I took about a month's long break from Glenn's substack because listening to elites week in and week out speculating about what's really eating at the American people really started to get to me. While I'm not entirely certain Glenn could go into a bar or local establishment in my childhood hometown of Maumee, Ohio (Toledo) and relate entirely to the local population I am convinced he'd be far more capable of doing so than guests like Michael and even to a large degree, John. Could or WOULD anyone in the elite class - finance, academia, corporatist, statist, etc - go into flyover country and have a beer and conversation with folks without interjecting how they think the local's life is or isn't going to plan? The animus we commoners have for elites seems quie apparent, yet here Michael Sandel sits clueless.

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Michael Sandel is a Marxist. He claims that the free market is flawed and allocates values in an "immoral" way and we as Americans need to "reclaim" from the free market, how "best" to allocate resources. He believes it's the rules of the game that are essential to control so that we need to reshape them to reflect our values as a society. In what economic system do they universally establish the "rules of the game" that decides how resources will be allocated (hint: It isn't capitalistic).

His examples of immoral value allocation focus solely on "Wall Street financiers" because that is a complex, not easily understood industry that doesn't produce a tangible good and so is an easy target over which to claim moral superiority. He repeatedly comments about the 1%'s disdain for the "working class" (those without college degrees) - you know, like in a class struggle between the evil elites and the downtrodden workers.

Folks, this is called Socialism.

The reality is that each of us "votes" through our purchases every single day as to what we individually believe has value to us. The collective of those decisions reflects what we as a society place value upon. Do you really want the Government deciding what you can or can not buy because it does or doesn't fit with their idea of what is consistent with "our" moral hierarchy? Same old story, different day.

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Such an interesting topic discussed by two scholars could elicit many of my own thoughts on the subjects covered. But I'll leave that alone.

Rather I will to comment on the prejudice I perceived that you both shared.

After a life in the blue and white collared world of construction I am compelled to point out both of your seeming ignorance on the subject of blue collar labor. Better labels might be found - but I trust you will know what I mean by blue collar.

From building with scrap wood as a boy to shoveling fire debris into dumpsters to running projects, to running a construction company, to designing highly complex weather resisting assemblies and working as a construction expert in many legal disputes about buildings I have worked in all aspects of construction.

I have worked closely with the men and some women who labor in the ditches to the leads, the contractors and design professionals who build our built environment.

I can assure you both that your sitcom caricatures of blue collar men and women exposes the "ivory tower" prejudices you share.

That person working on your remodel Glenn might have an IQ equal to you (unlikely as that sounds). S/he might have an intellectual life you can not see because you would not expect to see it.

I'm 73, a life long liberal who hasn't missed one of your offerings in years Glenn. In fact, you are my go to conservative.

As a laborer who became a contractor who became a construction expert whose worked with a great many builders of all kinds I can assure you that there is a lot more intellectual depth and nuance going on under those hard hats than shows.

A great deal more than you two scholars appear to know about.

I'll leave off now with one anecdote:

Years ago, working with a general contractor I'd known for some years, it came up that his college degree from a "prestigious" school was in philosophy.

That was the moment I realized I had stumbled on a pattern:

Some highly educated men and women whose academic studies did not lead to our typical white color professions, aside from teaching, went into building. My undergrad degree was in art, minor in history, for example. I wore a tie to HS.

That contractor was probably the forth or fifth general contractor philosophy major I had worked with.

Construction is endlessly interesting and complex, it can pay well, it is outdoor work which many (myself included) prefer - well, most especially as young folks.

So I suggest that either you assume that you have no idea what the personal intellectual life of the man working on your plumbing is or ask them - do not assume you know. Or that your more tuned into reality or known more than they do.

Glenn, I can understand your prejudice a little bit, my conservative friend, but Mr. Sandel, whose life work appears to be somehow supporting of "labor" needs to get out more. Or, at least, go to a local construction site and ask permission to sit in on the lunch break conversations a few 100 times - without contributing.


Myles F. Corcoran

PS Mr. Sandals caricature of business owners is also wildly inaccurate. As a small business man who employed or oversaw a great many other small business people I can assure him that, for the most part, we got up early, we stayed late, we worked hard and we took good care of our employees. From his ivory tower he looks over at the penthouse board rooms and calls that business.

Like my mentor I would sometimes, over 32 years owning a consulting firm, go months with no pay when business (or clients with their payments) was slow - just to keep the lights on and my employees paid fully and timely. I was not rare in this in the small business world.

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Great conversation.

