If you believe that the term “oligarchs” only applies to Russian billionaires, author and demographer Joel Kotkin has some news for you. In this episode, Robert Bryce talks to Joel about his latest book, The Coming of NeoFeudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class, as well as a wide variety of topics, including the rise of the technocratic elite, the importance of homeownership, suburbs in the time of Covid-19, California’s regressive energy policies, and what he calls “the betrayal of the middle and working class” by policymakers.

Episode Transcript

Robert Bryce  0:05  

Hi, thanks for listening. Welcome to the power hungry podcast where we talk about energy power, innovation and politics. And today, it’s going to be a lot about politics and some about energy to my guest is Joel kotkin. Joe is a well, he has a long resume. You’re the author of 10 books. Is that right? Yes in books, editor of several others. Today we’re going to talk about Joel’s new book. It’s the coming of Neo feudalism. A warning to the global middle class I’ve just finished reading it came out in May. And Joe I could go on and and blather around about your resume and who you are, but what I found is fun is to have my guests introduce themselves. So just act as though you’ve just arrived at a dinner party and met someone you don’t know how to introduce yourself, if you don’t mind. Well, you Usually

Joel Kotkin  1:00  

I asked my wife to do it because I don’t like doing it.

Robert Bryce  1:03  

Well, Mandy’s not here.

Joel Kotkin  1:07  

Basically, um,

Joel Kotkin  1:08  

I consider myself a journalist. I’ve done a lot of history. I’m one of the reasons I’m having such a hard time with the current atmosphere is, I was brought up with the idea that journalists and I think the same thing could be true for historians. Their job was to tell the truth as best as they could and to elucidate things. And now journalism is being turned into something that would be more akin to Nazi Germany or, or, or in Stalin’s Russia, you know,

Robert Bryce  1:41  

it is Wow, now,

Joel Kotkin  1:44  

we’re getting off to a roaring start here, Mr. calkin. It’s become a tool to present a certain ideology and a certain kind of Orthodoxy. Now, the great thing is that we’re still a free country and there’s pushback Even those who are on the left, particularly of of my generation are very hostile to the idea that there is just thing as one set of truths that can’t be challenged. And that’s really what we’re seeing. And that’s true for climate. It’s true for energy. It’s true for Black Lives Matter. It’s, it’s something that we really know it’s gender issues. The idea that there is an Orthodoxy is so objectionable to me, and it’s so terrible that it’s strongest in the very institutions, academia, media, and even the entertainment industry, which should be the most skeptical and poking the most fun at accepted

Robert Bryce  2:43  

ideas. So rather than the heterodoxy or opinion you got this whole Well, I don’t know orthodoxy, I guess so. Well, I’m gonna interrupt here. So you finished introducing yourself him? Yeah. So you consider yourself a journalist. That that’s your that’s in your career, then

Joel Kotkin  3:01  

I’m a writer, you know, the, the, you know, one of the terrible things about the sort of credentialism that we have today is that the idea that somebody makes his living or her living as a writer is not sufficient, you have to have, you know, three graduate degrees and you have to, which, you know, tends to mean that you do follow a certain orthodoxy. The people that I consider my great role models, none of them had much to do with universities, you know, think about people like the TOEFL. or, or, for that matter, Marx or nature or any of the really interesting writers. They were all kind of self taught people who, you know, learn things out in the world and then made their, their conclusions. What we have now is something very much like a credential society where you have to have this credential to say Anything so even a really brilliant animals like I was just talking to Mike Shellenberger he gets taken off the the the Facebook page or and the page forums, because some of the scientists disagree. Well, scientists is supposed to disagree. By the way, I was brought up in a scientific environment my father taught at a medical school. He, you know, he was very much a sort of person with a scientific orientation. I’m not hostile to it at all. I just think that, that I always think of this line by from my father, who died many years ago he said, Who killed the most people in history? He said doctors, because we thought something was true. And it turned out not to be true.

You know, whether you go back to,

you know, using leeches and bleeding people and right 17th century, or some of the treatments that we have what we can tell just with the COVID situation that some of the initial therapies were the exact wrong thing. And

Robert Bryce  5:06  

putting people and putting people in nursing homes, it was the exact wrong thing to do. Because that became one of the biggest deaths zones for probably the biggest, by far the well 40 42%, according to published work by by free up in the New York Times published the same So, okay, so you’re against credentialism. And you’re a journalist, but you also have a you have credentials with Chapman University, and you do have an academic home. But we didn’t necessarily, you know, I want to just kind of establish your your bona fides here at the top to talk about, you know, your background and where you’re coming from. But you’ve been writing about class for a long time. And it’s at the root really, of this book. I mean, it’s really fundamentally a book about class and the growing class divide. So tell me why is that why is that so important to you? You were born and raised in New York. Is that right and in in the what part of New York?

Joel Kotkin  5:58  

Well, I grew up

Initially in, in Brooklyn, and then we moved to Long Island. And I was very aware of the class issue in part because, um, my my father came from a

you know, middle class

background but but you know, self made men clothing manufacturer big surprise. And, and but my mother came from working class My grandmother was a seamstress and my grandfather was a window washer. So I was always very aware of there being these class divisions. And then as I began to study, I thought the great thing that was happening in the United States, historically was that people could move up in the class system. This is what was behind, you know, the growth in Europe, also in Japan, and even up until recently in China. This was the great positive story. What is was noticing as I started writing, particularly about younger people, is that chance that idea of upward mobility that I, if I work hard, and I have good idea, I can make it into the middle or the upper middle class that is diminishing and this type of society we have. And to describe it as there are really two ascending classes. One is what I call the oligarchy, most of the tech companies, the very same people who are now censoring the Michael Shellenberger ‘s of the world, and I’m sure they’ll get around to us at some point, maybe if we make a big enough wave, you know, who are who are basically now controlling the media. The scary thing about the oligarchs is not just that they have money, and not just that they control big companies is that they have control of the means of, of information.

Robert Bryce  7:48  

I didn’t know Well, let me interrupt if you don’t mind, because you’ve used that term, a lot of the oligarchs and i don’t know i’m not going to quibble with you about it, but it’s one that in my Your sounds will that’s what you hear about Russia. Right? Not the United States. Right. But But you’re bringing that term into the American discourse. And is it fair? I mean, I put that dyno just as a straight question is it is a fair comparison.

