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Civil Society | Yascha Mounk: How do we save democracy? | March 29, 2018.

[music] Yascha Mounk: But what we've seen over the last 20, 25 years is that nationalism is not going away as a political force And so I think it's a half-domesticated animal

If you leave it to its own devices, the worst kinds of people are gonna come in In the United States, they tend to be called Steve, like Steve Bannon, and Steve Miller, and so on [laughter] YM: And they'll prod and they'll bait the nationalist beat until it runs wild Until it's the worst form of itself it can be [Music] Sabrina Nanji: You start off with defining what we think of as democracy, and how maybe democracy as we know it is devolving into aliberal democracy

Can you maybe just talk about what the difference is between that and what you mean when you talk about liberal democracy, small 'l' liberal democracy? YM: Sure Look, I think there's a lot of confusion about what exactly we mean when we talk about democracy Right? A little under 10 years ago, there was a big referendum in Switzerland, in which people voted on whether or not it should be legal to build minarets in the country The tower from which we're called to pray as often done on the side of a Mosque And 62% of Swiss people voted to outlaw the building of minarets in the country

As a result, the Swiss constitution now reads, and I quote, "There's freedom of religion in Switzerland full stop The building of minarets is forbidden full stop" YM: It doesn't make much sense Now, a lot of people in response called this undemocratic A lot of Swiss papers, Canadian papers, American papers, said, "This is undemocratic

" And I think that's the confusion, right? Because if 62% of people vote for this, it's strange to say this is not democratic, right? What then does democracy mean? I think we can clear this confusion up by remembering that there's two basic things that our political system tries to accomplish It's liberal and it's democratic YM: Now by liberal I don't mean liberal and conservative, I don't mean Justin Trudeau versus Mr Harper or anything like that I mean a commitment to individual liberty

To the idea that you can say and not say whatever you want, that you can worship in the way you want or not worship and that will be respected, that you can be in a relationship with who you want to be in a relationship with And in order to facilitate that, we need a set of key things We need the protection of individual rights, but we also need the Separation of Powers and the Rule of Law, so that a dictator can't just punish people he doesn't like YM: So that's one part of it The other part is democracy

The idea of a rule of the people, which to my mind has to mean that you're actually translating popular views into public policies in some kind of way That the political system is actually responsive to what people want And what I argue in the book, one of the things I argue in the book, is that these two things have been starting to come apart for a long time That for a long time we've had a political system that isn't sufficiently responsive to people, something you might call "rights without democracy" YM: And that in part as a result, we now get politicians that are often quite popular, that are democratically elected or that even pass what they want through referendum, the things that are democratic, but they're not liberal

They violate the rights of minorities, and increasingly they concentrate so much power in their own hands that they undermine the Rule of Law and The Separation of Powers SN: Why is it that younger generations don't think it's as important to have all of these liberties and freedoms or it's not as essential to live in democracies like western democracies that we think of today? YM: Yeah I think it's worth explaining where a lot of my concerns in the book come from When I was growing up, I assumed and political scientists assumed, journalists assumed, citizens assumed I think, that democracy in certain countries was safe We always knew that there was some fledgling democracies, often in poor countries, that might be embattled

Right now, there's a real challenge to Kenyan democracy and that's tragic Kenya is a very important country, but it wouldn't have surprised political scientists because it's not a very affluent country Democracy had never, in their terms, been consolidated there YM: But once a country had a GDP per capita of more than about 16,000 Canadian dollars in today's terms Once it has changed government through free and fair elections a couple of times, it was supposedly safe

It was supposedly consolidated And the way that this was supposed to look was that democracy had become the only game in town That most people gave this huge importance to democracy, that very few people were open to authoritarian alternatives to democracy, and perhaps most importantly that there was no major politicians or political parties that really violated some of the very basic rules and norms of how a democratic system was supposed to work YM: Well, a few years ago before Donald Trump, before Brexit, before Doug Ford for that matter, though I believe that his brother had already been mayor somewhere in the world We started to look at that with a [10:40] ____