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This whole merit 'equity problem' was solved some time ago, with the solution being a simple two step process:

Step 1. Install Diana Moon Glampers as handicapper general.

Step 2. Once parity is firmly in place, have Mustapha Mond take over as World Controller.

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30:05 I agree that too much status comes from college education. I'm a software developer without a degree. I "work with my hands" in the sense that my hands type on a keyboard and move a mouse, though I doubt Sandel meant the phrase that way. It would be better for me if I had finished my degree, but it wasn't necessary. If the value of degrees were de-emphasized, it would probably be better for the majority of people who don't hold them. The people at the top might still be paid more than Sandel thinks they should be, but that's less important than the situation of people at the bottom IMHO.

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33:51 How is "genuine value" determined and who makes the determination?

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C’mon now. What on earth is all this silliness about "deserves"...as in "do winners 'deserve' their winning"?

Of course they do. Who else?

But winners (of any contest) do not deserve their golden laurels in any kind of moral/social-justicey sense...and definitely not in the sense that God Himself has found them worthy of their stock portfolio or their 20 bedroom home on the golden coast of some golden place. Of course not. The Moral Worthiness (or Unworthiness) of Winners (their so-called 'contribution to the Common Good') has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that, of course, every winner does indeed 'deserve' what they've won.

They deserve it because they played their particular form of that particular economic game really well...better than most of their competition. They won ‘the game’...and as a result, they rounded the board; they landed on GO and they collected their '$200'.

But that's the end of the 'deserves' discussion.

Whether or not any given wealthy idiot feels that their large bank accounts guarantees them a spot in Heaven is entirely irrelevant. No one cares (least of all God) And truthfully, most 'winners' hold no such 'holier-than-thou' expectations. (Maybe Harvard professors do?) In fact, most are much more practical. Neither does the bulk of the American public so believe, especially the Trump-voting Hoi-Polloi that Prof. Sandel so blithely condemns as racist, xenophobic, & misogynistic. They all know how the world works...and it's really pretty simple. If you work hard at your job ...and the job is anything more than shoveling fries or carrying coffees...then you earn a living. That's it.

If, through hard work, you manage to advance....you earn more than a minimal living. If you build your credentials to a level that qualifies you for even better jobs, you earn a better living.. And if you combine your talents, your abilities, and your hard work with a heaping helping of luck & circumstance (usually at multiple points along the way), then you can push a totally forgettable 199th pick in the NFL draft to becoming the greatest quarterback of all time with an estimated net worth of $250M.

Does Tom Brady think he 'deserves' that $250M because he's morally a really wonderful human being who has contributed miraculously wonderful things to the Common Good? Nah, not in the least. He just thinks he won the NFL QB Game (which he did)...and the winner of that game gets that 'golden ticket'. That's it.

He definitely does not believe that the NFL Market Verdict of $250M means his 'social value' (whatever that is) is a 'thousand times greater than the social value of a nurse'.

So -- does he 'deserve' the $250M? Sure, absolutely. I wish I could throw a football that well! But yes, if I’m faster than anyone else, I ‘deserve’ to win the race. If I eat more hot dogs than Joey Chestnut, then I deserve the $10K for winning Nathan’s. If more people come to see me sing than Taylor Swift, I deserve the TV commercials and recording contracts which come my way. But is that pile of winnings in any way at all a tribute to my human worth? Not in the least.

The flaw in this entire argument is the mistaken belief that any given economic market reflects – or should reflect -- the 'social value' of our 'human contribution' to the 'common good'. Of course it doesn't. There is, as a matter of fact, no market for our social value'. 25 cents ...and being a really good person (like my Grandpa!)....doesn't even get you a bad cup of coffee.

As for 'redistribute social justice? God is the only one equipped with that algorithm.

But this is a different question entirely from the much more tactical, real-world question: how tightly should financial markets be monitored and controlled to prevent idiot things like the Crypto Circus from playing all these silly reindeer games? (Tom Brady would also have liked a good answer to that particular question)

Equally separate is the question of whether or not WE (the elite) need to somehow socially-engineer the career choices of our youth away from those fields that we, in our wisdom, feel are shallow (when it comes to social justice) and into those arenas that we feel are blessed. Again, the answer should be no.