Joel Kotkin  8:18  

I think it’s very fair because if you think about the oligarchs in Russia, they were people who were in the bureaucracy who were positioned to take control of state owned enterprises. It’s a different story in the in the US, the public, the Defense Department basically developed the internet. It was initially seen as sort of an open forum that anybody can have. But what we see just like the, the barbarians who took over the land after the Roman Empire, a group of companies came in and were able to pretty well monopolize almost every major niche of the tech economy that makes them oligarchs when you have 8090 percent control over search, if you can control the vast majority of revenues in online advertising, if you control a vast proportion of social media, if you have the operating systems for phones and these companies are no longer competitive companies, they are more like utilities in some senses. And so and what’s happened is, initially I started covering Silicon Valley in 1975. When it was not even quite known as Silicon Valley. What was great about it is it was a bunch of engineers wanted to solve problems. And those problems varied, including how to, you know, send send a capsule to space and to the moon. That that was a very positive culture, but they didn’t try to control how we thought what we thought, what

Robert Bryce  9:58  

what we were what we are what we saw. Because they didn’t have the capability,

Joel Kotkin  10:02  

right? And they and that wasn’t probably their inclination. But now we have a very defined elite class and it’s the tech oligarchs are at the top of what’s interesting is how many of them work for other tech oligarchs? How many of the venture capital funders are the same venture capital funders, who have funded other companies, and then the private equity guys who are kind of in Maoist terms, we call them running dogs of the venture capitalists, so they put in huge amounts of money? You know, I was in the venture capital business briefly, what I learned very quickly, is really it wasn’t about talent or ideas. It was about who had money. Yeah, you somebody with the same idea as Mark Zuckerberg, but was not connected to that network would never get hundreds of millions of dollars in investment. So what you’ve got now is it is kind of this this sort of charmed circle of people who are dominate everything. That’s why the tech economy is based in two places, the Bay Area and, and the Seattle area, you know, everybody else, you know, it fights for the scraps that are left over. And then

Robert Bryce  11:13  

let me interrupt you because that’s the part that I have the quote here, what are you talking about? The oligarchs, you have a you have a chapter in the book called the oligarchs, you say the tech oligarchs tend to regard themselves as more enlightened and progressive than their industrial era predecessors. And I thought about that, well, okay. Yeah, I’m sure that’s likely true, but it is all in terms of their politics, with the exception of maybe Peter Thiel, right, who among those ones that we can name? How many of them are conservatives or would consider themselves on the right, I would say less than I mean, I could count them on one hand if I had, you know, I don’t know. Thiel. Who else is there, right, but they regard themselves as politically liberal. And yet you’re, if I could say broadly about your book, you’re, you’re saying no, they’re not liberal at all, because they’re constraining the flow of information and constraining the flow of capital. Is that a fair assessment?

Joel Kotkin  12:09  

Yes. But how do you define being liberal? They may define being liberal or progressive, which is okay.

Robert Bryce  12:16  

Or leftist? I guess I’ve been called out on the liberal label before but but they’re on the left, right now associated with the Democratic Party, not the republicans

Joel Kotkin  12:25  

overwhelmingly and

Robert Bryce  12:27  

and the same is true reporters. You point this out in the book as well, that was it. 93% of journalists identify as, as as Democrats, not Republicans. And of course, the

Joel Kotkin  12:37  

academia is the same way. I mean, what you have is you have a conventional wisdom that people just are going to go along with, um, and a lot of it is

Robert Bryce  12:47  

only true when it comes to climate change, energy policy, yes.

Joel Kotkin  12:50  

Climate change, energy policy, gender, transgender, any of these major issues. Jeff Bezos is now who was not this way. I think initially is very progressive, except when you start talking about taking his money, then all of a sudden, he becomes a little bit more protective. That’s why they hated Bernie Sanders. Because, you know, Bernie, in his 2016 campaign was very, very explicit on this. So what you have is the idea that if you create a progressive regime, which regulates everything, if you already have yours, that’s great shape, the person who is going to have a hard time under the current and emerging sort of progressive regime is going to be the independent. Well, you don’t have enough women. You don’t have enough African Americans. You have enough Latinos, you you know, you didn’t meet this climate goal and you didn’t meet that climate. Oh, you put your your business where your engineers want to live? Oh, no, no, but that means they have to get in their cars and go to work. we’d much rather they lived in a loft in the in lower Manhattan, because that would be more approved. I mean, so what you’ve got is you’ve got, the more barriers you put up from from the state, the better it is for the oligarchs, unless

Robert Bryce  14:14  

you didn’t have because they have the lobbyists, they have the lawyers, they have the ability to maintain the, I guess a different way I put it as this this gigantism has taken over. And that that seems to be accelerating, particularly under COVID. I was Scott Adams. Yeah, something recently about this was a month or more ago now where the writing was happening. And there you saw these retail shops being being the windows being busted and everything, you know, putting a flame and he said, Oh, this is great for Bezos, right? This is like the perfect scenario for Amazon because people aren’t going to be able to go shopping. The only way they can get it is through the mail.

Joel Kotkin  14:50  

Well, and of course, it’s also going to be very bad for cities because people are not going to want to go into them. And you know, I mean, what’s interesting is that the person aggressive positions very often work against their own interests. But on the class struggle you have, you have this, this oligarchy group, who are perfectly happy with a regulatory state that really is, you know,

Robert Bryce  15:14  

is worse to their works to their benefit.

Joel Kotkin  15:17  

And we have to remember that Obama and bush both basically punted on antitrust. When when Microsoft has 90% market share on operating systems. Don’t you think that’s a problem? Don’t you think that we get afflicted with mediocre software? Because what is what do they care? I mean, they they have overwhelming numbers. Then you add to that, the control of content that’s the big thing, because what they’ve done is they’ve bought the Washington Post, they bought the New Republic, they bought the Atlantic. Bloomberg, in a way is another kind of oligarchy even though he’s, you know, he’s an old guy, but he you know, He’s in the same boat controls another media major media platform. I mean, basically, you’ve got five or six media companies, only one of which Fox or News Corp. Is that all dissenting on any of these issues?

Robert Bryce  16:14  

So let me interrupt you there. Because I mean, you brought up cities. And that’s one of the things I’ve got a long list of questions and things, we can talk about it. I don’t know how much time you have planning on five or six hours here, declared your calendar. Well, okay, so let’s talk about the politics part of it. Because you and I have known each other for a while.

Joel Kotkin  16:32  

How do you define your politics?

I would say my politics are traditional, sort of Truman, Pat Brown, social democratic politics, I would say that’s how I would look at myself. I’ve never made your history is in the left. Much more on the left my I would say who were my early mentors. One was Michael Harrington, who wrote the other America and later was head of the Socialist Party of America and And then my other was Alfred Lowenstein, who was a who was really the the inventor of the dump Johnson movement actually

Robert Bryce  17:08  

in 1968 so so but you consider yourself of the left and and yet you write for the Orange County Register the ride for city journal I mean the outlets in which you’re being published are now we’re getting this is on the right so this is this is speaking to kind of the your own history but also the, the the funnel the media funnel about what’s allowed or what’s accepted as in polite society, right. But

Joel Kotkin  17:34  

I could write a piece for Brian Anderson at Citi journal or or rich Lowry national review or Claire layman over at quillette. All of them you would think would be somewhat considered somewhat conservative, because they like a diversity of ideas. They’re, you know, there are libertarians, there are Trump Easter’s, and there are all other voices. The problem is On the left, it’s increasingly homogeneous views and this is where the other class that there are two ascending classes. One is the oligarchy, and the other one, all the clarity, and they are the ones who supplied the content to the oligarchy, so that so that they are able to impose the orthodoxy so that you can get a credentialed scientist who says, you gotta take Mike Schoen burgers or articles out, even if Schoenberger can have five other scientists who agree with him,

