[00:00:00] Speaker A: Hi, everyone, and welcome to the 179th episode of the Atlas Society. Ask. My name is Lawrence Alivo. I am the associate editor at the Atlas Society, the leading nonprofit organization introducing young people to the ideas of iron Rand in fun and creative ways, such as through our Atlas University seminars, graphic novels, and creative social media content. Tonight we have a special webinar, as I am joined by CEO of Celsius Atlas, Antonella Marti, and Atlas Society Senior fellow Robert Trzinski, for a conversation about the objectivist perspective on nationalism, how it's embraced in different countries. And if we have time, we'll get to some other current event topics, such as Mark Andreessen's techno Optimist manifesto. So we have an hour. So we will try to save some time here and there for audience questions. So whether you're on Zoom, Facebook, Instagram X or YouTube, please put your questions in the comment section. We'll try to get to as many as we can. And with that out of the way, I'd like to pass things over to rob to start things off. Thank you very much, Rob.
[00:01:14] Speaker B: Thanks so much, Florence. Okay, we got a lot to go over, a lot of things going on in the world. And one of the things I wanted to broach was this topic of nationalism, because this is a major sort of global trend recently of nationalist, populist politicians coming up invoking, making America great again or making some other country great again. And one of the things I want to lead with, Antonella, is we had a conversation a while back that I thought was very interesting, because I've recently written for Atlas Society, a pocket guide to socialism. And in America, we have this very insular perspective on things. We tend to think of everything in the world is sorted around our own little internal politics and our internal history and our obsessions. Like we have this attack in Israel, this war going on in Israel, and we sorted into basically people of color versus white people, as if that's the issue.
We have this conflict going back 2000, 3000 years in the Middle east, but we sort it through the lens of our racial politics here in America. And I think there's something similar that happens with socialism. We think of socialism as being, oh, that's Bernie Sanders. That's the thing of the left. And the conversation we had was about how socialism is conceived differently in the rest of the world, particularly in Latin America.
[00:02:38] Speaker C: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you, Rob. Thank you, Lawrence, for having me.
So this is a very important point of view, because I think for a long time we have been talking only about the problems related to socialism or communism, and even more in countries like Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, all these countries that have been suffering from bad ideas and collectivism. So we have been talking a lot about socialism and communism and its dangers.
And as you said, I see that many times people compare American socialists when it comes to politics, to some Latin American socialists or populists when it comes to these ideas, for example, like Ugo Chavez or even Nicolas Maludo. So I don't know if this could be a question or an open question for us, but why can we say or how can we approach this specifically, this idea and how ideologies have different meanings when it comes to a different country. Like socialism can mean one thing in Argentina, and socialism probably means something else in countries like the US, right? In countries like Argentina, for example, right now, what we call the left or the Communist Party, right, the politicians that call themselves socialists, they are against our actual president, Alberto Fernandez. He's a protectionist and related to all these Peronist ideas that influenced Argentina since the 1940s. But they are opposed to some protectionists and some other left wing leaders. But when you see, for example, Nicolas Maduro and when you hear his speeches or the things that he talks it, again, it's homeland. Or basically, this is a specific problem because maybe we need to focus a little bit more on nationalism instead of only talking about socialism or communism, because I tried to identify the real problem, the real threat that we have right now in the world. Like you said, there's a global trend when it comes to these ideas or these collectivist ideas. So I think the problem is nationalism. Nationalism from the left and nationalism from the right.
Both sides, I feel like, and I see like they are using the same narrative. So again, is it something we need to start doing, like trying to focus a little bit more on nationalism instead of only talking about socialism and how bad those ideas were, because that actually happened. I mean, the destruction that we can see, all the victims of communism and socialism. But when it comes to, like, the global trend and the real problem, would you say that maybe we can start talking about nationalism from the left?
[00:06:25] Speaker B: And the question, one aspect to that, I think that, I don't think nationalism and socialism are really two separate issues when you think about it, because I think I talked to somebody recently, I think it may have been Vanessa who was saying that, talking about Maduro and these threats from the communist left. But there isn't a single opposition party that doesn't have the word socialist in its name.
And socialism came so universally established that you're facing variations on socialism, that there are more left wing variations in the rhetoric and ones that are more right wing in the rhetoric, but socialism is at the root beneath them.
