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Capitalism, contempt and America's future: A conversation with Arthur Brooks

Author and social scientist Arthur Brooks speaks during a Deseret News podcast in Salt Lake City on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018.
Arthur Brooks speaks during a Deseret News podcast in Salt Lake City on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Editor’s note: The following is a transcript of the episode. It's been edited for clarity.

Boyd Matheson: Is capitalism the cause or the cure to poverty and human suffering? Is political polarization the problem or is it the growing cancer of contempt? Leadership is sorely lacking in Washington at a time the American people are looking for inspiration and a path forward. Drawing on history, social psychology, behavioral economics, and the counsel of ancient wisdom, Arthur Brooks answers these questions and shares lessons from his extraordinary American journey on this week's edition of Therefore, What?

We are thrilled to have in studio today best-selling author, social scientist, economist and head of the American Enterprise Institute, as well as one of the most profound and brilliant minds in America. And Utah's favorite Catholic, Arthur Brooks. Arthur, thanks for joining us in the Deseret News studios today.

Arthur Brooks: Thank you, Boyd. And you say that to all the Catholics, don't you?

BM: No only our true favorites. So we're really glad you're here. We know you've had quite the experience here in the state of Utah. You've been down at BYU, you were at the summit with Senator (Mike) Lee and the opioid focus today, and later on today, you'll be with the Sutherland Institute at their annual gala. It's always a better day in Utah when you're here. We appreciate it.

AB: I love being here. It's always a better day for me when I'm in Utah, too. I also spent the morning with the governor and his cabinet, briefing the governor and his cabinet on a bunch of different communications issues. What a thrill it is, partly because Utah's succeeding. People have a tendency to think nothing in government works. Everything's terrible. Because they're thinking about Washington, D.C. But, you know, the framers of the Constitution, they didn't want us to be Washington-centric. This is an intensely state and local country. And when you look at what's going on in a lot of the states it's very encouraging and Utah's ground central for what can happen for things to get better. I'm really proud to be here and it's really great to have so many friends who are succeeding.

BM: I think Utah is going to be solely responsible for making federalism sexy again.

AB: I don't think it'll be sexy again, but at least it will be satisfying.

BM: The laboratory of democracy may actually work in the end, right. Well, that's great. Well, I know one of the things that you've been focusing on in your podcasts and a lot of your work at AEI is this whole idea of bringing America together. I know that's part of your work with Sutherland Institute this week here in the state. Obviously, there's a lot of political polarization going on out there that people see. Give us your assessment. Where are we really as a country?

AB: Well, people are justifiably alarmed by the fact that people are sort of being encouraged by leaders to hate their neighbors. This is anathema to the American experience. It's interesting, I just saw there's a fantastic group that works in both the U.K. and the United States that's called More in Common that came up with data this week that show that 93 percent of Americans don't like how polarized we've become and how we're being pushed apart as citizens. Ninety-three percent of Americans are not middle-of-the-road politically, they're not centrists, these are people with real hardcore opinions but what they understand is that it's not right to hate your neighbor. It's very interesting you know, I'll ask audiences, I'm very much looking forward to speaking for the Sutherland Institute's gala, and this will air after I've done that, of course. But one of the questions I'm going to ask the audience tonight is, how many of you love somebody with whom you disagree politically? And it's going to be 100 percent of the hands, except for people who are not paying attention, or still eating a salad or something. And it's very important for us to remember that the relationships and of love that we have with each other, that's way more important than politics. It's way more important. And when leaders are driving us apart, that's extremely alarming. So I have to say that my answer to your question, Boyd, is sort of twofold. No. 1, it's the good news, bad news story. The good news is that Americans don't like the fact that we've become so polarized. The bad news is we have become very polarized. But therein lies an entrepreneurial opportunity for a new day and you know it just might start in Utah.

BM: Yeah, I know on your podcasts, which have really taken off across the country, you've talked about how do we disagree better? I know you're moving towards where is love in the land, what does that fit in there? Give us a little bit of insight into your podcast, into what kinds of things you're addressing as it relates to disagreeing better and what the solution is.

