William Kristol has an excellent new series of video interviews (including Elliott Abrams' anecdote about George W. Bush hunting flies in the Oval Office with an old-fashioned flyswatter while on secure teleconferences with foreign leaders). The latest one is with Yuval Levin. Some highlights of Mr. Levin's comments:
On decentralization: American society is going through a kind of decentralization where if 40 years ago you would have thought of American society as governed by large institutions – big government, big business, big labor, big academic institutions, big media – working together. And great success meant navigating these institutions in a successful way.
Now, people think of themselves as belonging to much more dynamic, smaller networks, rather than big institutions. And the large institutions just don't run the country the way they used to. Our government has not caught up with that. … The idea that you would now graduate from a university, get a job and then retire from that company 40 years later is preposterous to anybody graduating college today. No one thinks that way. So no one understands themselves as navigating big companies.
If you think about how research and development works in our country, it really used to be that there was Bell Labs and there was the Defense Department and there were large universities, research universities. They worked together, and I wouldn't want to describe that as some kind of lumbering, horrible bureaucracy. They actually achieved amazing things. They did innovate but that's done, that's no longer how things happen, and it's certainly not how innovation happens. That system inevitably ossified, and all of that kind of thing now happens in an incredibly decentralized way.
I think even the way people understand their place in society and how they relate to other Americans, a lot of it is different now, it's much more smaller, dynamic networks of people because of technology, because of the way people think about their careers and their education.
We're just less a nation of large centralized huge institutions. And that's good and bad. But our politics has not caught up with that. We still have a government that wants to be the government of that society, and, so, looks at the society that it's trying to govern as just a mess, just a huge mess that it needs to clean up. And that's a mistake. We don't need a government that cleans up the mess, we need a government that let's us prosper amidst the mess.…
On the press: almost any time that you read in the press about something you know very well, you see that it's wrong, in some meaningful way. And yet you then turn the page and read about things you know less about, and you assume you're getting an accurate story. I think there's no way around that.
It was certainly the case in the White House where almost anything that I would read about something we were doing struck me as just profoundly wrong.…
On stem cell research: You had Democrats making bizarre promises about where the research was going.
And, of course, the research has not gone very far. We're now a decade and a half after those days, and there's not been a great stem cell revolution. The science is proceeding but it's an exploratory science, it's not solving every medical problem we have. I think there's a lesson in that in general about kind of what we can expect of science, and how we should think and talk about science and public policy.
Video embedded below.