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This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live What constitutes justifiable warfare—and how should the overall impact of conflicts be evaluated? With the United States being so closely associated with Israel’s war, is it possible to still envision America as a “force for good” in the world? One of America’s leading leftist intellectuals, Samuel Moyn, joins us to debate these questions and much more. Sam is the Chancellor Kent Professor of History at Yale University and the author of Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War and most recently Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times. Amid the ongoing war in Gaza, the conversation dives into the potential for humane wars and whether progress, even in war, is possible. While Sam acknowledges that the conduct of war has become more “targeted” and “proportional,” he argues that relatively more humane wars can distract us from more ultimate questions of whether wars are just or moral in the first place. The questions at hand sharply divide Sam, and in this charged conversation. In the post-9/11 era, the U.S. has pioneered a new way of waging war, with lawyers present at various levels of military decisions. But what has resulted is a world where wars are endless in part because they are less lethal. Is this “progress” or is it something more sinister? In the full episode (for paying subscribers only), the three clash over moral warfare in the real world, including whether American hegemony has prevented large-scale conflicts and can continue to do so, including between China and Taiwan. Has American dominance been good for the world, on balance? Yes, less people die and there may be less major wars, but Sam argues that this is an unacceptably minimalist standard for judging progress. What, then, is the alternative? The conversation ends with Sam’s optimistic vision for a narrative of progress that focuses on pivoting the U.S. in a leftward direction that avoids repeating the mistakes of an overly interventionist era. Required Reading: * Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, by Samuel Moyn (Amazon). * Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times, by Samuel Moyn (Amazon). * Black Snow: Curtis LeMay, the Firebombing of Tokyo, and the Road to the Atomic Bomb, by James M. Scott (Amazon). * The Hamid-Moyn cage match on whether America is a force for good in the world, hosted by Intelligence Squared (YouTube). * “The Moral Dilemmas of Total War,” by Tom Barson (Wisdom of Crowds). Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live Why do Americans struggle so much to understand Palestinians? A former advisor to the Palestinian leadership and a participant in the doomed 2008 Annapolis peace talks, Khaled Elgindy has written arguably the definitive account of America’s blind spot. In Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians, from Balfour to Trump, Khaled chronicles how time and time again the U.S. has failed to see the Palestinians as actors in their own right. But beyond the specifics of policy, there is a question of humanity—specifically, the seeming inability or unwillingness of American politicians to extend any genuine consideration towards Palestinians’ suffering. The White House’s empathy gap has surprised even Khaled. He traces this back to an affinity for Israel’s Western liberal values but also the various and entrenched mythologies that obscure the dispossession of Palestinians. Khaled, Damir, and Shadi clash over whether Cold War geopolitics is what drove America to deprioritize the ethical considerations of Palestinians and whether Israeli consensus sees a distinction between Hamas and Palestinians broadly. In the full episode (for paying subscribers only), the three debate how much blame Hamas deserves for provoking a war whose burden ordinary Palestinians would have to bear. What was Hamas thinking—and when the fighting stops, will Palestinians direct their anger towards Hamas and other militants? Is it possible to envision a future scenario where Hamas, now chastened by its first total war with Israel, fully commits to politics and eschews armed struggle? Finally, the three discuss whether it’s reasonable to expect Israeli officials to care about Palestinian suffering. This is the reality of states, particularly after the other side has been dehumanized: they simply don’t care. Why should Israel care? This leads into a sobering consideration of nightmare scenarios in which tens of thousands of Palestinians may die, including from the “slow death” of hunger and disease. Require Reading: * Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians, from Balfour to Trump by Khaled Elgindy (Amazon). * “A cease-fire in Gaza isn’t a fantasy. Here’s how it could work.” by Shadi Hamid (The Washington Post). * “Thinking About Peace” by Damir Marusic. (Wisdom of Crowds). * Khaled’s Twitter page. Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live After nearly a month of being consumed by the Israel-Hamas war, and take a step back to evaluate the prospects of an end to the violence, while still probing their own priors. Damir argues that “moral clarity” is often anything but clarifying, but concedes that “realism” can be self-defeating, because people can’t help but think in both emotional and moral terms during a conflict like this. Meanwhile, Shadi opens up about his inner struggles reconciling his sympathy for the plight of Palestinians and his role as an analyst called on to come up with meaningful solutions to intractable problems. The conversation turns to rifts opening up at home. Support for President Biden among Arab Americans has plummeted, and a generational divide is also becoming apparent. But has youth activism on the Palestinian question actually succeeded in shifting U.S. policy and attitudes towards the conflict more broadly? In the full episode (for paying subscribers only) Shadi and Damir discuss their experiences in Israel. As early as 2019 (when both of them last visited), even the left-wingers in Israel sounded pretty right-wing. What will this war mean for the future of Israeli politics? Are Israeli and American interests aligned in any meaningful sense? And is “democracy vs. autocracy” really the best framework for thinking about the world? Required Reading: * “Ceasefire, Plans and Activism” by Shadi Hamid (Wisdom of Crowds). * “Hamas’ Bid for Revolutionary Legitimacy” by Damir Marusic (Wisdom of Crowds). * “Is ISIS rational?” by Shadi Hamid (The Atlantic). * Our previous podcast episode, “The End of the World As We Know It”, with Robert Nicholson. * “Israel’s two wars” by Matt Yglesias (Slow Boring). * “Dick Durbin first U.S. senator to call for Gaza ceasefire, tied to Hamas' release of hostages” (CBS News). * Zack Beauchamp’s tweet about Hamas spokesman’s crappy propaganda. * American attitudes on support for Israel (Matt Yglesias on Twitter). * Americans blaming Hamas for Palestinian casualties (Aaron Astor on Twitter). * Quinnipiac poll of registered voters on sending weapons to Israel. * Data For Progress poll on likely voters support for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. * Zogby-Arab American Institute poll, including declining favorability of Biden among Arab Americans. Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live In a charged and often emotional conversation, and welcome Robert Nicholson, the president of the Philos Project, to discuss the pro-Israel perspective as the war in Gaza intensifies. Many Israeli voices have veered sharply to the right. However much we may disagree with these views, we have to understand them. Robert, a Christian and self-described Zionist, expresses empathy for the Israeli perception of an existential threat next door. Hamas’ attacks have undermined, perhaps fatally, any hope that Israelis might have had that peaceful co-existence is possible not just with Palestinians but with Arabs more broadly. The three consider alternative scenarios, including a reoccupation of Gaza or a policy of complete and total separation. In the United States, meanwhile, Arab Americans are reacting with despair at President Biden’s stalwart support of Israel. Shadi finds himself in the unenviable position of writing a book subtitled “The Case for American Dominance.” If this is what American dominance looks like, Shadi wonders, can he really support it? And how is he supposed to make the case to Arabs and Muslims that America is, on balance, a force for good? In the full episode (for paying subscribers only), Shadi, Damir and Robert delve into tricky territory, debating whether “Islamic exceptionalism” makes it difficult for Muslims to ever really accept a U.S.-led order and to ever accept a world in which Israel is as powerful as it is. Were the religious passions that are now being unleashed across the Arab world inevitable—or could they have been tamed and contained by democracy? Damir and Robert argue that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t really about Israel or Palestine but is a proxy for a deeper set of religious, cultural, and civilizational fault lines. In this sense, there may be no way out and no room for compromise. And Arabs and Muslims—as well as much of the Global South—may feel compelled to choose between two drastically different visions of world order: one led by the United States and the other led by America’s growing list of adversaries. There is, as they say, no alternative. Required Reading: * “The Death of the Two-State Solution,” by Damir Marusic (The American Interest). * “Eight Steps to Shrink the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” by Micah Goodman (The Atlantic). * “Support for Mass Protest on the Rise in Gaza and the West Bank,” by Catherine Cleveland (The Washington Institute for Near-East Policy). * Public Opinion Poll Number 89 (The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research). * Islamic Exceptionalism, by Shadi Hamid (Amazon). * ‘I Have No Pain Left to Feel,’ by Shadi Hamid (Substack). * Our first episode after Hamas’ attacks in Israel, a classic Damir and Shadi conversation. * Our conversation with on Israel, Hamas, and why nonviolence failed. Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live Two weeks after Hamas’s brutal attack on Israeli civilians, tensions have skyrocketed as Israel begins an offensive against Gaza from the air and the ground as the area home to over a half million Palestinians is plunged into darkness. What could have been done to avoid this renewed war and what are the best possible paths toward ending violence? This week, and invite on to discuss. Peter writes at his Substack, and is editor-at-large of Jewish Currents as well as professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York. Peter emphasizes the importance of viewing the conflict in its historical context, one that includes severe violence on either side of the border. After Hamas’ brutal massacre of Israeli civilians and now Israel’s siege and bombardment of Gaza, how can we speak with moral clarity and consistency about the many lives that have been lost? Hamas is a terrorist group, but that’s all the more reason to try to understand how and why the group has changed since it won the 2006 Palestinian elections. Were opportunities to tame the organization missed? Why did Netanyahu prefer Hamas’ rule over Gaza? As Peter and Shadi note, Israel undermined repeated attempts at Palestinian unity that would have brought the Palestinian Authority back to Gaza with Hamas stepping down from governing responsibilities. Was Hamas’ radicalization inevitable? Why does terrorism happen? Regardless, it’s too late now. After what Hamas has done, there is no going back. Which raises the question: is there any way to move forward? What does a post-Hamas Gaza look like, especially now that Hamas appears to be gaining popularity in the West Bank? All of these questions can only be answered by addressing the question of violence head on. Why do some revolutionary movements turn to brutality while others counsel a principled resistance that takes pains to spare civilians? In the full episode (for paying subscribers only), the three discuss the Biden administration’s approach to the Middle East policy and the role of the media in framing the war. They find historical parallels to the conflict, including the ANC in South Africa after Apartheid. Shadi asks whether it’s possible for the U.S. and the international community to “incentivize” nonviolent resistance, while Peter underscores the role of Arab citizens of Israel as potential mediators for a longer-term solution. Required Reading: * “On Addressing Jews,” by Peter Beinart (Jewish Currents). * “There is a Jewish Hope for Palestinian Liberation. It Must Survive,” by Peter Beinart (New York Times). * “West Bank Protests Spread Over Gaza War,” by Miriam Berger (Washington Post). * Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance, by Tareq Baconi (Amazon). * The 2017 Hamas charter. * The 1988 Hamas charter. Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live After Hamas fighters massacred hundreds of Israeli civilians, Israel is now massed on Gaza’s borders ahead of an operation that will likely devastate the Palestinian population. This week, and sit down and unpack their complex thoughts and feelings about what is going on. What is the appropriate way to speak about atrocities after the fact? In the imm…
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live What are the most valuable parts of our transient lives and how does our appraisal of them change as we age? This week, and take a step back from larger questions around current events to visit a recurring theme at Wisdom of Crowds around meaning. The episode centers around Damir’s recent Monday Note, “A Lost Sense of Wonder”, where he reflects on the pursuit of enchantment including in close relationships but also after witnessing a wondrous meteor shower in the Shenandoah Valley. The guys discuss how to think about the failure to recreate precious memories just as people they know move away and cities they remember visiting change. Should we feel melancholy in our nostalgia or continue finding comfort in the things that bring us happiness now? Meanwhile, Shadi dwells on judgement in the afterlife. He observes how the relationships that make life valuable are not enough for some, including those at ease with their own mortality — a disposition to which Shadi cannot quite relate. In the full episode (for paying subscribers only) the two discuss the balance between pursuing virtue for potential rewards in the afterlife and doing right by people in the present. Shadi, a believer, admits to genuine fear about what happens after death. After all, if there is a heaven, there is also a hell. Damir, a non-believer, places more emphasis on finding purpose in oneself rather than adhering to otherworldly incentives. Is a balance between these two paths possible? Subscribe to the listen to the full episode. Required Reading: * “A Lost Sense of Wonder”, by Damir Marusic (Wisdom of Crowds). * “The Virtue Politics of Mitt Romney” (Wisdom of Crowds). * “The Watusi bull riding shotgun is what makes America great” by David Von Drehle (TheWashington Post). * “This Really Is Europe” with Ben Judah, podcast episode (Wisdom of Crowds). * “An Extremely Online Existence” podcast episode (Wisdom of Crowds). * Shadi’s conversation with Sam Harris about meditation and being Muslim on Sam’s podcast, Waking Up. Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live As the leaders of the major political parties show stark signs of advanced age, their supporters are bending over backwards to defend their own while criticizing their opponents. Politics at its purest. This week, Shadi and Damir return from summer break to dive into the latest developments in D.C. as the next election looms. They discuss the self-interest and rank hypocrisy of the Republican Party conveyed in a new, fascinating profile of Senator Mitt Romney. Is the GOP irredeemable? The conversation heats up as the guys arrive at the intersection of hypocrisy, politics, and morality. Damir the cynic questions whether Romney’s pieties are all that impressive. Shadi, the moralist, lauds Romney as an exemplar of virtue politics—inextricably linked to Romney’s Mormon faith. Hypocrisy, Shadi argues, entails rather than negates morality. But of course there is such a thing as too much hypocrisy. Where to draw the line? In the full episode (for paying subscribers only) Shadi and Damir grapple with how events shaped by establishment politicians dating back to the nineties ought to be viewed today. The guys discuss how fear of worst-case political outcomes scrambles an adherence to one’s moral and political beliefs. Damir argues that while he sympathizes with anti-Trump Republicans like Romney, their moral posturing doesn’t resolve fraught political questions. Shadi expresses concerns about the situation Democrats find themselves. In their obsession with avoiding a Trump victory, they may be making the the very outcome they fear more likely. Required Reading: * “We Need to Talk About Biden,” by Derek Hudson (Wisdom of Crowds). * “What Mitt Romney Saw in the Senate,” by McKay Coppins (The Atlantic). * “President Biden should not run again in 2024,” by David Ignatius (The Washington Post). * “Democrats are crazy to insist only Biden can beat Trump,” by David Von Drehle (The Washington Post). * "Is ‘Peak Woke’ Behind Us or Ahead?’ by Ross Douthat (The New York Times). * “Mitt Romney Has Given Us A Gift” by David Brooks (The New York Times). * CNN polling showing Trump remaining competitive against Biden. * Political Hypocrisy by David Runciman. * Hypocrisy and Integrity by Ruth Grant. * “Better Man” by Pearl Jam. Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live This week, we’re pulling one of our favorite and most explosive episodes from the archive. This one, from May 2022, with socialist intellectual on the role of America on the world stage. We encourage all of you, especially our newest Substack subscribers, to have a listen and tell us what they think in the comments. And if you aren’t yet a subscriber, …
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live Capitalism is a revolutionary force. It is not conservative. So why have conservatives gone along with market fundamentalism for so long? Sohrab Ahmari, a convert to Catholicism, has been known as a culture warrior. This time he returns to the podcast to make a surprising argument. Ahmari, the founder and editor of Compact magazine, argues in his new book Tyranny, Inc., that it’s the economy, stupid. Private power is imposing its own tyranny through tools of economic coercion that exploit workers. It’s time to redirect attention from the hysteria over “wokeness” and toward establishing social democratic protections in America. That’s a view ubiquitous on the left, but a similar case is being made on the populist right. Sohrab, Shadi, and Damir debate America’s economic order, its social contract, and whether the cruelty is the point. Embracing the label “pro-life New Dealer,” Sohrab laments the right’s obsession with the culture wars and argues that conservatives are losing sight of glaring problems in the economy. The three also delve into how an emboldened state may collide with Sohrab’s socially and culturally conservative values. In the full episode (for paying subscribers only), Shadi, Damir, and Sohrab discuss whether the United States needs to stay “cruel” in order to remain the world’s economic leader. If politics is about tradeoffs, is this the one that Americans have to accept? They cover the GOP’s economic stance and what Sohrab sees as the incongruity between the party’s culturally conservative and pro-market positions. Conservatives appreciate the need for constraints on freedom when it comes to culture and morality. Why are they so resistant to constraints on economic freedom then? Finally the three consider to what extent Protestants and Catholics diverge on key questions of social and economic justice—and whether Republican Senators like J.D. Vance, Marco Rubio, and Josh Hawley can succeed in ushering in pro-labor policies. Required Reading: * Tyranny, Inc.: How Private Power Crushed American Liberty--and What to Do About It, by Sohrab Ahmari (Amazon). * Compact Magazine, where Sohrab is founder and editor. * Sohrab’s first appearance on Wisdom of Crowds. * The meme Damir referenced about why America doesn't have universal health care. * “On Conservatism and Capitalism,” by Damir Marusic (America’s Future). * The Great Transformation, by Karl Polanyi (Amazon). * The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America 1815-1846, by Charles Sellers (Amazon). * Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, by Kristin Kobes Du Mez (Amazon). * Abraham Lincoln’s speech at the Wisconsin State Fair. * Of Boys and Men, by Richard Reeves (Amazon). Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live We’re living in the most prosperous time in human history with more material abundance and comfort — and yet something just feels… off. This week, and take a trip to the heartland to find out what that something is. In this special live recording from the Lyceum Movement’s Tallgrass Ideas Festival in Iowa, Shadi and Sam join political theorist Susan Laehn to grapple with whether a sense of meaning precedes or succeeds happiness. With the live audience jumping in with comments and questions, the three delve into the balance between personal desires and finding collective meaning in a society. Then there is the question of whether freedom, to be truly “free,” requires constraint. On this there may be some differences. In the full episode (for paying subscribers only), Shadi, Sam, and Susan take on the increasingly challenging question of how to balance individuality and community. There are dangers of going too far in the latter direction. As one audience member challenges the panel, many have fled societies because there was too much communal feeling. And then the Crowd finishes with a conversation about the role of love. It might sound corny, but trust us—it’s not. How can there be meaning without love? And is it possible to have a deeper love—with the unconditional forgiveness that that sometimes calls for without God. Required Reading: * Welcoming the Other: Student, Stranger and Divine, by Susan Laehn (Amazon). * “A Radically Condensed History of Post Industrial Life,” by David Foster Wallace. * Escape from Freedom, by Erich Fromm (Amazon). * Friendship as Sacred Knowing: Overcoming Isolation, by Sam Kimbriel (Amazon). * More about the Lyceum Movement. Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live At a time of disruption in the workforce, rapidly shifting gender norms, a dearth of role models and declines in mental health, men are facing a distinct set of challenges that are prompting a renewed understanding of masculinity. For the last few years, viral right-of-center personalities have dominated the conversation offering men guidance that much of mainstream media has viewed as radioactive. But as the challenges men face become more apparent, others are recognizing the issue at hand isn’t just a right-wing conspiracy. This week’s guest is our very own who recently wrote a brilliant long-form essay in The Washington Post, “Men are lost. Here’s a map out of the wilderness”. Christine scrutinizes both the provocative influencers on masculinity as well as mainstream commentators who’ve denied the problem exists, all while asking what a healthier masculinity looks like that isn’t simply femininity. The conversation with and dives into how the decline of religion along with social and economic dislocation have impeded relationship-building. Can a softer masculinity emerge and thrive, or is it simply incompatible in a vigorously competitive world? And what do the world’s societies risk by leaving men to the wilderness? In the full episode (for paying subscribers only) the three wade into a conversation around how the aspects of masculinity and religion interplay with fascism as they explore variants represented in religious figures including Jesus, King David and the Prophet Muhammad. They also discuss how periods of wartime have shaped men’s sense of purpose. Required Reading: * “Men are lost. Here’s a map out of the wilderness,” by Christine Emba (The Washington Post). * “The Ideal Man Exists,” by Christine Emba. (Wisdom of Crowds). * Our epic episode with the pseudonymous writer * Rethinking Sex: A Provocation, by Christine Emba (Amazon). * “What if We’re the Bad Guys?” by David Brooks (The New York Times). * Of Boys and Men, by Richard V. Reeves (Amazon). * War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges (Amazon). * An interview with author Beverly Gage on her book, G-Man, about J. Edgar Hoover (Reason). Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live Are Muslim communities increasingly tilting to the right? After about two decades of being alienated by Republicans, American Muslims continue to align themselves with the Democratic Party. But as the country polarizes and the progressive agenda makes gains, writers like our guest find it increasingly untenable for Muslims to continue nodding along with the left’s conceptions of gender identity, sexuality, and secularism. This week, and talked to , a pseudonymous writer who wrote a fiery provocation in The American Mind titled “Meet Your New Allies”, where he makes the case for why Muslims should align themselves with the right to counter the left’s excesses. This is a provocative and wide-ranging conversation that really gets at how deep difference and philosophical disagreements are difficult to reconcile. You won’t want to miss this one. The three discuss Dragoman’s decision to remain anonymous, whether he considers himself a reactionary, his appeal to the dissident right-wing, and his plans to leave the United States to raise his children. As a believing Muslim himself, Shadi challenges Dragoman to articulate the threat to Western civilization posed by the left and the implications of aligning with the Trump wing of the GOP. In the full episode (for paying subscribers only) Shadi and Dragoman diverge on the role of Islam and democracy in shaping a moral society. It gets heated, leading to one of the more charged exchanges in recent WoC history. They also delve into the influence of Western academia on Muslim thought and the Anglo world’s limitations in understanding non-Western perspectives. The conversation concludes with a reflection on the generational differences among Muslims. To listen to the full episode, subscribe here. Required Reading: * “Meet Your New Allies,” by Dragoman (The American Mind). * Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World, by Shadi Hamid (Amazon). * “Subversive with Alex Kaschuta” (Apple Podcasts). * “Muslims vs. Democrats: A Story of Betrayal,” by Shadi Hamid (Wall Street Journal) * The Liberal Archipelago: A Theory of Diversity and Freedom, by Chandran Kukathas (Amazon). * “Navigating Differences: Clarifying Sexual and Gender Ethics in Islam,” the statement signed by dozens of American Muslim scholars and imams. Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live Does the United States Supreme Court’s legitimacy hang in the balance — or is it itself the balance keeping the union centered? After handing down blockbuster decisions this term on gerrymandering, executive authority and affirmative action, the highest court in the land is facing fierce criticism from progressives in the media and in elected office. This week, we welcomed Washington Post columnist back on the podcast to help us unpack it all. Jason discusses how the Court’s decision to outlaw affirmative action in higher education was straightforward and popular. But after the Court’s unpopular decision last year striking down a constitutional right to an abortion, the grounds for accepting the high court’s rulings based on popularity appears to be all but dependent on whether one finds any given outcome favorable. questions the coherence of liberal arguments when it comes to popular decisions that go against the left’s expectations. Meanwhile, makes the case that despite it being undeniable the Court operates with political considerations, pretense is a critical aspect to the institution’s survival. In the full episode (for paying subscribers only) Shadi raises concerns about the perception of the Court’s legitimacy among Democrats. After threats against the justices and warnings from Democratic lawmakers, the three discuss scenarios that could provoke efforts to stack the deck. The conversation winds down as the guys acknowledge that when it comes down to it, the law is not neutral; it is political. Wisdom of Crowds is a reader-supported publication. To support our work and receive the latest, please subscribe. Required Reading: * “Sorry, Democrats, there is no Supreme Court ‘legitimacy’ crisis,” by Jason Willick (Washington Post). * “How John Roberts is outmaneuvering his critics,” by Jason Willick (Washington Post). * “This is the most mischaracterized Supreme Court case in recent history,” by Jason Willick (Washington Post). * “The Supreme Court will increasingly control U.S. elections,” by Jason Willick (Washington Post). * “Trump’s Justices Didn’t Doom Affirmative Action. Demography Did.” by Christopher Caldwell (New York Times). * “What’s Behind the Conservative Rift on the Supreme Court,” by Sarah Isgur (Politico). * Jason’s interview with sociologist Nathan Glazer (Wall Street Journal). * Inventing the People, by Edmund Morgan (Amazon). Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
Shadi, Christine, and Sam head to Aspen to record a live episode of the show. The crowd gets involved. The broad topic of the conversation was decline. We don’t always know how to express it, but many of us feel it: There’s something wrong with America today. The mood is tense. More Americans say they won’t have children because of climate change and other future catastrophes. But are things really as bad as they seem? Is decline something we need to accept—or is there a case for a new optimism? You won’t want to miss this one. Required Reading: * Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets, by Svetlana Alexievich (Amazon). * Rethinking Sex: A Provocation, by Christine Emba (Amazon). * Friendship as Sacred Knowing: Overcoming Isolation, by Samuel Kimbriel (Amazon). * “Five Ancient Secrets to Modern Happiness”, lecture by Tamar Gendler (YouTube). This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit wisdomofcrowds.live/subscribe
