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Arthur Brooks on think tanks, happiness, and management


In a special edition of The Weeds, Ezra interviews Arthur Brooks —head of the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, a New York Times columnist, a major influence on Jeb Bush, and a surprisingly snappy dresser. Really.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
The following podcast, contains explicit language, I'm as recline from box and penalties. I guess tweets and on doing something different and I sat down with Arthur groups who is the president of the american enterprises to do one of theses, biggest think tanks centre right thinking, Arthur just wrote the conservative heart he is called the New York Times to fix a lot about happiness and about its intersection of public policies. Really fascinating guy, as here I cast really stapi dresser and he this. Think tank really matter when politico recently brought up hooja bushes intellectual influences were Arthur, was one of the first people named. So we have a really wide ranging conversation about what is the role of a think tank? How do you Big organisations, how do people sort of attain happiness at work? What kind of happiness is poor?
the boy in different kinds of work. What book you He had read: twenty irish enjoyed the conversation, I hope you will to you- can email me at weeds at box, dot com and tell me if you like the sort of thing, and we should do more- view us on on Itunes. It tell your friends about what a great pod cases and now here's Arthur you'll grated. Can I say that You can thank you, and so do you Ezra. So people in the lives through the audience can see this, but offers like this huge, like cool silver watch on em, like these big colorful couplings, you are. I think it is fair to say the nastiest of the think tank executives. I know all that says exact hundreds. Nothing is a counter signalling that you're worried that, because you run a think tank people think you're boring, so you dress in these sort of very naughty that's too, to show people that you haven't lost your kind of one time, musician cool. I don't think I ever thought of that.
Way in particular, are not trying to actually be natty or than a think tank bosses which, by the way, is the easiest thing you could possibly do. This is not what happened with actual signal exactly right now and it's an industry that Its grown out of academia and academia is the dowdy biased. Possible way that you can make a living when it least when you talk about hey. Look so too is an easy game to dominate. So this is a good sanguine tat. You have, I think, a pretty unusual background for your current job. You were at a traveling musician to talk a little bit about that about your time, is a french horn player and should have how you first gone into that, but then made the transition to be running the american enterprise. It's a non linear path, but its everybody's got a storm on an area pretty not eliminate Anthea. Well, I thought I started when I was nineteen. I went to college and didn't make it through the year I dropped out or you dropped out. Where were you kicked out splitting hairs this from Seattle, Washington, from a liberal, democratic family in Seattle, Washington, I not Lee politically, very active, but just
culturally relatively leftwing famine, which says again nothing because in Seattle there about eight Republicans, almost everybody comes from a family that service culture. Left. I knew nobody who voted for on a region but that the election of nineteen eighty was first presidential election. I repeat attention to and had kind of, an effect on me and it came back a little bit later but in the meantime, owes a musician yeah. I dropped at a college, was playing the french horn plain chamber. Music played a couple, on the road of a jazz, guitar, flared and jolly bird in a couple of albums with roundup. Ultimately, in the Barcelona seventy four, I win. Chasing a girl of course, and would just celebrating Fourth, wedding anniversary: gratulating, rumours! Wonderful! Thank you know. It's great I've noticed student. All of your New York Times comes to begin with an anecdote of you in your life. You alone, bad well yeah, and if I were resorting to early color reporting its The Collins report and I have to say, is pretty much done for the last couple columns. I haven't done that not miss this hearing from my wife allots has come on a video of any other material, so my column this week was about the Pope and
start with an anecdote about me, that's to begin the that would take Actually, I'm sorry, that's right. So I guess you're a traveling prince when they go to Barcelona chasing after woman who becomes your wife is accurate and something You know. Yadda yadda yadda happens you're running, so we so what happened? Somebody slipped me a roof eat. Now it was. What happened was that I was in the in the Barcelona. Seventy. I got interested in setting an addendum of actual terrain. It hurt me the sooner or later I was gonna need to get some more knowledge. Interested in a lot of different things. I started studying, I thought maybe I'll get a bachelors degree in a renaissance, poetry or something, and I got really interested in Economics- does fashion. With economics, had no idea that this was gonna happen, but I felt like it gave me cut of an Oracle untruth and I know you know, people listening to us or to shake their heads- got all man this guy delusional. He thinks that economics is giving you an Oracle entered, but the first time
will you take economics as rate when you did too I'm sure you said wow, you can learn a lot even apply this and lots and lots of ways and the deeper I got into it. The more I started thinking about policy in politics and current events is nothing more dangerous and somebody's just taken earlier, I mean really does like makes you really insufferable after that first economics, glass right now. It's all that demand really, if you want to know the truth and wreck every party absolutely, but the more I got into it. The more I realized I wanna keep studying and I decided to make a career change and when I get my masters and Phd and then when it academia as a college, professor, most circus and one thing about your sword of transition from being an economist, it Syracuse too, to a think tank. Or is it you weren't stuff? to my knowledge, sort of the very traditional DC topics you weren't primarily packs economist or health economist or you are studying happiness happiness. And charitable, giving the two things that I wrote books on at my main area, research actually was philanthropy, and why,
people given who gives and who says they gave an who actually gives an so baby Economics is kind of my bag. I'm really interested in applying social science techniques and quantitative techniques. The things it moved, the human heart there's attend for people to have exhaustive, wonderful tool, cats and social sciences and apply them to the dusty is more boring topics that are irrelevant to help people live. There lies now. I say that corporate humility understand its importance to a lot of things that dont thrill you on a day to day basis. But I didn't want to do that work, and so started looking at the interesting unsteady topics and move people souls it was the love they have reach other the gratitude that they feel things they do voluntarily and there's so much data and there's so much richness in our society dedicated myself studying those things, particularly after I got ten by the way, are a lot of
boring papers. Before I got tenure I would a paper called genetic algorithms and public economics. I'm often surprise, people's research doesn't change more after they get tenure because I'd be incentives to get tenure so narrow and ride like what I can't fight. She can. We should really, generally speaking, what happens after brilliant tenure as they, their research just becomes less right. Those starting last February fares of a totally reasonable. Also other version of that that the really funding to research is to not research, yeah, that I suppose, and but what I did. I decided I actually had kind of a vision classed ran after I got tenure and thank God it got a kind of early in life in academic career eggs. I was starting late. I finished my phd. Even those in my mid thirties and at ten year relatively early nicer. Ok, what are want to do what can I actually do? That'll help humanity and answer some big question. And I decided that talking about shared will giving in human happiness was the way to go, and I stopped writing about genetic algorithms. I started writing about the human heart and so how do you end up it at a lie,
