Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hello everyone, and welcome to the 150th episode of the Atlas Society. Asks, my name is Jennifer Anju Grossman. My friends call me Jag. I'm the c e o of the Atlas Society. We are the leading nonprofit, introducing young people to the ideas of I Rand in fun, creative ways, including our graphic novels and animated videos. Today we are joined by Paul Johnson. Before I even begin to introduce our guest, I wanna remind all of you who are watching us on Zoom, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube. You can use the comment sections to type in your questions. Go ahead and get started, get in the queue, and we'll get to as many of them as we can. Our guest, Paul E. Johnson, is the c e o and co-founder of Redirect Health with a background in business, politics, and government becoming the youngest mayor of Phoenix, Arizona at 30 years old. He is the host of the Optimistic American Podcast. You'll see him there, uh, at his set. The podcast is aimed at helping its audience regain a sense of hope and agency by focusing on what's right in America. Most recently, he and his co-author, Dr. Emily Basia, published Addictive Ideologies, finding Meaning and Agency. When Politics Fail Fails, you, the book pushes back against the media and politicians who hype fear and negativity and challenges, all of us to explore ways in which we may ing unwittingly contribute to the hysteria. Paul, thanks for joining us.
Speaker 1 00:01:45 Thank you, Jennifer. I appreciate you having me on today.
Speaker 0 00:01:50 So the book, uh, addictive Ideologies, it relates Dr. Baha's, uh, origin story at Length, and it explores her family's tragic. And, uh, finally, redemptive history in mining examples, um, of the phenomena that, uh, of populations responding to loss and repression by identifying and oppressing scapegoats in turn. But, uh, I think our viewers would be pretty interested in, um, your origin story as well, uh, particularly as the story of how your father and uncle came to, um, Arizona as kids, and how their Li life experiences may have influenced you.
Speaker 1 00:02:36 Yeah, well, my, uh, my dad and his brother, their mom died when they were seven and 11 years old, and they hitchhiked out to Arizona. Uh, they started shining shoes in downtown Phoenix, and over time, they were picked up by a developer by the name of John F. Long who put him into a, a business. At the time, everybody was doing what they called plaster, and there was this brand new innovative product called drywall. And, uh, and he trained them to be drywallers. And, uh, over time, they actually, my dad literally, uh, learned how to do books and that type of thing at, at, uh, John f Long's table. Well, my dad, uh, my dad and his brother married my mom and her sister. They both bought houses on the same street. Uh, all, they both had nine children. We had 18 of us that kind of grew up together.
Speaker 1 00:03:24 And from the time I was 14, my job was to sit down and do my dad's books. I would, uh, have to do the ledger and walk through kind of the payroll and learn how to allocate things and different ledgers, and that would be what I'd do at night. And then during the day, he'd come home at usually like three o'clock. And if you weren't doing your homework, he'd pack you up into the truck and take you out to the job site. So, you know, we learned how to, uh, how to do hard work. We learned how to do business. We learned a love for a business. Uh, I remember my mom was Irish Catholic. And my, uh, whenever I would come home, I remember my dad had no institutional training, zero. He just not in a church, not in a synagogue, not in a a a classroom.
Speaker 1 00:04:06 He just was kind of left out of that. But I would come home from, uh, mass with my mom, and he'd say, so what those people tell you, and I'd tell 'em whatever lesson we had for the day. And he'd say, okay, now you remember this. He said, those are rules made by somebody else. They're for somebody else. You know, in your heart what's right. He said, do the right thing. And that was just his, it, this very, very simple logic, and it, it definitely spilled over on me. It was one that was very independent, very individualistic, uh, and one that had a firm believer in, in business and taking care of your family.
Speaker 0 00:04:40 Well, he also, uh, again, no formal schooling, uh, tragically lost his mother as a child and had to make his way, um, but also had kind of a benevolent code as well. I remember you're telling me the story once of, um, your, somebody coming to the door, one of your father's workers, and why don't you share that story?
Speaker 1 00:05:04 Number one lesson from my dad. Uh, so I was, I don't know, 13 or 14 years old. And this guy came to the door. He had drywall mud all over him. He was sweaty, muddy, dirty. Uh, I also knew his reputation. He'd been in jail in his past. So, uh, when he knocked on the door, he said, Hey, I, I wanted to talk to your dad. So I said, all right. So I closed the door and I went down the hall. I said, Hey, dad. I said, here's a guy at the door that wants to talk to you, Sam, what's his name? So my dad came out and he looked at me and said, why didn't you let him in? So I kinda shrugged my shoulders, and he went over, brought the guy in, he made me go get him a glass of iced tea.
Speaker 1 00:05:39 I remember that annoyed me at the time. But nonetheless, uh, when he was done and he left, he says, Hey, come here for a second. He said, what, what's the deal? He said, it's hot outside. He said, why'd you leave him outside? Why didn't you get him a glass of iced tea and, and bring him in and let him have a seat? And I said, dad, that guy was filthy. He was dirty. He, you know, he is been in trouble. I go, what? Why do you wanna let him in your house? And he said, uh, son, he said, you gotta listen to me on this. He said, if there's somebody south of you and there must be somebody north of you, there's nobody north, nobody south, just east and west at different levels at the horizon. Uh, that lesson is one that I've had to remind myself of a few times in life, but it is far and away the most important one that I learned.
Speaker 1 00:06:27 And, and that's part of why I fell in love with Anne, ran, right, that the whole thought that everyone is an individual, that it's not enough to believe that you are an individual, and that you have the right and the freedoms to be able to do what you want, but you also have to grant that to other people. Now, I find found that to be challenging, especially when it came to my kids and when it came to, you know, the, uh, the sometimes employees, but it, it's the most important lesson is to grant them those same rights that you would expect.
Speaker 0 00:06:58 Now, um, a lot of our guests have interesting ein Rand origin stories in terms of how they discovered, uh, her literature. But, um, yours is, uh, particularly interesting. So, um, perhaps you'll share that with us.