We started to look at, "Is that actually still the case?" And what we found was pretty shocking We saw that actually when you look at the United States for example, over two thirds of older Americans born in the 1930s and 1940s, say it's essential to them to live in a democracy Less than one third of younger Americans born since 1980 do YM: 20 years ago, one in 16 Americans said that army rule was a good system of government Now one in six do

And among young and affluent people in the United States, it actually went from 6% to 35% Nearly a six fold increase Now perhaps sitting in Toronto you might be tempted to say, "Well, that's just the people who are south of the border They're a little strange" But this is actually something that's going on in a lot of countries

There's a lot of European countries in which the number of people who like the idea of a strong leader who doesn't have to bother with parliament and elections has gone up a lot over the last 20 years YM: So, the question is, why is it that this has changed so much over time and why is it that young people are particularly prone to that? Well, I think there's a few reasons for that One is, that young people don't understand the threat of non-democratic systems in the same way If you were born in the 1930s and in 40s, you have some life understanding of the threat that fascism poses, and you have some life understanding of the threat that communism posed throughout the Cold War, of how horrible life was for people in the Soviet Union I think for a lot of young people that's not the case anymore; they look at the political system that we have today and they say, "Look, there's lots of things wrong with it

There's all kinds of problems So perhaps this isn't working so well, perhaps we should try something new How bad could things get?" And they don't have a life understanding of how bad things could get SN: That being said, what makes someone want to vote for an authoritarian, strong leader? Someone who is going to make them feel secure and safe and have a better future outlook, and make a better life for their children? Why is that promise I know why the promise is appealing, but why does a leader like that appeal to voters who might be feeling insecure or alienated? YM: Yeah I think there's two questions here, right? One question is what is the nature of the appeal? And the other question is, why is there that appeals now rather than in the past? Let me answer both of those The nature of the appeal is always the same And this word populist is used all of the time and nobody quite knows what it means, and I was tempted to say let's just never use the term because it's too confusing

But I think there is a core to it which makes sense So why do we call Doug Ford a populist? Why do we call Donald Trump a populist? Why do we call Recep Erdogan a populist? Why do we call Viktor Orban a populist? Why do we call somebody like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela a populist? They don't seem to have much in common You may have noticed that the current president of the United States is not overly fond of Muslims When you look at Recep Erdogan, the president of Turkey, he doesn't appear to be overly fond of anybody who's not a Muslim; so they don't have that in common YM: There are some populists who are very right wing on the economy, who say the real problem is that tax is too high and we're spending too much on poor people, and let's slash the welfare state

There are other people who are actually very left wing economically and who are saying we need to spend a lot of more on the welfare state and so on So what do they have in common? Well, one thing, which is the claim that politics at its heart is really simple, but the only reason why you have political problems is that the elite is corrupt and self-serving, and that it cares more about special interests, or outsiders, or minorities you don't like than it does about quote-unquote people like you and me, and that I as a populist have a unique ability to embody common sense and the real people "I am your voice", Donald Trump said at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio in 2016 "I alone can fix it Once I'm in office everything is going to be better

" Well, once they're in office, it doesn't quite turn out to be like that, does it? People suddenly say, "Who knew that things could be so complicated?" "Who knew that health care could be so complicated?" I have a suspicion that you might read in a tweet in a couple of weeks or months, "Who knew that negotiating with Kim Jong-un might turn out to be complicated?" [laughter] YM: But of course they don't actually want to admit that they have failed to deliver on their promises and that it's their own fault So what do populists do in the next step? They start to blame They start to blame the media for telling lies and propaganda and "fake news," and they need to be regulated and brought to heel They start to blame the opposition, whom they don't recognize as legitimate political adversaries, but they think of them as illegitimate enemies and so they call them traitors, terrorists And they start to blame independent institutions, whether it's courts, whether it's institutions like the FBI or the Department of Justice, who are enemies of the American people, or the Turkish people or the Hungarian people; it's the same rhetoric