So when I was asked Right Africa tenure, I started looking around the places that are most admired for public policy and I am fairly politics conservative and the freighter prize moment. As I was really move me a lot because poverty is, care deeply about enough. The free enterprise system has been just unbelievably powerful lifting billions of people out of poverty, and I wanted to study that more all the roads to that leaded american Enterprise Institutes and the greatest mines and economics of social policy and even foreign policy, has a bearing on some of these topics him from it at the time. Was riding up that monthly in the Wall Street Journal and somebody for me. I called them what you wanna to be a visiting scholars. Anyhow, you kidding came the monster. They read out to you, yet they were originally yeah and what happened was they gave me an office and it really much money, but when I came to you, I'm in admired people so much it. I was actually donor with writing checks to eight years before I came to a site, I love the places nonprofit and I got to office. There was nobody. There is early morning for the first Anders as plaque on the door of the said, my name and just
so overwhelmed. I took a picture of it myself on a set of my life and she writes voices you're such a key and then ass time went on there were going through a chief executive search. That's the part! This a little bit fuzzy How did the dark Wanda pitting may but think I did. I was seven years ago. Did you have an explanation? For I mean you must Some idea of how you and for being, I think at this point, Panada visiting scholar right, I was visiting you also. Don't we got a guy. I was still certain angle time. Had you been chariots? Did you have any new management experience? Europe? None, not no leadership experience. I had no zero ambitions to lead an organization. So what was wrong with the a I executive, such presided, there's no succession or or search process in this industry that the think tank industries relatively narrow. If you want to get out of college president, you go on the college president market. If you want to get a think tank present, you get invent it yourself, that's by the way. The reason that sometimes think tank presidencies have gone very well in the industry, because nobody actually knows what the industry standard is supposed to be, and it plays a key.
I, which is very academic it as in intellectual creativity, freedom standards, there's no corporate policy line, people disagree with each other constantly, there's, there's basically pure academic freedom at eighty. I who have a mission of course, but there's there's real freedom right with you, what they somebody who has a scholarly background. They said what we want to go out with a phd. We want somebody who's, Don policy analysis. We want somebody who shares the free enterprise ethos and pretty soon it's a sample of zero, and somebody who wants to be an administrator which of course, is insane because nobody to be an administrator of, isn't scholarly life, that's trading down and somehow that the idea came up at this might be a at least or chance. We're taking free. I'm glad you did I want. I want to come back to. Nobody wants to be an administrative, but I want to begin. I wanna go here with a somewhat similar question actually because before I got involved and sort of politics and four I began reading think tank research. I think I d very different idea. When I heard the term think tank
but I understand to be now, so how would you? How do you define think tank to people who don't know what it as well tanks mean a lot of different things and when they were originally conceived of- and they ate as one of the oldest in the world is not affect. The Brookings institution is older from the teensy. I restarted the late nineteenth thirties and they were alternative two academia so their basically, they do all the research of academia, but without the teaching, that's how they work demonstrates option Irving. I come from an academic. I think it is fair to say That I grew up like literally on university, proper, and your father was a math professor- isn't prevails, as was mine, our yeah? Well, I'm really bad at math and among you became a quantitative economist. That's why I had to move to DC where, if you can like literally added subtract numbers in a budget table, you get this reputation as some sort of math genius, the great thing about disease I can have like the Matthew doesn't require, like the big calculator,
You would like the little likelihood letter has division and multiple they got if you're really sophisticated. You can his exile right yeah, but nobody like regressions are very rare. You don't need to do after actually do need to do the morbid appealed right. They aren't. I dont need that's right, that's why God created it. Teaching, I would say, is not always spoken of with e there's something Romeo appearance but yeah I'd, say I overheard some people, occasionally not speaking of teaching, was quite ass. Much we ask as one would hope. No that's right. Anyway. You gotta teaching colleges the high powered colleges like Williams or Swarthmore, in that the people there they talk about their students and how much they love students how great the kids are and they have a teaching loves a couple of classes. Reuben three classes in the semester and enjoy it at a research universities that the incentives, Raul aligned to publish papers nets, the whole publisher perishing is no joke. If you can get the classroom without a felony, but
publishing a lot you're gonna get tenure is the way it works out in law. These places not like teaching, and now I do about a hundred fifty speeches, ear so effectively, em like during right lot and not a speech of speeches, there's not that much thinking and tanks are normally run. These salami narrowed down, then hat. What do you think is the role of a Washington think a politically oriented think tank now most of them have some political orientation, but I think it's actually less interesting to be politically oriented than to be policy, oriented the critical, understand about the most effective. Think. Tanks in America is then identifiable mission, but they have some intellectual freedom, the most import. The mistake that think tanks make as they have corporate lines where they say. Basically, we stand for policy acts. Why? Because, when do that, then your scholars were supposed to be intellectually independent. The kind of have to find that, and if you're looking empirically you're looking through the data have free inquiry, if you're wrong, you should know first, not less, and you shouldn't fit. Your data to a preconceived conclusions are: that's all
actually have a problem in our industry and something that we militate against the ice reason. We don't have any corporate positions and and if we're wrong we want to know not to mention the fact that we bring people in who actually don't share our mission precisely the kind of murder border ideas have been very but far institution, but not replace, shares that in that house, Gimme couple. Of examples of people who are at eighty. I or research has come out of a I that has called into question, may be the set of positions it that people's lives With the thing tat, we do disagreement pre, while in a couple of different ways, and that number one as we make sure that we have scholars who disagree with each other on particular topics. It in a classic case of that in the policy wonky IST world is how you talk about carbon tax. You give it about this, you know, but for those who are, complete nerves were listening goes a carbon tax is the way that you could. You could tat the use of car of carbon based fuels the unit level, in other words them every every.
