Plain English with Derek Thompson - Why the Bad Guys—in China, Russia, Iran, and the U.S.—Are Having a Terrible Winter

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An Instagram post gets an unexpected boost Tick-Tock catches in the algorithm sometimes that’s all it takes to launch someone in to internet Fame.

But then what this blew up is a new podcast documentary that reveals how social media stardom is made, it’s a different kind of Fame.


That’s not always as glamorous as it looks from Spotify and the ringer podcast Network, I will list the Perez neck.

You can listen to this blew up on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

So I’m starting to think about what the most important stories of the year will be.


How we remember 20 22 5 10 100 years from now one good place to start is to think about where we were one year ago.

We had an apple bomb on the podcast to talk about her essay, the bad guys are winning and I think you could make the argument that that was the most important story in geopolitics, when a year ago that across the world you saw this Eerie and Spooky rise of authoritarianism, you saw it in Russia in China in Turkey, Venezuela India and even here in the US authoritarianism was ascendant, a liberalism was Rising.


Anti-democratic forces were assembling along the right wing of the Republican party and along the western border of Ukraine.

And this follow Decades of what political scientists had already been calling a democratic recession.


That is the number of democracies in the world was actually declining and the quality of liberal democracies around the world was declining, as well as you saw these authoritarian populist on the rise in Europe.

Asia and again, right here in the US.

Whereas, everybody, listening nose, and outgoing, president told his followers that an election had been stolen out from under him and cheered from the White House as they invaded the capital.


To do a bunch of Mischief.

So if you’re a stop, the clock at the beginning of 2022 or in the spring of 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine, what would you say the most important story in geopolitics?

Was it was the rise of the authoritarians. but at this very moment today, in December of 22, I think the opposite narrative is the most important story in the world, the fall of the authoritarians What am I talking about?


Will look at China.

Where the ruler Xi Jinping?

And his 0 covid policy is sparking.

A wave of protests as that economy tumbles into a recession.

Look at Russia, which is losing a war to an opponent.

One quarter of its size, look at Iran, which is suffering.


Its own massive protest for women’s rights.

Thirty years ago, the political scientist Francis fukuyama wrote a very famous, very misunderstood book.

It’s called the end of history and the last man and many people took that title to me, that liberal democracy marked, the final ultimate most successful system of government in world history.


Nothing else would supplant it as a clear Global model and every time some Global authoritarian seem to be on the come up it was guaranteed guaranteed that Someone would take to their blog cable news, Twitter, whatever and say.

Aha fukuyama is wrong.


History, isn’t over liberal.

Democracy hasn’t won the bad, guys are winning.

But maybe one of the most important stories, one of the most important lessons of 2022 is that in the biggest picture, Francis fukuyama was right?


There is something astonishingly resilient about liberal democracy.

And when you look at the current chaos in China, and the current failure in Russia and the current protests in Iran and even the Dismal performance of those crazy, anti-democratic Maga right-wingers in America.


What you are seeing is in fact, Oof that fukuyama’s prophecy was right.

Today’s guest is Francis fukuyama in this episode, we travel the world.

You take a first-class tour of what’s happening in China, Russia.


Iran and the us, we fold it into a brief history of democracy and authoritarianism in the 21st century.

And we end with some thoughts on the future of liberalism in this country, it is a lot to pack into 40 minutes.

But damn, did I learn a lot?


I’m Derrick Thompson.

This is plain English.


Francis fukuyama, welcome to the podcast.

Thanks very much for having me on.

I want to start with you are very famous and very misunderstood book, the end of history and the last man, I think it’s absolutely fascinating.

How many people have not read your book?


Who claim to know what this book is about?

Because the title makes them feel something.

Very strongly.

So you’ll sometimes see these essays that claim that you said nothing will happen anymore.

After 1992 no more, interesting stuff will occur no more Global conflicts or domestic turmoil let’s just set the record straight at the top of the pod in your own words.


What was the thesis of this book?

Well I think the misunderstanding is a misunderstanding of the words in the title so history does not mean events its history with a capital.