Robert Bryce  18:34  

you know, and so let me interrupt you again. I’m good at this interrupting but you mentioned now we in your book, you talk about the three different castes, right you have the oligarchy, you have the the clerici and the Yeomanry. So we pretty much covered the oligarchy and the clerici is the edge. The educated class the academics and journalists is kind of the broad but the human And I’m skipping around here in no particular order in the questions as I wrote them, but I thought your section on the rise of Holland and the Dutch and what the Dutch were did, I made some notes on that about the about the rise of Holland. And you described how they broke out here. I marked it in my, in my, in my book here, but it was about Oh, I know what it was. You said that in 1650. And Amsterdam, a third of the population was foreign born. But it was about Holland and the Netherlands being able to essentially restrain the power of the church and restrain the power of the kings so that they made way for the middle class for the delivery. And I thought that’s a fascinating bit of history. I had no I knew about the rise, of course of the Netherlands as a trading as a trading hub. But you tell me it will, I’ll put it. So why was that so important, and you really defined it as that Mid 1600s change and the rise of the Yeomanry Is that a fair assessment of what you’re wondering things is that they were creating new land as a reclaiming from the sea. So there were new places for people to go. I mean, what made America and Canada and Australia the kind of places they became is that there was land there was places for people to go. later on. It became something could be property owners, but

Joel Kotkin  20:25  

property owners the key issue for democracy, you know, Barrington Moore, the great radical, and may I add, social scientists said, No boys won no democracy. And I think that that’s the essence if, if the next generation is made up of renters who are dependent on subsidies, who don’t, who probably won’t have kids

will never own a business.

Robert Bryce  20:54  

Then they don’t have a stake. They don’t have a stake. They don’t have a stake in the society and that that’s an issue. That that seems to me to the core of your argument there that in particularly in California,

Joel Kotkin  21:05  

right and this, this leads to this fourth class, which is growing, which is what I call the serf plants, which are people who will never own anything. Um, are you know, maybe they’ll work in the gig economy a little bit maybe they’ll you know, they’ll they’ll do some personal service, maybe they’ll they’ll do some illegal stuff but, but the, the surf class is what happens when you when the Yeomanry stop growing, the goal of a democratic society should be how do we take the people at the bottom, move them into the Yeoman class become property owners or their children become property owners? Now, the the clarity and the oligarchs are interested in that, but they really want is a sort of pliant group of people. I remember one time I was speaking actually with Bjorn lumbergh at a environment conference at the Wall Street Journal had In Santa Barbara.


it was I was sitting next to a venture capitalist. I said, Well, you know, the young people don’t have kids or they don’t see any future. He said, Well, we don’t really need people. We’ll just have robots and then we’ll have, you know, my children who programmed the robot the robots. I mean, this is like,

Robert Bryce  22:18  

hey, the program to fix the robots. Yeah, right. Yeah.

Joel Kotkin  22:21  

I mean, you know, you know, the, you know, the more locks in the and the boy, I mean, this is this. And what’s interesting when you read Greg Ferran Steen’s interviews with with tech, particularly internet tech people, they don’t believe in upward mobility. They think that power is going to go to a small class of in quote, talented people, just like them, and they’re going to have to figure out okay, how much do we have to give to keep the peasants from putting putting us on their pitchforks? That’s like what we see with this pandering to Black Lives Matter. We I’m not blaming them, I’m just saying they’re basically Maoists, they their, their their politics all way to the left. I went to Berkeley.

Robert Bryce  23:08  

I know I should know when you’re referring to you should there they are malice about human Black

Joel Kotkin  23:13  

Lives Matter, okay. I mean, they’re basically Maoists, they want a cultural revolution. They want to racialize everything in this country, which would completely destroy the promise that Dr. King and Frederick Douglass were talking about, and sort of inverting it into what racial regime where, if somebody is Latino or particularly African American, they get put into a different category. But instead of historically haven’t been discriminated against they get discriminated for. This doesn’t at all affect the the position of the oligarchy, or, or the clerici they’re still on top. But what they do is they they use these kinds of plastic Steps to sort of mobilize support no for their positions. And and, you know, we see this particularly when we look at issues like climate change, we work here in California, the media is completely totally bought in you cannot, you know, whether whether it’s the pandemic and climate change, there’s only one interpretation. And that interpretation is, you know, sort of, you know, gravitas on the world’s coming to an end. And if, if all you middle and working class people would just stop driving cars, and working in factories or, or buying stuff, the world would be a better place. Now, of course, it wouldn’t be it would be kind of a miserable place but, but this is the orthodoxy so that what you have is, is they’re able to pick issues that they can endorse,

that don’t really hurt them.

Robert Bryce  24:56  

You don’t have can help them in fact, build a bigger moat around them. They’re businesses.

Joel Kotkin  25:01  

And of course and then to participate in this sort of bit of a fraud on renewable energy, which Schoenberger and others and michael moore even have pointed out that this is incredibly expensive energy. I will give you an interesting example that I’m working on right now. California wants to make electric trucks mandatory by 2024. Well, that’s basically going to wipe out an entire class predominantly Latino immigrants who drive trucks into the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and in Oakland, because electric trucks are unproven. They’re expensive, they’d have to go and buy them. And because of the shift to renewables, we’re going to go all electric, but the price of electricity is going to go through

Robert Bryce  25:43  

the roof. So some electricity in California is already going through the roof.

Joel Kotkin  25:47  

And and so what we’re finding is what what the greens are pushing now is, like we So okay, if we have all electric cars, long electric trucks, then they’re not admitting anything. So why is it bad? People drive. It turns out that because they know that under the renewable regime, even if we destroy half the Central Valley with these horrendous plants that they want to build, the price of energy is going to be so high that it will not be economic for people to drive.

Robert Bryce  26:18  

Will you make a point of this in several parts in the book where you talk about the climate change rhetoric and the issue of energy as a way that in fact, the the, the, the, the oligarchs then help well build a bigger moat, right, that they keep the Yeomanry down. You said that

Joel Kotkin  26:37  

and they also invest in these things, so they can’t lose money on them, because their role subsidized,

Robert Bryce  26:43  

right? You said that the policy around climate change. Here’s the quote, tightened to the alliance between the clerici and the oligarchs, and that many of the climate policies again, quoting are directly injurious to the middle class and working class by inflating energy and housing prices. For example, or By stifling industrial development, right I mean, you’re really talking about your, your new your adopted state of California. And but this has really become accepted there and that that high among highest prices for motor fuel among the highest prices for electricity. And then you recently did a report for Chapman University on on the vehicle miles traveled tax, which is effectively a new form of tax on mobility, which I didn’t quite understand until I read. I read your report. But how does you’re one of California’s biggest critics now what? What can happen and California has long been a big event in the vanguard of policy and politics in america. What’s the fundamental problem there? Why why how’s California gotten so far? afield from what was a place where the middle class America was thriving?