When I did my pocket guide to Socialism, one of the things I was trying to say, well, what is socialism? What's the defining characteristic of socialism? And one of the fascinating things I've discovered is that socialism did not have any clear economic theory to it for like decades. It was the communists who came along. Marx and Engels come along, and they give it a very clear economic theory. But before that, socialism had a much wider meaning. It simply meant society takes precedence over the individual. It meant the subordination of the individual to society as a whole. So it referred to collectivism as a politics and also collectivism as a morality. And it's only later that it took this very sort of specific, tend to take this very specific sort of Marxist workers control the means of production, that kind of left wing economics. But it is actually a much wider idea, and it has other implementations other than what we think of as sort of doctrinal Marxism.
[00:08:10] Speaker C: Yeah, I'm even thinking a little bit about the concepts. Right. When it comes to concepts, when it comes to socialism, nationalism, liberalism, for example, or even objectivism, like how some specific ideas can mean something for you and mean something different for.
And something that calls my attention right now is the use of the term or the concept liberalism or classical liberalism. Liberalism in the US means that your ideas tend to be more lefty, right. And in countries like Argentina or in Latin America, it means that you are a little bit more center. I don't know. It's center right? Because I don't like relating.
[00:09:03] Speaker B: It generally means free market or Thatcherite even.
[00:09:07] Speaker C: Exactly.
Again, we can see this, like how ideologies mean different things, not only over time, because concepts and ideologies are evolving constantly. I don't know if that's part of the spontaneous order or something like that could be, but also how, when you think about geographically speaking, we can also have that. So can we say that trying to define ideologies is actually a mess, like something very complicated when you wrote the pocket guy, related to socialism, socialism, can you apply all those ideas to the definitions that other people have related to socialism? Or how do we do that? How do we handle this mess?
[00:10:08] Speaker B: Yeah, one of the things we found is in America that, thanks primarily to Bernie Sanders, that he tries to say, well, socialism just means what they have in Scandinavia, in Denmark. And then when he said that, the prime minister of Denmark said, no, what we have is not socialism. It's a welfare state, but with a free market. And he was actually quite adamant about that. I think he didn't want to scare off investors from Denmark.
These terms get abused. And I think our job, sort of, is to bring in that philosophical clarity by defining the basic principles. And I think that the idea of thinking about collectivism, collectivism versus individualism as a dividing line, helps serve that clarifying role, that nationalism is as much a collectivist idea as any other variation of socialism. The idea that the nation, the good of the nation as a whole, takes precedence over your rights, your freedom as an individual, the idea that you as an individual, need to sacrifice for the greater good of the nation, for the greatness of your society. Now, how do you see that playing out in the different variations? I know there's a lot of different things going on, that there's elections going on, I think, in Argentina and various other places. How do you see that playing out in the kind of debate people are having? Because I know that the American terminology on all this is a complete mess in need of fixing. And I'm sure you're facing the same thing.
[00:11:36] Speaker C: And it's even in Latin America, when you try to define socialism or this idea that populists have, because that's another thing.
We don't have rule of law, basically, in all of our countries. In Latin America, it's very difficult to find a country that respect rule of law and limits to the government and something that prevents politicians to become populists. But then you go and see what's actually happening in the US. And, I don't know, things like January.
[00:12:12] Speaker B: 6, for example, comes say, we're rapidly joining you.
[00:12:16] Speaker C: Is that a Latin Americanization of American politics?
Can we say something like that?
So then maybe then we can think, is every single country vaccinated against populism or against these collectivist ideas that then go and destroy rule of law and destroy democracy or liberal democracy, even when you see countries like Hungary with populists like Viktor Orban, a politician that basically infiltrated the, you know, linked to Vladimir Putin. So again, he talks and he represents, or at least that's what he says, he defends the concept of illiberal democracy, right? So again, they play with terms constantly, constantly playing with concepts and terms and trying to adapt those to their specific moments. So when you get to see different countries in Latin America, even now that we have elections in Argentina on mean, it's always the same.
[00:13:47] Speaker B: Don't you have a supposedly libertarian candidate?
[00:13:50] Speaker C: There supposed to be a libertarian candidate. But then you go and see his ideas and the things that he proposes and the way that he proposes those things, and then you see it's, again, another right wing, populist Messiah.
He promises things that we know that he cannot do.
