a redefinition of what work is and how it’s compensated, and a redefinition of how we measure economic and social progress.

I’ll be honest. I’m skeptical of the robots-will-take-all-the-jobs thesis that’s took Silicon Valley, and much of the punditariat, by storm. Yang and I debate those doubts, as well as the different arguments for a UBI (and the various ways to finance it).

You want big ideas? Here they are.

Recommended Books:

Give People Money by Annie Lowrey (I promise I did not push Andrew to recommend this!)

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee

Squeezed by Alissa Quart

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Marcus Samuelsson is the Michelin-starred chef behind Harlem’s The Red Rooster an award-winning cookbook author,the winner of the first season of Top Chef: Masters, ;nd the host of No Passport Required, a new food and travel show from Eater and PBS.

Samuelsson’s story is remarkable. He was born in Ethiopia to a mother who carried him and his sister 75 miles on foot to a hospital when all three of them were suffering from tuberculosis. Samuelsson’s mother died, but he and his sister survived and were adopted by a Swedish family, which is where he grew up.

He’s lived and cooked all over the world — Japan, France, Austria, Switzerland — and has a pile of Michelin stars as a testament to his ability to see how the culinary traditions of one place can be informed by another, or introduced to another.

This is a conversation about creativity and how diversity powers it. It’s a conversation about what immigration adds to communities, rather than just the role it plays in politics. And it’s a conversation — an emotional one — about what Samuelsson learned from his friend Anthony Bourdain, whose show No Reservations set the template in this space, and whose loss continues to be 

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During the 2016 campaign, Zeynep Tufekci was watching videos of Donald Trump rallies on YouTube. But then, she writes, she "noticed something peculiar. YouTube started to recommend and ‘autoplay' videos for me that featured white supremacist rants, Holocaust denials and other disturbing content.”

And it wasn’t just Trump videos. Watching Hillary Clinton rallies got her "arguments about the existence of secret government agencies and allegations that the United States government was behind the attacks of Sept. 11.” Nor was it just politics. "Videos about vegetarianism led to videos about veganism. Videos about jogging led to videos about running ultramarathons."

Tufekci is a New York Times columnist and a professor at the University of North Carolina. She’s also one of the clearest thinkers around on how digital platforms work, how their algorithms understand and shape our preferences, and what the consequences are for society. So as we learn that Facebook is detecting new efforts at electoral manipulation and as we watch online politics become ever more bitter and divisive, I wanted to talk with Tufekci about how digital platforms have become engines of radicalization, and what we can do about it.

Recommended books:

The Control Revolution by James Beniger

Ruling the Waves by Debora Spar

Orality and Literacy by Walter Ong

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The question of whether President Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 election has consumed Washington since the Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller special counsel in March 2017.

But there's another question worth considering: the financial corruption swirling around Trump’s businesses, and now his administration. In any other White House, this would be the ongoing, constant story — the site of endless investigations and inquiries. And it still might be. We know Mueller is looking into the web of financial ties between Trump’s businesses and the post-Soviet bloc, and we know that part of the Mueller investigation gets Trump particularly outraged. Plus, we still don’t know what’s on Trump’s tax returns, or what could be discovered if Democrats take back a chamber of Congress and get subpoena power.

Here’s my bet: If there is some scandal lurking that’s going to derail the Trump administration, I think it’s going to be found by following the money, not by following the Russian bots.

Adam Davidson has been investigating this since Trump's election. If you're an avid podcast listener, you probably know Adam from his days at Planet Money. He's now at the New Yorker, doing some of the best investigative work on the Trump Organization. You’ll want to hear what he’s found.

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We talk a lot on this podcast about the epic levels of political polarization and how much of our ongoing breakdown they explain. But what was American politics like before it was polarized? And what got us from there to here?

Sam Rosenfeld is a political scientist at Colgate University and author of the book The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era. I’ve read a lot of books on polarization, and Rosenfeld’s is the best I’ve seen at painting a picture of what American politics looked like before Republican meant conservative and Democrat meant liberal, and why polarization seemed like a good, necessary thing to many of the people who drove it.

While you listen to this history, try to think about it not from the perspective of someone sitting in 2018, looking at a political system in crisis, but someone in 1955, observing a system that offered nothing but false and confusing choices. Would you have been on the side of the polarizers?

Recommended books:

On Capitol Hill by Julian Zelizer

Making Minnesota Liberal by Jennifer Delton

Social Policy in the United States by Theda Skocpol

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America is changing. A majority of infants are, for the first time in US history, nonwhite — and the rest of the population is expected to follow suit in the coming decades. The number of religiously affiliated Americans is at a record low, and the share of foreign-born residents is at a historically high level.

What happens to a country amid this kind of demographic change and strain? What does it do to our politics, to our identities, to our worldview?

I’ve come to believe that you can’t understand politics in America right now without understanding these changes and how they act on us psychologically. And to understand these changes, you need to talk to Yale psychologist Jennifer Richeson, who has done pioneering work on the way perceptions of demographic threat and change affect people’s political opinions, voting behavior, and ideas about themselves.

I believe this is one of the most important conversations I’ve had on this podcast for understanding America today — and I also know it’s just the start of trying to understand these questions. Enjoy.

Recommended books:

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson (who was also on EKS)

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

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For decades, Harvard’s Dani Rodrik has been a lonely voice in the economics profession warning that the academics were getting this one wrong. Trade is not an unalloyed good; “globalization would deepen societal divisions, exacerbate distributional problems, and undermine domestic social bargains,” Rodrik warned. But few listened. The tendency to emphasize trade’s benefits while ignoring its costs created a massive political backlash.  

“Economists would have had a greater—and much more positive—impact on the public debate had they stuck closer to their discipline’s teaching, instead of siding with globalization’s cheerleaders,” Rodrik wrote in his excellent book, Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy.

Rodrik isn’t just a rock thrower. He’s a professor of international political economy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and the president-elect of the International Economic Association. And so, as Trump’s trade war begins, I asked him on the show to explain what politicians and economists have gotten so wrong about trade, and what it would mean to get it right.

Recommended books (and an article):

Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality by James Kwak

Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium by Ronald Findlay and Kevin O'Rourke

“International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order” by John Ruggie

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Arthur Brooks is the president of the American Enterprise Institute, one of Washington’s most respected and powerful conservative think tanks. He’s also launching a new podcast, The Arthur Brooks Show, with Vox Media on the art and practice of disagreement.

I’ve known Brooks for a while. And I disagree with him on, well, a lot — at least when it comes to American politics. And yet, those disagreements haven’t ended a years-long conversation between us on everything from management to spirituality to policy. I can say from experience: Brooks really is good at disagreeing.

In this podcast, Brooks — a Seattle native with a liberal family and a background as a traveling musician — reveals what he’s learned on how to disagree better, why civility shouldn’t be the goal in conversation, and why it’s healthy to have a lot of arguments. We talk about why he’s stepping down from his position at AEI, why I stepped down from management at Vox, and why anger is a healthy emotion and contempt isn’t.

This is one of those conversations I’ve thought about daily since having it. The anger versus contempt rubric has been particularly useful for me, and I think it will be for you. Enjoy!

Recommended books:

Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel

The Unpersuadables by Will Storr

The Consolations of Mortality by Andrew Stark

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During my book leave, I took a social media sabbatical. No reading Facebook. No reading Twitter. And you know what? It was great. I felt able to think more clearly, and listen more closely, than had been true in years. I’m not sure that was all because of social media — I was also hanging back from much of the news — but I’m certain the blackout helped.

The experience of coming back, and reopening myself to the feeds and the tweets and the algorithms, has been profound. It feels like, suddenly, someone is following me around and shouting in my ear. Sometimes what they’re shouting is important, or funny, or incisive. Sometimes it’s angry, insulting, or just irrelevant. Sometimes it’s just a cry for attention — Look at me! Post to me! Don’t let your competitors get all the likes and retweets!

I’ve been thinking, a lot, about how I want to engage with social media going forward. And so I called Jaron Lanier. Lanier’s been on this podcast before. Our previous conversation — about virtual reality and the ways the internet went awry from its early utopian ideals — is one of my favorites. But his new book is particularly relevant to me. It’s called Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, and so I asked him on the show to make the case that I should, in fact, delete all my social media accounts right now, and that you should, too.

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What have we actually learned about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, and his administration’s efforts to cover those ties up? What role did Russia really play in the 2016 election? And what are special counsel Robert Mueller’s possible endgames — what can he really do, and when might he do it?

In January, I had Lawfare’s Susan Hennessey on the podcast to guide me through the Trump-Russia case, and it’s one of the most helpful — and popular — episodes we’ve done. Now she’s back, and given how much more we know now than we did eight months ago, it’s an even crazier, more necessary, conversation. Enjoy!

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If 75,000 votes in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania had tipped the other way, President Hillary Clinton would’ve named both Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy’s replacements. But they didn’t. And now Donald Trump, in less than two years, will fill as many Supreme Court seats as Barack Obama did in eight.

When news of Kennedy’s retirement came down, I knew exactly who I wanted to talk to: Dahlia Lithwick, Slate’s exceptional legal analyst, and host of the podcast Amicus. I can’t say our conversation made me feel better about the Supreme Court. If someone as knowledgeable and humane as Lithwick is this alarmed, then, well, it’s alarming. But it at least left me feeling like I understood the stakes.

Lithwick is brilliant in tracing the ideological and political trends that have led us to this moment: We talk about how the Court has moved steadily right for a generation, such that John Roberts — John Roberts! — is now the closest thing to a swing vote; how lifetime appointments have collided with deep politicization; what it means that voting rights are under attack from judges who wouldn’t hold their jobs if America was more of a democracy, and much more.

The right has won the fight for the Supreme Court for the next few decades, and they have done so because they were more focused, more committed, and better organized. This is how they did it, and what comes next.

Recommended book:

One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy by Carol Anderson

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There’s been a lot of talk about the coming of majority-minority America — the point, projected for roughly 2045, when there will no longer be any racial or ethnic group that makes up a majority of the United States.

But there are plenty of places in America where this has already happened. Los Angeles is one of them. LA has about 4 million people, making it more populous than 23 states, and a demography in rapid flux. Non-Hispanic whites make up about 30 percent of the population, while Hispanics and Latinos make up 47 percent, and African Americans make up 10 percent.