Joel Kotkin  27:49  

Well, part of the problem was is been demographics. As the state has become more regulated, more high tax, limited in what economic activity can be done. It’s lost a lot of its middle middle class, the group that’s leaving the most young families people in their 30s and 40s. People like me who got here early bought my first house in Hollywood for $150,000. I’ve been riding that inflationary elevator, you know, very successfully, I guess. So as

Robert Bryce  28:21  

you were able to buy property,

Joel Kotkin  28:22  

right, I was able to buy property in 1980. Try to buy property now. If I take a look at me, circa 1980. Today, I’d be lucky to have a studio apartment,

you know, so that

Robert Bryce  28:38  

you just couldn’t afford to buy a house?

Joel Kotkin  28:40  

No, I couldn’t even think about buying a house. I can tell you. When I meet with my students, almost none of them think they’re going to be able to stay in California. It’s just a question. You know, they they might, you know, hang out in LA for a couple of years. But in terms of getting married, having a family buying a house that They can’t do this here. So the sociological base of California changed the what was left of the middle class in particular, the working class was Hispanic. The Republicans managed to completely alienate that population, even though many Latinos are more conservative on social policy believe in hard work believing in instant like to start businesses all those

Robert Bryce  29:25  

stories are strong families stay married strong families asleep religiously conservative.

Joel Kotkin  29:30  

But But the problem is that, that that the republicans are so are so ham handed, they didn’t realize that the world of of 2000 was not the same world as 1980. So you alienated them then you had the takeover of the education system. So even Asians who do well in the education system, are basically controlled by the buyer in the agent syllogism to identify with discrimination against themselves?

You know, my,

my ethnic group, I’m Jewish, you know, probably among the number of Jews who actually favor and will favor affirmative action being placed. You sit there and you say, how could you possibly favor that this means, you know, we were talking with my daughter who inherited my father’s dark skin. My father was, you know, more look Turkish, you know, because my family is from the Black Sea, but he’s parts of it. And we were saying, maybe we can find some Sephardic genes, my

daughter, so maybe we can play

that. Now. The whole idea that if somebody happens to have descendants who came from Spain, which a lot of Jewish people do, yeah, well, what does that privilege me in any way, shape or form? And why should the doctor of a woman whose grandfather was killed in the concentration camps

be discriminated against?

I mean, what what, you know, where is the Justice there? Um, so I mean, I think that what you’ve got is you’ve got this, this this desire on the part of the clarity to basically racialize absolutely everything and they oligarchy as long as somebody says, Well, you know what, Jeff, I think you should step down as chairman and give up your 100 and 90 billion or whatever it is you have, and and put a person of color in that position. And by the way, I find the position the whole notion person of color as somebody who’s written a lot about immigration, person of color. Are you telling me that what about how about an immigrant from Africa, Africans are doing fine in this country, generally speaking? Are they people of color? Are they being discriminated against? By the way, what about Indians, many of whom are are also very dark. What about all the different kinds of Hispanics who come from different cultures with different or

Robert Bryce  32:07  

we’re going to have a race test will be some kind of a, like the chlorine that remember the pool, you test the water and the chlorine and the Bible to see what I was if you’re dark enough, and there’s a sliding scale or something. So, I mean, it’s interesting that you bring that up, because you also mentioned the book and I’ve got a bunch so many bookmarks here, but you, you talk at one point I’m trying to find it about the reaction to Neo feudalism has rather than been a reaction rather than a reaction against the oligarchs has been one that’s been a reaction against immigrants against people of color. And it’s been I would say, the way I would read that would be some of the staunch Trump supporters right in the white, low income white residents in rural areas, right that instead of looking at the oligarchs, and looking at the owners Have the factory that sent it to Mexico. They’re saying, Oh, well, it’s because of the black and brown people. I might. I’m paraphrasing what you said in the book. But Is that a fair assessment of what you said?

Joel Kotkin  33:09  

Yeah. And I think one of the reasons why as much as I don’t think the Biden administration will be very successful in any of these addressing the serious problems. I think you have to get Trump out of the picture. Because if the Republican Party is going to become a working class, middle class party, it has to be an an an inclusive party.

You can’t have

there aren’t enough old white folks around to sustain a anything close to a political majority. Right, we should look at California as a as a cautionary tale of what happens when, when the two party system is destroyed because between wealthy liberals, the oligarchs, the greens, the public employees, and then you’ve got all the Hispanic and African American people who themselves are the biggest victims of these policies, but sign on to them, because this is what the media tells them. This is what their political leadership. I’ll give it a great, absurd example. Sure. One of the biggest advocates of extreme climate change policy is a man named Doug Leone. He was president Kevin

Robert Bryce  34:22  

de Leon, former senate majority leader.

Joel Kotkin  34:24  

He represents East LA, which is one of the greatest victims of deindustrialization. And the collapse of the education system of any part of California, one of the poorest districts, how the hell does expensive energy, for instance, or policies that create very high priced housing? How does that benefit that constituency? I don’t

think it does.

Robert Bryce  34:50  

So that but that’s part of the orthodoxy, right, because that’s, that’s the way democrats in California are supposed to talk about these things.

Joel Kotkin  34:58  

Right. And then of course, what you do is you You know, then you say, Oh, yeah, I’m in favor of, you know, I always find this interesting. I’m against population growth, but i’m in favor of open borders. I, you know, because I think the oligarchs want their supply of cheap labor, whether it’s nannies or or gardeners or or cleaning people all of whom are important. And but at the same time, they also want input h1 b visa people, right are, you know, who are cheap, skilled labor? So,

Robert Bryce  35:33  

yes, it is. So let me jump. Let me interrupt here again, because you the California part of this, to me is really interesting, because remember, we talked about this looked back, I looked at my notes, we talked in 2017. And you talked about the conflict this way. You said it’s a war between the digital and the material. San Francisco versus Houston. Right. Yeah, it seemed and I I use that analogy several years ago when I was talking about Texas and right What is that? Model going to be for American governance is going to be the Texas model of smaller government, no personal income taxes other things, but right but the starting from this idea of smaller government, or is it going to be the California model? But when I look at California today, compared to what I wrote that book 15 or 16 years ago, I see a state that really is starting to fray and really come apart and in many ways because of the enormous homeless problem, and you said, I don’t know that this is exact wording in your book, but you you wrote this in a recent article you said, rather than the vanguard of a more egalitarian future, California has become the progenitor of a new form of feudal feudalism, characterized by gross inequality and rigid increasingly rigid class lines, a trend that can be exacerbated in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak. So two questions is, can California change in a way so quickly enough to kind of stop this sleight of people out. And then second talk about the device. The you know, everything’s about COVID. Now, what is what are we going to see after that? But California if you’re, if you were were senate majority leader in the California legislature, what would you be pushing? What would be the policies you’d be enacting there?

Joel Kotkin  37:17  

Well, I mean, some of its really absurd. In particular, if you want to look at the pandemic, what, what we know very clearly is that not necessarily just infections, but But if we look at fatalities, high density areas dependent on transit have way out of proportion to anyone else, even with all the talk of surges in Arizona and Texas and even here in California. In reality, it’s, you know, eight to 110 to 115 to one depending on the state the number of people who die from this and that has a lot to do with what we call you know, exposure density if you’re right, right, you’re on a subway and or if you’re in a classroom crowded housing. So what, what I would be proposing not that anyone would ever elect me. But you can California is not that crazy.