Mile, you drive you attacks it in a certain way is such that the carbon that you emit would be you'd be charged for now. Half Economists think of the great idea and half our economies think that's an idiotic idea. Why? Because our tool, schools, one is what we call the public finance school. This is a highly efficient thing to do. If he wants less something you should tax, that particular thing not something. Some one aligned with it, but the other half Economists are from the public show. School. That say: oh yeah, you know what in the real world that's gonna turn into an exercise in political log. Rolling, that's stupid idea. These guys do get out. We single data. You should hear me yelling in the halls of fantastic. That's one way, Second, is everybody! I is aligned with a a enterprise mission and but then on a grand policies, but their line of the Vienna transmission, which, if I when we do events, we do three hundred fifty events a year. We,
sure you know, and for having the best food, a Europe that has a threatening, that's exits and pigs are all for. When I was in turn here. Oh that's right is that's not a source of contention, but what is is that we make sure that we invite people who disagree with our points of view and we will have We regularly have our friends from the centre for american Progress, which is that the most prominent invest really left wing. Think tank in Washington DC the smart guys. There good values they disagree with us. They challenge our thinking and we we we given the podium it. I can take pride in the fact, It were nicer to people on the left and we are on the right because we don't lie people to say I'm not going back. There again was Keyser jerks, it's a bunch of ad hominem nano. I want people to recognize that there should be a marketplace of ideas and the club,
This new ideas is fundamental to a free society, not open. It will know this, but I think it's fair to say that a I is perceived as centre right through to the big centre right, ragtag, emotion, free enterprise in american leadership or the two things that were typically known for a pretty substantive and a strong american foreign policy and a real enthusiasm for the free enterprise system on third for human flourishing. What do you think are the boundaries between a think tank, Anne and advocacy group and- and the reason I ask- is it there's a trap, in Washington. I think on back I mean plug back a long time, but really going back five or ten years now. Were you have think tanks, developing Valencia threes, where they develop arms of the think tank that are much more advocacy oriented the centre for american progress, has one on the left heritage has one the right. I don't think it is a have the financing over five once he for five months before so I see for as the wonders advocacy, lessee, threes, academic, up all data, and that has, I think, blurred the line much. Or so. How do you think about the difference between, given that these thinking a mission there often trying to make
a certain set of outcomes, happened the world a. I briefs alot of politicians. Politicians often come to a ITA unveil, their policy Brussels. There is a real sort of pushing Paul between this academic mission to find the right answer and the mission of trying to make the discoveries of a think tank into public policy, which, even if you do try to have a lot of academic freedom, overtime places, divert become the sort of place where one kind of person goes in another kind of pressure, dozen and overtime that, because that helps reinforcing here that we are trying to get this done. The key thing is that think tanks do really well. Unlike universes, we go to university present, you say: what's the mission of this universe, it'll be a lotta hemming in hiding and a little bit of discussion about the products we teach and we have research and we believe in banning knowledge and giving kids a good experience, etc, etc. Think tanks can
more specific than that and have a mission that very clear about what a better world looks like in general contours, and it should have a moral Hughes to its eighty eyes mission as it there community of scholars and supporters dedicated to this proposition, banning liberty, increasing individual opportunity and encouraging free enterprise as well. The strong defence give the most people the best life so that's a strong could concept of what the world looks like, but it's not specific about actual policies and that's really critical. The mission that we can bring to the policy discussions having people understand really where our morals and our ethics lie, but that were open to new ideas when it comes to actual public policies when that gets blurred, when you husband, policies, but a fuzzy ethos or or moral standard than things get older backwards, and I think that then he is to describe exactly what a think tank is an end, that's kind of where we are by the way,
If you go into most industries in say, what's up private equity for your kind, I know, but they do ports are different things. What's an insurance company, video, all different sorts of things, you gotta tell me more and more in a world right now we're what's a think tank. Well, you gotta tell more I'm a big consumer think tank recent. I know you are freeloader, I'm a vacancy regret your work for thank it, which is consuming my work. Oh, how interesting it's a wonderful, closed loop like so much in myself. Looking ice cream, nothing that I worry about a lot with a think tank world is the way that they can become a kind of complex to encourage motivated reasoning. A tremendous amount of what happens in Washington under the cover of policy argumentation is not trying to find the right answer. It is trying to backwards to the right answer and one of the ways he do that one of the ways you go to your constituency, your people and try to show them that your position makes sense. Is you trot out this research or these scholars or unwanted things? I think, use
in a lot of think tanks in Washington and with alive individual think tankers, because sometimes think tanks were often have a range of people doing very, very different kinds of things. But is you can really find it? point, a think tank could justify anything and when you're watching me, you know at home and watching cable news in this person comes honour. Your even oftentimes, a journalist trying to figure out what is what and I am making up the name of a think tank sofa acts and get a real thing. Think I apologise but the institute competitive freedom has a senior fellow who says: yeah did the research on this in a totally checks out. It becomes very difficult for people to tell what is actually going on, and it has struck me often that the think tank world and b is very cheap way of buying credibility. That would be hard to buy otherwise,
