Kevin D. Williamson is a roving correspondent for National Review and the author of, most recently, Big White Ghetto: Dead Broke, Stone-Cold Stupid, and High on Rage in the Dank Woolly Wilds of the ‘Real America,’ In this episode, Williamson talks about the growing underclass in America, why there’s no such thing as “energy independence” or “clean energy,” China, why “depravity is a luxury good,” and his growing concerns about the cultural and geographic divides in America at the same time we have a “non-functioning central government.”
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, welcome to the power hungry podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And today, my guest is Kevin D. Williamson. He’s a roving correspondent for The National Review and the author of most recently, big white ghetto. Kevin, welcome to the power hungry podcast. Hi, thanks. So I didn’t warn you. But I’m going to ask you to introduce yourself on this podcast, the guests introduce themselves, I could read your bio, I could give all the names of your titles, your different books. But imagine you’ve arrived at a dinner party or some other event and you don’t know anyone, and you’re called on to introduce yourself, please do so?
Kevin D. Williamson 0:43
Well, if I’m at a dinner party, or some other event where I don’t know anyone, I’ll do my usual thing and not introduce myself and try not to talk to people if it’s all avoidable. I’m not I’m not a super sociable guy. So I’m a writer for National Review, and writer of books about politics. And before that, I spent most of my career as a newspaper editor. md, at the very beginning of it, then mostly for small town newspapers in the United States. I had the bad business decision to start a daily newspaper once in Philadelphia, which didn’t work out especially well, it was a lot of fun. And I’ve been with national review for Gosh, I guess, 12 years now or something like that. So I write, I don’t really write about politics when I can avoid it. Anyway, I mean, every four years, I’ll go out and read something about a presidential campaign or something like that. But um, I tend to spend more time writing about policy stuff in social issues. And I like to do these long reporting pieces where I spend some time in a place and have a lot of conversations with the people who actually live and work there and try to write something that’s a little more in depth and informed about what their lives are like and what their situation is like, which doesn’t necessarily always lend itself to a political point. It’s not always, you know, and therefore vote for this guy, or and therefore, pass this bill or don’t pass this bill. Because life is really more complicated than I think our binary political conversation allows for.
Robert Bryce 2:15
Well, let’s follow up on that. And I’ll give the the full tighter title of your your book which came out in the end of November 2020. If I’m if I remember correctly, it’s called big white ghetto dead broke stone cold, stupid and high on rage in the dank Willie wilds of the real America. Not sure how you got that long of a title pasture editor, but congratulations, a lifelong
Kevin D. Williamson 2:35
subtitles. You know, political books, particularly conservative political books, it’s all about the subtitle. I mean, yeah, look at anything that’s being published by you know, regular, anything you’re hearing about on talk radio. I mean, maybe not quite as long as subtitled as I have. But I have some some significant subtitles there. No, fair enough. Because book marketing always works the same way. I mean, the unusual thing about my title is there’s three words in it instead of one, you’re normally it’s one word, a trail, you know, something like that? And then how are
Robert Bryce 3:05
the front seat on the history of the president?
Kevin D. Williamson 3:09
Or the to the Chinese, you know, but that’s not really not really so much what I do.
Robert Bryce 3:15
Well, so let’s talk about that. Because I when reading big, white ghetto, and then I also was looking at your other book, the politically incorrect guide to socialism. You do spend a lot of time in parts of the US where a lot of journalists Don’t go, and particularly in rural America. And it was one of the things in particular in big white ghetto that you go to rural towns. And it’s one of the things that and as I look at America today and think about what’s going on, the political divide is real. But the urban rural divide is it may be even broader. How do you see that? Because I mean, you’ve spent a lot of time you, you part of your career, you grew up part of your life in Lubbock, you’ve moved around the country a lot. And so is it that you this is something that you feel compelled to, to cover, how do you see that divide? And where to end? Do you think it’s getting worse?
Kevin D. Williamson 4:08
Yeah, well, there’s a lot to that. So I don’t really come from a rural background. I come from sort of a rural adjacent background, and always amused in the news last week, where they were talking about this socialist lady who’s been elected the new mayor of Buffalo, and she’s the first socialist mayor of a big city in the United States and X number of years whatever, uploads a really big city now because no one thinks of love because a big city and it’s got more people than buffalo does. Buffalo Oh, is
Robert Bryce 4:35
that right? I didn’t realize
Kevin D. Williamson 4:36
Yeah. Okay. So it’s a, you know, quarter million 300,000 college town, surrounded by a whole lot of nothing, you know, I’m farming, mostly other kinds of farming. So there is some interplay between the kind of the the heartland of progressive America which is the university town and the heartland of right wing America, which is the farm We all kind of come together there, where I’m where I’m from. So I suppose I grew up with it with a foot in both worlds. I’ve spent a lot of time writing about, you know, essentially poor white people and drug addicted white people. Because I don’t think there are a lot of people for one reason, because I don’t think there a lot of people do a good job writing about that stuff. You know, it’s funny, this piece, I wrote that the book takes its name from where I spend some time in Allegheny County, Kentucky, it’s funny down there. So elzie County is sort of famous, because usually, when the census numbers come out every 10 years, it’s the poorest place in America, you know, to the poorest county in the United States, right. And the poor census denominated place in their poor areas in big cities and such, but um, it’s the poorest since denominator plus. So because journalists, including me, are lazy and lack imagination. A lot of people just go, Well, here’s the poorest folks in the country. Let’s go here and see what’s going on right about it. So the local people down there, you know, you talk to the police chief, or the mayor or the local business leaders, they’ve met sort of every journalist in America, or the New York Times down here last week in the Washington Post the week before that, and some guy from the Atlantic and, you know, CBS Evening News down here and yada yada, yada, can they
Robert Bryce 6:14
get their dose of poverty porn and leave? Well,
Kevin D. Williamson 6:16
I don’t want to say that because I don’t think this stuff is written in bad faith. And I don’t think that it’s even necessarily lazy. Although there’s kind of a right about the tallest building right about the biggest Lake right about the deepest hole right about the poorest place, right about the richest place. I read about the richest place in America to read about Fisher Island, Florida, which is a whole kind of other interesting, strange little world. But I think generally, a lot of journalists don’t Good job writing about that, that world because they, they don’t know very much about it. Because they don’t really mostly come from the the white underclass, which is we’re really writing about, and their lack of personal connection to that, that world causes them to, I think overperformed sympathy, you know, they’re right about this stuff in a kind of, I think, overly charitable way, sometimes in a way that you know, is sentimental that romanticizes poverty in the many afflictions that go along with it, that in some ways denies people responsibility and agency for their own lives by looking for stories about what what happened to these people, you know, why do they end up this way. And that was really interesting thing to me about LC county is that nothing happened to it. You know, it’s not like it’s some Midwestern steel mill town, where the local employer went out of business, and then it became, you know, poor and destitute. Because there was no economic activity, it’s nothing like that happened, there just kind of always been for plus. And it’s just that it’s poverty becomes more pronounced by comparison, in comparison, as the rest of the country gets wealthier and more connected, and more globalized, for lack of a lack of a better word. So we got these little pockets, including a lot of places that I’m familiar with, that are, in some ways cut off from the national economy, in many ways cut off from an increasingly globalized economy, that are cut off from the mainstream culture in some ways. That lack already local labor supply, even if there were someone who wanted to invest there, you know, it’s one of the things we talked about in Eastern Kentucky is that if, if Apple or Google or somebody or Amazon wanted to build a facility there, they’d have to import most of the workers, because they wouldn’t have people there who could do their jobs, even though there’s a lot of unemployment. It’s not unemployment among the sort of people who are just waiting for $115,000 a year skilled blue collar job to come along. So these end up being complicated problems. And I think that they are distorted by our sentimentality and our tendency to romanticize poverty and things associated with it. So I tried to write about these things without that.
