46: Small Men on the Wrong Side of History with Ed West

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Hosted by
Will Jarvis

We discuss the past present and future of conservatism, where it has gone wrong, and how politics has changed over time, with Ed West. Ed is the author of Small Men on the Wrong Side of History: The Decline, Fall and Unlikely Return of Conservatism. He is also the Deputy Editor at Unherd. 

Transcript:

Will Jarvis 0:04
Hey folks, I’m William Jarvis, along with my dad, Dr. David Jarvis. I host the podcast narratives. narratives is a project exploring the ways in which the world is better than it has been the ways it is worse in the past or making a better, more definite future. I hope you enjoy it.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe. You can get on our mailing list, find show notes, transcripts, as well as videos at Nerdist podcast.com. Thanks. Well, Ed, how are you doing today?

Ed West 0:44
Wonderful. How are you doing? I’m here in sunny England. It hasn’t stopped raining for like, three weeks now. The pubs have just opened. But yeah, I mean, the weather is just it’s very, very British weather. No, no.

Will Jarvis 0:57
mad. Yeah, I’m sorry. I know. It’s like especially not been able to get out at all. Just kind of close. Yeah,

Ed West 1:03
we’ve got camping in a couple of weeks as well. So that’s kind of very British holiday, you go camping in the pouring rain. It’s really cold. Everyone’s pretending terrible. And it’s just really enjoyable for everyone.

Will Jarvis 1:15
I love it. Yeah. You gotta roll with it. Right. Well, Ed, before we get jump into some of the questions we have, can you give us kind of a brief bio and some of the big themes you’re interested in?

Ed West 1:28
Well, I suppose I mean, the book I had out small men, the wrong sophistry is really about conservatism. That came out, it’s all about my pessimistic worldview. And it kind of explores the sort of personality types of conservatism as well as the history. And it came, it came out in England’s just as the week as we were hit by COVID-19. So my pessimism was proved completely correct. In that case, I just knew there’d be some sort of plague as soon as the book came. So that was mainly. Yeah, I mean, my basic theme is that, you know, I bought in 1978. So my, the top cohort, my generation people I know, but you know, the upper middle class, Londoners who went to university are sort of, you know, becoming unusually liberal compared to previous generations. And we’re not, they’re not becoming more conservative. And the data and stats in the states as well says kind of similar, basically, similar trends. So from the 70s, and 80s, people born and are becoming sort of more liberal, and they’re becoming more liberal. And so I’m becoming I’m a sort of anomaly amongst my generation, and I kind of see that as a sort of, kind of cultural shift. I mean, the energy, the obvious analogies of the Reformation. And also the sort of crystallization of Rome in the fourth century, were a complete shift in culture. And I think you know, that what happened in the 60s, was kind of a completely huge cultural shift, just as what happens about the 320s is and, and now in the next generation, and why but what happens in these kind of cultural revolutions is that 2030 years later, there’s often like another, like burst of energy, and a more extreme version of the new faith kind of comes along, and they’re Calvinism followed Lutheranism 20 years later. And I think what we’ve seen the last seven or eight years, the Great Awakening is the kind of that second burst of energy, where it’s about the real defeat of the old way. So I kind of I sort of identify with those people who in those previous revolutions are on the losing side and eventually grew up see your grandchildren just in as well, which is completely unrecognizable, really. So it’s quite, quite bleak. But yeah, I’m just, I mean, I’m interested in history generally. So I read some sort of shorts, for young adult history books, American publisher and all about English history. I didn’t even want to talk about I sort of while I was reading a lot about history in various ways. I was I was always interested in like the Franks and the the start of Europe as an idea. And so I sort of published an E book online, and it was published by a small publisher, but yeah, that’s of interests me, like where, you know, where Europe came from, as an idea. And, and the only books around that the, you know, the eighth century and the Franks was, we have some Victorian books, which you can get, you know, Kindle is great for that. But the language is quite archaic. So I thought it’d be nice to sort of update one. Yeah, so this is my year history politics and you know, Doom and decline. That’s my thing.

Will Jarvis 4:38
I love it. I love it. And you know, on this show, we always ask you whether the guests are optimist or pessimist, and we’ve talked to about 50 people now. And it’s really interesting cuz every single one of the is an optimist. Hey, we’ve got a couple of short term pessimists, but and so I thought was great, like, it’s good to have a dissenting voice here. And that’s probably The reason why I’m really excited to talk to you today,

Ed West 5:02
no one ever optimistic about stuff some stuff in the long term. I think there’ll be some good, good technological things in the long term. Yeah. Yeah. No. I mean, I’m with Michel Welbeck. You know, he said, Well, there was new world after COVID will be like, will even he said there will be the same but worse.

Will Jarvis 5:22
I think he’s, I think he’s all the buddy there. Well, and you know, I see a lot of your thinking and work around conservatism is kind of like a Chesterton’s fence argument, a reminder that, you know, we need to be really careful about changing things, because institutions and practice is can be important for reasons that aren’t explicit. We talked to Pete Leeson, I don’t know if you know him. But he’s an economist at George Mason. He actually works on like medieval ordeals. And like sassy wood and Liberia for determining judicial outcomes. And, you know, anticipation of the UN’s like don’t use sassy what they give you like a fake poison to try to determine whether or not you’ve committed some crime, and it’s a great social technology. But on the face, you don’t understand it unless you kind of get to the correct level. Because it seems like bonkers, right, that you would, you know, this practice? You? What do you think about that? Is that a fair characterization?