as we look at the same problem and journalism. Job where you have a particular brand is absolute journalist and integrity and write down the middle and just the facts. But then you look at it. You are you kidding me I'm in Europe a particular paper or listen to the radio. This must be just just as fair as it could simply be an you know about the editorial bias, and ten seconds in this is a danger that everybody, the confirmation by us that we all fall prey to, and we have this question basically our integrity then you run an organization. So do I and we have a point of view and that's? Ok, it's actually better by the way when people know what you're. Your fundamental point of view is such that they can just a minute, they get, there is funny. You know you and I write books on the side of I do not write books, I'm anarchy, that's right about, but it's how so I hope I have looked in my book. Editor is not listening to the spot. He he is ever going to work on his book after this podcast and the first thing we are writing series nonfiction. Any more is the pity
in the introduction to the book. They want to know where you came from and how you see the world in and what your biases are and how they want to know that you have some openness to the facts. You don't hate them. If you disagree, if you're writing serious nonfiction, not just political diatribes, doing. Something is going to try to reach people, and so this is what I wind up doing in all my books. In the first chapter, it says: look, I'm afraid of price guy. I'm in a free enterprise, economists, time centre right in my political views, I'm on a traditionally religious person all this stuff right, but I dont think give your liberal you're reading the Senor evil. I dont think that yours do bed and actually do believe things, because if I said that there would be an insult to love my friends and all my family. I take it personally rather way when conservative say that liberals are still an evil, but that's actually, equally important is one of the great things that thing thanks can do if they do have openness to the facts, and they have openness to alternate two points of view, but their clear about their own mission. Point of view that can be
a service as opposed to hiding the ball like were worried about here. One of the things that I think is worrying renown, informational ecosystem in which our body exists in any gets, talked about a lot in journalism, and I think it's great your think tanks is it. We just have the conditions now for a real profusion of let's in ways that are, I think, really good actually, but it does create this capacity to cluster around the information you wanna hear and then to to cluster on the experts you on here- It's really fascinating to see, you know you travel from a publication of publication and which think tank scholars are routinely quoted in which think tank scholars are routinely old and just the thing that really worry about is that it is very hard for a reader to know how to take that. I mean it's very easy to the right name and put the trappings of, of authority and expertise run. Something and I'll give you one example of something that I've struggled with a lot going back to my my tongue, the Washington Post.
When you write about a think tanks paper. Being one of the questions you need to ask is, let's say I'm saying talk about the American Enterprise Institute or the centre for much into policy priority, so do I say the right of centre, American Enterprise Institute or the liberal Centre for american progress or the conservative heritage vanish. Libertarian Cato Institute and the reason I find this not an easy question- On the one hand, it is on me who help my readers situate, where information is coming. On the other hand, and I sort of off handily. Do that what I'm doing, seeing as sending a signal if europe- liberal- and I am saying this as a conservative- think tank don't worry about it. You're conservative, I'm saying this is liberal, think tank you safely, dismisses information eyes in it on me to be vetting. The information such as, if I'm quoting so much, and I have done the work to do said you this is from a think tank and by the fact that I'm quoting it
telling you that? I think it is true or I'm gonna already with it. I may tell you, I think it isn't true like either I set up the motivated reasoning framework really quickly, or I take it on myself for all to be on my credibility, but there's no kind of rules and how you do that children are not an end. I feel your pain Ezra now the journalists. So I don't have to worry about that quite so much. What I want my job is is making sure that we that work- sister with our mission and consistently high quality and we pursue truth before any sort of political or policy victory by the way as one of the things that we say internally at eighty, I that truth matters more than victory and ass, an ancient, concept. It's an old testament's Heather, if you water, probably before that victory, not predicated on truth, one at door, and we do everything, take his learned this when something it just it's just taking a little short you can't do that now in the journalistic world which actually, what's annoying to those of us, were in the centre right, intellectual universe.
Ordinarily in journalism. What you see is it. They say that the centre right American Enterprise Institute and the Think tank, the Brookings institution, or Actually, the qualifiers don't happen on leftwing institutions, but they do happen. I right wing institutions and the reason is because I believe in and again I want to be at home animal but I think, there's a little attendance, it just stick a finger into the sea that comes from the centre right. My obligation is to make sure that everything that we put out his is right not to sense because I don't really like it or or I dont like the tone of it, but should make sure that is never wrong such We can make your job a little bit easier and then to plead with journalists to Saint give us a chance and and bias. It don't spike this thing by basically putting a qualified on the conservative organizations, but on a lower organizations. What are the think tanks other than your own? That you think are the most interesting right now, this where do the smaller ones? And maybe people don't follow the researchers closely there.