But, but but

but I think that what I would be saying is one, okay, what are we doing that we’re we’re basically telling people that they have to they need to take transit, we’re going to spend a fortune $25 billion on transit in LA. And there’s fewer people riding it now than in 1980. Okay, or 1990. So, you


you’re pushing exactly the opposite of what we should be pushing for is dispersion. Having jobs where people can afford to live, like for instance, the current plans in California would disadvantage the Inland Empire and the Central Valley for jobs and housing, and force everything on the coasts, which are incredibly expensive. So you’re not going to solve the affordable housing problem. You’re Certainly the only housing you’re going to build is either going to be subsidized, it’s going to be one bedroom and studio apartments are not going to solve the the aging problem California is now aging 50% faster than the rest of the country, having historically been a young society. So I would be saying, how do we how do we disperse economic growth so that jobs can be close to where people live, so they don’t have to travel as much?

Um, how do we how do we restore our industrial

situation? Like what good does it do that we’ve chased


country concrete industry out of California? So now you got to go to Nevada and Arizona, the pickup concrete? How is that possibly environmentally good, given that just by nature of climate, it’s cheaper to do it,

Robert Bryce  39:50  

and you have to ship it. So so what I’m what I’m what I’m hearing you say I’ll feed back to you what I heard you say was that, really again, it goes back to property owners That the state needs a rethinking of the ability to have homeownership exam that that is the I mean, this is the one of the big issues facing California is just that ability of having affordable housing, to be able to climb up the economic ladder.

Joel Kotkin  40:15  

And what you do is by having a high energy prices you make living in the interior, which tends to get hotter and colder, because, you know, the closer you are to the coast, if you live in Santa Monica, you practically don’t need heating or air conditioning.

Right. And

so you’re making it more expensive to maintain the house as well. And of course, the great thing about a homeowner is a homeowner is going to be thinking in the long term, they’re going to think about their community, they’re going to care about their schools, they’re going to they’re going to probably be more likely to participate. And they’re not going to be as ideological they’re going to be, you know, they want to protect their investment. So and so they’re going to be more pragmatic,

Robert Bryce  40:57  

and they’re going to be more interested in how much they’re paying in taxes and the rest of it because that comes with the territory as well.

Joel Kotkin  41:04  

So what take example compared to Texas, which I know very well and and can I tell you, Hispanics in Texas are much more conservative, much more likely to own a home, much more likely to own a business, much more likely to go to church.

Robert Bryce  41:20  

So then Hispanics in California,

Joel Kotkin  41:22  

oh, yeah, Latinos in Cal in in in Texas, about 40 45% have voted for republicans used to be the case in California, by the way, but much less so now.

Because if I’m a renter,

and I’m never going to own a house, and I’m probably never going to start a business and I’m My life is going to be constrained. Why the hell not vote for Bernie Sanders. You tell me why that person shouldn’t vote for Bernie. At least Bernie is addressing your issues. You know, by the way, the the demand that there be more African Americans in at Berkeley are on the board of Google does nothing for the vast majority of African Americans. But it buys the piece for the oligarchs. So, you know, the reality is, the more people are dependent on government, the more easy they are to manipulate. And as we’ve turned away our our concern about property ownership about equal rights about free speech, we begin to create the basis of something that I think is going to look in the book I say them quite a bit. Brave New World,

Robert Bryce  42:42  

much more like Brave New World, the 1984 technology has just advanced too far. For 1984. You know, is that because we’ve constrained the number of voices that can be heard in mainstream or the largest media outlets,

Joel Kotkin  42:58  

exactly, and and We are turning our education system into an indoctrination program.

What you know,

Robert Bryce  43:06  

when you come back to climate change a bunch in the book and I found this other quote here about this very same thing you said that. And this is toward right toward the end.

Joel Kotkin  43:18  

You said,

Robert Bryce  43:19  

After all, if the world is on the verge of a global Apocalypse, and also suffering elevated levels of inequality, how can the luxurious lifestyles of so many of the world’s most public green advocates, from Prince Charles and Richard Branson to Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore be acceptable? The environmental left may well turn against the billionaires who lament climate change, but fly their private jets to discuss the crisis in places like Davos. So, I mean, the way you’re framing the climate change debate is very much about not about the climate. Instead, it’s about class and about who’s going to be allowed to even discuss this and that the difference Caprio al gore example I mean you chicken straight, you’re running straight at these guys.

Joel Kotkin  44:04  

Well and of course and the the you know what what clearly happens to some extent my my good friend Jim Hartfield in England who used to be the head of the Communist Party in Manchester. not quite there, but he’s very much on the left. He says, Look, it’s about scarcity. If I own a scarce resource, it’s worth more. If we have abundant energy, and everybody in America can power their home with natural gas or nuclear power,

at reliable, reliably, cheaply, that produces

one result. If it’s incredibly expensive, then I’m the only one who can get to do these things like I I always get a kick out of Yahoo, which the news section seems to be run by 12 year olds

Unknown Speaker  44:53  

were were properly

Joel Kotkin  44:56  


Robert Bryce  44:56  

who’ve been through the orthodoxy school,

Joel Kotkin  44:58  

right and but What I find

amazing is all these hip cool celebrities, and they’re on vacations and in the in the Bahamas, and, you know, they must be flying on private jets, you know, if I’m really rich, and I can afford this and say we this is part of what’s going back, we’re going back from mass access to luxuries to limited access for luxuries, we’re going to make sure you know the greens are so worried about British working class people getting on airplanes and going to the to the Spanish coast.

Wouldn’t it be better if they didn’t?

Because then when I go to the Spanish coastal won’t be anybody there. So now the this is like, like when we think about suburbs and the between the Bay Area and Lake Tahoe. Wouldn’t it be great for the oligarchs if they could go to Lake Tahoe without having to drive through suburbia? God wouldn’t that be wonderful? There’d be no traffic. No, that wouldn’t have to look at ugly housing tracks. Um, but here’s the really interesting future, you know, getting towards the end of the

Good Book. How long are the AOC? Is the world anyway? I have a

weird admiration for AOC and Bernie, at least being honest enough to say, Oh, no, it’s not. You know what, what Obama did, which was create one of the most unequal help accelerate the creation of an unequal society. We can’t have that. And we can’t, we can’t make the climate agenda serve the needs of a small group of oligarchs. So there’s going to be a real conflict over time. I think that is a friend of mine who who builds housing Silicon Valley said, the oligarchs have the least no knowledge of the impact of what they do have any group he’s ever worked with his life says the average oil company executive is more sensitive to the needs have their employees and their communities, then the tech oligarchs and tech oligarchs, you know, basically, really have very, very little of a social conscience. And, you know, frankly, they’re, they’re, they’re, they themselves are wildly, you know, coming from fairly upper class backgrounds themselves. They, they see themselves and pick up the rights of Thomas Piketty writes about the same thing. They see themselves as better, you know, the guy who goes out and, you know, the, you know, the, the guy who’s an immigrant from, you know, from Latvia and, you know, starts a machine shop and eventually has a machine tool company. That person is kind of de cos a sort of a, you know, parvenu somebody who we don’t, we don’t admire, but a Bill Gates, oh god, he’s practically been deified for producing consistently crappy software. Were with monopoly profits for a generation.

