Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hi everyone, and welcome to the 166th episode of the Atlas Society. Asks, my name is Jennifer Anju Grossman. I go by Jag to my friends. I'm the c e o of the Atlas Society. We are the leading nonprofit organization introducing young people to the ideas of Ayn Rand in fun, creative ways, including graphic novels and animated videos. Today we are joined by Stephanie Slade. Before I even begin to introduce my guest, I wanna remind all of you who are watching us on Zoom, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube. Go ahead, um, and start to type your questions into the comment section, and we are gonna get to as many of them as we can. Stephanie Slade is a journalist and a senior editor, uh, at reason, um, a fellow in liberal studies at the Acton Institute, and a media media fellow at the Institute for Human Ecology. Slave is best known for her defense of fusion, in which she argues that libertarian principles of limited government and individual liberty can be harmoniously combined with certain traditional or conservative values. Stephanie, thanks for joining us.
Speaker 1 00:01:24 Thank you. And I love that you go by Jag to your friends. I actually go by Slade to my friends, so,
Speaker 0 00:01:29 Okay. Tell me what it is,
Speaker 1 00:01:31 Slade, my last name, people just call me by my last name.
Speaker 0 00:01:32 Okay. Yeah. Well, I go, uh, by, I am going to date myself here, but, um, the year I was born was the year that every, you know, all parents across America, uh, decided to name their daughters Jennifer. So everywhere I went, there was always just so many Jennifers. It was like, are you the tall Jennifer, the blonde, Jennifer, the, this Jennifer? Um, so I just said, I think I'm gonna make this simple. Plus I was born in India and JE is my name from there. So I'd kind of like to incorporate it. And I think Stephanie's such a pretty name, though. Why do you go by Slade's?
Speaker 1 00:02:12 The more problem? Which is pretty cool. <laugh>, huh? Yeah, there were always other Stephanie in my classes growing up, and so eventually my friends just all started calling me Slade and my, our, my teachers started doing it too. My soccer coach n nowadays, even my priest, my boss, everybody calls me Slade, so, yeah.
Speaker 0 00:02:26 Okay. Well, I'm glad we got that settled. So, Slade, can you tell us a little bit about your origin story about growing up? Um, who might've been some of your early influences and mentors and your path to becoming a senior editor at Reason?
Speaker 1 00:02:47 Sure. Um, I grew up mostly in Florida, in a suburb of Tampa, Florida. Um, my dad was in the Army when I was growing up, and we settled in Florida. I went to the University of Florida. I, I studied economics there. Um, it was not a particularly libertarian or free market department, but I think just the study of how markets work convinced me that they do work, and that when government gets involved, it very often almost always makes things worse and not better, no matter the good intentions that it brings to it. And so I was sort of primed in a, in a more libertarian or at least free market direction, um, by my study of economics in college. Um, after school I moved to DC I knew that I had a love of politics and I wanted to do something touching on politics. I also love to write.
Speaker 1 00:03:27 Um, and so I, I came here to sort of, which is where I still live, to sort of pursue this, this dream of mine. And, um, eventually I had a chance to attend a, um, week long colloquium, uh, coasted by the Institute for, uh, humane Studies. They would do these, these seminars where, you know, they'd get like a hundred young people either in college or right outta college, and you would spend a week being steeped in the ideas behind libertarianism. And that was very formative for me. I, I think that it was the first time in my life when I realized like, yeah, these are my people. I really am a libertarian. I I hadn't wanted to really embrace that label or, or felt that it necessarily captured what I was. But, um, but then I, I eventually came around to it and, um, have been sort of trying to, to advocate those ideas ever since.
Speaker 0 00:04:09 And somewhere either at that time or before that you were introduced to Ayn Rand and read the novels?
Speaker 1 00:04:19 Yeah, I read, uh, fountain Head when I was in college. I think I read, uh, I wanna say I read Atlas Shrugged shortly thereafter. I've read most of her novels and really enjoyed them. I, I don't, I wouldn't say that I was necessarily reading them as, um, reading them for the philosophy or to, to adopt the principles in them. I just enjoyed, I enjoyed them. I, I, I tend to really like epic literature, and she does that. Well, <laugh>,
Speaker 0 00:04:40 Yes, heroic literature, dramatic. And, um, also just from a literary point of view, I think, uh, one of the most superb integrations of, of plot and has great plots and characterization and themes. So, um, and we're gonna be getting you that shipment of our graphic novels as well. So, uh, reading your bio, it looks like we were both, uh, cutting our teeth as speechwriters. I wrote for George Herbert Walker Bush. Uh, but don't blame me for the read My Lips line. That was Peggy Noonan. So how did you get into speed driving?
Speaker 1 00:05:17 Oh, I, like I said, I came to DC with an interest in politics. I had been an obsessive fan of the show, the West Wing, and please don't judge me for that, but it still is my favorite show. It was on TV when I was in high school and college, and I just fell in love with the idea of being like the next Sam Seaborne, that was Rob Lowe's character in the West Wing. He was a speech writer for the president. And so I came to DC and I was like, I'm gonna, I'm gonna find a way to do, I wanna work on campaigns. I wanna help get good people elected to, you know, positions of power. Um, and I ended up getting very lucky that one of my former professors just heard about a freshman member of Congress who needed some help with speech writing and did not have a very large budget.
Speaker 1 00:05:53 So a kid went outta school, willing to do some freelance work on a, uh, on a shoestring budget, was a perfect match. So I did that for maybe a year, a year and a half or so. Um, and I found that I actually didn't like it very much. I also worked in Republican politics for doing polls and focus groups, public opinion research, um, on behalf of Republican clients for about three years total. And, um, learned a lot, but again, found that I didn't like it that much because I realized during the course of this period that, you know, I agreed with Republicans on some things, but I also strongly disagreed with them on some things. This was, again, part of my journey of, of coming around to realizing like, I really just am a libertarian small, I libertarian, but libertarian and not conservative. And so eventually I thought, I gotta find a way to not write what other people believe, which is what you do when you're a speech writer or when you're a consultant, but write what I believe I wanted to do that. And so I started looking for a way to get my foot in the door in journalism, and eventually landed at reason where I've been for the last nine years.