AB: Yeah. Thank for asking. The podcast is a really exciting thing. It's the first time I've ever done a podcast and it has an incredibly creative title. You know, it's called the Arthur Brooks Show, right? I had to hire Saatchi & Saatchi to figure that one out. You know, I had to pay them a million dollars. But hey, worth every penny. And the way that it's working, it's going in seasons. And the seasons go in eight at a time that they're themed. And the theme of the first season was, really appropriately, how to disagree. The point is not to disagree less, the play is to disagree better. Why? Because disagreement is a form of competition. Everybody listening to us knows that competition brings excellence, and that when you get rid of competition you get mediocrity. You get stagnation. And that's what happens in economics, that's what happens when you have a one-party state, and that's what should happen in the competition of ideas when people don't disagree. The problem is when you disagree so poorly that the competition doesn't work, right? When you're trying to shut other people down, you don't allow them to come to your campus because you disagree with them, or you won't actually show up and listen to them if you think that they're going to have an alternative point of view, or even worse when you only listen to media or read newspapers or watch TV stations where you already agree with those people, you're not participating in the competition of ideas. So the message, that I'm talking about a lot, is disagree more and better. And then America will be will be a lot higher quality in the way that we talk about issues and we'll all get stronger.

BM: I think Ronald Reagan said, you know, America is always at its best when it is a nation of big ideas and open, even roiling debates that compete in the marketplace of ideas and then you move forward.

AB: Yeah, when you think about it too, you know, there are people that you disagree with a lot that — I mean, how long have you been married, Boyd?

BM: It'll be 30 years in two months.

AB: Congratulations. I'm going on, it'll be 27 years next month for me and I mean you and your wife — what's your wife's name? You and Debbie disagree, right?

BM: Occasionally. Frequently.

AB: Yeah. And, the point is that you disagree about things that you both really care about. And even when you get angry it's not an existential threat, because anger, actually it's a very interesting fact, that anger in marriages is uncorrelated with separation and divorce. The problem is when anger metastasizes into something that's much worse, which is called contempt. You mentioned it in your introduction, contempt adds disgust to anger and you basically start saying to somebody that you love or somebody that you should respect, to your fellow citizen, your co-worker, God forbid your spouse, that you're utterly worthless, nothing that you have to say could possibly be worth listening to. Well, that's an expression of contempt and that will ruin relationships. That's the really big deal. You know, anger and disagreement — are you kidding? You know, couples that are digging in and paying attention — how many kids do you have, I can't remember?

BM: Five

AB: Oh man, it's great. It's beautiful.

BM: The four grandkids make everything else worth it, right.

AB: You have four grandkids? Oh, I'm so jealous.

BM: You should be.

AB: You know, there's an old saying — I'm Catholic, as you know. You mentioned it before, there's an old Catholic saying that grandchildren are God's reward for not killing your children.

BM: Absolutely true.

AB: My kids are still in the killing phase. I think they're almost out of danger.

BM: OK, good. And remember, restraint always works. Restraint is a very important quality.

AB: It's a virtue. It is indeed a virtue. But again, you know, you disagree in the relationships that you hold dearest and we should disagree with each other as a nation, and we should disagree vigorously. And then we should have dinner together and say we love each other.

BM: Yeah, so let's drill down on that contempt a little bit. I've always said that the contempt problem, more than the political polarization problem, and as you described if I feel like that person is utterly worthless because they disagree with me, that gives me license to blow up their Facebook or melt down their Twitter feed or call them whatever, get in their face in a restaurant, and still go to bed at night and feel OK about myself.

AB: That's a classic thing throughout human history is that you dehumanize other people, and there are a couple of ways that you do that. No. 1 is you act anonymously. One of the biggest problems that we have with social media is that people behave anonymously. And as such, they behave worse. They dehumanized others. And they've effectively dehumanized themselves. So one of the things that I recommend to my friends in public life so for, you know people who have — you're a well-known guy in the media or for politicians, you know, I recommend that they not interact with anybody ever who's anonymous. And they never act anonymously in any capacity in their lives. It's very important to do that such that we don't dehumanize each other and we don't get into the habit of behaving contemptuously. It's really corrosive for ourselves. It's actually worst for ourselves. There's a funny set of studies that show that when we treat other people with contempt, we tend to get more depressed and people find us physically less attractive. So if you you want other people to think you're handsome, beautiful and you want to be happy, then you can't do that. It's OK to get angry, it's OK to disagree. But treating other people as if they were worthless, and especially doing so anonymously, is really, really corrosive to your well-being.

