tv Book TV In Depth CSPAN December 4, 2011 12:00pm-3:00pm EST
600 of your 800 words. so a column you just have one idea, and you hammer that idea. i try to do my columns more narratively, try to tell a story, but it's really compressed. with a book you can spend a couple years on something, in-depth knowledge and do it in a more narrative forum, more natural thinking in terms of. and you can do a little better of capturing the climate of something with a column it's pretty much who's doing what, and it's very specific. but i think we're actually influenced by culture more than by personalities, more than by individuals. so you can try to capture a whole culture in a book. >> host: we want to focus on your columns later, but let's begin with your books and whether it's a book that you've written or read, what makes it a good read? what are you looking for? >> guest: yeah, well, you want it to, at the grandest, you want it to change your life in some serious way. you want it to lodge in your head. and i'm a big believer in books. i think books are the most
important thing any writer does, even those of us who are columnists because if you spend time with a book, you're going to spend a significant amount of time with it, and you're going to remember it if it's any decent book. so a tweet, you go through a thousand tweets, block posts, you go through a thousand blog posts, but most of them will slip through your brain. a book, you become emotionally involved with it, and it transfers from short-term memory to long-term memory, and that, it sort of gets burned in your brain. you move along with the characters, you learn to move the way they do, and you learn to see the world they do. and certain things lodge in your memory forever. you know, in my day-to-day life, i cover politics. and, you know, i watched president obama react to the press, and i've read a bunch of biographies of dwight eisenhower, for example. and on his last day in office, eisenhower is asked do you think the press corps' been, basically, fair to you in your time of office?
and he said, well, i guess there's nothing a reporter can do that can hurt me. and so here's a guy who'd been through d-day, all this stuff, and you get the whole complexity of his personality, and that anecdote illustrates a certain style of living and a style of being president. and it's a lesson, that particular episode, which i think our current politicians could learn from because they spend too much time reacting to criticism. when they should say, you know, i'm doing what i'm doing, i've been through worse, and a sort of depth of security that eisenhower had because of his life. >> host: in looking at what you've written and who you write about, there's, there are a lot of common themes. one is the book "the spirit of america" by henry van dyke. who was he, and why do you use him as such a strong reference point? >> guest: yeah. well, van dyke had the crucial insight which is america's about energy. there are many different themes running through american history, but i would say energy is the one thing that really sets us apart. another writer named seymour
martin accumulated a whole series of data about us which make us exceptional. he didn't say better, he just said different. and he said this exceptionalism is a two-edged sword. and so he said, for example, americans move more than other peoples, we switch jobs more, we marry and divorce more, we murder each other more. so there's good and bad. but it's that energy, that mobility, and that's what van dyke sort of observed, and he put that at the core of the way he sees the country. and i try to get the spirit of who we are in a lot of the writing, and i think that insight was a profound one. >> host: so let's delve into "on paradise drive," and you talk about the human energy we have in this country. do we still have it today in 2011? >> guest: yeah. one of the points i make in that book is that alexis de tocqueville came here in the '30s, and he observed a certain style of life, and a lot
of us had no ancestors here in the 1830s, and yet we still hue to that style of life. we still have that mobility. and you asked the energy, why, where does the energy come from. and the story i tell in that book is about a moral materialism, europeans came to this continent hundreds of years ago, they saw vast forests, they saw flocks of geese so big it took them 45 minutes to take off, they saw a land stretching out to infinity. and they had two thoughts. the first was that god's plans for humanity could be completed here. and the second was they'd get really rich in the process. and so that was right from the get go, it's a moral materialism. a moral drive, but also a material drive. and the confluence and the tension between those two drives, the moral and material, has been propelling us, the puritans had this concept of two callings. we have a calling to be holy and a calling to succeed and prosper on earth.
and i would say that exists up until the current moment. you know, ben and jerry's ice cream, ice cream company with its own foreign policy, sort of moralistic policy, whole foods supermarket, i joke in one of the books that whole foods are a progressive grocery store, it looks like all the cashiers are on loan from amnesty international. so that moral materialism is around us every second of every day, it stretches back hundreds of years. very consistent. >> host: in the book, you say this: we may not all be chasing the same thing, but we are chasing something, what defines us as a people is our pursuit, our movement and our tendency to head out. today's movement to ever more distant suburbs is merely the current iteration of the core american trait. >> guest: yeah. and in the back, in the 19th century there would be writers would go to ohio, and at that point that was about the early 19th century, that's about the western frontier. and they'd notice people would find a valley, and then they'd keep going west even though that valley was pretty good because they assumed there'd be
something even better across the next hillside. and, again, this has positive and negative consequences. the positive consequences is that we're always trying new things, pretty innovative. for all the talk of american decline, that culture of adventurousness is still there. the negative consequences are in evidence there. i sort of talk about it in the book, but it's become much more obvious since that book came out. which is that if people are moving to places like henderson, nevada, douglas county, colorado, to experience a new suburb and it's pretty clear a lot of those people are moving into homes they couldn't afford, stretching themselves too far, taking themselves -- taking big risks, and a lot of the bankers and mortgage lenders were also taking big risks and underestimating the difficulties they would encounter if this bubble popped. so in a lot of those places which i wrote about in that book in particular, fast-growing suburbs especially in the rocky mountain areas and the south, florida, it all went pop. so that's the downside of the
adventurousness and the risk. we move out, and we find ourselves, on occasion, in a world of pain. >> host: you point out not only the size of the home, but the sides of the drink that you buy at 7 eleven. >> guest: yeah. everything got sort of mag magnified. in those days there were hummers driving down the road, people driving chevy suburbans. it was like you put everything on steroids. people had this obsession with head room. and so normally your apartments and your homes had a 9-foot ceiling, suddenly have these 15, 20-foot ceilings, these vast walls. you could fly kites in the great rooms. so i was writing about that at the peak of that moment when everything was just exploding. and so i said, this is, this is not something new in american history, and i tried to draw in that book the history, the cultural history of our country which led people out into mcmansions. and as i say, it has a good side and a bad side. and the good side is even though we go through these bubbles, we
come back. and we'll go through some insane bubble in the future, but we seem to progress from bubble to bubble. >> host: two other points from "on paradise drive." first of all, what is an ubermom? >> guest: a highly successful career woman who has taken time off to make sure all their children get into harvard. they're doing butt exercises at the moment of conception, and they're trying to lead their kids into perfect lives. they're taking them to bow practice, soccer practice, sort of the early tiger moms before there was a tiger mom. and in that i'm sort of making fun of the superachievement ethos we've thrown down in the front of our kids, especially middle class and upper middle class kids where from the moment of conception they pop out of the delivery room, and the moms are flashing mandarin flash cards at the things so they can learn chinese and get into stanford. so i'm really making fun of that sort of super high-achieving life which is another part of
the mania. in my most recent book, i write about a woman named iowa net who's a sociologist, and she says we don't raise our kids on a continuum in america. there are two different styles. there's that ubermom style which she calls converted cultivation which is spend your weekends driving your kids from place to place giving them all these skills -- that's more or less what my wife and i do. but then there's a more working class scale based on the supposition that, you know, life is hard, let 'em relax. and in many ways this style is more healthy because they can explore the neighborhood, they can hang out with friends. but it prepares them probably a little less well on balance for the rigors of college and all the admissions completes and the job market -- committees and the job market. so this manic style has its down sides, i think, in character, makes more narrow, less adventurous people, but it has some upsides because if our admissions criteria are based on
s.a.t. skills and grades, it prepares them from that. >> host: how many kids do you have and what are their ages? >> guest: i've got three kids, 20, 17 and 12. >> host: and what are their personalities like? >> my oldest son is at indiana university, very social, somewhat jockish, very popular kid. i have a daughter who's 17 who's applying to colleges, and she's a high school senior, and she's an ice hockey player, very tough and brave. and then i've got a 12-year-old who's deeply into rap these days. so he spends a lot of time analyzing biggie and tupac shakur and kanye west and really reading about their lives and their lyrics and trying to understand america right now through that prism. so, you know, they have the same upbringing, um, the same genes from my wife and i, and yet they have pretty distinct personalities. >> host: from pop culture and politics to the works of a
columnist and than, david brooks, who is our guest for the next three hours here on booktv's "in depth." 202 is the area code, 737-0001 eastern and central time zones, 202-737-0002 for mountain and pacific. you can also send us an e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. one other point, and you spend a lot of time on paradise drive talking about college campuses, and you talk about the decline of courtship and the total absence of the romantic ideal. what's happening today? >> guest: yeah. we've gone through a period where, um, kids used to go out. they'd pair up, and then they'd go out on formal dates. i mean, back in the '50s you'd pin your girlfriend, and it was sort of like a preparation for marriage. it was pseudomarriage. it was very monogamous, and there were certain rituals about
asking somebody out, going on dates. and that all has washed away. now it's much more collective, there's much more a group going out, there's more of a hook-up culture, and the phrase hook-up is incredibly vague. and so some kids think hook-up involves some commitment, and maybe their partner thinks it involves no commitment. it's just a very ambiguous concept. and all the courtship rules of the '50s, '60s and even the '70s have just eroded away. and i was teaching, a young woman from mississippi who grew up in a more conservative part of the country, and she came to the northeast, and she described the pattern at her high school where friday night was date night, people would pair up, they'd drive out, go see a movie, maybe go get a meal. and she described her friends at school, and they would feel like she was from mars. they'd never done anything like that. and i'd had a literature professor say to me something that was interesting, in the 19th century novels they were
reading, they -- at the end of the novel, the hero and the her row win would get married and go away from their family and friends. and their students couldn't understand that because their relationship with their friends was much more important than their relationship with their sexual partner. and so there had been this inversion where the friendship group was more important than the couple group. and that's, that's just a significant thing that's happening especially for young people. earlier generations grew up with distinct rules of courtship, and now those rules are very, are washed away. and as a result, it takes people a lot longer to get married which has, again, ups and downs. i just did a series of columns where i asked people over 70 to describe their lives, and one of the lessons you get from that is beware early marriages. people get married at 19 and 20, some of them are wonderful, and they last 50 years. but a lot of the people who wrote to me got married at 19 and 20 before they knew
themselves, and they regretted it. they spent 10 or 13 years in bad marriages. and so it's tough these days to live in a world where there are no social norms guiding you toward marriage. >> i want to delve into that, but i also want to see about your first book, "bobos in paradise." you describe it this way, it's a description of the ideology, manners and morals of the elite. i start with the superficial things and work my way to the more profound. what did you learn? >> guest: yeah, well, what had happened is we had a vision of who the elite are in the 1950s and '60s, they were blue bloods, their families came over on the may flower, morton smith, and they really dominated especially the ivy league schools and banking. in 1950 if you apply today harvard, your odds of getting in were 90% because your father went to harvard, so you went to harvard, and they just passed down. by the 1960s that had all changed, so it didn't matter
what family you came from, it mattered what iq you had, what s.a.t. scores you got, what grades you got. so we had an entirely different sort of elite based more on money and creativity -- based more on, i mean, the facility with ideas. and so we had a group of people who were really good with creativity and ideas in the 1990s and today making lots of money. and so they combined two value sets, bourgeois values which is the middle class, benjamin franklin values, and bohemian values. so you got people like steve jobs, frankly, who was an lsd-taking 1960s hippie and half computer geek and corporate titan. so he's the ceo of a company walking around in blue jeans and a black t-shirt. so that book is really about the replacement of the john d. rockefeller style of elite with the steve jobs style of elite and sort of the lifestyles whether the good things, we get the, you know, restoration hardware, pretty good store, and
the bad things which is, i think, a more self-satisfied, religious life. >> host: what is a bobo? >> guest: so a bobo, if you take the word bourgeois and bohemian and you jam them together, you get bobo. people of mixed styles. so they're people who shop at whole foods, eat ben and jerry's, people who buy -- one of the rules is it's vulgar to buy things like yachts and lobster, but you can spend any amount you want on a room formerly used by servants, so they have these lavish kitchens, slight shower stalls. so i describe their consumer habits, but i also described, you know, the religious lives. so, for example, i ran into a rabbi in montana, and i said what kind of rabbi are you, are you a conservative rabbi, orthodox, reform, and he said, i'm flexidox which meant he did a few things that were orthodox and a few things that were
flexible, you know, he didn't want to tie anybody down. so it's sort of the have your cake and eat it style. you want the ability to make up your own mind. and so it's trying to merge two things. i'd say bill clinton was a perfect example of being a bobo. >> host: because? >> guest: well, he grew up in the '60s and he had the beard, rhodes scholar, radical, march anything the '60s, but he became a pretty big success story in american life trying to be, you know, a political player. and so he combines perm ambition with some -- personal ambition with some of the more moral pa patina about the bohemian life. >> host: first of all, you describe "the new york times"' wedding page as the mergers and acquisitions page. >> guest: yeah. so, again, they go back to the '50s and '60s, they described what family you came from and when your family came over on the mayflower as puritans. by the time you get to the 190s, it's -- 1990s, your career is what matters.
so goldman sachs marries morgan stanley, phi beta kappa marriesfyfy beta capita. and so it's really about, you know, one clerk marrying another, and that's sort of the new elite. >> host: wayne, pennsylvania, home to -- at least when the book came out -- six coffee espresso shops. why is that a metaphor for bobos in paradise? >> guest: it's on the philadelphia main line, and i keep making this contrast between the old establishment and the new establishment. if anybody's seen the movie, "the philadelphia story," with katherine hepburn, jimmy stewart -- >> host: classic. >> guest: which is a great, great movie, that's set on the main line of philadelphia, that's the classic, old main style of life. very upper crust, very, you know, very emotionally repressed. and so that was the old style. and even when i went to high school there, i graduated from
high school in 1979, that was still around. you could see that. but now if you go back, it's filled with funky restaurants and coffee bars, and at that time this coffee shop has now gone out of business, but there was a coffee shop which celebrated the pa riggs cafés in paris. so it was a transition between the style of fashion where i grew up where people would wear the striped, preppy pants, the yacht ties, the duck jackets, and that was sort of the wasp wasp-protestant style. and then it had moved over to there's a store there called anthropology which is an upscale chain store where people are wearing fabrics from peruvian peasants, so it's really the transition of one style of elite to another style. >> host: how viewers and listen -- our viewers and listeners read your works, but give them a brief biography.
