Amity Shlaes | Great Society: A New History

MATTHEW SPALDING: Welcome. Welcome to Hillside College’s
Washington, DC, campus. I’m Matthew Spalding, the
vice president for the college back here in
Washington, DC, and also the dean of our new Van Andel
Graduate School of Government. And I’m here this evening,
we are here this evening, with a great friend of mine
and a wonderful scholar, Amity Shlaes. Amity was previously at the
Wall Street Journal’s editorial board and published
a weekly column and wrote a great book in 1999
called The Greedy Hand, where I first met her. We had her do something
for that book. She’s written a
very important book on the New Deal, The Forgotten
Man, A New History of the Great Depression, of which there’s
a graphic version, which I have not seen, I have to say. And then a book which
is a personal favorite, although those are
great works, which came to my attention,
wonderfully titled just Coolidge,
she wrote in 2013. And she’s on the Calvin
Coolidge Presidential Foundation Board, which I’m a big fan of. So we have a number
of things in common. But tonight, we’re going to
talk about her new book, which is The Great Society, A New
History, which is just out, and we have copies of here
for all of you to buy. And I have been reading it
and enjoying it immensely, especially given the
connection between that book and your previous
book on the New Deal. And I’m struck, as I’ve
always been struck, about how so many the questions
that we deal with today– health care, education,
poverty, standards of living– these are issues that came
out of the Great Society. But you seem to be saying
it’s not that great. [LAUGHTER] And indeed, it might
have had some problems. AMITY SHLAES: Might have. MATTHEW SPALDING: And
so I want to start with some general
questions about the book, but also about that period. Because it turns out
there’s a lot of things we can learn from studying
that period that might be extremely applicable today. So start us off by, if we’re
looking back in history, how should we look at
what is the Great Society and how should we
perceive that as a thing? What do we make of that? AMITY SHLAES: How should
we– a great society– I think you might
have seen this morning that one of the presidential
candidates, Mike Bloomberg, said it was time for
a war on poverty. So that’s a phrase
from the Great Society. I think you always
start with what– I would just stop and say
I’m very glad to be here, and I’m very impressed with
Hillsdale, and a new graduate school, and Dr. Spalding,
and the Van Andel Lecture Hall and School. What an achievement this is. A presence that
was not here before is here, and very central
and very admirable. So what do we learn in school– though maybe not at Hillsdale. But what do we generally
learn in school about the Great
Society in the ’60s? Well, the ’60s are
taught non-logically. That’s the first thing to say. So when you hear about
the ’60s, it usually tries to replicate the
kaleidoscope, maybe the drug-related experience. So there’ll be loud music,
Woodstock, napalm, tragedy, hippies, Nixon looking
bereaved and resentful. And so it’s almost hard
to get a logical picture. Certainly, it’s hard to get
a chronology of the period from the way it’s
taught, and that’s a separate problem to
the problems of earlier periods where, for whatever
sins are contained in earlier tellings of earlier periods,
they are usually chronological. And man is chronological. We need that. Thematic is very difficult
for us to retain or analyze. It’s sort of pre-analyzed. So that’s the problem with the
history of the Great Society. The biggest problem
is not left/right– [CLEARS THROAT] excuse me– or
where you are in the Vietnam War or when you switched. It’s that it’s taught more
with emotion and kaleidoscope than with logic, to me. So I said, well,
what is this period? In the 1930s, we
had the New Deal. And what is Great Society? It sounds as
ambitious as New Deal. And it was, in fact, more
ambitious because the New Deal took place in a time of
genuine economic emergency. If one in four is unemployed,
that’s a real problem, and people have to
come up with an answer. And Franklin Roosevelt– before
him, Herbert Hoover– did. And we may not like
the answer and have had another that we would have
liked to have applied in 1932 or ’33, but there’s
the unavoidable fact of the national emergency. This is a different story
because we were actually doing pretty well in the early ’60s. Everything seemed to be
getting better in every way. The ’50s were a
pretty good decade. Everything seemed to be
getting better in every way. And we’ll come back
to this, Matthew, but you know that poverty
went down dramatically, if you want to make war on
poverty, in the 1950s basically because of economic growth. So what’s the thing you give a
poor person more than anything else that he wants? A job, right? And so the ’50s turned out to be
a great decade with jobs, even sometimes with benefits. And we thought, oh, well,
given how strong we are and that we’re a
superpower and all, let’s just clean up the rest
of our little problems– cure poverty, as Franklin
Roosevelt said. And I remember the writer,
Norman Podhoretz, said, we all thought poverty
could be cured. This was, just
after World War II, for those who had fought
in World War II, a kind of mopping-up action, domestic. Because if you can win Europe
or defeat Japan, of course you can help poor people,
and all will be better. That was the very ambitious
attitude in the early ’60s. MATTHEW SPALDING: Yeah,
there’s a great chart in the back of the book
showing the decline. It’s very small [INAUDIBLE],,
but showing the decline of the rate of poverty. But then it kind of
flattens out after that. AMITY SHLAES:
That’s right, yeah. And I want to mention
here John Cogan of Hoover who wrote a fantastic book
called The High Cost of– MATTHEW SPALDING:
Good intentions. AMITY SHLAES: –Good
Intentions, yeah. Anyway, it’s all data,
and it’s all true. So he also gets at this point. We did not cure poverty even
though Franklin Roosevelt hoped we might and Lyndon
Johnson swore we would. We may have brought
it down a bit at first when the Great Society started. And you look at that chart, and
you see poverty going down sort of as fast– and you can look at the points
underlying the PowerPoint and decide– as it did in the 1950s. And then poverty, by
the official definition established by our government,
leveled off at 10%, a little more. And it’s still there. So curing poverty didn’t happen. That was the promise
of the Great Society, and it didn’t happen. That’s the main thing. And I’m really happy to have
the Framers here instead of a PowerPoint for you. MATTHEW SPALDING:
[LAUGHS] So you’ve already alluded to the
comparison between the Great Society and the New Deal. Let’s broaden that
a bit and look at the various, what
we want to call, waves of liberalism
in the 20th century. Because the other
one we have to add to that is the early
Progressive movement. And it strikes me that it might
be that the Great Society has actually more similarities
to the early Progressives. I mean, there was a
sense that somehow they could fix things through
expertise and more government than– where do you put
the Great Society in this larger motif of
what modern liberalism did over the 20th century? AMITY SHLAES: Well,
we used to think that Progressive social
workers worked where? In the states. The lady from the state of
Missouri or from the county came to your house and said
whatever she had to say. They might be funded by the
federal government in part, but it came from the states. So early Progressivism,
the kind that inspired Theodore Roosevelt, was
in the state of Massachusetts, in the state of New York. And that’s where the
Progressives came from. We never imagined we would
be running the social work business from Washington
even in times of prosperity. Most of us didn’t, anyhow. So what happened in the
early 1960s is we said, forget the states. The federal government
needs to do this. Only the federal
government can do it. And the book opens actually
with Michael Harrington, who was a socialist. He didn’t work for Moscow. What was wrong with
these socialists was not that they were traitors. It was that they were wrong
about their philosophy, right? A nice man, kind of
an early JD Vance. He focused on hillbillies. They had a problem. Some of that was social. Let’s figure that
out– alcohol trouble, you know– and wrote a book
called The Other America. And he said, the
problem of America, these deep-seated problems of
families and no food sometimes, or the wrong food,
or wrong attitudes, only the federal government
is capable of solving this. Only Washington. And there was some consensus
for that even beginning under Kennedy, although Kennedy
didn’t get the legislation. And it only strengthened. Only Washington can do this. And remember– I’ll
just say one last thing. A lot of the men who were
leading our country– and they were mostly men– were what? Veterans. So most of the time–
this is before Vietnam– they had seen the federal
government do something good, win a war. And they might have had a
benefit or one or the other. When they came home, they
might have had GI Bill. They might have had
subsidy for housing that made entry– and