Eric Garcetti is the mayor of LA. He’s its first Jewish mayor and its second Mexican-American mayor. He was reelected in 2017 with a stunning 81 percent of the vote. And he’s openly considering a run for president in 2020. If Garcetti does jump into the race, he’ll likely do so based on two core ideas: that there’s a better way to talk about and govern amid diversity than either Donald Trump or the Democrats have shown, and that Americans are primed for a manager who makes running the government their core objective, rather than fighting the culture wars.

In this conversation, Garcetti and I talk about what he’s learned governing a majority-minority polity, why he thinks national identity is crucial amid rising diversity, his political vison’s central tenant of “belonging,” the roots of LA’s homelessness crisis, whether paving streets is sexy, and much more.

Garcetti offers a different vision of where the Democratic Party should go next — one based much more on the lessons of California than backlash to Trump. It’s worth hearing.

Recommended books:

Stone, Paper, Knife by Marge Piercy

Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer

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Ellen Pao had a rough 2015. She lost her high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins, one of Silicon Valley’s biggest and most powerful venture capital firms. She also stepped down as CEO of Reddit after a tumultuous tenure in which she came under withering criticism for, among other things, shutting down online communities devoted to shaming fat people and posting upskirt photos.

A few short years later, Pao’s 2015 looks prophetic. Her fight against Kleiner Perkins presaged much of the #MeToo movement. Her campaign to set some limits around what could and couldn’t be done on Reddit presaged the difficulties the social media giants are having as they try to rein in online harassment and fake news.

Ellen Pao, I’ve come to think, was the canary in Silicon Valley’s coal mine.

Pao is now the CEO of Project Include, and in this conversation, we talk about what’s changed since 2015 and how she thinks her 2015 would’ve been different if it had happened in this moment. We discuss how this era may be radicalizing young white men online and what, if anything, can be done about it. We talk about what it really takes to diversify a company — hint: much more than most companies are currently doing or are willing to do — as well as research showing diverse teams are more productive but less happy. And we look at how arguments about biological difference are used to justify the inequalities of our present society.

Much of what's obsessing us in 2018 is rooted in fights Pao has been waging for far longer. It's worth hearing what she's learned.

Recommended books:

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Beautiful Souls: The Courage and Conscience of Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times

by Eyal Press

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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What accounts for the way most of us eat? What’s the ideology, the theory, behind our diets? And what happens when you stop believing in it?

Over the past decade, I’ve been on a fitful journey toward veganism. At least, that’s the way I normally say it. That’s the polite way to say it. The truth is I’ve been on a fitful journey away from the idea that unnecessarily inflicting suffering and death on literally billions of beings that can feel pain is moral. And it’s been one of the most disorienting, radicalizing experiences of my life. It’s the belief I hold most strongly that I’m most uncomfortable talking about. I find myself, out to dinner with friends, apologizing for it, avoiding it, gently mocking it.

I didn’t really understand why I felt all this until I read Dr. Melanie Joy’s Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism. In it, she does something both obvious and brilliant: She names the ideology that governs the way we eat, investigates its beliefs and demands, and explores how its dominance makes it invisible.

This is a conversation about carnism, but it’s also a conversation about how truly dominant worldviews work. "The primary way entrenched ideologies stay entrenched is by remaining invisible,” Joy writes. "And the primary way they stay invisible is by remaining unnamed. If we don't name it, we can't talk about it, and if we can't talk about it, we can't question it.”

Joy’s work applies to much more than how we eat: It’s a lens for thinking about all the systems we’re so deeply embedded in that we can no longer see them, and so we learn not to notice if they compel us to do things that don’t align with what we believe to be right, or who we actually want to be. And it’s about what happens when those ideologies become visible and we have to grapple with what they’ve done to us and the world we live in.

This is among the most important conversations I’ve had on this podcast. I can’t recommend it enough.

Recommended books:

How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger

How to Create a Vegan World by Tobias Leenaert

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

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On May 7, Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow published a story in the New Yorker detailing New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s alleged history of sexually and psychologically terrorizing the women he dated. Hours later, Schneiderman stepped down.

Schneiderman was only Mayer’s most recent investigation. Over the course of her career, she’s exposed America’s torture programs, the Koch brothers’ takeover of Republican Party politics, the role the reclusive Mercer family had in funding Donald Trump’s rise, the real story of what happened between Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, and more. She’s among the greatest investigative reporters of her generation, and I’ve always wondered how she breaks so many huge stories on such a vast range of topics. And so, in this podcast, I asked her.

The result is a conversation that not only helps make sense of the moment we’re living in — from #MeToo to how the Kochs tamed the Trump administration to why Gina Haspel is our CIA director — but also acts as a primer on the art and practice of investigative reporting. Enjoy!

Recommended books:

Winner-Take-All Politics by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

The Diamond as Big as the Ritz by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Invisible Hands: The Businessmen's Crusade Against the New Deal by Kim Phillips-Fein

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The racial wealth gap is where past injustice compounds into present inequality. When I asked Ta-Nehisi Coates, on this show, what would prove to him that white supremacy was over in this country, he pointed to the closing of the racial wealth gap.

The numbers here are startling. In 2016, the median white family in America had $171,000 in wealth. The median black family had just $17,400. Put differently, for every dollar in wealth the average white family has, the average black family has a dime. And the chasm is growing.

One of the first episodes of Vox’s new Netflix show, Explained, explores the roots, realities, and future of America’s racial wealth gap. This conversation continues the discussion with one of the key voices in that episode: Mehrsa Baradaran, a law professor at the University of Georgia and author of the extraordinary book The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap.

Baradaran focuses on a part of the American story that’s often ignored: the way African Americans were locked out of the financial engines that create wealth in America, and the way the rhetoric of equal treatment under the law was weaponized, as soon as slavery ended, against efforts to achieve economic equality. But Baradaran’s view isn’t just historical: she’s also studied the way African Americans are disproportionately unbanked and underbanked today, and has been advising Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s efforts to do something big and surprising to solve it: building a nationwide postal banking system.

The issues discussed in this episode are, I think, some of the most important facing America right now, and Baradaran’s perspective is unusual in its marriage of analytical rigor, historical analysis, real solutions, and deep compassion. This is worth listening to.

Recommended books:

The Human Instinct by Kenneth R. Miller

Master of the Senate by Robert Caro

Feel Free by Zadie Smith

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Headlining any conversation with Tyler Cowen is difficult. This one, for instance, covers how to write a book, single-payer health care, political correctness, loneliness, the expanding Overton window, the tech backlash, technological innovation, the case for American optimism, how to change our cultural assumptions about race, and much more.

But if there is a theme, it calls back to Cowen’s fascinating 2017 book, The Complacent Class. There, Cowen argued that contrary to the widespread belief that America was undergoing convulsive change, it was actually changing less than ever — becoming geographically, ideologically, politically, and technologically complacent. But surveying the past year or so in American life, Cowen thinks that the age of American complacency is ending faster than he expected — and that change of the sort that’s happening now will prove deeply painful, even if it also kick-starts our economy and builds us a better future.

Recommended books:

The Dawn of Eurasia: On the Trail of the New World Order by Bruno MaCaes

Symposium by Plato

Grant by Ron Chernow

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

The Beatles: The Authorized Biography by Hunter Davies

The Autobiography of John Stuart Mill

Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi

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This is perhaps the most literal title I’ve given a conversation on this podcast. This is a discussion about how to expand your mind — how to expand the connections it makes, the experiences it’s open to, the sensory information it absorbs. And, more than that, this is a conversation about recognizing that our minds are narrower than we think, that there is a lot we’re filtering out and pruning away and outright ignoring.

You know Michael Pollan’s work. He wrote The Omnivore’s Dilemma, perhaps the most influential book about how we eat in the modern era. He’s the guy who told us, sensibly: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” His new book is called How To Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. And it is, quite honestly, a trip.

Over the past decade or so, the scientific community has reengaged with psychedelic substances, and done so to extraordinary effect: The studies Pollan describes in this discussion are remarkable, but so too are the insights into how our minds work, the ways in which they become overly ordered and efficient as we age, and the power that a dedicated dose of disorder can hold.

You don’t have to be interested in taking magic mushrooms to listen to this conversation. Most of it isn’t about psychedelics at all. It’s about how we think, how we sense, how we learn, whether spiritual experiences can have materialist consequences, what makes us afraid of death, what our minds filter out in the world around us, and much more.

Pollan changed how I think about my mind. He’ll change how you think about yours.

Recommended books:

The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley

Miserable Miracle by Henri Michaux

The Evolution of Beauty by Richard Prum

Rachel Aviv’s New Yorker article on refugees, trauma, and psychology

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In a February 2017 column, David Brooks wrote about "the Fallows Question, which I unfurl at dinner parties: If you could move to the place on earth where history is most importantly being made right now, where would you go?”

The Fallows question is based on the life and work of Jim and Deborah Fallows. Jim is a national correspondent at the Atlantic; Deborah is a writer and linguist. When Japan looked like the future, they moved there to watch it happen; when software was eating the world, they moved to Seattle and Jim dove inside Microsoft; when China was on the rise, that was where they made their home. It’s a reason, when asked, that I’ve always named Jim Fallows as one of my few must-read writers: His journalism is thick with a wisdom that only comes from having immersed himself in many, many different lives.

Over the past few years, however, the Fallows have believed the story is happening, well, here. They came to believe that the story America is telling about itself to itself — a story of national decline, of bitter political polarization, of rural resentment and coastal elitism and tribal identity and spiritual malaise — is wrong. And so they got in their plane (yes, Jim is a pilot too), and they spent years traveling the country, trying to see it more clearly by seeing its places more precisely. It has left them with a sense of hope that feels almost alien in this age.

Their new book, Our Towns, is a travelogue of this journey and what it revealed to them about America. In this conversation, we talk about the optimism it left them with, as well as what they’ve learned designing their lives around adventure and travel, why they spent their honeymoon in a work camp in Ghana, how to make life feel longer, whether our political identities are our true identities, why Americans hate the media, and the reason libraries are more important than ever.

I’ve always admired the Fallowses’ for both their work and their wisdom, and it was a pleasure, in this interview, to get to explore both.

Deborah's recommended books:

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

Journals of Lewis and Clark edited by Bernard DeVoto

James's recommended books:

Grant by Ron Chernow

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

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It’s time to talk about the damn emails — and the way the media covered them.

Amy Chozick reported on Hillary Clinton for a decade. She was there as Clinton’s campaign fell short in the 2008 Democratic primaries. And as the New York Times’s lead reporter on the Clinton campaign in 2016, she was there as Clinton seemed certain to win in 2016 — and there on that night in November when she lost.

