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Made You Think

Jun 30, 2022

“No matter what I believe to be true, there always seems to be another side to the question. If you were to put me to the torture, I’d probably confess that this is my analytic ideal: to consider the question from as many relevant perspectives as the mind can hold.”

Welcome back to another episode of Made You Think! In this episode, Nat, Neil, and Adil talk about their key takeaways from The Revolt of the Public by Martin Gurri. With technology giving us access to more information than ever, the overall trust level between the public and the governing elite is at an all time low. 

We cover a wide range of topics including:

  • The relationship between sources of information and their level of authority
  • Nihilism resulting from a lack of trust in authority and the current system
  • How cancel culture may keep people from taking action on their passions
  • Power relations between the elites and the public
  • The move from criticizing people to criticizing the systems themselves

And much more. Please enjoy, and make sure to follow Nat, Neil, and Adil on Twitter and share your thoughts on the episode.

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0:43 In today's episode, Nat, Neil, and Adil are discussing Revolt of the Public by Martin Gurri. This will wrap up our crypto series, and if you're interested in more like this, be sure to check out some of our previous episodes!

4:02 Adil goes over some of the core ideas of the book, with one of them being the relationship between sources of information and their authority. When there’s fewer sources of information, each source has greater authority. So if there’s only one source, they are the sole authority. There’s been an increase on news sources, and with so many sources, it opens up more opportunity for contradiction between them.

7:10 Negation; Many elections have been won by negation rather than inspiration. As we gain access to more and more information, it can become harder to trust authority. There’s a need for a new system of trust and authority to emerge that can exist within this hyper-access to information we have.

12:09 In the Choices section of the book, there were two parts: 1. What individuals can do 2. What government can do. Gurri frames our current paradigms around authority as being emergent from the Industrial Age. When the public needs answers, they turn to institutions rather than individuals.

"That passive mass audience on which so many political and economic institutions depended had itself unbundled, disaggregated, fragmented into what I call vital communities: groups of wildly disparate size gathered organically around a shared interest or theme."

16:33 How can you influence people in a subtle way? Adil makes a pyramid analogy, where the elites are at the top and the public is at the bottom. The elites are interested in increasing the distance between the top and the bottom, however the author argues that in order to succeed in the age of the Revolt of the Public, you actually need to reduce that space.

"The quality that sets the true elites apart – that bestows authority on their actions and expressions – isn’t power, or wealth, or education, or even peruasiveness. It’s integrity in life and work. A healthy society is one in which such exemplary types draw the public toward them purely by the force of their example. Without compulsion, ordinary persons aspire to resemble the extraordinary, not superficially but fundamentally, because they wish to partake of superior models of being or doing."

In the Industrial Age, it was common to believe that politicians and CEOs were super-people, but as we got more access to information, we became more aware that people aren’t super-people, and that everyone is human.

20:46 It’s not a matter of whether elites are good or bad, there’s tradeoffs to having a society that leans more towards the elite side vs. public side. 

26:37 The last chapter of the book is an updated edition, speaking on Trump and how he is in a way, the ultimate nihilistic politician. Reducing your distance from the public as a political figure helps you sell your story more. It’s also about the way that you tell your story. Failing governments vs. failing companies- What’s the difference?

32:34 Lack of big national projects in our lifetime. One big project was the Covid vaccine, but it wasn’t the government that implemented this project.

33:59 The threshold for what’s acceptable in research has changed since the 1970s, so there’s a lot of work that we wouldn’t be able to do now that may have been allowed decades ago. A lot of what politicians and other public figures do is almost immediately knowable due to technology and the speed at which news travels. A possible consequence of this could be fear of taking action. When we get to a point of wanting to take action, we may worry about things that we’ve done in the past that would be resurfaced.

40:03 Cancel culture. If you want to become a positive leader, negative things coming out can hurt you. By acknowledging your faults or even getting ahead of it, you can deflate some of the claims made.

43:04 Many people don’t take action on something that they’re passionate about. By posting about it, it takes away the felt need to act on it. It feels as if you’ve already acted on it, and the job is done. A protest may not convince people to change their mind that much, but a lot of the power comes from reminding politicians that they work for us, and also serves as a release of anger. Democracies have led to this tendency for politicians to promise more than they can deliver, and the public will vote for the politicians that promise to deliver the most, regardless of the amount of faith they have that they can execute those promises.

48:05 There’s room for either political party to step up and bridge the gap on big issues, especially with with the recent Roe v Wade decision. 

53:04 Covid’s role in the Revolt of the Public. It changed our relationship with government authority. During this period of time, for many people it was the first time they really felt the presence of government in their life.

55:27 The book has a section about mass protest movements in the US and Europe. The citizens taking place in the protests are generally in the middle or upper-middle class, college-educated, and not actually the ones struggling in society. 

59:10 Nihilism as a threat to democratic institutions. As institutions leak credibility and legitimacy, the blame shifts from individuals in the system (such as bad politicians and leaders) to the system. This results in lack of trust of authority, and in turn, people want to destroy everything to feel like there is progress being made in some type of way. 

1:04:10 If you could implement one policy what would it be?

Adil shares an idea of subsidizing exit costs from one state to another, where if someone wanted to move out of their state, they’d be provided with services and support. This would allow states to see the numbers of people staying and leaving, and there’s consequences for passing unfavorable legislature. 

Nat’s idea would be to have government agencies to cut their budgets by 90% for one year. A lot of the problems that exist in our country stem from financial irresponsibility.

Neil shared that he would make Congress 10x larger while making it a part time, work from home job. The number of influential people in Congress is so small that it’s easy to bribe them with their district. Initially, being a Congressman wasn’t initially a full time job, as most had other roles and they just happened to serve in Congress too. They were more in touch with how people lived.

1:15:38 Nat shares a new technique he's using to track books he reads. He jots the date that he started reading the book with some notes about what’s going on in life at the time. When finished, he will write in the book what book he’s reading next. Over the years, the books will be networked together in physical form.

1:17:12 This concludes the crypto/libertarian series on Made You Think! The next book we’re reading is The Iliad. We’re using Tommy Collison's Great Books List to guide future episodes, and we're expanding it to encompass a wider range of books. Got any suggestions of books to add? Let us know!

If you enjoyed this episode, let us know by leaving a review on iTunes and tell a friend. As always, let us know if you have any book recommendations! You can say hi to us on Twitter @TheRealNeilS@adilmajid@nateliason and share your thoughts on this episode.

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Thanks for listening. See you next time!