Lot of the state and local level. Last week I was in Michigan speaking to the state policy network, which is us agglomeration of state local free market, oriented, think tanks, and there are a thousand people at this I mean I just couldn't believe it and a lot of them were formed unwise in American Enterprise Institute. Every state has stated local, think tanks dealing with Saint militias and see you find some of under that specialise in legal and constitutional issues like the Goldwater Institute, which is fantastic. It's really good organisation. It advocates on behalf of people who are poor, but our kind of getting cross under Leviathan and which is, I think, a really important, an mission or them economic in in in Michigan they're, doing really important work on behalf of of workers and workers rights in trying to bring industry back in again you want to have enough balance. That is not all in a one sided. The best organisations at the state, local level, like the two I just cited, are the ones or in the fray, and there are trying to be honest and they really are looking for truth before victory. You
wrote a home for the New York Times? I think not too long about rising your level of occupational misery and what you talked about was the way in which thirty sort of competing elements in a person's work life. We're. On the one hand they want to advance, they want a bigger job, they want more prestige and what that'll basically do is take them sort of one step above where they're happy being so. You know the writer becomes the editor or the happy editor becomes. The unhappy manager or the happy think tank our becomes the sad think tank administrator. Maybe it sort of like a happiness or have you reporter becomes you know that the founder and rely on funnel networks and the sort of a happiness version, Peters Principle and the Yuppie Peter Principle Yuppie Peter Principle yeah, maybe yuppies, that's an ancient word. Nobody uses anymore, but that the Is there a lot of people listening to us that will never rise for the level of incompetence, which is the principle because they're just excellent and that in,
virtually the higher the entire audience for the spot, exactly right, because this is the best audience right do but you're, not advertise the exactly right. They will, however, and they can rise to nazi level and competence, but their level of unhappiness. And you see this a lot people or their designed effectively there wired for what they're good at where the skills and their passions meat and is a window of that as an identifiable window that we see in the social science repertoire about what what you do when you get your sense of flow of literature bodies psychologist led by Mihai, cheek, sent me who is this sort of psychologists? I've never heard anybody successor, bonanza name orally, actually, dont know. If that was successful, rather better sounded confident it was so it will. Confidence is my business, so she sent me high did. Has this work on flow shows that if you're in this state of passion and creativity and is not too hard, but it's not too easy out concerning the minutes. The trouble is that were ambitious and we keep getting lifted up
people say you know you could do so much more of your leadership position and people crews through this window of bless, and they were up and management and, as I hear it again and again, I heard from donors to Eighty- I'm smart guys like you not that you ve told me this obviously is brought. I have not heard time obsolete, but but it's perfect, plausible their days when you say had. I wish I could learn about policy like I used to be able to have time to do that. I could do some data analysis. I could write about the guts of how policy I would love to know if there is anyone anywhere who manages and organization who finds flow in moving us from meat Competing to not only the act, you don't think it's possible like when you get to sort of interruption based like it. I didn't used to have like a calendar. There was Ike broken down by thirty minute increments, day. For all that, the wonders of my job, which ass you love, I dont think flow is possible. In the way that arouses it, like I really as a writer can like for hours, go. Buys are basically want notice it for her
I love. It does not happen as a manager and signals funny. I do talk to people who ve been doing it for a long time and by the way for those who are listening to us who have become managers and there a little bit freaked out by it. There's a Kaden two careers, where you can get into something more like flow as you manage people, but it doesn't happen early on that they can call understanding of the creator for a mind says- and this is the rule of thumb- everybody's different, but you do your best ideas. You do your best thinking in your twenties and thirty's when you have your most original thoughts in the intellectual world, you do your in writing when you're in your forties Fifty's What happened here that assurance like there's, there's hope rather, and you do your best teaching in your sixtys and Seventys so bad quickly. This is how we should structure the flow of our intellectual lies, the cadence or intellectual lives, you're you're, coming up with a brilliant ideas and founding the organizations and doing the new things, and they You are actually able to express it best, a little bit.
After that and then at the end of your careers, when you actually incumbent upon you to be his humble as you can possibly be and pass the night. I'm curious a little bit. I've never actually heard that sort of lifecycle flew very before how would that evidence even began I imagine it is not a tremendous number of people who go from intellectual work in a twenty, some thirty's Who writing about that work in the forties and fifty to teaching in there when he says a rule of thumb? What evidence is based? it's a rule of thumb, because it's actually not a big database, and what you find is that people experience that you see that when you're at universities, which are relatively large samples and the way that that you, U Vat, that is by looking at the most frustrated people. Why this sort of the counter example, people were militating against the cadence, so chairs of departments well chosen for will actually even more so you have people who, in their fortys and fifty's or desk we're trying to have a brand new shiny idea, it's really hard to do some
by the way comes from the literature that looks at Nobel Prize winners in the sciences and they all do their work in the toys thirty's you don't fuck people who were doing Nobel Prize quality, winning work in chemistry in physics in economics when their fifty five years old. This is not happening at something usually comes out of the doctoral dissertations, it's insane and what happens is in their fortys and fifty's they polish up and explain it than they use it and they apply it. They write articles in books about it and they win the Nobel Prize because what they have to do with their own ideas and the subsequent years and then, when they go into the golden years, their own career, that's when they stepped back and they try to create the next generation of people renew, create new ideas and Ezra. I think That's what we get to do to you and me, because we're in this intellectual firmament were blessed with leadership positions in the actual world, Key is so your thirty four! right. I'm not you, not your thirty something I didn't thirty one locate, thirty one so you're in
the center of this I've actually what you're, creating right, now and and to think of the cadence of what your intellectual career is going to look like and how you going to pass on the ideas and polish him up. I think it's actually healthy thing to do so. You can, you can serve escape the Epi Peter principle. So what I think is a really interesting, interesting concept to go to it in the more general way. As you said about this column in he said, and of on the one side of his ledger, is that people end up moving sort of two places within a happy said you actually did in the peace sort of make the argument that what they should do is change jobs. If I get an inch, thing inside and I think that the sort of the frontline insight into thou be like ok. Well, you should hit that point and anger down what you said is like that, I'm feeling a failing that feeling of going back down of aggression is actually too painful. Seek arrogance. Stock and your view is that the way to offset on her penis in your moment to moment, work was to find more meaning in it. For that work to be more,