Robert Bryce 8:58
And how much of that is extremely popular? and fair enough. But big white ghetto includes some parts of it are part memoir, and you’re talking about your own your own childhood and growing up, and that you you do what you write about these rural areas in a very simple sympathetic way. I think in a in a way that’s not you say judgmental it. But how much of that is because of your own background? And because of who you are and where, where you came from?
Kevin D. Williamson 9:29
Yeah, I’m not sure if sympathetics exactly the right word for that. Okay. If it is I’ll try to try to
Robert Bryce 9:35
give me a better
Kevin D. Williamson 9:38
informed, I think is, is it’s, I’m able to write about this stuff. I think to a certain extent, I don’t want to over sell my own experience. But to a certain extent, I’m able to write about these things with a bit of an insider’s view, or at least an insider’s view. It’s really based in experience the 1970s 1980s A lot has changed my You know, in a world poverty since then I think it’s very different to be a poor person in rural America now, or in you know, sort of semi rural or really Jason American now than it was when I was growing up in 70s. And 80s, for various reasons. Probably had to do with a greater connectivity through social media and things like that. Hello, I find myself almost subconsciously quoting my my father talking about growing up in depression. And the great cliche you always hear from people who grew up particularly in farm country was, we didn’t know we were poor, because everyone else was was just like us. And yeah, we didn’t have indoor plumbing. And we had, you know, one pair of shoes as my father and I, me. And if you outgrew that pair of shoes over the course of the year, then you went barefoot because you weren’t getting another one till the next school year started. And all that kind of, you know, depression era cliche stuff, which happens to be true. But everyone they knew was pretty much in the same situation. And I think now, with a much more connected world, we have people are more conscious of their own situation conscious of their own relative poverty, conscious of opportunities that they’re missing. So I think that um, in some ways, it’s, in some ways, it’s a better time. In most ways, it’s a better time, you know, if you’re someone who has some academic promise, or need some Scholastic Ability, this is a much better time in lots of ways because you’re more aware of the resources that are available to you. It’s easier to connect with people in institutions, mentors, financial aid, all that kind of stuff, a lot easier to figure out now than it would have been the 1970s, early 1980s. But culturally, in some ways, it’s saying we’re in a worse position because we become, I think, even more materialistic than we were then. And I don’t mean materialistic in the sense of, you know, just consumerism, but in the sense of defining ourselves and our happiness in consumption terms, exclusively. I mean, always, I think those things are important. I think that people who sneer at affluence and comfort are not to be trusted. these are these are, these are worthwhile things and worth worthwhile pursuit to pursue. But they have to be part of a bigger and more integrated worldview that includes other sources of meaning, belonging and happiness and relationship.
Robert Bryce 12:15
Well, let’s come back to that in a minute. Because that that idea that divide and that lack of belonging, I think it’s, I was interviewing a theologian recently, and we were talking about the the decline in church and church membership and active faith institutions that in 20 years, it’s declined by 20 points in America, and that this lack of belonging, but you referenced that in big white ghetto, and you say, you were talking about your parents or your family, you said they were anti elitist before it was fashionable. FDR democrats who grew into Buchanan ism and perros him before those became trumpism. But you mentioned that idea that in some ways, the cultural divide is worse, but it’s, is because the people who are living in a rural or rural adjacent areas, their their unhappiness, their, their disdain for the elites has grown, because they are more aware of it is that?
Unknown Speaker 13:05
I think so yeah,
Kevin D. Williamson 13:06
I think that’s part of it. One thing I should say about what I was saying earlier, is, we all tend to get overwhelmed by our own point of view. And so I was mentioning that, you know, it’s probably a better time to be academically gifted in a situation like that, because you’ve got more opportunity to get out. But most people in that situation aren’t. Most people who are, you know, born into poverty, people of average intelligence and ability like anyone else. And these new ways of connecting and communicating are really going to help them the way they would help other sorts of people. The Charles Murray has written something about this, that, you know, standardized testing was the best thing that ever happened to people of his generation. Because if you were reasonably smart and applied yourself, you would go take a test, and you would sort of be on the radar. And people would, would go out of their way to sort of help you and cultivates you, and help you to grow and thrive. But that’s not really an option for a lot of people. You know, there are a lot of people who are just not willing to thrive in an economy in a world that is the one that we have, which provides tremendous rewards to certain kinds of intellectual skills, certain kinds of abilities to manipulate symbols and language, certain kinds of social skills. And it doesn’t even under the best of circumstances now really offer a lot in terms of material or it’s for other kinds of work. So that’s nothing, it’s really I think, amenable to policy change. It’s just nature of the world the way it is. And I think that complicates the conversation somewhat, but I’m getting a little abstract here.