how long you've been married. >> guest: i was born in toronto, canada. my father was always an american citizen, grew up in stuyvesant town which is a housing project on 14th street in new york city. and i went to a school called grace church school which is in lower manhattan. my father was teaching at nyu, and then we moved out to philadelphia. i didn't want, was not a very good student in high school, but i managed to get into the university of chicago and went there for four years and really didn't have the greatest time, but i got a great education. worked as a bartender for a year after college while every -- i sent out pieces and got rejected from every magazine in america. then i started work as a police reporter, and i worked there for a little while covering chicago politics for a little while, and i had my big break, these are the sorts of things you can't plan, they just happen. while i was at college, i wrote a humor column for the school paper, and i wrote a column making fun ofwilliam f. buckley
for being a name-dropping blowhard. he came to campus, he gave a speech, and he said, david brooks, if you're in the audience, i want to give you a job. i actually wasn't in the audience, but i called him up several years later and said is the offer still open, and he said, sure. he served as a mentor to me, teaching me how to write, introducing me to the world and taking me yachting, and to hear bach concerts. then i got a job at the washington times, i was a movie critic, and another lesson that's a good lesson especially early in your career, say yes to everything. and so i said yes, somebody asked me to be on a radio show, i did that. national review asked me to write about economics, so i wrote about supply-side economics, and the editor of "the wall street journal" saw it and hired me as a book review editor. i was sent overseas to brussels, covered the decline of the
soviet union. came back after about four and a half years, went to op-ed editor where i, basically, said no to a lot of people, and then a bunch of friends and i started a magazine called "the weekly standard," which is still going strong with bill kristol, andy ferguson, chris caldwell. this was about the time newt gingrich was doing the republican revolution. did that for nine years and then went to work at the times as a columnist. i've done that for about nine years. >> host: chris is on the phone, birmingham, michigan, with author and columnist david brooks. go ahead, chris. >> caller: thank you for taking my call. david, i just wanted to ask you, i wanted to see what your thoughts were about the role and use of technology in education. clearly, we've seen an explosion of this use of ipads and computers in school. and i just wanted to know what you, what your thoughts were about that as well as how, what kind of parameters did you set within your own home as far as
the use of technology? thank you. >> guest: yeah. excellent questions. i've looked into this a little, and i guess i'm a bit of a technology skeptic in the classroom. i think what ultimately matters is the individual relationship between the teacher and parent and a student. people learn from people they love. and if you don't have that relationship, um, you really don't have anything. and so there's no amount of technology that can replace that. p and there was a time a decade or so ago where they thought, well, if we get a lot of laptops in the classroom, then that'll improve education, and that really hasn't worked out. a lot of the experiments that have been done have shown that access to the internet and access to technology doesn't automatically do anything. there was one study i read, i think done at duke, where they measured the spread of high-speed wireless to different neighborhoods and how the students did academically, and it did not go up. academic performance actually went down a little, i think, if
i remember correctly. so i think it's not a panacea. nonetheless, technology can be used intelligently. for example, it can give teachers a much more accurate grasp of which students are learning at what rate and what students are having what kind of problems. so there's the feedback mechanism, it can be effective, but i think we need to be pretty skeptical of it. and as for my own home, i face the same struggles and quandaries i think a lot of participants do -- parents do which is how much to limit, how much -- how good is it. my parents spend a lot of time online looking at videos, and i do too. i think you've got to try to reserve some book reading. as i say, you know, the key thing is taking stuff that's in short-term memory and lodging it in long-term memory. and what, how do you do that? you do it, one, as i said, when you engage emotions. and i think the blogs and tweets don't really do that. you've got to have it in book form. and second, you do it when
there's difficulty in process. if there's, like, a font that's very easy, your mind just sort of glides over it. if there's something that takes some effort and struggle, you're much more likely to remember it. and so i guess i lean a little on the tech know-skeptical side without, hopefully, being a tech no phobe. >> host: you wrote wisdom doesn't consistent of knowing special facts, it consists of knowing how to treat knowledge, being confident but not too confident, adventurous but grounded. it is a willingness, you write, to confront counterevidence and to have a feel for the vast spaces beyond what is known. >> guest: yeah. and that book is really trying to summarize a lot of the research into how we think. and one of the great skills that we all need is what they call metacognition which is thinking about our own thinking, being aware of what we don't know. we all have a tendency toward overconfidence. i quote in the book that i think 96% of college professors think
they have above average teaching skills. we all have a tendency to look for evidence that confirms our own biases. so the ability to step back and say i don't really know that, i'm getting overconfident here is a skill that, um, is just tremendously important. you look at a guy like warren buffett, i think he said i've only had ten good ideas in my life, i just knew which ideas were my bad ideas. so the ability to do that is just tremendously important. the ability to adjust the strength of your conclusion to the strength of your evidence is very important. and so those, that ability to restrain your natural tendency to want to just believe what you already believe and have that reconfirmed, just a tremendously important trait that's something we have to think about all the time. >> host: james is next from boise, idaho can. go ahead, please. >> caller: yes, thanks for taking my call. david, i really enjoy reading your articles in the atlantic and really enjoyed your book, "bobos in paradise."
you seem to be able to find the bright side in, you know, american excess and maybe american stupidity sometimes. but do you ever, i guess, concern yourself with, well, am i, am i justifying this? am i encouraging more, i guess, the economic term would be moral hazard of more stupidity, more excess? >> guest: right. yeah, no, that's a good question. i try to lean a bit on the optimistic side because if you look at social science in the past, you look at all these books, there's a great tendency on the part of writers and intellectuals to be too negative, to assume that doom is around the cover -- corner, and doom never comes. so i think in the, in the service of fairness and accuracy, i try to lean on the optimistic side in part because people look more intelligence when they're critical. and it's very easy to be critical. it makes you look smart, it makes you look smarter than whoever you're writing for, but
i try to write from an attitude of admiration more than anything else because there are a lot of impressive people, i try to write about them and record their research. i guess the one thing i would say is that my -- the latest book, "the social animal," is really about our failures and about the strengths and weaknesses of our unconscious thinking. and so most of what we think goes on unconsciously, and some of the things that the unconscious does are very intelligent. if you're stuck on a computer problem or a term paper and suddenly the answer pops into your head of how to solve this problem, that's your unconscious, you know, worrying away down there. and sometimes it's very impressive. it's really good at pattern recognition skills. but it's got some really bad flaws as well. unconscious and emotional thinking is really bad at math, so it's pretty bad at risk assess m, and you have to sort of consciously be aware of your own limitations. especially in the later book, i try to balance the pros and the
cons. none the less, you know, i think on the overall i am appreciative of the energy we have even if it goes to excess because if you have energy, you have the power to fix your problems. if you grow up in a lethargic culture, a culture without a great history and great institutions, you don't have the power to fix what's around. >> host: do you consider yourself an intellectual? >> guest: you know, well, i'm a writer of a certain sort. so a real intellectual would be somebody who writes very dense books for, um, you know, for 400 people. and i'm certainly not that sort. i consider myself upper middle brow, and these are categories which have almost vanished from american life. but i hue to them. and the, for example, highbrow would be, you know, a super nobel prize-winning economist who's doing very detailed work. a middle brow is somebody who's doing, who's trying to talk to a much larger audience on a much more or less arcane and academic
level. and so i guess i, i try to be a little above that. if you want to know who my heros are, back in the 1950s and '60s there were people like david reeseman, jane jacobs, daniel bell. these were social scientists who wrote for a broad audience, a little higher than journalism, a little lower than academia, and i sort of try to replicate what they did in books and newspaper articles. so i guess i'd call myself an upper middle brow. >> host: terry is next, sacramento, california. go ahead, please, welcome to booktv's "in depth." >> caller: hello, mr. brooks. whenever i disagree with one of your positions, i'm going to blame toronto. [laughter] but i wanted to ask you, i heard you give a talk on c-span a few months ago, and you were talking about how modest and humble the american people were after winning world war ii, and you
contrasted that with a corner back in a football game making a 2-yard tackle and doing a celebration dance. and i wanted to ask you, and i'm not talking about the people who are the relatives of the 9/11 victims, but on the night bin laden was killed, were there a lot of 2-yard corner backs dancing in the street? because it seemed there were a lot of people who didn't really do anything. >> guest: yeah, i agree with that. there were a lot of people got out, college students got out and danced and had a party in front of the white house, and i confess i was uncomfortable with that. it is, after all, the death of a human being, the death of his wife and some soldiers, and i, of course, loathe what they were all about. but i guess those who -- i have not served in war, but those who have take a much more sober view of the unpleasant act of killing. and so i thought i was made extremely uncomfortable by those dances. the people, you know, the world war ii generation had seen a
lot. they'd seen the depression, they'd seen, you know, what war's really like, and what really struck me from listening to the radio or listening to recordings of the radio on v-j day was the real tone of sobriety, okay? we got through it, let's try to be worthy of the peace. and i think that was part of a broad culture that was really suspicious of pride, of getting above yourself. and i think we've changed, and i think we've gone to a culture that values self-esteem and self-love and maybe self-expansion and self-expression. and there's been, i think, a decline because of that. that's a bit of the summit -- subject of my next book. >> host: and the title? do you have a title? >> guest: i don't have a title. i say the book's about humility. many of the people who i admire most are people who combine extreme perm humility with extreme drive to do something to make the country or make the world better. and so my book is about how
those people are able to combine these two things which are the opposite. some people think humility is low self-esteem. it's not. it's low self-preoccupation. it's the ability to forget yourself in service of something larger. so this is a book about how those people are that way and how a culture which one encouraged that no longer does. >> host: rick is on the phone, fairfax, virginia, with david brooks. go ahead. >> caller: afternoon, guys. >> guest: hi. >> caller: effective tax rates for the top 2%, the federal is 28% according to cbo, and for the state and local tax foundation, there's no progressive breakdown on that. they have a 9.8% for the universal. so it must be at least 12% for the top two. so 40%, actually, total. and then, um, let's see. and if one really wanted to be truly complete, one would add in the indirect costs for the tax system, the regulatory and the
excessive legal system costs. and those are about 22% according to the cost of government aid data. but those are progress ily incurred as well because we're dealing with the court system, etc., more so. so you really have, like, a 27% cost on that. so added to the 40, you've got a 67% government-related cost out of personal income. >> host: turn that into a question, rick. >> caller: well, i mean, does it make any sense to raise their -- and i'm not in that bracket, but does it make any sense to raise their cost from 67 to, let's say, 70 when the real problem is cost? >> guest: right. well, i guess i'd say a couple things. first, we do have rising medicare costs, and somehow we've got to pay for them. i supported something called premium support which is something mitt romney has endorsed as a way to try to
reduce those costs. nonetheless we probably, i think in order to close our deficit, we have to cut spending, but also i think we have to raise taxes. now, taxes on the rich, you're right, they're progressive, the tax code is more progressive now than it was 20 years ago and, two, i do think there is economic cost to raising taxes on even the top 1%. those people, i think a lot of people don't really pay attention to tax rates all that much, but those people have mired people -- hired people who do. and i think they're very sensitive to changes in the tax code, and they change their behavior accordingly. i read a study recently saying if you raise taxes on the top 1%, there would be a deadweight cost. it would cost the economy something. and so to me, the question is how much and what other competing goals do we have. i think it would cost us something, as i say, economically to raise taxes on the rich. i also think, however, that we need to close the deficit, and that's probably a bigger problem, and taxing the rich
given the way the income structure is means we probably have to tax them more than anybody else. the second thing i'd say is i wouldn't put fixing inequality on the top of my priority list, but i do think inequality's a problem, and we should take some measures to ameliorate it. so i guess on balance even acknowledging there'll be some economic cost, i would raise taxes on the rich. i would reverse the bush tax cuts probably on everybody. and you're right that it adds up. you very quickly get up close to high marginal tax rates. but in the clinton years we had higher marginal tax rates, and the economy seemed to grow so well. so i don't think the cost will be so high that it will be ruinous. and i think we need to do it just to reduce our debt as part of an overall package to cut spending and raise taxes. >> host: so you would not sign the grover norquist pledge? >> guest: no, i'm violetlyly opposed in part because i do think for the good of the
country a tax increase has to be part of the eventual deal. second, i think there has to be a deal. there are republicans in this country, and there are democrats in this country. if you're a republican or more conservative like me, you don't like tax increases, but you've got to cut a deal. and if they're going to give you, say, three or four dollars in spending cuts for a dollar in tax increases, to me that's a good deal, and we should take that deal, and i thought john boehner should have taken that deal to the extent that it was offered by barack obama. and finally, pledges are just a way of restricting governance. it's a way to take everything which is a practical question and making it a religious test. and there are some cases where raising taxes is just the right thing to do even if you hate taxes. but if you make it one of the ten commandments, then you're taking discretion out of government, and you're really doing yourself harm. so i don't like grover's pledge. >> host: in addition to your phone calls, you can send us a tweet, you can also send us an e-mail, email@example.com. one of our viewers has this.
does the inflammatory i approach of entertainment-style pundits like glenn beck and ann coulter hurt the conservative cause? >> guest: i'm not a fan of them, and i guess you could put keith olberman on the other side. you know, i do a show, i do two shows on a regular basis, i do the "newshour" with jim lehrer and "meet the press." and there we have very good discussion that i'm proud to be a part of, i feel really good when i leave the sets of those shows, and we get pretty good ratings. in fact, quite good ratings. better than a lot of those cable shows. c-span does it, has very high-level discussions. and so, you know, i think the kind of stuff that we do is good for the country, and i think the kind of stuff that glenn beck and ann coulter do is a form of entertainment which, you know, it's bad for the country. it leads to a style of misinformation where i spoke earlier of the confirmation bias where you just want to hear
things that tell you how right you are all the time. and i think a lot of what those shows whether it's ed schultz or, you know, ann coulter, that's what it is. and they're not looking at problems which are real, the real problems in the world are complicated. and if you turn it into a morality play, you're doing harm to the country. >> host: what about rush limbaugh? >> guest: i'm not a huge fan of him, he's not a huge fan of me. i do think he's witty. he's at least a good entertainer. i listen to him a fair bit. i think some of what he says in his audience -- it's interesting, if you look at his audience, they're very well informed about politics if you give them questions, who's the chancellor of germany, they can answer that question. they also have a lot of misinformation. if you ask them certain other things that go against what rush tells them, they don't know the full range of the facts. and so i, i think he's not in glenn beck's league. i think he's a more responsible figure. the final thing to be said about all these people including rush
who has such a large audience, people like to listen, a lot of people like me listen but don't particularly go with rush when it comes to voting. and so, for example, rush limbaugh campaigned for three or four years against john mccain, and john mccain still managed to win the republican primary in new hampshire and in south carolina and in florida. and so a lot of people listen to the rush limbaughs or the ann coulters of the world, but that doesn't mean it influences how they vote. a friend of mine who's a political consultant says rush limbaugh can't deliver a pizza, he can't deliver votes. it's important to distinguish between those who are listened to for entertainment and information and how people actually think. >> host: jeff is on the phone, hemp stead, texas. go ahead, please. >> caller: thank you very much for taking my call. i liked the article you wrote, mr. brooks, previous to the 2008 presidential election called the class war before palin in which i think you made a very astute
observation that in john mccain's choosing sarah palin as his running mate, it was an implicit endorsement of a trend in the republican party, specifically in conservativism to, basically, alienate the intellectual class as the intellectual class and embrace a governing from the gut rather than governing from the mind approach to politics which i personally find problematic. and i'd like you to kind of update that article that you wrote given the current presidential, the current republican presidential contenders, specifically the rise of newt gingrich who is an intellectual of sorts and to, basically, speak to that issue. thank you very much. >> guest: thank you. yeah, what i objected to, i mentioned -- let's put it this way, i mentioned that one of my mentors was william f. buckley,
and buckley disagreed with liberal intellectuals, but he didn't have any problem with intellectualism. in fact, he was a real intellectual. if you went to his home for dinner, he would have writers and literary critics and much more likely to talk about religion or ideas and novels than even something out of the congressional budget office. he genuinely was an intellectual. and, you know, he famously said he would rather be governed by the fist 2,000 names in the boston phonebooks than the fact faculty of harvard which is a legitimate thing to say, but that doesn't mean he detested professors and academics. i thought what sarah palin did and other people have done is to take a disdain or disagreement with liberal intellectuals and translate it into a disdain for intellectuals as a whole. and so that was a very corrosive trend in conservativism. and gingrich, whatever else you think of him, is certainly not disdainful of ideas and writers.