Her new book, Chasing Hillary, is a memoir of these years and that reporting. In it, Chozick reflects on her coverage of Clinton, her relationship with the candidate, the incentives of her newsroom, and how all of it intertwined with her own life. It’s an unusually honest book, exposing much more of the psychodrama that exists between politicians, campaign staff, editors, and reporters than is normally shown, and Chozick is frank about both her discomfort with some of the stories she wrote and the ways her subjects tried to manipulate her.

In this conversation, we talk about the emails, as well the media’s deep and pervasive biases, what Trump could do that Clinton couldn’t, the ways campaign coverage distorts campaign reporting, our gendered expectations for politicians, Chozick's clashes with Bernie Sanders supporters, Chelsea Clinton’s criticisms of Chozick’s book, and much more.

Books:

What It Takes: The Way to the White House by Richard Ben Cramer

Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man by Gary Willis

A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Carl Bernstein

The Boys on the Bus by Timothy Crouse

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Yes, identity politics is breaking our country. But it’s not identity politics as we’re used to thinking about it. 

In Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity, Lilliana Mason traces the construction of our partisan “mega-identities”: identities that fuse party affiliation to ideology, race, religion, gender, sexuality, geography, and more. These mega-identities didn’t exist 50 or even 30 years ago, but now that they’re here, they change the way we see each other, the way we engage in politics, and the way politics absorbs other — previously non-political —spheres of our culture.

In making her case, Mason offers one of the best primers I’ve read on how little it takes to activate a sense of group identity in human beings, and how far-reaching the cognitive and social implications are once that group identity takes hold. I don’t want to spoil our discussion here, but suffice to say that her recounting of the “minimal group paradigm” experiments is not to be missed. This is the kind of research that will change not just how you think about the world, but how you think about yourself. 

Mason’s book is, I think, one of the most important published this year, and this conversation gave me a lens on our political discord that I haven’t stopped thinking about since. If you want to understand the kind of identity politics that’s driving America in 2018, you should listen in. 

Books:

Ideology in America by Christopher Ellis and James Stimson 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi 

The Power by Naomi Alderman

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Yascha Mounk’s new book, The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It, is perhaps the year’s scariest read. In it, Mounk argues that “liberal democracy, the unique mix of individual rights and popular rule that has long characterized most governments in North America and Western Europe, is coming apart at its seams. In its stead, we are seeing the rise of illiberal democracy, or democracy without rights, and undemocratic liberalism, or rights without democracy.”

It’s an excellent book. But reading it left me wondering: Was America really such a textbook liberal democracy before? I have no qualms with Mounk’s concerns about our present, but as I've dived deeper into the declinist literature on American democracy, I have come to wonder whether it relies on an overly nostalgic view of our past.

So I had Mounk — this podcast’s first three-peat guest! — back on the show to argue his case. We discuss whether America was really a democracy in the 20th century, if voters prefer institutions they can control over those they can’t, whether Trump’s illiberalism reflects broader currents in American society, the ways racial progress has long destabilized American politics, and what the currents of today portend for our future.

I recognize the positions I take in this episode may come back to haunt me when Trump fires Robert Mueller and Congress names him sun-god and confirms Michael Cohen as attorney general. But I think for all of us wrapped up in this era, it’s important to question our assumptions, and to contextualize this period within America’s real history rather than our imagined past. And Yascha, who is perhaps the most persuasive champion of the case for alarm, was the perfect guest with which to do it.

As always, you can email me with feedback, thoughts, and guest ideas at ezrakleinshow@vox.com.

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Many of you will remember the interview I did with Grant Gordon, who works on humanitarian policy innovation at the International Rescue Committee. That conversation received a huge response — some of you even wrote in to say it had changed your career path and you were now reorienting towards humanitarian work and crisis response.

Now, Vox Media, in partnership with the IRC, is launching Displaced, a podcast about the world’s most pressing humanitarian crises and the people whose lives they upend. Each week, Grant, alongside his co-host, IRC chief innovation officer Ravi Gurumurthy, bring on a guest to dig into the world’s toughest problems — both to understand them and to think through how to solve them.

Today, the world’s most destabilizing crisis is the civil war in Syria — it’s led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of millions more, a refugee crisis that has undermined the European Union and brought America and Russia perilously close to armed conflict.

In this episode, Grant and Ravi interview Stephen Hickey, who served as UK deputy ambassador to Damascus in 2010, and was ejected by the Assad regime as its response to the protests became more vicious. So he was in Syria as this began, and his perspective is crucial to understanding where it’s gone and why it’s been so hard to solve.

If you like this episode, you can subscribe to Displaced wherever you get your podcasts.

Key points in this episode

“What if depression is, in fact, a form of grief — for our own lives not being as they should?” asks Johann Hari. “What if it is a form of grief for the connections we have lost yet still need?”

In his new book, Lost Connections, Hari advances an argument both radical and obvious: Depression and anxiety are more than just chemical imbalances in the brain. They are the result of our social environments, our relationships, our political contexts — our lives, in short.

Hari, who has struggled with depression since his youth, went on a journey to try to understand the social causes of mental illness, the ones we prefer not to talk about because changing them is harder than handing out a pill. What he returned with is a book that claims to be about depression but is actually about the ways we’ve screwed up modern society and created a world that leaves far too many of us alienated, anxious, despairing, and lost.  

The philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti famously said, “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a sick society.” So that, then, is the question Hari and I consider in this conversation: How sick, really, is our society? 

Books:

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein

A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit

Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit

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Carol Anderson is a professor of African-American studies at Emory University and the author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide.

Anderson’s book emerged from a viral op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post in 2014, amid the backlash to the Ferguson, Missouri, protests. She writes: "The operative question seemed to be whether African Americans were justified in their rage, even if that rage manifested itself in the most destructive, nonsensical ways. Again and again, across America’s ideological spectrum, from Fox News to MSNBC, the issue was framed in terms of black rage, which, it seemed to me, entirely missed the point.”

"That led to an epiphany: What was really at work here was white rage. With so much attention focused on the flames, everyone had ignored the logs, the kindling. In some ways, it is easy to see why. White rage is not about visible violence, but rather it works its way through the courts, the legislatures, and a range of government bureaucracies. It wreaks havoc subtly, almost imperceptibly.”

Anderson, a historian, set about chronicling white rage and its core trigger: black advancement. It’s a lens that makes sense not only of our past but, given this political moment, our present, too. And as you’ll hear in this conversation, it gives Anderson perspective on a question that has been obsessing me of late: Is this moment as bad as it feels, and as many of the guests on this show have suggested? Or does our level of alarm reflect of an overly nostalgic sense of our past and the way past affronts to our political ideals have cloaked themselves in more normal garb?

One note on this conversation: This was taped before Sam Harris resurrected our debate about race, IQ, and American history. So though much that Anderson says bears powerfully on my most recent podcast — as you’ll hear, Anderson brings up Charles Murray’s work unbidden — this is a separate discussion, even as it centers around many of the same themes. That makes it particularly useful if you’re still working through the questions raised in that debate.

Recommended books:

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Lower Ed by Tressie McMillan Cottom

It's Even Worse Than It Looks by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein

Key points in this episode

There’s a lot of backstory to this podcast, most of which is covered in this piece. The short version is that Sam Harris, the host of the Waking Up podcast, and I have been going back and forth over an interview Harris did with The Bell Curve author Charles Murray about a year ago. In that interview, the two argued that African-Americans are, for a combination of genetic and environmental reasons, intrinsically and immutably less intelligent than white Americans, and Murray argued that the implications of this “forbidden knowledge” should shape social policy.  

In response, Vox published a piece by three respected academic specialists on genes and IQ who argued Murray and Harris got both the science and its implications very wrong. Harris felt slandered by the piece we published and publicly demanded I debate him.

After failing to get Harris to debate the authors of the Vox piece instead, I agreed. Over email, he then revoked his invitation to debate me. Harris’s defenders published a few pieces, our authors published a second piece, and everyone moved on. That’s where things sat for months. Then, a few weeks ago, Harris reopened the discussion with me on Twitter, I published a piece on the subject in response, and he published all the private emails we’d sent each other along the way. As you’ll hear him say, that backfired, so he decided, at last, to debate me.

Whew. So here we are.

For all that, I think this discussion — which is also being released on Harris’ podcast — is worth listening to. Harris’s view is that the criticism he and Murray have received is a moral panic driven by identity politics and political correctness. My view is that these IQ tests are inseparable from both the past and present of racism in America, and to conduct this conversation without voices who are expert on that subject and who hail from the affected communities is to miss the point from the outset.

So that’s where we begin. Where we go, I think, is worthwhile: these hypotheses about biological racial difference are now, and have alway been, used to advance clear political agendas — in Murray’s case, an end to programs meant to redress racial inequality, and in Harris’s case, a counterstrike against identitarian concerns he sees as a threat to his own career. Yes, identity politics are at play in this conversation, but that includes white identity politics.

To Harris, and you’ll hear this explicitly, identity politics is something others do. To me, it’s something we all do, and that he and many others simply refuse to admit they’re doing. This is one of the advantages of being the majority group: your concerns get coded as concerns, it’s everyone else who is playing identity politics.

Even if you’re not interested in the specifics of our debate, I think this discussion goes to some important questions in American life — questions that drive our culture and politics today. I hope you enjoy it.

A few links mentioned in the discussion: 

My piece on this whole debate, which links all the relevant articles. 

Harris and Murray's original podcast 

Vox's original response piece 

The Haier piece Harris wanted us to publish defending him 

Our authors' response to various criticisms 

The emails between me and Harris

Key points in this episode

It’s been a tough year for Facebook. The social networking juggernaut found itself engulfed by controversies over fake news, electoral interference, privacy violations, and a broad backlash to smartphone addiction. Wall Street has noticed: the company has lost almost $100 billion in market cap in recent weeks.

Behind Facebook’s hard year is a collision between the company’s values, ambitions, business model, and mindboggling scale. Mark Zuckerberg, the site’s founder, has long held that the company’s mission is to make the world more open and connected — with the assumption being that a more open and connected world is a better world. But a more open world can make it easier for governments to undermine each other’s elections from afar; a more connected world can make it easier to spread hatred and incite violence.

So has Facebook become too big to manage, and too dangerous when it fails? Should the social infrastructure of the global community be managed by a corporation headquartered in Northern California? What’s Zuckerberg’s reply to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who says the social media giant’s business model is at odds with its users’ interests? And how has all this changed Zuckerberg’s ambitions for Facebook’s future, and confidence in its mission?