Ed West 6:18
Yeah, I mean, the the thing, I mean, all cultures, this is a common things, all cultures is they developed to taboos and traditions, ways of doing things that don’t really make sense, but no one really understands. But over the long term, the ones that have proved really effective. do so for a reason. You know, even if you go back to, you know, reading about the great, the greatest pandemic, the Mongols, when they used to hunt, you know, they have to booze about if a rodent is slow. You don’t eat it, you don’t catch it, because Roden slow, didn’t know that they had the plague. They knew there’s something bad going on Iran and run away from Mongo this, you know, that’s Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 7:03
Yeah, so it’s

Ed West 7:06
a rise, basically, I mean, this books thing, isn’t it the rise as sort of evolution process in from beginning with a sort of state of violence, and then a sort of mellow into legitimacy? You know, that the royal family, obviously, the one Americans watch for the distribution of royalty, which sort of remains in Britain, despite all sort of rational isn’t the most rational thing, you’ve never designed a system like that with our royal family. But, you know, overwhelming, you know, data after data and survey, after survey study of survey shows that comparing different countries with monarchies and republics, the monarchies tend to be better on for all sorts of different reasons. There is a kind of sense to that system. I mean, you know, would you rather live in Syria or Jordan, is that no, Algeria, Monaco, there’s you, but you’re just better off with the oldest system of government. Obviously, America has been pretty successful. So that’s, uh, but America obviously had the advantage of many different other qualities as well.

Will Jarvis 8:10
And it’s also it’s also a question whether, you know, America’s seems to be successful to the extent our presidents are monarchs like so FDR, Lincoln, Washington. Anyway, sorry. Yeah. I

Ed West 8:22
mean, yeah. And that’s been said, I mean, you know, the czar like power of the, of the US president. Yeah. I mean, that, and, obviously, I suppose in recent times, the the two institutions that conservatives want defend the most the family and citizen, the church. And, I mean, there’s, you know, even the most hardened, radical, I think we’ve struggled to find the argument that alternatives to the family have proved that essence, you know, every sort of experimental model, whether it’s, you know, communes or lone parent families always have worse outcomes than average. Well, you know, I think the benefits of the church are sort of more been taken seriously now. I mean, there was more serious debate about the benefits of religion now in England, only now that it’s kind of become so sort of basically disappeared. While you know, I think we were 20 years ago, 15 years ago, we’re going through the whole new atheist thing that was the thought the last power of the church and now a lot of people say we’re actually even though if you’re not a believer, it’s obviously there’s a lot to be said for these institutions. So, yeah, I mean, you know, Chesterton’s fences. It’s, it’s cited a lot for a very good reason. I think that sort of says something interesting. And there’s also the temptation that you know, there are lots of incentives for destroying things and knocking down personal incentives for you know, commentators and politics because you know, it’s exciting, it’s dynamic, and it makes you It makes one look forward thinking and And in contrast, It’s your chest. And it’s kind of quite boring Ivan. Yeah, they’ve made it, there’s nothing to stir the blood, the light. So, you know, in sort of a very visual age, you know, dominated not first by social by television, and then social media, you know, the incentives are to, to do away with things because it makes one look glorious. But yeah, I’m always thinking that don’t take away the fence, because it’s just gonna be a bullet and next field is gonna be the case.

Will Jarvis 10:37
Got to be quite, quite careful. To what extent do you think people’s political beliefs are just kind of inborn genetic? And then like, pretty hard wired?

Ed West 10:48
I mean, I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist, a psychologist or a geneticist? I mean, when I looked at the literature on it, lots of this stuff isn’t. I mean, most things pretty simply 5050. I mean, that goes for any characters straight. Not our politics is actually but you know, the personality traits that tend to influence our politics. I mean, if you’re more conscientious, you’re more likely different serves everyone necessarily. But if you’re more neurotic, you’re more likely to be left to center. And same with openness, even more so bad. But these I mean, these are all kind of situation, I want me. I also want that if I was growing up in a different, like, if I was growing up in the late 19th century, would I be a liberal rogatory? And I think I probably would have been, I don’t know, most of my family were liberals, they were mostly non performing this. So

Unknown Speaker 11:41
I don’t know why I’ve come out.

Ed West 11:44
I think the research and their sets and political events and triggers that might, in a more conservative people might sort of trigger a more defensive response, the feeling that things are changing too rapidly, or something we care about is being threatened. And I think from the 60s onwards, there is a bit of that sense. There in them. And there are certain there are certainly some I mean, my I mean, I mentioned my book, my dad was my dad, that stuff is like very lucky, Young Communist in the 50s. You know, that kind of upper class way, a lot of young English moments have led to socialism as a better way after the war. And he just became so deeply irrational by the end, you know, completely against against universal voting, you know, again, based on the game entirely against the modern world. His father was also apparently by right wing as well. So, yeah, maybe there is certainly some genetic influence, I think.

Will Jarvis 12:46
Definitely. It’s quite interesting. And that leads me to my next question. Have you heard of the thrive survive theory of the political spectrum before? Right, yeah. So I do wonder, and just for the listeners, the idea that like, you know it, if you need to survive, you adopt more conservative principles. Like if you’re in a zombie apocalypse, you go look, get a bunch of guns, you go, just like focus on your family. You’re very skeptical the out group. And even then, right, yeah, absolutely. I run a SSC meetup here in the triangle. Yeah, he’s like the master. People. Yeah. It’s quite an interesting guy. I really like his work. It. So I do have a question. As we get richer, it seems like you know, surviving becomes somewhat, you know, less important. And I wonder, does that kind of explain some of that slide? What leftward that is either perceived or real that’s been going on?