service of others that are not always interesting, because one, the things I was thinking about wise and you it again. No, this sort of happiness tat a better than I do, but it remains let me very much of the data round childbearing that when people have children their kind of time diary how much funding you having in this hour increment goes way down right. It is a complete trauma. Yes, sir, you Zeb locality at you see Riverside is on the best work on this and in the end continent at Princeton Slater these fifteen men incrementally side it oh having you can make you really happy wrong, especially for women. It goes way down you're right, but it has its tremendous effect. Nobody ever wants to give their kids back accessory, increasing meaning in life, meaning in life, which is more important than moment to moment. Happiness was a great point that you're making you think I'm just summarizing point you may tell will have I want my love, it so much if citizens once again, the self looking eyes bring further of DC ideas, industry that that's right,
people are highly linear their loss of verse, but there really were linear people. It's always you want to go forward. You don't want a few like you're going back and there's also there's a trick? Here too, is a real problem. Actually, in most industries, when you move into higher levels of management or administration or authority control, and these skill and so people hard time moving backwards, the quaint murmur defiant defined discoveries skilling means, if you're an engineer, and then you go up to becoming the foreman. They doesn't take long takes only a couple of years before you're, not very good, at doing your old John there's, somebody else whose better added and you wouldn't actually tain yourself. If you have the highest performing team and so ended as a hugely distressing phenomenon. Very common usually distressing by the way. The main reason that chief executives and other administrators fail is because they refuse to become good those particular jobs, because I want to keep doing their own jobs right. Do you find people who just loved to do sales there that
up to see YO or something and high administration, but they never quite are all in? They never have both feet and there are still there still hanging out with a sales crew and going out on sales on the scene. The salon, academia were Dean's will signal keep my hand in a minute, teach one class semester. Don't you its death. You don't want to do that, because you're not going to be able to skill enough your new job and you're making me feel very bad about the writing. Well, you know, and I ll a hundred fifty talks a year something around the countries mentioned, and I reiterate the call in the times, and I read a book every two to three years. I try convince myself and I'm not trying to keep my old life and death. It is islamic you! Well it's a different kind of work. Your let me pushes have actually struggle this question a lot of like how much should I write and how much it I in some ways, even upon us like this one worms right interviewing you know. Policymakers and news makes creative work. Yes, he presented his creative work. It's a lot! It's along the lines of what I did when I was sort of a full time,
on the internet, we call to content producer and I think, as a real tradeoff, because on the one hand I do feel very clearly and very acutely the idea that. Whether I write in a day, maybe nice for me, but is actually in no way really reflection of mother. Did a good job is sort of editor in Chief Box to combat the rag it just has nothing to do with it. Something to do with an on line a second on the other side. If I completely lose touch with that kind of creative work, I don't understand I will be able to evaluate or come up with, new ideas for how we as organization should do that work. So part of my job is, as editor is too at coverage, priorities to help innovate coverage formats to help come up with you know what we be covering were good ideas. What should be this overall tone of the institution, and it is very hard for me to understand if I lose complete touch without work, how I will be able to
effectively evaluated and an help sort of push forward with the organisation cure. You know. We tend to over estimate how much knowledge we need in ITALY but in having your hands the great work you want to be a player coach and their bunch of different reasons. For that part of it is you wanna do creative work, it's part of who you are is to do creative working people deserve to be able to do it, but I actually it probably you need to do less to be able to do a good job. But you deserve to be able to do it and you're not. Can we have unless you're doing it. That's what people listening to us need to. Remember that creative individuals, one of the best ways to avoid this? Paradox? Is too to remember that a wall off a certain amount of her life, that's gonna, be dedicated to this creative work. For me, midnight I, two homes weak, but I wrote one com a month in the New York Times. I put my heart into an I really love it, and I can kind of
Thence myself at this is great because as good advertising for the American Enterprise Institute and the readers than your time single ha, I read this call. Guy new runs a conservative think tank, any you always kind of making sense and all that, but but The matter is partly because I gotta stay alive since what one and for the other two speaking of your of your writing. You just where this book of the conservative hark yeah, I read and really interesting is really good. Thank you. I dont, this agreement, all that, but it, but I really have much. I don't you like a bad, and if you really do undermine the people read one of things. It is really central to that book. To your worldview, is not just the dignity of work. By the way, work is part of human happiness or at least of your definition,
happiness I would say that the way you frame, the distinction between conservatism and liberalism are conservatives as you would define them and liberals a sort of you define them is conservatives. I think this affair are much more focused on policies put people to work in your view, is it that is that that effort things like welfare reform or adding work requirements to, I don't know exactly, but food stamps and medicate things like that. You could be that the point there is not just to get people off the road but to put them in a position of they're gonna, be happier, and we ve been talking a lot here about creative work, and you certainly talking a lot here back creative work inside your job used to be torn and now it's a lie, and these are great jobs. You and I are blessed- have had LUCA jobs. One thing that I think a lot about in D c: in the way we talk about work and when we talk about work is annoyed. Good is how many people have really shitty jobs. How many for home, how many people work is really unpleasant and, and one of the things
about with it is that the sort of normal age of retirement in the surf technical term, the term which he circuiting like regular social security benefits, sixty five and the sort of maximum is, I believe, it's about seventy now and yet the early age, the age we can start retiring sixty two, and that is when people should retire, which is as soon as they can and I'm curious how you how you think about that question, because one thing that strikes me as a systematic bias in D C is towards work which, on on hand? I really agree with I'm server. I work a lot, but I also love me work, and I think it's and something I notice in d c- is that there are