Robert Bryce 14:38
Well, so let’s talk about that then. Because in reading, big white ghetto and looking at the politically incorrect guide to socialism, you underscore a lot of these divides what divide in America or earth or what divides what divisions in America are concerning the most
Kevin D. Williamson 15:00
Yeah, well, the I guess what concerns me is that we have these sort of neatly overlapping mutually reinforcing distinctions. So if you lay the political map over the religious map over the rural versus urban map over the upwardly mobile versus stagnant or downwardly mobile map, you’ll see a lot of a lot of overlap in those areas in those categories. So you have people who are, you know, in areas that are where they’re relatively lower levels of education, where there are relatively low levels of economic mobility, but maybe very high levels of religiosity, high levels of this kind of, you know, populist, nationalist political sentiment, and these things all end up, you know, kind of reinforcing each other, because they all can be interpreted to support this narrative of victimhood, that, you know, things would be great for you, if not for the elites, or the Chinese or free trade, or the universities or the biased media, or this, that of the other. And if you take it to the extreme, you know, you get the kind of Q anon Luciferian pedophile call stuff. But um, it’s all essentially the same story, you just get less outrageous and more outrageous versions of the same story. And one of my little truisms that I think about a lot is I write, and I’ve never really put this in a way I’m completely satisfied with. But there are a lot of things in your life that are not your fault, that are still your problem. Because there’s no one else there to deal with. And this is true of individuals. It’s true of communities, it’s true of, you know, various social groupings, classes, economic groups. The fact that you don’t have 100%, autonomy and 100% control over your life, your condition, your situation, your circumstances, that other people in agencies and institutions can act on you in ways that harm your interests. Doesn’t divest you of being a party who’s principally responsible for your own life. There’s, you know, unfairness in the world, we all we all kind of know, this is something we talk about, with children, that, you know, life’s not fair, but you still got to do your homework, and you still gotta eat your vegetables, you still got to do your chores, and clean your room and all the rest of this stuff. But we seem to kind of forget that when we’re dealing with adults, that, well, yes, life’s not fair. And maybe you’re in an industry or we’re in an industry that has been negatively affected by globalization or offshoring, or things like that. It doesn’t mean that we’re without sympathy for these folks, it doesn’t mean there are things we can do to help them because there are, but ultimately, you have to be responsible for for yourself, I really don’t see any place to start. And this has been a sort of a 10 year debate now between my friend Michael Brendan Doherty, and myself, that, you know, conservatives of his tribe, want a more kind of activist and solidarity based model of government, and, and a model of public policy. And I think there’s some room for that. But ultimately, we are going to have people and communities that are financially and morally self sufficient, or they’re going to be dependent, maintained in some sort of dependency indefinitely. And I’m just not open to the second option. I don’t think that maintaining any any significant part of society and indefinite dependency is is a very healthy or practical thing. Now, of course, you’re always going to have the issue of dependency with children, with people who have various kinds of profound disabilities who just can’t manage their own lives. But that’s not really what we’re talking about, you know, we’re talking about largely able bodied adults who are able to work, who don’t have maybe a lot of skills, and who are, you know, modest in their in their personal endowments. But that’s really the group that we’re dealing with. And we have to think about how to get them to serve their own interests and pursue their own interests in a way that is more effective than than they have been in the last 30 or 40 years.
Robert Bryce 19:23
So what when you’re saying that given what I’m hearing, or what goes in going through my head is that you’re arguing against this idea that government’s going to be able to cure everything, and that people are going to have to be more self reliant that this is a fundamentally, but I hear your argument there, and I agree with it. But I hear at the same time in the broader culture, this elaboration of victimhood, on all kinds of different levels and identity politics and going exactly the other direction, that from that when and so is there a way, who’s addressing this in a way that makes sense to you? In the political sphere today is if you’re just being completely ignored.
Kevin D. Williamson 20:03
Yeah. You know, American government is essentially 90% of its Java’s program. The other 10%, half of its military and half of its bank, you know, so we’re sort of
Robert Bryce 20:16
in the rhetoric from the Biden administration is we’re gonna get more jobs we’re gonna do, we’re gonna change this even more jobs. And you know, particularly when it comes to the energy business, right, which is what I’m most familiar with.
Kevin D. Williamson 20:26
Yeah, but I mean, we see the same from, from Republican administrations to where they, they think that the purpose of the economy and businesses and industries is to create jobs and employ people. And it’s not that’s a side effect. You know, the purpose of the energy industry is to create energy, the purpose of manufacturing, is to manufacture whatever it is that they manufacture. The fact that this creates employment and spreads around wealth, in the form of wages, benefits and other things, it’s great, that’s natural, we should certainly try to encourage that. But we can’t proceed as though VAT is an end in and of itself. Otherwise, you end up in a situation where we have a lot of federal programs and local programs now, which is essentially some sophisticated variation on paying someone to dig a hole and fill it up. We have a lot of, you know, kind of make work stuff, let’s protect this industry, right? Even though it’s not really economically viable anymore. Let’s see if we can get another five or 10 years out of it, through whatever, you know, protectionism subsidy, that sort of thing. We do this a lot with government work. And this is one of those things where you can really see where the power is in society by whose interests get served. So if you look at the public school systems, they are run by and for the benefit of relatively high income college educated people. That’s who runs the schools. And we treat public education and a lot of state and local government essentially, as a jobs program. For above average income, though not very wealthy, but certainly above average income college educated people, and the people who most need, what public schools should be doing, were largely poor people without a lot of choices about how and where they’re educated, who desperately need to develop their abilities, to the greatest extent as possible. We don’t serve their interests at all. Because we’re treating this as a jobs program for the people who work at the schools, rather than treating it as something that actually serves the interests of the families and students who are in those schools every year.
Robert Bryce 22:30
So you have the situation where the teacher unions were arguing will keep the school closed for you know, for for extended periods, regardless a COVID COVID. It’s
Kevin D. Williamson 22:38
an argument against school choice, teacher accountability, flexibility, charter schools, all this stuff is based on a model of the public schools as a jobs program for the upper middle class, which is what they are.
Robert Bryce 22:52
Let’s see, let me let me ask you this, one of the questions. So how do you describe your politics? How would you describe yourself in the political spectrum? And where do you fit in?
Kevin D. Williamson 23:02
Sure, I mean, you probably libertarian, for lack of a better term. You know, what I try to do in my my writing is, I’m a lot more interested in trying to describe what’s actually going on in the world than I am in saying, Well, here’s what we should do. Right? You know, or here’s why this ideology is right. And that is not right. So I’m a conservative in the sense that I prefer things that are familiar and effective and proven to things that are newfangled and complicated, and that often don’t work. So, you know, politically, I think you would say that, um, you know, I’m I’m a classical liberal in my idea of how I think government should be organized, and what government’s relation to the individual should be socially in terms of how I think people will be happy to living. I’m very conservative in that way. I think that a lot of unhappiness in life comes from our inability to make and sustain good decisions about marriage, family, child rearing, that sort of thing. Not Not all of it, obviously. But that’s it. That’s a big part of it. And then we have various social and economic incentives that are stacked against doing the things will actually make people happy on that front. You know, we’ve got
Robert Bryce 24:25
so you’re talking, in some ways, what I’m hearing you say there’s well, pointing to some of this breakdown in societies, the breakdown of the family, which is a point that’s been made over and over and over again.