Speaker 1 00:07:14 Well, I, I've had a few different, um, encounters with Anne Rond. I first read, uh, her books. I think I was in eighth grade or, or freshman year in high school. And, and I enjoyed them. But, uh, when I became mayor, uh, the city was going into an economic recession. And, um, I remember going around trying to talk to people. Uh, I just, I just be like trying to figure out what it was that we needed to do. And of course, I was thinking of all the different things that government might be able to do to fix the problem. You may not be old enough, but back then it was the savings of loan crisis. The savings and loan crisis had caused the F D I C to come in and, and accumulate properties into the F D I C. And they were trying to figure out what to do with them.
Speaker 1 00:07:57 And so you had all these property owners that had been wiped out, markets that had been wiped out. A friend of mine who, uh, actually is a, uh, has tons of Russian art, um, met with me and he said, well, he said, I'll meet with you, but not unless you read this book. And I said, well, I, I've read it. He goes, read it again. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it was Atla shrug. Um, and I, I remember just that whole thought of, um, you know, of how all the great things that happened in our society happen because of individuals. It happens because of personal investment. It happens because of, of what we do as an individual to create or to innovate. And almost all the bad things that have happened in societies have happened because of the opposite, the horrors and the, you know, you talked about my partner a moment ago.
Speaker 1 00:08:44 It always happens because of some authoritarian government that takes those rights away, that takes away dignity from people. And what it, the effect that it had on me as mayor, was to go back to the basics that solving the problem. It wasn't about government stepping in and solving it. It was about how do you empower the private sector to do it for themselves? Don't raise taxes, because now that there's lo a lower tax base, government has a higher need. Lower taxes, reduce regulations, find a way to help people become, uh, excited about where they are and what it is that they have a chance to do. If you can ignite that human spirit, it, it, it's, it's the single greatest thing that you can do for your economy. And I, I would say, at least in that way, she played a significant role in my success because I, I was given a lot of credit for the recovery, although I'm not quite sure that really politicians have as much effect on improving economies as we think it was the people that were empowered. It was the people who could, uh, who could step back in. We, one of the things we did do is ask the F D I C to distribute back out the property to sell it, even if they sold it at a loss, which was a question mark then, but to get it back into private sector hands so that people could make investments in it and keep the property maintained, and start to find a way to make it profitable.
Speaker 0 00:10:08 So, uh, let's talk about your time in office at, uh, such a young age. Um, you ran for Phoenix City Council, uh, in 1985, at 25 years of age, shocked the political world, uh, in a race you weren't supposed to win. So tell us a bit about what inspired you to, to get into politics. Um, maybe it wasn't the path that your father had been expecting for you.
Speaker 1 00:10:37 Yeah, it was, um, you know, there were a variety of things that happened. In fact, one of the fun things that happened later on when I became mayor was, um, Barry Goldwater asked me that question. I was naming, uh, one of the new terminals after him that we were building. And so he came into my office and, uh, he was very popular at the time. He'd retired from the US Senate. But he asked me what had inspired me, and I told him a true story of where somewhere around fifth or sixth grade, he came out to speak to my school, he'd run for president. And I remembered him giving this speech and talking about he, he did speak about individualism and quite a few other things. And I said, but the thing that stood out to me, I told Barry this, I says, was watching you give that speech, you really weren't that good at giving a speech.
Speaker 1 00:11:19 And I thought, Hey, if this guy could run for a president, maybe I could do that one day, <laugh>. He, he looked at me dead serious, and he said, my dream was always to come back home after I retired from the Senate and run for mayor. I said, Barry, oh, wow, <laugh>. But in any event, that's a true story. He, uh, um, you know, there was a, a tremendous amount that I learned from it. I will tell you that what I learned in running, in a nonpartisan race for council was that I knocked on, I, you know, when you run in a nonpartisan race, you don't just knock on the partisan doors. You knock on everyone's doors. And, and I will lay out there that I was a Democrat at the time. I've changed party. I've given up any party registration, I'm an independent. But when you would knock on doors, you'd hear from Democrats concerns about social programs, meaning, you know, parks or the swimming pool, or things that they were concerned about their kids' pool.
Speaker 1 00:12:11 But you would hear from a lot of Republicans, especially business Republicans, the concern about regulations and rules and the constraints that government was putting on them. And sometimes the, the stresses that they had, the, the challenges of making a payroll and being able to make their their businesses work. It wasn't that difficult for me. And I don't know, maybe it was, uh, you know, maybe I was just trying to win the race, or, or maybe I was young and impressionable, but it wasn't hard for me to begin to see the linkages that existed between the two. That if we really want to have a society that gives us all the gifts, especially that this one has given us, that you have to have an economic engine that works. And government is not the economic engine. You know, it, the economic engine is, it's driven by the private sector.
Speaker 1 00:13:01 Now, government may tap into that engine and draw off resources to pay for police protection or fire protection, or the military, or whatever else it needs. But if you put too much friction on that engine, you stall it, it begins to have a negative effect on it. And you put friction on it through taxation and through regulation. So trying to ensure that that engine can turn is the only way that you end up having the money to make things work. And that linkage definitely helped me both as not only in winning my elections, but also in being able to operate the city in a way in which was efficient. And it worked, and it recognized, again, we weren't the economy, we just weren't. It was bigger than us
Speaker 0 00:13:45 One through line that I see throughout your early career and even, you know, in, in, uh, this book is a real curiosity and almost insatiable curiosity about knowing the perspective, learning the perspective, being able to see through the eyes of, uh, of others. And, um, probably has contributed to your su success as a, a businessman as well, because trying to figure out how to make win-win, um, solutions rather than you win at the expense of somebody else. Um, but as part of that curiosity, I read that as councilman, you personally committed to taking on, uh, a physical job for a day of each of the city departments, um, working in a sewer or laying asphalt in the summer, uh, suiting up with the police to raid a, uh, a gang stronghold. You must have some pretty interesting stories from that time.