he loves ideas and writers. and so i think, you know, i have doubts about his constancy, whether he can stand for one thing consistently, whether he can manage an office. so i have some doubts about him as a potential president, but one of the things that's nice is the republican party, i think, especially in the last, um, six months and during this campaign, maybe this is a story that's untold, has veered away from that palin strain and gone to a strain that is a gingrich strain which is really very in love with ideas. and conservativism really gathered strength because it had think tanks, it had philosophers, it had mags. magazines. and i think the republicans were in danger of throwing all that away. and now you have to say that's not true. if you look at the people, there's romney or gingrich, you know, they, both of them have tremendous faith in the power of ideas. and so this is, i would say, a disaster temporarily averted. >> host: for you personally,
what was it like to be around william f. buckley? what do you remember about him? >> guest: you have to remember what a huge celebrity he was. he had this park avenue apartment, and i remember i was covering crime in chicago, and i flew to new york, and i was seated at his table, and they put these bowls of water down. i thought it was a water erie soup, but it was like finger bowls to dip your fingers in before the meal. so it was a very alien culture it was so glamorous and exciting for me. but i would say the two things that are worth saying astride that sort of -- aside from that sort of elevated lifestyle was that his tremendous capacity for friendship. somebody said he wrote more letters than any other human alive, and i don't know if it's true, but it's plausible. he just had a tremendous capacity for building and developing friendships. and when you went to work for him, as i said, you didn't just work for him. he really asked your opinion about things, he tried to cultivate you, he tried to teach you things. and then the other thing that
you got to be when you were around him, was you got to be a member of a movement, of a tradition. and by the time i got there, say, whitaker chambers who was a conservative anti-communist, he was dead, but there were still people who were alive who were very prominent in the early days of conservativism like james burnham. and you got to be part of a conservative intellectual tradition. richard john newhouse, milton friedman. and so you really saw this tradition of ideas, and i got there in the early 1980s when reagan was in power, and you got to see how the ideas led to the political movement, and you got to see the primacy of ideas. so he really lived full in a world of ideas and filled with debate and a world full of, you know, he had a tremendous energy and inability to sit still. i mean, when you would watch him write a column, he would just dash them out in 20 minutes. and if he'd taken 20 hours, it wouldn't have been no better.
his mind was working at warp speed just churning out ideas. a complete inability to sit still. >> host: lee is joining us, san jose, california. what's on your mind? >> caller: well, hi. david, you've covered a lot of what i had in my mind during my wait. it just seems like there's a very noisy crowd of conservatives today who are just not so smart. in fact, maybe because you are smart they call you a republican in name only. you have real cred from, you know, pedigree. how long are they going to, um, hang in with, with the conservative side? some of them, i think, are working class, and so they may end up deciding that the republican party is the party of the special interests, of the rich folks. >> host: lee, who, specifically, are you referring to?
>> caller: who specifically did you ask? >> host: for you, yes. >> caller: yeah. well, the noisy people, the limbaugh types, the listeners to, of -- to him. they just seem like they are not, they're not coherent, frankly, in a lot of cases. >> guest: i guess i would say, um, that's out there. there's no question. but i would say there's, you know, as there were when i fist fist -- first started being conservative, there are a lot of good writers and magazines out there which i think are having a decent influence. and when you look at who actually shapes the policy agenda, i would go online and look for a magazine called "national affairs "which is a relatively new magazine, but a conservative one. you look at the weekly standard, the national review for web pages, i look at there's a harvard economist who has a blog, there's a fantastic blog
called marginal revolution which is more on the libertarian side. there are a series of very intelligent people. when the health care debate was happening, there's a guy named james capretta at the ethics and public policy center. and these were all very informed, very intelligent points of view. and so while maybe the rush limbaughs and the ann coulters get a lot of the attention, you know, the intellectual backbone is still there. and the american enterprise institute, i think, is doing extremely well. and so, you know, you look at what mitt romney's proposing, what newt gingrich is proposing, i think they draw from a lot of those ideas. so that would be the good sign, and i would say to the credit of the republican party, they've done a pretty decent job of grappling with one of the really strong, tough problems in the country which is how to fix medicare. and this is partly, they're
trying to do a paul ryan, you may disbrie agree with his plans, but he's taken ideas pretty seriously. if you can ignore all the loud stuff, there's still something to be hopeful about if you look for it. >> host: from our twitter page, how would eisenhower govern us today, and why has our republican party become so dogmatic over your lifetime? >> guest: yeah. well, the older i get the more i like eisenhower, and i think he was really a very fine president, and i highly recommend going online and reading his farewell address. it's famous for warning of the military industrial complex which was part of the address, but really it's a style of governing, and the style is best described by the word "stewardship," which is to say eisenhower really wanted to take the country that was fundamentally good and healthy country and take care of what was good and healthy about it and then build slowly without taking any stupid risks. and so he built the highway
system. he used government to do certain things. but he was very careful not to run up big deficits. and he was very careful, frankly, not to get into messes. and so at least as president he was urged to get into vietnam. he stayed out. he didn't want to get into land wars abroad. he famously was able to resolve the korean crisis. and so he had -- his strengths and his weaknesses were built around the conservative virtues of caution and modesty. he didn't get into big messes in the vietnam, he took care of the fiscal situation, he governed quite well. his weaknesses were that in some cases he was too cautious, and the most serious weakness was in the civil rights movement. when the civil rights movement was really gulling, he hung back. so he had strengths and weaknesses of being cautious. but i think that cautious,
sensible style of presidency is one that looks better and better. >> host: by the way, do you tweet? >> guest: i follow a lot of other tweeters, but i have never tweeted in my life. >> host: an e-mail, the old-fashioned way, this is from david chiels who lives in new york city city, he says has your exposure to psychology and sociology had an impact on your political views? >> guest: yeah. i think it's made me much more conscious of the power of community and the power of social relationships. and so we tend to grow up whether we're liberals or conservatives, we tend to gru up thinking -- grow up thinking individually, what does this individual want to do. but i think we're much more determined by the quality of the relationships we're embedded in. and so i think much less about individuals and more about groups. and i think that for a government one of the important things they can do is to build healthy collectives, a healthy neighborhood, a healthy city, a healthy country where all the bonds are really reinforcing. and so to pick a little more concrete example, i think the
most powerful social tool we have in front of us to improve a lot of problems is early childhood education. it's about teaching kids at very young ages to know how to build relationships by being around nurses or preschool teachers who talk to them, who give them a model of how to build relationship. and if you can get that, those people very young, people from disorganized homes very young, you have this come pound interest effect, and you can really make tremendous changes that will show up when they're college age or when their adults. so that's about building relationships so kids can grow up in dense social networks. so i'm much more communetarian than i was. >> host: how can we live now and always have in the future tense? explain. >> guest: yeah. that's -- how we see time is something that's very hard to talk about, but it's very important. in these life reports which i mentioned where i ask people
over 70 to describe their lives, some people see time as just this constant flow they can't step aside from, but some people divide their lives into chunks, and they say, well, this three-year period, that was a chapter in my life. now i'm starting a new chapter, i'm going to make a decision. this chapter will be different. these symptoms are artificial, but it's useful if you want to divide your life into chapters. and then the other attitude is are you primarily someone who looks to the past or looks to the future? are you driven, and this is famously true in societies where there is long 'emnity and feuds, some of the islamic extremists are like this. something that happened 800 years ago is -- >> host: and some families have it. >> guest: yeah, absolutely. they're concerned about how badly they were treated as kids, or the hatfields and the mccoys, you know, that kind of feuding. but i would say a more common thing in this country is to see
the future and look at the present from the vantage point of the future. so there's a story, a novel -- i think it's called "titans of the earth," i'm now not sure. it's a midwestern story about farmers and upper midwest. and a guy is taking a visitor around his farm, and he says here's the barn, here's the giant house, here are the fields. and the visitor says, i don't see it, i don't see any barn, i don't want see any house. -- i don't see any house. and the farmer says, well, i haven't built them yet, but that's where they're going to be. but in his mind they're already real. his plans for the future are already real in the mind, and i think that's a very common thing in the united states, that we see the future, and that we're very pulled by the future, by our incredible hopes for the future. >> host: two points from life reports, and you've written a number of columns about it, but number one is you write, beware rumination, and the other is that you cannot control other
people. as you take two of those points, what did you learn? what are your lessons? >> guest: yeah, this is things people told me. and a lot of the people who were -- one guy said i've been married 55 years, and for the first 20 years i tried to change my wife, i try today make her into a person that i wanted her to be. and after that period i realized, no, she is who she is, i can't be trying to -- >> host: it took him how long? >> guest: it took two decades but he said it was worth learning, and he learned the same thing about his kids and coworkers. knowing how little we control the people around us and respecting who they are, that's one lesson about modesty, and i've forgotten, now, the other one. >> host: the other one was you can't control other people and be ware of rumination. >> guest: right. we think the self-examined life is the one worth living, and that, of course, is true. but there's been a fair bit of research that the people who sit there and think about their hurts, think about their
problems, if they don't, they reinforce the networks in the mind. so they actually deepen them. they fall into these cycles of despair and depression just sitting there rehearsing, rehearsing, strengthening and strengthening these negative feelings whereas a lot of the people who seem to lead the best lives were, in some ways, not as honest. when something terrible would happen to them, they would either not focus on it, or they'd be grateful for it because it taught them something. so they saw it as a positive. and there's a great book which i recommend called "strangers to ourselves "by a virginia psychologist named timothy wilson, and he points out that if you want to change your behavior, don't change your mind first and then think you'll change your behavior, change your behavior first, and that will change your mind. or as the folks at alcoholics anonymous call it, fake it until you make it. he says if you ruminate, you will just deepen the negative things. but if you change your behavior, then you'll be reinforcing, you
know, a different set of neural networks or habits. and that's a better way that behavioral change proceeds mental change, not the ore way around -- other way around. >> host: you are still relatively young, so you asked how many people over the age of 70 to respond to these life reports, and what kind of response did you get? >> guest: yeah, i wrote a column -- it started because i was traveling to massachusetts on my way to new hampshire for a thing, and i stopped by a used bookstore, and i came across the yale class of '42 50-year, um, reunion book. and so a lot of members of the class of 1942 yale had written 50 stories of what they'd done since they graduated 50 years before. and some of the stories were fascinating as people would go through amazing things they'd done. a couple were boring. a guy, you know, took a job with a law firm or something, stayed at that law firm his whole life and said, you know, this is kind of boring, but it's too late to
change it now. so i became fascinated with these people looking back. so i wrote a column, and i asked my readers. i said, if you're over 70, send me something appraising your own life, send me some grades, what can we learn? and we got several thousand essays were sent in. some of them were a page, some of them were 25 pages, and they make for addictive reading. i've put a number of them online so you can read them directly yourselves. so reading them was addictive. some people, i have one up there on my web page now by a guy named neil who, um, you know, he just gave himself an f. said i haven't lived the kind of life i should have, and i wish i knew how to do it now, but i wish i'd known it then. and that's useful because you see what mistakes he made, and you can fix them. another one i just put up, i think her name was regina -- >> host: regina titus, we have that online. >> guest: this was a woman woman
who grew up sheltered and shy, and she work to work as a secretary by people who didn't treat her well, but she just kept growing and learning. and finally at age 56 she got a degree from manhattan college, and she now learns about opera, she's a docent in the local museum, takes courses, and you see her growing throughout life starting out maybe somewhat modest, but growing and expanding herself. and it's sort of an inspiring story to see someone just expanding all the way through. ..
and one of the problems is, they've only got two choices. they've got soviet refrigerator manufacturer a and soviet refrigerator manufacturer b and we got two parties are rigid and none of them are solving the problem or working together and one of the problems in politics you don't have an infinity of choices, you really only have two and that's one of the reasons people are searching around for the party they hate least at that moment and that's one of the reasons people are depressed. not because the society is sick.