So that's the nature of the populist appeal, and it is surprisingly consistent across context, and it's dangerous in very similar ways But that leaves open the question of why is this happening SN: Yeah, I guess why do we go from populism, which I think is supposed to reflect popular will, and if the majority of people are feeling this way, then why not? But how do we sort of go from populism to authoritarian, or militaristic rule? Is that a slippery slope? And how does that happen? YM: Yeah I think you can see it in the set of steps that I've described Jan-Werner Müller [17:08] ____, I think very helpfully says, that populism is the exclusive claim to the moral representation of the people

That's a bit of a mouthful, but what he means by that is that, "I alone represent the people, and anybody who disagrees with me thereby is illegitimate"; that is the crucial thing about populists Now once you claim that, you can't say, "Hey, you know what? I disagree with what the opposition party does, but if they have the votes to block a certain legislative proposal, that's fine; that's a normal part of politics" You can't say, "Hey, I disagree with the way that the court ruled on this particular thing, but that's fine; that's a normal part of politics" Instead you start to undermine those institutions Look at somebody like Viktor Orban in Hungary; there's elections very soon in Hungary

Somebody was elected in 2011, who immediately started to say, "The judiciary is really inefficient Court cases take too long and so on I'm gonna reform it" YM: And he took political control of the judiciary He said, "Well, the state media, they're telling too many lies, so we really need to change who is allowed in television in the state media

" Well, now it's become a pure propaganda outlet for the government He started to say, "Hey you know what? Let's put a little bit of pressure on the private media companies so that they can't be too critical of the government" They are now essentially owned by Orban's friends and colleagues And he took control of the electoral commission So that in the last months the electoral commission investigated every opposition party in the country and fined them the total sum of electoral funding they had gotten, but miraculously it neglected to investigate Fidesz, the party of the ruling prime minister

YM: So we now have elections in the heart of the European Union In a country which political scientists had said had achieved a consolidated democracy just a few years ago, which are neither free nor fair And we see precisely the moment in which a democratically elected prime minister is no longer able to be dislodged by democratic means And that's an important thing to note Look, when you think

When I ask you to think about when did Sort of think of one case in which democracy spectacularly collapsed, what are you thinking about? Well, I'm gonna take a guess, I think you're thinking about Berlin in 1943 That's a dangerous comparison, not just because all stupid arguments start with Hitler [laughter] But because it's meant to be alarmist, but it's actually the opposite If you think that the way that democracies perish is people doing Hitler salutes in the streets and having big shiny black boots and running around with torches, then you're gonna look outside today and say, "Well, none of this is happening, so we're fine" But that's not how democracies go to die

Hungary is how democracies go to die SN: I had talked to, I guess a behavioral scientist, about why a populist leader would appeal to an average voter in Ontario And they suggested that those sentiments, xenophobic, economic stress, us versus them, those feelings need to be nurtured and those messages need to sort of be roused And so, how does that happen today? And I guess, I'm asking specifically about social media Is that sort of making it easier to give rise and to empower anti-system fringe political movements like populism? YM: So I think what's absolutely clear is that the sort of ugliest sentiments that come out in populism need to be nurtured by a capable political entrepreneur, who preys on them and so on

But sometimes people in each country become so obsessed with their particular populist that they think it's all about the fact that this guy, or sometimes girl, but rarely, suddenly appeared on the political scene And say, "Well it's just Trump was famous and he had his platform and this and that, and that's why we have it now" But it's a funny coincidence isn't it, that these people just appeared in all of these different countries at the same time So, I don't think it's about them I think it's about things that are deeper than that

That make it possible for somebody like Trump to exploit a set of longer term developments in a way that Huey Long tried to do in the middle of the 20th Century but couldn't ride all the way to the presidency because they weren't as strong, they weren't as deeply rooted So if you allow me this slight excursion, I'm gonna tell a story about a chicken to explain all of this SN: Great [laughter] YM: Now this is the kind of chicken that, if I'm allowed to make a couple of presumptions about the audience here, you'd all like to eat for dinner Which is to say that it's local and organic and free range and those kinds of things