Ed West 13:44
Sure. I mean, I mean, my aim from a caveat to this is that every time I’ve sort of looked at any psychological study that looks into you know, I asked by psychologists, friends after the hour, that one hasn’t replicated that One Spark, and that one set and almost every single one of these studies this day, so it’s just everything has to be sort of green. So. But yeah, of course, if you instill the modern, instill the modern world now until the late 19th century, pretty much everyone lived in grinding poverty before the Industrial Revolution took off. So obviously, people aren’t going to be interested in like wild ideas of liberal individualism and progressivism and everything and the things that would concern us would just seem utterly alien to them and inconsequential. And I mean, what you’re describing is also, you know, is another word for is basically decadence, right? Yeah. And we’re once the top of the pack the hierarchy of needs. I mean, one of the one of the main objections to sort of all these cultural issues is just that people have sorts of kind of fighting and whining have nothing really, and there’s something very demoralizing about that. Just hearing people complain about complete non issues. When they haven’t really got many things to worry about. And part of me wonders like, would you be happier? Now on this social justice warriors is someone you know mispronounce my pronoun or that cartoon racialist stereotypes, you know, this group? And I mean, would you actually be happier in like a war zone or like a tiny family or something like that? What if you actually something to focus your mind on? Maybe you’d actually be a happier person. I mean, like, I wouldn’t have decadent 21st century society where I can just eat food all day. I mean, I think part of it is sort of funnel of politics is basically like and also immune system problems. So you know, that that like, say, this is the example of racism, particularly, you know, American, I say intelligentsia, but we’re talking about like New York Times columnist. So that’s probably not a bad word. But they they’re obsessed with racism, like a problem, an issue that has been declining by vast amounts in a society, American society now is probably like the least racially prejudiced of any society, in history or in the world compared to any else in the world. I mean, apart from a better Western Europe, and even Western Europe is not as anti racist America. The more it’s gone away, the more obsessed with it they are, it’s basically an auto immune system, you know, your immune system can end up destroying you, because it’s absurd. I mean, then that is something that happened to COVID. And with, you know, the Spanish flu, is that the healthiest people die, because that their immune system becomes obsessed with this idea that has to eradicate a disease, that reason is actually a threat to them so much. So a lot of policies now is just people obsessed with kind of these overblown historical problems, which aren’t really much of an issue anymore. I mean, obviously, every society has issues bent this way, and quite a week, you know, in the sense that we have got, you know, healthier, wealthier in most cases. And so people just find something to be angry about and to be upset about. And that kind of brings about this urge to sort of basically destroyed institutions. I mean, you know, there is a certain consent from watching it on this side of the world. Um, you know, America’s cultural warriors, really just want to the ultimate thing is just the sort of basically wind up America as a concept, because I think it’s so inherently bad. And that’s the kind of ultimate institution like you don’t want to doing that is the ultimate Chesterton’s fence. Right. Right. itself. And, and from this side of Lansing, you know, the force of stability and freedom for a long time for many of us. But there was a sense of, you know, we’re just bored. So that’s just, you know, create havoc and chaos and see what happens, like, you know, how it’s gonna end, this is gonna be much worse than I was, like, all the people who want chaos, we have a chance to be, you know, university educated weaklings, who will be the first in by a pie rock, nation, but you guys always get killed in these revolutions, I happen to rush out of the trance that need for, you know, drama and chaos and, and yeah, change for its own sake, which to me is just like, that’s a terrible idea.

Will Jarvis 18:08
Definitely. Yeah. That that’s really well played, it seems like so. So virtual and unreal, and like, the battles have gotten, yeah, it’s, it’s quite interesting. I’m curious. So you, you live with a bunch of kind of, you know, in the US, they call them you know, it’s this hilarious term coastal elites or whatever. Right. And, you know, it’s a, What’s it like being, you know, a conservative? And? And do you think it gives you a good perspective to be, like, integrated within the certain class of people and hold a different set of views?

Ed West 18:42
Um, well, I mean, where I live, it’s in North London, it’s so I mean, in English time, zone three. So that means, you know, we’re talking three and four storey, you know, quite dense. It’s, I mean, it’ll be somewhere like in Brooklyn would be the equivalent. Gotcha. So, yeah, I mean, almost everyone, where I live, it’s a, it was one of the highest remain voting areas in the country, which is, was 75 to 80% remain voting. So that’s, that’s a sort of indication of going to university boats, labor or level Democrats, you know, has all the right opinions. And I mean, a lot of people in the area like, family, parents and friends, even not close friends, but people I sort of know, wouldn’t really know about our politics. I don’t really, like shout about it. And, yeah, quiet. I mean, the thing is, I mean, most Metropolitan liberals, this kind of this group of which I’m sort of semi a part of, I mean, I am sort of one of the liberal lead. There’s no denying me, I’m just like a very right wing member of the liberal League, and not a very elite member, that they have no kind of, kind of hesitancy about just talking about in the room, but like, as if everyone has the same opinions of them, which I find I find a really strange thing. I’ve never had that in my entire life. Assuming everyone was, like, you know, obviously, like, leave is a terrible idea. Obviously America is inherently racist. And, you know, obviously BLM is a great idea which will take the need cetera. And these are kind of either, like accepted. I mean, if I just started out so you know, I don’t I don’t agree with any of that. It would just be very weird. But I mean, the funny thing is, like, even in my area, but even here, a quarter of people voted leave. And I mean, there aren’t that many old people around here. So normally in in there is like old people that live. There are many other people like me, but they’re just very, very quiet. I think that’s it’s like most institutions, you know, universities, there will be a lot more conservative people very bright. I mean, I get a lot of direct messages, emails and people saying, you know, obviously, I can’t, I can’t tweet what you wrote by agree that because I would just lose my job or just everyone you know, most people just don’t want to be hated by everyone. Yeah. It’s kind of human nature. I mean, I know amongst amongst my guys near here, though, like one friend who’s you know, definitely also conservative. I mean, last year, last year before last we went out for a drink after the election nearby to have a good like, gloat. Right. Everyone else in the air looks like downcast look when England Hydras Wow. I’m so depressed.

Unknown Speaker 21:29
Yes.