Zuckerberg and I talk about all of this and more in this conversation.

Key points in this episode

Mitch Landrieu is the white mayor of New Orleans, and he wants America to talk about race. Landrieu is the author of the new book, In The Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History. The statues he refers to are Confederate war memorials, four of which he controversially took down in May of 2017. 

"These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for,” Landrieu said, in a speech that went viral nationally. "After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.”

Since then, Landrieu's profile has skyrocketed. He is often talked about as a Democratic candidate for 2020. In the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg called him "the white, Southern anti-Trump."

In this conversation, Landrieu and I discuss how he came to believe it necessary to remove the statues, and what happened in the aftermath. We also talk about his experience serving in the Louisiana legislature with David Duke ("a dress rehearsal for the rise of Donald Trump,” he says), the power of dog whistle politics, why you can’t run a government like a business, whether Democrats can still talk to the whole country, what makes a “ radical centrist," why leaders need to get comfortable with uncomfortable conversations, and whether confronting America’s divisions opens a path towards healing or just deepens our divides.

Recommended books:

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community, by Martin Luther King Jr.

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Key points in this episode

Want to know why we can’t make any progress on the guns debate? Because this isn’t a debate over policy. It’s a debate over identity.

After last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I remembered a book Evan Osnos recommended on this show, called Citizen-Protectors: The Everyday Politics of Guns in an Age of Decline by Jennifer Carlson.

Carlson, a sociologist, realized that her discipline had missed a major social transformation: that Americans weren’t just buying guns for hunting or home protection. Guns had become part of their everyday lives, structuring how they saw the world, their country, and their role in it. And so she dove deep into the experiences of gun carriers in Michigan, becoming a gun carrier and even certified instructor herself, examining how the NRA’s training programs construct new models of citizenship, and digging into how gun ownership interacts with race, gender, and class.

I don’t believe that empathy alone offers a way forward in the guns debate. But I do believe that understanding the identities at play here — both among those who own guns and those who want to see gun ownership restricted — is the only way to have a debate that makes sense. This conversation helped me, at least, see those identities much more clearly.

Books

Columbine by Dave Cullen

Chokehold by Paul Butler

The Limits of Whiteness by Neda Maghbouleh

Key points in this episode

When you’re sitting in front of Rep. Joe Kennedy, it’s clear that you’re sitting in front of a Kennedy. The face, the jawline — it’s all uncannily familiar.

But Kennedy, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, is rising in a changed Democratic Party. In the 1950s, the nonwhite share of the Democratic vote was about 7 percent. In 2012, it was about 44 percent — and that number is ticking upward.

Kennedy is navigating it smoothly. Tapped to give the Democratic response to the State of the Union — and you’ll want to listen to him tell the story of how that came about — he delivered a powerful performance in a speaking slot that usually buries ambitious young politicians. And he did it by reminding Democrats that their rhetoric can be bigger than their divisions, that a party built on difference can still see its way to a national identity.

In this conversation, Kennedy and I talk about the vision and the policies that lie behind that speech. Where should Democrats go on health care, on economics, on drugs? Is the divide over identity politics and economic populism really a “false choice,” as Kennedy argues? And how do Democrats talk about unity when Trump keeps driving the national conversation into divisive issues?

Further Reading:

Matt Yglesias' piece on Rep. Kennedy's SOTU response

The Ezra Klein Show episode with the authors of How Democracies Die

Books:

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Key points in this episode

Human beings are tribal creatures, particularly when they feel threatened. And the reality of living in America in 2018, at a time of massive demographic change and social upheaval, is that we all feel threatened, and so we are all becoming more tribal.

In her new book, Political Tribes, Amy Chua argues that America’s foreign policy has long been undermined by our underestimation of tribalism abroad, and that our domestic stability is now being hollowed out by our inability to see it clearly at home. Donald Trump, she argues, is a product of tribal threat — of a country where “race has split America’s poor and class has split America’s whites.” And progressives, she argues, are a big part of the problem — they have become judgmental, exclusionary, and smug.

The question that animates much of my conversation with Chua is: What can be done to calm American tribalism? Is it a product of overheated rhetoric and political choices? Or is it the inevitable result of a country teetering on demographic instability, a moment when no group can truly consolidate power so all groups are left fighting for it?

Mentioned:

The book about sports rivalry that Ezra mentions as an example of the power of divisive sports identities 

Amy Chua mentioned Better Angels, a group working to depolarize America

She also mentioned Sarah Silverman's new show, I Love You, America, which aims to bridge our political divide with comedy 

Anne Jones' "whitelash" idea is articulated here

Ezra mentioned that the Soviet Union exploited American racial tensions. Here’s an explanation of that history.

Books:

The Possessed by Elif Batuman 

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Ethnic Groups in Conflict by Donald L. Horowitz

Amy Chua also did a By the Book with the New York Times recently, so here's a full breakdown of her reading recommendations.

Key points in this episode

In 2011, Tristan Harris’s company, Apture, was acquired by Google. Inside Google, he became unnerved by how the company worked. There was all this energy going into making the products better, more addicting, more delightful. But what if all that made the users’ lives worse, more busy, more distracted?

Harris wrote up his worries in a slide deck manifesto. “A Call to Minimize Distraction & Respect Users’ Attention” went viral within the company and led to Harris being named Google’s “design ethicist.” But he soon realized that he couldn’t change enough from the inside. The business model wasn’t built to give users back their time. It was built to take ever more of it.

Harris, who co-founded the Center for Humane Technology, has become the most influential critic of how Silicon Valley designs products to addict us. His terms, like the need to focus on “Time Well Spent,” have been adopted (or perhaps coopted) by, among others, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

I interviewed Harris recently for my podcast. We talked about how the 2016 election threw Silicon Valley into crisis, why negative emotions dominate online, where Silicon Valley’s model of human decisionmaking went wrong, whether he buys Zuckerberg's change of heart, what happened when meditation master Thich Nhat Hahn came to Google, what it means to control your own time, and what can be done about it.

Further Reading:

A Verge interview with Jaron Lanier where he talks about the idea that to maximize engagement, you need to maximize emotional engagement, and the emotions that are most engaging are the negative ones.

Tristan mentions Kahneman’s System 1 & System 2 thinking. Here’s an explanation of that. 

The Onion article Ezra mentioned about the ways meditation is applied in Silicon Valley

The New York Times piece with a headline Tristan says is somewhat different from the truth

A description of the Facebook earnings call that Tristan mentioned 

The Stanford Persuasive Technology lab Tristan mentioned to explain the psychology behind the Snapchat Streak 

Ezra mentioned Ralph Nader’s Consumer Movement. Here’s a description of that. 

The New York Times article on greyscaling a phone that Tristan and Ezra discuss

Recommended books

Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves Reprint Edition by Adam Hochschild

Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman

Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman

Key points in this episode

Does the daily news feel depressing? Does the world feel grim? It’s not, says Harvard professor Steven Pinker. This is, in fact, the best moment in human history — there’s less war, less violence, less famine, less poverty, than there ever has been. There’s more opportunities for human flourishing, more personal freedom, more democracy, more education, more equality, more technological wonder, than the world has ever seen. 

In Pinker’s new book, Enlightenment Now, he mounts both his case that the world that this moment is astonishingly great from a historical perspective, and argues that there’s a reason for that: enlightenment values of science, reason, humanism, and faith in progress. Values that he says are under attack from a right that is retreating into zero-sum nationalism, a left that has lost faith in progress, and a public that doesn't always appreciate just how much progress has been made.

In this conversation, we talk about Pinker’s new book, as well as his views on political correctness on campus, how politics drives us to irrationality, and what future generations will look back on us with horror for doing. There are things Pinker says in here that I’m skeptical of, as you’ll hear, but I agree with his big point: if all you’re following is the daily news cycle, with our deep bias towards what’s going wrong right now, it’s easy to miss how much has gone right to get us to this moment. 

Books and articles mentioned in this episode:

Pinker's piece for the New Repulibic, Science Is Not Your Enemy

Leon Wieseltier's reponse to that piece

Yuval Noah Harari's, Sapiens

Paul Shapiro's Clean Meat

Philip Tetlock's Superforecasting

Peter Singer's The Expanding Circle

Richard Herrnstein's controversial Atlantic piece on IQ 

E.O. Wilson's book, Sociobiology

German Lopez's reporting on "The Ferguson Effect"

Books Recommended:

Factfulness by Hans Rosling

The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch

Whole Earth Discipline by Stewart Brandt

Atrocities by Matthew White

Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

Key points in this episode

Bhaskar Sunkara is the founder and publisher of Jacobin, a journal of “socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture.” He launched the publication in 2011 when he was an undergraduate at George Washington University. Today, its print edition has 40,000 subscribers and a million readers monthly online.

Jacobin is at the vanguard of a resurgent American left that judges traditional liberalism as too weak and feckless for the times we live in and sees politics as fundamentally about class struggle. And Sunkara has been an able and interesting articulator of that view, as well as a longtime critic of mine.

I wanted to have Sunkara on the podcast to talk through what his form of socialism means in America and elsewhere today, what’s wrong with my politics, and what separates traditional forms of liberalism from democratic socialism. If you want to understand what the new American left is thinking, where it’s going, and what challenges it’s facing, his answers are worth listening to. Enjoy!

Books:

The Prophet: The Life of Leon Trotsky by Isaac Deutscher

The Other America by Michael Harrington

The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century by Eric Hobsbawm

Further Reading:

Bhaskar Sunkara's piece that he and Ezra discuss

Key points in this episode

The year is young, but Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s How Democracies Die is going to be one of its most important books. It will be read as a commentary on Donald Trump, which is fair enough, because the book is, in part, a commentary on Donald Trump. But it deserves more than that. It is more than that.

How Democracies Die is three books woven together. One summarizes acres of research on how democracies tumble into autocracy. The second is an analysis of the troubling conditions under which American democracy thrived and the reasons it has entered into decline. The third book is a fretful tour of Trump’s first year in office, and the ways in which his instincts and actions mirror those of would-be autocrats before him.

Of these, the book about Donald Trump is the least interesting, and so in this interview, I didn’t focus on it. Instead, this is a discussion about how modern democracies fall, and the ways in which American democracy has been creeping towards crisis for decades now. 

Viewed this way, Trump is much more a symptom of our democratic decline than its cause. So let's talk about the cause. 