And all the other animals on the farm tell it, "Hey, be careful The farmer only seems nice, but one day he's gonna come and kill you" And the chicken says, "What are you talking about? Every day the farmer comes and feeds me and he mutters some encouraging words Why would things suddenly be so different?" Well, Bertrand Russell is who I'm stealing this story from, the British philosopher in his nice, wry wit says, "That one day the farmer does come to wring the chicken's neck, showing that more sophisticated views as to the uniformity of causation would have been to the chicken's benefit" [laughter] YM: What does he mean by that? What he means is that there are scope conditions to how things work in the social world

So as long as the chicken was too thin to fetch a good price on the market, he had a reason to keep feeding it Once it was fat enough to fetch a good price, he was always going to slaughter it I think we should think about the scope conditions of democratic stability Why is it that democracies around the world, at least in countries that are relatively affluent and so on, were so stable for 50 years, 60 years after World War II, and some countries even longer than that, and now they're starting to be so unstable? And I think there's three big structural reasons And social media is one, but I think the other two are in someways more important

So the first is just the stagnation of living standards for ordinary citizens In most countries, the living standards of people doubled generation after generation for most of the period of democratic stability; and now, it's flat, or at best slightly increasing And that makes a real difference in how people think about politics YM: Look, when you go back to 1970, I don't think that people in Toronto looked at Ottawa and said, "I love the capital and everybody who's there is wonderful and the average MP is a paragon of moral virtue" People always had their skepticism towards their political leaders

But in the end we said, "You know what, I'm twice as rich as my parents were, my kids are probably gonna be twice as rich as me, let's give them the benefit of the doubt They seem to be sticking to their end of the deal" Now they say, "You know what, I fought really hard all my life and I don't have much to show for it My kids are probably gonna be worse off than me" Am I allowed to swear in this space? Is this

Would it be a great affront against Canadian politeness to swear? [laughter] I'm gonna go ahead and do it It's gonna be very disappointingly mild now actually, "I've worked really hard all my life, I don't have much to show for it My kids gonna do worse than me, let's throw some shit against the wall and see what sticks

How bad could things get?" And that's a really, really strong impulse I think The second thing is sometimes portrayed to be in conflict with this YM: There's been this big debate over the last year, is it about the economy or is it about culture and racism and immigration and all of those things? Look, anything interesting that's ever happened in your life has had more than one cause, hasn't it? If somebody has fallen in love with you it's probably for more than one reason, I hope And if somebody's left you, it was probably for more than one reason as well So in the same way, the two things actually go together

Now in most democracies they were founded as mono ethnic, mono cultural countries, or at least they had a self-conception as being mono ethnic, mono cultural When you go back to Europe and you ask people in 1960, what makes a true Italian, a true Swede, a true Greek? They would've said, "Well, somebody who descends ethnically from the same stock as I, and somebody who's brown or black, somebody who's Jewish or Muslim, or Hindu, they don't belong" Now, thankfully that has changed, we've have decades of immigration in those countries, and it has actually liberalized the legal conception of who gets to be a citizen and the social conception as well YM: But it shouldn't surprise us that some people are angry about that, because they had lots of advantages from the old system If you are not the richest guy, you're not the best educated guy, you perhaps don't have the most social respect in your society

It's really tempting to say, "Well, at least I'm Italian and not one of those foreigners" Or, "At least I'm part of a majority group and not one of those immigrants" You get something from that, you get kind of a status Well, now the politician who represents you in parliament might be an immigrant or a child of immigrants Your boss might be an immigrant or a child of immigrants

That's something we should celebrate, but it shouldn't surprise us that some people will rebel against that YM: Now, Canada and the United States in this are sort of both similar and different; they're different in that they've always been multi-ethnic societies, they've always been countries of immigration, but they're similar and that has always been a strict racial hierarchy that gave big advantages to some people over others Let's not forget how far we've come in overcoming that There's no doubt that it's better to a member of an ethnic or religious, or sexual minority in Canada, even in United States, today than it was 20 or 40 or 60 years ago So we've made tremendous progress