Ed West 21:32
So it’s, um, yeah, I mean, it’s, it is very much at first, I mean, and the thing about people in the center left is they tend do tend to sort of congregate physically into the same areas. I mean, that is one of the reasons why they’re losing elections in Britain is because they’re all tightly wound up pounds in like a few constituencies I my constituency. If labour has a 50,000 majority, which is well as a, as a party, because the Tories are winning loads of seats up north with majorities of three and 4000. So they’re just in the amplitude. But they know that tendency of the Great Salt isn’t it is it was educated and center left people to move all into one area. Which makes you know, it’s kind of like this. So there is a bit of a lack of diversity in opinions. Which I think maybe, maybe it’s bad for them as a as a COVID ideologies. Now I’m a big I think it’s important to try to understand your opponents, you know, the ideological Turing test is that really, a good thing to do is to try to see if you could pass one of them. And, you know, you read a lot of newspaper columns, I would love news, typically. And some people in the British left and I get impressions that you’ve got no idea what I actually think about that might What am I actually believe about the world? I mean, it’s really like off. You can never go on the cover one of my party events and, and pretend to be one of us, because you just don’t really know. And and you probably just haven’t been exposed to that. But what I did, if that’s us, that’s maybe both sides are bad at it.

Will Jarvis 23:04
Yeah, it’s quite interesting to me, because it seems like one of the weird problems I’ve gotten is, you know, like you mentioned, like, so if Labour’s got a 50,000 vote majority, and like this one district, if you won, so you’re let’s say you’ve won, like 95%. And there’s only 5% dissenting, it’s like you’ve you’ve passed some threshold where you can like, like, essentially, anyone you talk to is gonna have the belief. So you just like, Don’t even it’s not,

Ed West 23:31
you have to assume one way. Politics almost isn’t it’s not controversy anymore. It’s just an accepted view. Yeah. But I mean, they never I mean, they never have as much as the majority as people as they think they do. That’s the thing. Gotcha. I mean, that there the referendum, I mean, I have complicated views and the whole referendum, the referendum was about, you know, like a left, right, kind of divided kind of, you had the effect of drastically, you know, shifting bridge posits. And so we went through the sort of gravy alignment, America went forth decades over from the 60s, it happened to us really quickly, all of a sudden. So we weren’t, you know, you had seats, which had been slaver since beginning of time, which suddenly became so it was unthinkable about 10 years ago. But during that period, it was very much there was of acent asymmetry about the whole thing that there’ll be entire, like remain voting cultural areas, you know, academia, civil service, love government, places, and social media is where everyone is remain. And people were really quite scared, worried about the opening scene as leave and anything that really happens the other way so much. You know, I mean, now that debate is kind of over the vaccine thing is sort of, at least ended it for now. So I think, but for a while it was Yeah, it was quite divisive. It’s it’s quite

Will Jarvis 24:58
interesting. So I And side note, I, I remember, when y’all voted to leave I was I remember I was in the car, I had this old truck. And I was listening to the radio, I was listening to the BBC, because it comes on the Public Radio, like late at night, and I went to get like a bird or something. And I just remember the, the the broadcaster, like, I turn on the radio and the broadcast, you know, when they just like, they’re horrified, and you can hear it in their voice. And I was like, What is going on here? Because, you know, I read about it, like the economist, this was going on right now. And you know, that this would actually happen, right. But it was just quite interesting.

Ed West 25:32
So some music can BBC like the roll? You know? It doesn’t mean exactly. Apparently, they weren’t mean. I mean, it’s not secret. Obviously, most people BBC would be remain voting, which is fine as complained about that. It’s the media, I mean, immediately tends to be absurd political strike. But yeah, there was a lot of people very upset.

Will Jarvis 25:54
Right. It’s quite interesting. I, I do wonder, you know, I go, so I spent a bit of time in London. And the thing I noticed was the divide between America and the UK in the big Metro pools, like I live in a big Metro pool. And in London, it was, you know, the beliefs were very similar, you know, almost indistinguishable, but the urban rural, like, so I’m from rural eastern North Carolina. And it’s like, so far, it’s farther from, like, 60 miles away from where I’m sitting now than London, which is, you know, 1000s of miles away. What do you think about this big sort, and this big, this urban rural divide that has developed you think this is kind of a new phenomenon? Or

Ed West 26:36
it’s a sort of exaggerated form, something went on? I mean, it’s definitely become works. Extreme. I mean, most I think most of the sort of social changes in the last 50 years just basically like dispersion, there’s no money to talk about finances. Yeah, rather than splitting into everyone’s just, everyone’s got the freedom to live the life they want. So everyone becomes you know, much more stream. So you know, we talked about a lot of Nevers not focused on people, for example, who boys who are quite feminine and masculine and you know, the insect thing, but far more men are like, super, super more masculine than they would have been 50 years ago, you know, they’re taking steroids, they get like down the gym all the time. I like half of women are on my Instagram dressed up as sort of Barbie dolls. They’re not half as fashion so like, you know, some the the gender norms aren’t becoming the same, they’re actually becoming wider. And I think that’s the same with people’s, you know, their politics to a certain extent and just the life that people have more freedom to move. And if you want to be, you know, living in a big in an urban park eating insects, and you got much more freedom to do that. While if you want to go out and have nine kids in your tribe, caf. Family means right there are more people doing that. So yes, I suppose the more the more freedom we have, the more extreme our lifestyle differences and I mean, liberalism has always been linked to sit you know, single singleness, being single being a singleness, like a word and figuring out, you know, childlessness, basically, like almost all the great early liberal philosophers were childless men. You know, john Locke. In the main example, he has some pretty bonkers views about human nature. Yeah, so the more liberalism today is now hugely related to people’s marital status, you know, especially single women are overwhelmingly on the left now, well, women used to be more conservative men 40 years ago. And that’s the same in Britain and America, while married women tend to be very strongly pro republican and their voting. I think that difference is slightly less marked in England. But England is also more constrained by its kind of geography. It’s smaller, it’s harder to I mean, there aren’t that many rural places. In the south of England, it’s just very heavily built up. And that’s partly the difference in the country’s politics is that Britain and England particularly, are very urban. But yeah, I mean, that’s the Tories now, get, I think, the last, the last election, the local elections, we had this labour had what 50% in London, while the Tories were getting we had like people sending people living in villages, and that over 40% in people living in small towns, this they definitely had a, you know, is entirely now, geographic geographically built. And again, urban ism density also correlates to how likely you are to have children because how expensive housing is, you know, so those are just politics is just an extension of lots of lifestyle values, isn’t it? Although, I mean, they’re obviously loads of different exceptions, though, because I mean, I live in an area which is very like, everyone has kids here. This is very, there’s loads of private schools. This is where I get this where liberals go to breed basically And yet they’ve you know, they hear even then people maintain their their sort of general liberal values even after having children. But yeah, those are those are the basic trends aren’t nice. I mean, and that’s kind of bad news for conservatives because England particularly is becoming denser, more heavily populated.