And even when it comes to dollarizing the economy, he proposes a dollarization of the economy. But we don't have dollars in Argentina. That's another big problem. You cannot implement the dollar in a country, in an economy, if you don't have dollars. I mean, you cannot replace the peso if you don't have dollars to do that. So again, people believe that today they have 100 pesos, and if he dollarizes the economy, they're going to have $100. So he plays a little bit with that. It's, again, all about promises, a populist way of doing politics. So I think we need to be very careful when it comes to this kind of politicians.
And it's something that we have in Latin America and we know in Latin America because that's how it works everywhere in our region.
But now that I see some little things like Latin Americanization of American politics, and that concerns me a lot, because even the United States, it's a concept. And then you get to see politicians and populists mean destroying the concept of the United States in the name of supposed defense of the.
[00:15:52] Speaker B: That connects. Actually, there's some questions popping up at the chat here. Do you mind if I go ahead and take those, Lawrence?
Yeah, well, there's one, I think, specifically that connects to this, which is basically, what's the difference between populism or, sorry, between nationalism and patriotism? And I think in American. I'm going to give a quick Antonella to weigh in on this in a second. But my quick take on that is, especially in an American context, nationalism and patriotism.
The idea is that, yes, we do have a national identity, but in America, the contradiction here, or the quandary is our national identity is an idea. It's a principle. It's not just a group of people. It's not just a sort of collective good of a group of people. It's also, this is a country founded on individual rights and individual liberty. So there can be no concept of a national identity in America or of patriotism in America that doesn't take that into account. I just published recently a book review of Patrick Deneen's book called Regime Change, which is his sort of nationalist agenda for what should replace liberalism. And he's using liberalism the way political philosophers use it, the way it's used everywhere else in the world except in American politics, meaning a pro freedom system, a free country. And he says, we shouldn't have a society defined around freedom. He says it should be defined around something else. This is his attempt to say the something else, but throughout it, he's saying all these things that make it clear that what he actually is trying to do is eliminate America's actual national identity.
And he's trying to make it, in America, into a country in know. The individual is helpless. The individual is looking for guidance from above. And I pointed out that he frequently quotes Alexis Tocqueville, which is a French writer who came to America in 1832, wrote the famous book Democracy in America, describing what the American system was like. And Tocqueville writes about how, oh, the American is a total individualist. He's an innovator. He doesn't believe in authority at all. And everything's complete opposite of what Patrick Deneen is talking about. And that's sort of the weird contradiction we have in America with nationalism, where you have the nationalists, quote, unquote, nationalists, appealing to America's national identity, but they want America's national identity to be the exact opposite of what it has been since its founding, or probably since before its founding.
And so that, I think, highlights the idea that nationalism or patriotism is not the same thing, that nationalism as is being used in this collectivist sense of the subordination of the individual to the greater good of the nation, is actually different from the idea of a national identity or of patriotism. Because in America, we have a long tradition of a national identity and patriotism that are individualist and that are based on individual rights and these sort of contankorous, independent minded people that we have. So I think that sort of shines a light on that difference.
Now, I'm not sure how much that applies in a Latin American context. That might be a harder thing to sell.
[00:19:07] Speaker C: Well, before going to Latin America, maybe, I wanted to ask you, would you say that patriotism can become nationalism? Very easily. How do we prevent patriotism to become nationalism?
[00:19:24] Speaker B: Well, I think that the way you prevent it is you have to have a clear idea of what it is, that what are the principles that your country stands for. And that's, I think what's somewhat unique in American context is we are a country founded on an idea which know normally it's a people or it's a place, right? And now Latin America is different because it was settled and. And the lines were drawn and the countries were founded more recently. So if we talk about France. France is a country with a language and an ethnicity.
Now, actually, I picked a bad example, didn't I? Because France also does have. They have the French Revolution. They had certain principles. They were founded on liberty Galate fraternity. And France is actually more like America.
It's somewhere in between a lot of European countries and America, in having an ethnic identity and a language especially. They're very big on the language, but also having certain ideals and a view of government and a view of the relationship of the individual to society as something that they have certain ideas that are a crucial part of their national identity.
[00:20:38] Speaker C: So I'm thinking, mean, if we say that, of course, these countries and even countries like the United States, are founded on an idea, right? But ideas change, as we were seeing at the beginning, like how concepts and ideas are permanently changing and mutating and evolving, then countries and even politics should adapt to those changes or to those original changes.
Does that defines the future of a country? Like, how do you prevent that original idea not to become something toxic?