Books and Articles Mentioned

The Oppermanns by Lion Feuchtwanger

The Shaping of Southern Politics: Suffrage Restriction and the Establishment of the One-Party South, 1880-1910 by J. Morgan. Kousser

The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1) by Robert Caro

Political Order in Changing Societies by Samuel P. Huntington (edited)

Donald Matthews' book about the Senate in the 1950s

Julia Azari's piece, Weak parties and strong partisanship are a bad combination:

Rosenthal political polarization

The webcomic Ezra mentioned, "Different"

James Carse's book, Finite and Infinite Games 

Key points in this episode

Krista Tippett is the host of the award-winning radio show and podcast On Being. In 2014, she was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama. For good reason. She's created, over decades, something rare in American life: spaces where people of different faiths, disciplines, and ideologies discuss divisive questions without becoming more divided, without losing sight of each other's humanity.

Tippett comes from a political family, and spent her early adulthood working on Cold War policy in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. She was a wonk who talked SALT treaties and nuclear policy for a living. But she left that life, believing that there were harder, deeper questions that language wasn’t allowing her to explore, much less answer.

I've been wanting to talk with Tippett because I think this is a moment that challenges our humanity as we engage in the daily thrum of politics. Trump makes everything he touches a bit Trumpier, he calls on our worst selves, he makes it seem more acceptable — even more necessary — to act more like him. And he degrades all of us in the process.

It has never, to me, felt harder to keep hold of decency in public life than it is now. This is something Tippett has rare skill at. Here, she both offers and models an approach all of us can learn from.

Walking the Pastures of Wonder by John O’Donahue

Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

Let Your Life Speak, by Parker Palmer

Key points in this episode

Oftentimes it’s easy for me to describe these conversations. This one is on Trump and Russia. That one is on health care. But not this time.

I want you to listen to this conversation, because Jaron Lanier is brilliant and his mind is unusual and spending some time within it is a privilege. But I don’t know how to describe it to you. It begins with the story of Lanier tripsitting Richard Feynman, the famed physicist, when he was dying from cancer and decided to try LSD, and it goes from there.

Lanier is a VR pioneer and a digital philosopher. He coined the term "virtual reality,” founded one of the first companies in the space, and has been involved in both the practice and theory of creating and living in virtual worlds for decades now. He's one of the most trenchant critics of Silicon Valley's business model, and the way it's screwed up both the internet and the world. And somehow, all this has made him a much more humanistic, insightful analyst of what it’s like to live in this world, too. 

His latest book, “Dawn of the New Everything,” is one of my favorites of the last year — it’s thrilling to read a memoir that smart, and that strange, in an era that is so focused on making us dumber and angrier. And in person, Lanier is just as exciting — every answer has an insight worth hearing in it. 

This is one of my favorite conversations I've had on the pod. Give it 15 minutes. If you don’t love it, I’ll give you your money back.

Books:

Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse

I and Thou by Martin Buber

Key points in this episode

What really happened between the Trump campaign and the Russian government?

The investigation into that question has rocked American politics. The FBI director was fired over it. The attorney general might get fired over it. The president’s former campaign manager and his original national security adviser were charged with crimes as part of it. The president himself might ultimately be charged with obstruction of justice for his response to it.

It’s also a devilishly difficult story to follow, with information coming out in half-true dribs and drabs, new names grabbing headlines and then disappearing for weeks, and countless threads that need to somehow be stitched into a coherent whole. Which is why I asked Susan Hennessey to join the podcast this week.

Hennessey, a former lawyer at the National Security Agency, is a fellow at the Brookings Institution and managing editor of Lawfare, which has done extraordinary work both tracking and driving this story. And in this conversation, she pulls it all together in ways I found extremely clarifying, and occasionally horrifying.

This is a conversation about the big picture of the Russia investigation: what we know and what we don’t know, what Robert Mueller has actually promised to deliver, what collusion really means, how Trump’s aides could have done what they’ve been accused of doing, and much more.

Key points in this episode

Jon Favreau was President Obama’s chief speechwriter. In those days, he was a frequent critic of the political media, frustrated, as many in the Obama administration were, with its focus on conflict, on ephemera, on appearing even-handed even when reality was persistently skewed.

Today, Favreau is changing the media from the inside. He’s a co-host on Pod Save America, and co-founder of Crooked Media, both of which have seen tremendous growth in 2017.

In this conversation, we look back on 2017, talk through the first year of the Trump White House (“a day-to-day shitshow”); the Democrats he’s watching for 2020; the mechanics of building a podcast empire; Favreau’s concern about the left (“we need to take the time to persuade other people of what we believe”); and the rot in the Republican Party.

To Favreau, the right-wing media is “the real center of gravity in that party; it’s not the Republicans in Congress, it’s not even really Donald Trump, although I guess you could say that he is, in some ways, a creation of that media machine.”

Books:

What Happened by Hillary Clinton

The News: A User’s Manual by Alain de Botton

All the Truth is Out by Matt Bai

Key points in this episode

“The day before the Washington Post story came out, we were behind by one point, 46 to 45,” says Joe Trippi. “And the day before the election, we were ahead in our own survey by two points. We ended up winning by 1.8.”

This, Trippi says, was the reality of the Alabama Senate election. It was a dead heat when it started. It was a dead heat on the day it ended. And a lot of what the media thinks they know about it is wrong.

Trippi, who managed Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, was the chief media strategist on the Jones campaign. And in this conversation, he tells the inside story of that effort, and what people don’t know about it. The sexual abuse allegations against Roy Moore, for instance, played a more complex role than many realize — the Jones campaign found that they often re-tribalized a race that they were desperately trying de-tribalize, and would occasionally boost Roy Moore’s numbers.

Trippi says the central insight of the Jones campaign was that many voters, including many Trump-friendly Republicans, are already exhausted by the chaos and hostility of Trump’s Washington, and they're open to alternatives. That was the opportunity Jones exploited, and it’s a lesson Trippi thinks other Democrats could learn in 2018. Here's how the Jones campaign did it.

Books!

What It Takes: The Way to the White House by Richard Ben Cramer

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Grant by Ron Chernow

Key points in this episode

The most important story in the world right now is how real the chance of war with North Korea is — and how cataclysmic such a war would be.

Part of the reason the risk of war is so real is that our understanding of North Korea is so sparse. "The Hermit Kingdom" is a world unto itself; a land of deprivation, of lunacy, of tyranny, of delusion. We have no diplomatic relations, no trade, no cross-cultural exchanges. We don't understand Kim Jong Un, we don't understand his people, and they don't understand us. And so, ignorant, we lurch towards the possibility of nuclear war built atop mutual miscomprehension. 

The best view we have into life in North Korea is Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy: The Ordinary Lives of North Koreans. Demick was the Los Angeles Times bureau chief in Seoul and Beijing, and she found herself obsessed with this country she couldn't cover and couldn't understand. So she began talking to the people who had left it, the refugees who escaped across the DMZ. She began asking them to reconstruct their lives, to tell her what it was like, to make everyday life in North Korea intelligible. And they did. They told her what it was like to grow up, and to fall in love, and to go to school, and to have dinner, and to flee. They told her what it was like to build new lives, to remember past friends, to know their family was in a place they could never visit again, to hear the rest of the world fear and pity the place they had once called home. 

This conversation is about North Korea, but it's also about North Koreans — about what it's like to live in the most closed society on earth, about what they know and don't know of the outside world, about how their existence can be both ordinary and extraordinary, about what would happen to them if there was a war. And this is a conversation about what we need to know about North Korea, about how the country's past informs its present, about what Demick would tell Trump if he would just listen.

Key points in this episode

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!

Books:

The Foundation novels by Isaac Asimov

An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume

Plagues and Peoples by William McNeil

Key points in this episode

I have grown obsessed with a seemingly simple question: Does the American political system have a remedy if we elect the wrong person to be president? There are clear answers if we elect a criminal or if the president falls into a coma. But what if we just make a hiring mistake, as companies do all the time? What if we elect someone who proves himself or herself unfit for office — impulsive, conspiratorial, undisciplined, destructive, cruel?

I’ve spent the past few months reporting out a story on that question — a story that is about Donald Trump, sure, but also about the American political system more broadly — and so today, on the podcast, the tables are turned: Sean Rameswaram, the host of Vox's new, soon-to-be daily explainer podcast, interviewed me about “The case for normalizing impeachment.”

The big question here is one that I've been weighing on the podcast in recent months (listen to my second episode with Chris Hayes and you'll hear an early version of it): Are the civic and political consequences of impeachment worse than the consequences of leaving a dangerously unfit president in office? I think I've come to an answer — but it's not the answer I started with. Enjoy!

Suggested books on impeachment:

Impeachment: A Handbook by Charles Black Jr.

Impeachment: A Citizen's Guide by Cass Sunstein

Young Radicals: In the War for American Ideals by Jeremy McCarter

Constitutional Law Stories edited by Michael C. Dorf

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I wanted to take a post-Thanksgiving break from politics and current events this week to talk to Robert Wright. He's written some of the best books on religion and evolutionary psychology, including Non-Zero and The Evolution of God. 

His latest book is Why Buddhism is True, and it’s fantastic. I’m interested in mindfulness, and so have read a lot of books on the subject. This isn’t like those. It’s a not a how-to guide, or an argument for meditation’s health benefits. It’s a deep dive into theories of the mind, informed both by Wright’s scientific background and his study and practice of Buddhism. It’s about how our minds evolved to keep us alive, not to keep us happy or satisfied — and what can be done about it.

There is practical advice in this podcast, too. Wright beautifully describes what happens when he reaches what he calls "meditative depths,” what it’s like to go on a 10-day silent meditation retreat, and why a mindful outlook doesn’t lead to complacency or neutrality. But whether you’re interested in meditation or not, you should be interested in how your mind works, and on that, Wright has a lot to say that’s worth hearing. 

Books:

What is Life? / Mind and Matter by Erwin Schrödinger

Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratan

What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula 

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We’re living through an upheaval. The #MeToo moment has engulfed some of the most powerful men in politics, entertainment, and media. It has also forced a national reckoning with the reality of America’s sexual and workplace cultures — how often they permitted harassment and assault to flourish, how routinely they protected perpetrators and blamed victims. But why is it happening now? And will it continue or be swept away in backlash? 

Rebecca Traister is a writer-at-large at New York magazine, as well as the author of Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women. And she’s one of the most essential writers to read on the intersection of gender and politics. 

In this conversation, Traister traces this moment back to Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas — a “turning point” that changed American politics. We talk about Bill Clinton’s complex legacy, and Traister’s view that there would be no #MeToo moment without Trump. We talk about why the Weinstein allegations were able to set off such a chain reaction — and also how this is a more fragile movement than many realize, and the various ways in which Traister fears it could collapse. 