certainly education. And there are people in
this room probably who– it was the attitude of
Daniel Patrick Moynihan. I never had to pay for school
because the government took care of me. I trust the government. So they did trust
the government, the federal government,
at a very high level. MATTHEW SPALDING: So
does the Great Society grow out of the New Deal? Does it grow out of
this earlier root? Is it something different? Is there a shift in liberalism? AMITY SHLAES: It’s just more– MATTHEW SPALDING:
What is your read? AMITY SHLAES: It’s
just more ambitious. So it grows. I mean, if you look
for logic in it, you can find strands of logic
depending on the person, right? But what it was was
a general consensus that we had to do something. And imagine we’re
having a theater. In the background, the bombs
are going off all the time. Offstage– that’s
Vietnam, right? Offstage, the battle
rumbles, and the tension of sending 400,000, 500,000
people very suddenly over to Asia is there. So this idea,
Vietnam is a strand. The Progressive
impulse is a strand. And another strand is Lyndon
Johnson’s personal ambition. Lots of biographers–
[INAUDIBLE],, most recently– have covered that. But here’s a person who’s
the child of the New Deal. He was a Roosevelt pleaser,
a very effective congressman. And it was said–
there’s a cartoon. If you want something done
quick in the New Deal, you get Lyndon
Johnson, the young man who worked with youth
in the state of Texas, and actually had to tell the
farmers they should plow over their crops, and that
was economic logic. You plow over your crop,
and then you get money from the federal government. And the farmers, he had
to convince the farmers. And the farmers were kind
of dubious about that, and their mules were
even more dubious because the mules
in Texas are trained not to step on the little
fledgling plants, right? The whole experience of a
mule is not to step on plants. And here, they were
destroying something. So Lyndon Johnson did yeoman
service to Franklin Roosevelt on executing a sometimes
nonsensical New Deal. And he said, when I
grow up, I’m going to finish Franklin
Roosevelt’s agenda, and I’m going to finish
Harry Truman’s agenda. Harry Truman wanted
something like Medicare. He hadn’t got it through. Johnson was deeply
proud, a proud man, that he could get that through. But you want to
think he’s ambitious, so he plays to his strengths,
a master of the Senate. And I don’t even focus too
much on Johnson in the book, so we’ll stop there. Because he’s just
part of the story. But that’s him,
ambition and glory. MATTHEW SPALDING: Right,
perhaps even being greater than the New Deal. AMITY SHLAES: Yeah. MATTHEW SPALDING: Because
one of your charts shows how the Great
Society programs actually are larger than the New Deal
programs at a certain point. AMITY SHLAES: Oh,
of course, yeah. And if you have a chart
which we have in the back, you will see that our
commitments to the Great Society cost more
than our commitments to New Deal programs today. That is, the papers
our lawmakers signed in the ’60s committed
us to spending more today than even the New Deal. What’s interesting is the Walter
Lippmann, the commentator, wrote a critique
of the New Deal. And it was called
a Good Society. And one reason Walter
Lippmann called it good was he was signaling we should
draw back from these Superman ambition projects. Great. But great is wrong. Good. But Johnson liked “great.” He was very proud of the phrase. He introduced it at the
University of Michigan in 1964. And if not great, then not
at all, was his attitude. MATTHEW SPALDING: Right. I think the phrase “Great
Society” was actually used by John Dewey at one. It’s actually an old
Progressive phrase– AMITY SHLAES: Yes, it was even– MATTHEW SPALDING: –in an essay. AMITY SHLAES: –used by the
Fabian Socialists in England. MATTHEW SPALDING:
Yeah, so it does actually have a history to it. AMITY SHLAES: And we will
have great– in England, it also means big, right? It doesn’t just mean high. So by “great society,”
actually in England, they meant a society that is
networked from town to town across the country. Because before the
railroad and the telegraph, towns were pretty isolated. And now we had a great
society, and the newspapers began to come on the
train in the morning, and we could hear what was going
on in London in practically real time. That was what the Fabian
Socialists imagined. But they also
imagined, right away, that if a society is
great, broad, high, it must have great planners. MATTHEW SPALDING: Right. AMITY SHLAES: You can see
that in the language too. MATTHEW SPALDING: Yes. AMITY SHLAES: And planning is
a huge part of Great Society, ours, in the ’60s. MATTHEW SPALDING:
Right, that’s what I mean, the sense of going
back to the early Progressives, planning and expertise. So the main elements
of the Great Society– correct me if I’m wrong– in LBJ, his famous speech,
health care, health, education, the environment. Are those really the main areas? AMITY SHLAES: Yeah,
he had cities. He classed them cities,
country, classroom. And all those things are– MATTHEW SPALDING:
Why those, and what was their thinking on them? AMITY SHLAES: Well, we did
need some environmental law or environmental habit. That was clear. This was the era when you
couldn’t drive through Gary because it smelled too bad. We did, but you had to
roll up the window, right? LBJ was very
concerned about– he was very much of a car person. You don’t see him walking a lot. And I think America would
be different if presidents could walk down the street
because he was a vehicular president. He had an amphibious car. So he liked to
beautify highways. Lady Bird did along with
beginning in the environment. Of course, Nixon did
more, and I include Nixon in the Great Society. One of the revisions
of this book is that Nixon is really
just a follow-on to Johnson. The classroom, Johnson
was a school teacher, so that appealed to him. And he believed, rightly, I
would say– and you would too, probably– that
education is much of the answer to the
ills of poor families. If they know more, they
can earn more money. And– MATTHEW SPALDING:
OK, so one could say that’s a reasonable argument
for those three areas of– AMITY SHLAES: Right. MATTHEW SPALDING: –involvement. How did it become
the Great Society? Was this good
intentions gone bad? Was this the fatal
conceit of planning? Was this just great ambition
to get the federal government involved? Was it to build– what’s the– AMITY SHLAES: Well,
it was a power drive. We want to stay in
power, so we want to do more and more
impressive things so people will re-elect us. That’s the way– the book ends
with Nixon seeking re-election. But I’m not sure
what you’re asking. What I do say in the book,
what I show in the book, is first they tried
the war on poverty, and they had weird
results with that. The Poverty Law, the
Economic Opportunity Act, which created the Poverty
Office of Sargent Shriver, seemed a fairly harmless
law, but actually did quite a bit of harm. What am I thinking of? Many in this room are concerned
about federalism, right? What is the state in
charge of, and what is a town in charge of? We had poverty in
American cities. The mayors all had poverty. People– maybe they called
them assistance, not poverty, but they had poverty people. Many of the mayors
were Democrats. They helped Lyndon Johnson
get elected in 1964. I’m thinking here
of Richard J. Daly. And so when Johnson
declared war on poverty, Richard J. Daly put
all his poverty ideas in a box, a big box,
mailed it to Washington. Here’s what I need money
for that you owe me because of what I gave you. And that is not what came out of
the poverty czar office because of the infatuation with
reform and sometimes Social Democratic,
or we would sometimes call them socialist ideas. What came out of that office
was Sargent Shriver, a nice man, brother-in-law of the late
president, kind of noble, hard to dislike, veteran,
created the Peace Corps, running this, sent his own
poverty people to the towns. And I’m thinking
some of the people in the room may
have known of that or been part– his
own poverty people. And those poverty people
believed in community activism, by which they meant,
let’s go to the town hall and protest and try to
get whatever we need here. We thought it would be
jobs, but it ended up being housing,
landlords, and so on. And the mayors could
not believe it. They had elected Lyndon
Johnson, and now Johnson’s very own people were bothering
them in their mayor office, disturbing their day,
and not helping them with their problem of poverty. And in the book,
I tell this story of Sam Yorty, the mayor
of Los Angeles, who said, there will be riots in
Los Angeles unless you help me, President Johnson, basically,
with my poverty programs. And he got into a
jurisdictional squabble with the Poverty Office,
the mayor of Los Angeles versus Sargent Shriver,
[INAUDIBLE] all spring. And the money that was
promised didn’t come. What’s worse than no money? Money that was promised
and doesn’t come. What’s worse than money
that’s never promised? Money that was promised. And that failure of Yorty– and it was his
failure too– to bring the money he said would be
there to create hundreds and hundreds of jobs
for the youth of Watts contributed to the