BM: Yeah. And that anger and that angst that you talk about building up, in the book "The the Light Between Oceans," it talks about this man who had been, you know, persecuted and treated poorly by all the members of the town because of his religion and he forgives them. And his wife said how can you do that, how can you forgive these people that have been awful to you? And he says you only have to forgive once. To keep the anger and resentment you have to recreate it every day.

AB: It's funny, you know, the Buddha actually was quoted once as saying, or is remembered as saying that with good I conquer evil — he actually says "I conquer the evil man with good." Why would the Buddha, I mean, to be talking about conquering another person and using a great virtue instrumentally. And then I realized what he's talking about is that the evil man is me. And my job is to conquer me with good, that turns out to be the important point. And, by the way, that is the central insight of the Christian religion as well, that you and I try to practice this every day as Christians. That we have to die to self, I mean that's a deeply Christian principle. And so that means you don't just spontaneously die of old age to self, you've gotta conquer Boyd. Boyd is at war with Boyd, you know, and to the extent that we forget that as a society, when we stop declaring war on our worst impulses, we don't discipline ourselves and as such, we won't find the good and therefore we won't find the happiness that we actually deserve.

BM: Very interesting. I was talking with George Will yesterday on this podcast and he raised an interesting thing in terms of the influence of the presidency, just in terms of influence, the tone that it sets for the nation. And one of the things that I know you address often is how do we get to this aspirational leadership? I mean, the American people want to be led. They have that in them — take us somewhere that matters. And they're kind of wandering around. Neither political party really seems to be putting forward an aspirational leader. Give me your definition of aspirational leader. And then how do we get more people there?

AB: Yeah, so aspirational leadership to us means to aspire to something, and then obviously you aspire to something that's better, as opposed to aspiring to something that's simply bigger or different. So, you know, nobody says, you know, I aspired to be a worse person. I aspire to be poorer in 10 years than I am. That's not a typical aspiration. So let's dispense with it. So to be an aspirational leader is to basically show the led something better. It's over those mountains, there are green fields. That's what aspirational leaders do. Now, unfortunately, you can make people aspire to that through destructive or constructive means. And in a time of populism, in a time of negativity, in a time of polarization, you tend to get leaders that will vilify other people and say that we can aspire to something better if only we vanquished the other side 100 percent. Well, that is insane. You know it's actually un-American in this way. It's funny, when I talk to big groups, members of Congress, I'll say how many of you wish we lived in a one-party state? It's like zero hands and you know it's zero hearts too. OK, so if you're grateful for not living in Cuba, or Vietnam, if you're grateful for not living in a one-party state, you just told me you're grateful for the other party. It's crazy man. And so an aspirational leader is not somebody who's aspiring to win everything and the other side losing. That's actually not the green fields on the other side of the mountain. It's one in which we actually make progress without getting 100 percent of what we want. You know, I don't want my wife to feel like she's walking out with getting nothing that she wants, and I got everything that I wanted. That's not even winning, right? That's actually the ultimate losing, for sure. And that's the kind of aspirational leadership that we need. You know, people who understand that we need to work together. That is this is not just compromise. It's the flexibility that comes from having mutual respect for each other and warmheartedness for each other as a country. That's not what we have right now. That's not what we have at the leadership of either party right now. And, you know, one of the great things — one of the reasons I love coming to Utah is because people understand this here. There's a principled understanding — now, it is a conservative state. It is a red state, traditionally understood, but I see nobody who's falling in line with the polarization that comes from even the Republican party today around here. I talk to people who are really alarmed by the integrity, the spirit of love and brotherhood that actually should permeate our principles. Why, because you know, to be a Utah conservative, as far as I'm concerned, is to use conservative means to meet liberal ends. It's to serve our brothers and sisters at the margins of society. It's extraordinary to me. One of the things I've always admired about the LDS church, for example, we're not supposed to say LDS anymore or Mormon, you can't say anything. Anyway so the thing that I've always admired about it is it's the largest private welfare system in the world. Without relying on government. Why? Because human initiative requires that we serve each other as brothers and sisters and lift each other up and see each other as mutually beneficial. That mutuality is really key to it. That means that when you have an environment where I win, you lose, it's not going to be consistent with the philosophy that you see in a place like this. This is my bottom line, I'm not just trying to butter you up, Boyd, and our listeners. Not all of whom are in Utah, of course. My bottom line is that the way that traditionally I see conservatism played out here, that is, I think, the right model for America and that can be the basis of conservative aspirational leadership and we need people to see this and understand this and that can be a great resurgence for our movement.