H, you could speak of this alternatively as development or modernization.


It’s the long-term progress of human societies and and does not mean termination or cessation, it means goal or objective.

And so the real question in the book and by Way.

The phrase, the end of History was not mine.


It was that of the philosopher Hegel, who is the first historicists philosopher, who posited, that there was something like a progressive history of mankind.

And, you know, this idea was taken up by Karl Marx, who said There is history and there’s an end of history and that end of History will be a communist Utopia.


And so, what I was arguing back in 1989 was that I too believe that there was His progress.

There was this long term historical process, but it wasn’t leading to Communism.

It was leading to Liberal, DeMark democracy, tied to a market economy and that, you know was what the argument was about.


And I think that, you know, the real question that I was trying to pose is, is there a higher stage of History?

You know, is there another form of society?

The way that communism was purported to be a higher.

Age of human civilization that we can look forward to out there.


And I would say that, you know, 30 years after that original article more than 30 years, I don’t see one.

So, in that sense, I still don’t believe that, you know, the historical Trends are pointing in the direction of liberal democracy.


So it’s, it’s an evolutionary arguments like they’ll the same way that but, you know, that whatever the the egg turned into a larva which turns into a chrysalis which turns into To a butterfly.

The butterfly does not turn into anything else.

The butterfly doesn’t turn into a grasshopper and it doesn’t turn into a monkey.


The butterfly is the end of that evolutionary process and you were similarly, arguing that the end of the evolution of development systems that went through feudalism.

And went through all of these different forms of capitalism tied.

Maybe totality arianism or other kinds of political economies that that we had reached the end of that process with liberal democracy.


So I mean, that’s right.

I would actually stated in a somewhat less strong form.

I didn’t see an alternative that would make me think that this evolutionary process was going to continue beyond liberal democracy.

But I was open to the possibility that that’s the case but you know I still honestly don’t see it.


I don’t think we’re all evolving towards a chinese-style system or Iranian style system, certainly not a Russian type of system.

So in that sense, I think that You know, the absence of competitors leaves us stuck with liberal democracy is really the only realistic alternative for modern society.


And this is a thesis that because the title was so strong, the end of history people have been consistently, trying to overturn it, and show that it’s wrong.

So, the book comes out in the early 1990s, this is a period of Jubilation about the prospect of liberal democracy.


It’s the end of the Cold War.

Liberal democracy seems to have triumphed against M.


But then in the last few decades since the turn of the 21st century we’ve had what some people call a democratic recession according to the V Dem project and other organizations, that try to measure the state of democracy around the world.


Authoritarianism has been rising, not just in Asia, but throughout the globe.

Why do you think by various measures, it has been a rough Century so far for Liberal democracy?

Well, a Actually, I think the shift came in about 2008 around the time of the US subprime financial crisis which in a way represented the peak of this period of American hegemony in World politics and in the global economy and the like and the recession has really kicked in in the, you know, whatever 16 17 years since then.


I think that there are a lot of causes for this.

I think that, you know, Its first of all unnatural that the world be so unbalanced with one hegemonic power.

And so, you’ve had the growth of China and Russia and other.

You know, other places that have different models.


And I think that liberal democracy was also interpreted in ways that in a way undermined its own legitimacy.

So, for example, I don’t think that the kind of Quote unquote, neoliberal policies that were pursued from the Reagan Administration onwards that emphasized, you know, pretty much unconstrained.


Free markets is necessarily the implication of you know, Classical liberalism.

And yet many people interpreted it that way because of the, you know, Retreat of the state deregulation, privatization you had the growth of a lot of inequality and that started to pile up and I think actually one of the reasons that the turnaround occurred in 2008 was because of that financial crisis, which was the direct result of, you know, deregulating financial markets in the United States and Europe and other places that really destabilize the system and then led to a political delegitimization of a market economy and democracy.


And then, you know, it had a big social impact as well, because a lot of working-class people in In rich countries were affected by the Outsourcing of jobs to China, to Vietnam to other parts of the developing world.