Maybe I'm trying to think about an open culture, letting other people, maybe I can relate that to open objectivism. Right?
How do you keep an idea, or how do you prevent an idea to become something toxic, something that is rigid, something that cannot change? And you do that when you open the door. When you open the door to people creating and innovating and adding new ideas and keep exploring a.
[00:22:06] Speaker B: Think. I think in America, we have politically, this at least, is that the idea of political freedom and of freedom of speech and the ability people to debate, to debate any and every idea that has led to this dynamism and to adaptation and evolution in the American system.
Now, sometimes that means you have people trying to overthrow the existing ideas on which America was founded. And given that, I think those ideas were terrific, we shouldn't be doing that. But you have had people come in and refine them and change them and expand our America. We've had our conflicts over slavery and civil rights. But also one thing I kind of realized just recently is lots of things like freedom of speech has been interpreted far more widely and far more effectively in the 20th century and even the early 21st century. I'm talking about actual court cases and things like that. Freedom of speech has been applied far more broadly than it actually was before, or things like outlawing homosexuality, being legal, not having homosexuals, being legally persecuted. The legal precedence for that was overturned in the US Supreme Court in 2003. So it's not even in the last century, but in this century, as recently as that. So the idea of expanding the notions of individual rights and of individual freedom, that's definitely been part of the sort of dynamism in the ferment of the American system. But I think it's also the reason why you have to have this base level of liberalism in the correct sense of freedom, of freedom of speech and freedom of debate and political freedom, so that you can, instead of freedom being whoever's in a position of dominance in 1776 is in that position forever, that we're able to take on expanded ideas and adapt with the growth of the country.
[00:24:14] Speaker C: Well, I don't know if I'm moving somewhere else with this maybe question or just idea, but it makes me connect.
You were saying, when you go to American history, history of the US, you see slavery, you see many things that were not right. And even when you see the Founding father's ideas and when they, I mean, you see a Thomas Jefferson and the concept, know, individualism and respecting other people's rights and liberty and life and the pursuit of happiness, and they didn't get to see this problem. They didn't get to see the problem with slavery. Right. And it makes me question, because there's probably something, but what are the things that we are not seeing right now that are not okay and that probably in 50 years or in 100 years, we're going to be like, wow, how come we didn't realize that that was an issue? So always trying to focus on the things that many people attacked in a specific period of time through history and how those things evolve. And you get people to adapt to changes, because people, of course, they are afraid of changes.
That's part of being a human right. You always try to attach to safe things, to security related to things that are not going to change. So I'm okay.
It won't be a problem. If anything changes, I'm going to be okay. So being afraid of changes, and again, how do we connect those concepts and those ideas to things like, again, nationalism, nationalism, being protected, having a nation protected by a person, by populace, by a Messiah. And then you add another condiment. Then you add religion, and then you make the state take and make decisions through a religious lent or something. So that's something that is actually happening a lot in Latin America. And even when it comes to this global trend related to the right wing movements, that, again, you see many people trying to get together power and religion. Again, when you see that the Founding Fathers, or even the idea of classical liberalism, or even when it comes to objectivism, the core, the basis was to separate religion from the state. So we see many people now trying to get those two things united again, and even in the name of liberty. Right. And even in the name of democracy and other things. So how do you connect that or what can you say about all those things?
[00:27:40] Speaker B: Yeah, that's a good question. Actually, I want to move on something very specifically about that that we hadn't planned to talk about, but it just happened very recently. But first, I see some questions popping up in the chat, and I want to take on one or two here somebody talks about how can a free society based on open ideas handle new immigrants who come in with radically different ideas. Well, I think, at least in American context, kind of a nationalist talking point, right, or anti immigration talking point, that, oh, we're going to have these radicals coming in. Now. The funny thing, of course, is that 120 years ago they were saying we can't have these Eastern Europeans coming in because they're going to import socialism. That was a real major talking point in the late 19th, early 20th century, that the Eastern Europeans were going to come in here and support and make this America a socialist country. And here I am of EastErn European, the descendant of these Eastern European immigrants, arguing for individualism and capitalism. So it's a bit of a misnomer that you're going to have this dangerous influx of outsiders. And also, when I look at American history, some of the worst ideas in American history came from. So, for example, right here in Virginia, a guy named Woodrow Wilson became president. And he was a guy who really turned America away from classical liberalism toward what was called progressivism at the time.