Speaker 0 00:06:48 Wow. Um, yeah. Well, one line that I wrote for, uh, Bush 41 that I still like, and I think it can somewhat fit into the mix of, of fusion, uh, and object objectivism, is the things that must guide change are the things that must never change. So talking about principles and virtues and, um, the facts of reality. So, um, speaking of DC, uh, last time you and I met was at the Cato, uh, dinner. And then before that you were out my way, um, at the recent, uh, weekend, this past spring in Pasadena. And you gave a presentation conservative Libertarian Fusion and what it isn't. Okay, so I have to admit that this was my first introduction to fusion. So, um, perhaps for those in the audience that may fall into the same boat, um, perhaps we can start with just a thumbnail fusion 1 0 1. Um, for those who may be similarly, uh, uninitiated
Speaker 1 00:08:03 Judaism is a philosophy that was associated with the American conservative movement in the middle of the 20th century. So the time that William F. Buckley was founding national Review, the time, you know, in the, in the immediate post-war period when the conservative movement in America was kind of coming into its own for the first time was emerging or being born <laugh>. Um, there was this, i, there was this idea of, like, this debate going on about what does it mean to be a conservative in the American context? And you had some people who were more economic libertarians, and you had some people who were more religious traditionalists, and they were kind of vying for arguing about what, what conservatism or what this new movement should stand for. Um, fusion was the idea that it's not, it's not, uh, one either. It's not either or it's both. And it's, uh, libertarianism and religious traditionalism, or as I tend to, to talk about it and think about it, it's the idea that liberty and virtue are both non-negotiable.
Speaker 1 00:08:54 That America was founded on both these, these principles and that the conservative movement in, in ter in, uh, in the American context, what it means to be a conservative is to conserve both liberty and virtue. That it's not like if you go sort of in, in an old world European context, where liberty maybe was the s considered the opposite of conservatism here, conservatives were also liberals, right? They believed in liberty because America was founded on, on, on, on the principles of liberty, on liberal, classically liberal values. And so conservatives here were gonna be defending liberty and also virtue, but that you need both. That was the idea. And it was a very influential sort of synthesis of these, of these positions that I think, I don't think this is a controversial statement to say that the, the American conservative movement was founded upon this, this synthesis, this fusion idea.
Speaker 1 00:09:41 Um, and so conservatism in the American context, as we know it was fusion up until maybe the last decade, and which point it has kind of come, started to unravel. And this, a new debate has broken out in the conservative movement about what is, what is it, you know, is this a thing that was ever correct? Um, is it a thing that was perhaps well suited to the 20th century context, but is no longer, uh, relevant in the 21st century? So I cover the conservative movement for a reason magazine. Um, I also identify as a libertarian fusion. I am a fusion myself. And so I have, um, a, a sort of horse in this, in this race. I, I wanna see fusion not die out or not be defeated. In fact, I think it's kind of lost its way, and I'm trying to help bring, bring back, uh, a proper understanding of what it was always all about as opposed to this sort of, I think it's, it's gotten lost in the miss a little bit in the last few decades.
Speaker 1 00:10:33 Why do you think that is? Well, one of the stories that you often hear about fusion is that it was, it was just the thing that held libertarians and conservatives together during the Cold War era, and when they had a common enemy in the Soviet Union, right? The Soviet Union is both atheistic, so the religious traditionalists don't like it, and it's obviously authoritarian, so the libertarians don't like it. Um, they were able to come together, fight a common enemy, and that that's all Fugi was. It was a coalition, and it was a sort of alliance of convenience that was suited to a particular time and place, but there was no enduring principles there. Um, I strongly disagree with that characterization. Characterization. I think if you actually go back and read any of the writers who were writing about, who were developing the, these ideas in the mid the mid-century period, you would see that they saw it as a philosophical synthesis and not an alliance.
Speaker 1 00:11:21 Um, but that that idea of this, this philosophical synthesis that libertarians should also care about virtue and that traditionalists should also care about liberty, must in fact also care about liberty, because liberty and virtue need each other. They're mutually reinforcing, and you can't really have a good society without both of them. That all of these ideas were really embedded in what it meant to be a conservative. But as the Cold War ended and the need to sort of be a part of this, this coalition to oppose communism went away, people stopped. And there was a sense, there was this sense, you know, probably many people are, are familiar with this idea that after the end of the Cold War and the Soviet Union fell, it was the end of history. The classical liberalism, liberalism had won. Um, people stopped talking and thinking a lot about the ideas that underpin the movement.
Speaker 1 00:12:05 They, there was no need to defend them anymore, to develop them anymore, to pass them onto the next generation. And so we got lazy. I think people who believe what I believe stopped talking about these ideas, stopped defending them. And so we have a new generation now of people who identify as conservative, but they don't have any idea what that word means or why, what the ideas were behind it. And so they're now, I think there's at least a temptation that's being succumbed to, in some conservative quarters, on the right, on the right of center to embrace what I call wid to power politics, which is this idea that in order to have a virtuous society, we must wield government to get our way, which is a rejection, of course, of fusion, which said, no liberty is an, a necessary and crucial component of a good society. This kind of rejects that and says, we want virtue, and we will, we will impose it upon you at the point of a government, you know, uh, at the point of the gun if need be.
Speaker 0 00:12:54 So, um, in thinking about the rise of populism and, um, seeing some of its proponents, extol the muscular classes and, uh, attack big business, you know, small business, okay, but big business bad. Um, do you think that that is a, I mean, obviously there's a lot of factors that have fed, uh, the popularity of populism, um, including, you know, concerns about immigration and all of that, but do you think that the decline or the dissipation of fugi helped to beat the way for it? Or is it kind of the other way around that other kind of political fads became more popular and at that point people started to neglect fusion?
Speaker 1 00:13:52 I think it's some of both. I, I do fault the sort of defenders, right, the proponents of the ideas for not doing a good job keeping them alive. Ultimately, it's up to us. And you should never rest on your laurels and assume that your ideas have won the day once and for all as if, you know, we live in a dynamic world, so time, time goes on, and you have to keep on making the case for the things you believe. Um, I also think that though, there has been a, that what what we're seeing right now is a sort of backlash against, there was overreach. There's a perception of real overreach, egregious illiberalism violations of individual liberty coming from the left. People on the right wanna respond in kind. I think that's a natural reaction to say they wanna use the state against us, right?