BM: Yeah, fantastic. And on that point, you know, you talk about poverty, you talk about human suffering and it's our job — they're not the government's brothers and sisters. They're our brothers and sisters. Right? Fellow travelers. I know you've got a very exciting new project that will be launched on the very day that this podcast will air next week about pursuit and about this whole idea of people starting to have this negative view of capitalism, and how does it play into poverty? Tell us one, what was the inspiration and where are you headed with "Pursuit"?

AB: Pursuit is a movie, it's a documentary film, and the trailer is actually coming out the day that we air. The movie will be on, you know, video on demand services and such and even theater screenings in the spring. Spring of 2019. "The Pursuit" is basically the pursuit of a better life for people at the margins of society. The reason I call it that is because that is truly my aspiration. You know, the reason that I write and think a lot about capitalism and free enterprise in my career is not just because I'm some, you know, cold, calculating economist and I think that capitalism is super interesting, you know, I don't really care about — it's just a machine, right? Capitalism, like social democracy or monarchism or theocracies, these are just machines, these are ways that people organize themselves. But what I learned in my 20s was that the free enterprise system is the only system ever devised that can pull people out of poverty while you sleep. And again, this is not just a contention — by the way, you know, you and I are more or less the same age. Two billion of our brothers and sisters have been pulled out of poverty, 2 billion, since you and I were kids. You know, nobody knows that, you know, 70 percent of Americans think that poverty has gotten worse. Eighty percent of starvation level poverty has been destroyed since you and I were kids, since the late 1970s. Eighty percent. And that means, you know, 2 billion of these people that are God's children, they're like us, and how did that happen? It happened because of globalization, which people denigrate today, and free trade which is in decline, alarmingly. Because of property rights and rule of law and because of the American culture of entrepreneurship and free enterprise spreading around the world. This is a gift. This is a miracle unprecedented by world historic standards. And so for that reason, I think, man, I'm dedicating the rest of my life to this. And that's what this movie is all about. It goes in search of people that are building their lives. It starts off in a slum in Mumbai in India. It starts off in a slum called Dharavi. It's an incredible place, it's two-thirds the size of Central Park, there are between 700,000 and a million people living in it. That's like 400 people living in your house. That's the population density of this place. You go there you go, ah, how depressing but it's not. People are on the make. There's 10,000 small industries and all the kids go to school and it's because free enterprise entered that country, in India, that they're on the rise, and we walk through that. Then we go to other places, not so good. We go to Barcelona, not so good. We go to a little town in Kentucky that hasn't had work in a long time. And these are places that are more prosperous, but where people are depressed, people are taking drugs, where you have these pathologies. And then we go to a place in New York City where people have been homeless, and they've been addicted to drugs, but they're working and putting their lives together. Once again, the commonalities are when you're working, when you have purpose, when you have meaning, there, you find hope. There you find happiness. That's the pursuit. So "The Pursuit" is how do we lift up the world starting at the margins of society? And when we find the answer, it turns out to be the answer to our happiness too. Like always, as the gospel instructs us, do you want to find your own bliss? Turn to the poor. Because they have the answer.

BM: Fantastic. You know, Utah has long been heralded as one of the most upwardly mobile places on the planet. And the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has done some really fascinating things in terms of self-reliance programs that teach entrepreneurship and business skills and how to get advancements in work and degrees and financial management plans. Interesting, just at the G20 Faith Forum which precedes the G20 Economic Forum next month, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles talked about how this teaching of these principles, these economic principles and entrepreneurships, had made a difference in just four South American countries. And in a matter of just two years, over 7,000 businesses have been started, 42 percent of the participants who were members of the church and non members of the church had increased their education, started to earn more money, had started to reduce their debt. And so, again in that community, it's the perfect combination of civil society and free market economy that really lets everybody, especially starting at the margins.