Kevin D. Williamson 24:35
You know, I think most men and women would be better off, getting married younger, having children younger, if they had the sorts of families and communities that could really support them in the way that they needed. And this isn’t something the government can do. This is something about how we live not about how we govern. We you know, we get a lot of people who are unhappy because they’re in their 30s or 40s. Your 50s or 60s, and they still haven’t really, you know, settled down in a particular way in life. Maybe they have some kids, but they’ve got a real disorderly family life and maybe, you know, no, no relationship with the other parent. And this ends up, you know, creating a great deal of chaos, that is something you can deal with, if you’ve got a lot of resources, right, you know, if you’re really, really skilled, you’re really really high income, or you just inherited a ton of money or something like that, you can deal with a fair bit of chaos in your personal life. You know, if you are if you’re a lawyer, who makes a half million dollars a year $800,000 a year, you know, mid range lawyer, and you develop a drug addiction problem. You can deal with that. It’s, it’s still a terrible thing. addictions are real hard thing, even if you have money. But it’s a lot easier to deal with a problem like that if you’ve got some resources, financial and otherwise, to throw at it, I have a dear friend who actually runs addiction programs for lawyers. That’s his his whole business. And you’d be shocked by how big a problem it is in the in the legal profession. But you take that same addiction, or that same sort of dysfunction, and you give it to someone who’s got no job or an income of 12 or $15,000, a year, three kids in a real disorderly family life couple of criminal convictions, that person’s gonna have a lot harder time with it. So one of the evening in the downsides of this kind of liberation is culture that we got from the 1960s 1970s is that we kind of transferred the worst aspects of family and personal life from the upper classes, to the people who can least afford them. So you know, used to be that, you know, when people in Hollywood lived a certain kind of way. Yeah, we all thought it was kind of fun, because we’d read about the newspapers, and it was sort of depraved because it was also awful. But it was a small group of people who had a lot of money and resources, and getting divorced and having affairs and night. And now that sort of lifestyle has become sort of a norm for people who really can’t afford it. So I guess it’s my way of saying from an economic point of view, depravity is just another luxury good. You have to ask yourself,
Robert Bryce 27:13
never heard it never. Never Never heard it put that way. depravity is a luxury good. Well, so let me let me shift gears here a little bit, Kevin, because you, you you’ve had a you’ve been in journalism a long time I’ve done a journalism for a while as well. You’ve you’ve done theater criticism, recently, you’ve written written about foreign affairs, you wrote a piece about Japan and Taiwan and having their their need to stand up to China. You read about inflation, critical race theory, the Imperial president, how do you decide on what topics you cover?
Kevin D. Williamson 27:48
Well, my, my deal with national review is a great one, I’ve got kind of the best job in journalism. So my arrangement with national review is I can pretty well write about whatever I want to as long as I write a whole lot of it. So you know, I write five to seven articles a week for the website, the magazine and other stuff. And that’s a lot of output. I write something like a million words a year if you count, you know, books and other work that I do. So the good news is, that gives me a lot of opportunity, right about a lot of different things. And my interest to change over the years, I have been reading a lot more about foreign policy and international relations in the last couple of years. And particularly the last few months, I think that the competition between the United States and China is really going to be the most important issue in the world in the next 50 years or so. I don’t think the United States has the resources to sustain this competition successfully on its own. So I think it’s very important that we rebuild and strengthen and reinvigorate our alliances abroad, particularly with Europe and the United Kingdom, but also with our North American neighbors and and some others. I think that you know, populism and economic nationalism made this very, very difficult. You’ll notice that, you know, Joe Biden, who goes around talking about how he wants to undo everything Donald Trump ever did is keeping the tariffs in place and is not really that interested toward in your expanding trade relationships or liberalizing trade relationships between United States and Europe. Because apparently, we’re worried about being taken advantage of by those low wage slave laborers in Germany. You know, really known as the
Robert Bryce 29:28
slave wage labor, the slave labor in China is clear and, and, and has a big role in the solar in the solar energy sector. So yeah,
Kevin D. Williamson 29:39
that’s true. You know, China is a difficult situation. So I think that I wish I spoke Chinese you got several people in National Review who do and I’m not one of them now. But I think that in general, American media coverage of China is is not very good. takes an overly simplistic point of view.
Unknown Speaker 30:04
You know, you either get a,
Kevin D. Williamson 30:07
you know, kind of economist style of maybe being an economist and this bit of treating China as a more or less normal country, at a certain point in its economic development, even though it’s got, you know, political institutions that we don’t approve of, and hope liberalize. It’s more or less, you know, on the same path or similar paths, or what we’d expect from other countries, or you have the kind of, you know, more common on the conservative side. Yesterday, monistic view of China. You know, it’s super, super, super bad, and everything about it must be opposed in every way. I think both of those are simplistic and not especially fruitful ways of looking at it. China’s got a horrific government. They are the worst government in the world, probably. Certainly, because they inflict so much misery on such a such a large population, and they’re just absolutely ruthless. And they are technologically innovative. So they’re coming up with new ways to oppress, and exclude and harass and punish and torture people. By the way,
Robert Bryce 31:11
I just sorry to interrupt but did you see the the piece recently about the was that the, the lying down movement in China that the sensors that some guy had come up with will I’m working too hard, and he just started doing a blog about lying down, and just taking it easy. And he was censored for it? And I thought, Wow, now that has your sensor button. That means you’re using that a little too much. How much of a threat is this to order and yet the censoring, censoring them, because you’re not helping the Chinese state to grow and thrive? I thought, wow, let’s
Kevin D. Williamson 31:43
use that for them, though. You know, think about it, you know, if there’s if there’s a real serious recession in the United States next year. I mean, maybe Joe Biden doesn’t get reelected, or he gets his party gets a beating in the midterms. If there’s a real serious economic downturn in China, it does not end in an election. It ends in something very, very different for these guys. And they know, you know, there’s no retirement program for dictators. You know, there’s no, there’s no old folks home. For autocrats, you know, you you rule until you get the Ceausescu treatment eventually, or the Saddam Hussein treatment. And they know this, or more, we I think we misunderstand about China is that it’s not just this Orwellian dictatorial police state imposing its will on a hapless and docile population. There is a great deal of buy in from the Chinese people, to their model of government, this nationalism that we see from the Chinese is partly the product of propaganda, but it’s also partly organic and genuine. You know, this sense of China’s China’s internal sense of its own uniqueness and its place in the world, is not something that comes from the Communist Party. It’s something the Communist Party inherited from from from very, very long, and well established Chinese political history. So there even is, in a way, a sense of accountability, I think, in China, that the government believes even though there aren’t elections and things like that, that it has certain deliverables that it has to make good on. For the people. And these aren’t just economic growth and jobs and wages. There are other things as well, they’re, you know, order in a sense of national self respect, and are these things that China feels like it was denied for centuries. So I think that we, we don’t do a very good job of writing about China or talking about China. I’ve spent almost no time there a couple of days in Hong Kong. So I’m far from being an expert on the subject. But um,
Robert Bryce 33:39
but it’s interesting to me that you’re covering that and given that, you know, how broad your portfolio has been? Well, let me reach back because you know, I write a little bit but a million words a year is a lot I mean, how do you how do you maintain that level of output? And I asked that just as a as a someone who’s in the business because my back my elbows, my images? It’s a tremendous physical feat as well as middle know, how do you how do you manage the workload you fast writer
Kevin D. Williamson 34:07
so. So I come to that number from thinking you know, something on the order of 3500 words a day on average? So I think that comes out to around a million words here. There days when I’ll sit down and I’ll write 15 20,000 words. A day. Sure. Yeah.
Robert Bryce 34:28
Kevin D. Williamson 34:30
If I’m really you know, on a roll about something it’s funny, that socialism book I wrote, which I liked the book, don’t get me wrong, it’s but it’s kind of a superficial book. In some ways. It’s kind of a primer. It’s got pictures and stuff, you know, and little breakout charts and things. But by far the best selling book written I think, actually came up in the news this week, too, with the PMF stuff in Mexico because there’s a chapter in it about the Environmental record of you know, state run enterprises, which pretty bad, but um, yeah, I think I wrote that in I don’t know. 27 days, something like that. So over there pretty quickly. So some of my stuff, I’m sure some people will say yeah, and it reads like you ready? I get that sometimes, but
Robert Bryce 35:16
that’s not writing that’s typing. Right.