And I think all of that growing inequality and the fact that many people had been left out of the economic growth in that period, laid the ground from the rise of populism, which, you know, is democratic in the sense that it represents, you know, popular will, but it’s not necessarily liberal, you know, that Populist leaders were elected like Donald Trump or Modi and India or bond in Hungary who said, well, I was legitimately elected and the people want me to make them great again, and here’s a court.


Here’s a journalist that’s preventing me from doing this.

And I’m going to, you know, I’m going to overpower them.

And so, I think that was one of the origins of the kind of populist nationalism that we’ve seen in, you know, in many countries around the world.


World in the last decade.

So we’re racing a bit to the 21st century but basically you have this bright period of unipolar hegemony of United States between about 1992 and 2008 were liberal democracy, doesn’t seem to have any kind of backsliding.


It is clearly sort of dominating as a model for the world but after the global financial crisis, you start to see cracks in the edifice in the US the legacy of neoliberalism is discredited around the world population.

Movements are surging, you mentioned India, China hungry.


Let’s take us to the beginning of 2022 because this is really where things come to a head.

And it seems like this spring the thesis that liberal democracy is going to be the end.

The the goal of history is really coming in for beating Russia invades.


Ukraine seems at some points to be really, really close to conquering.

Its neighbor.

Getting close to key.

Heave people start to worry including you, I believe that if Ukraine Falls maybe Russia will continue to expand its Empire.

It could embolden China to swing into Taiwan and try to conquer that.


That liberal neighbor tell me what you were thinking.

No, I mean, even even short of even short of the Taiwan Invasion.

I think that, you know, China looked like it had mastered, the covid crisis that everybody, in the western world was suffering under covid-19.


The Chinese seem to be doing very well and both Russia and China were putting out a narrative.

That said that Western liberal democracy was obsolete, was a declining, you know, form of government.

And that they represented the future to everything that you said, I think that the other big Dark Cloud on the horizon, what was what was going on in the United States because on January 6 2021, you had an effort by an outdoor Going president to stay in office illegally.


He basically was provoking an Insurrection against the United States to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, which was unprecedented in American history.

And you know, the Republican party that he represented instead of rejecting, this is a completely undemocratic, stunt began to coalesce behind him.


So I think it’s that combination of I was searching populism at home and abroad and Rising authoritarian government.

That made things look very dark in the winter of 20 21 22.



So this is like the story that I’m beginning to tell myself, sort of based on on your analysis is that there were three crises in the last 15 years, that liberal democracies seem to fail, liberal democracy seem to fail.


Dale the financial crisis, it was a global financial crash but it started in the u.s. it started in the, in the heart of the real democracy, there was a Health crisis, there was a global pandemic and who seemed at least by the numbers which I didn’t quite believe.


But the numbers, the numbers who seemed to be doing the best of any country in the world.

It was China.

It was not a liberal democracy.

It was not the rotarians Chinese the Communist Chinese party.

And then there was this political crisis that at least the Republican Party failed.

Falling in line behind a wannabe authoritarian rather than standing up and saying, no, it is insane to call for people to March down the street and clap in the Oval Office while they invade the capital to theoretically overturn an election.


And so there’s this moment in the spring of 2022, where liberalism, and liberal democracy seems to have failed the this, this three-part these three crises, what I find.

So, interesting.

Now, and the reason why I wanted to have you on the show, Is that I think we’re in a moment today.


Maybe six months after things looked really, really dark for Liberal democracy.

We’re in a moment today where it feels like cracks are starting to show not in the edifice of the US, but rather the edifices of these authoritarians China, Russia and Iran.


So I want to go one, two, three.

Let’s start with China, it can be hard to see clearly what’s happening there because the government’s control Media and the internet is so strong, but the gist seems to be that over the last few days.

Over the last week, Chinese protests have exploded the pot.


The population is frustrated by severe covid.

Lockdowns the country’s covid 0 policy, people have stormed the streets, they’re posting videos their protest Frank.

Why do you think this is happening now?

Well look, let’s back up a little bit, I’ll get to China.