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live There is the Europe of politics. There is the Europe of ideas. But there is also the Europe of actual people, who live, love, die, and dream. How they live and how they hope is shaped by mass migration, climate change, the war in Ukraine, and any number of other disruptions. Who are they and what do their lives actually look like? This week, British journalist Ben Judah talks to and about his outstanding new book This Is Europe, a work of heartfelt and immersive storytelling about individuals amidst the forces reshaping the continent’s landscape. Ben eschewed coverage of superficial political debates and dedicated the book to tell 23 gripping stories of ordinary people — an ex-Muslim porn actor, a Romanian truck driver, a refugee olive production line worker — embedded in this new European life. In addition to relaying parts of these narratives, Ben discusses the unique approach he took, including removing himself from the frame and closely collaborating with subjects to add depth to their stories. Instead of asking them what they thought, Ben chose to ask them “how did this make you feel?” Interestingly, few of them seem to have any distinct politics or ideology, something which seems to especially intrigue Shadi. In the full episode (for paying subscribers only) the three discuss Islam’s growing footprint on a largely secular but still superstitious Europe. Ben also discusses the increasingly blurred cultural lines between Europe, Africa and Asia as well. The conversation winds down with Ben explaining the absence of Jewish stories from the book and the three circling back to a fundamental question: How do we live? Subscribers will also receive the full video of the conversation, available below. Wisdom of Crowds is a reader-supported publication. To support our work and receive the latest, please subscribe. Required Reading: * This Is Europe: The Way We Live Now, by Ben Judah (Pan Macmillan). * This Is London: Life and Death in the World City, by Ben Judah (Amazon). * The Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio (Amazon). Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live How important are ideological labels and how might they change over the next generation? A lot is on the minds of and this week as the two go on a winding discussion about political identity and ideological shifts amid a tribalistic political culture. The guys discussed the rarity of prominent figures publicly changing their political identity and the friction among Americans in mixed ideology relationships. Having never felt confined by labels, Damir questions Shadi’s preoccupation with belonging to a “team” as Shadi ponders whether he should prioritize perceptions of his political identity, including as a critic of woke orthodoxy. Are we on the cusp of another Cold War era-like realignment? In the full episode (for paying subscribers only) the conversation pivots to declining fertility rates in the United States and the role of immigration in staving off population decline in America and other emerging economies. Damir pushes back against Shadi’s claim implying that something inherent about autocratic regimes make them more distinctly restrictive of immigration compared to democracies. The debate concludes with Damir positing that a coming ideological shift could prompt Shadi to become an apologist for colonialism. Required Reading: Zia Haider Rahman’s tweet about Shadi’s supposed existential crisis (Haider Rahman is also the author of Shadi’s 2nd favorite novel of the 21st century). “Millennials Just Keep Voting,” by David Leonhardt (New York Times). “The greatest threat to democracy isn’t what Republicans or Democrats think,” by Jason Willick (Washington Post). “A Note About Polarization,” from ’s terrific Substack. “Lower fertility rates are the new cultural norm,” by Charles Lane (Washington Post). “The Unstoppability of Mass Migration,” from ’s Weekly Dish. America at the Crossroads: Democracy Power and the Neoconservative Legacy, by Francis Fukuyama (Amazon). Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire, by Niall Ferguson (Amazon). Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live Why is therapy replacing God on dating apps? If bad things happen, were they “meant to be”? When we say that everything happens for a reason, what do we even mean? This week, Shadi and Damir are back on the podcast together with close friend and guest to discuss her stunning new essay, “Do Liberals Have a God Problem?” Recently, Rachel noted a striking contrast on dating apps: men who openly state their involvement in therapy and the dearth of those professing religious faith. This opens up one of the most personal and searching episodes in WoC history. The three delve into free will, sin, and why spiritual alternatives like therapy and “self-care” are, perhaps insufficiently, supplanting belief in God. Rachel draws on her upbringing in Utah as a non-Mormon among Mormons and as a professional struggling for personal fulfillment in Washington’s environment of brute ambition. In the full episode (for paying subscribers only) the conversation turns to how a distinctly American emphasis on “freedom” creates a series of dilemmas for young Americans searching for meaning and structure. They also debate the influence of generous welfare states on religious identity and how Rachel’s essay may contrast with the experience of a European. And a very special bonus that you won’t want to miss: how easy (or hard) is it to convert to Islam, according to Shadi Hamid? Required Reading: * “Do Liberals Have A God Problem?” by Rachel Rizzo (Wisdom of Crowds). * “Among the Believers” by Rachel Rizzo (Wisdom of Crowds). * Religiosity in Europe from ‘s Substack. * Eric Clapton’s “The Presence of the Lord”. Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live As organized religion declines, particularly among younger Americans, a constellation of spiritual and sense-making phenomena appear to be taking its place. This week, and Editor-at-Large are joined by the author whose upcoming book Self-Made: Creating Our Identities from Da Vinci to the Kardashians, chronicles how our sense of self has evolved over time alongside political, religious and societal change. Damir and Christine interrogate Tara’s argument that in adhering excessively to individualism, a principle with deep roots in both liberal and Christian traditions, an imbalance has neglected the importance of integrating self-desire, direct contact and communal ties to find meaning. As a result, a renaissance of alternatives to traditional faith — from fitness and astrology to post-rationalism and cosmic vibes — have culminated into a crisis of spirituality. In the full episode (for paying subscribers only), Christine, Damir and Tara discuss the necessity of defining progress, particularly among believers, and how these new belief systems are themselves indicative of “frivolity” and “decadence”. The three also contemplate the uniqueness of human beings and the potential for new versions of spirituality to emerge with greater technology advancement. Wisdom of Crowds is a reader-supported publication. To support our work and receive the latest, please subscribe. Required Reading: * Self-Made: Creating Our Identities from Da Vinci to the Kardashians, by Tara Isabella Burton (Amazon). * Strange Rites, by Tara Isabella Burton (Amazon). * “Rational Magic,” by Tara Isabella Burton (The New Atlantis). * “The Man Who Spends $2 Million a Year to Look 18 Is Swapping Blood With His Father and Son,” by Ashlee Vance (Bloomberg). * “On animate intelligence,” from Dhananjay Jagannathan’s Substack. * “An entire generation is losing hope. Enter the witch.” by Christine Emba (Washington Post). Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!
This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit wisdomofcrowds.live Are big ideas still possible? Are there any “new” ideas left—and what makes an idea new in the first place? If we need new ideas to shake ourselves out of decadence, we should be careful what we wish for. Wokeness is one such “comprehensive framework.” Others might prove similarly frightening. This week, Shadi is joined by New York Times columnist and author of The Decadent Society and the political philosopher . Recently, Sam wrote an essay “Thinking is Risky”, which was cited in Ross’s newsletter, calling on academics to be more intellectually courageous. Sam’s call to action relates to a recurring theme in Ross’s work — namely that society faces “decadent” stagnation (or worse, decay) on a number of fronts. To transcend modern mediocrity, the three discuss a path to renewal, but as Shadi argues, the risks of doing so are real. In the full episode (for paying subscribers only), the three discuss the extent a break from decadence can be achieved through religion. After all, if what makes an idea “big” is that it offers up a metaphysical/cosmic account of the universe, then cultural renewal may require religion. Anything less would be limiting and finite. Ross makes the case that religious belief is “obviously appropriate”, predicting that elites will eventually recognize its value. But is it enough for people to instrumentally appreciate the importance of religion, or must they believe themselves? Required Reading: * The Decadent Society, by Ross Douthat (Amazon). * “Thinking Is Risky,” by Samuel Kimbriel (Wisdom of Crowds). * “Why Journalists Have More Freedom Than Professors,” by Ross Douthat (New York Times). * Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, by William Deresiewicz (Amazon). * “At least it’s an ethos” from The Great Lebowski. * “Nude” lyrics, by Radiohead. Wisdom of Crowds is a platform challenging premises and understanding first principles on politics and culture. Join us!