Robert Bryce  48:04  

Well so but that goes back to I want to go back to that point that we that we talked about this now several years ago which was this idea between the digital and the material this Yeah, the war between the digital and the material San Francisco versus Houston. So handicap That’s for me because right now the oil and gas industry is on its back. I mean, it’s just been flattened. It’s remarkable. The the there’s just simply no doubt that low cost oil and gas have saved the American economy and American consumers hundreds of billions of dollars over the last decade or so. And so the oil and gas industry made gasoline and natural gas incredibly cheap for consumers at the same time, it just went bust I mean, they saved all this money and then random selves out of business because they they made it too cheap. So who wins handicap this for me isn’t going to be the Texas model. Is it going to be the California model, or is this going to just be continued part of the Balkan is Of America because it seems to me In fact, I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday, his brother lives in Houston. And he said, you know, his, his wife’s a dietician, and he’s working between jobs now, but they have their house was too expensive. They can make it in Houston. They can’t make it in California. So, how do you how do you handicap this new feudalist society that in some ways is already upon us?

Joel Kotkin  49:22  

Well, I think what, here’s the scenario I see. Okay. I think, I think once Trump is excised, like a, you know, like the tumor that he is, once, once we, I mean, just because he you know, even though I agree with some of his ideas and or some of his policies, ideas, it’s probably elevating them to I. But, but the idea that we’re I think we’re going to have is we’re going to have a essentially an Obama restoration

further to the left.

They’re going to they’re going to try to impose you know, essentially the answer single family home.


Robert Bryce  50:03  

I think that’s going to be on the agenda, more extreme policies on energy.

Joel Kotkin  50:06  

Right. And the fracking. You know, we can all be like California and get our oil from the very enlightened state of Saudi Arabia.

And so what you’re going to

have is,

I think they, I think in a funny way you We are your to let these people run things for two years. And in 2022, maybe the Republican Party will get its act together and start to come up with a nationalist pro prosperity program that isn’t represented by a person who is such a clearly a divisive figure and has is clearly tone deaf. I mean, I can see I’ve been a lifelong Democrat, but I could see

a Jeff,

you know, a holy, a Marco Rubio, you know, Josh Hawley

Tim Scott,

I can see myself so saying, Okay, if I have that kind of Republican,

Robert Bryce  51:07  

a moderate, a moderate or more centrist republican

Joel Kotkin  51:10  

or even I would put in class terms, a party of the third estate, a party of the Yeomanry,

um, that

I would I would be happy to join. Because I think that the direction that the unfortunately the Democratic Party is going in is a feudalist direction, it’s a direction of ever greater class divides more and more control over what you can say what you can think. I mean, you know,

Robert Bryce  51:37  

isn’t that remarkable that it’s the party that represents itself as the party of the working class. And yet, that’s the thing that I’ve struggled with as I look at this, because, you know, I wrote for a liberal newspaper for a dozen years I, you know, I’ve been a Democrat, not consider my politics very centrist now, but when I look at the Democratic Party, when it comes to these kinds of policies, you’re saying you’re talking about I think What, especially when it comes to energy that they are. It’s terrible for the poor and the middle class, what they’re what they’re proposing. And yet, that just doesn’t seem to occur to them at any time.

Joel Kotkin  52:11  

And the problem is in the Democratic Party, people who represent a different tendency are either retired, or they can’t get anywhere. Jim Webb, for instance.

You know, look, if

you know, people say, Well, what would you do in Texas? I said, if you ran Henry Cisneros for governor, I’d vote for. Right. I’d probably work for him if I could. I mean, I, you know, but that kind of person that Henry Cisneros Pat Brown, a working class Democrat, right, or middle class Democrat, a Democrat who, who doesn’t


at a new subdivision outside of Austin as a bad thing. What that means is there’s a bunch of people living in homes who are living the life that they worked very hard to achieve that.

Robert Bryce  52:58  

So let me let me talk about that because Because you mentioned cities before so and we you know, COVID is on the on the prowl again and the numbers are going up and it’s been, you know, depressing. Honestly. I mean really depressing to see how this you know, we’re facing lockdowns again. So, for forecasts that for me, you you’re a demographer, you’ve written about these for a long these issues for a long time. So you and what is the future of cities? Are they necessarily going to see more flight? I saw that vacancies in New York are way up rents are down. Same in San Francisco that is this an end of some of the dominance of the city and we’re going to see more suburbanization. How do you see things happening? Post? COVID?

Joel Kotkin  53:42  

Okay, I think there are several things one, despite the spread of it, two states like Texas and California, if you compare it to what’s happened in New York, in terms of fatalities, you’re talking, you know, 100 versus far less Yeah. 1500. I mean, it’s not because there’s a lot of work. Now on what we call exposure density that the people got really sick, were people they were writing. Some of them they were writing some ways, poverty was a big factor. They were living in multi generational households with four or five people. They were working in in unsanitary conditions, whether in a office building where they’re on top of each other or in a meatpacking plant, these these kinds of things have sort of increased it. So we’re pretty clear, it’s pretty clear that high density housing and crowded urban housing is not good for COVID. Okay. People aren’t as stupid as the media thinks they are. The meat. First of all, we know that the No, because it’s never reported. Something like 65% reduction in deaths

from COVID.

Not reported

Robert Bryce  54:52  

at all, when we’re talking about the mortality rate to the people dying to those that are infected is way down. Yeah, way down. So

Joel Kotkin  55:00  

So that it’s running its course. But

there will be several things. One,

the memory of people who lived in a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan through COVID compared to us who live in houses and have backyards is enormous. If I’m going to live in a disaster, I want to live on my cul de sac in Orange County, California, where I’ve got great neighbors who, when they ran out of flour, the next door neighbor comes over with a big bag of flour and leaves it on the front door for us. I think people are beginning to recognize as they young people who have moved back with their parents or have moved to rental housing in the suburbs, that this is a far better way to live.

Robert Bryce  55:50  

In some ways, it’s a repudiation of this. I mean with it’s, it’s a reaction to COVID but it’s it’s also turning out to be in some way repudiation of this prescribed density, right that we’re going to tell you, you have to live in dense cities. This is the this is your choice, because we’re going to have bike lanes and walkable cities and the rest of it. And you’re saying because now of the pandemic, that that that model that has been the kind of the model of city planning now for decades kind of romanticized about we’re going to have the dense city and this is going to be great, right? That That may be the bigger undoing than any kind of political shift. And

Joel Kotkin  56:27  

one thing is, it was happening before New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, all losing population in the last few years and from from, from childbearing ages. Those are the 20 Well, that’s a group that’s been leaving the most, but

Robert Bryce  56:41  

right now, I think that they remember negative

Joel Kotkin  56:43  

growth. Also, if you don’t have babies, that sort of reduces your population, right. So, so I think that what you’ve got is you had a trend that was already there, I was able to write the end the demise of luxury city before COVID. It was already They’re this accelerated. So now people are beginning to look at suburban living less don’t density, if I’m going to get stuck in a lockdown, and look, this may not be the last one. There could be other pandemics down the road. Where do I want to be when this happens? The probably even more important, the rapid shift we’re doing right now with zoom. People are beginning to realize, you know what, I don’t have to worry about the fact that I’m not near an airport that takes me to every destination. I did a hour and a half interview with love Figaro this week in Paris. Now

I but I like to go to Paris where my

wife’s family’s from. Yeah, that would be really nice. But you know what this works. What we’re finding is companies are finding that they’re functioning perfectly well, in some ways better. Um, most telecommuters when you ask them, well, do you want to go back full time to the office? They say no. So think about this. Think about a minute You’re you’re living in a little apartment. If you’re a family, you’re living in very high density in the apartment itself.