Books:

Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas by Jill Abramson and Jane Meyer

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper

One Woman One Vote: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement ed. Marjorie Spruill Wheeler

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When we talk about the future of work, we usually focus on artificial intelligence, robotics, driverless cars. The future of work, we’re told, is a future where humans cease to be necessary.

Ai-jen Poo wants to refocus that conversation. When we think about the future of work, she says, we need to think about care workers. Home care work — caring for the elderly and for children — is the fastest-growing occupation in the entire workforce, expanding at five times the rate of any other job. By the year 2030, child care and elder care jobs will be our economy's single largest occupation. If you’re talking about the future of work and you’re not talking about care work, you’re doing it wrong.

Poo is a MacArthur "genius" grant-winning activist and organizer. She began her career in New York City, organizing domestic workers, and eventually lobbied New York state to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Thanks to her efforts, seven other states have now passed similar legislation.

Today, Poo is the executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the co-director of Caring Across Generations, and the author of The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America. In this episode, we talk about how she managed to organize a population of workers that spend most of their lives behind closed doors, why she calls herself a "futurist," and the central paradox of care work in America — that the folks who care for those we love are often the most undervalued and least protected.

Books:

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes,

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

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Evan Osnos is the author of the National Book Award-winning The Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, as well as a staff writer at the New Yorker. And he’s recently back from a trip to North Korea, where he learned how Trump’s threats are playing in one of the strangest and most sealed-off regimes on earth.

“To go between Washington and Pyongyang at this nuclear moment is to be struck, most of all, by how little the two understand each other,” he wrote. “In eighteen years of reporting, I’ve never felt as much uncertainty at the end of a project, a feeling that nobody—not the diplomats, the strategists, or the scholars who have devoted their lives to the subject—is able to describe with confidence how the other side thinks.”

In this discussion, Osnos and I talk about that trip: about what North Korea is like, what they think about us, and what war with them would actually mean. We also talk about China — they literally can’t believe their luck with Donald Trump, he says — and whether the widespread rumors that Trump is facing some kind of mental deterioration are true. Osnos, who dove deep into the subject for a New Yorker article on the 25th Amendment, fears they are.

And that’s not all: We dig into the pressures for war in Washington, the tendency toward survivalism in Silicon Valley, and why Osnos finds his best article subjects by looking at some of the worst things that could possibly happen to the human race. I enjoyed this conversation immensely. I think you will, too.

Books

Citizen-Protectors by Jennifer Carlson

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The China Fantasy by James Mann

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Here’s a counterintuitive thought: maybe Congress in particular, and politics in general, has too little conflict, not too much.

That’s James Wallner’s argument, and it’s more persuasive than you might think. Wallner is a political scientist who became a top Republican Senate aide, working as legislative director for Senators Jeff Sessions and Pat Toomey, as well as executive director of the Senate Steering Committee under Toomey and Lee. He’s now a senior fellow at the R Street Institute, and the author of “The Death of Deliberation: Partisanship and Polarization in the United States Senate.”

Wallner is immersed in congressional history and procedure, and one of his conclusions after years of both study and experience is that the leadership in both parties are using the rules to stymie disagreement and suppress chaos — and well-intentioned though this might be, it’s making everything worse. Congress, Wallner believes, is an institution designed to surface conflict so that positions can be made clear, compromises can be tested, and a way forward can be found. That’s not happening now, and the results are disastrous.

The Republican Party is particularly bad on this score, he says. “They pretend like they all agree on everything...But if you never deal with your problems, what do you think happens? A break-up! And that's literally what you're seeing right now.”

The first few times I hard Wallner’s arguments, I was skeptical. In some ways, I’m still skeptical, as you’ll hear in this conversation. But I’m also convinced he’s onto something important. 

Books:

The Professor's House by Willa Cather

Democracy and Leadership by Irving Babbitt

Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 by James Madison

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Tig Notaro dropped out of high school. She drifted between odd jobs for a long time and eventually found her way to Colorado, where she discovered open mic nights and a talent for stand-up comedy. 

Stand-up brought discipline to her life. But fame eluded her until 2012, when she released "Live," the comedy album of the stand-up set she performed just four days after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and soon after her mother suddenly passed away. 

Now, Notaro has her own show, "One Mississippi," on Amazon Prime. The show is semi-autobiographical, and she plays a version of herself, a radio host who recently lost her mother and struggles after a double mastectomy. 

As we discuss here, "One Mississippi" brilliantly tackles workplace sexual harassment, in terms all too familiar in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations. And it doesn’t stop within the boundaries of the show: Notaro has said that Louis CK, one of her executive producers, needs to “handle” the sexual harassment allegations that have swirled around him.

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Over the past decade, scientists have developed what was once just the subject of dystopian fiction: gene editing technology.

It's known as CRISPR. Jennifer Doudna, a professor of molecular and cell biology and chemistry at the University of California Berkeley, was a key member of the research group that developed the technology. She's also the co-author of the recent book A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution.

A straightforward description of CRISPR is mind-boggling in what it suggests. As Doudna writes, “the genome — an organism’s entire DNA content, including all its genes — has become almost as editable as a simple piece of text.” It is possible that when the history of this era is written, most of our obsessions — Trump, tax rates, cybersecurity, Obamacare, NFL protests — will be forgotten, and CRISPR will be where historians focus.

With great power comes great responsibility — and genuine terror. Doudna had a nightmare as her lab and others started to use CRISPR to make heritable changes in genes. She dreamed that her colleague wanted her to meet someone interested in her research — and it was Adolf Hitler with a pig face, waiting to take notes on the technology she developed. She awoke from that dream in a cold sweat. And the concerns that dream represent pushed her to discuss the implications of CRISPR technology publicly.

CRISPR could do enormous good or tremendous harm — or both. In this conversation, Doudna and I discuss its possibilities, its dangers, its technical obstacles, the regulatory questions it raises, and much more.

Books:

The Double Helix by Jim Watson

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes

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“It’s important to remember the inconsequence of one’s talent and hard work and the incredible and unmatched sway of luck and fate,” writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in his new book, We Were Eight Years in Power.

Coates’s view of his career flows from his view of human events: contingent, unguided, and devoid of higher morality or cosmic justice. He is not here to comfort you. He is not here to comfort himself. "Nothing in the record of human history argues for a divine morality, and a great deal argues against it," he writes. "What we know is that good people very often suffer terribly, while the perpetrators of horrific evil backstroke through all the pleasures of the world."

It’s this worldview that makes conversations with Coates so bracing. His philosophy leaves room for chaos, for disorder, for things to go terribly wrong and stay that way. In this discussion, I asked him what would make him hopeful, what it would mean for America to live up to its ideals.  Closing the 20-to-1 white-black wealth gap, he replied. But what would that take, he asked? “Maybe something so large that you find yourself in a country that's not even America anymore.” 

Maybe, he mused, it’s something that he couldn’t even support. "It's very easy for me to see myself being contemporary with processes that might make for an equal world, more equality, and maybe the complete abolition of race as a construct, and being horrified by the process, maybe even attacking the process. I think these things don't tend to happen peacefully." 

This is a discussion about race, about luck, about history, about politics, but above all, about how the stories we tell ourselves are often designed to carry comfort rather than truth.

"For me, my part in this struggle, my part to make a better world, is not simply to have people pick up my work and say, 'Well, all the facts seem correct. I think this is right,' and, then move on with their lives," says Coates. "My job is to bring across the emotion, to make them feel a certain way, to haunt them, to make it hard to sleep."

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Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have studied American politics for more than three decades. They are the town’s go-to experts on the workings of Congress. In 2012, they rocked Washington when they published It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, a book that marshaled their considerable authority to argue that the dysfunction poisoning American government was the result of “asymmetric polarization,” notably a Republican Party that “has become an insurgent outlier in American politics — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

This was a controversial diagnosis then. After Trump, it’s closer to the conventional wisdom.

E.J. Dionne is a columnist at the Washington Post, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and the author of the classic book Why Americans Hate Politics. He’s one of the sharpest political observers alive.

And now, like a Canadian indie-rock supergroup, the three of them have come together to write One Nation After Trump, a dive into how the Republican Party created Trump, how Trump won, and what comes next.

As Dionne says in this interview, the American system was "not supposed to produce a president like this,” and so a lot of our conversation is about how the guardrails failed and whether they can be rebuilt. Mann, Ornstein, and Dionne may be political sages, but they're also a lot of fun, and they have a lot of fun together. You'll hear that in this conversation.

Books:

Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal by William Leuchtenburg

Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The First Congress by Fergus Bordewich

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Democracy for Realists by Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels

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In 2008, Reihan Salam co-wrote Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream with his frequent collaborator Ross Douthat. 

After nearly eight years of President Bush, Salam wanted to remake the Republican Party to appeal to the working-class voters it needed. The vision was idea-driven: tax policy that helped the middle class, healthcare ideas that would mean more insurance for more people, and a generalized effort to remake the safety net to support modern families.

In 2016, Donald Trump managed to make the Republican Party more popular among working class whites. But he didn’t do it the way Salam hoped.

Today, Salam is executive editor at the National Review, and he’s trying to puzzle his way towards a new synthesis on the questions fracturing American politics. In this episode, we talk about the future of the Republican Party, the healthcare debate, and how he would reform our immigration system (and upend the whole way we talk about it). Salam is a fast, original thinker, and he packs a lot into this conversation. Enjoy!

Books:

Greater Than Ever: New York's Big Comeback by Dan Doctoroff

How Change Happens -- Or Doesn't: The Politics of US Public Policy by Elaine Kamarck

The British Dream: Successes and Failures of Post-war Immigration by David Goodhart

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For the past 19 years, David Remnick has been the editor of the New Yorker, perhaps the greatest magazine in the English language. Under his leadership, the New Yorker has received 149 nominations for National Magazine Awards and won 37. It’s also, perhaps more impressively, been consistently profitable in an era where many august journalism organizations have seen their business models collapse.

And Remnick keeps writing. He’s the author of six books, including Lenin’s Tomb, which won a Pulitzer Prize, and The Bridge, a fascinating biography of Barack Obama, and he churns out a steady stream of deeply reported profiles of musicians, athletes, and politicians. Oh, and he hosts the New Yorker Radio Hour.

He’s a busy guy.

Remnick started his career as a beat reporter at the Washington Post. In 1988, the Post sent him to Moscow, an auspicious time for a young reporter to land in what was then the Soviet Union. There, he witnessed the fall of the USSR and the creation of modern Russia — a journalistic background that has become startlingly relevant in recent years.