it's not our government and our political process is sick. and so i think they're looking for a solution and obama had shot at changing and he tried his best but the two parties are not working together and and i'm just curious to see if anything dramatic will change one way or the other. one of the things that intrigues me is a guy named peter ackerman who has a project and he will get on the ballot on at least 50 states and he doesn't have a nominee yet and they have a website and you can go online and they're going to have a process of online voting and they're going to nominate people and then there will be a process of elimination and voting. and you'll be able to electricity somebody who will be the third-party candidate on all 50 states. and maybe that person will be, you know, colin powell. maybe it will be ron paul or i don't know who it will be. but it will be interesting to see if that person who will be on the ballot can generate a lot of support because it is true
that more and more people are dissatisfied with the two parties. >> host: i'm going to come back to that part and talk about presidential politics. we have a tweet from ramone what race has race made in the cultural transformation in america. >> guest: in some ways and some ways not a huge role. i talked about the energy and the mobility of people and people who come here -- averages, latinos, russians, chinese -- i think, you know, we're not as good at assimilating as we used to be but people still share the american mentality. and so my family is basically a russian ukrainian family and i was actually touring the metropolitan museum of art with my friend and my friend has ancestry going back hundreds of years in just country and he's actually related in a distant way to george washington. and we looked at a portrait of washington and he asked me a related question. how do you relate to washington
and you're not related to him. my family was here. and i thought not occurred to me. i feel a historical and cultural relationship to washington that i feel i'm part of that. so in some ways i think we do still get assimilated in the american style. the thing i'd say is different is the -- one of the of the other things that makes a country great is that there are very few countries which are as accepting of outsiders as ours is. and now we have a history of racism. we have racism today. we have all sorts of barriers between peoples. but i still think better than average we're the sort of place where people can come with different racial backgrounds and different ethnic backgrounds and go to a company and work together. and in china, china has many advantages over us but they don't do as well as we do. they don't create social networks across race and across
nationalities as well as we do and this is a great creative force when you have two different people, three, four, seven different people with different cultural and racial backgrounds coming together that just creates a burst of creativity. now i know i'm highlighting a positive and there's a whole negative side, but i do think -- as we feel so depressed of ourselves in the country and we think we're in decline, that -- >> host: we're about an hour in our three-hour conversation with columnist and author david brooks. david is joining us from san francisco. go ahead, please. >> caller: good morning and thank you for letting me participate. a couple of what i call quasi personal questions. one is, i'm a big van of william f. buckley. and i watched david on the charlie rose memorial show that took place right after mr. buckley died. and on that show they played
excerpts from his last appearance on charlie rose. and it -- during which mr. buckley said he was ready to go to his reward. he had pretty much wanted to wind things up. and david was visibly shocked at that. and i'm wondering -- of course, he was only 46 or 47 years old but i'm wondering if he thought at all about that and secondly, could he expand on his remarks on barney frank's cruelty to young reporters that he spoke of friday on the newshour? thank you, i'll take my answer off-line. >> guest: thank you, david. i remember vividly the comment he made to charlie rose. buckley was a good 30, 40 -- i don't know how many years older than i was. he was born in 1925, i think. the most zestful person who you
could possibly imagine who always wanted to be off doing the next thing, whether it's playing the harpsichord or yachting, driving hither and yon having debates, the most life embracing person you can imagine so seeing him say i'm done, i've had enough, it's like watching someone who you know for one trait suddenly renouncing the key trait you think about them. but, you know, he was getting old. he had -- i think he had emphyse emphysema, he had run down. and so i think -- i haven't experienced that fortunately but, you know, in many ways he was a man of strong religious faith. and so he knew what was coming. he didn't approach death i think with any religious terror and he felt fatigue. and so i guess in retrospect,
intellectually understand and it's a shock he said that but i haven't experienced that sensation saying i'm ready to go and i guess that's not a bad way to be in your final days, to be accepting of death and to think the gods are going to call you if. as for barney frank, you know, i don't have people admire what he does and he's very smart and i've confessed i've never had a lot of intimate dealings so i'm not passing a comprehensive view on his character but i'll just say a couple of experiences i saw over the years a few times is that one of the things the way we cover the house and the senate -- but the house in particular is reporters gather at certain spots in the capitol and then they come off the floor and there's a spot just off the house floor where reporters are allowed to gather in the lobby area and they come out and then a bunch of reporters surround them, sometimes with cameras, sometimes just print people. and ask them questions about what's happening, about what's happening behind closed doors.
and as i said on the newshour, some of those people are like me and we've been doing it for a little while and we sort of know how to do it. a lot of people are young, they're 22, 23 and they're just starting out. they're a little nervous. they don't know is quite how to ask questions or exactly the lay of the land, the things you get when you've been doing it a little while and so they're a little vulnerable and to me it's up to somebody who's a chairman of a committee or a senator or a house member to be especially understanding of the situation they're in. and not exploit it with rudeness and cruelty. and on a couple occasions i've seen barney frank doing that. he would be needlessly rude to someone who was struggling. and if they've been rude to somebody like me who's been around but rude to vulnerable in that way and i thought that was unattractive and i tried to expressed that and many people have seen this similar thing but there's been a whole series of commentaries and i think david milbank and others have written about this capacity for
rudeness. i guess i just have trouble -- you can be -- you can say i care for the man and the downtrodden in the abstract but if you're not willing to live that in your day-to-day life, i have trouble thinking how real that is. and so i criticize frank for being that way. it's a serious flaw to me. >> host: has he ever responded to that? >> guest: no. so many people have made this point and i just made this comment on the air on friday on the newshour. and i haven't heard from him. maybe he'll scream at me, but that's fine. but it's a point that many people have made about him. maybe he's someone who understands this flaw in his makeup but, you know, there's ways to fix these things. >> host: an email is talking about your appearance with mark shields on the newshour. he said i read your column in the "new york times." i watch you on pbs. you and mark are my favorite tv odd couple. does jim lehrer whom i greatly admire or other moderators tell you in advance the questions they will be posing? and also you are a very young man, of very mature wisdom.
if you had to choose a career other than journalism, what would it be? >> guest: well, first on lehrer we know the topics so we will get -- you know, we know before we go on. we don't know the questions. but we know, say we went on this week and we -- you know, we know we were going to be talking barney frank or talking about the payroll tax issue. we knew we were going to talk about the republican race. and so if you're not flying blind -- though, sometimes things will come up out of the blue. there will be an issue that will come up or jim will sense -- or one of the other hosts will sense that mark and i have an interesting disagreement about something and then we'll go wildly off-track so they'll give us four topics that we'll cover. but then we'll go off and cover none of them because something interesting happened. and so there's -- there's nothing like a script, but we do have general topics. as for an alternate career, all i do is write. if i had to do -- start over, i
would seriously consider writing about science. if you're, say, a young journalist thinking about going to journalism one of the important things is have something that you know something about. have a field in which you can bring to the table that will separate you from all the other people. so if you're going to start in journalism, know something about economics. so you can say i have this body of knowledge. here's how i can help your publication. or i know a lot about science. i know a lot about genetics and there's always going to be a market for people that know something. and so if i had to start over in journalism, i may try to learn more as an undergrad about science. the other thing which i enjoy tremendously is teaching. i probably would have become a high school or college teacher if this hadn't worked out. >> host: any desire to be in public office? >> guest: not particularly. as i say, i like writing. i'm not as good with people as politicians are. they'll be around people for 20 hours a day. i don't have that incredible social antenna.
i do -- there are two things i do that intrigue me about government. one is the genuine sense of public service of getting things done. that's really inspiring. we don't get to do that. we try to contribute to the debate. but people in power -- often i'll ask them, what's it like being in the white house? and they'll say each individual day has its problems. it's no fun, but the overall experience is so rewarding, you really can make a tremendous difference. i was traveling in africa. and you look at the american antiaids programs and there are just millions of people alive now that wouldn't have been alive because of things people do in government. and so i think government service is a very noble thing and i sort of wish that. and i guess the only other thing is -- since i'm someone who's part of a centrist political tradition that i don't think is represented by either of our two parties, i wish there were people i agreed with who were more dominant in one of the two
parties. i wish we had that ability or leaders who could choose from column a and column b who would take republican ideas and democratic ideas and try to blend them together. we don't have that tradition. we don't have leaders who are good at that or have party structures that would encourage that and i feel that void is a very serious one for the country. >> host: when your book came out about a decade ago michael kinsley had this to see. he wrote in the "new york times" book review, our defining and uniting characteristics as americans according to david brooks are that we'd rather leave than fight and we're thinking about the future instead of dwelling on the past. the brooks' thesis, michael kinsley, if i got it right is a lovely sweet thesis of a genial as -- as genial as the author himself but a better answer to the question of why if americans are so diverse, we get along so much better than our foreigners might be, what in the world are we talking about? it's certainly not obvious to the spirit of live and let live in stronger in america than elsewhere?
michael kinsley from may of 2004. >> hmmm, well, that doesn't mean we don't fight. i would never say that. one of the burdens of being a very future-oriented people is that we fight ferocious precisely because we think we've been given this great gift and we're in the danger of spoiling it. so there's a book by a guy whom i quote if the book a lot called american jeremiahed. they thought we hurt american by our sinfulness and that ability to future orientation because we think we've been handed paradise and we're screwing it up. i never certainly meant to indicate that we don't have serious fights and serious moral federal reserver, one of the -- one of the outgrowths of the moral materialism is not only are we so deeply materialistic and want big mcmansions but
we're one of the country's least -- in the developed world that has huge fights over abortion policy, on gay marriage policy. that has big social conservatives, which is a very rare thing in the developed world. where we have this precisely because we have this moral materialism and so i'm glad michael think i'm genial but i don't think i ever said we're a country of brawling and fighting. >> host: and we'll share some of the books david brooks reads and refers to as among his favorites. chris is joining us from brooklyn, new york. go ahead, chris. >> caller: oh, hi, thank you. thank you very much for c-span and thank you, mr. brooks, for taking phone calls today. you're very generous of your time. >> guest: thank you. >> caller: you're aware of tom brokaw's book, "greatest generation"? >> guest: yes. >> caller: i'm going to argue the greatest generation gave birth to the baby boomers who are really the most selfish generation. these are the uber consumers, the people who demand immediacy
and perfection. and have grown into those mcmansions and one of the things that i would take small issue with when you use the word "we" paying for social security and medicaid. why can't we blow the caps off on our aid contributions and blow the caps on medical saving accounts contributions to 10,000, $20,000 and encourage a savings economy so that people don't have to be dependent on government. not everyone. not everyone. there will be a percentage that will need that. but we shouldn't lump everybody into that. and could you just off the top -- i'll take your answer off the air, could you just address a little bit about the central bankers activities now in controlling interest rates 2% for the next couple years? and also the money shifting going on in europe and how that's going to lead to yet another bubble that's insurmountable. thank you. >> host: thanks for the call. how much time do you have? >> guest: yeah, let's start with the monetary policy which i don't write about monetary
policy. i have no expertise on it. so, you know, my own perspective is that we have a lot more to fear from deflation than inflation. in my views on monetary policy are not really taking seriously but i just don't know the subject particularly well. on say things like medicare and savings, i sort of do agree with that. one of the things we need to do is create a system where people are more responsible for their own pension systems and for their own health care spending. and one of the ways to do that -- we're always going to have people who haven't -- for whatever reason have the income to do that. but by means-testing, by allowing people to save more and maybe also by getting rid of the tax exemption for medicare -- for health care insurance policies or at least capping that exemption. we can impose more costs on people who can save for it. we'll have to balance the budget we're going to have to go to a
system where people take more responsibility from some of these senior issues. and, you know, i guess i'd be -- i'd agree with the caller on that. as for the greatest generation, the boomers, i do think there was a shift -- i mean, i'm not sure how much of it was ideas and how much was just circumstances. people who grew up in part of the greatest generation, they grew up at a time of depression and hardship. and so they learned a hard work ethic during that time. and then they came to maturity in a time of prosperity and growth. and these life reports -- one of the things that really struck me was that people would move across the country, they'd go to, you know, santa fe, new mexico or whatever and they would say we're going to move here and they would assume there would be a job there because the '50s and the '60s the economy is growing and there were jobs and so they had a great sense of economic security. people who grew up in the greatest generation -- in the boomer generation, they grew up with that affluence and they didn't face that hardship. they had a more, hey, it's all
for me and maybe that would incur self-indulgence and there was a cultural shift from a culture -- if you grew up in the 20s and '30s that said don't get too proud, don't get ahead of yourself in the culture to the '80s, '90s today who said you got to love yourself first. it's all that self-esteem and the self-love and the culture says feel good about you and that's the most important thing and i think that has some serious down sides which we're now grappling with. >> host: the first of three books by our guest. author and columnist david brooks. he's working on his fourth. john feeney has this as a columnist as your day job he wants to know please ask mr. brooks his views on the future of newspapers? >> guest: i'm feeling a little better these days. if you asked me two years ago it's in the whaling industry and we're dying off. but i would say a couple things. one thing we have more readers than ever before. second, i think there's been a flight to equality.
when the blogs first started coming out, everybody was flocking to the blogs and i do too. i spend a lot of time reading blogs but after a while they want people sort of who have done the work so that they know what they're talking about. i spent a lot of time interviewing politicians. and it's not 'cause they tell me stuff particularly. i don't get breaking new insights on a secret world and i know it's not true and i'll read an intelligent blogger who's writing about what so-and-so is writing and i interviewed so-and-so and i know what they're thinking. and it's not that. this is a plausible theory but it doesn't have to be real. and so when i'm writing something based on interviews, i think i have a more accurate view of what people are actually thinking because i've actually taken the time to drive over to where their office is and sat down with them. and so i think it's not only me. it's people who work for newspapers. it's what we do. and so my sense is there's been a flight back to quality. a flight to the "new york times." and also a sense that people are
willing to pay for it. we've conducted this experiment where we've asked people to pay for the articles. and there was an old experiment where called time select where they asked you to pay a columnist and it turns out they wouldn't do that. but now people are paying. we're getting a couple hundred thousand dollars people who are online subscribers and so i'm feeling better about the newspaper industry because i think it will we're beginning to make a go of it. the readers are always there. it's how do we turn that into revenue. there's still struggles. the big national papers like the "times" and the "wall street journal" i think are achieving stability. the local papers are doing well, a lot of the papers in, you know, pennsylvania or, you know, a small town in, you know, lawrence, kansas, skokie, illinois, are getting that local news really covering a community. i think those people are doing well. there's still a real need for that. the people that have been struggling are sort of the
"boston globe," "l.a. times," sort of the second big city daily. and whether they can make a go of it, i'm not sure. but i will say they're hanging in there a lot better than one might have imagined a couple of years ago. so i'm feeling a little better about the whole newspaper industry. >> host: you may not tweet but you sparked quite a robust conversation on our twitter page and this is a yes or no question or maybe it's a maybe. since you are speaking of your former boss william f. buckley would david brooks be host a debate, a firing line type of discussion show? >> guest: well, i'd be willing. i mean, you do it. if you do it, maybe i can do it. i don't know. but buckley had this amazing ability -- he had these mannerisms. if you saw him on tv, he was like unlike anybody else you would seen. he was always leaning and he used these incredibly long words. if you look at the people who are really successful like charlie rose is really good about it. there's something distinctively
will their personality that you want to be around them and it's distinct i'm not i have that type of personality that buckley did to pull it off. i enjoy talking to people. >> host: and he did kind of get in your face and move in to try to lure something from you. >> yeah, his personality -- there was nolo keyness about it. he was in your face and they called it firing line for a reason but it was not like crossfire. it was real argument. i remember -- this is online. i saw it on youtube or something. it was a debate he had probably -- i want say late '60s, early '70s with noam chomsky who's a great linguist but also a very, very left wing political philosopher, writer. and they made no conception -- no concessions to the audience. so they were debating each other on a very high level using words that most of us don't know, arguing over concepts most of us don't know what they are. and you watch this and there's no debate on tv that it's at
that high of level and you got the sense maybe five people know what they're talking about. but it's still gripping to see them volleying back and forth. and so, you know, he had this amazing skill. and it's a lesson that if you -- if you try to pander down to an audience, you just won't make a big difference. but if you are up here and the audience can get there. people are smart. and the audience can be there with you. and buckley was up there and the audience stayed with him because they respected him and he brought out the best in people. >> host: do you have a loyal reader, someone who checks in with you from time to time? >> guest: i have -- i can't think of one person. i have imagined readers. sort of your basic -- person who's interested in ideas. a lot of things i do is i cover the world of ideas and academics the way people cover politics. if there's a new study or a new book that's important, i cover
that as a news event. i think those things are really important. >> host: i know you're going to ask a question and we do have. his name is joe mccouplin. he lives in georgia. he's a frequent viewer and listener and he is on the phone today. joe, good afternoon. >> caller: steve, you're the greatest. david, i wanted to ask you a question. i'm really fired up about mitt romney. and i think he'll be elected and be the greatest president ever. my question for you, david, do you think you'll receive the nomination and then do you think he can beat president obama? and i hope you'll answer yes. [laughter] >> host: and joe, stay on the line if you want to follow up. >> joe, i like your enthusiasm. i do think he will get the nomination. one of the things that strikes me about him, how much better a candidate he is this time than last time. he was okay last time but this time he's really taking a hard look what he did and he's really improved as a candidate, both in terms of presentation. i think in terms of substance. >> host: is he authentic, though? >> guest: i think he's an authentic businessman and
manager. is he authentically conservative, i don't know. on the social issues, what he believes, i don't know. an interesting question, can he beat president obama and my guess is he's got -- and this is just a guess, it's like a 52 or 53% chance of winning. that he'd be a slight favorite. and i say that because the white working class is still the largest single group in the electorate. and they very sharply turned away from president obama. and that group is in very prominent pennsylvania and ohio and some of those upper midwestern states. and so it's going to be hard for president obama to win those states which are very crucial. you can construct an electoral map around those states, but you have to include florida. and say mitt romney runs with marco rubio the republican senator from florida, that would help him very much in florida. and i think it would be easy to see romney winning that race.