But again, they are people who have something to lose from that, who'll have some of their privileges taken away, and it shouldn't surprise us that they're rebelling against that Alright Social media The thing that really makes the social media development important is that there are these two things going on beforehand YM: The people are already frustrated about the pocket books and feeling like the system isn't delivering for them

That they already have the impression that, "Hey, perhaps something is changing and I'm a little worried about some of the cultural transformation" And now you add social media, which makes it far easier for people to circumvent social gatekeepers So, whereas 25 years ago, the owners of a bunch of newspapers and television stations and radio stations could decide who gets a platform, and sometimes they shut up important voices that are marginalized, but sometimes they shut up racists and people who wanted to spread fake news That's no longer possible, because everybody can put up their website and anybody can come to it Everybody can spread opinions in social media and if they appeal to a bunch of people, they get spread really, really quickly

YM: And that's great in some contexts, because it allows Think of the admirable kids in Florida who are standing up for gun control, because of their classmates that were murdered They would never have the platform they have today if it weren't for social media

But at the same time, it obviously makes it easier for people who are racist, for people who want to spread fake news and so on, to have a real voice in the national conversation When you add that to the frustration about the economy and the fears about cultural change, the three things together become a very dangerous [29:48] ____ SN: So I guess with this whole Campaign Analytica scandal, did it work? Were they just capitalizing and stirring up certain feelings and targeting people and potentially influencing how they'll vote at the ballot box, or were those feelings already there or did they create them, I guess? What came first? YM: So, as a kind of New Year's resolution, I started this Twitter thread, which keeps growing longer every couple of weeks, of controversies that really aren't controversies or debates that really aren't debates Ways in which we think, "It's either this or it's that," when really, it can be both at the same time And there's this really strange debate going on where sort of one half of people are saying, "Russia influenced the election

Cambridge Analytica influenced the election That's really what it's all about" And the other half of people are saying, "No, no, no You just want to explain away what happened You might be a shill for Hillary Clinton or something like that

So, it's really nothing to do with those things, it's because Hillary was a terrible candidate and we have to " That's not an either/or I think it may be that the obviously elicit influence that Russia has had on the election, and the obviously elicit influence that Cambridge Analytica and some of the illegal activities that they were clearly up to have had on the election swung the election In the end, Donald Trump won by 80,000 votes spread among three states It's perfectly possible that he would not have gotten those 80,000 votes if it hadn't been for that influence But you know what? If that was the case, he would still have gotten really, really close to winning the election

SN: Right M: And in a functioning political system that doesn't have some of the deep challenges that I've outlined, somebody like Donald Trump does not get within striking distance of the Presidency So, you can both think that Russia has had a terrible influence on the election and that you need very urgent reforms to ensure that that doesn't happen again in the mid-terms and it doesn't happen in 2020 You can both think that clearly Cambridge Analytica was up to to no good and that Facebook was frankly complicit in it, and that you need to have big reforms to make sure that that doesn't happen again And at the same time recognize that the drivers of populism are much more long term and much more structural and that just dealing with those things is not gonna save our political system

SN: Let's talk about Doug Ford I don't know how closely you're following Ontario politics YM: I try not to follow too much about Doug Ford [laughter] SN: Based on what you know, and I guess even Rob Ford, you know the Ford family, would you consider them populist/authoritarian? How would you classify them as politicians and their political approach and who might they appeal to? YM: So, I don't know that I wanna make a judgement about how populist they are, because I'm not sure that I quite know enough about that, but I think there's a whole bunch of very interesting things that come out of this And the first one is that wherever I go in the world, and you should all be proud of yourselves, wherever I go in the world, in Germany, in Sweden, in the United States, a question that I get at every event I do is, "But aren't there some countries where the populists really aren't making inroads? What about Canada?" [laughter] YM: Doug Ford

[chuckle] YM: So, I think it does show that no country is immune from that And there's other examples of that 10 years ago, Sweden looked like a great case where this wasn't happening Now the Sweden democrats, who actually have roots in the Neo-Nazi movement, are the second strongest party in a lot of polls in Sweden So, nowhere is safe from that, and I think you all know that at this point, but people in other countries don't, so you should feel flattered