Speaker 1 00:14:43 Um, I have some of the best stories from those times that you're, you're right. I, I was, uh, I was in a fla jacket running into a, a gang member's house with police officers during a, a drug bust. I've had a number of, of experiences, but the one that I liked the most was I went out, I went with every division of the city. Um, and when I, uh, one of the groups that I went out with was the group that worked in sewers, right? So we, we would go to these sewers and they'd spray this, this hose into the sewer and all four directions in the street, and it would bring all the sludge into the center. And literally you had to drop somebody down in the hole with a bucket and a little scooper, and you had to scoop out the stuff into the bucket and take it back out.
Speaker 1 00:15:27 So one of the young guys that was there said, well, and at this time I was married, said, if the mayor really wants to know what this job is like, he's gotta go down in the hole. The manager said, no, no, no, we can't do that. And I go, no, no, I'll, I'll do my part. So they hooked this harness up to me. It's got a crane. They dropped me down in, it's very dark. The walls look like they're moving, but I'm assuming that it's all the sludge that's been sprayed in. And I start to realize there's about an inch thick worth of cockroaches on those walls, right? And I said, guys, mm-hmm. <affirmative>, there's cockroaches down here, right? <laugh>, of course. I start laughing upstairs and I said, pull me out. And the young guy goes, we're not pulling him out. Deli scoops that stuff up.
Speaker 1 00:16:06 So I scooped it up and came out. But that story reverberated throughout the city. Here's the point, I guess I would give you. Um, look, I had to cut somewhere out of 14,000 employees. I, I cut 2000 during the time that I was there. Cuz you can't cut taxes. You, you have to balance your budget. In city governments, there's no no way to put that onto debt that has a negative effect on morale. Just does. Right? So the question becomes, how do you keep morale up? And this was my answer. The first one is, I never criticized our employees, never, even when we were doing cuts, I talked about people who cared about their jobs and that cared about the things that they were doing. The second one was to make certain that people recognize that the jobs that they were doing were really important.
Speaker 1 00:16:54 Look, that sludge is a terrible job, but if somebody doesn't do it, those sewers don't work. Somebody has to go out there and do the job that they're doing. And in my opinion, anytime you work, you're doing an honorable thing. You're not only taking care of your family, you're taking care of a customer of other people. I, I think, you know, we, we think about philanthropy and, and thank God we have philanthropy. I think it's an important thing. But I think that we sometimes make the mistake of not understanding that people who are in business or people who are providing jobs, they're providing a service also, and that service is sustainable because they get paid for it. That job needs to be done. Somebody has to do it. And you know, the, to me, even though there were much more dramatic stories that I could have given you, that was the one that mattered because it's the job that most people don't wanna think about and they certainly don't wanna have to do, but it's necessary.
Speaker 0 00:17:53 Well, speaking of necessary jobs, um, probably your time, um, grappling with budgets and seeing where, you know, the, uh, kind of runaway expenses were after leaving government, you studied healthcare and served on boards of hospitals and primary care outfits. And, uh, during which that time you had some revelations about what was making care so unaffordable. What did you learn and how did that lead you to start Redirect Health?
Speaker 1 00:18:26 So I did spend time on a hospital board. I spent time on a, a new company called the Next Care. And then I served in a family care practice. And, and really my interest was trying to understand why is healthcare such a problem? Um, I, I would start by telling you the following, um, and, and what I saw and what I witnessed. Um, I always found it interesting on the hospital board that we would hire new physicians. Yet we had numbers that showed us for every physician we hired, we lost somewhere near about $300,000 per physician. Found it. Interesting. That's a national statistic that when hospitals hire, physicians buy their businesses out, they lose money. How do they make it back? Uh, how much they charge you for aspirin, how, how many days they keep you in a bed day, what kind of referrals they're able to get from the physician.
Speaker 1 00:19:21 Um, the fee for service business and the amount of controls and regulations that we put around the healthcare industry makes it maybe one of the most inefficient areas of our economy. It's incredibly inefficient. Um, and, you know, government, they love to add new rules, but they rarely go back and look at the old ones to see if they're antiquated or they need to be changed. Now, in my experience, and I, I don't, you know, I was never in Congress, but in my experience in regulations, they don't actually always come from citizens wanting a better society. Oftentimes, they come from people wanting to stop competition, stop people from being able to compete with them, um, and to create systems that, that ensure that they're going to continue to make money. Now, I think that the key is always to have choices in competition. So I, I'll give you one story that I think best describes the problem, and then I'll spend just a minute on talking about what we do.
Speaker 1 00:20:22 But, but the problem I think is, is one that's, you almost have to live it to understand it. So we had a person very early on in our business who came in. They had some high protein counselor, primary care doctor recognize that in the, in looking at their blood. So we sent them to an oncologist. When they got to the oncologist, uh, sure enough, they found that they had cancer. So they scheduled a time for them to go into the hospital. And, uh, when they were scheduled out, we got back a pre-authorization to give to the employer. Cause again, we represent employers in the process, even though we have, we're really a healthcare company because we have doctors that work for us, but we, they, this pre-authorization they sent back to us was for $125,000. Now, I went through the list. It was all based upon codes.
Speaker 1 00:21:11 Again, by the way, there are 85,000 c p T codes in the United States. Most people have no idea what any of them mean, or most of them mean. I certainly couldn't tell. So I went to my doctor and she said, cash, I don't know, let's call the oncologist. So we called the oncologist came to him. He goes, I don't have any idea what this says, but he says, let's, uh, why don't we do this? I'll call my billing person. So he called us back and he said, okay, I don't really need to go through this with you. I'm gonna change, uh, my prescription. What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna have her come into our office. I'll do the chemo there, and I promise you it won't run over $25,000. Now, that, to me, was good news. But my doctor said, whoa, whoa, whoa. What's my patient not getting right Before you do this?
Speaker 1 00:21:56 I need to know what my patient's not getting. He said, well, okay, let's look at this bill. It says, you see this item here that says $7,000? There's 11 of them. He said, that's the chemo drug. He said, I can buy the chemo retail all 11 for 6,000 bucks. You're paying 7,000 each. He said, see this line item 2,500 bucks? He goes, that's physical therapy. 11 of those. He said, that's somebody walking 'em up and down the hallways. He said, I'm not gonna walk anybody up and down the hallway, but they're not gonna have to go to a hospital, come into my office. It'll be done there on a much easier basis. Better for the patient. They're gonna get the same chemo, the same doctor, the same treatments. Now, the question you might ask is, how does that happen? It, it's not lost on me that the doctor, his business, 50% of it was bought from a hospital.