You’re getting onto a crowded street.

You’re getting into a crowded subway, you’re getting into a crowded elevator. Now, if we do social distancing, one of the great ironies is the people who most fanatical about social distancing are going to be the people who least can get away with it. So they’re, you know, they’re going to be, what are we going to wait 45 minutes to get into the elevator, we’re going to have social distancing on the subways.

Robert Bryce  58:35  

So basically, it’s gonna be really hard. I was in downtown Austin for a meeting about two weeks ago, and I got on the it was the first time I’d been downtown for a while and I got on the elevator and there were four places where you had footprints on the elevator was an elevator that, you know, during busy times would hold 15 people and it was a space for for,

Joel Kotkin  58:53  

well, imagine. Austin is much easier to do than

Manhattan. Well, of course, you So, so you’ve got that factor. And

then I really have to add, and this goes back a little bit to the surf class and also to the alienation of the millennials. is you have social disorder. I mean, do I really want to live in a neighborhood where the next time there’s a case of police abuse, even the most gratuitous, like the one that happened with Floyd, that there’s going to be a riot, I’ve got to worry every time that there’s going to be a riot and that maybe the local stores are going to be burnt down. I mean, and then, of course, the the whole collapse of the education system, which is rapidly, which was in bad shape before and is now happening more rapidly. I’m going to want to go to those places where they’re more likely to open the schools where they’re more where there’s less chance of infection, and where I can work at home

Robert Bryce  59:54  

and less turmoil.

Joel Kotkin  59:55  

Right. So the the, what’s one of the are this is what I called Blue aside, which is that blue states are essentially Destroying Themselves. Now,

Robert Bryce  1:00:06  

I know you mentioned that we talked the other day and you mentioned that before but that blue aside when I hear you say that it seems to be what my what I hear in my head when you say that is heavily democratic states that are regulating their economies into the ground is that is that I’m not I don’t want to steal your thunder take that away from you. But that’s what that mean, we clearly see it most clearly, I think in New York and California. And, and, and look at it

Joel Kotkin  1:00:33  

if I

have, you know, if I if I look at what’s happening here in California, not besides crap, you know, the education itself being crappy, even in my daughter’s Charter School, which is pretty good, actually very good in some ways. I don’t think they did a great job. Now. I know they weren’t used to it, but we did it at Chapman. And it seemed to work, you know, decently but but the but the bottom line is, then you’ve got indoctrination.

You know, when I,

the other day, my daughter’s an actress and I’m watching stagecoach, which was a great movie with

Robert Bryce  1:01:09  

from john Ford. JOHN Ford movies. Yeah. john wayne, right.

Joel Kotkin  1:01:13  

Right. My daughter goes, I said, Look, I said, you should watch this movie. This is really good. She said, Oh, john wayne was a racist,

and therefore she would watch it.

You know, I’m sitting there saying, These kids are cutting themselves off when you when you get to a point that the kids don’t know that us grant was, and being a northerner, I’m obviously partial to the union. Us quit was an anti slavery person from day one. And was was the one who destroyed the Confederacy. Without us grant, the Confederacy may have existed. So why would we tear down a statue or why would we sell a version of American history which many of my wife Left wing. Academic friends agree with me on this, that American history is nothing but slavery.

That’s what I want my kids to learn that

when when, after all a, the vast majority of Americans didn’t even get here, their families and get here until after slavery. The vast majority of southerners didn’t own slaves. The vast the North,

as I recall, won this war. And overwhelmingly did although this.

Robert Bryce  1:02:32  

Well, let me move on here because we’ve been talking more than an hour Joel and and I want to keep the focus on your book. And by the way, again, the book is The coming of Neo feudalism, a warning to the global middle class. So I’ll be honest with you here, sometimes we talk and I think, damn that guy, cut cut. He’s grumpy. He’s grumpy. You know, and I understand why and I say that as a joke, but also with a little truth in it that you are a little grumpy about this and there’s a little bit of anger and how you’re looking at this Because what I detected you as a feeling or that you’re talking or seeing what you see as a betrayal of the poor and the middle class that is that a fair assessment

Joel Kotkin  1:03:12  

and a betrayal of what the purpose of liberalism

was supposed to be in the first place or even liberalism

Robert Bryce  1:03:17  

being open society and equal and open opportunity and not liberalism has left right, but open liberalism as openness to ideas, the Dutch, the Dutch in the 1600s. Right, right, exactly. I mean, we’re not gonna let the priests be the be the arbiters of everything.

Joel Kotkin  1:03:33  

And I and I think that

and and the betrayal of the middle and working class, and particularly the betrayal of the millennials, it bothers me I, I have two daughters, you know, I care about them. I care about the world they’re growing up in. I’m concerned about my students, I’m concerned about, you know, the future of a society in which a huge percentage of the population Let’s say here in California, according to United Way, somewhere about about 30% of California’s Bailey can pay their bills about 40% of Latinos, 50% of undocumented Latinos. This is not sustainable. And so, you know, I think that if my old mentor Mike Harrington, could see what was happening in California, I don’t think he would approve of it.

Robert Bryce  1:04:24  

Well, so then let me let me try and cast this for just a little bit. Because, you know, we talked about, you know, your forecasts and trends away from the city toward more inequality. So, and you you, I’m glad you admit that you’re kind of grumpy because you are kind of grumpy. So am I sometimes, but what gives you hope now, I mean, when you look forward, what is what is toward the end of the book, and if I was gonna have one criticism of the book is that you don’t lay out necessarily anything at the end about how what do we do now? Right and what so what are the things that we can do that can help address this I mean, besides the ballot box, right, but if we can only vote for democrats are going to make this problem worse are Republicans who, you know, are trumpets, that’s not a choice. So what would I what are the ways forward?

Joel Kotkin  1:05:12  

Well in a new report that just came out on California FiOS and we looked at several things one, change energy policy you just you know, if you’re gonna have a bit of

Robert Bryce  1:05:23  

energy lies at the bottom of the of the in the scent rather at the center of the policymaking business

Joel Kotkin  1:05:30  

and drives the other things we, for instance, there are industries where we in California still have potential and even existing advantages, space, entertainment, immediate medical equipment, but these sectors are being regulated, almost to a point of being impossible. We have the regulation for instance, AB five on contract workers. Well, the entertainment industry Works completely on contract workers. How do we deal with with with things like the pandemic? it? Are there ways that we can not make things harder on smaller businesses? I remember interviewing somebody in East LA and he’s saying to me, you know what, I, I own a shoe store. I’ve been closed for three months, but my customers are going to target and buying shoes.