And a very collectivist idea, very much state management from the top down. He was the guy who really brought that into American politics was a guy named Wilson from Virginia who was totally from Old English settlers in the old Dominion here. Right now, if you go to a Bernie Sanders rally, you're not going to see a bunch of Mexicans there. You're going to see a bunch of old white guys with English, really boring English names like Sanders.
So again, it's a bit of, I think, of a canard that, oh, our problem is immigrants. Our problem is not immigrants. Our problem is the people who are here, including people who've been here for many generations. And it's the ideas that are being, the collectivist ideas that have infiltrated this country a very long time ago.
And I think that it gets very much harder, especially when our country, like Argentina, that is made of immigrants of as much as America is now. I don't know if this is true, but I once heard somebody say, an Argentinian is an Italian who speaks Spanish and thinks he's French.
But a huge number of Europeans came to Argentina and formed the society there. So every society is sort of an amalgamation of different people who have come in at different times, but has to be balanced together by some kind of ideas. And we have to constantly be open to refinements of those ideas, but focused on trying to clarify what those issues are. Now, unless Antel had something to add about that, about Argentinians, I wanted to go. You mentioned religion. And so one of the other pieces of news that just came across my transom of, I think it was Sunday night, is Ayan Hersi Ali, who's a famous sort of apostate from Islam, who wrote a piece over the weekend talking about why she has converted to Christianity.
And this caused a lot of stir, and it caused a lot of stir because she was very much associated with the sort of the new Atheists and the atheism as an answer to.
She raised in an environment in Somalia of religious fanaticism, a Muslim religious fanaticism, and she had rejected that and then embraced the European atheists as an answer to the Muslim fanaticism. And now she's saying, oh, no, I've switched over to Christianity, which is going to be the answer to wokeness. And it struck me that that's part of this sort of trend that we're being offered, that the only answer to the far left, the threat of the far left, is we have to go to the right, to the nationalists, and we have to embrace religion. And I don't know if anybody's had a chance to look at that particular thing yet, because it's very new.
But what struck me about it, and several people mentioned this, is she has a whole article about why she's converted to Christianity. And in it, there's no reference to a very important figure in Christianity, Jesus Christ. Right. So the idea of Jesus and the importance of Jesus, the importance of the actual religious doctrines, doesn't show up at all in her article. There's a phenomenon I've been thinking of that I sort of call the culture war Christian, and that is that they're not really all that concerned about Christianity or its doctrines. They just want to have a side, a unified block to fight the culture war. And so they adopt Christianity, sort of a bludgeon against the left, but without so much concern for what its actual doctrines are. They just want something that will be a thing they can cite to defend the west or the ideals of the west without really questioning the theology or the underlying philosophy of it too deeply.
I don't know if you've observed the same phenomenon.
[00:33:03] Speaker C: YEah, I'm even thinking about the concept of the cultural war. Right.
Again, how this concept is also used sometimes.
And it's very tricky, I think, because a culture is, again, another spontaneous order, like the market very much, that you don't wake up one day and go, like, I'm going to create culture today. And if you have to create that, then it's not culture. Right? It's something different when people use culture and link culture to war. And war is a military concept, isn't that a contradiction in terms, mixing these two concepts in the name of defense of kind of a Western civilization? And isn't that, again, an argument to impose some specific values, again, many times related to religion or religious views? And we're not saying that you cannot believe in anything that you want. I mean, you can profess your religion and be religious. And if that works for someone, that's totally fine, because freedom of religion has know, again, another very important liberty that even created this concept or idea of the United States. So again, when we see many people using these kind of terms in this culture war, that also takes me to another concept, which is, I don't know if I'm saying it right, but the right to offend other people, which is something that we listen a lot when it comes to these right wing leaders. And I think many times people at some point, I don't know if misunderstand, but maybe confuse freedom of speech with bullying or with this idea of the right to offend other people. And sometimes we think that an offense is only, like this idea of violence or offense. Sometimes people think that it's only physical violence or physical offense, like, don't take my stuff, don't take my property, don't hurt me, don't hurt other people, don't take your stuff. But what happened with another type of offenses?
Are we lacking empathy?
I don't know. I always try to bring this side because emotional intelligence is also important. Social learning of some specific things. But then we see this right to offend that many people use and talk about and even religious people, many people that have a religion and professor religion, then they go and use this concept of the right to offend and is something that we should add offending people. Is that a new mandate?