and then the final thing to be said -- and this is mostly about obama because i think election races, no matter what the president's campaign says it's a referendum on the incumbent, his approval rating is what matters. nobody wins when your approval rating is 45. you have to get your approval rating up around 50. and his approval rating is hovering 40, 45. he never goes below 40. has a hard time getting it above 45. and so he's not way behind. he's got some good skills and some good support. but so far i'd have to rate him as a slight underdog. so i think romney has been a pretty impressive candidate to having trouble in the public primaries right now but if he ran against president obama, i'd rate him a slight slight favorite. >> host: a slight follow-up from joe mccutchen. >> caller: i think you're the finest reporter in america and i want to say -- i'm really fired up about what david said about mitt. i'm 24/7 and we're fired up and we're going to work till he gets
elected. thank you, david. >> that's what he needs. supporters like you. >> host: you have been there? >> guest: i was in atlanta last week but i don't know whether that's north, south, west, east. >> host: ladonna is on the phone. go ahead, please. >> caller: hi. let me bring you to another level, if i may. >> sure. >> caller: obviously, if i'm watching this program, i am more engaged than some people may be. you mentioned the "new york times." you seem to disregard the lesser media news prints. who would you engage to bring your message to another lower level of your message? >> host: well, you need to be specific. we had received a tweet about the future of newspapers which is why you were talking about the "new york times" and the
"wall street journal." do you have a specific publication that you have in mind or -- >> caller: no, i was just listening to david talking about the "new york times" and some of the other lesser publications. what i want to know is, you are wonderfully bright, intelligent man. and i'm the alto in the back of the choir that you're talking to. who would you engage to get your message at another level so that you could incorporate someone who could speak for you outside of booktv? >> host: donna, thank you. >> guest: okay. well, i guess -- i think -- i think all the world of the "times" but i wouldn't say higher, lower, lesser publications. you know, i think if you -- i talked about bigger cities. we're a big national paper, some papers are smaller. but i certainly would not consider people who work at
smaller papers lesser adjourn justs or smaller papers in small communities, lesser publications. i'm reminded when bill buckley -- one of the things i talked to him about was his days as a college newspaper editor. and he said that he never felt as is on fulfilled in life when he was the editor humphrey.
democrats -- a lot of them are republicans. those are the working class white democrats. >> host: would he have been a good president? >> guest: i think so. i think he was a great leader in minnesota. very brave leader, fought mafia. hold on those issues and i think he would have been quite a good president because he had a real feel for people and a real feel for what america is all about. i think -- i would have preferred him to lyndon johnson. even though johnson pros and cons. but i think he was a generally good man. >> host: and milton friedman? >> guest: milton friedman was another mentor to me. i was in chicago and milton friedman was doing a tv show where milton talks to the young. he had already done a show called free to choose which was a success and he did a sequel called tyranny status quo and he sat with some young people and he had a discussion about people in economics and i was then a democratic socialist.
i was on the left. and i was supposed to argue with him. and i would memorize something i just read in some book or something. and i would repeat the argument and he would destroy it in about six words. and then the camera would linger on my face while my mouth hung open while i tried to think of something to say but the really valuable -- after the show -- it went on for about a week. he took us out to dinner and he really took these dinners as an occasion to teach us about his view of the world and why he thought the way he did and how to approach economics. and i never became a libertarian or a free market as friedman but he certainly expanded my mind what was economically right. and so just in that week -- and i had some dealings with him later on in life, you know, those people just one contact can open up your mind to the possibilities can have an effect. >> host: today is our guest from david brooks. he's written a number of books including bobos in paradise, and
the social animal. we'll talk more about his books and his columns, more of your phone calls. you can also send us is tweet or send us an email on the second half of the program. we're at the midway point. we want to look at some of the favorites of david brooks, his favorite books and leading influences in his life. ♪
♪ >> host: let me go back to some of the books that you're currently reading including habits of the heart and one of your favorites king lear by shakespeare. how much time do you spend reading? >> guest: i spend a lot of time reading. that's my job. you know, some people ask me how can you read so many books. well, they have often do their jobs. but this is what i do. so i spend a lot of time reading. on tv watching i watch some political shows and sports shows but i don't watch too much in
the realm of series. and i used to be a movie critic so i don't go to too many movies anymore so i spend a lot of time my reading and i was reading king lear for one of the pleasures of doing this is you get to meet people you wouldn't otherwise meet. and so i got to do a panel discussion in association with a presentation of king lear at the public theater in new york and it was hosted by anne hathaway, the great star and actress and bill irwin was there, who's another great actor and famous first for being a clown but also a great actor and so they asked me to be on a panel to talk about king lear and culture and shakespeare and so i went back and re-read lear, depressing and great. and got to meet anne hathaway and bill irwin and people like that. >> host: a lot of emails but there's one general theme i'm going to go through of them. mr. brooks, why are there no conservative columnists for the "new york times"? another one says, are you a
centrist? and another email from a viewer saying -- although you espouse to be a conservative i believe you're a major supporter of president obama. so define your ideology. >> yeah, first i was not a major supporter of president obama. i admire him personally but i also admire john mccain but we don't endorse or support anybody like that. my ideology i think is very clear. it doesn't fit in with either the current parties right now. but it starts with edmond burke who was the really the founder of modern conservatism. wrote a book called reflections of the revolution in france which is one of the major influences on my life. and he -- the core message or a core message that he had was that we have to be careful of what we should know. we shouldn't be too proud of our own intelligence or our own knowledge. and that one of the things the way to make up for our own weaknesses is to defer the institutions that have survived the test of time. and so that's -- and then to not
give too much faith in the idea that you can have planners, people in washington planning complex systems. and these are both very conservative notions and that's one core pillar of my political philosophy and the other core pillar is alexander hamilton who believed not in using government to enhance equality and he was not a libertarian believing just get government out of the way. he believed using government to enhance capitalism. to give people the tools compete in the capitalist system. and so these are my two pillars. and if you want to put it on the ideological scale, it makes me more of a moderate republican these days. and it puts me to the right -- to the left of a lot of the more libertarian antigovernment people. the right of a lot of the obama, more technocratic but i happen to think it's a tradition that is proud in american history. alexander hamilton went to the whig party.
abraham lincoln went to theodore roosevelt and it died but it's waiting for a rebirth. i'm hoping for that rebirth. >> host: why in 2011 are we still reading william shakespeare? what is it about him and his works? >> guest: well, you know, science changes but we don't change particularly. and so we -- we don't make too much moral progress. i think we do make some. but some of the problems are still eternal problems about pride, about. >> ed -- about greed, about avarice and one of the famous scenes in king lear, the grandfather the king, or father -- knows he's about to die and he's giving away his kingdom and he wants his daughters to praise him to his face that you are the greatest, all my love is for you. i have no devotion to anybody but you but one of his daughters says, well, i owe what i owe you. you're my father but i'm not going to make up these flowery words and say i owe you all my love because when i get married
i'll have some love for my husband and she refs to compromise her integrity just to pay homage to a guy whose ego is apparently out of control. and he cuts her off and is rude to her. and that was written hundreds of years ago but the lessons about honesty and deference and ego and narcissism are germane today and we have not moved on beyond shakespeare. >> host: abdul is joining us. your topic is health care. you're on with david brooks. >> caller: hello, mr. brooks. thank you very much for c-span. thanks for "in depth" for taking my call. i would like to mention i'm a proud american. of course, naturalized citizen of america. i'm an american by choice. and i'm proud of it. actually, i have one comment. and my comment is related to
mr. brooks' -- just a while ago he mentioned about the booming economy dealing with the president in a good economy in good times. in the united states and the rest of the world enjoyed. and i admire president clinton and, of course, i admire speaker gingrich, both are great americans and great servants of this country, and it was a great economy. if you look at "in depth" and this program and the reason for this booming economy was actually superficial, superficially it was arranged. the first season was the booming -- was a dot.com bubble
which burst within a few years. and the second reason for this booming economy during that time that we see the effect of right now is the booming real estate and housing, which was artificially created. and so, therefore, if you look in depth at the reality -- as i mentioned again, i admire president clinton but during that era, the whole difficulties that we in the united states and americans and the rest of the world probably suffering is from those kind of artificial not in depth policies that we see -- that we see as a factor. >> host: thank you for your call. >> guest: yeah, there's certainly a tech bubble and if you look at the surpluses we're running that's largely the
effect of the tech bubble. and that's absolutely true that we were spending way too much on the housing and a lot of our resources were going to things which were -- made our lives maybe a little better but we're not what you call investments in the future. and so that's true. nonetheless, i think if you take the pretty good economy and so that would explain the froth at the -- especially at the end of the clinton years which produced these artificial surpluses. but nonetheless if you take the strong economy, i think we had 20 or 30 years from reagan and clinton. first president bush, i think you'd have to say the froth was there but so were some underlying strengths and that we really did have pretty decent productivity rates. we did have some real growth. we had new innovation and new industries coming up and that was not all froth. and at that time, tax rates were higher than now. now, i would not want to go back. we started in the context of tax cuts. i would not want to go back to the rates we had when reagan came to office, you know, in the
'70s and '80s but i think going up from a tax rate of 36, 39 -- i don't think that would do too much economic damage. and so i wouldn't be opposed to moderate tax increases as long as that money was really dedicated to paying down the debt. i would not want to just fritter that money away with more spending. and so i would accept it as part of a deal. but i take the point that a lot of that growth was just froth. it wasn't real. >> host: a couple personal questions. is there a family member or -- one of your children that reads your works and reacts to it one way or the other? >> guest: i would say my youngest son the 12-year-old reads it the most closely. they are all sort of aware of it but, you know, i don't bring it home particularly. we don't talk about politics too much at home. we don't talk about what i happen to be doing. maybe if i meet -- i had a chance to meet the pitcher from the los angeles dodgers that i will talk about at home. if i meet a senator, we don't talk about that stuff at home.
and so, you know, i think they're sort of aware of it and sometimes they have views and my youngest son aside from being a fan of tupac shakur, he's a fan of john boehner but he is more of the -- of the three children he's the most enthusiastic interest in politics, hoe, the other two have an interest but it's not just something that dom that dominates home life. >> host: christopher has this email, david, what are your favorite nonpolitical websites that you visit on a regular basis? >> guest: the nonpolitical one -- one is more intellectual, arts and daily and the browser. there's another one called longform.org and these are websites that are really about essay business literature, about ideas and things like that, they are just interesting harless there's a great one i read recently about joe namath, what it was like to be him in the late '60s and then as for the totally nonpolitical, almost every day i check a website
called aamazing avenue which is for the new york mets. i always look at espn. i follow college basketball. i follow all sports basically. and so i read a lot of those websites. and then the usual movie, you know -- the normal -- >> host: so you remember the miracle of '69. >> i was 8 in new york and i think that was the transformative moment in my life because it taught me that things may look dark but miracles will happen and the world will turn out well in the end and so i was a huge mets fan. i can still name every member of the 1969 mets. and then i was married in 1986 in the winter i decided i would propose to my wife on the day the mets won 30 games. they got off to a very fast start. that was the year they won the world series. i had to postpone it back to 40 or 50 games. large parts of my life are organized around the new york mets. >> host: and they had the games in the afternoon and you would
have to wait at 9:00 at night to wait for them on the west coast. >> that's true. one of the tragedies of my life is one of the -- one of the people who worked in my father's building, when he was at nyu got me a piece of dirt from shea stadium after the championship in 1969 and i brought it to school as part of show and tell and one of the people who had cleaned up -- why is there dirt on the table here and he threw it out. i'm still recovering from that trauma losing shea stadium dirt. >> host: we are going to go to kim next joining us in san francisco. three hours, the first stay of the month "in depth" here on booktv. c-span2. go ahead, kim. >> caller: i love c-span. that's the most important thing i have to say. >> host: well, kim, we love you. thank you for watching. >> caller: you stated you admire people with new ideas and you admire intellectuals and you -- you especially like the new idea thinkers and i -- if i may, i'd like to tell you about a little
story from a different standpoint. more of a working standpoint it's this. i worked in car rental years ago and we had a famous ceo. and he had a lot of ideas, one of which was to have this huge mission statement framed and mounted at every location where we rented this these cars. it was a beautiful thing. it was like 4x5-foot. and it was always behind us and before we began the rental, we were supposed to lightly go over it and introduce it to them. and the whole idea was that we were very, very dedicated to customer satisfaction. simultaneously, this ceo had another idea. he needed to increase the efficiency of the car fleet, so he reduced the number in the fleet, making each car more productive. clever idea. however, after he was done reducing the fleet, our customers would land at the airport and they would come to us to get the car and we would
introduce them to the mission statement about complete customer service and because the cars had been more efficient and the fleet had been more efficient, we had to tell them then that they would have a 45-minute wait because of the efficiency that was brought forth. >> sure. >> caller: so you have this disconnect between -- from the working class i can only say this, you have kind of a disconnect, these ceos have wonderful, really great ideas but the practicality sometimes, david, not good. >> well, i think i talked on this theme a lot. i completely agree with that story and it illustrates something i've talked about a lot which is how little we know and can know. and if you're running a complex system like a rental car company or health care system, you better be aware of how little you know and you better be aware of how the world is way more complicated than anything you can think of and any abstract
planning from some 30,000 feet level will never be enough for the local realities. and that -- that's why i talked about edmond burke, that's one of thinks core themes that you can't plan from the top and one of the problems with vietnam is that we have robert mcnamara and other people in the defense department who are planning bombing raids in vietnam, a place they had no intimate familiarity with. and so you have to design systems that where the learning comes from people who are actually on the ground, and so one of the best way you can tell a good, say, aid program in africa to, say, a bad program. is that the good aid program somebody sitting in washington are saying here's how they should do it. that's the bad ones. the good ones somebody is sitting on the ground and look at local reality and says, here's how they have already figured out how to do it. let's try to build on that. and so it's information flowing from the bottom up. and so that's a theme i've tried to hit and it fits this car
rental example perfectly. one of the people who's looked at companies quite a lot is jim collins who's written good to great and many other very prominent books. and one of the things he observes in successful ceos is they combine extreme personal humility with extreme will, willpower. so they know how little they know. they don't think they can plan a complicated system from the ceo headquarters but they're always driven to learn and get better. and so designing learning companies where the people who are actually on the ground can tell you what's actually going on, that's the challenge in making a mission statement some abstraction. that's not going to get it done as this story illustrates. >> host: here's the challenge from one of our viewers, his handle is stars and frogs can mr. brooks talk about how he overcome the mets being an great influence on his life and still becoming a successful author? >> guest: that is -- the mets have -- for the first 20 years of my life, they taught me it
was good news because you had first this miracle season. you had these great pitchers and then in the '80s in particular, you had the emergenciance of dwight goodman and people like that and this was just like god-given talent. >> it was a reminder of just wondrousness. in the last few years it's been bad news and you feel like you're a chicago cubs or a boston red sox fans back in the old days you live with suffering. but the thing about being a sports fan is, you can't choose. you don't get to choose who you like. once you form an attachment to a team, you stay with that team, whether -- you know, i thought i'll become a nationals fan. i live here in washington. they have a lot of really good minor players and you don't have a choice in that. i'm a fan through thick and thin. at least i'm not a yankee fan. >> host: and there's always next season. >> for the mets there's not going to be the next season. it will be a little while. >> host: robert is next from california.
