Robert B. Reich discusses his book, “The Common Good”, at a Politics and Prose event at Sixth and I historic synagogue in Washington, DC on 2/22/18.
Robert B. Reich has been one of America’s leading political thinkers since he served as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. A constant voice for social change, Reich is the author of 14 books, including the best-sellers Saving Capitalism and The Work of Nations. Now, he makes the case for restoring the idea of the common good to the center of our economics, our politics, and our national identity. The Common Good argues that societies undergo both virtuous and vicious cycles, and that the vicious cycle the U.S. is now undergoing can and must be reversed. Reich challenges us to weigh what really matters, and to join forces to save America’s soul.
Civic things but instead I worked for
the Democratic Party of Arkansas in 2014
I heard a lot of oh I love the
Affordable Care Act and I realized that
my health care is important but I just
can’t vote for people who kill babies
and I know that my mom has some
sentiments and I’m glad that she votes
this way even though she sometimes has
some issues with people that aren’t
necessarily like us but she says you
know if they’re gonna take away my right
to the right of choice I would never
vote for them and so I’m fine with her
voting for Democrats even though that’s
probably not where she would align
ourselves but how do we deal with people
I’m not sure you’re familiar with the
campaign talk you never engage of five
so when somebody’s like I’m just not
gonna vote for somebody because they
kill babies like you just you move on
how do we deal with people who are like
that um yeah I mean we’re seeing it a
lot with the gun debate I don’t want to
I don’t want a caricature certainly not
your mom but people who have one issue
and they feel deeply about it and they
think it’s the most important issue at
all and it is their litmus test for all
politics and all politicians and there
are going to be people like that and you
know I think it’s important to respect
their views and not to denigrate them
and I don’t want to get too much
involved in you and your mom let me just
say that every every Thanksgiving every
Christmas every you know my students
they a ganar about going home because
they always have an Uncle Louie or
somebody who voted for Trump or who is
just you know in the 19th century and
they don’t know how to talk to them and
I would say they’re really there there’s
something that I try to do and I don’t
do it well but it’s I call it eloquent
listening which is which means you you
really open yourself up to what they are
trying to tell you and you allow
yourself and give yourself permission to
possibly be persuaded and you repeat
back to them what they said to you so
that they know and you know that you
really understand them and that can be a
gateway to communication because once
people feel safe in terms of sharing
their deepest values they can then be
open to maybe if not reconsidering them
at least understanding where you’re
coming from that’s something we’re not
a magnetic 38-year-old named Christian Lindner, has openly expressed a desire to shake things up. In an August interview with the Economist, in which he called Germany’s economy “a prosperity hallucination,” Lindner also explained that in his country, “entrepreneurship has long been undervalued … and societies that are prepared to be more daring and have efficient capital markets have overtaken us on this.”
.. The vast majority of Germans don’t want it. For progressive and even centrist Germans, the startup-style definition of Erfolg (or “success”) is utterly incompatible with their values—which do not center on individual wealth, recognition, or even careers.
.. Germany’s cultural mores—which include a vehement defense of the country’s robust social safety net, largely credited for the relatively quick recovery from last decade’s recession—mean it is largely inoculated from the bootstrap fever that has long gripped the US.
.. In an off-script response to a heckler during a speech about startup culture’s positive attitude toward failure, Lindner memorably decried the fact that “people would rather go into public service than start something themselves.” He explained that, “when you’re successful, you end up in the sights of the social-democratic redistribution apparatus, and when you fail you’re sure to be the subject of mockery and derision.”
Lindner was correct on one point: Many Germans would rather go into public service than start a business themselves. But his theory about their motivation is all wrong. Lindner’s country-people simply don’t have the same enchantment with self-made financial success that he does.
.. Thanks in part to a general leftward tilt on economic issues after the student revolutions of 1968, most of them view the collective good, and the comparatively high taxation that accompanies it not as a sacrifice, but as a fundamental component of civilized society.