Will Jarvis 30:23
Got it? Alright.

Ed West 30:24
In a long time that’s that’s not very for us. I mean, the problem is for conservative as well as that, you know, the financial power is in those big cities like mega cities are dominate the economy now and Democrats in terms of you know, the counties with where the money is they and where the educated people are they overwhelmed and advantage against Republicans. And the NSA has got similar trends happening to us. So I mean, like, it’s the future concerns is just going to be in sort of like we get left behind towns. I mean, it’s called flyover in America but that’s kind of a bit of a cliche in discourse town because like, like, it’ll be nice time. You know, like, it’s the contradiction conservatives like, I believe in elitism, I just think we should have a better elite, you know, like less sentimental and less narcissistic and self serving elite. I would like to I’d like like the best people do running things. I’ve no problem with that. I just want them like Lord Salzburg from the 1890s that like the kind of sociopath you see on Twitter. So, you know, there is a competition of that we’ve Conservatism’s the losers, so many of the agitated Edenic pamper turns into populism, which kind of has a sort of self. Kind of like almost ignorance has become an anti intellectual ism becomes part of the identity of conservatism, which is quite a bad idea. I mean, that’s happened in the past that lots of conservative movements have been quite anti intellectual, because a lot of intellectuals talk complete crap. I mean, it’s natural, but right. Um, yeah. So yeah, I mean, those are slightly concerning trends. The future?

Will Jarvis 32:03
Definitely. I do wonder, you know, I have this sense that there’s been this general decline. And we have you heard of palladium magazine? Yes. Okay. So we had one of the editor in chief’s in palladium on a couple weeks ago. And he talked a lot about the decline in social responsibility of elites in in the West. And, you know, he charged us going back to the 70s. Do you think that’s like a real effect? It does seem like that. It’s gotten. I don’t know, like, it’s gotten more like focused on the individual. It’s less like, like, so, you know, we’re we, I grew up in a mill town, you know, they shipped out the mills to China, because it was like, you can make a little bit more money. If you do that. And you just box up the factory, you move it out. And the people Oh, well, who cares? Did you know a lot of this free trade rhetoric seems to be focused on that. You think that’s a real effect?

Ed West 32:57
Yeah, I think there is a less of a sense I mean, I think in this I agree there’s some of that the meritocracy thing. meritocracy has less left to lead to a bit of that happening, but less the sense of well, leads now much more like to think they deserve to be where they are. If you were at the top of the thing, you know, and no, I went to Yeah, I went to this college. I worked hard and I got it. Well, when before meritocracy was kind of normalized. The least elites were aware that they didn’t really deserve to be where they were. They just got it because your great great great grandfather like having to behead someone my great grandmother slept with Chelsea second so she could play. I think there is a little bit sense of that. I definitely get a feeling with Adam pub. I mean part of the the populist conservative opposition to like work policies, I hate that word work, but it does convey a certain worldview is the kind of sense of real entitlement and privilege you get amongst a sort of type of an American elites, which is kind of spread you know, that, you know, coming out of an Ivy League school, fantastically wealthy and privileged and just enjoying incredible amounts of wealth. And yet, their entire identity is you know, serviced around the idea that they’ve been somehow victimized either because they’re female or because they’re from a minority often from minorities who are fantastically privileged back in their home country. I mean, that’s the funniest thing to me is, you know, how much of the social justice rhetoric is from Indian Americans and Arab Americans and, and, and Gulf Arabs, you know, who’ve had hundreds of feet literally a Brahmin lecturing like nice white people from Vermont from their, you know, white Legion about how racist I was like literally had like a racial hierarchy for 1000s of years. And you still have an incredible privilege back home, you know, sorts of making a grift living off these kind of naive sort of liberals, you know, in, in Scandinavia and the sort of favorably American parts of Scandinavia. I mean, I find that that’s just, it’s, I mean, it’s so brilliantly funny and twisted. But I think, though people are the people that have a sense of obligation to everyone else. I don’t think they do. I mean, I think there is what there is certainly stuff, you know, polls show that wealthy people have much less sympathy for poor people, both in the States and Britain, if those poor people whites, which is they have no longer have the protection of their they don’t have any victimhood status. So that poor so it’s kind of, you know, tough, it’s your own fault, you’re a loser. And there is definitely the growth of that now, you know, cuz traditionally, conservatives are more likely to think that because they’re just had harsher views about the poor. So, in one sense, you know, I’m not positioned to pain about I say, but I do think that people have left that should be your like, That should be your, like, specialist error, right? Like it real not like speaking up football, people are like, Who the hell’s gonna speak up for them? So obviously, populists are gonna speak up for them. Because, you know, you can’t have a society where the very wealthy don’t feel some obligation towards the people in their own country, you know, who are less well off than they think of them, I’ve just got as much obligation to, like some guy in chairs, or you know, Indonesia, because no one’s full. But I just mean, if you if you, you know, if you have just much obligation to everyone the world, your obligations, no one the world, I mean, that’s the whole world is my brother, and no one is my brother’s great. You’ve got to have a society where there is some sense of loyalty towards another thing. It’s a complete naive, like, nostalgic idea. I mean, the only the best measurement of whether that’s true in the past is in the first the war, 22% of old Etonians died in combat, that compares to about 13%. For that, you know, the, the soldiers in the trenches, the privates, in the trenches, you know, the English upper class, the British upper class died in far greater greater numbers than the people they were leading. I mean, that was the ultimate that is putting your money where your mouth is, you know, right. Joy, you can talk about the system, and, you know, and Noblesse noblesse oblige, but whatever, whatever. But you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is, and I just somehow I just don’t believe those people now coming out of Harvard, and Yale who are on you know, lecturing the rest of us on privilege and etc. I just can’t imagine somehow they would be the first to like jump, jumping.