AB: And of course the building blocks in all this are a healthy society, not just civil society, but family life, which is really, really critically important. And one of the things that I'm thinking about a lot and that I'm talking about with my friends at the Sutherland Institute, which by the way, you're the former president the Sutherland Institute, what a great organization. Everybody listening to us should support the Sutherland Institute because this is the basis of an intellectual movement that can ride alongside the social movement to make America as great as it can possibly be. And, you know, one of the things that I'm talking about at the Sutherland Institute tonight is love. You know, it's funny, it's like, people never talk about love. It's like come on, man. That's not what an economist should talk about. But you know what, even economists need love. It turns out all of us need love. It's the building block of a good and happy society, but also a successful society.

One of the things that I've been looking at recently, kind of blowing my mind, Boyd, is when I look at the likelihood that people in their 20s in America today are romantically in love. It's a third lower probability than when you and I were in our 20s. It's crazy when you look at it. And again, you could say, it doesn't make sense. I mean, young people are more emancipated. They're more liberated, with all the bad things that come along with that. But it turns out that when you don't have any constraints, when there aren't any rules, it turns out, you're less likely to fall in love. And, you know, I tell you, that's the basis of happiness. And building a family is a prerequisite to being successful in so many areas of life. If you want to know how to build a culture where people are upwardly mobile, where people do earn the success, I'm going to find moms and dads and kids who are living in intact homes. I mean, 100 percent of the time. There's just no other basic building blocks of that. So this is a seamless garment. This is inseparable. We need love so that we can build families so that we can build communities so that we can build economies so we can build a great nation that can be salt and light for the world.

BM: Yeah. So, so fascinating. We felt here at the Deseret News that one of the real con jobs that took place during the Kavanaugh hearings, in fact one of our writers, Christian Sagers wrote this beautiful piece, that the real con in all of it was when the American people decided that sex was a commodity, not a sacrament. And then it's just something that can be taken and used. And you think of the conversations we missed during those hearings. Families were actually having conversations about underage drinking and about premarital sex, and about how do you develop the real kind of love that will give you a foundation for a strong family and a stronger community?

AB: Yeah, no, I mean, there's a lot that I think that in the end the really terrible Kavanaugh hearings are going to wind up being instructive to the American population. I mean, look, we are a nation of social entrepreneurs and the ultimate enterprise is to reinvent America over and over and over again. We're in a time of crisis and that was kind of the the worst moment in the culture war, you know, and even people — by the way, people listening to us, they're on all sides of this thing. It's not like you know some of Boyd Matheson's listeners, or all of them think that Judge Kavanaugh was innocent and Dr. Ford was — no, no, no, Look people are all over the place. We're all super conflicted on this. The thing for us to keep in mind is that it wasn't just about Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford. It was a culture war set of issues. It was about how men treat women, which is important, and it was about how we conduct ourselves and this is a moment for introspection. These low points are things that all of us should be able to turn into real opportunities because in crises that's where opportunities lie.

BM: Yeah absolutely. So I want to hit two other things as you release the trailer for "Pursuit." One is this whole idea of per capita GDP versus per capita hope, which I just love. And then also the beautiful scene with you and the Dalai Lama, as he says, you know, we need to be friends with capitalists. Tell me about that.

AB: Yeah. So we spent a lot of time — the whole movie doesn't take place in India, but they were in India a lot. And India is a place I go very often. I mean, I'm going, as matter of fact, the week after next I'm going to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama — for those who are not, you know, paying too much attention to Tibetan Buddhism. And I guess not all of our listeners are thinking about Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is the leader of the Tibetan people and is sort of the most visible Buddhist in the world. He's also, according to public opinion polling, if you trust, that the most respected religious leader in the world today and so I go and see him a lot. We've written all that together. And I've interviewed him a number of times. When I go to India, I'm excited by the trajectory of hope, the fact that people are incredibly hopeful because as one of the poorest countries in the world in our lifetime, it's become largely a middle class country. It's extraordinary how much progress there's been, and people underestimate how important that has been to that country.