.. They are largely content with their take-home salaries, but not out of altruism. Rather, they view the role of wealth acquisition and consumerism in a fundamentally different way.
.. To Germans, caution and frugality are signifiers of great moral character. Sure, they favor high-quality consumer goods—but they deliberate on what to buy for years, and expect their possessions to last for decades
.. Moreover, for Germans, a good work-life balance does not involve unlimited massages and free meals on the corporate campus to encourage 90-hour weeks. Germans not only work 35 hours a week on average—they’re the kind of people who might decide to commute by swimming, simply because it brings them joy.
.. And a German wouldn’t be caught tot pounding down a bar or a glass of Soylent to replace a meal
.. just as Christian Lindner is obsessed with making money and driving sports cars, so have Germans been obsessed with making fun of Christian Lindner because they find his thirst for financial success so gauche.
The Trump administration is certainly giving us an education in the varieties of wannabe manliness.
- There is the slovenly “I don’t care what you think” manliness of Steve Bannon.
- There’s the look-at-me-I-can-curse manliness that Anthony Scaramucci learned from “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
- There is the affirmation-hungry “I long to be the man my father was” parody of manliness performed by Donald Trump.
- There are all those authentically manly Marine generals Trump hires to supplement his own.
- There’s Trump’s man-crush on Vladimir Putin and the firing of insufficiently manly Reince Priebus.
With this crowd, it’s man-craving all the way down.
.. example, 2,400 years ago the Greeks had a more fully developed vision of manliness than anything we see in or around the White House today.
.. For them, real men defended or served their city, or performed some noble public service. Braying after money was the opposite of manliness. For the Greeks, that was just avariciousness, an activity that shrunk you down into a people-pleasing marketer or hollowed you out because you pursued hollow things.
The Greeks admired what you might call spiritedness. The spirited man defies death in battle, performs deeds of honor and is respected by those whose esteem is worth having.
.. The classical Greek concept of manliness emphasizes certain traits. The bedrock virtue is courage. The manly man puts himself on the line and risks death and criticism. The manly man is assertive. He does not hang back but instead wades into any fray. The manly man is competitive. He looks for ways to compete with others, to demonstrate his prowess and to be the best. The manly man is self-confident. He knows his own worth. But he is also touchy. He is outraged if others do not grant him the honor that is his due.
.. That version of manliness gave Greece its dynamism. But the Greeks came to understand the problem with manly men. They are hard to live with. They are constantly picking fights and engaging in peacock displays... So the Greeks took manliness to the next level. On top of the honor code, they gave us the concept of magnanimity. Pericles is the perfect magnanimous man (and in America, George Washington and George Marshall were his heirs). The magnanimous leader possesses all the spirited traits described above, but he uses his traits not just to puff himself up, but to create a just political order... The magnanimous man has a certain style. He is a bit aloof, marked more by gravitas than familiarity. He shows perfect self-control because he has mastered his passions. He does not show his vulnerability. His relationships are not reciprocal. He is eager to grant favors but is ashamed of receiving them... The magnanimous man believes that politics practiced well is the noblest of all professions. No other arena requires as much wisdom, tenacity, foresight and empathy. No other field places such stress on conversation and persuasion. The English word “idiot” comes from the ancient Greek word for the person who is uninterested in politics but capable only of running his or her own private affairs... Today, we’re in a crisis of masculinity. Some men are unable to compete in schools and in labor markets because the stereotype of what is considered “man’s work” is so narrow. In the White House, we have phony manliness run amok... Of all the politicians I’ve covered, John McCain comes closest to the old magnanimous ideal. Last week, when he went to the Senate and flipped his thumb down on the pretzeled-up health care bill, we saw one version of manliness trumping another. When John Kelly elbowed out Anthony Scaramucci, one version of manliness replaced another.
The old virtues aren’t totally lost. So there’s hope.