rage in Watts, along with all the other
factors that are more famous, such as the rough
police department and so on. So sometimes when you have
multiple jurisdiction, all you have is jurisdictional
lacunae and chaos, right? And that often happened. The other mayors
also complained. Daly said, does the president
know he’s sending M-O-N-E-Y to– I can’t remember what
he put, but subversive, some word like subversives. Does he know that? Daly couldn’t believe it, that
Johnson would be so naive. And I think Johnson
himself was not really aware of what
Shriver was doing. And Shriver just wanted
to get things done fast, and Johnson was pressuring him. So this was a great– Shriver is one of
the fools of my book because he was a nice
man who did a naive thing and paid for it terribly. MATTHEW SPALDING: Right, right. So let’s try to draw out
some broader lessons here, and then we’ll open
it up for questions. AMITY SHLAES: Oh, sure. MATTHEW SPALDING: Because
there’s a lot in your book which I found
fascinating about how there was a push for an idea,
perhaps because of idealism, perhaps because of politics– but then there’s often
a compromise or a push back by people like Wilbur Mills
or Daniel Patrick Moynihan. But they got taken
on that because it took on a life of its own. Is the lesson here, beware
of idealism and government coming together? Is it unintended consequences? Is it, don’t compromise
with idealists and zealots? I mean, what’s the larger– AMITY SHLAES: Beware
of marginal increases, and we know that
from government. Wilbur Mills– MATTHEW SPALDING:
Some of these were– because you were pointing
out that– so Medicare was an add-on. It was going to be a small
add-on program that was agreed to, but then it became– AMITY SHLAES: Yeah,
and Wilbur Mills– MATTHEW SPALDING: What do we
learn from this for today? Because this is
what we’re debating. AMITY SHLAES: Wilbur Mills was– MATTHEW SPALDING: It’s
the kind of debates we’re having today
about what we should do. AMITY SHLAES: He
was a chairman– he was known as the
Powerful Wilbur Mills– I think, until I was 10, I
thought his name was Powerful– because the influence of the
Ways and Means Committee. And Wilbur Mills was a
government expander, but also a pragmatist. And he went along with
Medicare and kind of liked it because of a lot of
other trades he had going in his complex business. And then Medicare cost a lot
more than he thought it would, and he was embarrassed. He had told his
constituents at home it wouldn’t cost this much. And he became wise. Everett Dirksen is the same way. Everett Dirksen
supported Johnson on civil rights, which was
very important to the end of the filibuster of laws
that are very important that are also in this period. But when he came
to some labor laws, Everett Dirksen said,
uh-uh, count me out. This is too much support
of organized labor. So I think if you would pick a
philosopher, it would be Hayek. And why Hayek? If you haven’t heard of him
or don’t know about him, Hayek spoke of a thing
called the knowledge problem. And basically what
it says is government is insulated from knowledge
by the political process. You only get feedback in an
election every four years, maybe every two years,
every six years, right? And you only talk to your
friends in government. Whereas the small business
is in the market every day. And by night, it knows
whether it did well with its product that day and
perhaps even how to adjust it. So the government
was so insulated from reality, most of the
time, it couldn’t really figure out what it was doing
or what was wrong about that. And Hayek, of course,
also has Road to Serfdom. And what Road to Serfdom
says is we’re not living in Zeno’s paradox. You actually do get
to serfdom even if you take little steps, right? It’s not like, oh,
we’ll never get there. You actually get to serfdom
because entrenched interest groups– in this case,
the silent majority, the forgotten men– once
they have a benefit, as [INAUDIBLE] said, they
don’t want to let it go. And when there are
enough entrenched groups, it’s very hard to reform. And I feel even silly
saying this in Washington, where you know
this better than I. MATTHEW SPALDING: [LAUGHS] Let’s
open up for some questions. I know that there’s some
microphones, I believe. Fellow right there in the back. AUDIENCE: Thank you very
much for coming to speak. One of the things– maybe a little less now, but
certainly 10 or more years ago, folks who were alive
either who were of the so-called
silent generation or of the very older so-called
baby boomer generation, will often say, if
Vietnam hadn’t happened, the Great Society
would have worked. It would have been tremendous. I have known myself people
alive from that time period or activists or professors
who’ve told me that and said, if it had just been fully funded
and Vietnam hadn’t happened, everything would
have been great. I am skeptical of that, but I’m
wondering how you particularly answer that question. AMITY SHLAES: Well,
I would refer to you the chart on page 440– or sorry. [LAUGHTER] Or maybe 439. That’s the answer. What people began to
realize, that Vietnam is the great excuse story. And Vietnam did help
to bring about some of the more expansive
bits of legislation. You could say the Great
Society wouldn’t– MATTHEW SPALDING: Are you
talking about the butter price here, the guns chart? AMITY SHLAES: Yeah. MATTHEW SPALDING: Page 435. AMITY SHLAES: Page 435. But what I’m saying is
maybe the Great Society would have been just the
Good Society without Vietnam because you have to have
something really good at home. That’s the opposite to what
people are arguing with you. And second, even in the
’60s, by the late ’60s, people saw that the butter at
home, the domestic programs, were going to cost
more than the guns. That line was crossed. I believe it’s in
early ’70s, ’71. And even today, we
have this fallacy that defense costs so much. When you look at the
whole budget, which includes mandatory spending,
defense does not cost so much. It costs a relatively
small share of our economy compared to history,
period of the Korean War. So this argument isn’t reality. And the reason, for
example, that we had the fiscal crisis of
1971 and the stagflation and high interest rates of the
’70s is not mostly Vietnam. It’s the Great Society. And that’s very– foreigners
looked at the US and said, it’s going kind of
Social Democratic. That’s like us, which means its
growth advantage may be eroded. Its growth advantage– the
US had a growth advantage. It was a freer
market than Europe. That growth advantage, that
gap between Scandinavia and Michigan, is narrowing
in terms of social cost. And therefore, the US
might not be so strong. So there are plenty
of pieces of data that refute your friend’s argument. MATTHEW SPALDING: Yeah? AUDIENCE: Yes, Ms.
Shlaes, isn’t it the case the reason the Utopianism
of the Great Society was almost unchallenged
was because there was a lack of faith
in civil society and especially even in
the Republican Party after Dwight Eisenhower
took the party over and Robert Taft died
of cancer in 1953? And in academe too. I mean, there were just
a few marginal people. In 1953, Robert Nesbitt
and Russell Kirk each published classics The
Quest for Community and the Conservative Tradition,
but they were considered wackos in outside society. AMITY SHLAES: They
were considered wackos. AUDIENCE: The Austrian
economist too. And the voter registration
was 2 and 1/2 Democratic to Republicans. Isn’t this the
reason why Johnson– and Johnson was a master of
the legislative process– that the chance to commit the
Great Society even occurred? AMITY SHLAES: That’s a
very important question. I used to have a debate with
Jonathan Alter of Newsweek. And he would say, before the New
Deal, Amity, there was nothing. And before the New Deal,
there was something. It was just local. It was the Italian
American Burial Society, or it was the county of x,
y, z and its little hospital led by– there was a– David [INAUDIBLE]
has a beautiful book about Tocqueville in America
which I always give to kids. And all the little weird
institutions, Mooseheart, the orphanage, very– AUDIENCE: Still there. Still there. AMITY SHLAES: Right? Yeah, still there. So Yeah, there was a contempt
for Tocqueville America. It seemed quaint and old. And it was a terrible contempt
because Tocqueville still makes America the little town. I have a chapter on the
fragility of the municipality where Tocqueville writes
about the fragility of the municipality can be– it’s like a consumptive patient. It could die any time,
that municipality, because the big state, by
which Tocqueville probably meant the county or the state– that is, state of Illinois,
Springfield, Albany– might step on it
or pull the cord. So when you want to think about
Tocqueville’s America in this period, I have a long
description of the housing program at Pruitt-Igoe in
St. Louis and what they did to the Tocqueville of
downtown St. Louis, which very proud town– maybe
some of you are from there– with very local, strong, “let’s
support each other” tradition just wrecked by urban
renewal and bulldozers. And I will just
say one last thing. For the middle class, we
had something of Tocqueville in our housing funding
because we said, we’ll give middle-class