Speaker 1 00:22:45 But I think there's an even deeper reason, which was this, it's obvious to me he never looked at a bill. Hmm. He had no idea what those charges and costs were. He had no idea what the hospital was doing. Right? It's an, it's a, a system that's not accountable. Now, how do you make a system accountable? Here's my read. You bring it back down to the local level. Employers have the ability in the United States under a risk, have self-insured clients. And I can tell you, even if you just do the basics on a self-insured plan, you usually cut anywhere between four to 5%. And I could go through the details of how you do that, but the key that we find in getting literally 40 and 50% cuts is making certain that people have, even people who don't have as much money, that they have 24 7 access to a primary care provider.
Speaker 1 00:23:38 Number two, that you triage it before they go in so you have an understanding of what the costs are. Number three, you're transparent about the cost to everyone in the process. And we've been able to provide a product in doing that. Again, I could, I have to be careful in this one, cause I could go on for the next three days on this subject. I, I do love it. Um, but my partners and I, who created the business, Dr. Berg and Dr. Johnston, um, you know, the thing that we see and that we know is that if you get them to the right place and get them the right treatment, the cost in healthcare aren't nearly as expensive as we might think. In fact, there's a Harvard study that says that if you cut out administration, the amount of administration and waste that's involved in healthcare without losing any care, we could go from about a 4 trillion industry to about a 3 trillion industry.
Speaker 1 00:24:26 Now, some people will hear that and they go, well, gosh, think of all the jobs you'd lay off. What we know is that's not how it works, right? When you create more efficient products, which again, are usually done by individuals and employers, rarely by government. In fact, I never saw it happen while I was in government that they made something more efficient. That didn't mean they did make it cheaper, but it wasn't more efficient in the process. The the answer becomes that if we wanna fix the healthcare system, I think the best way to do it's going to be with the same way that we fix everything else, which is innovation, creativity, uh, releasing the private sector to be able to work on those big problems that exist in it, and to try to make certain it, uh, uh, you know, a safety net is important. But in the other areas, empower employers to do what they do best, which is to try to find efficient ways to make certain that they deliver their product.
Speaker 0 00:25:24 So let's turn to your book, addictive Ideologies, finding Meaning and Agency When Politics Fail You. Uh, first, what was the inspiration? Uh, was it a reaction to recent events or was it a long time coming? Or did you and your co-author just bring a different perspective? And it was that alchemy that said, this is the time for, um, this book?
Speaker 1 00:25:48 Yeah. So I'd say she and I come from a little bit, uh, a different perspective. Sometimes a big difference in our perspective. Uh, you know, her perspective is she's a psychologist. She's Jewish. Uh, her family, they were, they had to deal with Saddam Hussein who, you know, they, they went through the process of what authoritarians do. You know, first they come in and they take your identity, they take your individualism away from you. Then they take away your property, then they take away your ability to make money. Then they take away your credit, and in the end, they started taking away they their lives. So their family had to escape, right? And they, they saw up close what, what that looks like, what that feels like. Um, you know, I, I've looked at, I've been to probably almost every genocide site, uh, on the planet, or at least all the big ones.
Speaker 1 00:26:34 I spent a lot of time, um, uh, working on, uh, people who were involved in extreme issues, just from a political standpoint. And my fear is a little different. So I'm kind of afraid or worried about not only the divisions in America, but more importantly how we've kind of grown this alt-right and this woke left, that both have a, a much more collectivist view of how society should work, right? The alt-right people who identify themselves as the alt-right, proud boys, the oath keepers and others, they believe that there is a, uh, you know, that they're, uh, been put into a position where, uh, they're being discriminated against or harmed because of racial minorities. And in most cases, and very often, that's the Jewish community on the other hand, on the woke left, where the alt-right will get involved in physical violence. The politically correct authoritarians, that they tend to look for reputational violence.
Speaker 1 00:27:34 If you don't agree with them, they immediately put you into the racist category. They immediately put you into the bigot category. And what that's designed to do, and what's very effective, certainly with college professors or other people who, who are, uh, engaged in either, uh, in, in high profile type of roles, is it's very, very damaging. The reputation ends up being harmed. So, and, and by the way, that, that ranges from not just the politically correct authoritarians, I'm, you know, I think the 1619 project is a, is a huge fall. The idea that our country wasn't founded, uh, during the period of time when the most beautiful document that was ever written on the Planet Declaration of Independence, that was our country founding. That's the moral basis of who we are. And when you go back and you look at people like Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass argued without and said, oh, no, no, no, no, our country was not founded on slavery.
Speaker 1 00:28:32 He, he talked about the fact that originally there were 59 men who served in the Continental Congress, and that literally 23 of them had slaves, and the rest were opposed to it. So they left the word slavery out of the Constitution. But his argument was, it was based on the Declaration of Independence. Now, why would he do that? Because he understood that this thought of having a society based on the individual was incredibly powerful. And that over time, while slavery was a terrible thing that happened in this country, that over time it would empower more people. It was inevitable that it would empower them. I don't know why the liberal left would allow the idea that this country was founded on that concept to be lost. That's something that they should more than maybe anyone else be trying to hold onto. But what happens within these extreme growth is that when they begin to play out in the party, a tribalism takes over. People begin to feel the need to defend these goofs who are on either side, right? And, and so they do. Now they do it different ways. They may actually defend them by saying, well, it's really not as big as you say it is. Or they'll simply say, the other side's more extreme than our side, right? So they're a bigger problem than us. My worry is, I don't understand why, why they're being defended. It's, it's, it's outside the norm of who we are as America.
Speaker 0 00:29:58 I appreciate, uh, the point that you made about Frederick Douglass. And in fact, um, one of our more popular drama life videos tells that exact story. Um, so we'll, we'll put that, um, link in the various, uh, channels. Now, you and your co-author observe a pattern in which quote, people who feel betrayed and humiliated are often resentful, hopeless, or angry. And they then redirect that anger quote towards other groups that they label evil. What are some historical examples of that, and how do you see it playing out in current political trends today?