Speaker 1 00:14:32 They're not being liberal in classically liberal sense, right? Um, in their, in their approach to governing. And so if we don't respond in the same way, then we are, it's basically unilaterals surrender, right? It's, we might as well be committing suicide, so we must fight them fight fire with fire. We must use the state against them because they wanna use, use it against us. Um, and so I think that that's an understandable impulse. Again, I think that's very natural, and I don't deny that there are sort of really, were egregious violations of individual liberty coming from the left and still are. Um, I just wanna fight on the grounds of, okay, is do we wanna become the thing that we, that we're fighting against? Is that the way that you go? Is that, you know, is that the right response, is to become the thing you hate? Um, I don't think so. I don't think that's the right way forward.
Speaker 0 00:15:18 So one of my favorite mantras has been for at least 20 years. Um, what are you going to do with your freedom? Objectivism offers some suggestions, uh, pursuing, you're gonna pursue your happiness through the virtues of productivity and integrity. What are some of the virtues that are stressed by fusion when they talk about sort of these virtues and conservative values? Do they pick and choose or how, how does the selection process go?
Speaker 1 00:15:53 Well, just like if you get, you know, five libertarians in a room, they're all gonna disagree about what libertarianism means. I think the same is true if you get five Christians in a room about what does it, you know, what does a good life look like, um, or, or five fusions or whatever. So it, it's not, I don't wanna be overly prescriptive here, but what fusion is embraces is a traditionalist sort of a, um, an embrace of virtue as, as the Judeo-Christian tradition would understand it and would define it. And so I think there's certainly room, uh, under that tradition for, you know, lauding productivity and integrity, of course. Um, there are many virtues, uh, the sort of cardinal virtues, prudence, temperance, courage, uh, the Christian virtues, faith, hope and love. I mean, I think that you can sort of, again, be pretty expansive in your understanding of what we mean when we say virtue, or what, what I'm talking about.
Speaker 1 00:16:43 What, what a fusion is, um, is thinking of when, you know, when I use the word virtue. Um, but it, it's, there's gonna be some things that are tied up in that, that, that, that are exclusive. So it is gonna tend to be something that embraces or recognizes, um, the idea of a sin, a transcendental reality that there, that it's not just the material world around us. There's such a thing as objective morality, that there's such a thing as, you know, where, where we came from. We have to ask this question of, you know, who made us and for what purpose. And that these things feed into the idea of what does a good life, what does a, what does a good society look like? Um, how do we go about living? And so there's this, there's this Judeo-Christian tradition that we've inherited that we wanna be very respectful of. And I think if you entirely throw that tradition away, or say it's irrelevant or not important, then you probably are not gonna qualify as a fusion, as it as at least the word was, you know, initially, um, coined the thing that it was coined to refer to, which had this idea of, we've inherited a classically liberal legacy, but we've also inherited this Judeo-Christian legacy, and we wanna marry them together and keep them, because we believe that a good society requires both of those pieces. So,
Speaker 0 00:17:49 So if I'm hearing you right, then fusion is, uh, would encompass or incorporate some kind of belief in the supernatural. Is that accurate? I,
Speaker 1 00:18:02 I think that that is, again, I don't wanna be overly prescriptive, but I think that the way it was, and it's funny because the guy who's most closely associated with Fism Fusion was this guy named Frank Meyer, who wrote for National Review, again in the 19, early 1950s through 1972, when he passed away. And he was not religious at all until he had a deathbed conversion to Catholicism. So although he was the one that really was articulating it, advancing this idea of fusion, he did it from a position of respect for religion, but not as a believer himself, at least, at least, or, or at least not a practicing sort of, you know, somebody who went to church and receive the sacraments or anything until, until he was about to pass away. So I think there's room for people who say, I respect the inheritance that we have.
Speaker 1 00:18:46 In fact, I met somebody at the, at the Reason weekend, the conference where we first met, um, who said like, I'm an atheist, but I absolutely agree with everything you said. This is part of our legacy as a, you know, the western, the western tradition is one in which the, the, these beliefs matter and we should be respectful of them. So she, she doesn't accept them herself, but she thinks that they're important and, um, wants to, wants them to be cherished in society. It was, it's very interesting. I, I'm not trying to like read people out of fusion, but I do, I do think it's important to recognize that the word virtue can mean anything depending on whose math it comes out of. And of course, people on the left, who I very much disagree with, um, would push a particular vision of morality. They have their own vision of morality, their own conception of morality, um, and oftentimes people on the right will, will, will accuse them of virtue signaling. So they're using that word virtue to mean something totally different from what, I mean, I, I wanna, I wanna try to ground it in something older as opposed to something that I've just made up on the spot, or that feels right to me today.
Speaker 0 00:19:45 So one of my occasional turnoffs, uh, when it comes to some libertarians, is that it, they almost sometimes seem to border on libertinism, uh, that it goes beyond advocating for the freedom to smoke pot or take hallucinogens, but often seems to celebrate these lifestyle choices as somehow, uh, cool. Uh, am I alone in this or, uh, would you make the same critique,
Speaker 1 00:20:19 Friendly critique? Yes, I would, I would absolutely share that now. And I think that most people actually do recognize that there's this an important distinction between saying, this thing should be legal. The government should stay out of this and saying, this thing is morally good or ought to be encouraged, right? So like, the example I love to use to, to illustrate this point, is almost everybody I think recognizes that adultery is wrong in some sense. Mo most people would say that, I think they would say it's wrong, but do they want to empower the state to be raving people's bedrooms and hauling people away and locking them up for cheating on their spouses? No. Almost everyone also recognizes that that would not be a proper use of government power. So something can be wrong, and maybe it should still be legal. Something is legal. Things that are legal shouldn't, shouldn't necessarily be encouraged. Maybe they should be strongly discouraged, but in peaceful ways, right? In, in non-coercive ways.
Speaker 0 00:21:09 Yeah, I actually think that there might be more traction when it comes to, um, legalization of some of these substances. If there, it, if it was married, like, you know, fusion in a fusion is way with a strong denunciation of it. And to say, I, I, I don't do it. I don't encourage it among my children. I think it's really important to, um, be able to protect my capacity to reason, you know, reason is our sole means of survival and flourishing. But that said, I, you know, will advocate for people's, uh, right to do wrong. And even if that wrong is sometimes to themselves, and I'm, I'm not going to, you know, stand in their way. So, um, so I remember, I think it was back in 2014, the New York Times magazine ran a story, has the libertarian moment arrived? Okay, so that was nearly a decade ago. And on one level, that headline doesn't seem to have, uh, aged particularly well as populism and conservatism seem to have captured the political momentum since then. But on another level, gen Z survey data seems to show that young Americans are, uh, kind of broadly moving in a more libertarian direction. Uh, we've seen tremendous progress on things like school choice. So those are my very superficial observations. You cover libertarianism, you cover conservatism. Um, where is the libertarian moment? Uh, has it arrived? Will it arrived? Where do things stand at the moment?