The second thing I would say is that there is this slightly naïve hope that many people have that you can beat populism by beating and exposing a particular populist So, in the United States, a lot of people are saying, "Look, Donald Trump is this unique threat, but he's a phony and he's not really delivering for his people and eventually people will realize that And once they do, he's gonna go down to terrible defeat in 2020 and everything will be good" Now look, I think it's quite possible that he goes down to ignominious defeat in 2020 and that's partially because there is a kind of populist playbook There is an illiberal international and people have become very sophisticated at how to do this

But if it was a populist Olympics, Donald Trump, let's put it politely, would not be close to medal rank [laughter] YM: He's not very good at it So, I think he might well lose But the idea that if Donald Trump loses in 2020, that's the end of that kind of danger to American politics and it's not gonna come back, is absolutely naïve and we've seen it in lots of countries In Italy, a man by the name of Silvio Berlusconi, who has similarities both to Doug Ford and to Donald Trump, dominated politics for two decades

By 2011, Italians were sick of him He had a terrible economic record He had all of these scandals and when there was rumors that he might be resigning, thousands of people came into the streets of Rome to celebrate There was this great amateur orchestra and choir that assembled in the span of half an hour, I have no idea how they did it, to sing Handel's "Hallelujah" You can watch it on YouTube, it's beautiful

Then seven years later, they had elections a couple of months ago, Silvio Berlusconi is back He's the kingmaker in Italian politics again And do you know what, he's the least scary of the populists in Italy now, because of the far right League party, which is truly terrifying and Five Stars has even more of a vote, two thirds of people, nearly two-thirds of people voted for a populist movement in Italy YM: So I think you can see that quote in a similar kind of way I mean the Rob Ford experiment ended as it did, and people thought, well that's that

And now it looks like Doug Ford has a very good chance of being the next Premier of Ontario So it sticks with you The third thing that it shows to me that's of relevance beyond Canada is that there's a certain idea that populism is the last attempt of a dwindling ethnic majority to sort of have their way And that as countries become more diverse you just can no longer assemble the majority you need for populists In the United States, it's often called the idea of inevitable demographic majority

That eventually nice, tolerant, liberal Democrats are just always gonna win because a majority of the population is gonna be made up by minorities Well, Doug Ford shows that that's not necessarily the case Ontario is an incredibly diverse place, and yet a populist can have very large support among minority communities So the idea that populism is somehow synonymous with this sort of white identity politics and that it's impossible for populist to expand the base beyond that I think is naïve SN: I think that's the unique thing about Doug Ford, and even his brother Rob, that they have high support and coordination among visible minorities, so it sounds like you're saying maybe Doug Ford is just an itch Ontario needs to scratch or is that sort of heralding a new political world order? YM: I don't know that I said that

I think it tried to scratch that itch with Rob Ford, didn't it? It's very tempting to make some kind of drug metaphor here, but I'll leave that No, I don't think that these itches get scratched I think that's the point I think there's a hope that people have that So look, there's the model of populism where populism is sort of this self-correcting mechanism, right? There's big flaws in our politics, establishment parties aren't responsive enough, people feel disempowered by our politics, nobody listens to what they really want, a bunch of that is true And so populist are gonna correct the mechanism, because what we're gonna do is, that they push establishment parties to finally get the act together, to some degree they themselves can actually make some real reforms That means that the system delivers for people again and things sort of calm down and we return to a sort of normal politics That's the optimistic vision

I think that often it's the opposite It's a self-radicalizing mechanism where, A, populists don't help to address some of the underlying grievances, they often exacerbate them YM: Has Donald trump helped to make people in the Midwest feel less like they are being screwed over by the political system? Feel more like they actually have economic hope? I don't think so I don't think his policies do that, right? And second, it makes it much harder for establishment parties to actually do good work and to actually implement real policy reform that can deliver for people So my fear is that it's self-radicalizing and that when people one day come to recognize, "Hey, perhaps this particular populist actually lied to me, he wasn't very reliable and we should turn on him," they don't say, "Let's return to a more sort of moderate part of politics," they might say, "Let's go for somebody who's even more extreme or let's go for somebody who's a little bit like that guy, but just doesn't turn out to be a crook