I don’t think I don’t see us and litigation or anything that’s completely nostalgic, naive view of the past. I think there was some sense that way.

Will Jarvis 38:06
Yeah, no, that, that that’s really well put, I like that that statistic you gave about, you know, Etonians dying and in the trenches at a higher rate. And, and it’s contrasting that today to, you know, this big settlement McKenzie just had to make where they had to pay like $700 million, because there they were advising Purdue pharma on how to turbocharge their opiate sales, right. Poor America, you know, and it’s just like, wow, like, we’ve

Ed West 38:32
gone from that to this. It seems like it’s the opiate thing is just the most shocking, scandalous? I mean, I wonder if that’s kind of thing that, you know, we think about 19th century, you know, things that struck us as a child labor and the treatment of miners, miners in both senses. I wonder Do people really recklessly evil way, the way that opiates are sold to Americans is really mind blowing. And it took so long for it to become a thing? I mean, people are angry about that a lot? You know,

Will Jarvis 39:07
it’s a good question. I mean, I think people are angry. I mean, I it is bizarre. It’s not it’s one of those things where it’s not addressed a lot, because you know, that the groups that are affected by it, I mean, you know, I have a friend, he still lives in eastern North Carolina, and he was going to, you know, Office Depot, and there’s someone laid out, you know, in front of the Office Depot, and, you know, no one just people were walking past them. And it’s just this general degradation of, you know, society. This is just concerning about caring for people. That just doesn’t seem to happen as much anymore.

Unknown Speaker 39:40
Yeah, I’m not sure.

Will Jarvis 39:43
I wanted to ask you about tech stagnation, like the Rostow that I know you mentioned Dec and it’s a little bit earlier. Yeah. What do you think about that tech that, you know, the Peter Thiel kind of Tyler Cowen Rostow,

Ed West 39:56
I read his book on big federal stuff that I’m not convinced that We have a stagnation that I mean, I, I didn’t? Isn’t it just that where it just gets harder and harder? That’s what I mean, that sounds like, once you invented like the most obvious, you know, once you’ve invented a car, obviously invented cars quite hard. Yeah, yeah. Even playing like, what do you mean the stuff after that it’s going to get really, really, really hard, isn’t it? It’s just, I think the 20th century, we’re just lucky to have a sort of period where, you know, there’s all those basic improvements were done. And even stuff like washing machines and dishwashers make huge, huge impact on people’s lives in a right. Well, the drudgery was basically gone. I didn’t know about that. I mean, I agree with him on this on the space thing. But again, when I kind of mentioned that to people, they kind of look at me, like I’m crazy. I think there’s something about exploration as a kind of moral principle that we have to, like, if we’re not exploring and trying to expand as a species, then I think we have sort of reached a kind of brick wall. But we have to, I think we’re almost obligated to do that. Right. And so I agree with him on the whole, like Star Trek thing. I don’t know. I mean, like Peter teal is like much cleverer than me. So I mean, if he if he thinks something, I’m just kind of implies just think, well, you have an idea. So

Unknown Speaker 41:27
yeah, that seems to be a very good point. And that when we have invented enough technology to easily address our basic needs, we tend to get a little lazy, but the proof that we can still do important things is probably something like the vaccine. Yeah, that’s it.

Ed West 41:45
I mean, I don’t I didn’t I literally weekends, but I mean, but everyone that the time said, you know, oh, well, it takes 2030 years to vaccine. But I think it’s kind of one of those things where, you know, if if something’s a Gunny, it’s it’s a real, like, there’s a worldwide pandemic, like, we’ll, we’ll find a way if nothing else is going to make us find that technology. Yeah, so I think that, yeah, the incentives, I mean, a lot of this stuff becomes I mean, a lot of political questions are just harder now than they used to be. I mean, this comes down to trade without at the trade issue, which without the Brexit was so is so complicated, because as time goes by these trade agreements, and these trade laws just become much more complicated that the average person understand that. So I think a lot of these issues come down to the regulation, American regulation, and how the regulatory system works, which is quite complicated. So I think there is an argument that you know, that there’s a kind of slowing down and the system by bureaucracy. I mean, I don’t know how anyone breaks that. I mean, I would love for people just to give Peter to his own country, because I would love to see how it worked out. It could be amazing. Now, it’ll be a super futuristic, near medieval paradise, where people live to a 1000s. But I just really want to see that happen. Because, you know, test out those ideas.