[00:36:43] Speaker B: I think it's an interesting question because the right to offend, I know the origins of that were actually more on the left than the right. And it was the idea that I do think that you have to have a right to offend, because if anybody being offended by you is a reason to censor you, then you don't have freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is tested when it offends people, when it makes people angry. The right to say something people agree with is not really under contention. What's under contention is the right to say something that people disagree with or think is beyond the pale. But I do agree that there has been something happened in trying to promote this right to offend. And I think it's happened more on the right these days than on the left, at least in America, that the right to offend has also become the mandate to offend. You're not really protecting your freedom unless you're going out and deliberately offending people, and it's being as repellent as possible. I think that's what makes you tough. That's what makes you a fighter.
The right to offend has become the mandate to offend.
Yeah, I think that's what you're. What you're getting at.
[00:37:50] Speaker C: And even. Even morality, I mean, when it comes to morality, morality evolves also. So we don't do the same jokes that we used to do ten years ago or 20 years ago. And again, it's because now we see that some things are not the things that we thought that were right were actually bullying, for example. Right, again, trying to think about the things that we are not actually seeing right now.
[00:38:26] Speaker B: But there's something you said a minute ago that I really thought was interesting, which is that culture and war are like the words don't belong together. They belong in totally different realms. You said, nobody goes out and says, I'm going to create culture. Well, in a way, you do might go out and say you're going to create culture, and the way you would create culture would be, I'm going to go make something. I'm going to build a building. I'm going to make a work, paint a work of, I'm going to paint a painting. I'm going to write a play. I'm going to write a song. That's what making culture is. But you said it's emergent, spontaneous order. It's a bunch of people going out and creating things to express their view of the world and making art and ideas and then sending that out to other people who accept it or reject it or argue about it and debate it. And that's how culture is made. And I think that the important point is that that phenomenon is so totally opposite from that of a war or a conflict. And so I think the problem we have is we tried to make that into war and conflict. And everybody, everything you do to make a culture that I don't like is suddenly has to be expunged or anything somebody else is doing to make a culture that impinges upon me.
It's woke and it's destroying the artificial way, and so therefore, it has to be stopped. And sort of, I have this long standing thing that my plan for the culture war is that culture should win.
If you have an idea of the way things should be and of the way people should live, the kind of art they should be viewing or enjoying, then go make it right. I like to say that the culture war, if you went back to 500 years ago, the culture war would have been, well, Florence builds a cathedral and they put up Michelangelo's David and then the church back in Rome. They feel threatened, and so they build the know. You have a culture war that is people building things and making things and competing for who could build the best and the greatest thing.
[00:40:35] Speaker C: Yeah. And it's interesting how, again, we go back to the beginning, how ideas and concepts and terms are constantly changing and evolving and how something can mean one thing in a country and to an ideology or whatever. But even the concept of culture know, Created or developed by Antonio Gramsci, now we see people from the right using very lefty or very kind of communist concept because it was developed by Antonio Ramsci, who talk about how you need to change culture. And through culture, you're going to change a country. And you got to take education and take, again, by the way, let's put.
[00:41:31] Speaker B: A little perspective on that. So Gramshi was a Marxist, but the traditional Marxist idea was because of the material conditions of the country, because of the relationships to the means of production, the revolution will naturally just happen on its own and culture will just follow.
And then there was a split of Gramshee comes along in the early 20th century. There's a split of saying, well, look, the revolution is not happening inevitably because of these material factors. So we need to have a culture war to change the culture and infiltrate the institutions and infiltrate the schools and the art and art, and then that will make the revolution happen. And of course, it still didn't happen.
[00:42:09] Speaker C: Isn't that something that the nationalists from the left and the right are actually doing? Right, when you see politics or when you see these global trends, isn't that their main argument, like trying to change or give this or battle this cultural.