people subsidized mortgages so they can settle in little
communities, the new suburbs, right? And then they can have
a cul-de-sac and a car, and their children
can play there. And they’ll build
a new community, and we’ll fund that,
the federal government. That’s also Levittown. That’s for middle-class people. For poor people, they
can have Karl Marx, and we’ll build big, tall,
really ugly buildings in the international
style, which we kind of admire
but tends to make people feel sad and lonely. And we’ll send them
up in elevators. And in the halls, they’ll be
beat up by wayward children, and there’ll be no commerce
at all around them. And certainly, then let’s
bulldoze the churches around the edge. Because we’re bulldozing
whole communities, so most of the churches go too. And all the other
Tocqueville institutions that happen to have
been there around where the new tall buildings go. And at the end of
the book, I describe how, after all the successive
waves of Progressivism and non-Tocquevillism at
St. Louis’ Pruitt-Igoe, they had to, as in
Chicago, blow it up. MATTHEW SPALDING: But
wasn’t one of the– to go back to an earlier point
you made, there’s a certain– politics is never
about one or the other in those absolute ways. It’s very rarely that
kind of question. One of the things the Great
Society took advantage of was a natural
American desire to try to solve some of these
problems, poverty, to allow for growth
and expansion and a national economy, right? So they drove right
through that because there was a– as the nation grew
and the economy grew and it became larger, there
was a need to solve some of these problems. They just thought
they could perfect it by using Washington
programs to do so. AMITY SHLAES: When
I was writing– yeah. So we want a great society. We’re ambitious. It’s 1960. We’re teenagers, and we don’t
remember World War II, right? The boomers were like
the woke students now who say, hey, boomer, right? Boomers were the generational
divide, the rebellion. And they said, we want
to do something great. The only question
is, by what means? Through the public sector,
or the private sector? Well, we opted for
the public sector. And what is the private sector? It’s the milk cow that funds it. And you know what? If you leave the private
sector alone enough, it usually can fund
a lot of whatever you want to do with your
Great Society vision. So in the book when
I was writing it, I decided to tell the
story of three companies– General Electric; Toyota, which
intervenes suddenly in Detroit; and the company
that became Intel. And these companies
did social things. Number one, they created jobs. Number two, in Fairchild, which
is the predecessor to Intel, for example, at a factory on
a Native American reservation, it became the greatest
private sector employer of Native Americans. Because this particular
Native American group worked with their hands,
did a lot of handiwork, like weaving, basically, or
what we would call needlepoint, and making chips involves the
same skills plus a magnifying glass, right? So the private sector
can do more than we think to solve social problems. And that was it. But we opted for
the public sector. MATTHEW SPALDING: Of
course, one of the greatest spokesmen for GE was– AMITY SHLAES: Well, I tell
this story at the beginning. They had an actor
who worked for GE who was kind of old and not even
that good, a little bit corny. And he was hired to propagandize
for the free market, and that was Reagan. So Reagan, there he was. He was a middle-aged man now. And he gave not just 50 or
100, but maybe 1,000 speeches about markets to the rubber
chicken circuit of the hundred plants of General Electric
because General Electric was concerned that its
workers didn’t understand that capitalism was fragile. And it all was for naught– I mean in chapter 1–
because GE suffered a terrible embarrassment in
its employees, fixed prices, and deals with Westinghouse. It was described as a
sports scandal for America because people respected GE
as they respect baseball. And it went down in the world,
and they fired the actor, and they fired his
boss, Lem Boulware. And they got rid of all
the little propaganda mill programs. And they thought, what a waste. We screwed up. But Reagan remembered and
eventually became a convert to these ideas. He came to believe in markets
by background, a New Dealer. So that story is told. MATTHEW SPALDING: So
since you brought that up, Reagan, in his 1982
diary, famously writes, “The press
is trying to paint me as trying to undo the New Deal. I remind them I voted
for FDR four times. I’m trying to undo
the Great Society. It was LBJ’s war on poverty
that led to our present mess.” AMITY SHLAES: Very interesting. I don’t have that in
the book, I don’t think. Is that– yeah. [LAUGHTER] In the next book. So I mean, the history is– MATTHEW SPALDING: He saw the
Great Society as the enemy to be defeated. AMITY SHLAES: Absolutely. History is history, but
it’s also characters. They don’t have
to be presidents. They can be just the next line. So there was a book called
Best and the Brightest about the foolish errors of
arrogant men in the Vietnam War, planning the Vietnam
War and the execution, the negotiation,
the prosecution. There’s a domestic Best
and the Brightest that is a bunch of guys who
were so smart they thought they could do this,
not just Sarge Shriver, but also Walter Reuther. And where is Reagan? He’s like the mayors because he
became governor of California. And he had lots of things to
do, and the federal government kept getting in the way. And there’s a hilarious
scene where the governors had a kind of way of vetoing a
federal project, a poverty project, but it wasn’t
a really good veto. They could be
overruled, basically. So he was going to
overrule something the Nixon administration
was doing, which was funding
public interest lawyers. And Nixon didn’t want
that because Nixon knew, in his heart, that Reagan
was just as popular as he was– Nixon, right? This is a very awkward
moment, and you have the lawyers for
Nixon, the president, and the lawyers for Reagan– one of them was Ed Meese– in a room. And the scary administration,
led by Frank Carlucci, said, kind of very
condescendingly to the Reagan crowd using a film
metaphor because Reagan would understand that, right? There’s an A movie where
you blow this all up and we blow you up. And forgive me. I don’t have the text here,
but something like that. And there’s a B
movie where we make a compromise and neither of
us loses face on this “lawyers funded by Washington” thing. And maybe we’ll help you with
your welfare cutbacks, which is your big pride,
Governor Reagan. And Meese goes into another room
and presumably phones Reagan, and comes back and says,
we take the B movie. [LAUGHTER] And then Reagan, I
think he sent Carlucci a bottle of an
alcoholic substance. I believe it might
have been scotch. So that was Reagan,
the governor. He decided this
had all worked out. It wasn’t just scorch
and burn, right? MATTHEW SPALDING: Right, right. AMITY SHLAES: But
the welfare program became a model for welfare
reform later, Reagan’s own and then also Clinton’s, right? MATTHEW SPALDING:
thank you for coming. Christopher Harris with
Unhyphenated America, and I just have a quick question. My family’s originally
from Detroit. And Walter Williams has talked
about the effect of the Great Society on the black
family in particular. And you talk about how the
poverty was decreasing, had decreased
dramatically part of that. And I’ve talked to many
of my family members and they say, look,
everybody that they grew up with– my father’s 69 years old. And basically, everybody
they grew up with had a mother and a
father and a home. I mean, there was
a handful of people who did not have a mother
and a father and a home. And afterwards– like, I’m 46– you’ll see the large percentage
of people in my generation did not grow up with a
mother and father at home. Why do you think that
the New Deal didn’t have such a destructive effect
on the black family or families in general as such as
the Great Society has had on families in general? MATTHEW SPALDING:
That’s a great question. AMITY SHLAES: Thank you. Great question. Actually, the family
separation issue– the most proximate
thing to which you refer is to get welfare money, you
had to be a single parent. And the welfare money– and then, on top of that,
to get subsidized housing. So some of that was
pre-Great Society. It was state welfare
law, for example, which said we won’t
support men who earn, but we’ll support families
with dependent children and no worker mom. So it was a perverse outcome
from a well-meaning plan. And in my description of
Pruitt-Igoe, this housing project, which was
rather like the housing projects in Detroit, the dads
had to hide in the closet when the social worker came
because they would lose not only the money, but also
the family would the apartment if the dad were discovered. And where is the
dad supposed to go? Far away and get a job? That was a huge factor
which the Great Society, through the format
of its funding, perpetuated and strengthened. And it wasn’t just
black families. It was white families as well. I would add another
factor, though. I really don’t
like urban renewal. That was my note. I’m paraphrasing, but