Kevin D. Williamson 35:20
One of my favorite sneers was someone once referred to Stephen King as the horror typist. That was pretty good.
Robert Bryce 35:28
Was it Truman Capote he talking about Kerouac Who was that? That’s not writing that’s typing anyway. But yeah, well, so what motivates
Kevin D. Williamson 35:36
the best insult I ever got was from the late microtesla, who was natural reviews literary editor for a long time. And I turned in what was for me an unusually kind of dry piece. And he said, That’s all right. Kevin, even Tom Wolfe doesn’t try to write like Tom Wolfe all the time.
Robert Bryce 35:53
Well, so what what motivates that? That level of output? I mean, you know, because when I read, and I’m an animated Meyer, I’m a fan. And and that thought about having you on the podcast for some time. But I’m impressed by your output. I’m impressed by your, your, the level of intellectual rigor you you bring to it. And when I read your work, I think, well, there’s some whimsy in it, there’s some amusement, but there’s a fair amount of disgust and, or dismay, when it should be really, yeah, well, I mean, anger motivates a lot of what I write I mean, there’s just, you know, an in frustration with the foolishness of some of the ventures. But what’s the, can you put your finger on it? What motivates you to do this in such a all encompassing way? Because it sure sounds like it is. Yeah, I don’t play golf. Good walk spoiled. I don’t either.
Kevin D. Williamson 36:47
I like God very much twice, but um, I got nothing else to do all day, you know, it’s a pride. And so I’m very lucky to have the kind of job where I can do what I do. So I, you know, I tend to fill up eight or 10 hours a day, doing it. Most of the time, although a lot of that’s, you know, reading and writing. Or, you know, having conversations with people and that sort of thing. There is more discussed in my work than I would like I think and that’s, um, that kind of, it’s a little bit of an intellectual cop out on my part, I think, I think it’s a real weakness I’ve been trying to work on, and it’s part of my character that um, you know, if I, if I found $100 million on my porch tomorrow morning, would I still write six columns a week? Probably wouldn’t. I probably go buy a villa on Lake Como. And you know, write
Robert Bryce 37:39
maybe a weekly column and hang with George Clooney? Yeah. Do
Kevin D. Williamson 37:42
some you do some novels and stuff? Yeah, I went to actually went there on my honeymoon. But we did not run into the Clooney. So maybe they weren’t there for that that part of the season? Yeah, so part of it’s just, that’s, that’s, you know, how I made my living. You know, if you’re a football player, you get up and you play football every day. If you’re a lawyer, you get up and do whatever it is lawyers do all day, having a really quite figured that out. You would try to figure out what someone actually does for a living. I remember when I was a newspaper editor in Philadelphia, there was a guy in new there who had this just magnificent house, it was on the main line, you know, the Philadelphia suburbs was probably on about 15 acres, it looked like a park, you know, just beautiful was his old 18th century stone house, not really my taste, but just you know, wonderful place and 15,000 square foot house, he had horses and stuff. And I was like, I just, I just I need to know, what do you do? that generates the kind of income where you can live, like Cindy said, Well, Kevin, you know what I do? I’m the president of you know, XYZ bank. So I know what your job title is, you know, I know, I know, where you work, and what they call you, what do you do all day? You know, what do you actually do and he was actually able to explain it to me reasonably well. But I’m often mystified by what people actually do all day, which is kind of one of the genres I write about, you know, I will go write about business people typically or other kinds of, you know, business enterprises, and try to figure out what they’re all about, you know, I’ve written a couple pieces about the oil and gas industry that you probably have have read that I think it’s really interesting because it’s, it’s not what you expect, right? You know, growing up in West Texas, I think the oil industry is being energy are you going and guys and white Stetsons Cadillacs and I love the fact that the 1960s there was a Rolls Royce dealership in Midland, Texas of all places but the A it’s really changed since then, you know, it’s a very kind of nerdy industry now.
Robert Bryce 39:39
A very kind of industry What did what was that
Kevin D. Williamson 39:42
were that used to nerd industry? It’s run by engineers, you know, science guys and stuff, right? Oh, yeah. And I mean, they got work boots and stuff on and maybe they don’t shave every day so they’re kind of scruffy looking engineers, but they’re definitely nerds. They’re definitely guys you know, their Star Trek from their Star Wars, I think sure and and have seen all The Lord of the Rings movies, I mean, they’re nerds guys who are in the wilderness these days. And I kind of liked that about him. It’s sort of a fun business. It’s got this kind of, you know, rough blue collar reputation, and it is still that business in some ways. But at its upper levels, it’s culturally very, very different from what from what one expects. I’m sorry. Go ahead, please.
Robert Bryce 40:21
Well, can I interrupt you on that cultural part of that? Because to me, you know, I live in Austin, and I grew up in Oklahoma. So you know, being around oilfield people and being seeing that industry all my career, I’m familiar with it. But there is a this the divide, particularly one of the starkest divides that I see in the United States is over energy policy and right and who’s going to be allowed to produce and what kind of energy we’re going to use. And you mentioned China before, and I’ve been writing about this recently, but this idea for almost all my adult life, there’s been, Congress has been promulgating policy opposed to foreign commodities, right, and OPEC, and we’re gonna, we’re gonna, we’re gonna, you know, teach the OPEC a lesson. And then the shale revolution comes on, suddenly OPEC isn’t as relevant as it was. And yet now, here comes the Biden administration, apparently wanting to give the, you know, his hamstring, the domestic industry, the domestic oil and gas industry, while going with all this green technology that’s going to refer back to China in terms of supply chain issues, which to me, I mean, a strategic standpoint, makes no sense at all. But there’s a fundamental issue here in terms of coastal elites, and I don’t use that word don’t like that phrase. But that’s, in fact, appropriate here in the kind of disdain they have for oil and gas, and an apparent preference for these technologies that we’re going to acquire imports of massive quantities of materials that we don’t produce. Yeah. How do you parse that?
Kevin D. Williamson 41:46
Well, first of all, I think you know, someone who’s living in Oklahoma and Texas, your Oklahoma and Austin, you’re a guy who’s lived in two places where he can see taxes. Even actually in Texas. close close, but no cigar and.
Robert Bryce 42:00
And you’re in Dallas, right? You live in Dallas now. Yeah, I went to school in Austin. Yeah, right. No, I knew that. Yeah.