a lot of issues around putting people to work that are viewed as her cost less because everybody here in the think tanks you gotta carry people out at their desk after they die in the Senate. People I think stay after their actual dead, further helpful. If he s an empirical fashion and ass, the and there's a real. I think, and so things like raising Social could retirement age feels very costly, because people here don't want to retire than alike to retire, but for people really psycho jobs is a choice between being with their family and being in this job. It is, I think, a much tougher one. And so I'm I'm curious. How? U way that Let me tell you another problem that we have intellectually in D c. Is we think that our jobs or better than other people's jobs, was not just that. Indeed, we work a lot because you and I were tons of ours and that's great, but we, also tend to think that, because we have these creative and watchful jobs, that that we must really like our jobs, a lot more. The data, don't support that believe. It deals to basic two pieces of data number one,
about eighty five percent of people in America. They don't I'll, get tons of meaning from their job. Of course, when you and I get meaning from jobs, but eighty five percent of Americans, depending on the year but its around- that every year like or love their jobs, an amazing thing in a dozen very with respect to its educational attainment, so called Rads Non College, whereas in high school guys are all the same. It doesn't matter what sector urine, although government sector workers you a little bit lower, but not a huge, not that is much lower, as you would think if you are listening to stand or holding talking points by the way and and further Well, it doesn't depend on income, which is really what's interesting. People who income at least above the lower class wages that were you're making decisions about whether or not can I eat or by medicine I mean that's obviously, into at least obvious to me- is something that we should be able to obviate with a safety net in this country and with better policy to be sure but which find it
the people basically are equal and, furthermore, that does very new initiative research on this. That shows that guys, like you and me who have these jobs, it they pay well in their interesting their high pressure, and we work all the time we tend to more sadness and more anxiety and more. Anger around our work than people who were cutting lawns, we're trimming hedges. It is very important for us to remember that people get meaning from their work has talked of a guide you the day. I was to hear speech in Philadelphia the guy comes up- and I was talking about. We shouldn't thing about always making sure that people can rise, we need to remember that people are kind of made for expansion and that kind, Expansion really depends on their skills and their passions in their interests and their capabilities, and that we want to accentuate that's what we want. Courage, people towards such they're, not limited so very much in a guy, says yeah. You know he started the dentist and any had a really good practice, but in his heart, but he really wanted to do was push alone more than finally,
his courage. Company soldiers, dental practice and any started landscaping firm it. You know I gamely say to him from signing a book form after a free enterprise. Are you promised affirmative. Sixty guys we're increase it. No known meanwhile and the point it is important for us to remember that happiness in meaning, as we find it fall our sense of the dignity of structure that comes from our life, from earning our success from from creating value with our lives and value the lives of other people. That's what I'm talking about the idea of me picking some persons job because he's pouring getting food stamps are forcing him down that tube. That's not what I want to do, but I want an opportunity society where people are not judged, because there
trimming, hedges opposed to running hedge funds. I went out at last ass anything if aerial, import and end the right and the left her getting this wrong. Both sides are very classicist willingness. What's funny uses a real connection between that comment there they you just made- which I fully agree with and so to the far left idea of human flourishing right. I'm not so by my like exact distinctions in forms. The socialists are but a very old idea that you now see heavily adopted by sort of the universe. A basic income movement with some adherents on the right is watcher that you know you really want to be able to do in a very, very, very rich. Society like ours is give people enough. They they can choose their mode of human flourishing. And that that this idea- and I think there people a high horse sort of universal basic Income tax- Charles Maria, not wrong. It was really a book on the chaise it as in that is in that direction and the idea that we should trust? We should give people enough that they can sort of get their basics done right. They can eat, they can have some kind of a roof over their head. They can have
building and from there, if what they want to do, is to play the violin and that's ok and we actually shouldn't judges on course, where you come down on that the basic problem with that is the construction of the policy itself. Which is. We should give people enough people be able to earn enough. That's really the most employ thing and they shouldn't be able to fall too far, In my view, that's the right construction of it. We need not be totally society where people can earn more and earn a lot more, depending on what their values are and how many hours they choose to work, but the people who for whatever reason, even if it's their own fault shouldn't fall to far. That's the reason that than my construction of a lot of debates that we have today are on poverty policy start with declaring peace and a safety net and remembering that truly is only for the indigent see, don't fall too far and number three figuring out
good ways that we can have work and education requirement such that we can bring people into more opportunity and more dignity to the truth of the matter is that the great ass desirous of unemployment and inactivity in idleness in this country. Come from the fact that people haven't worked before are and never have gotten into the sense of creating value. The greatest predictor of idleness is idleness. Inoperative preacher workers work is too far to fall. We don't have health insurance should everybody have basic level of some kind of carrying out a strategic whatever? What what are you you count as so far. That now you ve gone beyond the line of this society. Depends on societies and times, and I get that believe or not from probably the most important conservative economists, the twentyth century was Friedrich higher in the road of serfdom. He talks about. The first job of government being actually creating safety net, and you know very sort of old school away talks about making sure people have enough food and and clothing?
right, MRS enough to work. Yet it is worth noting that they can actually were ineffectually. It's not even that is basically enough. So that we understand that we have a conscience as a society and understand that certain people, even through their own fault, they don't have enough. We don't want to be stepping over urgent in the streets. I let me be, I didn't mean to serve morally. He means that he actually, I think I should read this quote in your book. I recently when us study misery. He says that in it Fuck me is actually a good way of thinking about it that people should have a level such that are actually able to go out and an urgent is awaited outside right. Those if you let them fault, it, is a real suffer filling cycles. Actually, I mean a great example. This right is dental. Here you have a lot of people who fall to appoint the oak, it dental care dragon losing teeth and are all kinds of jobs. There then sickly compelling WWW walled off from, because many people want to hear at the cash register. That's it.