" The guy over there seems honest SN: I'm also curious about populism on the left side of the political spectrum I feel like we tend to talk about it in terms of right-leaning, conservative politics, but I think someone like Bernie Sanders might be considered a lefty populist of sorts Do you think that movement has as much momentum as maybe conservative populism? YM: Yeah, it's a great question I mean, I think it does have a lot of momentum in certain parts of the world

So in Latin America traditionally a certain form of left-wing populism has been powerful, think of Venezuela; in parts of Southern Europe as well But in the end, it strikes me that in most contexts right-wing populism is gonna win against left-wing populism It's one of the things that makes me skeptical of left-wing populism I don't understand what it is about the human psyche that makes it harder to blame a corporation or a billionaire than it is to blame that guy over there who doesn't look like you But whenever these two things have come up against each other, that guy doesn't look like you has turned out to have more emotional appeal in most contexts

Then more broadly I think the question is, is there something positive about left-wing populism or is it always dangerous? Well, I think it depends a little bit on what you mean by populism It's not clear to me that in the way that I've described populism earlier, Bernie Sanders is a populist, right? So, there is sometimes a temptation to call anybody who has left-wing economic policies populist, and I think there can be people who have left-wing economic policies and say "but a bunch of things have to change," but who recognize, for example, that people who disagree with them are legitimate YM: What certainly does exist is a set of left-wing populists who don't accept that And Hugo Chavez in Venezuela is a terrifying example He said Venezuela is rigged by political elites and by financial elites, by oligarchs, and that was true

He said we need to do much more for Venezuelan poor people, that was true too But because he married those two things with a claim that anybody who disagrees with him is illegitimate and that only people who are Chavistas are true Venezuelans, he ended up becoming incredibly politically repressive and turning a functioning democracy, if an imperfect one, into one of the most terrifying dictatorships we see in the world today and one of the ones that have had the worst economic performance So I think as soon as you start people saying, "It's actually pretty simple, the only problem is the elites and what we need to do now is just to push all these people who you don't agree with aside, to get rid of some of these institutional roadblocks, which make it more difficult for me to really go and deliver for you, just trust me I'm gonna fix it" That's always dangerous and that can appear on the left as much as on the right SN: So I think we're running out of time before a quick Q&A, but how do we save democracy? I saved that question for the end

[laughter] YM: So I only have 30 seconds to answer the question SN: In a minute, yeah In 100 words or less YM: Sure, in 100 words or less I think there's three big buckets of what we need to do and they come out of the things I've talked about

To understand how you can save our democracy, you have to understand what's driving some of the dangers to it Now look, we gotta win some elections, but we have to also fix some of the things that have made people angry in the first place So the first thing is around the economy I am sometimes asked whether we shouldn't just abolish capitalism Isn't the right answer just to get rid of capitalism because that's doing all these terrible things? There's never been a democracy in a country that hasn't been capitalist

And by the way, if you're on the political right, you might say, "I only care about coal workers in the west of Canada who might lose their job and I don't care about anything else" If you're on the political left, you should celebrate the fact that two billion people around the world have been lifted out of poverty over the past 20, 25 years People who didn't have anything to eat, who didn't have electricity, who didn't have access to education, who now lead middle-class lives That is an achievement of capitalism, of free trade and of globalization But we need to fight much, much harder to make sure that ordinary people actually get the fruits of that

YM: And not just within developed countries, the top 1% And we can do that with policies that aren't necessarily deeply ideological The first thing we have to do is to make sure that rich individuals and corporations actually pay the taxes that they owe And we don't do nearly enough for that That's actually possible if we hired more people to look after them, if we're more willing to pay for information about the money they hide and if we're more willing to lock some of them up if they've cheated on their taxes