Kevin D. Williamson 42:06
I used to think I really liked Austin. But I think I just like being 20. As it turns out. So yeah, I mean, the the regulation and the economic incentives and subsidies and all the stuff that having to do with you know, traditional hydrocarbon energy versus so called renewables is is super complicated. issue. And couple of things about that. One is that energy independence is just a nonsensical expression. And I want to smack people every time they say it. There’s no such thing as energy independence, not even for the United States, not even now, you are so called oil and gas and independence is really North American, United States. And the more you look into the industry, you see all these new interesting things. I always thought it was weird that Iran, which is this, you know, petroleum powerhouse, has to import all of its gasoline to get the 270 refineries, or at least it didn’t, I guess it’s built some and in recent years. So it’s a super complicated business, you know, we produce all this oil and gas, but we still have to import tons of oil, because the way our refineries are configured, you know, we talk about solar, as though it’s this, you know, pristine thing. And what are solar panels made out of, they’re made out of polyester, which is made out of oil. You know, it’s, it’s all these things end up being interrelated with one another. One of the things I’ve tried to drive in this conversation leads to get people to understand at some level, is that there is no such thing as clean energy. Every source of energy is going to have some kind of environmental externalities, some of them are better than others, and some are worse than others. But you know, when it comes to, for instance, natural gas and fracking, most people don’t really understand what the real environmental problem is there, which is wastewater, right. You know, it’s the water that comes back up out of the well, that brings all sorts of nasty stuff from deep underground with it. And as it turns out, we’ve actually got pretty good ways for dealing with that problem. They’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. And and they certainly, were not very good 30 years ago, when they were essentially just diluting the wastewater and dumping it in rivers and streams, right? Not not oil and gas explorers, by the way, that was mostly local governments doing that, you know, they would have a local municipal wastewater treatment facility would just dilute it to whatever level was legally acceptable to dump and then dump it not obviously wasn’t a good way to do it. So they’ve come up with ways to recycle fracking fluids and brackish water and that sort of thing. And that’s all you know, really very good and useful. So when you look at this stuff from more I hate the word holistic, but I guess your fits point of view, which includes the politics as well. You know, oil and gas looks a lot more attractive, I think, than men, its critics give credit for now. I’m a huge fan of solar and wind power and all the rest of this stuff. I think it’s Got some great applications, they’re places where really matters. I like electric cars not so much because I, I, for environmental reasons, it’s because they’re awesome. For the most part, Tesla makes wonderful cars. And they’re quiet, which I also appreciate because I hate noise. And but there’s not this, you know, simplistic sort of thing where we can just say, well, we’re gonna stop doing this and start doing that, right, without looking at the real physical limitations on that, you know, we’re always talking about infrastructure. There are limits to what we can do for that other stuff right now just in terms of you know, physical plants and such things that have to be built and that takes resources to do to now these things can be made of things like steel and concrete, on which I mean with them a lot of you know, environmental costs,
Robert Bryce 45:46
and copper and lithium and neodymium and all the rest of it. Let me interrupt you there for a moment because you also in the in the politically incorrect guide to socialism, you mentioned the interview you had with Boone Pickens, which I thought was funny, and I don’t tend to fight Yeah, I can tell I can tell the story, but you wrote it in a very and, and I’ve been passed now and you know, he’s from holdenville, Oklahoma, you know, he says, I had several exchanges with him. But explain what you are talking to him about his desire in the Pickens plan and his desire for natural gas trucks. Do you remember that? It’s in that vein? Yeah. You know, because it seems to be the socialism in the energy business is the point that I’m getting to here.
Kevin D. Williamson 46:28
I was I was born in Amarillo, by the way where the name Boone Pickens is not worth very much. Not remembered fondly. Yeah. So Pickens in the so called Pickens plan, was something he thought up when he discovered that he owned a whole bunch of natural gas, and wasn’t having much luck selling it at prices that he wanted to sell it at. So the Pickens plan was going to be to pass a federal law requiring all long haul trucks and in freight trucks to convert to natural gas, you know, liquefied natural gas or compressed natural natural gas every which one instead of diesel, and then this is going to cost you know, the better part of a trillion dollars to convert the entire fleet. So have the federal government pay them to do it. And so it’s the Great, let’s spend a trillion dollars buying stuff that Boone Pickens has a whole lot of plan. You know, I think the world would be better off people bought more books and read more magazines. And, you know, maybe if the federal government wants to buy everyone in the United States a subscription to national review.
Robert Bryce 47:39
Great. You’d be in favor. How shall I be in favor? Sure, but
Kevin D. Williamson 47:42
let’s not pretend like it’s anything other than naked self interest there. And so he and I were talking about this at national reviews office in New York, and I started making fun of him. This is the most self serving, you know, ridiculous, transparent thing I’ve ever heard in my life. How are you actually going to walk into Washington try to sell this to people with a straight face. And he said he must be in favor, or an oil.
Robert Bryce 48:07
Oil for whoever’s got it. And, you know, gas to you. And you pointed out that the subsidy was going to be something like $65,000 per truck or something to that effect, which was huge, huge, roughly equal to the median household income in the United States.
Kevin D. Williamson 48:21
Yeah, yeah. More actually, at that time. So yeah, it was a ridiculous boondoggle. But um, this sort of stuff comes up a lot when you give people powers over markets and powers over, you know, vast swathes of the economy, and reorganizing them according to their own desires. And you have to watch out for this not only with you the environmental movement, which certainly has financial self interest that are attached to it, but you know, all these, you know, economic patriotism, economic nationalism, all that kind of stuff. We spend a tremendous amount of effort and money, protecting Americans from low prices and abundance. You know, we have to keep that Canadian timber out of here. Because,
Robert Bryce 48:59
if so, well, gosh, that’d be cheaper to build a house and housing prices might be okay. Some sawmill somewhere might be put out of business because the Canadian timber is cheaper. Right? Yeah.
Kevin D. Williamson 49:11
And it’s always, you know, when it’s politics, we’re always talking about, you know, being victimized by the Chinese, or by Latin American workers. But in, in real life, it’s always you know, it’s been a furious Canadians, right? The race to the bottom Germans
Robert Bryce 49:31
are a dangerous bunch, though, you know,
Kevin D. Williamson 49:34
in a corporate tax shelter guys in Ireland, you know, I mean, these are not four countries. These are not dictatorships. These are perfectly normal, you know, capitalist countries that we deal with. You know, it’s funny, one of the things I like to look at is if you look at on a state by state basis, what every state’s biggest overseas trading partners and you know, if you if you took out Each state has an individual country, where would its, or its biggest bilateral trade partner be. And you won’t be surprised, of course, but a whole lot of them are Mexico and Canada because we buy stuff from them, they buy stuff from us, right close together. So there’s transportation cost issues and things like that. But I love that in Nevada, where I used to live, and I’m a huge fan of Nevada, its its biggest overseas trading partner is what I think is the best government country in the world, which is Switzerland. And as it turns out, Nevada produces a lot of gold and silver. And the Swiss buy a lot of it because they’ve got essentially a metals backed currency, right. And also, the Swiss sell a lot of wristwatches and people tend to buy them in Las Vegas, which is where, you know, nine out of, you know, some huge number of great rolexes, and protects and things like that are sold in Las Vegas. So everything gets more complicated, the more you know about it. And everything’s real simple, provided you don’t only think about it,
Robert Bryce 50:57
as well. But everything gets more complicated, the more you know about it. Well, is that when it would be going back to your earlier discussion about the this, because I think there is some creeping socialism in what how the government is being run. And every every industry wants just a little carve out just a little thing is that how much of a concern is that for you? Because I’m bullish? Well, I’ll ask the question first, because how bullish Are you on the United States?