But, you know, I think that this really gets the heart of You know, the argument I was trying to make back in 1989 or 91, which is that, you know, there’s a big superiority to a liberal Democratic political system over an authoritarian one.


You know, one of the problems with authoritarianism is that it tends to concentrate power in the hands of one, single individual and overtime.

No matter how smart that individual is, it’s almost inevitable that they’re going to start making mistakes.


And when you don’t have checks and balances, Allen says, when your policies don’t have to be vetted by, you know, the people or legislators or courts or other institutions of the likelihood that you’re going to make a big mistake goes up and then I think the second issue really is one of legitimacy.


I once again, if you don’t put yourself up for election, if you if there’s no mechanism by which you can be held accountable and you start making these big mistakes.

People are going to say why do we need this person, you know, running the country and I think that that’s a weakness that’s shared by all of the countries that you mentioned.


Now, when you get into the specific Chinese case of one-man rule is really evident and the bad downsides of it.

You know.

One of the things about the older form of Chinese authoritarianism prior to the rise of Xi Jinping.


Was that you had Collective leadership, at least within the standing committee of the The politburo, their seven members and they pretty much have to argue among themselves and arrive at some kind of consensus for any new policy change.


But Xi Jinping has systematically, dismantled that system making himself.

The really the only Power decision-maker in the Chinese system to the point where nobody in the standing committee can really questioned his his authority.


You may have seen at the 20th party Congress.

His humiliation of fujin how is immediate predecessor as the president of China, who was, you know, just pretty brutally escorted out of the room just to show that, you know, you can’t stand against Xi Jinping, so he has engaged in a policy that for a while, looked good.


But now it’s turning out to be really disastrous, which is zero covid.

So, you know, and let me plug, let me pause you there because this is the question that I think I get more.

More than just about any other when I talk to friends or sources about China, which is why is this country pursuing zero covid policy?


What is your understanding of the logic or reasoning behind zero covid?

Well, I think there’s several things involve the first is that China has been unwilling to import any effect of Western vaccines.

They develop their own vaccine which only has about a 50 percent Effectiveness rate and it’s true.


Out that a lot of elderly Chinese are resisting getting even that vaccine.

And so, you know, they actually are going to be a lot of trouble if they simply let covid rip, because they have kept it at Bay for such a long time.


Nobody has contracted covid, and then recovered from having an all around me at Stanford, everybody.

I know has gotten covid.

I’ve gotten covid, you know, my wife has gotten covid, and so there’s just, you know, part of the reason, That everybody can go to the World Cup and enjoy you know being out in the stands with everybody else is that there’s this herd immunity that’s developed and most countries that have gone through it.


The China has not and so if they relax, no Cove zero covid.

They’re going to have a big problem.

They’re going to have the same problems that Italy or the United States had early on in the crisis where their hospitals are going to run out of capacity.


They’ve got a much weaker Health Care system in any event that most western You do and you know they may I mean some estimates say that as many as a million or two million elderly Chinese could die if that disease gets out.


And so they’ve kind of Trapped themselves into a policy that looked very, very good, you know, they only had about 5,000 covid desk compared to like a million in the United States.

But as time has gone on, you know, it looks less and less good.


And the big, the really big impact is Economic, you know, I think at the moment, like, a third of the Chinese population is under some form of of lockdown.

It’s hit, you know, like last year Shanghai was closed for a couple of months.


I mean, one of their most important economic hubs, nobody could go to work.

And, you know, furthermore, there’s no Prospect of this ever ending at least in the west people can say, well, you know, another six months or another year, but by then, we’ll Vaccines that we can, you know, start to go out and go to restaurants and go shopping and this sort of thing.


But with China which is not clear what their path out of this is.

And so you know, they’re really in a very tight spot because and you know, and so I guess the final thing to say is that this is the problem with one-man rule.


You know, this policy is very much associated with Xi Jinping and it’s just hard for him to admit.

Okay, I is wrong because he’s been trying to create this cult of personality around himself that says that he’s the wise leader.