Speaker 1 00:23:06 I don't think it has arrived, unfortunately. Uh, I, yeah, and, and I don't, I don't think there was maybe that much evidence that it, that, that it was arriving in 2014, either, you know, it's, it's natural to be constantly looking for what is the next big thing and, and trying to suss that out. Um, I guess right now, I, I see some evidence that we maybe are having a little bit of a fusion moment, a fusion resurgence. So, because this was an idea that has sort of faded from the conversation. In fact, Don Devine, who, um, he was a, a member of the Reagan administration, he's, he's a friend of mine. Um, he was one of the early fusions. He was around when these ideas were first being sort of debated and rolled out. And he said something to, I wrote this article for a reason about fusion called, is There a Future for Fusion, maybe two or three years ago.
Speaker 1 00:23:51 And he said at the, he said, there have been more, like more words written about fusion in the last year than there have been in the last 30 years, right? Like, it's coming back. And I think part of the reason for that is that there was, there's when, when an idea is under attack, people will come outta the woodwork to defend it. Whereas when an idea doesn't seem to be under attack, there's no reason to think about it or talk about it or defend it. And so it clearly is under attack, it's under attack from the left, from people on the left, the illiberal left. And it's also attack from this, but describe again, as the will to power or illiberal, right? These, these folks who are willing to embrace, quote unquote muscular government in order to impose conservative values on society. Um, and they often very explicitly will say, libertarianism, libertarians are the enemy.
Speaker 1 00:24:36 Fusion was a failure. We, you know, we reject liberalism, classical liberalism, they'll, they'll say very explicitly, this is what we are against. And so it's no wonder that suddenly people will look around and say, well, hang on. That's what I believe. I I maybe I, maybe I actually need to do a little bit more work defending it, you know? So there was just a couple, a few weeks ago, there was this, um, release of something called the Freedom Conservatism, straight Statement of principles, which a bunch of people who identify as freedom conservatives, conservatives to differentiate themselves against the national conservatives, which some, some of these big government conservatives. And they said, no, we still believe in freedom, limited government, individual liberty, rule of law. Uh, we think diversity is good, not bad. Like they, they wanted to defend. Uh, a very fusion is I think many, many, many of them would identify as fusions.
Speaker 1 00:25:20 They, they would say like, we do not think that this, this fusion, uh, this idea of fusion died with the 21st century with, you know, with the turn of the century or with the end of the Cold War. They still wanna defend it. They still believe in it. They still think that it's applicable because these are enduring values. They were not, it was not just an alliance of convenience, it was a philosophical synthesis based on enduring values that are just as applicable today as they were then. And that, that's very encouraging for me to see people who identify as conservatives. And some libertarians even say like, we think that freedom is non-negotiable. We're not willing to trade it away in order to get virtue. We think that we, they're both worth fighting for and they need each other. Yes, I agree with that.
Speaker 0 00:25:58 All right. So you are also with the Acton Institute, whose stated mission is to quote, promote free, a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles. Uh, as recently as 20 16, 30 9% of Gen Z reported no religious affiliation, that since then has risen to about 50%. So that's a pretty big jump in just a few years as an objectivist. Um, I see these trends as potentially positive, particularly if young people are making decisions based on reason rather than faith or, um, orienting themselves to the natural world as opposed to a supernatural realm. I'm gonna take a wild guess that you think those are not positive trends. Uh, do you see them as reversible? And if so, how? Yeah,
Speaker 1 00:26:57 I mean, first of all, I think it is a mistake to think that, to think of faith and reason as being, you know, contradictory. There's a, a great sort of famous, somewhat famous encyclical, uh, basically a document written by Pope John Paul ii, um, called <inaudible> Faith and Reason. And he describes them as the two wings, like they like the two wings of a, of a birder, of a, of a butterfly or something, right? The two wings on which we fly to seek the truth, faith, and reason. And so that is very much, uh, consistent with at least my Catholic understanding of both faith and reason is that they, again, they need each other. Um, we need both if we wanna seek the truth. Um, that said, yes, I mean, the, the trends are not pretty. If you think faith, if you think faith is a good thing, if you think that a good life, um, and, and, uh, the pursuit of truth, uh, should involve, um, thinking about these transcendental things, these questions like, where did we come from?
Speaker 1 00:27:46 What, what was I made for? Um, there is a, there's definitely been a decline, steep decline in religiosity. I, the, the Beck Fund for Religious, um, Liberty puts out a, a religious freedom index. Every year they do a survey, and I, I got a chance to look, sort of pour through their survey data when the last version, um, the most recent survey came out. And yeah, the trends, especially when you look at the youngest Americans, right, the gen, the gen Zs, um, are towards secularization, um, away from religious practice and religious orthodoxy. Um, on the other hand, a thing that I always try to remind people and have to remind myself is that history is not linear. It's cyclical. And even if you just look at sort of the religiosity trends, um, in the, in American history, in the us you find them going up and down and up and down.
Speaker 1 00:28:36 And we tend to think of it as being like once upon a time, um, everybody was very faithful, and now everybody's very secular, but actually there have been these great religious awakenings, and then these, these, these declines and another awakening, and then another decline. And so, um, I, I sort of have hope. And, you know, as a person of faith, I believe that it's not the end, right? And again, as I said earlier, I don't think of things in terms of stasis, like we've reached the end of history, and it will always be as it is today. I, I am very hopeful that there will be another religious awakening. And I do think that's part of what we need in this society. I think one of the things, I mean, even if you're, even if you're not believe yourself, uh, I think, I think a lot of people have noticed and is that there's some real insight here, is that as I think people are hungry for an idea of for, for meaning and belonging, right?