So we in the movie "The Pursuit," we talked to a guy who says, look, it's not about per capita GDP. It is about the idea that my life can be something better. It is about per capita hope. It's kind of a poignant moment at the end of the movie, however, it's something that I think will probably appeal to a lot of our listeners here. You know it's easy when you talk about free enterprise and capitalism to think it's really all about money and furthermore there's this — I try to disabuse everybody of this notion that capitalism is great for rich people and bad for poor people. The truth is that capitalism is phenomenal for poor people and it's kind of dangerous for the rest of us. Why? Because it's this generating force of — can be — of materialism and greed, because it makes so much wealth so quickly for people. And so it's very easy for all of us listening to this to work, work, work, work, work, earn, earn, earn, and that is not the secret to a happy life. So we end up in the movie going up the mountain, literally, to see the Dalai Lama at his home in the Himalayan foothills and talk about what is the secret to a happy life. And he says, look, I've learned a lot about capitalism. I've learned a lot about initiative. I've learned a lot that you have to use your life. And you need a system that helps you to be productive. But what we really need is love. And there's no substitute for it. Capitalism and work and earning and money are not a substitute for love. And that's where we leave the picture and it's a beautiful friendship that I have with him. And it's kind of a nice moment in the movie.

BM: That's fantastic. So I want to hit a couple things as we come down the homestretch here. One, as we strive to get to these higher conversations, better disagreement leading to better results for everybody. The media obviously plays a very important role or has an influence point for sure on all of us. The Deseret News, we tried to go boldly, nobly and independent. Bold, strong opinions and great journalism, noble in that it's elevating dialog and shaping important conversations and that it's independent. That it's really checked and moved and yet in so many places, particularly the national media, it seems to be disconnected. So what is the role of media and how — does that ever rebound, or are we on a downward trajectory?

AB: It's a real problem today because, in particular, because people trust the media so little. It's weird, you know we're sentimental, we always say back in the old days when Republicans and Democrats liked each other — they never liked each other. I mean, I go back to you know James K. Polk and you know he's a complete grifter you know, or you know James Buchanan and the Kansas Nebraska Act. One congressman actually almost beat another one to death with his cane and it's like at least we're not doing that. So it's not like things were so great in the old days, and you know, when you and I were kids people didn't really trust the press that much better, right. So it's not like things were always wonderful, but things, in point of fact, can be better. And the times that we're in right now where it's extremely polarizing and emotional, journalists are not immune from that and what has effectively happened, particularly in Washington, D.C., is that the President of the United States has set himself up as a foil to the media and he's been referring to the media as the enemies of the people, which by the way that's really freighted history. If you're a media guy you're like, oh no, who talks that way? That sounds pretty bad. But it's also that's what a lot of dictators throughout history said. Not that Donald Trump is a dictator, he's not, but he's used a turn of phrase that's really — as college kids say — that's a trigger.

And so a lot of the result of that is that — he's a very smart guy and he'll set people up as his enemies and then they will play to form. The most important thing for the media to do to help regain trust and to attenuate this adversarial relationship with the president the United States. is to stop taking the bait, you know, to stop going after that. I mean, he's, he's basically flooding the zone, right? I mean, he's basically saying, you're the enemy, you're the enemies of the people. And they say, well, then they attack him. And that's not the media's job to attack the president of the United States. And furthermore, it makes them look bad. It's lowering public trust in the media by doing that.

BM: OK. All right. So I have a wall of fame in my house. I have autographed baseballs from a lot of the great players over the years. But more important to me and my family, we have autographs on baseballs of people who've made a difference in our lives. So teachers, coaches, authors ...

AB: Who's your favorite team growing up?

BM: Cubs. Because I could get WGN radio at night.

AB: Yeah for sure, because it was an AM station. That was my dad's favorite team. My dad grew up in Wheaton, Illinois. And you're rooting for the doomed Cubs year after year after year. I know.

BM: One year of redemption, but I think we're back to cursed.

AB: It's a sacred brotherhood. You know, because you're never not a Cubs fan. It's kind of a true blue. It's like faith in something that, you know ... it's like the Sinai Peninsula wandering for a lot more than 40 years.