You know that Chinese people should be grateful that they’ve got such a terrific, you know, person running the country and if he says that this disastrous policy is actually my fault and we got to reverse it it’s going to undercut his authority pretty substantially.


So I think that’s why they developed the policy.

But that’s also why they’re stuck with it right now.

I’m very curious to know what you think is going to happen now because there are some people who compare the protests that we’re seeing to the Tiananmen Square protests from several decades ago.


But after those protests China liberalized its economy and had explosive growth for the next few decades.

And so, one could make the argument and maybe it’s the wrong argument, but one could make the argument that they squashed the protests in a brutal way.


But then made further protest, less likely by liberalize the economy in such a way that dramatically raise living standards.

And so you had the opposite of say Shanghai being shut down and no one can go to work.

Instead Shanghai was growing faster than any city in the world and was getting richer faster than almost any city in the world China at the moment.


It seems to me doesn’t have quite the same option.

They’re dealing not with the possibility of extraordinary catch-up growth but rather with decelerate and growth they might be in a recession right now.

They’ve hobbled their text.

After they’ve enforced all sorts of money-losing farming policies on their agricultural sector.


They really are in a tough Place economically.

In addition to the zero covid policy, in addition to the protests in response to the zero covid policy, what is your outlook on China in the next five years as she tries to negotiate all this?

It’s not very promising.


I think their economic model is really run out of steam, you know, for A couple of decades, they had double-digit economic growth year after year, no recessions.

And then in the last five years or so that rate of growth slowed to about five or six percent today they claim.


It’s like around, you know, a little over 3% but nobody believes that.

And they actually could, as you said be in a recession of negative growth and they made huge mistakes.

I mean, you know, quite frankly I didn’t think I would end up saying this, but there’s A communist country in many ways, you know where the state is actually in control of all the commanding Heights of the economy and they made these mandates which are really you know don’t make any sense.


They’ve way over build housing.

They were pouring 50 percent of GDP into investment most of which was going into apartment buildings condos that basically had no demand, you know, if you go on YouTube and you type in Chinese buildings being blown up, you’ll see one video after another where, you know, these 2530 story apartment building complexes with a dozen.


Buildings are all being dynamited because they basically wasted all these resources building them.

There’s no demand for them.

So yes, you’re absolutely right.

You know, the Chinese will be lucky to eke out to three percent growth over the next few years, and Unemployment is going to be a big problem for them in a way that it hasn’t been before.


So that’s why I think that the model the entire model is really in a significant amount of trouble covid has accelerated and sharpened that crisis, but I’m not, I don’t think that that’s really all there is to it.

There are many other things that are working against them.


Let’s move on to Russia and actually it’s the same pays its exact same theme that you mentioned earlier, which is that you have this leader who has entirely isolated himself from the possibility of being influenced by something like a politburo, he is entirely ruling the country by himself.


It seems like even some of the military leaders didn’t even know.

He was planning on invading his one of his largest Neighbors in Europe and quoted from a piece that you wrote in the Atlantic quote, far from demonstrating its greatness, and Covering its Empire.

Russia has become a global object of ridicule and will endure further humiliation at the hands of Ukraine.


In the coming weeks, the entire Russian military position in the south of Ukraine is likely to collapse and ukrainians have a real chance of liberating.

The Crimean Peninsula for the first time since 2014.

And quote, do you still think that things are going that badly for Russia?



Well they definitely are.

You know, they are running out and things.

They had over 3,000 tanks at the start of the war compared to Germany and France, each of whom have, you know, only three, four, hundred each and they’ve lost, you know, maybe 80% of that tank, inventory, they’re down to just a few hundred tanks themselves.


And the, the Manpower problem is very severe.

They’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.

They’re going to ethnic minorities, they’re releasing, you know, hundreds of convicts from prison.

To put them on the front lines.

And then they started this mobilization on September 21st where they’ve just pulled, you know, young men off the streets, sometimes old man, sometimes disabled people and they’ve just thrown them into this horrible ma of Ukrainian power where, you know, already thousands of them have been killed or wounded and so I think that they’re in a very tough spot.