it says, urban renewal is minority removal. And when the riots
happened in Detroit, it was said it was the people
who had been bulldozed out of old neighborhoods
which were not only poor, not only occasionally slums,
but also lively and much loved, bulldozed out of
their homes to be put in sterile vertical projects. And they were angry and sad. They were displaced
and displaced. They were displaced by slavery. Then they were displaced
when they moved north. And then they were displaced
again from that place where they originally lived
when they moved to Detroit. That’s a lot of
displacement for a family. So I try to describe
that in the book, and I very much appreciate
your raising that issue. MATTHEW SPALDING: Another
character in your book is Daniel Patrick Moynihan
who, of course, wrote a report on the black family
and then was later vilified. Tell us about him. AMITY SHLAES: The first
person in my lifetime I know about who was ever
canceled, Daniel Patrick Moynihan because he wrote a
book trying to describe trouble in a single-parent family,
particularly maybe when the father, who departed
or is infrequently present, is alcoholic. And by the way, that’s Daniel
Patrick Moynihan’s life. He just happens to be white. So his father was not there,
and there were other fathers occasionally. And this was problematic
for the Moynihans. So he tried to describe
that question which you just put your finger on. And pretty soon, it became to
seem condescending for a white person to describe
something that, what, is supposed to be uniquely
black, which it isn’t. And he was shut out
by the Democrats. And so I spend a lot
of time on Moynihan and his humiliation
and loneliness because he was actually a
very insightful guy with a lot to contribute to government. And his revenge was to come
back working for Richard Nixon and offer a program that sounds
very familiar today, which is guaranteed income
for whites and blacks below a certain income level. But the canceling of Moynihan
by the world and Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a bitter
and fiery thing to behold. MATTHEW SPALDING: This
gentleman over here. Yes, sir. AUDIENCE: Thank you very
much for your talk tonight. One question. So at the very
beginning, you talked about how the early
Progressives were very much more focused on the states. It was very much more of a
smaller level than federal. And it sounds to me
like later on, it’s really with the Great
Society that you see the progressive thought take
root in that federal portion. Woodrow Wilson talks
very much in his writings about the idea of a hive mind. He talks about how there’s
this general aggregate where everything centralizes
in Washington. And to provide an
analogy, a lot of people provide how Lincoln almost
acts as a fulfillment for the American founding. So in a similar way,
if you want to think of the progressive
thought with Wilson as a re-founding or
revolution, could you say almost that that
fulfillment comes about in the Great Society? AMITY SHLAES: Yes. [LAUGHTER] Another question. MATTHEW SPALDING: Would
you care to elaborate? AMITY SHLAES:
[INAUDIBLE] remember– did you ever read God and Man
at Yale by William F. Buckley? I never read it because I
wasn’t interested particularly in the God part. But what it’s really– the meat of it was they
changed the way they teach economics in college. Gee whiz. We used to teach about
individuals and– I don’t know– the
invisible hand and so on. And now, all of a sudden,
it’s all about planning. So that commenced this big
sea change at universities right after World
War II, which meant 15 years worth of
undergraduates had been schooled in this
planning way of thinking. So now the grownups didn’t
know much about free markets or care about them. They knew about planning. And so those people were
ready to takeover around 1960. They had become the
grownups and the leaders. MATTHEW SPALDING:
Yeah, and that planning grows out of the philosophical
roots of the early progressives who thought that
progressive experts could solve all problems. AMITY SHLAES: Right. And also, there’s a
cumulative effect. Planning upon planning
yields perversity. Oh, we had that
reform last year. Oh, this is the 17th
definition of child we’ve had in the tax code, and
each one contradicts the other, and five are still [INAUDIBLE]. MATTHEW SPALDING: It also goes
back to the fellow’s point here, which is
they always, oh, it didn’t work because there was
some factor that was not right. We’ll try it again. AMITY SHLAES: We’ll try– right. This is like a book with a bunch
of progressive waves within it, and they get bigger and bigger. And the magnitudes of
dollars get bigger. Because at the very
beginning, Michael Harrington hears from Sargent Shriver. They’re going to get a
billion dollars for welfare. And Michael Harrington says,
that’s just nickel and dimed. We need more than a billion. And Sargent Shriver says,
I don’t know about you, young man, but I never had
a billion to spend before. I think it feels pretty big. But of course, the numbers
did go Harrington-wise into the mag– even add a few zeros. MATTHEW SPALDING: So
that conversation, just not to be a
spoiler, but it’s the very beginning
of the book, and she doesn’t identify who
the two people are until you get several pages
into the conversation. And it sounds eerily
like a conversation you might hear today in
the halls of Congress about very large programs,
very large idealistic ideas about what government
ought to be doing. Why didn’t we learn
any of these lessons? Why are we doing this again? AMITY SHLAES: Oh. MATTHEW SPALDING: [INAUDIBLE] AMITY SHLAES: Well,
the motto of the book, which I will say I have
heard Chanel, Coco Chanel, say, but also other important
people, nothing is new. It is just forgotten. Nothing is new. It is just forgotten. The grammar’s a little
awkward, but I still like it. Nothing is new, but
it is just forgotten. We forgot the ’70s, which
were the consequence. MATTHEW SPALDING: Well, they
were a forgettable decade. AMITY SHLAES: They were
definitely forgettable. [LAUGHTER] So I try to explain the ’70s
to myself and other people. The ’70s was a period when we
thought our houses would be smaller than our parents– and they technically
were at certain points. And we had two fewer
bedrooms than we actually needed because the
interest rate was 18%. That it was a period
where we didn’t think we would ever have enough
energy to heat our homes. And I don’t even want
to write the ’70s because it’s a little dark. I have to figure
out a happy ’70s. MATTHEW SPALDING: [LAUGHS] AMITY SHLAES: But you think
of, those of you will remember, the ratcheting down
of expectation, the emphasis on
scarcity, is reminiscent of the current
environmental movement. I mean, there was a philosopher
named Paul Ehrlich who actually believed there should be a
very heavy tax on diapers so that people would
have fewer babies. And also, we should change the
tax code– no child credit, none of that– and to discourage reproduction
because we wouldn’t be able to feed ourselves. And more importantly, we
were the world’s model. And how about introducing
the vasectomy? And how about giving a lot of
incentives for that procedure? And I find it very
creepy, looking back, particularly their hubris. And of course,
other countries took what we recommended via our
World Bank and Mr. McNamara and did awful things
with their populations. You’re thinking of India
and the sterilizations that were virtually forced
upon people there as part of our progressive
ideal of population reduction. MATTHEW SPALDING: Let’s get
a couple more questions. Fellow back there, and then
there’s on up here too. AUDIENCE: Thank you. So my question is, it seems
that with the Great Society, there is a certain
appeal to nobility. There’s a higher aim towards
it, the eradication of poverty. So that’s a very
idealistic sentiment, but also a noble one. Is there a way of introducing
a nobility into free market economics that simply isn’t
rooted in self-interest to provide a sort of greater
appeal that would move folks in my generation– I’m a little younger than
some of the people here– and allow them to move
forward in a productive way? AMITY SHLAES: Well, I think
one thing you’re talking about is the transactional
nature of Silicon Valley. I’ll never know the
counterparty in this deal. I’m selling him x, y, z,
and I don’t care about him. But that’s not most of commerce. Most of free market is everyone
you meet, you will meet again. Every person you ever
meet in your life will remember the
encounter with you and how you handled
the transaction. And were you kind? And did you under-deliver
or over-deliver? That’s what one
always tells students. You think you’ll never
see someone again. You will always
see everyone again, and everyone will
always remember your tie, what color
it was, or your scarf, and were you polite or did
you talk to someone else, and did you cheat him. So there is a natural
morality to commerce. Because when you sell
something to someone, they remember that,
if you cheated them. Life, most of us
avoid bad airports because bad airports lie to us. They advertise a close
gate, and then we find we have to walk
2 miles to the gate. They say we have
a boarding pass, and then we’re unseated, right? So we know, when we can
to avoid bad airports, which are, say,