go ahead, please. >> caller: i'd like to ask, what does mr. brooks think about the libertarian movement in the republican party? maybe why isn't there any in the democratic party? thank you. >> guest: okay. that's an interesting question. and so i disagree with libertarians on some things. i do think there has to be important roles for government in a lot of things. i like government investment in basic research. nonetheless, the libertarians provide a very valuable counter to some of the planning tendencies that naturally arise in washington. people in washington -- and this again goes back to the car rental question. one of the trick questions i ask politicians is, what do you think is going to be the growth industries of the future? and to me the correct answer is, how should i know. i'm a politician. i'm not a venture capitalist. and yet most politicians will tell me the growth industries of the future are the wind business or the solar power. they think they know. they don't know. and so libertarians are very
good at telling politicians, you're not as smart as you think you are. and if you have all this green technology subsidies, it may be a worthwhile cause but you just -- government is not going to be able to pick the right -- the right technology because nobody knows enough. and so we're going to wind up with solyndra which is the wrong technology and a history of power, of ethanol, thing which have more to do with political spoils than actual promising technologies. so i appreciate that. and i also appreciate a great thinker hayek who based especially in the later years of his life his whole philosophy of being aware of how little we know.
>> host: moderates and moderate conservatives do battle with the conservatives who want to refight the 1960s, and on the democratic side, the new democrats doing battle with those who have not come to terms with the thatcher-reagan reforms of the 1980s. >> guest: i'd phrase that a little differently now maybe because there are no longer any democrats. but i think in the '60s and '80s for many years we thought of them as opposites. if you liked the '60s, you were liberal, if you liked the reagan '80s, you were conservative. but now i think we see them as two sides of the same coin. to live in a lifestyle whatever
they chose, and the '80s liberated the individual economically, to have more economic freedom. but they were both about individual freedom. and i think if you combine these two movements, what you get is a period of extreme individualism, but a loss of community and community bonds. and so now i think you can have a communetarianism on the right, you can have people in church groups and other associations who really value community, and you can have people on the left who whether they're at zucotti park or in a union who value creating communities, and it's about building social bonds. so to me the '60s and '80s now look more like one thing, and now rebuilding community seems to be an important thing to do. >> host: from the book "on paradise drive," you say even if you win the race, there is no rest. there is no position that buck awarded -- that you can be awarded that will guarantee status. there is no title you can pass down to your children even if
your own future is secure. there are still your children's futures and your grandchildren's futures looming. the mentality still has you in its grip. the universe, as they say, is still pursuing its adventures, and you must work to keep your place. >> guest: we live in a meritocracy. and i go back to the early 20th century where in other countries you're born into a noble family, and your status attaches to your family. you're lord so and so or duke so and so, and you don't really have to hustle, your status is there. but in a meritocracy, you've got to climb and achieve some status. and yet the people who do that never reach a moment where they say i've done everything i plan to do, i can now relax. they still want to get better, they want to learn more, they want to contribute more. and i mentioned buckley a few times, and i once asked him, you know, you've had a greater impact on american life than you could have ever imagined when you were starting out.
do you feel totally relaxed now and content and just a sense of peace? and he looked at me like he couldn't even understand the question. he'd never felt it. and i've never felt a great man or a great woman have that. they always want to do more and contribute more. and so our position in the world very often is based on our conduct, and that's appropriate. but it means you can never really relax. we still have the future looming over us. and so even senior citizens -- and this is the good part -- want to keep growing, learning, want to hand things down to their grandchildren and their children. and that's what makes us so, you know, hyperactive and overworked, because we're always trying to just keep pushing away. >> host: a review on your book, "the social an mag," this -- animal, david brooks emphasizes the way in which imper call meths can improve control of what people will do. but when we discover an unacknowledged influence on our conduct, what should our
critical response be? about this question brooks says, essentially, nothing to say. >> guest: yeah. i'm not sure that's true. you know, the -- so, for example, we're all shaped by cultural influences, and one of the experiments i tell in the book is about, um, somebody had the good idea of watching people having coffee. and then they -- with another person in different cities around the world. and then they watched how often the person leaned over and touched the other person just as part of the normal conversation, just as a touch on the wrist for emphasis. and i'm going to get the numbers wrong. and in rio it was like 180 touches an hour, in paris it was, like, 120 touches an hour, and in london, if i remember correctly, it was zero touches an hour, or they never touched one another. and some cultures are warm and embracing, and some are more stiff and informal. so if you're british, then you probably have grown up in a stiff and formal culture, and maybe you like it, but maybe you
don't. and so by being made aware of that, you have the ability to correct and change it. and not only consciously, you have the ability to change how you see other people. so you're naturally more embracing and more warm. and the way you do that is by changing your circumstances, changing your habits. you can't sit down and say i'm going to be a warm and embracing person. but if you do little things like giving people a hug or touching them or getting involved in a group where you learn to hug each other, be you actually change your behavior, then you will change your perceptions, you'll change your unconscious way you see the world. and so one of the lessons of the, all this research is that we're influenced by a million different things, most of which are unconscious and we'll never understand. and so we're not totally captains of our own chip. we don't get to create our own selves, but we do have some control. we can say no, and we can change the circumstances of our lives. and if you decide to join the
marine corps or you decide to join a church or a cult group somewhere, you'll be doing things, you'll be enacting habits and rituals that will change who you are. so you have the power to change yourself emotionally and unconsciously. you don't just have to lay back and say i am who i am. >> host: our guest is david brooks. anthony is joining us, springfield, massachusetts. what's on your mind today? >> caller: yes. i just want to say that i read david brooks' column for a couple years now, and i love his column, i don't always agree with him, but i love to read them. >> guest: thank you. >> caller: and my question was, basically, about -- i know he writes a lot about human social behavior and politics and sometimes about the intersections. i was wonder what he thinks about sort of the rise of organizations or pseudoorganizations like occupy wall street, the tea party movement, things like that that are not, you know, vertically hierarchical, they're more
horizontally, you know, their structure's more horizontal with the needs of the individual. i was just wondering if he thinks that this is, you know, i was wondering if he thinks this is just a temporary thing that people are reacting to, sort of their disappointment with how government works and how, you know, depending on representatives and people that they place trust in, whether they're interested in that, or whether he thinks this is going to be a continuing trend that's going to take power away from traditional political parties and traditional institutions and part of the reason is because of the internet and the ease of communication that we have today. thank you. >> host: anthony, thank you. >> guest: that's a good question. i guess i would say i understand the impulses behind both the tea party and the occupy movement, but i guess i think it's self-defeating to have movement with no institutions and no leaders. i think if you really want to focus an agenda, i think if you really want lasting power, you have to build structures and institutions that will last longer than a protest, longer than a rally.
and you have to have leaders to define what you're about and to say we're going to do this, but we're not going to do that. they're going to devise strategies that will do, you know, the way martin luther king did with the civil rights movement. you take a broad movement. but then they had organizations. the naacp, the urban league and other things, they give focus, structure and permanence, and then you had people like martin luther king devising what do we stand for. my problem with having a movement with no leaders and no structures, you often get defined by your worst people. so for the occupy movement, it's a very small minority, i'm sure, who are doing violence and the more destructive things, but that's what generates the headlines. if you don't have a leader condemning that, then your worst people define who you are. i understand the impulse, we're going to take advantage of twitter and texting, and we're going to have no hierarchy.
but i do think every institution that lasts has a hierarchy, and since little of what any great movement can achieve can be done in a year, it has to be done over 10 years or 20 years or a lifetime or a couple lifetimes, you need structure and institutions. so i would advise both of those movements to build organization. you need organization, you need structure. >> host: you talked about william f. buckley, but was there somebody else in your life who influenced you, a teacher, a mentor? >> guest: yeah. i had many great teachers, i had a history teacher in high school named john dale who gave me a sense that i actually could succeed at this sort of thing. i was not a great student in high school, but i remember he had confidence in my abilities, so that sort of thing has an effect. i was also influenced by -- i went off to the university of chicago, and in those days it was quite easy to get in, and today it's not. and i took a course, a series of
courses in, um, great works of philosophy. i guess they call them dead white males now, plato and hobbs and edmund burke. and a lot of the courses i took later where i read contemporary things, you know, i've forgotten all this stuff. but i read this book, "reflections of the revolution of france," and i just hated it. and i reacted so strongly because it was telling me things that i now think were true but i just didn't want to hear. so my violent reaction against that book was sort of an important moment in life. >> host: we're getting a lot of e-mails. a couple of quick ones, first of all, from dee carnahan who lives in california with regard to shakespeare, do you think he wrote the plays? >> guest: i do. you know, a lot of people don't, there's been a movie out based on the supposition he didn't write it, but i am not an expert on this, but i defer to those scholars who think he did, and i, by the way, we have
shakespeare theaters here in washington, d.c., and i had a chance to tour the archives, the basement room. and they let me see his, shakespeare's deed to his house. and what they did in the old days, they couldn't have a xerox, so you and your landlord would sign a piece of paper or, and then they'd rip it in a very uneven way, and you each got a half of it, and they could tell it was authentic if two pieces got put together. so i actually got to see a paper shakespeare had signed. but i don't see why he couldn't have written those prays. >> host: does david regret his comment about sarah palin and her cancer on the republican party? >> guest: yeah, i do. i think it was some lunch affair for some magazine, and i was just mouthing off, and so i -- i'm not a fan of hers, but that's a little strong. >> host: from frank who lives in hanover, new hampshire, he wonders: do you read many of
your comments on the columns at "the new york times", and how do you take criticism? he also says what specific things do you think the president could have done, if anything, to win over republicans? >> guest: yeah, i guess, well, first, on the comments, a lot of the comments are just generic he's an idiot. and i don't know what to make of those, so you don't want to wade through them every day. but i don't mind criticism on substance. um, god knows, you know, my job is to start debates, and i write twice a week, and certainly a lot of what i write turns out to be wrong. that's bound to happen. and so i try to be provocative and start debates and very happy to be corrected when i don't have it right. and so i don't mind that criticism, that part doesn't hurt my feelings as all and take it as part of the growing process. and so, but people are really good at needling you on the personal things you are sensitive about, so that stuff is hard to get through. but you should do it. um, now as for what the
president the can do, i guess i think i'd say three key moments. the first in the stimulus package. i think it was a mistake to hand things over to congress and letting nancy pelosi sort of define what was in the stimulus package. if he'd done a big payroll tax, which he's done since, as the stimulus package, a lot of republicans could have said we're for the payroll tax cut. this is something we can work together on. and they would have said, okay, obama is someone we can work on. second, after the first stimulus was passed, if he'd continued on the jobs and economy rather than pivoting to health care, i think he could have built on a bipartisan agenda on how to create growth. and finally, i think if he'd jumped on the simpson-bowles report for debt reduction, again, there was a potential for a bipartisan, big agenda. >> host: why didn't he? i mean, this was his commission, these were his people. he appointed them, and he has not embraced it as of yet. >> guest: right. he would say i've gone a little far, in my proposal with john
boehner, we offered a similar sort of deal. but i think there are two reasons. i think the official version is that they didn't think the defense cuts involved in simpson-bowles were responsible. but i think that's a poor argument. because you can say, okay, i don't like all of this, but as a country we're going to march down this road together. and i think the country really would have been with him. i think the real reason is that it would have been politically hard. because it would have involved some tax increase, it would have involved some entitlement cuts, and that's politically hard, and it would have been risky, and he thought it was smarter to have paul ryan go out there first and have a budget proposal, and he could go off that. i think it was short-term smart, long-term stupid. people say paul ryan has a plan, i may not like it, but he has a plan. the president has no plan, no vision, no boldnd. so i think over the long term i think it's not only substantively been in error for him to do that, it's been politically in error.
>> host: your books and columns, i realize we're moving from topic to topic, but this is from joapny abrams who says, first of all, she's enjoying your conversation. 1969 was a transformative year for me as well, i learned no matter how optimistic things look, they can end in disaster. she signs it, a cubs' fan. [laughter] >> guest: you know, one of the crucial moments, the cubs had a big lead, divisional lead, and they were playing i think in shea stadium, and there were cats in the stadium. and a black cat emerged from the stands and walked in front of the cubs' dugout, and the collapse came. so it was all bad luck. but, you know, being a cubs fan, that instills a certain sort of virtue. even if you haven't won. it's, they're always a lovely team to watch. but, by the way, just in celebration of a member of the cubs, one thing i highly recommend people do is they go on the web online, and they google ryne sandberg who is a
chicago cubs second baseman, a great player, and then hall of fame speech. and he gave a speech when he was inducted in the baseball hall of fame, and it said i just tried to play the game the way the people before me played it. so when i hit a double, i tried to run it out. i didn't celebrate when i hit a home run. i just tried to live up to the standards of the great players before me. and it's a great, um, example of how to think within an institution. you enter the institution of baseball, or you work at a company, or you're in science or in motherhood or you're a truck driver or you're a soldier, there are certain habits that the best people in your business do. and there's a great speech about how to live up to those habits, so i highly recommend that, ryne sandberg and the hall of fame. >> host: and they have the t-shirt that you can buy at wrigley field, "anyone can have a bad century." [laughter] david next is joining us from standford, connecticut. go ahead.