I do think that the Radians will make further gains as time goes on right now.

I think we’re in a kind of consolidation phase and people are waiting for the ground to freeze so that they can move, you know, their vehicles a little bit better.


But I do think that over the winter, you’re going to see the Russians thrown out of the rest of kherson oblast probably out of his operation.

Oh, blast.

And that puts Crimea, the whole of the Crimean peninsula.

In range of, you know, their artillery.


And finally, I want to bring in Iran Iran as you’ve noticed and many have noticed, has been rocked by weeks of protests following the death of Masa meanie at the hands of morality police.

This country isn’t terrible shape.

Tell us about the similarities that you see between the, you’ve already brought out between China and Russia as for the fact that authoritarian leaders that isolate themselves from influence can sometimes create Le sees that incur extraordinary backlash.


Are we also seeing that in Iran?

Well, sure, and then in Iran, you’ve got this gender element that isn’t quite as prominent in the other two cases where, you know, so Iran is a society where a lot of people young people are being educated given higher education’s, but women make up sixty to seventy percent of all college graduates in that country.



So you have this growing pool of well educated women that are being asked to subordinate themselves.

In this medieval social system where men have to make all the decisions not just men but they are the small circle of elderly men and I think that that was the fuse that was lit.


You know when Masa amini was killed that, you know, people just aren’t going to take it anymore.

At this point, it’s been two months since that happened.

There’s been a horrific Crackdown on protesters with thousands jailed and many hundreds killed and yep, you know they keep happening because people can take it anymore.


Now you neurons cases comes on on top of several other crises that have been brewing for some time, there’s a Water Crisis, there’s a banking crisis you know there’s an environmental crisis and there’s a zero.


Economic growth crisis, a jobs crisis.

So, you know, there is plenty of dry Tinder for an explosion prior to this.

And I think this, you know, death in custody was really just the spark that that let this.


And I think that it’s just going to be hard for the regime to continue to rule in the way that it has been in the face of this kind of anger.

So, you put all these things together, you have China sputtering, you have Russia sputtering, you have all of these problems.

Is complex, intertwining problems in Iran.


I finally want to bring in the u.s. because even as all of this is happening in some of the largest authoritarian governments around the world, the u.s. holds this midterm election where the American electorate has the opportunity to decisively defeat.


The most radical anti-democratic slice of the GOP.

These Republicans who say that the 20/20 election was a hoax and who are often trying to bring in a new set of State secretaries who have failed to not the Constitution, but to President Trump and almost to a person, those members of the most radical anti-democratic slice the GOP, lose their election.


And so, as I’m looking at all of this either, the cracks, the edifice, he’s that are appearing authoritarianism abroad and the cracks in the edifice of domestic authoritarian instincts, like it almost makes you wonder, like, I’m not, I’m not a full hug alien, I don’t believe there’s like a spirit that shapes world events but It is hard to see all these things happening at the same time and think that it is mere Randomness.


Do you think it’s me Randomness, or do you think there’s a reason it’s all happening at?

Once it’s, it may be a little bit of of just luck that all of these things have been timed in a similar way, but they are connected in certain respects.


For example, Putin believes pretty clearly that a republican electorate.

Victory either in the last election or coming up, in 2024 is really his biggest ticket to success.


And Ukraine with every successive Aid, vote in Congress, the number of Republicans voting against aid for Ukraine has increased.

And I think that if the Republicans had actually pulled off a red wave in November 20 22 with, you know, I don’t know, a majority of 5060 Seats in the house it would have been very hard to keep military aid to Ukraine going you know because with every vote on a the number of Republicans voting against it has increased and that means that the maggot Wing would have looked like it’s on a rule Donald Trump.


Clearly does not like Ukraine.

He prefers Russia and the fact that that That bubble was punctured is really good for Ukraine.

You know, that option of using American kind of right-wing politics to undermine the, you know, the will of the United States to Aid.


Another democracy that really that threat has been beaten back.