low-trust places. And we look for
high-trust places where the airport is even
nicer than we thought, and maybe it has free coffee. I think they have
that in Toronto. So I like that, and
that’s not socialism. That’s good commerce, right? So I think we have to
think about the kindness and the morality in
commerce, and expose it. Let’s think of it
this way. eBay– when we were young,
people my age, again, we wouldn’t have
believed that eBay could work. Because you send your
money off to someone in another state
who nobody you know knows, and he or she sends you
back more or less the thing you ordered, right? More or less. And sometimes it’s a part which
you haven’t inspected yourself, like a car part. Oh, my gosh, and
it might be flawed in some way where that
other person could say he technically
sent you a good thing but the thing is useless to you. And we might send $185 for a car
part if we’re building a car. And yet, most of the
time, eBay works. Most of the time, most
of us are satisfied with eBay and say, that is an
incredibly wonderful economy where the people don’t
cheat each other. There’s a kind of broker ref. That would be the eBay company. And most of the time– and the same is for Airbnb. Most of the time, you
don’t get murdered. [LAUGHTER] Most of the time, even
on Craigslist, you don’t get– now, most of
the time on Craigslist, you don’t get cheated. The stories that you hear in
Uber, they’re the exception. So there’s a lot of evidence
of a great commercial economy involving a lot of
kindness and respect for fellow men and a lot
of utils to put it in, a lot of benefit to people,
that is underappreciated. MATTHEW SPALDING: I was thinking
of Reagan’s great retort was the Creative Society. AMITY SHLAES: Right. Reagan is a very sad
character in this book. He loses his job at GE, and
he can’t get any good roles. But he does give a good
speech for Barry Goldwater, and then he decides he might
run for governor of California. And he says, what am
I going to call it? And he actually
goes to a minister, and they come up with–
or the minister already has and offers
Creative Society, which is what the companies are. Do think the Intel people–
when they started and were at Fairchild, did they
think they could ever invent something that
would be so useful? No. They also believed
that everything you ever did in their area
was in service of government. They were stuck in the
military industrial– what do you build computer
parts, electronics for? The government. Only the government can
have a big computer, right? MATTHEW SPALDING: No one
else would use these. AMITY SHLAES: Nobody
else would use it. And what they realized–
and I follow them, and you can see it
dawning on them. And it is like the sun
coming into their life– is somebody might buy what I’m
making who’s not a government. And somebody might
buy enough of it that I would have
money for research to invent something that
wouldn’t be for government. That’s the story of Bob
Noyce and Gordon Moore. They have a few epiphanies. One is Moore’s Law, which is you
can make smaller chips pretty soon. And there’s a kind of
geometric acceleration there. But the other is, wow,
big companies that make technical things in STEM
actually serve regular people, and there’s a tremendous
relief at that discovery. And Reagan doesn’t
really get it. He only sort of gets it. But he has an
intuitive appreciation for the entrepreneurial
because to be an actor, you have to be entrepreneurial. You have a lot of humiliation,
a lot of highs, a lot of– MATTHEW SPALDING:
A lot of failure. AMITY SHLAES: A lot of failure. MATTHEW SPALDING: Yes, sir. AUDIENCE: To what
extent do you credit– AMITY SHLAES: Where– AUDIENCE: Sorry, right– AMITY SHLAES: Oh, [INAUDIBLE]. MATTHEW SPALDING: Right here. AUDIENCE: Right here, sorry. To what extent do you credit– because going on parallel
to the start of the Great Society is the civil
rights movement. To what extent do
you credit the fact that the civil rights
movement now would largely be seen as a positive
use of federal power over localities in
order to achieve a common good of expanding civil
rights throughout the nation as a convincing mechanism for
people who might otherwise have been cautious as a society of
what the federal government can do and might have had a greater
trust in their localities? The civil rights movement
seems to have, to me, reversed the presumption that
the localities were, in fact, trustworthy. AMITY SHLAES: Right, because
only 8% of people, black, are registered to vote in
Mississippi, a tragedy, at the beginning, it’s
wrong, needs fixed, right? Therefore, we must bus
every kid in every city across the northern
part of America, is what you’re describing. Because the federal
government intervened– and some of those feel rightly– with the Civil Rights Act and
then the Voting Rights Act, which was subsequent,
we gave it license to intervene everywhere and
write policy for all towns. Yeah, of course, I credit it. It’s a hard call
because something had to happen in the south
if only 8% of a certain group are registered to vote. I don’t know how to fix that. In the book, what I say is the
Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Law, I don’t
think were negative. They were positive. But when we began to move, as
Johnson did with his 1960– I think it’s ’65 speech at
Howard University, where he basically signed up
for affirmative action and something beyond
equality of opportunity, moving to equality
of result, that was an overstep because you
always disappoint people when you promise equality of result. MATTHEW SPALDING: Amity,
this is wonderful. I’m thoroughly enjoying it– the people, the stories. I’m going to give the
last point to you. What would you like
to add or suggest that we’ve not talked about? AMITY SHLAES: I think the
thing that surprised me most in writing this book was the
importance of labor unions. Labor unions are
hard to understand. They have their own language. They have their own
court, the NLRB. What is– it most of
the time, most people don’t understand
what’s going on. But what happened,
basically in the ’60s, was the labor unions were the
core of the Democratic Party, much more so than today,
as many of you know, because of the way our laws
have changed and some restraint and because of the weakness
of our labor unions. And they decided what happened. An example, there was
a big student movement that started at Port
Huron, Michigan. The Port Huron
Statement is legendary. And what I didn’t
know till I researched this book was that
Port Huron meeting of Tom Hayden, who
became a legendary SDS person, and Michael
Harrington and a few others, was essentially made possible
by the AFL-CIO and the UAW. Not only that, but Hayden
was later paid by the UAW to do the little mischief he
did in Newark, New Jersey. And what is tragic
and a good story is Walter Reuther, the head
of the United Auto Workers, I regard as a kind
of fool, flawed hero. Walter Reuther just thought,
well, let’s have a youth wing. What’s wrong with funding youth? A lot of them are
going to go to college. Well, that’s more
members for my union. Maybe I could have 2 million
members instead of 1 million in the United Auto Workers and
squeeze out those Teamsters. So I’m going to put them on
a long leash, those students. Well, they’re wild. Well, I was wild. I went to Russia. They’re wild, and I’ll
look the other way and hope that if I fund
them and love them and be like their dad,
then later they’ll come and be loyal to me. And instead, what
those students did– the Students for a
Democratic Society was wild. They did ruin the
Chicago convention– was hand the election of 1968 to
Walter Reuther’s opponent. Oh, so bitter. Imagine the Passover scenes. Imagine the family dinners. Reuther just couldn’t
believe that the youth would turn against
him, he who did so much for them and his union. And what’s very
sad about Reuther was he actually died
not of disappointment, but in one of those rickety,
wrong, early Learjets. He was in a terrible
plane crash going to a kind of utopian
place in Black Lake, Michigan
that he had built, a retreat for union workers. But it is symbolic because his
dream of a Social Democratic America also died at that point. So that, I didn’t know. And if you come from the Midwest
and are of a certain age, you heard Walter Reuther’s name
every night of your childhood, along with the Vietnam
War count, right? The casualties were
and Walter Reuther said, because the unions
were so important. So I will say, I learned
a lot about them. They’re not that complicated. They were wrong. They’re an example
of lovable people trying to help other people and
doing something that does not have a positive result. MATTHEW SPALDING: Amity, it’s
been great having you here. Thank you very much. AMITY SHLAES: Thank you. [APPLAUSE] MATTHEW SPALDING: I have
so much enjoyed your work on your book on Coolidge,
and your work Coolidge is wonderful. But these two books, The
Forgotten Man and The New Deal, if you’ve not read that,
I really recommend. That, and now this new
history of the Great Society, will be the contrarian
but very important books on liberalism
in the 20th century. So thank you very much. AMITY SHLAES: Thank you. MATTHEW SPALDING: Thank
you all for joining us. [APPLAUSE]