>> caller: hi, good afternoon. thank you for taking my call. mr. brooks, i enjoy and truly appreciate your articles every tuesday and friday. >> guest: thank you. >> caller: question -- i have a suggestion, actually, a going away present for barney frank, perhaps you could give him a framed copy of ed mupped burke's writing on manners. i'm sure you're familiar with that, manners are more important than laws. you know, laws are copps here and there, but manners are what vex or corrupt or purify by constant, steady, uniform and sensible operation like the air we breathe. so thank you very much, and keep writing those great columns. >> guest: that's a beautiful quote by burke who's capable of a lot of great writing. and it's a real lesson for life that burke, the wisdom that he got, because, you know, you can't sit here and say i will be courageous, i will be brave, i will be honest. but what you can do is do the small things right.
you can be kind to people, you can hold the door for people, you can set the table properly. and by doing the small things right, when you slowly build up habits of virtue, and i think that's what burke would have said. and that's a good -- i hadn't really thought it through, but maybe that's why rudeness is so offensive. it's not just a little thing that can be tossed away. if you're personally rude, you know, there's going to be problems with the big things. but if you're personally well mannered, i think it helped. >> host: talk about one of your columns and get to the politics we were discussing first hour. you write about, first of all, the two moons. quote:
>> guest: yeah. we used to have, there's a political scientist who had this theory that you have the sun party and the moon party. that the sun party is the majority party, and it sort of dominates, and then there's the minority party. and in the '30s, the democrats were the sun parent, and then the republicans after reagan, they were the sun party. but now neither party is dominant. if you look at the polling, it doesn't go like this anymore. they both do go down together. so we have two minority parties at once which is unusual, and a lot of people who are disaffected from the both parties. and the problem with being a minority party is that you hupger down. you -- hunker down. you want to create a little wall around yourself to keep yourself pure. and you pubbish people who -- punish people who sort of
deviate. so i think the democratic party has said to them, you're not one of them, you're off the team. and the republicans sometimes punish people who are off the team. so they build fences around themselves where more and more people suddenly find themselves outside the fences. so that's -- i just think it's a problem for both parties and for the country because of these people who are disaffected with both parties. and some people call me a rino, a republican in name only, but i think the rhino's a strong and proud animal. i'm proud to be a rhino. >> host: join the conversation online on our twitter page at booktv. paul is on the phone, decatur, illinois. go ahead, please. >> caller: hi, david. just a quick comment and just wanted you to know i've been watching you for years now and just a big -- you hear this all the time about your biggest fan, but i am your biggest fan. >> guest: thank you. >> caller: you're the best thing on "meet the press."
>> guest: thank you. >> caller: just wanted to know -- by the way, i told my 5-year-old nephew the other day that he who can conquer the own soul can conquer the city, so thank you for that, david. [laughter] just a quick note. i'm such a big fan, i've respected your intellect, your humility and most of all your humanity. you're so human when you talk. and i'm one of those average guys on the street, the guy vacuuming your floor. i didn't finish college because of family obligations, but we're out there, us average guys, we're paying attention. i'm listening to you, david. and i wonder, a guy like you, of your integrity -- and that's what makes you stand out, i think, you have such integrity, and i'm so impressed with you, david. when i look at these guys like jack abram off, and i think, you know, obama -- who i have great respect for -- didn't he know
this was going on? didn't he see this around him? i'm reminded of tweed who says i don't care who's doing the electing as long as i'm doing the nominating. and that's kind of what's going on, these special interests that bought and fade for him. how can a guy like you, you're the only one i see with the chutzpah and the cajones, we're both asked about the genesis of things, the beginning, the things that happen from the time they're born to 5, 6 years old, i think it's the same with politics. i haven't voted in years, david, but a i don't trust any of them. i've lost my faith. again, i think it's all done for and, again, i'm that guy vacuuming your floor -- >> host: paul, i'm going to have david respond to your point, but tell us about you. what is your background? you never finished college, what is your job, and tell us about your family? >> guest: it's not exciting as it sounds. i stripe parking lots, i steel coat asphalt, things like that.
and it's something i do in the summer. i'm off six months to work -- to stop and read. i mean, i've worn out my library card. so he and i are both hamiltonians. you can be flexible without really going to school. i think my iq was clocked at 142 before i went into the army thing. but, again, my question is what can a guy like david do? >> host: okay. thank you, paul, for the call and sharing your thoughts. >> guest: yeah. well, one of the great things about c-span is you get people who are just interest inside ideas coming and calling into the show, and i really appreciate that call. i really, really appreciate that call. um, you know, a couple things to be said. first, the story about repressing your own, um, anger. and the story i mentioned on charlie rose, and i'm just going to repeat it quickly here because i think it's constructive for 5-year-olds and older. it's also about dwight eisenhower, i mentioned he's a young kid, he's 3 or 4 years
old, and he wants to go out trick or treating on halloween, but his mom won't let him. and he has this huge temper tantrum. and he punch it is tree in the front yard -- punches the tree in the front yard, and he cuts his knuckles. his mom sends him up to the room, and he cries for an hour. she goes up there, binds his wounds, gives him band-aids or whatever, and she says to him he who can conquer his own soul is greater than he who can conquer a great city. and it's all about being aware of the temper and anger and weaknds we have in ourselves and the need to get that stuff under control. and 76 years later eisenhower says -- this was a very important moment in my life because i realized i had to be aware of some of the problems i have, the struggle against them. so that's, you know, a great lesson, i think, for people. as for the integrity and the people in washington, you know, it's easy for me to write a column, but for the people in
government they've got to organize coalitions, they've got to build, there are severe limits on what they can do, and i would say one of the hard things about them is they don't get to choose who their partners are all the time. if they're trying to get a coalition of 50% plus one, they've got to deal with the reality they see all around them. and i find them often quite good people who are stuck in a rotten system. and i hear what you're saying about not voting. and yet i think the people are good, and if we could arrange a system better, we could, we would have a much better government. i guess i'd urge you to vote a little. you seem like a very sense and wise person, and so i guess i'd urge voting because the people are good, and it's possible to fix the system. if we get people who are willing to actually work on the system itself rather than be sucked into a system which is encouraged as so much money flying around, so many special interests flying around. but if we had a series of leaders from both parties who
said we're going to cut out all these special breaks, cut out all this corporate welfare, suddenly the system would be better, and we could be governable again. >> host: mitt romney, you say in the marx brothers' movie of the republican presidential race, mitt romney is zeppo, and you go on to say he is running in the an atmosphere in which it is extremely to remain substantive, yet he is doing it. democrats should not underestimate him. >> guest: there were actually five marx brothers, but there were four in some of the movies, and the funny ones, groucho, chico, harpo who all had their shticks, and zeppo was the good looking one who ended up getting the girl. so next to the big personalities, i consider mitt romney a bit of a low-key personality. and be yet he's getting the job done. and he's, i really think his
medicare reform plan is a pretty good plan. his economic reform plan is pretty good. other people have good plans, gingrich has a good plan, huntsman has a good plan. but i think it's that slow, steady manager. in my view of where i am, but maybe where other people are is i don't necessarily want to fall in love with a candidate, i don't want the messiah to come down. i just want someone who would be a good manager for the company. you know, if bob gates who was secretary of defense under bush and obama, he'd be just about my ideal candidate. i think he'd be a really good president. he's not going to run, he's sick of washington, he's done a lot of public service, i don't blame him. but i think there's a hunger for that sort of person. i sort of was hoping mitch daniels would run, the governor of indiana, because he also is that sort of person. just a good manager, low key, gets the job done. and, frankly, as i look around the country, i see a lot of mayors and governors who are just like that who they're not big ideological people, they
just like to get the job done. i think rahm emanuel in chicago's doing a good job, mayorville rosa in los angeles, a whole series of officials doing good government. >> host: so how is the president doing? >> guest: you know, i think i'm a little disappointed that he didn't do simpson-bowles, i was a little disappointed in the way the debt has run up, and i don't blame him for running up the debt in the recession, but i think we needed an exit strategy to get out of it. i think he could have done a little more to promote growth, though i think given all the bad things it was going to be tough no matter who was president, no matter who did anything. it was going to be tough to promote growth. so i don't particularly blame him for that. i think he's conducted himself in pretty much an honest way. he's had very little corruption. i still have great perm admiration for him. i'm more to his right, but i
give him no worse than a b-. i think he's made some mistakes, but i wouldn't say he's been a bad president. >> host: first came the atrocity, then came the vanity, it's titled let's all feel superior. >> guest: yeah. that was a reaction to the penn state situation, the jerry sandusky situation. and i guess that was a comment about everyone said, well, if i'd stumbled into that locker room or if someone had come to me with a story the way somebody came to joe paterno, of course, i would have done something. i would have raised a ruckus, and i would have ended this. but the reality is we have history with this. we have the history of the holocaust, a history of atrocities, general sides, and we've -- genocides, and we have done a whole bunch of social science experiments. and it turns out people don't interact. the famous kitty genovese case, she was the woman in queens, i think n new york in the '50s who was killed, and the original story was that, i think, 39 people saw it and nobody called
the cops. in that case it's a little more complicated. but, in fact, this does happen all the time where people see something, and nobody calls the cops, nobody intervenes. a study i saw recently, i think it was done at penn state. they asked people suppose somebody made a sexist comment in your presence, would you raise a ruckus? and a big majority said, yes, i would say something immediately. and then the experimenters a couple hours or weeks later arranged for somebody to make a sexist comment in their presence, and they didn't say anything. so we all flatter ourselves and think, yes, we would have leapt in, but the reality is most people and most of us wouldn't have leapt in, so we can't say i myself would have leapt in confidently. we don't know what we would have done unless l we'd been in that circumstance. so i was just trying to put a damper down to all the people who said, yeah, i would have done it. >> host: a tweet from one of our viewers, you are fortunate to be a hamiltonian in
>> guest: i wanted to be a writer. by second grade i wanted to be a writer of some sort. in high school there was a young woman i wanted to date, and she wanted to date somebody else, and i remember thinking, you know, what does she see in that guy? i'm way better than that guy. but people choose their partners not only based on writing, unfortunately, but other things. so i knew i wanted to write. in college i wanted to be a playwright, but that didn't really work out. i couldn't get an internship at any theater company, so i went to journalism, and i'm glad i did. in journalism you get to meet a lot of people, you get to travel the world. you don't get to do a lot, but you get to be around some pretty incredible things. >> host: and when do you write? what time of day? >> guest: i write all day, every day. my ideal time is in the morning. my perfect, ideal time is between 7 and 9 at night, but if you're a father, that time is not available to you. so i write in the morning, and i
write in my basement at home mostly. i've found as i get older i'm very easily distracted, and i think this happens to other people. when you're young, in your 20s, you can be in a crowded room and just typing away. but now i'm really quiet or if i'm on an airplane, i put on the headphones and play new age -- i play movie soundtracks which have no words, and i'll play that so it'll shut out all noise. i get easily distracted, so i really have to be down in my basement, cut off from everybody. >> host: when is your next book coming out? >> guest: i've got a few years, so it's at least three or four years away. >> host: ray is joining us with author/columnist david brooks. >> caller: i just wanted you to know that my seven years in new york -- [inaudible] although i've been gone many years. but i wanted, there's a deep
concern that i've had now for two or three years over the fact that although we miss a lot of great leaders in our country because they do not want to get involved in the political arena today with the brutal attacks that are made on individuals, they don't have to be the truth. all they have to do is just attack somebody. and they will spend the rest of their lives trying to defend their families in all of this difficulty. and i just feel like we're missing some great leaders that won't step out because they don't want to, they don't want this distraction. >> guest: yeah. >> caller: thank you so much. >> guest: yeah, i completely agree with that. i've been doing a little work for my next book, reading about a woman named frances perkins who was secretary of labor under franklin roos vel. >> host: her building's right down the street.
>> guest: that's right. and she was an intensely private person. you know, people even in those days said you're the first woman in the cabinet, we want to know what it's like to be a woman in government, and she was, a, a very personal, intense, reticent person because she was from maine, but also her husband suffered a mental illness, and she had a complicated relationship with her daughter, and she never wanted to go there. and she, as a result, was even in those days in the '30s was sort of unpopular with the press. today she would never want to go into the arena because she had a normal sense of privacy. and now if you go into government, you sacrifice a lot of that privacy. and i think that does scare away a lot of people. and then just the rigors of the campaign, a campaign that's mostly about really spending two years on the road if you're running for president, two years of doing one media thing after another. most people don't want to go through that. >> host: there used to be what was called the invisible primary
which was the candidates would run and not the plethora of media anticipation that certainly happened in the -- attention that certainly happened in the '60s and '70s, jimmy carter has talked about i t saying he was under the radar, today you have candidates who announce and immediately debates, there have been 11 or 12, there are several more scheduled. is that good or bad for the process? >> guest: yeah. i think it's bad. i've seen it in my own career when i would go out to iowa or new hampshire, maybe even three or four elections ago. if you went out in the summer or the fall of the year before the primary, you'd be sitting in a van with the candidate, it was just you and the candidate, because there was no big press crush. and these were even the big candidates. and then that began to change. you began to have bigger press coverage, and then the cameras came along. and so first it was just a few tv cameras who would set up occasionally, now les little cam -- now there's little cams everywhere so everything's on video. there's no down time, no off the
record. and to me most alarming this time is there's mush disturb much less one candidate in a room with 20 people which used to be the norm. you'd go there, they'd be going to the a little diner, they'd do a little meet and greet, give a ten minute speech and then spend, you know, 45 minutes answering questions with 20 people sitting around the diner. and they still do a little of that but much less. dan bowles of the washington post had a good piece mentioning that the number of days spent in, um, just out doing that sort of campaigning is senately down even -- significantly down even from four years ago. the amount of money raised is also down, interestingly. so i've been out in iowa and new hampshire, and usually you'd look on a web page and find out where they all were, and you'd drive from event to event. now you go in the state, and maybe you're lucky if this is one candidate in the state because the rest are doing
fundraisers or preparing for a debate, so it's very hard to cover a campaign, and as a result they have less direct contact with voters. >> host: going back to the earlier point about childhood education, what can the private sector do to improve attention to education for those who are disadvantaged? >> guest: well, in chicago there's a great organization called ounce of prevention which is they do early childhood education in chicago, and they've got early, they've got programs, and they do lobbying, and they do research. and so they really do outstanding work in getting a lot of the students who are in disorganized backgrounds, getting them into a center and visited one center on the south side of chicago that ounce of prevention runs, and the teachers are there, they're great places, very bright and lively, and the teachers are just talking. they just talk all day because
one of the things that happens to kids from more disorganized backgrounds is there's less words in the home, less talk. and so just getting that exchange going, just tremendously valuable. and they're not the only ones, but that's a great outfit. and they have national prevention. >> host: fran who lives in brooklyn, new york, saying you've become something of a zeitgeist, so have you come across any good ideas for getting money out of politics? >> guest: you know, as i mentioned, one way it's weirdly going now, so, for example, if you look at the republican candidates this time four years ago -- >> host: potentially less. >> guest: yes. i think they'd raised 300 some odd million together, and now they've raised a combined, like, 80 million. four years ago mitt romney had raised more than all the candidates combined this time. now, the question is why. is it because people are poorer, there's a recession going on? is it because they don't like the candidates?