Speaker 1 00:30:40 Um, well, that trend has happened all over the world. Certainly it happened where they came from, which was, uh, Iraq. Um, it happened in Nazi Germany. Um, and by the way, I always find this interesting, like I have a Jewish friend who I would never argue with. She passed away time ago, but she had a number on her arm, and she believed that it was Germans, that that was the problem. It was Germans that were this way, right? Many people who were in, who were Jewish and that were in, uh, Iraq, believed that it was Arabs that were the problem, right? If you go to, uh, if you go to Bosnia, um, Wesley Clark was on our show. We talked about kind of the, the whole issue that happened there. And I had some other refugees that I worked with, uh, that came from there.
Speaker 1 00:31:26 But many of those Muslims think that it's Christians that did it, but that Christians are the problem, right? You can go to Rwanda and you can find the same thing. Now, here's the question that I think we should ask. One of the, one of the, um, refugees that came out of Bosnia, he rebuilt his life here, is has an amazing story. But he talks about there being this trench where literally hundreds, maybe thousands of people were being buried. And the American troops as they came up to this, cause we knew that Milovich was involved in burying these troops or burying these people. They had saw these men on tractors and with shovels, and, um, and when they saw this, when the, when they saw the American troops, they all ran, by the way, none of them in uniform, all of them just dressed civilians. When the troops got to the ditch, the people that were bearing most of 'em were still alive, including children, right?
Speaker 1 00:32:20 Here's the question, how do people get there? How does that happen? And again, I don't think it's because they're German or Arab or Christian or Muslim. There's something that's happening. My worry about what is happening in the US with these two extreme groups in our study on addictive ideologies, um, what we found is this, it's not all the ideologies, right? Ideology is a difficult word because it encompass so much. It's, it's difficult to know, is the American experience an ideology? But here's the trend. Number one, all genocides acts of terrorism and extremism are based on ideology. Number two, those ideologies that believe in an oppressor and a victim are the ones that become a problem. They're the ones that become violent. Now, we found other trends, but that trend is the most important. When you stop seeing someone as an individual, and you start seeing them as part of another group that you can begin to objectify, that you can begin to judge, that's when it becomes a problem.
Speaker 1 00:33:28 And on both the woke left and on the alt right, we see that. Now, I have friends on the left at one of 'em said, how could you even say that the woke left is in that same position? And I said, okay, have you ever used the word, uh, have you ever said, well, they have white privilege? He said, yes, I think that they do have white privilege. I go, I see. So, so you just see them as a group. It doesn't matter what happened in their life, it doesn't matter what took place, uh, with them, what struggles they went through. They're automatically privileged. Unfortunately, his answer was yes. Here's my answer to that. I don't buy it. They're we're all individuals, all of us, and we're all worthy of dignity. We're worthy of that respect, that government should have to give each one of us, and we owe it to one another. And, and I just don't think that, I, I don't think I know that classifying people based upon their group is a recipe for a disaster.
Speaker 0 00:34:28 So I think you answered one of my questions, uh, about when you say ideologies that classify people as groups that divide people into victims and oppressors. Um, because, you know, your book does tend to use the word ideology as a pejorative. Um, and, you know, describing belief systems that absol us of responsibility allow for projection of evil on to other groups. But we were talking about Iran. She used the term in a more neutral sense as quote, a set of principles aimed at establishing or maintaining a certain social system. And further that quote, it is only by the means of principles that men can project the future and choose their actions accordingly. End quote. So I think you've clarified it. It's not that ideology itself is problematic.
Speaker 1 00:35:27 No. And it's, and the, we use the name on purpose addictive ideologies. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> not ideologies. Um, now I know that an Ron might see herself as an ideolog. I don't, I, I see her more in moral terms. I see what we did as, as our country in moral terms. But people who would argue with me that don't like an Ron would disagree. So let's just set it aside and say, if we wanna call it an ideology, that's fine. But there are ideologies that become more addictive, and those ideologies that become more addictive are almost always those that put people into a victim and an oppressor mindset. Now, a number of things happen there, there's actually psychological, uh, physiological issues that begin to happen. So as an example, we all like to be right. We all enjoy being, right? Well, what happens oftentimes in these, uh, these far extreme ideologies is they begin to give people kind of a basic understanding of how the world works.
Speaker 1 00:36:31 Sometimes they'll give them a whole new language and it helps them become more successful in arguments. Well, when we win an argument, any of us, we, we have this release of hormones that include both adrenaline as well as dopamine. And that is an actual high. We begin to enjoy that. But then what happens on these extreme ideologies where we can't listen to other people? Look, I think an on Ron's ideology, if that's what we're going to call it, actually says, Hey, we should listen to people we even dis disagree with. Right? That is not what the woke left and the alt-right are doing. They don't want to listen. In fact, I think free speech is under an incredible attack in this country by both of those two sides. Now, good news, I think they both only represent about 5% of the total public. I, I, I think that we, we over exaggerate, um, their, their, uh, the, the strength that they have amongst the public.
Speaker 1 00:37:28 But nonetheless, they're very loud. And the news network's like giving them both credit, usually the conservative network focusing on the woke side and the liberal network focusing on the alt-right side and making us believe that we're threatened and that we're, that, uh, we're endangered by them. So they have a voice that's bigger than who they actually represent in numbers. But the key for us is to understand that as those, as people begin to get engaged with them, they begin to ostracize people that care about them, or people that care about them no longer want hang out with them. And that's when they start hanging out with people who are more ideological and who are more vitriolic and oftentimes violent. And that's the, the concern that we have to have is, is when, when does it become violent? I, I can venture to say I just don't see people who would follow objectivism as becoming violent. It's, it's the opposite of what we would promote.