  1. Kirk Bowyer said:

    "Keep Cool with Coolidge."

    January 9, 2020
  2. Ron Dail said:

    I am ignorant on poverty…
    With many jobs available, is there a logical reason for poverty. I understand there is medical reasons, maybe lack of skills but if needed McDonald is always hiring, drugs, , and there is mental-illness.
    Is there a social reason, lack-of-williness, or laziness?
    Why is a healthy person not required to work for a welfare check.
    I am not being mean, educate me what I am missing without sarcasm.

    January 9, 2020
  3. Deck Chair on the Titanic said:

    It's a "great" society for jews & other nonwhites. White people, however, can just STFU & pay for it.

    January 9, 2020
  4. jerrtnailedit said:

    She is Godless and wanted you to know it. 👎

    January 9, 2020
  5. Steven Wiederholt said:

    Ah Yes…The 70's, I remember them well. Lost a war, A President quit, gas lines, Gerald Ford, 55 MPH, Jimmy Carter, and (possibly) worst of all Disco.

    January 10, 2020
  6. Steven Wiederholt said:

    Ah Yes…The 70's, I remember them well. Lost a war, A President quit, gas lines, Gerald Ford, 55 MPH, Jimmy Carter, and (possibly) worst of all Disco.

    January 10, 2020
  7. peculiar peasant said:

    Republican Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan supports bringing thousands of poor immigrants and their children from Muslim Nations to our State.
    That action goes directly against the prosperity, happiness and safety of our children.

    January 10, 2020
  8. Mission Forward said:

    The 1960's were motivated by the CIA's realization of what they could get away with… A discovery they made on NOV 22, 1963. Almost everything that's come since has… In great measure.. Been a Deep State manipulation of the public narrative and sentiment.

    The '60's were the earliest years following the assassination of JFK and were predictably the most turbulent fueled by CIA operations like Chaos, Mockingbird, Gladio and MKUltra.

    The things Amity is describing are the symptoms and fallout of the shadow government that was created through the clandestine actions of the Dark agencies: CIA, MI-6 and Mossad. They have been the winners and the winners are the authors of history. Soon, their actions will be revealed for all to see.

    Dark to light.