Speaker 1 00:29:20 They, they are hungry for truth. They're hungry for some, for something larger than themselves to serve. And as society grows more secular, I think one of the things you're seeing is people increasingly investing all their hopes and dreams and meaning and belonging in politics and worldly politics, and that that is not a very healthy, uh, place to seek that kind of meaning. Um, and one of the things that we, you know, the part of the reason I think our politics are so toxic right now is that people's identities are wrapped up with their partisanship in a way, uh, sort of, uh, a more intractable way than in the past. So I would like to see, even again, even if you, maybe you're like, well, I don't, I don't believe in God. Um, maybe you can see the ways in which religion, religion going away actually leads to some pretty bad practical outcomes in, in terms of the, uh, our, our, our politics, our practical politics.
Speaker 0 00:30:10 Well, I would say that I would disagree that religion is necessary to be able to ask these fundamental questions about, uh, where did I come from? What is good? What is virtue? What am I going to do with my life? But I would definitely agree with you, Slade, um, that we are seeing, uh, the rise of these quasi religious movements, uh, which have all of the earmarks of, um, you know, ritual and, uh, suspension of, of belief when it comes to things like, um, climate end of the world, <laugh>, uh, ideology and, and critical race theory. So, uh, yeah, I, I, I guess I would probably prefer that we would have more, you know, Stephanie Slades than Greta Sandberg's. Um, all right, we are, we've got a lot of questions getting piled up. I'm gonna turn to them in one second, but this is an important one.
Speaker 0 00:31:18 So I'm just gonna, uh, uh, see if we can spend a moment on this in your 2015 Peace. For reason why I am a pro-life libertarian, uh, you cite analysis from Cato's, Emily Ekins, who's also been a guest on this show, in which she states, according to our analysis of 2008 American, uh, national election study data, 62% of libertarians are pro-choice versus 37% pro-life. You seem to, uh, intimate in the article that, uh, the number of anti-abortion libertarians may be on the rise. But given some of that data I just cited earlier with the dramatic drop of Gen Z religious affiliation combined with the overturning of Roe versus Wade, uh, making this more of a practical, real life issue for, for young women as opposed to a theoretical one, um, I have a hard time believing that more young libertarians will be rushing to limit women's access to abortion.
Speaker 0 00:32:30 Though, as we sh I shared with you earlier, my experience at that, um, supposedly young libertarian audience conference, uh, gave me some pause. So tell me what I may be getting wrong or, or what you are basing, um, your, uh, hope or, or your, um, intuition that, that that is maybe I, 'cause I think if that, if that was done today, we'd see 70%, uh, or more of, of, uh, libertarians being pro-choice. But again, I don't spend my, all my life and time working with libertarians and, and speaking to them. So tell me what I may be getting wrong.
Speaker 1 00:33:16 One thing I should say upfront, and I know that Emily would agree with this, is that it's extremely hard, almost impossible to poll libertarians. Um, so her, her study was an, a best attempt to approximate what they thought based on the data would be, would be sort of, uh, an again, an accurate approximation. And that's as good as we're probably ever gonna get. Um, one of the things that I, I think the main thing I said in the article was just that young Americans across, across political affiliations, young Americans at that time were trending more pro-life. That was interesting to me. And so it just, it, that was the, and the main thing, when I say, um, the libertarians, I wanted to say like, look, yes, libertarians tend to be on average, they're gonna be more likely to be pro-choice than pro-life. I don't deny that.
Speaker 1 00:34:00 Um, I recognize I'm in the minority. I just wanna show that there is a minority there. It's not a vanishing minority, it's a significant minority. Maybe, maybe a, a third, maybe, maybe it's only a quarter, I don't know. But, um, that young people were trending pro-life. And I think that that is a thing that anecdotally and, um, I would've to look, look at the most recent data. Um, but anecdotally, over the time that I've worked at Reason, we've seen more and more of our young hires identifying as pro-life. And that is definitely not a thing we are screening for. Although I am pro-life, my boss, Katherine Mankey Ward, the editor-in-chief of Reason, very pro-choice, she's an atheist. She's not hiring pro-life first intentionally. We just tend to find the younger people we hire identify both as pro-life and libertarian. I think, I think what we are seeing is that this next generation has never lived at a time when you didn't have really advanced ultrasound technology and the ability to see what's going on in a womb, and they, they just cannot sustain the fiction anymore, that it is not a human child.
Speaker 1 00:34:59 Um, now saying that life begins conception or potential human, well, that, I think, I think what we're seeing is more and more people saying like, I just, I, I see a person there, I see a human baby. Now, that does not necessarily mean that they wanna ban it, right? So say, you can say, you could say, I believe that life, that there is a human life there, but that passing a law might make things worse and not better. I think that's a, a reasonable position. It's one that I'm very sympathetic to, because I think that prohibition almost never makes things better, right? It almost always makes things worse. So take the practical considerations around whether actually passing the law would solve the problem and put them up against the, the, the flip side, which is, well, if we're gonna have, to the extent that there should be a government at all, or that government has any legitimate functions at all, probably protecting innocent human life is one of them is probably at the very top of the list, in fact.
Speaker 1 00:35:47 And so you have to, and so you, you have young people who have a harder time saying, it's not really a person, it's not really a human baby, uh, a harder time than maybe they once did. I think that that's what we're seeing. I mean, anecdotally, we're definitely seeing it among recent staff. Um, and then they're grappling with, okay, well what does that mean? What kind of, what should the law look like in light of that fact? It's, I don't think it's straightforward to apply, you know, I'm not saying by any means that it's clear what the law should look like, even if you do accept those things. Um, and I think it has gotten harder now since we've had the over turning of Roe v Wade, because before it was all hypothetical. It was all theory, right? I can theoretically say, well, I'm pro-life.
Speaker 1 00:36:23 I think the government has the, um, responsibility to protect innocent human life. Um, I think that the, the child in the womb is a, a human life and innocent human life, and therefore the government should do something. Um, it's easy to say that when you know that the government can't do something because we have a Supreme Court decision on the books that will prevent them. Um, now that that decision is gone, and we have states trying to write actual laws, this is where the rubber hits the road, we realize how complicated this actually is, and I don't think it's easy, right? Even I talked to some of my really smart, thoughtful pro-life friends, and they'll say like, yeah, I do not trust these state level lawmakers to write good laws, right? Who are that? I, I just don't trust them. So to, to, um, so anyway, it's complicated and, and I think that there's a lot of different ways that you can come down on this.