Speaker 0 00:38:30 Yes. No, I agree that objectives would, would not see, um, collectivizing people, um, as a group, uh, as a means of dealing with people, um, and trading with people. But I think that, uh, and it's a bit of a question of semantics, but a love of ideas and ideology, a set of principles. Um, but certainly when it becomes an obsession and it becomes extreme, I think it's something that it's worth. Um,
Speaker 1 00:39:00 I saw her her comment on that. It was about vision. Hey, we have to have some ability to be able to think out into the future. And, and the economy economics plays a huge role into that. And without some structure or some way of being able to see the world, it's very hard to think about where we're going. So in that way, with her definition of ideology, uh, I would agree, which is again, i I I was insistent this had to be addictive ideologies.
Speaker 0 00:39:33 Okay. All right. Well, we have, um, I'm, I'm addicted to your book and I have a lot of more questions about it, but, um, we also have a quite a few audience questions and, um, I'm gonna try to get to, uh, some of them. We have about 20 more minutes left, so we'll take a few of these and then see if we can return to, uh, to the book. So, um, my modern gal on Instagram asks, what do you think is the most important advice for young people who want to get into local politics? That's a great question.
Speaker 1 00:40:07 Um, so, uh, to get into local politics, I think the single most important thing is to have the desire and want to look, I became Mayor Phoenix at 29 years old. It, it's, it's a place that if you decide that you want to do it, and, and, and this is what the family that had no connection to the power establishment of Phoenix, um, what I would tell you is though, start small. You know, start with a school board, start with running for the legislature. Um, start with running for the city council. Uh, find a way to, to build up, um, not only your experience, but also to make certain that you're interested in it. You know, one of the things that Aran said that I I, I used to think about all the time when I was mayor, was this whole idea of people who go into something that they didn't really want.
Speaker 1 00:41:00 It really wasn't the thing that they were interested in, but somehow or another, they felt compelled because of society or other people to go do it. So they weren't really fulfilling their own sense of purpose. They were, they were fulfilling someone else's. I, I think I told you this while you were here, I, I had the, uh, chance to meet Sister Teresa, mother Teresa when I was mayor. And, uh, and she actually came in to chew me out because she had, uh, a home that she wanted to build in a neighborhood. And, uh, it was in, uh, Mary Rose or council member's district who was Hispanic, who at the time didn't want it. And so I was trying to explain to her that it was involved in council politics. And she's about, I dunno, four 11 puts her finger in my face and she says, um, I'm not asking you what the council person's gonna do.
Speaker 1 00:41:45 I'm asking you what you're gonna do. I admit, I folded immediately. I said, okay, <laugh>, I'm in. But the point is, she really cared about poor people. It was where she found her happiness. It was where she found her sense of meaning. But I had a number of people who would go on to things like the homeless council, um, and they were really more interested in building a resume. And they made it hard to go in and find solutions. Now, my, my goal at the time was to try to get private sector minds on the homeless committee that could help us think outside the box. But when you're so concerned about your resume building, then you don't wanna upset anyone who might have an alternative idea, which means the people who I put on to represent the private sector in private sector thinking, I might as well have not have put 'em on the committee. Cause all they did was agree with the other people who were the strong, hard advocates about what needed to happen. Again, here's, here's my answer to you. Start small. Make certain it's what you want. And, and then the last thing I would tell you is, and this is sometimes hard for people to see.
Speaker 1 00:42:53 The the, if you look at the big problems that we're going to solve in society that we, that we need to solve to be successful, it's not gonna be government that's resolving them or solving them. The ability to fix, uh, to create an electric car, to create a driverless car, to cure cancer, maybe even to extend human life, the big things that are really gonna move human progress forward. They're only gonna happen if we have people who can innovate and who can create and who can produce the products that we need. Meaning it's gonna come from the private sector. If you're gonna go into government, think about going into government with the thought of, my goal is to empower them. That's what we want to do. And I'd love to see more people go into government with the goal of empowering them. But if your real goal is to just work your way up the ladder, I think you're not gonna find that you really served yourself as well as you might have. Otherwise.
Speaker 0 00:43:54 Great advice. Okay. From Facebook, James Stein, as a great question. Looking back during your past time in politics, do things seem more polarized now or do we just perceive it as such? I think that's a great question for you because, uh, you know, you've been in Arizona politics, Arizona has also under undergone certain political shifts. So what do you think?
Speaker 1 00:44:26 I'll give you an example. When I was nine years old in 1968, we were going to the moon. I would come home and I would turn on the television set. I could tell you the name of every NASA astronaut, their spouses. I could tell you the name of most of the engineers. I watched this takeoff, the, the capsule as it flipped around backwards and the module as it landed on moon. And even coming back home, when we were done watching this, it was, it gave an incredible sense of pride in who we are. Now, I tell you the story because I was asked by, we, I was on a round table with a group of reporters, one that was from, uh, cnn, and I asked the question, whose job is it to make us believe that it's gonna be okay? And his answer was, well, that's really the politician's job.
Speaker 1 00:45:14 And I said, okay, well, maybe. And then I told this story. When I told the story, I said, well, you know, we don't have big events like that happening. I said, well, maybe. I said, well, lemme tell you what I saw. I had to go home and do a spreadsheet two weeks, and every day between three and six o'clock, I turn on the television set. First I turned on cnn. N the only thing you could see was the capitol break-in. That's all you could see, right? It was, it was constant 24 7. And you go over to Fox News, the only thing you could see was the, the Haitian immigrants coming into the United States.
Speaker 1 00:45:46 Then on Thursday at three o'clock, I remember this guy came on, William Shatner, right? The guy who used to be the, the captain in Star Trek, captain Kirk. And he was crying. I thought, what's that? So I turned it up. He had just gone in a space module into outer space with a privately, with the private sector group that took them out there and came back. There was no takeoff, there was no sens of building pride. There was no talking about these two people who were competing with one another. They could have turned that into a huge event. It because it was a huge event. But unfortunately, here's what's happened. The news media has figured out what politicians have, have figured out the negative bias. Uh, we call it the amygdala hijack. The idea is this, all your ideas, your ability to innovate and create, and to, uh, and to, and to be optimistic, they all come out of the neocortex.