In this wide-ranging discussion, the New Yorker editor discusses Russia’s meddling in the US election, Russia’s transformation from communist rule to Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, his magazine’s coverage of President Donald Trump, how he chooses his reporters and editors, and how to build a real business around great journalism. Whether you care about politics or journalism or just the role of truth in society today, there's a lot of wisdom here.

Books:

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

Middlemarch by George Eliot

The novels of Vladimir Nabokov

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On page 239 of What Happened, Hillary Clinton reveals that she almost ran a very different campaign in 2016. Before announcing for president, she read Peter Barnes’s book With Liberty and Dividends for All, and became fascinated by the idea of using revenue from shared natural resources, like fossil fuel extraction and public airwaves, alongside revenue from taxing public harms, like carbon emissions and risky financial practices, to give every American “a modest basic income.”

Her ambitions for this idea were expansive, touching on not just the country’s economic ills but its political and spiritual ones. “Besides cash in people’s pockets,” she writes, “it would be also be a way of making every American feel more connected to our country and to each other.”

This is the kind of transformative vision that Clinton was often criticized for not having. It’s an idea bigger than a wall, perhaps bigger even than single-payer health care or free college. But she couldn’t make the numbers work. Every version of the plan she tried either raised taxes too high or slashed essential programs. So she scrapped it. “That was the responsible decision,” she writes. But after the 2016 election, Clinton is no longer sure that “responsible” is the right litmus test for campaign rhetoric. “I wonder now whether we should’ve thrown caution to the wind, embraced [it] as a long-term goal and figured out the details later,” she writes.

What Happened has been sold as Clinton’s apologia for her 2016 campaign, and it is that. But it’s more remarkable for Clinton’s extended defense of a political style that has become unfashionable in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Clinton is not a radical or a revolutionary, a disruptor or a socialist, and she’s proud of that fact. She’s a pragmatist who believes in working within the system, in promising roughly what you believe you can deliver, in saying how you’ll pay for your plans. She is frustrated by a polity that doesn’t share her “thrill” over incremental policies that help real people or her skepticism of sweeping plans that will never come to fruition. She believes in politics the way it is actually practiced, and she holds to that belief at a moment when it’s never been less popular.

This makes Clinton a more unusual figure than she gets credit for being: Not only does she refuse to paint an inspiring vision of a political process rid of corruption, partisanship, and rancor, but she’s also actively dismissive of those promises and the politicians who make them.

On Tuesday morning, I sat down with Clinton for an hour on the first official day of her book tour. It is a cliché that stiff candidates become freer, easier, and more confident after they lose — see Gore, Al — but it is true for Clinton. Jon Stewart used to talk of the “buffering” you could see happening in the milliseconds between when Clinton was asked a question and when she answered; the moments when she played out the angles, envisioned the ways her words could be twisted, and came up with a response devoid of danger but suffused with caution. That buffering is gone.

In our conversation, she was as quick and confident as I’ve seen her, making the case for her politics without worrying too much about the coalitional angles or the possible lines of offense. And she says plenty that can, and will, offend. In our discussion, she lit into Bernie Sanders’s single-payer plan, warned that Donald Trump is dragging us down an authoritarian path, spoke openly of the role racism and white resentment played in the campaign, and argued that the outcome of the 2016 election represented a failure of the media above all. This was Clinton unleashed, and while she talked about what happened, it was much more interesting when she talked about what she believed should have happened.

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Dan Rather has covered the most momentous events of the modern era. He was in Dallas, Texas, during President Kennedy's assassination. He was in Vietnam, embedded with US troops, in 1965 and 1966. He reported on Watergate, stood at the Berlin Wall as it fell, and interviewed young Chinese dissidents as tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square.

Rather has seen it all. So when I sat down with him a few weeks back, I wanted to know how he compared our current political climate to all of the contentious moments he's covered.

"I am an optimist by experience and by nature," he told me. And yet, he continued, "this is a very difficult period. This is a test of our whole democratic system."

Rather and I discuss the Trump presidency and what it means for the Republican Party's future, our fractured media landscape, and Rather's own evolving career in media.

Books:

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

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Angela Nagle spent the better part of the past decade in the darkest corners of the internet, learning how online subcultures emerge and thrive on forums like 4chan and Tumblr.

The result is her fantastic new book, Kill All the Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right, a comprehensive exploration of the origins of our current political moment.

We talk about the origins of the alt-right, and how the movement morphed from transgressive aesthetics on the internet to the violence in Charlottesville, but we also discuss PC culture on the left, demographic change in America, and the toxicity of online politics in general. Nagle is particularly interested in how the left's policing of language radicalizes its victims and creates space for alt-right groups to find eager recruits, and so we dive deep into that.

Books:

Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture by Whitney Phillips

The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom by Evgeny Morozov

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Angela J. Davis is the former director of the DC public defender service, a professor of law at American University, and editor of a remarkable new book titled Policing the Black Man, which pulls together deeply researched essays on virtually every aspect of how black men and black boys interact with the criminal justice system.

It is a revelatory, comprehensive tour of the subject that’s often in the news but rarely treated in a thorough way.

We cover a lot of ground in this podcast, looking at everything from disparities in crime rates to sentencing to policing. But perhaps the most important point we cover — which is also the subject of Davis’s chapter in the book — is that the conversation around criminal justice reform often misses the key actors.

The debate tends to focus on police, but as Davis writes, "prosecutors are the most powerful officials in the criminal justice system, bar none. Police officers have the power to arrest and bring individuals to the courthouse door. But prosecutors decide whether they enter the door and what happens to them if and when they do.”

Books:

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs

My Beloved World by Justice Sonia Sotomayor

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In the aftermath of Trump’s bizarre, dangerous North Korea tweets, I’ve been fixated on a question: Should Trump be removed from office?

 

The mechanisms we have for curbing a dangerous presidency are limited, at least as we normally think about them. Though legal scholars argue over the founders’ intent, impeachment is thought to be a remedy for executive criminality, while the 25th Amendment is only meant to be used amid physical and mental incapacitation.

 

But what if neither condition is present? What if the United States of America — a nuclear hyperpower — just puts the wrong person in the job? What if we make a mistake — now or in the future — that is not clearly driven by breaches of law or catastrophic changes in health? What remedies does our system offer? What would the cost of invoking those remedies be?

 

Chris Hayes is the host of MSNBC’s All In, and he’s also an unusually thoughtful analyst of political institutions and systems. So I asked him back to the podcast to talk about this question, and a few more. We cover the infighting between different factions of the Democratic Party, the signs that congressional Republicans are growing some backbone, and the reports that Trump’s closest aides are conspiring to keep him from doing too much damage to the country.

 

This is a great conversation about some topics you’re going to hear a lot more from me on soon. Enjoy!

 

(One note: This conversation was recorded a few days before the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, which is why you don’t hear us cover it. But Trump’s reaction to the rally only underscores many of the points we make in this podcast.)

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Michael Bennet is an accidental senator. He was unexpectedly appointed to fill an open seat after Ken Salazar joined the Obama administration. He had never run for elected office before, or served in a legislative body. Perhaps that’s why he’s always, in my experience, been appropriately shocked by how the US Congress actually works.

Since joining the Senate (and winning reelection in 2010 and 2016), Bennet has become one of its more effective members. He was part of the Gang of Eight that authored the immigration reform plan that passed the body, and he’s known for working well with both Republicans and Democrats. And yet, he is despairing over the state of the institution in which he serves.

This is a conversation about why Congress is broken, and what broke it. We discuss money, partisanship, the media, the rules, the leadership, and much more. We talk about what Bennet thinks House of Cards gets right (hint: it’s the sociopathy) and whether President Trump’s antics are creating some hope of institutional renewal.

There’s a lot of good stuff in this conversation, and I don’t want to spoil it. Suffice to say, if you care about the US Congress in this age — and you should — this is a discussion worth hearing.

Books:

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce

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Yascha Mounk is a lecturer at Harvard, a columnist at Slate, and the host of The Good Fight podcast. He’s also an expert on how democracies backslide into illiberalism — which was the topic of our first conversation on this podcast.

But when Mounk and I last spoke, fears of Trump’s illiberal instincts seemed to have been overblown. This was an administration too incompetent to be authoritarian.

But Mounk made a prediction then that has, I think, been borne out: Trump’s illiberal instincts would be catalyzed by his failures, not his successes. As Trump finds himself frustrated by Congress, and by the FBI investigation, and by Robert Mueller’s inquiry, and by White House leakers, he lashes out at the system he thinks is unfairly, even dangerously, constraining him.

Of late, Trump’s illiberalism has made a comeback — he’s giving speeches calling for more police brutality, he fired an FBI director who threatened him, he’s attacking his own attorney general for doing too little to shield him from investigation, he’s demanding vast changes to congressional rules, he’s calling for administration lawyers to begin exploring the reach of his pardon powers, and he's running a White House where the clear guiding principle is loyalty to Trump rather than loyalty to country. But as Mounk and I discuss in this podcast, that’s not the scary part.

The scary part isn’t Trump’s illiberalism but the political system’s acceptance of it. If you had read off Trump’s list of offenses as a hypothetical 12 months ago, you would’ve been told that neither Congress nor the public would allow any of this to go unpunished. But Trump remains around 40 percent in the polls and his support among congressional Republicans has barely wavered.

This is a lesson that goes far beyond Trump: We’re learning that American politics is much more vulnerable to, and much less offended by, leaders who want to subvert the rule of law than we thought. It may be that Trump is too impulsive and short-tempered to take advantage of that fact. But will that be true of his successors, too?

As you’ll hear in this podcast, as Mounk and I were discussing that question, we got news that Trump had fired his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and replaced him with Gen. John Kelly. You’ll get to hear us react to that in real time. Enjoy!

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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!

Books:

Language, Truth, and Logic by A.J. Ayer

Seeing Like a State by James Scott

The Robot's Rebellion by Keith Stanovich

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Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart calls the 8,000-person Cook County Jail the largest mental health institution in the country. Thirty percent of its inmates have diagnosed mental health issues, and the number with undiagnosed conditions is thought to push the true percentage much higher. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Dart chose Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, a psychologist, to run it.

What is surprising is that Jones Tapia is the first mental health profession to run a jail. In this conversation, we talk about how the justice system looks when you begin with a mental health lens — how you balance punishment and treatment, how you think about personal responsibility versus mental instability, and how you manage the tension between what we use jail for and what we should use jail for.