Will Jarvis 43:10
definitely give it a try, right, and see what happens. Do you think, perhaps, tech stagnation, you know, if it’s happening, if we pick, pick the low hanging fruit, and growth slows down a little better, the rate of growth slows down a little bit it? You know, it’s more like trying to divide this pie that’s not getting bigger as fast? And so that, do you think that explains any of our, you know, why the political fights are so vivid?

Ed West 43:38
Oh, I mean, the period after the Second World War was, I mean, it seems it appears that we’re not really gonna get that level of growth again, right. I mean, a lot of that is just basically, starting from a low base, and a lot of it is just was the population structure, wasn’t it? I mean, we just, it’s basically, you know, the, the people born at the end of the war, were just very lucky to be born an incredible time of growth. And I don’t know, I mean, now, we’re sort of constrained by housing costs to such a such an extent, which I think sets in England that is the number one, you know, that is the number one real problem that people have, I mean, apart from like, the way that the environment, whatever they that is the actual real issue is is the cost of housing, which is a really hard one to price. The younger people, how do they How do you sort of give them reason to like invest in the system? Yeah, there’s just not there’s just no hope of them ever having a house or flats in London or sheds or wardrobe. I mean, they’re going to be the cost of housing is just like absurd now, and we’re in a really bit of a death spiral because the Tory party is completely basically their voters will be have homes and older. And that home is basically they’ll need it to pay for their old age because it’s their savings and retirement plan. Yeah, it’s all their savings in home. So they can’t just sort of say, Alright, we’re gonna allow millions of homes built because no one wants, you know, they don’t want their their well. Yeah, as the housing gets more and more expensive, the younger generation just get fear a number and you know, the birth rate falls off. So, I mean, that is probably my most sort of reactionary pessimistic. Well, opinion is you know, that that country’s fertility rates probably do represent something quite dark and depressing. He’s got a dog in the background.

Will Jarvis 45:45
Yeah, sorry. I heard some buddies. He’s like, Oh, God, danger. Well, that’s a really good point. So it on the positive side, there is an easy solution, right? You just build more housing, although it’s very difficult to get there. Right. Like, yeah, it’s a very difficult, right. Are you down for a couple of overrated underrated term? Well, yeah, yeah, go for it. Cool. So Charles, Martel, overrated, underrated?

Ed West 46:19
Well, he’s probably overrated by the wrong people. That’s the bit of a bit sinister. No, I was really. I mean, I’ve just thought it’s such a it’s such a fascinating story. Obviously, you should like as a caveat say that Charles was very, like, popular with like, some quite extreme praise types, because

Will Jarvis 46:43
I really I didn’t know that.

Ed West 46:45
Well, because the battle, the battle tour that’s put here in France, they that was basically the great victory, whether the actual franc whether So basically, the Arabs conquered Spain was now Spain, like hell, and loose. And then they crossed into goal Chairman Frank here in 721, at first, then they try it again. And they are in a huge army, huge empire at the time control. In time, at least, there’s absolutely gigantic and the Franks where this tripods come from really Western Germany, what is now Holland, into northern France, and they, they had this kind of rudimentary Kingdom amongst but this was, you know, post Roman Europe, it was the actual sort of the lowest points of Western Europe population in devastated by plague, and by the various disasters, and it was very sparse and very, I mean, quite primitive, by that stage era, you know, very small towns left. And so this, you know, these group of Franco German barbarians were invaded by the biggest Empire at the time, we were much more sophisticated culturally. And they weren’t, I mean, but very little is actually known about the people involved. And this became a Catholic. Catholic priests writing about it, afters, there’s a monk, you know, use the use of the first time describe all the victors the battles, or as the Europeans was, the first time that term was used, there was no real concept of Europe is all the word but because, you know, these are people who are a mixture of German and various Latin speaking peoples who, sort of united by their Catholic faith, and that was what sort of defined them as a sort of civilization. So that became sort of, you know, the start of Europe and the Franks builds. Basically, they’re the forerunners of France and Germany, and they eventually splits. And so you know, French history. We go to France every year and it’s just the history is just fantastic. It always fascinates me. So I just wanted to write a small thing about that thing, but obviously, because Charles Martel defeated the Muslims is sort of amongst popular among certain. questionable, I’d say we put it mildly. Yeah. So overrated and underrated, I suppose. Can I ask Can I get one of those cop answers? Yeah,

Will Jarvis 49:08
absolutely. Right. The best answers are Edmund Burke, overrated, underrated.

Ed West 49:13
He can’t be rated enough, really. I mean, he’s the he’s, he’s the Prophet for a book, you know, all British conservatism comes down to comes down to him. And, you know, I think he’s still a good a good guide to principles. I mean, what I find interesting about the late 18th centuries, and the French Revolution starts also political. Before that, you know, some forms of politics are recognizable from that point on, like, everything. Every archetype is basically recognizable. I mean, what’s interesting in English history now is that 100 years we’ve had, our politics has been, you know, conservatives versus the Labour Party, a party socialists, and the debate was really about like, how much money to redistribute. So now we’re going back to the previous political position we had which was time and bird which is basically weeks versus Tories, which was much more of a cultural issue. The Whigs were the liberal leads. who opposed who has made sense of being nonconformist. The liberal Tories were the sorts of party of the countryside you know, and older traditions and the Church of England and the mass of people sympathize with the Tories, because no one really likes the liberal elite no one ever does. So we’ve sort of come back to that really, our politics now so much more as a return to normal. But from that point on the 18th century, everything is sort of recognized all the archetypes so obviously, all of Britain’s playwrights you know, all of Britain’s poets, all of everyone who’s an intellectual of any sort supported the French Revolution towards the best idea ever. Even when it started turning into a complete bloodbath, so you know, the ideals of screaming and literally like blood everywhere everyone’s getting killed. Eventually, when it all turned into complete dictatorship, Napoleon took over and Britain and France and so on backstage obviously, I mean, this is like after you know, like after 956 to be a communist that no one but they still some people progression he said okay, we have to support England’s you know against because in Britain’s you know, intelligentsia hates sports in their own country, because they consider it just the you know, the worst thing of and then about was from, you know, the beginning when this happens, everyone’s saying, Yeah, great, they’ve stolen the best deal. You know, the best deal just a handful of forges and one less sexual pervert, and it wasn’t really oppressive prison or anything. Perhaps the guy the the guy in charge of his death. And from the very start that he said, Well, listen, this is gonna turn into a complete mass murder, you could just can’t get rid of the monarchy and just have complete anarchy. You know, this entire system run by journalists, lawyers, and actors are the worst people running the country. And he said, He’s gonna turn this off. And he was completely right. And but I mean, at the time, everyone said, Oh, you know, you’re just being an old reactionary, you’re completely wrong. And then he died before he was proved right. And, you know, he just sort of went slowly, slowly became more paranoid as he thought the rest of the world is against him. But, you know, that’s, that’s the kind of Cassandra Curse of conservatives, you know, bad things gonna happen. No one really wants to believe you. And it does. Right.

