The Importance of Institutions, with Yuval Levin

interview with Yuval Levin
Friday, May 8, 2020

To watch the video, click here.

TRANSCRIPT ONLY

Peter Robinson: Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge, I'm Peter Robinson. Born in Israel, Yuva Levin moved to the United States with his family when he was eight, now director of Social, Cultural and Constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Yuval served on the domestic policy staff in the White House of George W. Bush. Yuval Levin's most recent book, "A Time to Build" from family and community to Congress and the campus. How recommitting to our institutions can revive the American dream. Yuval welcome.

Yuval Levin: Thank you very much.

Peter Robinson: The economy is strong. We have rising household income and the lowest levels of unemployment in decades, and we're not engaged in any shooting wars anywhere on Earth. There's a pretty good argument to be made that this is a good time. And here's the way you open "A Time to Build.' "Two decades ago, at the terminal of the millennium, "many Americans had a sense "that we were living at the dawn of a new age. "By now, it has become unavoidably evident "that our country has experienced the beginning "of this new millennium, less as a dawn. "Than as a twilight age."

Yuval Levin: Yeah.

Peter Robinson: If things are so good, how come they're so bad?

Yuval Levin: Yeah, this is the question that really started me on the path to this book. And it's the question that the book opens with, which is if you look at some of the familiar measures of well being, how's the economy doing, are people healthy? Are people safe? By all those measures this is a great time. And yet, if you look at how people feel about this moment, and if you look at the nature of our politics, if you look at the polarization and dysfunction we're living through, if you look at increases in suicide rates and opioid use, at what's going on on college campuses, and in a lot of arenas of American life, it seems like this is a time of intense frustration and unease. And the question is, if the problem isn't evident in those areas where we normally look to, where is the problem? And so the book looks for that problem in our social lives in the intersection of people rather than in how people are doing individually, and ultimately ends up thinking about the health of our institutions as the way to understand why we're frustrated and what otherwise seems like a good time.

Peter Robinson: All right, this is a rigorous argument, rigorous arguments begin by defining their terms, quote, "When I speak of institutions, "I mean, the durable forms of our common life, "the durable forms of our common life. "They're the frameworks and structures "of what we do together." Care to explain that.

Yuval Levin: Yeah, so this term institutions is very broad and capacious. It defines a lot of things right? You know the family is an institution, a corporation is an institution, marriages institution, the rule of law is described as an institution. I think it's right to call all those things by that same name, but that means we have to think about what that name is. And the book works through some of the attempts by academics to define the term but ultimately it comes to what for me is a sort of Aristotelian answer to the question. Our institutions are the forms of what we do together. They're not just clumps of people, they're clumps of people organized around a particular end, and organized around an ideal and a way of achieving that important goal. So some of our institutions are in charge of teaching our kids, some of them enforce the law. Some of them just provide us with a good or a service, but each of them forms the people within it into a shape that makes them capable of achieving that. And that's what makes them an institution.

Peter Robinson: You trace the collapse of confidence in institutions and the polling data is right there, you go through it. The Gallup organization has been asking Americans how much confidence they have in our institutions since the 70s. Here's just one example. In the 1970s, more than 40% of the public expressed confidence in Congress, you might think that's starting at a relatively low point. By 2011 that figure had fall into 11%.

Yuval Levin: Yeah, and you kind of have to wonder even who were those 11%.

Peter Robinson: Yes, exactly. Do you know any? I haven't met any of them. What accounts for the collapse again, "A Time to Build." "We have moved roughly speaking, "from thinking of institutions as molds," you just mentioned that, "As molds "that shape people's characters and habits, "towards seeing them instead as platforms "that allow people to display themselves "before a wider world.'

Yuval Levin: Yeah, so a collapse of trust in institutions, as you say, the fact of that happening is sort of a cliche by now. But it forces you to ask what do we actually mean by trust and institutions? It's not the most obvious idea. And surely one of the things we mean is we think the institution is competent and honest, so that incompetence and and fraud or corruption undermines our trust in institutions. But those things aren't new, incompetence and corruption. That's part of the human experience, if anything is. So it doesn't explain this, collapse of trust lately. But there is an element of our loss of trust in institutions that seems more native to the 21st century. And that has to do with the sense that we trust an institution, because we think it forms people to do their job in a trustworthy way. So that not only does it perform an important function well, it shapes the people in it to do that with integrity, and defines an ideal of integrity for them. But what we've seen in the last several decades is a transformation in our expectations of institutions. So that we think of them less as doing that now and the more as giving people platforms.