or is it, as i suspect -- and this is not good news -- for the sort of big money person that gives to candidates, hard to call up 20 of your friends and say will you give $2500 to mitt romney. it's easy to write a $20,000 check yourself to some super pac that's outside the system. so i'm afraid the money is going away from the candidates and towards these super pacs. that's just money shifting around. and i suspect that's probably what's happening, although i don't know for sure. >> host: martin is joining us, dayton, ohio. go ahead, please. >> caller: hello, david. it's a great honor. booktv is a huge favorite of mine, second only to charlie rose. i think that guy is probably the best person on the planet for his show. but i read a lot over a wide range of foppics, but i do -- topics, but i do want to bring up the book "guns, germs and steel," because i think inherently we are lucky to be born boo this country, and i --
into this country, and i think people especially in times that are rough like we're going through, we overlook this. i'm a long-term optimist for this country, but i think the thing you were getting at a little while ago as far as it is a meritocracy, that's what has people very ruffled right now and really having a hard time. the tea party, ows, you know, they don't think -- people don't think that they are the causal agent, and they want to be the causal agent in their life, and they think that they're not anymore. and then you hear things like steve croft's the stock act story, and you just think that it's not a meritocracy. and there was a marx biographer recently on booktv as well as charlie rose, and she was talking about, you know, the timeline of capitalism and how, you know, it works, it has worked both good and bad for a while, mostly good. but then it gets to a point
maybe you used the word "ossification" before. and i was just wondering what your thoughts are about captain limp. i do think it needs to be steered. i'm not a libertarian. if anything, people would label me as a liberal. i supported obama mostly as the symbol of obama. i didn'ti didn't -- i was wise o know there couldn't be great change from just one person, but -- and i think he should have driven home the bowles-simpson which you've already talked about, but i'll take the answer off the air, and it's a great honor to talk to you. >> guest: thank you. these are excellent points. these are excellent calls. you know, i agree with you about people not having a sense they're causal agents. one of the things if you look at, i mentioned earlier about the way americans cull differently than people from other countries, and one of the ways we're different is that if you ask people do you control your own destiny, americans are much more likely to think, yes,
i control my own destiny. it's not luck, it's not fate, i have the ability to steer my own life, and i think that's a precious belief. but i think people are beginning to doubt that, and as you say, it's -- if they see special interests controlling the economic system from washington or from wall street, then they have less control over themselves. if they see people who don't work hard getting ahead, that basically screws up the system for everybody. there's a writer named arthur brooks who's president of the american enterprise institute, and he has this concept of we wered success, that our whole system is based on the idea that effort should lead to reward. it should be work, reward. and now we have people getting ahead without the work or people working and not getting the reward. and i think the occupy folks and the tea party folks are just different protests against the weakening of that link between effort and reward. and the quickest thing we can do is to clear out some of the special interests, simplify the tax code, corporate welfare so
at least people have a sense the game is not completely rigged against them. >> host: i'm going to turn this tweet into a question about newt gingrich. it's a broad point, but i want to narrow it. is there too much of an emphasis on living a life with no blemishes, is it all right to fail at something and be stronger for it? he, obviously, left speaker of the house. so speaker gingrich's life in general, your thoughts? >> guest: yeah. i myself am incredibly uninterested or forgiving in perm failures -- personal failures. usually, if i really like a politician and they have affairs and things like that, i find i never stop liking them. and most people who object to the affairs, it's only the politicians of the other party they object to. so i may be personally disturbed, but if they can do the job, i'm fine with that. i keep mentioning alexander hamilton as one of my heros. he had an affair and was exposed
in the press. i don't think it made him anything less, so i'm willing to tolerate a lot of scandal. i grew up in chicago, daley had a lot of scandals, but he also did some good things for the city of chicago, so i'm willing to tolerate that. the case for newt gingrich, some of the things in his personal life are incredibly messy. his wife gave an interview to "gq" magazine which was very, very unflattering. nevertheless, i'd be willing to tolerate it if i could be sure newt gingrich has the qualities of being organized and being the same, being consistent over time. and the old gingrich was not. you know, he would jump from one issue to another, his views today might be 180 degrees from his views tomorrow. and it's really hard to run a government and run an administration if you're going to be all over the place. and i don't think he was a particularly well organized speaker for that reason. now, some people say he's begged
forgiveness personally, and he's changed publicly. if he can run a big campaign over the next several months, then maybe i'll give that credence. >> host: from your book, "the social animal," lois has this point. what struck me about the social animal -- [inaudible] >> guest: well, we all have distinct lives, but you can predict that we do fall into certain patterns. and i'm not sure i mentioned in the book you eat on average 35% more if you eat with one other person and if you eat with three people, you eat on average 73% more. we tend to marry people with their eyes similarly far apart from our own, people who are similar to ourselves, so unconsciously there are all these patterns. nonetheless, there's so many patterns, and we still do have control over some of our actions that we should be aware of the
patterns that govern us. but that doesn't mean we're necessarily deterred by them. >> host: our next caller is dave, omaha, nebraska. go ahead, please. >> caller: yes. from one baseball fan to another, i'd like you to analyze the obama presidency if in terms of his performance metrics. on the one hand, you gave him a b, and then before that you cited three strategic mistakes he's made. and then you look at the actual performance of the economy, essentially, 16% unemployment, high gas prices, inflation, $15 trillion debt, record bankruptcies, foreclosures, food stamps. anyhow, how do you give him a b, and why does he have a 40% approval rating? if he was a baseball player, he'd be batting isn't 150 maybe -- .150. >> guest: i don't think the president controls the economy,
pro or con. you know, the economy is a very complex system that goes on its own. i don't think a president can snap his fingers and produce a great economy or bad economy. i don't think government can do that. this is one area i fault the president on. he thought that if you did some stimulus package, you could produce a lot of jobs that the dollar spent on stimulus would create two dollars in economic growth. i don't think we're smart enough to design a stimulus package that can do that, and i don't think you get these huge multiplier effects. i think what government can do is do the fundamental things right, get a basic structure right, and then over the long term you'll have some positive effects. if we had a really good school system, it would increase economic growth and have a big effect. if we had a very good tax code, it wouldn't change things tomorrow. if we had sensible regulations, it wouldn't produce a short-term benefit, but over the long term. so i don't think the president is really to be blamed if there's a recession on his watch or if there's tremendous growth.
i don't think the president has any short-term control. so i don't want really blame him for the high unemployment rate. i think he inherited this mess. i do blame him, and the b-is for not getting outout of the debt that was going to go up anyway. i blame him on some other things, but i give him credit on some things. on education policy i think he's been pretty good. i think he was right to surge into afghanistan. on some other things, i think he's done a decent job. and so i have trouble giving him a d or an f on some of those things. >> host: we don't know what's going to happen a year from now, but if election were held today, would he be reelected? >> guest: yeah, i think he would probably lose right now. many people think the country's on the wrong track, he's got these low approval ratings, the economy's still just scuffling along, so right now i suspect he'd lose. >> host: back to your book, "bobos in paradise" which came out when, by the way? >> guest: the year 2000. >> host: you write this is an elite that has been raised by
opposite elites, they are affluent, yet opposed to materialism. they spend their lives selling, yet worry about selling out. they are by insipt anti-establishment, yet somehow sense they have become a new establishment. the members of this class are divided amongst themselves and one is struck by how much of their time is spent earnestly wrestling with the conflict between their reality and their ideals. >> guest: you take a guy like steve jobs or the people who work at facebook or ben and jerry's, they've all become -- they might have a hippie ethos, but they become supermillionaires. so they don't like to think of themselves as the rich or elites, they think they're rebel outsiders, you know, who are sort of the heirs to the 1960s. so they spend a lot of time wrestling with that and have to spend money on themselves even though they oppose materialism at least in theory. and so that's true if you go around to, um, some of the rich
parts of the country, palo alto, california, or santa monica, california, or even the north shore of chicago, you find people who say i'm not a rich sellout, i'm a creator, i'm a liberator, i'm a -- i love jimi hendrix, and yet the people who listen to jimi hendrix now are, in many be cases, really rich. >> host: two points from "the social animal." this caught my eye. you say words are the fuel of a courtship. >> guest: yeah. one evolution their psychologist said, you know, we use really just about 1500 words. most of our conversation is really just a few words or maybe even less, 500 words. but yet we are capable of speaking, many of us, of vocabularies of 30,000 words or 50,000. why do we, why do we have so many words? it's because we want to impress our or mates with our ability to communicate with each other. and so when you are on a date, you're not aware of all the
things that are going on on a date, but one of the things that happen as people, say, meet for a first date, their breathing becomes regulated, so they begin breathing at the same time, but they are also regulating their vocabularies. so people with an 80 iq use a certain sort of word, 90, a certain sort of word, 100, a certain sort of word. but as we're talking to somebody, we given to regulate our vocabulary to match the other person. because we want to, we want to connect with them. and so this is part of the way we blend together all these things are going on unconsciously. but we use our words to try to create very intimate emotional connections which then produce love and the reason we do this is it takes four years to raise a baby. to raise a child so it's even semi-self-sufficient. so if you're going to produce a child, you want your partner to stick around at least for four
years, and the theory is if you've spent, if you have a courtship over 18 months, you've exchanged a million words. your words have bonded you one to another, and you're likely to stick around for those four years to raise the, raise the kid. >> host: nathan is joining us from summers, new york. go ahead, please. >> caller: hi, david. i'm a reluctant admirer. [laughter] still an admirer. >> host: now, why do you say reluctant? >> guest: because i'm a proud and unrepentant liberal. david, one of our few republicans that one could respect was senator margaret chase smith. she feared that the party was harming not only the electoral process, but the country itself. so she delivered a declaration of conscious that stated that she didn't want the party to ride the political victory on the four horsemen; fear, ignorance, bigotry and sneer.
which i think they still do today. she didn't think that the republican party would do that because the american people, she hoped, would not support a party that puts political exploitation above interests of the nation. how would you respond to that? do the republicans still react that way? >> guest: yeah. you know, i think some do, but i think a lot don't. you know, i'm not a fan of some of what is said in the republican debates. i don't think it's particularly serious or realistic. you know, herman cain recently suspended his campaign for the presidency, but i don't think he'd done the necessary work to be president. the sort of preparation you'd want to do if you hired a plumber, you'd want him to know plumbing. if you hire a surgeon, you want him to know surgery. i don't think cain studied enough, prepared enough. and so i -- and i think some of the people who haven't prepared enough enter this talk show mentality where if they can
arouse passion, hatred, they think that's enough. nonetheless, whether you agree with newt gingrich or not or a lot of the republicans, paul ryan, john boehner or not, i think they have a legitimate point of view. it's a point of view that says america's economy is slowing down because we're burdened by a government that is, takes too much wealth, that interferes too much in the economy. and in some areas i agree with them, in some areas i disagree with them, but i think it's a legitimate point of view. and i don't think -- i think there are parts that are very simple-minded. but at the best the party represents this legitimate point of view that is, you know, that we have always been a country with a very small government, with a very light hand, and we should stick with that. and that's what our constitution says. so i don't think the party is by its nature illegitimate or based on fear or hatred. >> host: three or four minutes left. joan is on the phone, ames, iowa. go ahead, please. >> caller: good morning.
i'm very thrilled to talk to someone who went to the university of chicago. i was living there and grew up in the '20s there. i'm now 65, involved with the civil rights and anti-war movement. i'm now a moderate iowa republican, and i want to know if you think of the sales aspect of news has contribute today the rise of candidates, pretty much represent the views of party and pretty much prejudices and what can be done to give greater attention to those that are willing to represent the whole of us by struggling with the ideas and working with compromise? >> host: we'll get a response, joan. do you have a candidate so far in this race? >> caller: i actually watched gingrich the other night, i'm terribly impressed with his intelligence, but the answer is, no. >> host: thank you, joan. >> guest: okay. interesting. wow, be up in ames soon. you know, i think the basic problem is intellectual. a lot of conservatives feel very comfortable because conservatives have built think tanks and heritage townation, the american enterprise institute, and they have ideas. they have agendas. liberals have their think tanks
and magazines and activist groups and academics, and they have ideas and agendas. i think one of the problems for people in the center including me who don't feel quite at home in either party, the problem is the sent risks or moderates or hamiltonians haven't built agendas, there are no institutions. so to me, the biggest problem is the lack of intellectual work that has to be done to build a political movement, and gingrich grew out of something. if you're, say, a moderate, democrat or moderate republican, what are you growing out of? who's out there to support you? the loss of institutions that's a real problem for the center. >> host: let me conclude with one point. many have been fascinated by your life reports as you have people over the age of 70 assess their lives. what did you learn? >> guest: well, i think, you know, some of them, some of the news is really good because one of the things you learn is as people get older, they get better atlying, and they see -- living, and they see the world differently. when you're in your 30s and
40s, you're worried about things that seem unusual, but when you get to the 70s, you focus more on the positive, and you become grateful, and that sense of gratitude infuses a lot of things. another thing i learned is that, and this was not original, but it was confirm inside the life reports s that a lot of people regretted the risks they did not take. very few regretted the risks they do take. so taking risks, you know, if you're younger, lean toward risk. another thing is that the most important decision you're going to make in your life is who to marry. if letters were somebody was married for 50 years, those letters were infused by warmth. the people who hadn't been through three or four, much tougher lives, so we don't train people at young ages to think about that decision, but that is the most important decision you're going to make, so those are a few of the lessons that leapt out. >> host: david brooks is the author of three books, working on his fourth. a columnist for "the new york times," his columns appear
tuesdays and fridays. have you ever not missed a deadline? >> guest: no. i have no backup. if i miss a column, i have no backup. it's my job, i have to get it done. >> host: three hours with david brooks on our "in depth" program. appreciate your time and perspective. >> guest: it's been a pleasure, and i really appreciate the calls. they've been fantastic. >> host: thank you. >> we'd like to hear from you. tweet us your feedback, twitter.com/booktv. ..
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