[00:42:27] Speaker B: War change things in America. There was a guy named Andrew Breitbart, who unfortunately passed away very young, but he had the statement that politics is downstream of culture, which know, it's a really great insight. It's something similar to what Ayn Rand had said about how a nation's idea is determined what happens. But a lot of people, I think, interpret it as, oh, well, then we should fight our political battles in the realm of culture. So we should make, if politics is downstream from culture, if what people new movie version of the Little Mermaid. And we have to all take that over as tomorrow in a Twitter space. But it's a big event that happened over in the last couple of weeks, is Mark Andreessen, who long ago wrote for the program for one of the first web browsers, sort of a father of the World Wide Web, came up with something called a techno optimist manifesto. And I think this is an interesting sort of contrast to everything else. We're talking about the rise of nationalism and the culture war and all these political battles that over and above that in politics. The frustrating thing about politics is that progress doesn't tend to occur. We all end up arguing the same things over and over again and not really making a lot of forward motion. But in the realm of technology, progress does occur. And so Mark Andreessen was making this case for a techno optimist manifesto, the idea that we should be unleashing more progress and more technological change and growth and embracing that and getting some of the barriers, the cultural and political barriers to that out of the way. And I love the. Now, I don't know if you've seen this, but in there, there's some things that are clearly, this guy's been influenced by Ayn Rand. That is a clear objectivist influence, including these talks about we need to have the romance of industry and the eros of the railroad. And I'm like, well, we're talking about the romance of the industry as representative railroads. This is a guy who's clearly read Atlas Drugged.
But I love this idea of that. We have a debate over this, we have a discussion over this, and that we're actually debating this question of how can we create more.
This is related to that. What I said about the culture war, that the culture war should be about going out and creating things. And this idea also, that instead of having these debates over how we distribute wealth or what punitive import taxes we put on things and who should we punish, which is a lot of what the political debate is about these days, having a debate about what should we create and who should we be creating? Should we be building more, should we be making, building nuclear power plants and pursuing technological progress in these others'ways?
[00:45:22] Speaker C: Well, that makes me think about a book by Matt Ridley, how innovation works. It's another book that I really like that is, I think, at some point related to this or even open by.
And when you go and see different countries in Latin America, Argentina, for example, if you want to open a business, if you want to open a company, it will probably take you probably nine months to do that.
And then you have to face bureaucracy, regulations. Well, taxes, of course. We have one of the highest rates of taxation rates in basically the entire world. So we keep demonizing business. We keep demonizing wealth. The entrepreneur, it's like evil. Being an entrepreneur is a bad word in Argentina or in different countries from, I mean, even in the United States.
But then I go, if we wonder why we don't have all the mean in economically repressed countries, why we don't see all the innovation, all the technological solutions or new ideas coming up in those countries, then it's because you are oppressing people.
It's because you are not letting entrepreneurs and people with great ideas going and getting those ideas into action. Right? So, I don't know, opening a company in a garage, for example.
[00:47:05] Speaker B: Which famously is what Steve Jobs and Wozniak were doing, starting.
[00:47:13] Speaker C: Big. I'm thinking about all the things that we are missing, and we have been missing in the entire history because of this, because of having governments regulating and going with this wealth distribution thing.
[00:47:30] Speaker B: And traditionally the solution to this. And I know Hernando Soto, who has written a lot about this, the provian economist, has talked about, traditionally, the solution is when you make it so difficult to start a company, people go ahead and start companies anyway. They just do it illegally. So you end up with a black market economy. You end up without the rule of law, without the protection for property rights. And so the growth of these sort of informal, they call it the informal economy, the growth of this black market economy is always stunted by the fact that you cannot do things with the legal protections and with the enforcement of contracts and with the secure property rights that you would have otherwise. But that's what happens when you put this giant regulation. It's not that, oh, all academic activity will be regulated. It's like, no, people will go do things outside of the legal system because they have to. There's no other way to live. But it will be without the protections and without the support and without the rule of law that's necessary for those companies to be able to grow and become larger and expand. And again, you lose out on that innovation.
And that's been a common Latin American problem. It's also African problem. They call it, I think a French term, System D. They call it system de la de Bruilar des, which means the system of the untanglers. But it was this idea of the fixer, the untangler, the person who skirts the law and does something in the black market. That's the system that's used to actually get most things done in a lot of African economies.
[00:48:59] Speaker C: Yeah. And for example, I think how you see the Nordic countries or even the United States, you see many people, many entrepreneurs, many people innovating and creating things that actually change our know for good.
And then you go to countries in Latin America, like Venezuela, and maybe you have a lot of people with great ideas that can actually change the world, but they don't have anything to eat.
[00:49:32] Speaker B: Yeah.
[00:49:33] Speaker C: So if we can do something to change that reality, then we will probably be able to create wealth and innovation and progress at the end of the day.