Kevin D. Williamson 51:28
actively shopping for real estate abroad?
Robert Bryce 51:33
You say that with a smile, are you serious? Yeah. Yeah. You think we are declined, the American decline is started, or is already well underway.
Kevin D. Williamson 51:45
We are an unstable society, I think, and
Robert Bryce 51:51
unstable because of all these divisions that you’ve been, we’ve been talking about?
Kevin D. Williamson 51:55
Well, because we have essentially a non functioning central government, and increasingly non functional state and local governments. My my desire to be out of the United States, at least for some period of time is more cultural than, than anything else. I’m not expecting, you know, Civil War blood in the streets or anything like that, at least not anytime in the immediate future. But um, you know, we’re a deeply troubled society that has lost its way in many ways, and that I’m not entirely convinced is going to be able to find its way back.
Robert Bryce 52:29
And that rings true to me. And I’m bullish on the US, I think we have a lot of intrinsic strengths. But there are a lot of things that are happening now that that are really tearing it apart. But let’s move on to one thing that your career and recently you did. You’ve been a theater critic, and I haven’t seen things lately that you’ve written about the theater. But I really enjoyed the piece that you wrote back in 2013. And you this is a great line, the power of theater comes from its ability to surprise. Yeah, and that resonated with me. And it brought to mind. A long time ago, here in Austin, I saw a version of Camelot and Richard Harris was, was in the cast. And someone came on stage and he’s you know, saluted the king or something. And he pressed his armor and the piece of armor fell on the stage. Right? And there’s, it’s the surprise, like this isn’t supposed to happen, right. And so there’s this the, from the audience and this kind of pause. And then Harris says something to the effect of Well, I hope your valor is greater than the strength of your armor or something. It’s just a complete ad libbed line. But it’s a long intro to the point about you taking famously taking the cell phone from the woman next to you and tossing it into the aisle and then being ejected from the theater. And you said there was a moment of wonderful shocked silence. And I think I’m responding this because you did what a lot of us would like to do. She said salvage said self respect she could, which is to say she slapped me, and then stopped off in search of her phone. A few minutes later, I was visited by an annoyed gentleman in a black suit and Cinder and I found myself out on the street. Yes, it was worth it.
Kevin D. Williamson 54:06
You know, the New York Post endorsed me for mayor of New York after that. I was not running and
Robert Bryce 54:14
running. But that vignette is speaks to and then you ended the piece of talking about common politeness in society and this decline of, of just a basic respect for people around you and I, it’s one of the other things that troubles me. And it has it gotten worse since you wrote that or is that? Is this something that you see in the theater or elsewhere, this decline of just basic kind of civility?
Kevin D. Williamson 54:41
Well, I stopped doing theater criticism when I moved to New York, because in the United States, you really can’t be a theater critic anywhere else. Sure. Houston,
Unknown Speaker 54:50
Las Vegas. They
Kevin D. Williamson 54:51
got a lot going for him. They’re great places to love the cities, but you can’t really be a theater critic here. Yeah, this particular lady I was thinking I think maybe I wrote this in that piece. It’s been a while. But, you know, an opera based on war and peace. If you’re the sort of person who needs to be on your phone every five minutes, maybe that’s not the show for you, you know, maybe maybe Blue Man Group or something else would be
Robert Bryce 55:14
more you’re certainly certain SLA
Kevin D. Williamson 55:16
and Opera based on war and peace is going to have some some, you know, parts where you have to pay attention, right. And, in fact, that show, it’s a wonderful show called Natasha Pierre and the great comet of 1812. And it begins with this wonderful, funny chorus, on which they introduce all the major characters and the single attribute of each. And the song is called, it’s all in your program. And so it goes because it’s a complicated Russian opera. And it’s a complicated Russian novel, and everyone’s got nine different names. So look it up in your program. And that’s a wonderful show. But yeah, it takes some work to follow something like that. One of the problems with theater, particularly in New York, but also with, you know, movie theaters, and concert venues and things like that is that we’re taking people who effectively now come from different cultures and putting them in the same space, and expecting them to react the same way to the same stimulus. And that’s not going to work out. So you know, when you work, you’ve got your sort of Upper West Side theater snobs, who, you know, know how to stay quiet through a show and that sort of thing. And you’ve got your new tourists who, you know, feel the need to take pictures or, you know, do whatever they do on their phones, I don’t know what people actually do on their phones that they can’t turn them off for a couple of hours. I remember, I saw Emilia Clarke, lady from Game of Thrones, in a stage play, have Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and miserable, by the way, she’s terrible ashes. Although I like panthro. She’s just she’s truly, truly awful. And she was in the role of Holly Golightly. And there’s a scene in which she’s briefly naked on the stage, she drops a robe and steps into a bathtub. And the show came to a screeching halt. Because the 600 people took out their phones take pictures of her in this, this brief moment of nudity, he was like walking into an explosion all the flashes. And this is when Game of Thrones was still on television, I was thinking to myself, this is the naked woman in the world. She is naked on Game of Thrones. Every week, everyone in the world who’s got any sort of you know, cable connection has seen this woman, you somehow feel the need to stop and take a picture in this particular context. It’s weird how we react to stuff. So we’ve got people pushed together in ways where they’re uncomfortable with one another because they’ve got different sets of expectations about behavior and manners and those sorts of things. And I think in a sense, that’s the country writ large. You’ve got people who have very strong opinions about what the good life looks at, looks like how people should behave, what’s important, what’s valuable, what sort of things should be valorize? What sort of things should be sneered at. And we have essentially two tribes that have increasingly incompatible values, and incompatible preferences and incompatible aspirations in many ways as well. And it’s going to be very hard to have an increasingly centralized government and keep these two rival tribes happy. I mean, this is why we go crazy with presidential elections. And
Robert Bryce 58:33
you’re saying it’s the democrats and the republicans? Or is that the name that you would use for them? Are you would you say it’s liberals, conservatives, rural urban? Well, what are the what are the names of those tribes, all
Kevin D. Williamson 58:44
those things, you know, Democrats and Republicans is how it expresses itself in the political realm. And what’s interesting about that, is that we have we actually have wide agreement or much wider agreement than you would expect on a number of real hot button issues. So if you look at the Gallup polling on, say, abortion, and see what share of Americans oppose late term abortions, third trimester abortions, it’s like 88% overall, including 80% of Democrats and 91% of Republicans or something like that. If you look at Americans attitudes toward things like illegal immigration, or free trade, you will actually see a great deal of agreement among people who identify as Republicans people identify as Democrats often agreement about bad policies like Americans are generally hostile towards free trade across both parties. They both tend to support protectionism and various kinds of interventionism. So this isn’t about policy disputes. This isn’t about whether the top income tax rate it’s going to be 39% or 37%. This isn’t about whether we have 7% tariff Steel imports from China or 21% tariffs on steel imports from China. It’s about how people see themselves about this sort of community that they feel that they’re a part of. And we’re gonna have a country that doesn’t reflect their values
Robert Bryce 1:00:17
and how they identify as an American right or whether they are a die that you we talked about China earlier the the more the that sense of the country as it’s their affiliation or their pride in their country that and but what you’re saying when I’m reflecting back is that the tribalism which seems to be fanned and given propane and lots of oxygen by Fox and CNN and that, oh, look at how stupid those people are that that tribalism is being fed and re reinforced through this. The the balkanization of the media. Is that a fair assessment?