Speaker 1 00:46:46 But if I can terrify you based upon your fundamental set of beliefs and ideals, that amygdala goes into place and you get the fight, flight, or freeze complex, you stop and it hijacks your ability to be rational. But it also makes you watch their program tomorrow to see what the answer is. If you ask me, uh, we look, politics is the place we go to resolve problems. We've had problems, we're going to continue to have problems, but the reality is this country is much better and, and in a much better shape than we can possibly ever imagine. Unfortunately, there's no margin in people telling you that. So you have to find another way to get to that information. Now, podcasts, I've found, have been a very good way. There are lots of people in podcasts who are giving you other alternative stories, and they're giving you a, a better understanding, a more robust understanding, because you see both Fox and cnn, they weren't lying. They just were taking it out of perspective. And because it was out of perspective, it's not the truth either.
Speaker 0 00:47:58 So, speaking of podcasts, um, and you also talk about the importance of making more space, uh, for optimism and pushing back, uh, against the cottage industry of alarmism and the, uh, seven ideals of citizenship. We talk about knowing the truth, and, uh, one practical way to do that, um, would be by listening to the Optimistic American podcast. So tell us a little bit about that project and what you see as the relationship between objectivity, knowing the truth and optimism.
Speaker 1 00:48:37 Well, yeah, first, objectivity, the, uh, the, uh, I do believe that there is a, um, that there is a truth that exists. There is a, there is a, a
Speaker 0 00:48:50 Object to reality,
Speaker 1 00:48:52 <laugh>. That's right. It's there. It takes our reason to be able to understand that and to be able to, to put that into context. Now, when we're beginning to try to use rationality again, which comes out of the neocortex, the same place that optimism comes from, I would tell you that there are going to be two types of people. That there are pessimists, pessimists are always going to be there, and they have a belief that it's all gonna fall apart. And then you have optimists who have a belief, or at least people who are optimistic, maybe not optimist, but they believe that in fact, we can fix the problems. What the whole goal of our podcast is to try to empower people to understand that, that what is going on here is really, is really an amazing thing. Now, we, we go through a variety of different speakers from Peter Zhan, uh, general Wesley Clark.
Speaker 1 00:49:46 Uh, we've had on, uh, uh, just a, a wide variety of guests, but they're always talking about the great things that are happening here. Now, that doesn't mean that you don't focus on the problems, because being optimistic doesn't mean that you ignore the problems. But the thing that's clear to me in watching this over the years is that year, after year after year, you get these groups who give you these projections or these, these, uh, they, they alarm you about what it is that's happening, and then somehow or another it gets fixed, right? We look back, if we look back at decade ago, maybe two decades, we were terrified about the Japanese. We thought that somehow or another, they were going to overpower the United States. When I was mayor, I remember people getting mad at me because they were saying, the Japanese are coming in and buying our land.
Speaker 1 00:50:28 And I said, look, we buy their cars and then, you know, our money goes over there. They buy our land, and our land stays here. So why are we upset about that? Let 'em buy as much of our land as they wanna. It's a, it's a free market, but there was some sense that something was gonna go wrong by, well, of course, it, it didn't. And, and Japan began to, uh, begin to at least fall economically. We were terrified of China. And I think there are reasons for us to be afraid of where China is, but I think long term, they don't have the sustainability that we have. But these alarm us, you know, they, when, when, again, the 1960s, I remember the population bomb was the big book. It was a book about how our population was getting out of control, and we were not going to be able to sustain a planet with 7 billion people on it.
Speaker 1 00:51:17 And that effectively it was gonna cause mass starvation, it was gonna cause huge environmental problems, and the world was gonna fall apart, both economically as well as socially. What didn't happen? Why? Uh, because somebody figured out how to grow more food on less land with less water. That's why, right? We were able to feed them technology, fix it. One of my favorite comments was by the mayor of New York, who once said, you could never have more than a million people in New York, cuz where would you put all the horses? <laugh>, right? The, we figure things out, things change. I just happen to believe that the people who are going to solve the problems, the people who believe that we can.
Speaker 0 00:52:01 So one of the themes, uh, at the Atlas Society is gratitude, and it's also one that you explore in your book. How can gratitude, uh, enhance your sense of agency and serve as an antidote to envy, uh, victimhood and resentment?
Speaker 1 00:52:20 You know, um, I love Victor Frankel too. He's, again, one me too <laugh>. I, and, and I love, uh, Victor talks about, you know, a variety of things. He talks about going into owi. Uh, he said that nine people were taken to the left, one to the right, and nine that went to the left. He, he thought, uh, were going to be in work. And the person that was separated out, which were mostly men, he thought they were gonna kill. Of course, the opposites. What happened, his entire family was wiped out. He ends up in this prisoner of war camp, and he talks about the incredibly harsh conditions. In those harsh conditions. He talks about how people, men got down to literally weighing 9,000 pounds. They, they lost most of their body weight, and they were on the verge of death. One individual, he said, was just convinced they were gonna be saved on a date certain, and so he prepared and got ready for it and did everything he could.
Speaker 1 00:53:12 But then what happened was we weren't saved. They weren't saved on that day, and five minutes after midnight, he died. And he, he tells that story to tell you how much people were on that fine line, but he took the view that, that there were things that they could do to find meaning. And that if you could find meaning, it would have an effect on extending life. Now, he was a psychologist. That was his love. That was the thing that he put his time into. He said, you find meaning in who or what you love. You find meaning in, uh, what you create, what you're able to produce, and you find meaning in struggle. So, you know, he got the people who were in this work camp to watch the sunset every night. And he said that when they would watch the sunset at five o'clock, they had to keep working, but they would come back and they would get in bed and they would all talk about that sunset.
Speaker 1 00:54:03 Now again, what's all this about? Free will, even later on in his life, when they asked him about Nazis, he said, well, not all the Nazis were bad. Some of 'em were nice to us. Some of 'em were kind because others were mean and, and horrible, right? He chose and his mind not to be a victim, to put himself in a position where he was grateful for the things that he could be grateful for. What I love about his story is if he can do that, goodness gracious, with all the things that we have going on, great in this country, we can find a way and a place to find better happiness and gratitude, to me is where it starts.