So it's not because we don't have talent or we don't have talented people, it's because we have big governments, again, not letting those people.
[00:50:01] Speaker B: Yeah. In America, I think part of what you see here, too, is you have lots of people with great ideas, and they tend to devote those ideas towards building an app. Right.
Doing something digital rather than something physical. Because if you want to build something physically, you have suddenly you're neck deep in regulation, whereas building an app is something you can just have a couple of guys sit around in an office, and it is a relatively unregulated thing, but it pushes our economy more into the realm of do things digitally, rather than do things, build things in the physical world.
Now, somebody mentioned on this thing about the techno optimist manifesto. Does it not really address the terror some have towards AI technologies? Well, yes, but people have a terror towards nuclear energy, which is one of the safest forms of energy and safest, most effective, most abundant forms of energy ever developed. And I think that's sort of his point, is that a lot of the scare mongering on AI that's going on right now, which I don't buy into, it's based on watching James Cameron movies and watching robots kill people on TV rather than. But it's the same thing that's been done for every single technology that's come before from nuclear and medical. Mean they've a lot of biotechnology. You look at what happened. We developed a vaccine for COVID in record time. We developed a relatively effective vaccine. And people were said, oh, mRNA is going to alter your genes and cause all sorts of horrible, these very science fictiony scenarios about all the bad things mRNA is going to do to you. It didn't do any of that. It helped end the pandemic much earlier than it would have otherwise. So the terror people have of AI is more likely because they've been watching movies about where our sole model of what artificial intelligence or robotics would look like is the terminator.
And it skews people against that. But I want to turn back to something said in the techno Optimistic manifesto, which is this idea of, I think it gets out to this idea of the transformative power of innovation and the ability. Oh yeah. So I saw some of the criticisms of the techno optimist, Optimist manifesto were very much along the lines of, oh, but if we had this techno optimist society, what about, we still have to have these regulations, we still have to have the welfare state. It was all sorts of things that it was a fear, and it wasn't just a fear of the bad impact, it was not just a fear of James Cameron's killer robots coming to get us. It was also this fear of sense that people have, of being more afraid of the bad side, the downside, more afraid that change would disrupt their lives, being more afraid of that than they were motivated by the positive aspect of all the new technologies, all the new wealth, all the new innovation we could have.
That fear of, I won't be protected, or somebody else might make money, or the world might change too rapidly. And I'm afraid of that fear of change. That that is really what's holding people back. And I see that in the reactions to the techno optimistic manifesto of people saying, oh, but we have to have this protection and that control and this regulation over here, and how could you possibly change that? And it's almost like it's that idea of being motivated by fear versus being motivated by the desire to create.
And it's that motivation by fear that is in so many issues, across so many things, is holding us back in politics and in technology and in culture, and in the culture wars, rather than the emphasis being on the positive motivation of going out there and seeing what we can create.
[00:54:14] Speaker C: I love how we connected everything to fear. At the end of the day, it's about fear and getting rid of that, and promoting a culture of innovation, of openness.
[00:54:29] Speaker B: You talked about the importance of emotions. It's about love versus fear, the love of creation, the love of life versus the fear.
[00:54:39] Speaker C: 100%.
[00:54:41] Speaker B: I always like it when we can wrap things together at the end like that without even planning it. Well, I didn't plan. It's spontaneous order.
[00:54:48] Speaker C: Exactly.
[00:54:51] Speaker A: Wonderful. That's a great way to end things off here for tonight. But Rob, Antonila, I want to thank you both again for doing this really interesting stuff. I hope everyone who's watching this, a lot of people had questions, but luckily, Rob, you were on point, answered them as going along to keep the flow going. So again, everyone who is watching, thank you for joining us today. I hope you enjoyed this. Please extend your thanks to Rob and Antonella for doing this. And if you enjoyed this video and would like to see more conversations like this one, please consider making a tax deductible donation to the Atlas Society now. Be sure to join us tomorrow on Twitter Spaces, where our senior scholars Stephen Hicks and Richard Salzman will be doing an hour long talk only on the techno Optimus manifesto. So you'll have another opportunity to dive even further in. Or check out the links for links to Rob's articles on this very subject, and then be sure to join us again next week on the Atlas Society. Ask when our CEO, Jennifer Grossman, will be interviewing author Frank Minitner about his book Future of the Gun. Thanks everyone, and we'll see you all again soon.