Damir Marusic and Aaron Sibarium interview me for *The American Interest*

It was far-ranging, here is the opening bit:

Damir Marusic for TAI: Tyler, thanks so much for joining us today. One of the themes we’re trying to grapple with here at the magazine is the perception that liberal democratic capitalism is in some kind of crisis. Is there a crisis?

TC: Crisis, what does that word mean? There’s been a crisis my whole lifetime.


TC: I think addiction is an underrated issue. It’s stressed in Homer’s Odyssey and in Plato, it’s one of the classic problems of public order—yet we’ve been treating it like some little tiny annoyance, when in fact it’s a central problem for the liberal order.


AS: What about co-determination?

TC: There are too many people with the right to say no in America as it is. We need to get things done speedier, with fewer obstacles that create veto points. So no, I don’t favor that.


AS: John Maynard Keynes.

TC: I suppose underrated. He was a polymath. Polymaths tend to be underrated, and Keynes was a phenomenal writer. I’m not a Keynesian on macroeconomics, but when you read him, it’s so fresh and startling and just fantastic. So I’d say underrated.


AS: Slavoj Zizek, the quirky communist philosopher you debated recently.

TC: Way underrated. I had breakfast with Zizek before my dialogue with him, and he’s one of the 10 people I’ve met who knows the most and can command it. Now that said, he speaks in code and he’s kind of “crazy,” and his style irritates many people because he never answers any question directly. You get his Hegelian whatever. He has his partisans who are awful, but ordinary intellectuals don’t notice him and he’s pretty phenomenal actually. So I’d say very underrated.

Here is the full interview, a podcast version is coming too.


"There are too many people with the right to say no in America as it is. We need to get things done speedier, with fewer obstacles that create veto points. So no, I don’t favor that."

We need people that can make the trains run on time. We need a Mussolini, or a Moose-a-leeny, or a mouse-a-weeny.

Is there a mouse in the house?

Tyler's just taking Hamilton's side against Madison and Jefferson here. Long-standing argument.

"liberal democratic capitalism"! Do you mean socialism?

My snarky comment aside, it was an excellent interview and I pretty much agree with Tyler on all points.

When is Tyler going to make the big time and get interviewed by Joe Rogan? Lol! All kidding aside, he would reach a very big audience, and a very different one.

I'm not sure co-determination automatically creates new veto points. In principle, won't labor reps on a board enable a minority of shareholder reps to take action as often as they will block a majority of shareholder reps from taking action?

I imagine Tyler is implicitly assuming labor will block more often than enable. That might be reasonable, but why does he think that?

Interesting throughout. I was surprised by your position on alcohol... it’s so well-loved across cultures and countries that I’d expect you to be more cautious staking out the anti position. Asking people to go dry, and to socially persecute drinkers, seems like it grossly misunderstands the needs and impulses of humans. In a way that you yourself have explicitly opposed, on many occasions.

(And don’t dry countries tend to suck? Yes Islam is a huge confounder, but still it should give you pause.)

Beyond that, nothing shocking to this long time reader. Very good overall IMO.

The chanting writes itself.

"Cancel culture bad! Social persecution good!"

"Islam is a huge confounder". Islam is an argument for the proposition that a chap should be allowed his beer.

I agree with Tyler on alcohol. I don't think we have a good measure that captures the total negative impact of alcohol. It isn't just the mortality of the drinker, but all the other impacts as well - lost productivity, divorce, poor parenting, lost social capital, and the psychological damage done to the people, especially children, and how that damage propagates through the generations.

One little drink a day is not a problem. The problem is that millions, if not tens of millions, of people drink considerably more.

The resources dedicated to alcohol production, especially natural resources, are rarely discussed. Here in California vast areas of oak woodlands and native grasslands are destroyed every year to accommodate vineyards. In some cases nearly entire watersheds and their surface and ground water are allocated to vineyards. IMHO it is a terrible waste.

One drink a day is fine.

Dear Tyler; As someone who speaks "in code", you should know - as I certainly do - that it is far harder to actually say what you mean. The main problem with "code-speak" is that the listener is able to invent all sorts of unintended meaning. Code-speak is a way people can maintain the illusion that they actually know what they're talking about. Whether they do, or are just faking it, can't be determined. Especially if they're evasive. There is nothing clever about code-speak. It is the lazy person's communication method of choice. Why construct a cogent, consistent argument when you can be so indirect and force the listener has to infer meaning?

+1, years of reading this blog and I've never quite grokked what's so useful about being "Straussian", for the vast majority of subjects

Also, I'm wary of a rhetorical technique that primes people to discount what you actually say when figuring out what you actually believe, seems like a recipe for endless eisegesis that we don't need?

Yes, very interesting. I noticed one inaccuracy: "The betting markets seem to think Biden has the best chance of beating Trump". As of now, I don't think that's true. On PredictIt, the implied probability of Bernie beating Trump if he gets the democratic nomination is 68% (21/30) while for Biden it is 55% (22/40). Of course, those numbers are quite imprecise (the PredictIt market is not very fluid) and I believe overvalued, but still, people seem to think Bernie has better odds to beat Trump that Biden.

Crisis: WWI, Great Depression, WWII, Holocaust, Cold War, NK, Vietnam, and other proxy wars, Financial Crisis, Rise of the Authoritarian. Humans seem drawn to suffering, which is ironic since suffering is the explanation often given for losing faith.

Addiction: See Crisis.

Co-Determination: See Rise of the Authoritarian.

Zizek: See Straussians. [Reading hostile comments about Cowen at this blog has given me a greater appreciation for the technique.]

I agree. Crisis hysteresis. Every year is the most challenging we have ever faced, etc. I have a chart somewhere I can dig up, showing some Senator or Presidential candidate in EVERY Presidential election for the past several decades saying that THIS election is the most important in her or his lifetime. It just never stops.

"He was too weak on China and Russia."
No, he was not.

Zizek is clever and eclectic and quick. What's not to like? Impossible to pin down, a bit of a jester for sure. He currently rejects the key Marxist trope: "The philosophers so far have only interpreted the world: the point is to change it." but who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Impossible to pin down, so the best solution is not to bother.

Ignoring someone doesn't make them stop. But it does make them stop mattering.

So what? His rambling sometimes produces gems, even if it doesn't add up to a stable, coherent worldview.

I tried to listen to Zizek on Tyler's podcast and just didn't have the patience. He did a lot of circular talking and never came to a useful conclusion. I gave up about 15 minutes in. Tyler clearly thinks he has a lot to say, and in terms of volume of air I would agree, but I didn't hear any substance, just somebody who like the sound of his own voice. Perhaps Tyler finds him a charming anachronism; I did not.

"Three-Body Problem" is terrible on the physics. I find it way, way over-rated.

Agree that the point on addiction is very underrated. Overall there's a cultural problem of malaise or purposelessness today, especially among younger generations, partly because there is so much abundance. It's evident not only with widespread drug/alcohol use, but also with obesity, over consumption, excessive consumer debt, gaming and social media addiction. These are obviously individual choices, but collectively can lead to decay of the democratic order. For a democratic republic to survive and prosper it needs an underlying culture of well ordered, hard working, and clear thinking citizens.

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