The second thing is to actually increase productivity, to make sure that we have much bigger investments in education and so on than we do, including lifelong education that's not just, if you've lost your job here's a little retraining program, but ways for all of us to keep actually learning and so on And the third thing is that look, at the moment if you're in Toronto, you're 28, 30, you have a pretty good job, you make a decent salary, you probably have a less good life in certain ways than your parents or grandparents did because housing has become so much more expensive Because you have to pay such a huge share of your salary in order to have somewhere decent to live And that's something where we actually just need to build a lot more housing and get out of a weird addiction to trying to raise house prices YM: If a politician stood up for election, say for Premier of Ontario and said, "I'm gonna make sure that the price of bread and butter is going to be as high as possible

" Excuse me? But if they say, "I'm going to make sure that your house price doesn't go down," people vote for it So we need to make sure that we actually try to make housing more affordable So there's a whole bunch of economic measures which cumulatively allow people to do what the Brexiteers promised in the United Kingdom, take back control Take back control in the sense that I will feel that I have control over my life and I feel that my nation is not against globalization, is not against free trade, but it can stand for itself in the global economy There's ways that the nations that can do that without having to leave the European Union, without having to give up on free trade, that's one thing

The second thing is around And I know I'm way over 30 seconds The second thing is about identity

We have to fight for an equal multi-ethnic society But I think that means embracing nationalism I grew up as a Jew in Germany, and so it comes very naturally to me to say perhaps we should just leave nationalism behind in the 20th century where it was so cruelly shaped I know My family knows the dangers of nationalism pretty well

YM: But what we've seen over the last 20, 25 years is that nationalism's not going away as a political force And so I think it's a sort of half domesticated animal If you leave it to its own devices, the worst kind of people are gonna come in, in the United States they tend to be called Steve, like Steve Bannon and Steve Miller and so on [laughter] YM: And they'll prod and they'll bait the nationalist beat until it runs wild, until it's the worst form of itself it can be So if people who don't like that either say, "Let's just get rid of nationalism," or they say, "Let's celebrate every sub-national identity groups, whether they're ethnic, whether they're religious, whether they're sexual and so on, but not the national identity group," I think that we don't have anything to put in the place of what the Steves want to offer

So what we need to do is to defend minority groups against discrimination without footnote, without compromise and proudly I also think we need to emphasize what unites rather than what divides us across racial and ethnic and sexual and so on lines And that means fighting for an inclusive nationalism in which, yeah, we're proud to be Canadian or American or German or whatever it may be But we're gonna to make damn sure that everybody who lives in this country is included under that YM: The third thing is how to deal with social media, and how to deal more broadly over disenchantment that people feel

And one temptation there is to censor It's to say, "Let's just regulate what happens on social media" And there are certainly some laws that we need and some laws that already exist that we need to enforce more clearly, like we saw with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook But I don't think censorship is the way to go The Internet is so freewheeling that it's incredibly difficult to actually stop certain kinds of content from being offered without being very heavy-handed and really restricting people's liberty

It allows populists to present themselves as martyrs who are being shut up and become all the more popular as a result And so I think instead of trying to limit the supply of noxious ideas, we have to limit the demand for it And that means taking seriously fighting for our values and taking seriously that, yes, there's lots of things that are wrong in our countries and we need to be upfront about that, we need to fight to overcome those injustices There's also some things that are right and you know what, it is better to be a citizen of Canada or of the United States or of Germany than it is to be a subject of the dictators in Turkey or Russia or China And we should point that out proudly

YM: From Plato to Aristotle and from Machiavelli to Rousseau, any historical thinker who's fought about how to sustain a self-governing republic has emphasized the importance of passing our political values down from one generation to the next But we've only paid lip service to that in the last decades because we thought democracy was safe So we're not taking civics seriously in schools In universities, we gripe about our political system, but we never explain to students, and I know that full well teaching at Harvard, we never explain to our students what it is in our political system that's worth saving So I think we should change that and each of us can actually play a big role in that

SN: You sound hopeful YM: Sorry? SN: You sound hopeful YM: I am hopeful

Source: Youtube

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