    January 10, 2020
  9. Stephen Walters said:

    Refer to David Horowitz, who points out from an insiders perspective, that the American Communist party was instructed by the KGB to stop using the words Socialism and Communism. They were instructed to start using the word progressive. We all know how clever they have been at that.

    January 10, 2020
  10. Jeannie Seibert said:

    There was a reason Daniel Patrick Moynihan was referred to as SAINT Daniel Patrick Moynihan by my parents.

    January 10, 2020
  11. Jeannie Seibert said:

    50:00 – Self interest isn't selfishness.
    Read more little dude.

    January 10, 2020
  12. Dee Smith said:

    Small town America, the municipalities with their "Let's take care of each other" sense of responsibility and love and trust, doesn't exist in communities where there isn't any sense of belonging, to begin with. With the rise in migrating populations, moving from small towns into larger cities for work and then the additional increase in actual foreign migrants to our cities and towns, the sense of responsibility is gone, as well as any feeling of love or trust for each other because we're living among strangers, speaking strange languages with strange values and beliefs and practices. Multiculturalism, as this destructive cancer is commonly called, was/is the intentional destruction of Tocqueville's observed "America". Centralization kills.

    January 10, 2020
  13. Dan Tucker said:

    Her little quip about doing without God is revealing. I like much about her viewpoint, but you don't get this country without God.

    January 10, 2020
  14. WeDontThink said:

    Interesting that ALL presidents can't walk down the street.

    January 11, 2020
  15. Jfk Democrat said:

    Very shallow analysis. Prefer lectures on the Not so “Great Society” by Thomas Sowell. Sowell basis his analysis on actual data from period before, during & current situation to access the actual results & impacts.

    January 11, 2020
  16. Wide Awake said:

    Lyndon Johnson was ALWAYS a liar —- just FYI

    January 12, 2020
  17. Sylph Moon said:

    You can't fix poverty cause it's a people problem. People make bad decisions and don't want to take responsibility for it.

    January 12, 2020
  18. Harry Mills said:

    Good to hear some of the scholarship behind some of my gut intuitions about how government intervention destroys community and community support systems. Yes, some towns will always do a better job than others. But it's organic and self-sustaining. And the overall quality of those LOCAL "Tocqueville" institutions rises with the general prosperity, as the people see to actualize higher values.

    January 12, 2020
  19. Harry Mills said:

    Hi! I'm from the government and I'm here to help!

    January 12, 2020
  20. Harry Mills said:

    We keep hearing "unintended consequences," but after decades of the same failures, you have to be willfully ignorant to call the consequences "unintended."

    January 12, 2020
  21. Robert Tietjen said:

    Conservative. = no heart liberal= no brain

    January 13, 2020
  22. Salvatore Scavuuzo said:

    Why did no-one mention Adam Smith and his “enlightened” self-interest? Was it because this woman “is not interested in the ‘God’ part!? THAT, MY FRIEND is the problem and the failure of our society! Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” was enervated by “enlightenment”! The enlightenment of the Judeo-Christian ethics! It was Capitalism informed by a moral society! What the founders referred to as the “Virtue of the people” which was the ultimate bulwark against tyranny. Absent that central ingredient of “enlightened self-interest”, Capitalism becomes predatory, loses credibility and is displaced by Socialism!

    January 13, 2020
  23. raw ae86 #1 said:

    You Jabroni's turned of the comments off on the marijuana huh, why. I think cuz it's a lie.

    January 14, 2020
  24. raw ae86 #1 said:

    January 14, 2020
  25. Robert Burk said:

    Hard Right Economics

    Hard Right Economics (Dexterism) is a third economic theory
    that corrects the issues with both capitalism and communism and produces
    economic development anywhere simple by using the resources available anywhere,
    the local human resources.

    Dexterism is a people powered system. The distinction between Big Government and Big Business is insignificant… both are predicated on the merit of experts to make over-arching solutions when reality requires micro change, that is change on the micro level.

    January 14, 2020
  26. My penis is very small,but said:


    January 14, 2020
  27. Anthony Simon said:

    The more complex and technological our Culture becomes, the less you can expect from the 10% of the population with an IQ of 83 and below and many of them would love to have meaningful work and a little self-respect, and the hyper competent at the top produce such a huge and scalable surplus we can afford to keep people from starving, after that is when the trouble begins.

    January 15, 2020
  28. Mark Miller said:

    Interesting what Shlaes said about the morality of market economics. I remember coming up with a similar analogy when talking about government workers, and how they interact with the public vs. private sector workers, and how they do it. I referred to a scene from "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (1979), where Spock was describing an alien intelligence to Capt. Kirk, called "V'ger." Spock was recovering in sick bay, and Kirk was standing next to his bed. The key part that felt relevant was where Spock grabbed Kirk's hand in a sign of deep friendship, and told him, "This simple feeling is beyond V'ger's comprehension."

    This isn't a perfect analogy, since I don't typically get a sense of friendship from my interactions with businesses (though I do with a few), but I definitely have felt a difference in how businesses try to help me vs. my dealings with government officials (my experience is the former is more helpful), and I feel a sense of warmth about that.

    January 15, 2020
  29. Alma Loretto said:

    The Great Society approach fails because it strips poor people of all of our agency, assumes only one narrow category of human skills have value, & worst of all, assumes that because we are not the same as the wealthy who care about poverty, we must be lesser. There is nothing more racist, sexist or universally oppressive than America's approach to poverty.

    January 15, 2020
  30. Kennen Haas said:

    For the purpose of YouTube, an interview including the charts would be favored.

    January 19, 2020
  31. magicalpandas said:

    The weed video u turned off comments to so people cant get actually facts about cbd thc and other cannabinoids rely on your state of mind and the placebo effect it's less intoxicating than alcohol and has less negative effects also has a similar effect to buspare a alternative to xanax releases dopamine in the m1 receptors and buspare itself is way worse than marijuana I took at least 4 dabs before I wrote this comment and that is at least 600mg thc and I'm still able to perceive and understand the situation and symptoms I'm experiencing I'm not confused like a drunk person would be im basically normal or "sober" just a little more happy and aware of my surroundings . Your body acts as if its poisoned when u drink alcohol u wake up with a hang over some people it acts as a depressant and makes them suicidal right there is were all arguments about marijuana become false because cigarettes/ tobacco are just as bad maybe worse . And legalization would fix this counterfeit cartridge problem especially in none legal states that claim there from a legal states dispensarys it's really corrupting how laws work if it's legal one state but not the other. If its something that big that needs to be regulated

    January 21, 2020
  32. therealtoni said:

    Can't people just ASK THEIR QUESTION??????

    January 23, 2020
  33. Judy S. said:

    I wish she were more articulate. But one very, very important point she makes is that the fiscal crunch that make impossible a victory in Vietnam was caused by the miscalculation of the costs of the Great Society programs and the compounded failures of those who managed those programs. If Johnson had not gone into Vietnam, an equal amount of money could still have been spent and have done as much damage because it was an effort to create utopia. Funneling money into a black hole.

    February 8, 2020
  34. David Brailsford said:

    Talk slower!!!!

    February 11, 2020
  35. liper13 said:

    Anybody know the book she references at about the 29 minute mark about the book she gives to kids from David Beto or David Vito. I can’t find it via google. Anybody?

    February 13, 2020

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