Speaker 0 00:54:44 So for those who would like to check out the Optimistic American, um, you've done dozens of interviews and the interviews, uh, with Joe Polish, Brandon Tatum, Stephen Pinker, those were just a few that caught my eye. Looking back, um, what are some of the interviews that particularly impressed, surprised, or enlightened you?
Speaker 1 00:55:07 Well, you know, I've, I've loved all of 'em. I, I will tell you two that stand out to me. Um, this is one I, I look, I, I have been an Anne Ran fan my entire life, and I don't quite remember how we ended up totally getting connected, but I,
Speaker 0 00:55:22 Peter, Peter Worrell.
Speaker 1 00:55:24 That's right. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, but, but it, it, it's a, it was an important deal to me. It's a big deal to me to have been connected. I, I also wanna stay, I think the work that you guys are doing with kids, my biggest worry is that people lose an understanding of who we are and how it is that we became great. And I think Anne ran exemplifies it probably better than anyone else. My second interview is one that not as many people watched. I like it. It's my own personal favorite, but it's not, you know, if, if you watched it, you, you, it, it doesn't compare to the brilliance of Stephen Pinker. Right. Stephen Pinker is the intelligence went up four times when he was in the room with just he and I. So, uh, but I, but what I love about Jerry Moise is that Jerry was the, uh, a guy who started with one truck, a brother and a dispatch system, and he worked it.
Speaker 1 00:56:24 He was a poor kid out of a rural area with no money. And he worked this little company and he kept adding trucks, and he kept building out his business, and he found a way to be more efficient. And he found a way to make certain the trucks could get there on time. And he began to innovate to make certain that he could get his trucks fixed quicker than other people could. He built out the largest trucking company in the world, swift Transportation. Now, when Jerry would, uh, after we did the podcast, I remember he went around and told some of my friends, he goes, yeah. He said, Paul had me do that thing where you get together on your iPad, <laugh>. He didn't even know the word podcast, right. But I, I recall when Jerry would show up to talk to us at City Hall, because he was trying to build out a distribution center or whatever, you know, there'd always be like seven suits, guys with just dressed impeccably and Jerry and his cowboy boots and a pair of Levis and a shirt. And he was always just, uh, you know, very humble. He was, he was proud of what it was that he built. But, um, I, I wish we had more people like him. I, I, I really do think if we had more people like him, that we'd fix a lot more problems that we have.
Speaker 0 00:57:35 Well, I, I think that highlighting, um, celebrating stories of successful entrepreneurs, um, people can relate to them. They're narratives, they're personal. Uh, and, and they're, it's not just all about theory and white papers. I think being able to tell the stories of the great people, and of course, the great a Rand did that, um, mm-hmm. <affirmative> with her heroic novels of, of great entrepreneurs and, and architects and engineers and visionaries. So, um, any final thoughts before we close? Anything that I, that we didn't get to cover?
Speaker 1 00:58:12 Uh, sure. I'll just get you kind of one, uh, one last thought. The, um, you know, in, I find in, again, in our society, this, this concern that seems to be happening from people who are gravitating towards both ends, um, that, you know, I, I spent time in government. I, I watched the things that government did. There were a lot of things in government where we created inefficiencies, but there were good things that we did also, you know, we built roads and highways and we put people on the moon. There, there were great things that happened. The most important thing our government ever did was it empowered the individual over itself. That concept took the ability to resolve problems and magnified it, it, it, it, it created 10,000 more points to be able to go work on those problems. The single biggest key, you know, we, we see what's going on.
Speaker 1 00:59:10 China and Russia, those are fragile societies. They're fragile because it's based upon one person, based upon an authoritarian. We, we, I, you know, I used, I've, I've listened to people saying, well, our leaders aren't as good as them. You're wrong. You're just looking at the wrong leaders. There's lots of leaders. The key I would tell people is the same advice that we gave earlier to a young, uh, the young folk. You can be a leader in business. You can be a leader in changing the way that we, uh, address any problem. You can be a leader in improving human progress. And the greatest way to do that overwhelmingly, is by being an entrepreneur.
Speaker 0 00:59:50 That is the perfect place to close. Um, I wanna remind everyone, encourage you to go out and get addictive ideologies, finding meaning and agency when politics fail. You sign up for the Optimistic American, um, podcast. And, uh, and f do we follow you on where's the best place to follow you, newsletter or Twitter?
Speaker 1 01:00:15 Uh, we're on, uh, we are on all platforms, but you can find our podcast on YouTube or you can find it on Apple, Spotify. We're on all of them. Uh, and then we have a, uh, we have a Facebook and Twitter and all those types of sites as well.
Speaker 0 01:00:31 Terrific. Well, thank you, Paul. Thank you. Uh, and thank all of you for joining us today. Thanks to Pete Worrell, wherever you are, for, uh, introducing me to Paul. And by the way, Paul, Pete and his friends are coming to our Gugul Summit this summer in Nashville. We'll bring him together, 50 young people with 50 of our donors. So we'll put those links in. We're gonna work on you, Paul, to try to get you there.
Speaker 1 01:00:58 I definitely want to be there. It's just a question of, I've got one other event that I've gotta see if I can move around, but I would love to be there
Speaker 0 01:01:05 And everybody else out there in the audience, if you wanna come and meet some of our previous guests and possibly, uh, the great Paul Johnson and consider joining us, uh, in national this summer. And if you can't do it and you enjoy the work that we do, you think it's important to introduce young people to these ideas that have inspired so many great entrepreneurs and great leaders, and so many of us, then please consider making a tax deductible donation, uh, at atlas society.org. Please also be sure to tune in next week when psychologist and author Jean Twenge will be our guest when the Atlas Society asks, we're gonna be talking about her latest book, generations, the real difference between Gen Z Millennials, gen x, boomers in Silence, and what they mean for America's future. She has written a lot of books on the role of social media and technology and how, uh, parents can raise, um, healthy, resilient, independent kids, uh, in this connected age. So we'll see you next week. Thank you.