Speaker 1 00:37:05 And we're in a, a time that I did not see coming. I did not think that Roe v Wade was going to be overturned. Certainly back in 2015 when I wrote that article, I was not expecting that this would be a live question. Um, but, but I do see, I do see these interesting trends of young people who are much more likely today to say that this is an innocent human life. Um, and that if, you know, government has any responsibility at all, it is to protect innocent human life. And then trying to figure out, okay, well then where do we go? Given that prohibition is terrible, it makes things worse and not better, almost always, what do we do? What do we do from here? This is not an easy question, but that's where we are now. So it's, it's kind of an interesting yeah. Moment to be alive, <laugh>.
Speaker 0 00:37:45 Well, um, one thing that I definitely give credit to reason for is having these conversations of, of covering it and talking about it. I think sometimes with some other libertarian organizations, the impulse is to say, well, there isn't a consensus, so we're not going to talk about it. And I think, uh, it is important, particularly now to have those conversations. My hope as an objectivist is that as part of the conversation, that there will be a recognition that there is an actual human being, a alive human being, and there is a potential dependent potential human being, and that we are not going to be restricting the, um, autonomy of an actual right bearing person, making decisions in the actual world, um, on the basis of, of, of a potential one. I think there, there, there is kind of a, at some point, an either an either or. So, anyway, uh, we want, I wanna get to some questions. I usually like to reserve, um, at least half of the interview, but I've had such a wonderful time talking to you that we now have 20 minutes left. So, um, we have a lot of great questions that have been piling up. So, uh, let's see here. Um, Jason Carroll on Jackson Carroll on Facebook asks, do you think there is a correlation between rising secularization and rising depression and mental health issues in young people?
Speaker 1 00:39:27 I wouldn't be surprised, but I don't wanna claim to be an expert on mental health issues. I'm really not at all <laugh>. Um, it would not surprise me if there was a correlation there. Again, I do think that people are hungry for meaning, right? And belonging and, and they're hungry for, to explore and to, to grapple with these transcendental questions. And I think our culture tends to be one that discourages that or that, you know, right? That, that, that mocks people for that. And so I don't think that that would be necessarily a good thing for, um, for any individual person or for society as a whole. But I don't know enough, and there are so many debates, even among the recent staff about what is, what are the contributing factors and the causes and not causes of sort of, um, mental health problems that we see, especially among young people. And to what extent is that phenomenon real or overstated? Like it's a really complex topic that I'm don't claim to be an expert on.
Speaker 0 00:40:23 Yeah. Well, it, it is interesting. I mentioned that speech that I gave in which I, um, contrasted the sort of ideological self identification of 12th grade boys. And in that case, only 13% of 12th grade boys identified as on the left, the majority, or, or, you know, I guess at least the pl plurality was on, on the, the right, as limited as those terms are. And then you flipped over to 12th grade girls, and it was the opposite, but actually even more, um, extreme that only 12% of 12th grade girls identified as, um, as conservative. And so I think that's a really interesting question to dig into as well. I just as a hypothetical might throw in there that some of them are concerned about the abortion issue. Um, but beyond that, I, I think it's kind of hard to say that these cultural rewards are influencing young women. I mean, it's young women that are gonna pay the price for things like having more biological men in, um, women's sports and in women's spaces. So interesting. All right. Um, Candace Morena, uh, as part of the younger generation, uh, slave, do you think your contemporaries are ideologically more on the left or more freedom oriented? I guess that goes beyond just the sort of libertarians in terms of any,
Speaker 1 00:42:06 I should say upfront that I am, uh, smack dab in the middle of the millennial cohort, and we are no longer the youngest generation <laugh>, even among the, even among voters anymore. So I am now in that position frequently of being that person going kids these days. Like I don't understand them, right?
Speaker 0 00:42:22 You're still the youngest person at, you know, in, in the movement that I know, but anyway, well, or you just look, you just look marvelous. I don't know what you're doing,
Speaker 1 00:42:31 <laugh>. I tend to, yeah, fabulous
Speaker 0 00:42:32 Skin regimen,
Speaker 1 00:42:33 <laugh>, um, gen Z is very interesting. I mean, I, I, I should spend more time with the data because, uh, um, I, I should understand this better than I, than I do at the moment. Um, it does seem like they are, are much farther to the left. They're much more secular, right? Less religious. Um, I don't, uh, don't disagree or deny at all that I think that the shik down of Roe v Wade has increased the salience of the abortion issue in a way that is pushing people who maybe were on the fence, uh, uh, in the direction of being opposed to legal restrictions on abortion, right? So in the pro-choice direction, even some people I know who identify, I mean even me who identify as pro-life, I, I absolutely do identify as pro-life. I do not think that, again, that it is straightforward what the law should be on that.
Speaker 1 00:43:16 So, um, they're, the trends for Gen Z as far as I understand them, um, are in many ways a continuation of the trends for the millennial generation, my generation, which was sort of to the left, um, and, um, away from religious practice and that sort of thing. Um, that said, I think you look at the society as a whole, you see, and this gets lost, I think in, in our, in our sort of national conversation, especially because so many of the people leading that conversation are also on the left. You lose sight of the fact that this is a classically liberal country with classically liberal culture where individual liberty and limited government and rule of law and all the things that I think are so important that are associated with classical liberalism are still far and away way more popular than their, their alternatives. And even among many of the people who are part of, for example, part among Trump voters, right?
Speaker 1 00:44:07 Or people who are maybe identify with the new, right or the, the, the, what I would consider to be the more illiberal conservative movement. Um, actually, if you poll regular people, they're, they, they might be voting in that direction or moving in that direction, um, in an illiberal, what I would call an illiberal direction, um, on some metrics. Or maybe they're willing to support candidates who I would describe as illiberal. But when you ask 'em what they believe, they believe in limited government, they believe in freedom, right? They believe in these values. And, um, I, I tend to think that it's actually the cultural war that's pushing people to the extremes and the, the illiberal left and the illiberal right into those extremes. And not, I don't know, not a rejection of not some rejection of the underlying principles. It's a sense that they are under siege in that we are at war and politics has become a, an existential war.