BM: Yeah, that's right. So if you were having someone signed a baseball, someone who is most influential, or who's someone if you were starting your wall of fame? What's the first autograph you'd go get there?

AB: There's so many people that I've admired over the course of my life. And there are people who have influenced me a lot of different ways at different times. You're talking about politician — no you're talking about a sports figure?

BM: Anyone who's influenced you. An author, a teacher, a coach, a mentor.

AB: My great mentor was a man named James Q. Wilson. You know who he is of course, James Q. Wilson was the most influential — I'm a total nerd. So, nerd alert. James Q. Wilson was the most influential political scientist of the past century. He taught at Harvard. He was a conservative who was victorious at Harvard, which is fantastic, by the way, I don't know if you know, I'm headed to Harvard.

BM: Harvard, I feel much better about Harvard.

AB: Yeah. Or you feel maybe worse about me.

BM: No I have confidence in you.

AB: I appreciate it. No, Harvard is a great place. And one of the reasons that I want to go, there is my hero, my intellectual hero, James Q. Wilson was there. Everybody knows him for certain things. Like, for example, most people know about something called the broken windows theory of police, it was Giuliani's secret when he was mayor of New York to really getting crime under control. That was created by James Q. Wilson. But his main thing that he did, his most important book that everybody's got to get and read is called "The Moral Sense." It is that people are imbued, they're endowed with a sense of basic decency and morality. It's on the human genome, you know, and I thought when I read that, before I ever knew him. I thought, man, I wish I could do something like that. I wish I could use the tools of intellect to bring people to a more edified, you know, higher state. They could love each other more on the basis of ideas, and not just religion, you know, because intellect has got to be created by God too, I figure, and James Q. Wilson really showed me how that could be done. And he's influenced me as an intellectual, as a scholar, more than any other single person in my life. He also hired me as president of AEI, he sat in on my dissertation defense when I'm finishing my doctorate, which went very poorly, and then as an assistant professor, when I wrote my first book he wrote the foreword and then when I came to be president of AEI, he was on the board of trustees and I spoke at his funeral when he died in 2012. He would be the first guy on my baseball. James Q. Wilson.

BM: Fantastic. And since I haven't been able to convince you to run for president yet, we'll save that debate for another day.

AB: I appreciate that. You know one quick note on that, Boyd. You know it's funny about politics and I know that people have been bugging you to get into politics forever. I've heard it independent of your people, say, you know, the great guy you know should run for XYZ is Boyd Matheson. I know he's a great idea man. Fantastic. Total integrity. He's happy is the problem, is he's happy. So I was in Central New York, teaching at Syracuse University. And you know, there was this open seat in Congress and a bunch of Republicans came and they said, you know, I've been thinking about it, you're the right guy, will you run for the seat? I'm very flattered and went home and I told my wife, Esther. I said, honey you know, some guys came to me and asked me for run for Congress and she says, well you know, as Catholics we don't believe in divorce.

BM: That's a great answer. Enough said.

AB: Subtle, yeah that's right.

BM: Well, the last segment we always leave for the title of the program, which is Therefore, what? Sometimes I take that, I'm going to pass the ball to you today to give us what's your Therefore, What? People have been listening to us for a half an hour now. What do you hope they take away, what's the Therefore, What? for our listeners today?

AB: Therefore, the solutions in our country really start with each one of us. It's funny, there is a tendency to feel really alienated and to feel like each one of us doesn't matter, but the truth is that the solutions to polarization and contempt and anger and hostility, to hatred in our country, there's really only one solution to that. It's that each one of us creating an apostolate around us of love. And so therefore, if you remember one thing that I say, it's please figure out a way to answer the contempt that you see on social media, in the political conversations that you have at school or at work, or God forbid, even the contempt you see around the Thanksgiving table. To answer that with love and kindness and compassion and warmheartedness. And in so doing you will be the beginning of the next great era of American history.

BM: Arthur, thanks so much for joining us today.

AB: Thank you, Boyd.

BM: Remember after the story is told, after the principle is presented, after the discussion and debate have been had the question for all of us is Therefore, What? Follow us on and subscribe to our newsletter. This is Boyd Matheson, opinion editor for the Deseret News. thanks for engaging with us on Therefore, What?

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