Kevin D. Williamson 1:00:57
Yeah, I think the balkanization of the media is more response than a cause. I think that’s just driven by people looking for market share. I think Fox News thought it would make $10 more next year by taking a different view of something it would msnbc
how to put this
it’s it’s partly a matter of symbols, and partly a matter of, of who we think we are. And it’s funny, you talk about how we are as Americans, you see us on both sides. Um, you know, we’re, we’re Americans, we’re proud of our country, we are patriotic, but you know, on the left, it’s accept we’re an irredeemably racist society. And we hate women and we hate immigrants and, and we hate people who are sexually different from us and all that. And we need to basically be taken down to the studs and renovated from scratch. And then on the right, you’ve got these so called nationalists, and you know, America, first people who I love my country, except for 27 of the states, basically, all the cities, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, the universities, and you know, the parts of the country where the money and the people are, but the rest of it, you know, it’s just, just awesome. All right. And so what you have here, I think is is two groups of people who are anxious about their place in the world, and
Robert Bryce 1:02:21
eager to blame somebody else for it and
Kevin D. Williamson 1:02:22
always eager to blame someone for it. But there, they fundamentally have the same worry, which is that they’re going to be forced to live in a context in which they are humiliated, in which they are forced to live by someone else’s values, which they are ruled over instead of ruling over others. And that’s where you get to these, you know, Petty, ridiculous symbolic disputes like public funding of abortion, for instance, is a pretty good one. So irrespective of how you feel about abortion, if you look at the numbers your pick your favorite left wing Boogeyman, George Soros who whoever could personally pay out of pocket for every abortion conducted in the country, every year, it’s a it doesn’t add up to all that much.
Unknown Speaker 1:03:10
Kevin D. Williamson 1:03:13
women who don’t get abortions, who have trouble accessing it, who want abortions, sometimes it’s financial, but that’s not actually the primary thing. And the whole idea of having publicly funded abortions is that it forces people to pay for them, it forces other people to live by your terms, right? It’s, you know, it’s the Roman emperor and the Maccabees. It’s, you know, you’re going to worship at our temple, and, and valorize, what we valorize and accept our symbols and accept our cosmology, or you’re going to be forced to. That’s what all these dumb fights about education are over for the most part. Well, that, in fact, their schools don’t work, which probably should enter into the conversations, right?
Robert Bryce 1:03:52
But critical, critical race theory being the obvious example, economy, right, which is something you just wrote about as well. Yeah. So listen, Kevin, talked for about an hour already. So I don’t want to keep you longer than we discussed. But I want to remind everyone, I’m talking with Kevin de Williamson. He’s the author, most recently of big white ghetto. He’s a roving correspondent for National Review, you can find his work on national review.com to two last questions, Kevin, because I want to keep mindful of your time. So I know you you write a lot you mentioned that you read a lot. Who are you reading right now? What books are you reading? What? Who captures your attention at the moment?
Kevin D. Williamson 1:04:31
But aren’t reading a lot of modern stuff? That’s okay. I’ve been reading a lot of the history of pewter England recently. So that’s kind of what’s been on my, my bookshelf,
Robert Bryce 1:04:43
specific books that you can mention there any titles. Oh,
Kevin D. Williamson 1:04:48
the most enjoyable when I’ve actually been reading the wolf Hall novels, which you’re which you’re very, very good.
Robert Bryce 1:04:53
The which novels? I’m sorry. Wolf Hall, wolf Hall novels. Okay.
Kevin D. Williamson 1:04:57
It’s a story of the life of Thomas Crump Well as a work of historical fiction, three novels, I’ve always been sort of anti Cromwell because I’m a big fan of a man for all seasons in which Cromwell is the is the villain and Thomas Moore is the hero and and will fall it’s kind of the opposite. We’re more as this, you know, pious religious fanatic who’s eager to burn heretics and Cromwell is the, you know, pragmatist, you’re trying to ensure that the state functions, I have no idea which one of these actually is a better representation of those personalities. But, um, but they’re both enjoyable reads. So I’m working on a book about idolatry in politics. So some of my reading. For that I’ve been reading, you know, some some religious stuff I’ve been reading.
Robert Bryce 1:05:42
So you’re writing you’re writing a book about about this? Yeah. Yeah. I see. which follows on your piece recently about Joe Biden as priest, right. The piece that yeah,
Kevin D. Williamson 1:05:50
that’s me working out book stuff in the form of a column. So that’ll they’ll show up in the book somewhere. So I recently read a john Dickerson’s book, The hardest job in the world, which is a job about the presidency, which is I disagree with a lot of his analysis, but it’s full of interesting anecdotes. And in such which is, which is, which is pretty fun.
Robert Bryce 1:06:10
So looking at the Imperial US president.
Kevin D. Williamson 1:06:13
Yeah, Michael Novak wrote a really good book in the 70s called choosing our king. And it’s actually it touches on a lot of the same things that that I will be, but it’s kind of written in the immediate wake of Watergate. So it’s got a particular you know, paranoid 1970s flavor to it, which is enjoyable. Schlesinger’s the imperial presidency is on my desk.
Robert Bryce 1:06:36
Gotcha. Okay. Well, that’s, that’s a good representation. So last question for you. What gives you hope, we’ve talked about a lot of things that are, are less than hopeful things that are depressing. What gives you hope,
Kevin D. Williamson 1:06:50
on a long term, I often describe myself as a long term optimist, short term pessimist. And I don’t think people want to be miserable, or poor, or sick, or unhappy or depressed, or any of that stuff. And we have pretty good understanding of how not to be those things, we sort of understand how to cause a society to flourish materially, we sort of understand what’s institutionally necessary for free society. So we can, you know, zigzag around into all sorts of folly and nonsense, but I think that there will always be a core group of people who are pressing to, to find things in the right direction. I mean, the downside of that is that, um, that doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen to here. I think people will find their way toward happiness and prosperity and, and decency in some part of the world, but it may not be in the United States. What ultimately gives me hope, I suppose is that I don’t believe that what we do here now is is the end of the story, I’m a religious person, I do believe that we have a higher calling that we answer to and a bigger reality that we ultimately live in whether we understand it or not, and that the things that make us unhappy or inferior, or infuriated or frustrated, or whatnot, in the present are not necessarily the most important things that we will experience or know. And that I have some faith and trust in.
Robert Bryce 1:08:33
Well, let’s entertain that. Let’s end it there then. So thanks. So my guest has been Kevin de Williamson, he’s you can find him on the Google his latest book is the big white ghetto. Kevin, thanks for coming on the podcast. Thanks to all of you in podcast land. Tune in next time for the next episode of the power hungry podcast. And until then,