Speaker 1 00:44:52 So I really think it's very important to try to diffuse that sense, uh, that we are at war, that politics is a war, that then the outcome of the next ele everything rides on the outcome of the next election. I don't think it does. Um, and, and I think that it's just really pushing people in, in unhealthy, toxic directions as opposed, as opposed to, and, and causing them to, uh, to forget about the things that they, that they claim themselves to believe deeply, which is, again, individual liberty limited government, you know, rule of law. These things matter. These are the things that our country was founded on, and we don't wanna lose them. And, and most people recognize that, but when you feel like you're panicking 'cause you're under attack or you're under siege, it's easy to lose sight of the principles. 'cause, you know, expediency requires you to treat this election as a, the flight 93 election, for example.
Speaker 0 00:45:36 Alright, uh, Wyatt five 16 on YouTube has a question that I know very little about. So hoping that you can help to enlighten us. Can there be fusion between the MES caucus and the Classical Liberty Caucus?
Speaker 1 00:45:54 So I guess I would, just to go back to where I started with fusion, I just wanna emphasize that I don't like to use that word. I think it's actually a historical, to use that word as a synonym for a coalition of different groups, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? So Fusion is a philosophical synthesis that says liberty and virtue are both necessary and non-negotiable. Um, so it necessarily is classically liberal. It it, in fact, to, to go one layer deeper, I'll say, if you read Frank Meyer, who is sort of the godfather of fusion, he would say, liberty and virtue government's job is to protect our liberty. And we, our job is to use that liberty to pursue virtue. And that's the, that's the, the framework that he laid out. That's the fusions framework. Government protect, you know, in the political sphere, liberty is the highest value, but in the non-governmental, non-political sphere, virtue pursuing, uh, the good life, the higher things in life is the highest value or the purpose of of life.
Speaker 1 00:46:44 And so if you believe those two things, if you believe that those two things are non-negotiable and that that's how our society should be structured, and then, then you're a fusion, right? And I don't know whether that, um, applies to any particular member of the Mesis caucus or the, the classical liberal caucus. Um, I think, you know, you have to search their hearts to find the answers to that question, but that's what it means to be a fusion, is, that's what I'm trying to, that is what I'm trying to revive, is that philosophical synthesis and not just put together some sort of alliance that can win an election that's, that's not, you know, some people are political operatives. I did that work for about three years or so, and I decided that that was not for me. So I'm, I'm doing something else. I'm, I'm trying to, because I ultimately, I think the ideas really matter a lot and understanding your principles, um, what they, they are and what you stand for should come first and then you figure out, okay, how do we translate that into practical politics?
Speaker 0 00:47:36 All right. Speaking of practical politics, uh, Georgie, Alex Sloss on Facebook asks, what would you say to young people who want to pursue careers in the liberty field?
Speaker 1 00:47:48 I think there are many, many, many opportunities, uh, in the movement to, to do that. And, um, I have been, you know, again, I've worked at recent for nine years. I, I've loved every minute of it. I love going to the conferences. I love meeting other young people who are passionate about the same things. I am, you know, advancing liberty. So it's a, it's a phenomenal, um, it's a, it's a phenomenal thing to get to do with your life. I would say I would, you know, a lot of times I get questions from people who are asking me about careers in journalism, and I always try to give them the, the, you know, the encouragement and the advice that I have. Um, but also to say, you know, I just make sure you know what you're getting into, which is one of the least stable, least lucrative fields there is.
Speaker 1 00:48:27 And, you know, working in nonprofit advocacy world is, is in some sense can be the same. Like, you know, you're, you're not going into business, you're not pursuing profit. Ultimately, you're pursuing the advancement of ideas. And so there's gonna be trade offs there. You won't probably make as much money as you would if you did something else. So that's gonna be a, a, a personal discernment question that you have. But there are lots and lots of opportunities to work at the, the Hawaii array of, of institutions and organizations who are advancing liberty in various ways, issue specific organizations geographically, you know, uh, oriented organizations. Every state, almost. I think every state has a state-based think tank that's promoting free market ideas. You know, there's so, so many opportunities, um, out there, depending on your strengths and your interests. And, um, uh, I have had an amazing, I mean, I consider myself incredibly lucky to get to do something I'm passionate about and get paid and make a living doing it.
Speaker 0 00:49:20 Yeah. So Georgie, I would also recommend that you take a look at the interview that I did with Isaac Morehouse, um, in which he is providing options for young people to get a start on their career without going to college, without taking on that debt. And, um, finding ways to also build your portfolio. So that might be something, you know, you could get a job in the Liberty movement as an independent contractor even. Um, I guess the most important piece of advice I would give you, uh, as somebody who was once a young person in the Liberty movement is to find your default, uh, best ability. Find the thing, the one thing that you do that when you're doing it, you lose track of time. The one thing that even if you won't admit it to anybody else, uh, you would do it without being paid if you didn't have to work, worry about money.
Speaker 0 00:50:22 And, um, once you find that, then that can help to guide what kind of job that you get in the Liberty movement. Well, there's nothing wrong with just, you know, getting your foot in the door and hopefully, um, being kind of a jack of all trades to figure out what that unique strength is for you. Okay. Uh, let's see. Alex Morena, um, asks, what is the new right term that has begun to be thrown around, and do you think people groups are often being mislabeled? So maybe just a few minutes, uh, slayed on that whole will to power authoritarian conservatism, and any examples or, uh, kind of their pet issues or things that we can identify them by?
Speaker 1 00:51:13 Yeah, so I think we tend to think, most people tend to think about politics in terms of a left right spectrum, but, uh, as a libertarian, uh, I think it's important to add a second dimension, which is this sort of a liberal illiberal or authoritarian libertarian, right? This goes the other way. It says that you can be on the left or on the right and be classically liberal, believe in liberty, or you can be on the left and the right and be illiberal. You can believe in authoritarianism. You can want to use the state to impose your will on other people. Um, and so in many, you know, in a sense, I think that that divide between liberal and illiberal, um, is the one, and again, it runs across both the left and the right. The left is having these debates, the right is having these debates.
Speaker 1 00:51:52 Um, that's the, the more interesting one to me, at least in the last few years. So when I talk about the new, right, when you read about the new, right, what you're mostly, what you're probably reading about is people who are on what I would describe as the wrong side, the other side of that schism, that liberalism schism for me, on the right, they identify as conservative or something like that. Um, but they, they don't like liberalism, classical liberalism. They think that libertarians have led the movement astray. They think we need a, um, we need to embrace conservatives, need to embrace a muscular government and be willing to wield public power in order to, one of the phrases they, they like is to reward their friends and punish their enemies. So they wanna use government power, um, to punish people who live in a way that they don't like and to reward the people who are on their side.