Enjoy!

Books:

The Bible

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck, M.D.

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Now that I've gotten Eddie Izzard to re-derive his famed "cake or death?" routine in real time, I'm ending this podcast. Always good to go out on top.

Okay, maybe I won't actually end it. But this episode was a thrill to do. Eddie Izzard has long been one of my favorite comics. I've watched his specials more times than I can count. And this conversation was a real pleasure. Izzard — whose new memoir, Believe Me, is now on shelves — thinks fast, and not always linearly, so we covered a lot of ground.

Among our topics:

- How he ran 27 marathons in 27 days, and why he did it

- His process for writing jokes

- Why he wants to run for parliament, and how he's taken inspiration from Al Franken's career

- His techniques for borrowing confidence from his future self

- What he learned as a street performer

- Why so many of his routines are based on history and anthropology

- His off-the-cuff and hilarious explanation of World War I 

- The thought process that led to his famous "cake or death?" routine

- His gender identity, and how he integrated it into his act early on

- How he managed being the first transgender person many Americans ever saw

- Who excites him in comedy now

- His thoughts on the recent British election

And much more. Enjoy this conversation. I certainly did. 

Books!

Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

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According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate GOP’s health care bill — officially known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act — will lead to 22 million fewer people with health insurance and plans with such high deductibles that low-income people won’t be able to afford them. On the bright side? Massive tax cuts for the rich.

It’s not a widely popular vision — the bill is struggling to attract Republican support, and is polling between 12 and 17 percent. But it does have defenders. Chief among them is Avik Roy, a past guest on this podcast and the co-founder of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity. The bill’s passage, Roy said, would be "the greatest policy achievement by a GOP Congress in my lifetime.”

I am, to say the least, not a fan of this legislation. So I asked Roy to return to the podcast to discuss it. I wanted to hear the best possible case for the bill.

In this conversation, we discuss the Better Care Reconciliation Act, but also the broader health care philosophies that fracture the right. We talk about Roy’s disagreements with the CBO’s methodology, as well as the many, many ways he thinks the Senate bill needs to improve. We talk about the ways the GOP has moved left on health care policy without coming to a consensus about what the policy is meant to accomplish. We talk about Medicaid, about welfare reform, and about how policymakers should think about the needy who are hard to help. We talk about the many ways the American health care system subsidizes the rich, and the way that money could be better used.

Roy, I would say, is a lot more enthusiastic about the Senate bill in theory than in practice. After this discussion, I better understood why he sees the bill as a victory for Republicans who want their party to embrace universal health care, but I left thinking he was underrating the dangers of a party that isn’t united behind that vision implementing legislation like this. We discuss that, too.

If you want to understand the GOP’s internal dynamics on health care, listen to this conversation. I cover this stuff for a living, and I learned a lot.

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danah boyd is an anthropologist and computer scientist who studies the way people actually use technology. Not the way we wish we used technology, or the way we hope we will use technology, but the way we actually use it.“Technology,” she says, "is made by people. In a society. And it has a tendency to mirror and magnify the issues that affect everyday life.”boyd is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, the founder of Data & Society, a visiting professor at New York University, and a fantastically interesting thinker. She packs more insight into a blog post than many authors get into a book. I’ve been reading her and learning from her for a long time, so I’ve been looking forward to this discussion, and it didn’t disappoint.In this conversation, we discuss why fake news is so easy to believe, digital white flight, how an anthropologist studies social media, the reasons machine learning algorithms reflect our prejudices rather than fixing them, what Netflix initially got wrong about their recommendations engine, the value of pretending your audience is only six people, the early utopian visions of the internet, and so, so much more. Enjoy!Books:Jean Briggs's "Inuit Morality Play: The Emotional Education of a Three-Year-Old”Hannah Arendt's "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil”Margaret Mead's collection of her Redbook essays

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Sen. Al Franken’s new book, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, is the rare politician memoir that’s actually interesting. And note that I said interesting, not funny (though it is also funny).Most books by politicians are about how they’re not really politicians — they’re authentic, they’re honest, they shoot from the hip, they still remember what it was like growing up in a mill town raised by feral dogs and subsisting on nothing but hay.Franken’s book is the opposite: It’s the story of how he learned to be a politician, and even how he learned to respect politicians. It’s about realizing he couldn’t litigate his past comedy, about trusting his staff, about understanding why politicians act the way they do in interviews, about recognizing why the norms of the Senate matter.So this is an interview about what it’s like to be a politician, why perfectly nice and interesting people end up acting like all those other politicians after getting elected, and the role we as voters (and we in the media) play in it. If you’re interested in how politics actually works, you should listen.Books!Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy by Sheldon WhitehouseHow Children Succeed: Confidence, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul ToughOur Kids by Robert Putnam

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Zephyr Teachout is a law professor at Fordham University, the author of Corruption in America, one of the lead lawyers in the emoluments case that’s been brought against Donald Trump, and a former gubernatorial and congressional candidate.Which is all to say that Teachout is someone who knows a lot about political corruption, and so we dive deep into that topic in this podcast.We talk about how political corruption was defined by the Founding Fathers, and why, during the Constitutional Convention, they discussed the threat posed by corruption more than they discussed the threat posed by foreign invasion. And we talk about the way today’s Supreme Court — in the Citizens United and related decisions — has narrowed the definition to be almost meaningless. Teachout is also one of the lead lawyers in the case being brought against Trump on his foreign profits and gifts — “emoluments” that, arguably, are unconstitutional. We go through that lawsuit — and its prospects and potential remedies — in some detail.We also dig into the role monopolies and related concentrations of industry power are playing in American life — this is an increasingly influential argument on today’s left, and Teachout does a nice job here explaining why.Finally, we talk a lot about an issue that I think today’s politicians wildly underestimate in importance: not corruption itself, but the appearance of corruption, and the way it’s rotting the public’s faith in the political system. How do you solve that? What are the possible unintended consequences of the solutions that get proposed?As they say, all that and more!Books:Middlemarch by George Eliot The Gilded Age  by Mark TwainAll the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

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Masha Gessen is a Russian-American journalist and the author of, among other books, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. Since the election, she has been analyzing Donald Trump through the lens of Russian politics and personalities in a series of viral essays in the New York Review of Books. But as the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia has evolved into a dominant storyline of his presidency, Gessen has grown skeptical. She thinks the left has been overwhelmed by conspiratorial thinking on Russia. That doesn't mean, she hastens to say, that there is no conspiracy. But there is also wishful thinking, and lazy thinking, and a hope that the normal mechanisms of politics can be bypassed."For more than six months now, Russia has served as a crutch for the American imagination," Gessen wrote. "It is used to explain how Trump could have happened to us, and it is also called upon to give us hope. When the Russian conspiracy behind Trump is finally fully exposed, our national nightmare will be over."In this podcast, Gessen and I talk about all things Trump and Russia. I ask her for both the plausible and sinister explanations for the many meetings and mysteries that surround Trump's associates. We talk about the ways Trump is and isn't like Putin, how studying autocracies has helped her interpret this moment in American politics, the psychology of Jared Kushner, and much more. Enjoy!Books:Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism Victor Klemperer, I Will Bear WitnessTimothy Snyder, On Tyranny 

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Few words are as reviled in American politics as “cosmopolitan.” The term invokes sneering, urban, elite condescension. It’s those smug cosmopolitans who led to Donald Trump’s election. It’s those rootless cosmopolitans who’re shipping jobs overseas with no thought for their home communities. Cosmopolitans. Ick. Kwame Anthony Appiah is a British-born Ghanaian-American philosopher at New York University, as well the writer of the New York Times Magazine’s “Ethicist” column. He’s also the author of the wonderful book Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. And this is a conversation I’ve been wanting to have with him for a long time. “For most of human history, we were born into small societies of a few score people, bands of hunters and gatherers, and would see, on a typical day, only people we had known most of our lives,” Appiah writes. “Everything our long-ago ancestors ate or wore, every tool they used, every shrine at which they worshipped, was made within that group. Their knowledge came from their ancestors or from their own experiences. That is the world that shaped us, the world in which our nature was formed.”“Now, if I walk down New York’s Fifth Avenue on an ordinary day, I will have within sight more human beings than most of those prehistoric hunter-gatherers saw in a lifetime.”This, Appiah says, is the challenge we face today: how to live in a world much larger and more diverse than the one we were built for. The answer, he argues, is an ethic of cosmopolitanism — an ethic that honors our moral obligations to each other even as we recognize and respect the differences between us.In this podcast, we dive deep into Appiah’s philosophy of cosmopolitanism. What do we owe a Syrian refugee? How much more should the lives of our neighbors mean to us than the lives of those in foreign lands? When is difference something to be celebrated, and when is it something to be battled? And how did the term “cosmopolitan” become such a slur anyway?We also discuss the controversy in philosophy circles over Rebecca Tuvel’s essay on “transracial” identity, what Appiah has learned as the Ethicist, the moral quandary facing Trump staffers who want to make things better from the inside but realize that means becoming complicit in what’s done, and more. Enjoy!Books:The Philosophy of 'As If' by Hans VaihingerThings Fall Apart by Chinua AchebeAny anthology of Thomas Hardy’s poems

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Yascha Mounk is a Lecturer on Government at Harvard University, a Fellow in the Political Reform Program at New America, and host of the podcast, The Good Fight. He’s also the author of some of the scariest political science research I’ve seen in a long time.What Mounk found is that the consensus we thought existed on behalf of democracy and democratic norms is weakening. The percentage of Americans who think it’s important to live in a democracy has been plummeting in recent decades. The percentage of Americans who say they would support a military coup is worrying high. This is the context in which Donald Trump — a politician with clearly illiberal instincts — won the presidency. And this may help explain why he won the presidency: the political consensus elites thought he violated may not actually be a consensus anymore. The good news, which Mounk and I talk about in this podcast, is that Trump may have authoritarian instincts, but he doesn’t appear to have plans, and he definitely doesn’t appear to have the discipline to stick to his plans. We also discuss Trump’s bizarre first few months in office, as well as the challenges democracies face across the western world, and whether diverse societies make pluralist liberal democracies harder to sustain. Mounk is scary smart, he’s got an international perspective most commentators on American politics lack, and his story about becoming an American citizen after growing up Jewish in Germany is worth the price of admission on its own (that would be true even if this podcast wasn’t free). Enjoy!Books:“The Subjection of Women," by John Stuart Mill"A House for Mr. Biswas," by V. S. Naipaul“The Leopard," by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

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