Will Jarvis 52:23
Do you think it is it? Would it be appropriate is a bit of left turn, but I think it’s related. Is it appropriate to think of the American Revolution as kind of like a British kind of class struggle? Or like, maybe not class struggle, but like a kind of like, political internal political struggle?

Ed West 52:40
Yeah. I mean, I do agree. I mean, that’s the Kevin Phillips idea that it’s just the English Civil War. I think there’s definitely something in that. I mean, my that’s the thing I’d love to write a book about, because obviously, my kids are my girls are obsessed with the American Revolution. Not obsessive, but they know everything about it, because the obvious reason, Hamilton, all about it. And, yeah, I mean, I think it’s a fascinating thing, but yes, it was a source of conflict between the Whigs and the Tories, wasn’t it? But yeah, or is it basically mostly driven out of the country? And the American revolutionaries? Were just Yeah, well, well, wigs. They were sort of the merchants. They were dissenters who were fighting against the Church of England. But yeah, they were they were very. I mean, they weren’t they were very British and in their policies. I mean, Hamilton is kind of the most sympathetic figures. Jefferson is a bit more is interesting, but he’s a bit. He’s a bit less palatable for rich people, I think. Right? Yeah. I think the argument that it was a cynical, I mean, the the, even the first Civil War of the mean, even English Civil War, you know, lots of Harvard graduates went to fights. I mean, it did strong in America, there was a battle in merrylands in the English Civil War. Let’s let’s get into the conflicts. Were intertwined. I mean, you’re you’re part of the world is obviously the, you know, the Cavalier. That was the deep calculator, half of it. But yeah, I think that I think there’s definitely truth in that. Yeah. Now, obviously, it’s the other way around. Now, we’re sort of being sucked into American in that political, cultural battle. So we’re the sorts of outposts but this is a common thread.

Will Jarvis 54:27
It’s interesting. So I got one more here, Boris Johnson overrated or underrated?

Ed West 54:31
I think I’m not a fan of fantasy. I think he’s, the problem is, I don’t know I mean, the details of it. He’s very, very popular with people and he’s, he’s good at winning. But you know, he is a journalist. Yeah, he is latest. He has a completely chaotic life at the moment. He’s, you know, he’s got a personal sort of financial mess. His love life is completely when he was basically homeless when he came Prime Minister you’re staying in government flats and campgrounds are having around with her little wine on the sofa. And Jonas tends to be quite chaotic people, if you read economists of that tweet, I think a Twitter account means probably taken down by now, you know, journalists without owning the house, wherever it’s just like lists of journalists with chaotic disastrous things, they’re doing their lives now. These are people with a track record of making terrible choices. And that’s why they go into journalism. And Boris Johnson was, you know, journalist, Steve, just always, you know, file filed late for the job, you know, really inconsistent, really unreliable sort of person, you know, great at articulating and making off the cuff speeches, and you have been fun and everything, but you don’t really want those kind of people running the country, especially know, when there’s like a pandemic, you want some warning, middle manager, you know, or Best of all, you want something like an airline pilot, you know, like a cool under pressure, someone that, you know, those are doing always checks everything like 15 times, right. But, you know, I think Britain handled the COVID thing really disastrously and, you know, he wasn’t even turning up to these kind of Cobra meetings beginning that’s when you know, that’s the sort of emergency meeting is just too busy with this kind of chaotic journalist life. And I think we really suffered by that no one really cares in the polls. So, you know, I’m like an anti bellwether of British public opinion. So when I say the opposite everyone else thinks, and yeah, it just goes up and up and up. So he’s, you know, he killed all Sunday when the next election. Sure.

Will Jarvis 56:31
Quite interesting. It’s great. Well, Ed, thank you so much for coming on. I want to recommend your books. I really liked the the the small books on history, they’re quite good. If you ever want to get a primer on any of those subjects. I think they’ve all been excellent. And you just had a new one come out and that correct. Now one of the small blocks, but you had a

Ed West 56:51
tournament? No, but that’s just that the publisher gave a different title to the paperback of small man alongside his cheese. Okay. Yeah, publishers do that sometimes. For the original, but there we go. Great. Yeah, but so that’s the same. So don’t buy that book twice. And if you do, don’t give me a one star review and me.

Will Jarvis 57:11
Fair enough. That’s good. Well, thanks, ed. Do you have any parting thoughts? And where can people find your your writing?

Ed West 57:18
Well, just guys on hertz, while I’m the senior editors on heard without an a un HCR, the the comms comes I’m, that’s where I’m always associated. Yeah, pretty much every possible. Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Appreciate it.

Will Jarvis 57:35
Thanks. Well, that’s our show for today. We’ll Jarvis and I’m will join us next week for more narratives.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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