If the right, it is a really tragic. So my own view is that we have to look at this in terms of basic services and health care in food and shelter and and and other just rock bottom basic service Yes, and you know I don't want to maintain people in poverty, but you have to mix this with a kind of millet an environment where people can work and an opportunity and entrepreneurship can be shared with people who need it most, which is to say not just software engineers and people Phds and and be ace I do want some standard of catastrophic healthcare Issues- and an things such as what we're talking about here. I want to make sure that food stamps are available to people who don't need them in that I want to have a goal not to get people food stamps who need them, but to have fewer people need them. By the way is, is a measure an issue that the right and left to come together on what are we measuring the right? to measure how low we can get the budget on? These services in a last chance to measure how many people got the services and no measuring how many people need them was the best
about the eu- and I would come together on if we train design social policy. So I will that, and I want the basic services and a standard that look. People are gonna, disagree, liberals and should disagree on that, but we should be able to have a standard moral consensus of pushing opportunity, the people who need it most, because we and this is a slightly different issue- which, The reason that policy differences in DC today are a holy war is Is there not rotating in and going in orbit around a moral consensus? If you can have a moral consensus about with him, american experiment is all about than policy differences, become a competition of ideas in their healthy and good. But if you don't it- differences for the sake of ideology. Then it's a holy war and the moral consensus gets entirely lost. That's the reason I try to set up this construction of declaring peace, safety net, and only for the indigent and with worker education, to the extent that we possibly can sign.
That we can remember the why of this. You have a lot of contact with different kinds of politicians, name, the most interesting politicians of the Democratic Party and their public. The party who most people dont know about who most p I don't know about ass, interesting question. I now I thought of it myself. It's a great question. Thank you. Ezra, I meant to say, the most interesting guy that I know on the right is former speaker of the flu the house, it's gonna- Will Weatherford and you get term limited out major there so hard core floor, they don't look its guises right using starting, as kicked out of a Elsa representatives in Florida, the speaker, because terminal already we're all gonna be hearing about him. Most of our listeners. Dont know about him, he's a warrior for the poor and he wants to deploy incredibly conservative policy, specifically because poverty is what he cares about the most. That's the new right, there's the new right and that's a new right ethos that really has to pervade the conservative movement as far as I'm concerned, who is the most interest?
politician on the left. The people know about you should say something like Jerry Brown, because so interesting, but everybody knows about it. So that said that, for that one doesn't count. I talk today Mark Warner and a lot of people in the right, don't know, but he's actually trying to innovate, Senator from Virginia exactly right and I'll. Tell you my favorite congressmen. These days is John Delaney from Maryland John Delaney? He just he's completely unclassifiable amid if you look at certain Andrew issue concerns on social policy. For example, you'd that is a Democrat for Boil boy. Talk to him. He really challenges my own thinking and he's very sophisticated and his own. So that's a guy that I would like Republicans to keep me more than I on which writers present company secluded, of course, do you always make a pointer it I will read the New York Times that I really like a lot David rocks is great, and you know that stands out because he's your brother here people
think that were related data. He always David. I was rights when he said something very hard to tell the conservatives writing about happiness. Research rocks in the New York Times apart. I now I know its not entirely clear that they narratives needs more than one conservative brooks, and I, unfortunately, if they had that standard I'd be out of a job but he's like he's still perfect because he's his work has transcendental any goes beyond public policy, but it's really applied in all sorts of interesting ways. I love that, as I think it rate for years and years and years. Of course, I've read Paul Krugman. We now agree with what he said: I wish he didn't say that those of us who are on the right are fools and knaves all the time, but look there's nobody smarter, It's unbelievable! How much knowledge he has. He had a good writer. He is now he's able to bring these ideas to bear. So these are people like you know, to be quite honest, I'd I never miss
and what is the book you wish? You had read it. Twenty. When I was twenty of many loving, the French Horn Plaza wasn't ring remedy bucks. You know the book it. It is the deal Carnegie S book had away friends and influence people. You know why does. It sells transactional in terrible, but it's him. It's a manual for ethical living. He's anecdotes in there that are really changed. The way that I do my work and in my thinking today, I wish I had been doing it that it is one that really sticks in my head of this deal Carnegie cause his master storyteller, Annie, he tells the story of the magician and nineteen twenty on Broadway cause back in the day. People would come from the west and got a Broadway look at. These variety shows it wasn't just these lavish musicals and the jewish and had been doing the same tricks for thirty five years, and these people come over was constantly Minnesota and there would be no heed to the same point: rabbits, hats and contracts that are an he could a setting these robes, ok time them. Do this old tracks and so easy what a bunch it is not enough. It tell tale corny. The story that every night in his dressing room
for? He went out. He would say I am truly grateful for the people in this audience who make it possible for me to make my living doing something. I love- and you know I done that when I was twenty, it would have been happier from shore ampler. So when I read that is as a college professor, I was a much better college, professor and I started With- I was in Minneapolis and there was an audience of like twelve hundred people and I That too myself before I went on stage- and you know it really came true. It was granted food for the people who make it possible for Ezra Arthur due to this beautiful beautiful thing. I'd read that when I was twenty that Attitude will give me a happier life. I think I could have done more judge your post.
Are the Brooks. Thank you for your time. Did you ever take you to a signal? Does who made this all happen? Panoply, I'm as reclined box dot com? I hope you all enjoyed this podcast. Tell me if you like this kind of thing. If you want me to do more interviews who you'd like these, where you can now reads it box to come and go subscribe on Itunes go with you ass, a view of yours. I think we got some sort of magic peace in the region, which is great through the next week. When will be back on our regular pownall discussion with medications and Sarah Cliff and all the policy want where you could possibly want.
Transcript generated on 2021-09-15.