How is that fair?

How, how are we going to help small businesses? these are these are critical issues. We need to have an education system. I’m building, you know, drones in Long Beach, California. I don’t need somebody with with a degree in gender studies. I need somebody who maybe didn’t even go to college, but maybe has a degree as in in some sort of mechanical art.

Robert Bryce  1:06:52  

So arguing if I can interrupt again, as you’re arguing for more practical politics, exactly. Practical politics. It’s about How does this affect and I think phil gramm had an old line about it was a barber. I think his name was Dickie flat or something like that. And whenever phil gramm, who, you know, the old joke about phil gramm was where’s the most dangerous place to stand between phil gramm and a TV camera, right? But But Graham had this line where he said, Well, if I’m looking at a piece of legislation, how does it affect the barber who cuts my hair? And I think that’s and so what you’re arguing? And that was, like I said, if I was going to critique the book at the end of it, where what’s the prescription? So if I mean, if I’m going to put those words in your mouth, it’s that we need more practical politicians looking at what is going to affect individual property owners and allow more property ownership. Is that fair?

Joel Kotkin  1:07:43  

Exactly. And

like, for instance, the VMT policy, which we did the paper on vehicle miles traveled, yeah. I mean, you’re basically saying you can’t

build where people can afford to live.

Robert Bryce  1:07:53  

And, you know, strict mobility tax,

Joel Kotkin  1:07:55  

right? There’s no there’s no question about that. And then, you know, they’re there. You know, the failed education system, which doesn’t, you know, doesn’t teach kids skills. I mean, frankly, you can have all the Black Lives Matter posters you want. But if these kids coming out of schools have no have no skills, well, you know who’s gonna hire them? I mean, yes, you can hire some loud mouth, academic, you know, because, you know, you only need one of them, and, you know, to buy your political protection.

Unknown Speaker  1:08:25  

But what about

Joel Kotkin  1:08:27  

what about the, you know, the kids with skills.

We interviewed a guy in Maryland, African American guy went to Harvard and has an academy for kids who are in danger from the

from the,

from the legal system who may be going to jail or and and what they’re doing is they’re mentoring them. Like one of the contributors a guy owns a African American guy owns a an Air Conditioning company and so he goes with it, you know, so they’re going to school but they got an internship the being paid the learning show up at work. And then I can tell you my my older daughter works at Home Depot in Arizona and she says one of the biggest problems if they got large numbers of people, they don’t know that they’re supposed to show up all the time. You know, people show up late people you know if you know, the learning how to do an interview, or learning some basic mathematical skills in English language skills. That’s not important anymore to the clarity the clarity

Robert Bryce  1:09:38  

of the challenge three challenge I guess if I were going to and I want to draw this to a close because it’s been a great conversation I don’t want to take your whole day but you’re arguing for more practical politics on whether it comes from the left to the right it because you I feel somewhat similar. I don’t I don’t feel like the the field kind of like I don’t have a party but I but I’m actually More, more practical politics that are are ones that makes sense for the poor and the working class. And that’s what, what’s what I’m hearing from you.

Joel Kotkin  1:10:09  

Like and you know, many of the policy prescriptions we look at No, we look at who’s doing it, right. In some cases, it’s Texas and Tennessee. But you know what, in terms of worker training, Germany, Austria, Denmark, I, I’ve seen it in Denmark firsthand. They, their policies are better. They’re, they’re taking a better approach. Look, the Europeans are opening up their schools. I mean, the idea of keeping the great schools closed for another year is it’s like the grid guards. You know, I remember doing interviews with former Red Guards in China. And, you know, they basically didn’t go to school for all if several years, they said they they never caught up from from that. So,

Robert Bryce  1:10:54  

so last question, Gil. So what we look we some of this has been it’s been frustrating. And when I look at what’s happening, I get frustrated as well. But what what gives you hope?

Joel Kotkin  1:11:06  

Okay, I’m glad you asked that. I think several things one, I think the fact that Mike Shellenberger his book is a best seller is telling me something, that there is an appetite out there for a counter narrative coming from By the way, Mike, like you am a lifelong Democrat, would certainly be seen as more on the left than the right. Second of all, I think that there’s a in a weird way, Biden’s nomination reconfirmed that the vast majority of Democrats including African Americans, are actually more middle of the road. The fact that there are people like Willie Brown who were saying black, the Black Lives Matter he said the fund the police is the stupidest slogan these ever heard. You know, I mean, other words there the letter from Harper’s I mean, this

there is a lid on jar the letter from Harper’s I’m sorry.

Harper’s, there were a bunch of liberal intellectuals basically wrote a statement of concern about about the control of free speech. Okay, so there’s beginning to be a counter reaction to some of this stuff.

And might not

and that gives you hope. It gives me hope. I also when you look at what a young people want,

they want a house, they want to have a family,

they want they have those aspirations. The clarity has not been able to turn everybody into a, a, a person of dubious connections to the opposite sex. They don’t know, the idea that most millennials want to live something like the way their parents did. Okay. Now, I’m totally tolerant. I think, you know, people can choose the lifestyle they want. I think most gay people that I know want to buy a house and have some sort of family. So I think that those instincts are very strong. And the the PC police cannot eliminate the fact that we’re still mammals, and that we still have certain things that we that we we want need, and that we can’t live on ideology or on sort of abstract idea. So I think that there are, there are elements of hope the biggest issue is going to be how do we maintain enough free speech so that the arguments can be engaged? And you know, because I see so often that, you know, a doctor says, Well, actually, we should be doing this about COVID. Oh, no. Well, the official ideology is you can’t do that. Well, maybe the doctor has a point. And why don’t we have a debate? If we get to the point and I’ll end with this. Aldous Huxley, when he actually said, a dictatorship based on technology can never be overthrown. If that dictatorship is put in place as is happening in China now. Then I I see very little hope. We have got to see what’s happening in China as something that we want to avoid. I think most Americans are still there, I think another 510 years of this cultural regime, and we may not be there.

Robert Bryce  1:14:22  

Joe, your book, The coming, the coming of Neo feudalism, warning to the global middle class, I’ve read it. It’s a remarkable bit of scholarship that pulls together a lot of history. A lot of your demographic work, a lot of your observations over your career, and it’s a remarkable book, your 10th congratulations on on on getting it published. I recommend it to you, it’s on Amazon or well, or BM calm, a lot of other outlets. So I’m going to just say to the listeners, thanks for listening. Thanks for listening to power hungry podcast. Joel, thanks for being with me. A couple of quick details. If you like the podcast, do me a favor. Give us a 568 star rating 10 star like you can only give five but if you have an option to do it give us answers. I’m easy to find Robert rice calm you can look at our new film juice the movie.com and I’m on Twitter Of course pw or hungry power hungry juice for all. This has been the power hungry podcast. I will look forward to the next one. Stay tuned, y’all.

Joel Kotkin  1:15:23  

Thanks. Bye. Thanks, Joe. Thank you

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