So there is that connection, whether whether the defeat of authoritarian, government mean, nobody on the left, or the right, Ali admirers, trying to all that much, but there’s definitely admiration for Putin.


In fact, there’s just this video that’s been released after Nick Fuentes had had dinner with Donald Trump earlier video, where the acquaintance is, that little young wannabe not see, or at least want to be anti-semite.

Who recently, had dinner with ye and Donald Trump, right?


So I’m one of his one of his rallies, you know, he starts saying Putin, Putin, Putin, and everybody, you know, breaks into a chair.

There’s definitely a pro-putin wing of the mag or movement that you know, ties together in one attractive bundle, you know, anti-Semitism fascism authoritarianism, you know, belief in, I mean a kind of dislike of American democracy.


And so I think that the defeat of their like-minded friend in Moscow, can only discredit people like that and make that alternative You know, it always was a pretty fringe one, but it was one that was looked like, it could become more mainstream in the United States.


And I think any momentum in that direction has now, you know, Ben Ben stop.

Fortunately, there’s a couple interesting intersections I suppose between these stories that was thinking of is you were talking.

It’s not just that if Trump had one in 2020, he would not have helped Ukraine.

And so if the one of the authoritarian populist had won the American election in 2020, then the actual Italian dictator in Russia would have had a much better chance of actually conquering, Ukraine, or at least keeping the done boss because there’s no way.


We would have been sending these billions and billions of dollars of dollars to Crane again and again, and again, I guess that’s part one.

Part two is that if she in China were a little bit, maybe less proud and more rational, he would have imported, the Western mRNA vaccines earlier.


He would have mandated the vaccinations Of Chinese seniors faster.

China would not have to do a zero covid policy to protect its elderly and general population.

Which means that its overall growth rate would be higher, which means.

And maybe I’m getting too far of my skis here, gas prices would be higher Global demand for gas prices would be higher and if the price for gas were fifty cents, higher.


I truly believe that Democrats would have lost the 2022 election in an absolute Landslide because I think the relationship between gas prices.

And incumbent voting is that strong, I want to fuck.

I want to close on some of your writing and some of your thinking about the u.s. specifically and about the war over liberalism in the u.s. specifically we’ve talked a little bit about some of the threats that liberalism faces from what most people recognize to be the right.


But you also believe that liberalism faces certain threats from the left as well.

What are those?

Well, I think that on the far left, there’s been a growing intolerance that’s been fueled by the rise of identity politics.

There’s a liberal version of identity politics where identity is simply used as a mobilization tool to demand equal treatment for marginalized groups African-Americans women, gays and lesbians and so forth.


But there’s another version of identity politics that says that identity is the most essential thing that you can know about some, someone much more so than any individual characteristics, they’ve got in there.

For people need to be seen, not as individuals, but as members of groups.


And I think that’s a profoundly illiberal View, and it also goes together with an attack on other liberal principles, like freedom of speech like due process where the need to bolster the Dignity of, you know, marginalized groups So important, as a matter of social justice that you’re willing to override, freedom of speech by canceling or, you know, D platforming people that don’t support your particular position.


So I think that’s really the kind of cultural threat that we face.

I think, you know the big argument I think is not that this whether it exists or not I think the real argument is how widespread is and how dangerous it is.

Because many people People on the left, tend to say well yeah, there’s these cases that are exaggerated by the right-wing media and it makes it seem like an epidemic.


I think my position is kind of in between.

I do think that it does certainly get, you know, every every time some college professor says some really stupid thing or a journal rejection.

You know an article in for one of these reasons, it does get played up you know endlessly.


In the media, but there is a real problem and being at a university you can see that there’s a lot of self-censorship on.

A lot of topics people are not willing to say certain things that they know to be true because they simply don’t want to, you know, become the object of, you know, a lot of attention from, you know, from kind of left-wing students.


And so I do think that that’s had a negative impact on academic freedom.

I am not going to sucker you into a conversation about cancelled culture.

When I invited you on the show to talk about China and Iran and Russia.

I do.

I end the interested in your analysis of this movement as a historian.