Speaker 1 00:52:42 Um, they think that this is actually a better approach to achieving the quote unquote common good. A lot of them will, I think, incorrectly refer to themselves as common good conservatives. Um, I introduced the phrase will to power conservatives as a to, as a, uh, an alternative to common good conservatives, because A, I also care about the common good, and I think freedom is part of the common good. And, and b, they really do seem to care more about seizing and acquiring and wielding power than anything else. I mean, if you listen to them, um, and so it, depending on who you talk to, this can manifest in different ways and different policy positions. Um, but they tend to be economically leftist, which is quite interesting. So they want more government interventions in the economy, again, to help the people that they like and hurt the people that they don't like.
Speaker 1 00:53:29 Um, and, uh, some of them are more religious and some of them are more secular. The religious ones sometimes talk about, like, we, we need to, um, restore blue laws, laws that force businesses to close on Sundays so that everybody can go to church. We need to make it harder to get divorced. We should, um, you know, maybe we should have an established church actually, which of course is a thing that's inconsistent with the First Amendment, but they're dreaming big, some of them. Um, the, uh, sometimes there's a racialist component. In fact, increasingly I think there is a racialist component, a sense that we should be using the law in order to promote people who look like us and who keep out people who look different, who worship differently, who look differently, who have a different culture, speak a different language. We should keep them out.
Speaker 1 00:54:10 They're the enemy. We should be looking, we should be using public power to protect ourselves. Um, I reject all of that, uh, that, that, but that's sort of, those are components of what's going on in the new right. Um, and there's different factions and they're sometimes at war with each other, <laugh>. So it's not like they all necessarily play nicely with each other all the time. And again, some of them are very religious and some of them are very secular. Um, but I think that what they all share in common is a rejection of liberalism. Again, classical liberalism, which is another way of saying a rejection of fusion. They're, they're anti ISTs, and so I see them as being on the wrong side of that schism.
Speaker 0 00:54:46 Okay. On Twitter, Alan Farragut asks Slade what he, he's catching on, or maybe he's a friend of yours. Uh, do you think Covid Lockdowns will return?
Speaker 1 00:54:58 I don't, I, I mean, I should, I should, I should be cautious about making any kind of prediction, because after the 2016 election, I promised myself no more making predictions. I was wrong about everything that I predicted would happen in that election. Um, but I do think that there is, what did you predict? I, I predicted that Donald Trump couldn't win <laugh> as so many others did. I didn't see it coming. Um, but I was wrong, obviously, and I'm chastened. And so I'm very, very reluctant to make, certainly elect election related predictions on the record. Um, in this case, I, I am skeptical that we will see lockdowns like that again, thank goodness, because I think way too many people who, understandably there was so much uncertainty the first time around, they were willing to, you know, wait it out and see, you know, they were waiting for more information to understand what was going on.
Speaker 1 00:55:46 Um, I think there are a lot of people who are not gonna sit around and accept lockdowns next time they will fight back. So they, they, they just, I just do not see there being the political will to go along and play nicely with authorities telling people, you know, that they have to stay in their homes or this and that. I mean, there may be, um, there may be attempts, and it may be, there may be geographic variants where blue states have one sets of rules and restrictions, and red states have others. But I just really think that there's gonna be a, a much more vocal outcry next time around now that we've been through it once and seen, you know, seeing how it can go. And it's not such a novel threat that, that it was the first time where there was so much fear and confusion about what was even going on that first time around.
Speaker 0 00:56:31 So we've got about three more minutes, um, and we're gonna wrap up, but I would love to hear, uh, what you are writing about now. What are some of the areas you would like to cover going forward and what is on your bucket list, both professionally and, and personally?
Speaker 1 00:56:50 Uh, so this, this year, uh, this summer already I've released two long book reviews of two books written by these new right sort of intellectuals. I reviewed Patrick Janine's book, regime Change for a Reason, and then I more recently reviewed Sora Amari's book called Tyranny Inc. For Reason. So those have been two of my big projects this summer. Reading those books and writing these long reviews, I would encourage everybody to check them out. The next thing I'm hoping to work on is a long piece. I tend to write longer pieces for Reason Magazine, which is, um, it's one of the nice things about being a senior editor is I get to spend a little bit more time, um, on long, long Form Magazine, uh, feature length articles. And my next one, I hope will be about this question. I have this question about is, is the political realignment really happening?
Speaker 1 00:57:30 Is this idea that the Republican Party is going to be the blue, the multi-ethnic working class party or blue collar party, is this really happening? Does it really mean what people suggest that it means? For example, does it really mean that the Republican Party is going to be abandoning, um, support for free markets and free trade, uh, or should it mean that, um, and, and questions like that? I, I think that the, the future of the parties and whether there's this, this realignment happening where the, the parties are not gonna look or mean look like, or mean what we thought, what we've always tended to think that they have meant in the near future because of the way voters are crossing boundaries. And it's a very interesting question. So I wanna dig into that and explore it a little bit, um, for a reason. That's my next big project. Um, and bucket list. I don't know. I wanna keep writing, keep traveling. I love doing travel journalism, so I, we didn't get a chance to talk about my article about monks who make booze, but hope people will, will check that one out as well. It's one of the, uh, one of the articles I was able to write after taking a trip. So travel, write about the places I visit the, those are probably my main goals.
Speaker 0 00:58:32 Well, if you're travel journalism takes you to Malibu, uh, then I would love to host a dinner party for you, and we could hang out here and, uh, maybe even catch some waves together. That would be fun.
Speaker 1 00:58:47 That would be lovely.
Speaker 0 00:58:49 All right, well, thanks, Slade. I wanna thank also all of you who joined us today, asked all of those great questions. As always, uh, we know we don't have, you know, moochers and Looters watching us. So if you enjoyed this video or any of our other, uh, materials, please consider making a tax deductible donation to the Atlas [email protected]
. And I will look forward to seeing you all at this space next week when, uh, senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute, Heather McDonald, will join us to discuss her latest book when race Trump's Merit, uh, on the Atlas Society asks. So we'll see you next week. Thanks.