But that 'NO' encompasses especially the huge premium that the elites (as given voice by Obama) have paid to generate the large, increasingly worthless pile of unskilled individuals with hollow & meaningless college degrees. Rather we should, as much as we can, let the markets work as they would. We don't need the President telling us that we're going to generate more college educated baristas than any other place in the world (and putting billions of federal dollars behind that initiative. We need to let the Market speak and say we don't need more degrees in Women's Studies, Art History, Black Studies, Gender Studies, or Medieval History....and we do need more good carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and masons. (Just ask Mike Rowe)

Nothing wrong with all that other stuffs, and if you have the luxury of time and money to pursue something so generally useless, I’d say go for it! But there’s no reason for our tax dollars to subsidize a single college essay on the social constructs of gender theory....and every reason to create craftsmen and craftswomen

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Jan 6·edited Jan 7

Jay-Z, Elon Musk, LeBron are far wealthier than i could hope to be but their wealth has very little negative effect on me or anyone else's life...The wealth that has been redistributed to Obama, Pelosi, Biden and most people in government has had a profound negative effect on me and my family and most other people in this country..one provides a service that I am generally voluntarily choosing to pay for....the other uses an elitist attitude and the public trust to impose restriction on my ability to make the kind of money they do ands live life as a free inidvudal.....they provide little that I voluntarily choose... what is this guy talking about? He is a Harvard professor? He needs to read Locke, Adam Smith, Jefferson, Madison and Thomas Sowell. How frustrating that these attitudes are transmitted to our children in the name of an intellectual discussion and education.

The principle advantage of a Harvard education is that you never again have to feel intimidated by anyone with a Harvard education Thomas Sowell

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Jan 6·edited Jan 7

Ugh...Sandel is a typical progressive selling Marxism under the guise of 'fairness' and 'compassion'.......gnashing of teeth because life is not fair..inability to get to the core root of a problem(like his assessment of the crash of 2008)..meanwhile, they classically demand that the source of the problem as the solution and when it inevitably fails, demand more of the problem(centralized control) as the solution.....and strongly suggested that elitists like himself are best equipped decide what is best for the rest of us....CLASSIC!!!!!!!! I would rather 'suffer' the 'inequality' of the marketplace than the 'equality of outcomes' promised by elitists like Sandel putting their thumbs on the scales of justice in the way THEY think is fair(wokeism).....People like this have lead to economic disparities in particular with poor blacks in this country., ie The Great Society.....He is full of it. He IS the problem and doesn't and will never understand it. He needs a real job!

The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best."-Thomas Sowell

Those who think themselves wiser and able to govern are sources of destruction and civil war-Hobbes

‘It is so easy to be wrong-and to persist in being wrong-when the costs of being wrong are paid by others.” ~ Thomas Sowell

He that would live in peace & at ease, Must not speak all he knows or judge all he sees.”

-Benjamin Franklin

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This discussion exemplified intellectual honesty of the sort that is all too rare on the public stage. Thanks!

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Exceptional conversation. As a conservative, this is my second exposure to Professor Sandel (the first was reading his book, Democracy's Discontent, as an undergrad 20 years ago), and again he is making points that should be taken seriously. A believer in some sort of meritocracy (with some, yes, tinkering), I believe any honest observer must admit we do not have a true meritocracy today, and that should give us pause. Thank you, Professor Loury, for this excellent episode.

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Anytime perceived merit, or something close to merit, was not the standard, a society either imploded or became impoverished and calcified.

There are warning signs all around us of our fate to come if we do not stop this nihilism

Victor Davis Hanson.

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A great discussion to begin 2023 with! Merit has a place in a free and democratic society but it has been distorted by the elites and those who succeed.

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Ok. Meritocracy is bad. All I'm saying is that performance matters. A lot.

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This was a fascinating discussion, thank you Glenn for having such intelligent and diverse guests on the show!

I wonder if this isn't another place where the ancient world had some wisdom that we've abandoned - to really put a hat on it, our society is like Icarus and we don't even know it. Balancing great power and wealth with a knowledge that we are all at the mercy of fate (and will all share the same fate) is the standard that many wisdom traditions have pointed to.

But this has been completely abandoned by our technocratic overlords - I'm not against people trying, but the amazing hubris of the transhumanist crowd that thinks we will conquer the need for physical bodies and conquer death itself astounds me. People need to dream big, but this is the stuff of Lovecraftian nightmares if it's pursued without regard for the dignity and individual rights of every human being.

Instead of being grateful for what we have, we're constantly complaining that "someone" hasn't solved the central problems of human existence (scarcity, meaning, purpose, etc.), and take for granted that they will one day be solved rather than living with the reality that we are hairless apes on a rock hurtling through space, and that it's a miracle that we stopped murdering one another for long enough to work together and murder bigger animals for their delicious meat, and proceeded to build everything else on that shaky social foundation.

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