No matter where you are on the ideological spectrum and the truth is you know I don’t really I don’t podcast that often about should cancel culture.

Social justice woke is MM but I’m interested in it as almost Really, I’m interested in the fact that clearly sends 2014, 2015 or thereabouts.


Something has changed in the way that Americans talk about census categories, men versus women, non-whites versus whites gender identity, sexual identity.

Something that something is clearly changed.


I’m interested why you think the change happened when it happened?

Why do you think this?

It around say 2014 seemed to Mark the emergence of this new identitarian movement.


I don’t have a good answer to that, I don’t think that this is completely new.

I’m old enough to remember the 1980s you know.

In 1987 Jesse Jackson came to Stanford and led a March you know, saying hey hey ho ho Western Civ has got to go and, you know, there’s a big movement, you know, to make race, ethnicity gender, sexual orientation, you know, Central civil It’s issues and to you know, in effect counsel people that didn’t go along with that without agenda.


And then in the 1990s, you know, people turn their attention to getting jobs.

You had the internet.


People wanted to get rich.

They weren’t you know students at least for not is politicized but then these issues became much more sensitive again in the 2010’s.


Mm, you know towards, you know, as you said after about He 15.

There were obvious triggers that really inspired this so that Death of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis was a huge trigger that, you know, got many people upset and, you know, rightly so and the tendency of these movements which I experienced in these earlier years, is to, you know, generalize from specific in justices that you see being done to other people to focusing on.


Perceived injustices right in front of you, you know, and going after the closest authority figure that you can find which is usually a professor or a university administrator or something of that sort.

So I do think that you know this also comes and goes in waves and it’s interesting.


We’re kind of replaying a lot of our earlier history on a very rapid scale.

So George Floyd leads to defund the police and then you know, the actual defunding of police and Seattle and Portland, and San Francisco and and so forth, then crime rates rise.


And then there’s a big backlash conservative backlash.

That’s exactly what happened in the 1960s.

You know, after the Civil Rights Movement, you have the riots in Detroit and Washington other places you have this big surge in crime because of this great sensitivity to police brutality.


And then you had the election Richard Nixon, you know who wrote on a kind of antique Crime, you know hysteria where I mean it wasn’t hysteria.

There was there was a lot of crime going on and you know it led to a conservative come back.

So I just think that we’ve been through this kind of cycle before.


I hope it corrects itself.

But you know, maybe that’s the nature of democratic politics that we, you know, we can’t ever find the correct, you know, balance between these different Goods of, you know, social order versus social justice.


It’s an easy way to put it.

I it’s interesting because in thinking about all the various elements that make up what I’m right now calling the identitarian movement, there are some elements of it that strike me as examples of, you know, pure moral progress.

So for example, if in maybe the 1950s, someone who was for interracial marriage, might have been called, might have seemed whatever woke was at the time, right?


Because it was an unpopular position to be for interracial marriages but you’ve seen extraordinary progress on that on that points.

Extraordinary what I would call unambiguous moral progress.

I think you would could say the same for something like the rights of gay marriage.

I think you could say the same for acceptance of transgender people and transsexuality.


You could say even the same for something that’s more material.

Like the wage gap between male and female earners that do the same work and the same year 20s, 30s 40s and then there’s other issues like the question of Is it racist to teach Western Civilization or something?


That seems more cyclical like you have and there it has an outburst in the 80s.

It sort of dies away.

It has an outburst, the 90s political correctness was a buzz term in the 1990s.

No, one really talks about it in those terms anymore.

It goes away a little bit.

It it’s it comes out again like a cicada except now it’s called woken is rather than political correctness and then maybe it’ll dissipate again and just come back.


So I don’t even know if there’s a question here.

It’s more of just a statement that some of the things within this movement Aunt are are more like linear progress, more like sort of the hegelian fukuyama theory of history and some of them seem more cyclical maybe just the way that we freaked out about certain things.


I agree with that.

All right, well let’s end on agreement Frank I really appreciate it and hope to have you back in the pot very soon.

Great thanks very much for having me.

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