Peter Robinson: And I mold thing, I'm almost thinking of... Just to get to the point. I'm almost thinking of something as cliche as the Richard Gere movie, the old Richard Gere movie, "An Officer and a Gentleman." The young man is a mess, you put them into the military,

Yuval Levin: Yeah.

Peter Robinson: Outcomes an officer and a gentleman. That's an extreme example of what all kinds of institutions do. They take, human beings are a mess in all kinds of ways and good institutions shape them make them useful.

Yuval Levin: The military is interesting because it's the great exception to our loss of trust in institutions. Americans have higher confidence in the military now than they did when Gallup started measuring in the 70s. And I think the reason for that has everything to do with what you say here, which is, the military is unabashedly formative. It's not just good at protecting us from our enemies. Though it is, it's also good at transforming young people into responsible serious men and women. When somebody tells you that they went to Harvard, you think maybe that's a serious person, maybe that's an intelligent person, maybe not. But you know, whatever they are, they got into Harvard because Harvard sort of measured them decided if they were up to that standard, and then let them in. When someone tells you they went to the Naval Academy. You think this is a serious person. And it's because of the Naval Academy because it made them that way.

Peter Robinson: Right, all right. You discuss a number of institutions in the book. Let's take a couple, the federal government, let's start Congress, "A Time to Build," "It is perfectly obvious that something has gone wrong "with Congress, in our time, "there hasn't been a proper budget process in over a decade, "very little significant legislation gets passed. "And most members serving today "have never really been part "of a traditional legislative process." There's nobody on that hill who knows how it's... Who's seen with his own eyes, how it's done. Now, here's the especially provocative sentence. "Congress is weak, because it's members "want it to be weak."

Yuval Levin: Yeah.

Peter Robinson: Explain that.

Yuval Levin: Yeah, I mean, you know, it's easy to go looking for external pressures that create this problem, but I think Congress is the source of the problem. And in fact, a lot of our other concerns about the government, I worry a lot for example about activist judges or about the administrative state. I think those are functions of a weak Congress. Congress has left the scene empty and judges and administrative agencies have rushed in, and Congress has done it on purpose because its members don't want the responsibility for hard choices. And they don't think of what they do fundamentally in legislative terms at this point, at least many members don't. They think of it in performative terms, they think of Congress as a way to be seen making the argument for the things their voters believe in, especially to be seen, making the argument against the things that frustrate their voters. And a lot of it is about getting a better time slot on cable news or talk radio about getting a bigger social media following younger members in particular, think of Congress in extraordinarily performative terms. And they're not doing the work of bargaining and accommodation and compromise. That is ultimately what legislation is.

Peter Robinson: Let me try something that occurred to me as I was reading this part of your book, two impeachments.

Yuval Levin: Yeah.

Peter Robinson: 1972 to 73, the impeachment, Richard Nixon was never finally impeached because he stepped down before the full house voted to impeach him. Nevertheless, the impeachment proceeds pursuant to vote of the full house. It is the judiciary committee that holds open hearings. The President's Council is permitted to play a role to cross examine witnesses. There are legal wrangles between the committee and the white house, they take their time for these matters to go to court and to be decided. And when the Judiciary Committee does vote, a recommendation of impeachment to the floor of the house. It is a there are republicans who vote no, but it is a bipartisan vote. Impeachment number two, of course, is what we just saw, doesn't take places pursuant to a vote of the house but pursuant to a press conference by the speaker. It's the Intel committee, instead of the Judiciary Committee, at least at first they hold the hearings in private, the President's Council are excluded. The vote is 100% partisan. But what accounts for the difference?

Yuval Levin: I do think a big part of it is the difference between an internal process and an external show. The impeachment of Richard Nixon was a process that members of Congress went through with each other as an institution. And so they had a non-partisan staff, they had republican lawyers on the staff. And they were trying to persuade each other to vote a certain way. They were talking to one another. In this impeachment of President Trump, everyone was talking to an outside audience at all times, even in those closed hearings of the Intelligence Committee. The whole point was a fundamentally a performative point. I think that there's a way of seeing this as Congress losing its inner life. It doesn't think of itself as an institution that does its work and then goes out and talks about its work. The talking is the work. And a lot of politicians now, you know, you might have said, people seek a microphone to get power and then change things. Today, people seek power to get a microphone, and then talk about things and that's an institutional transformation,

Peter Robinson: The presidency, "A Time to Build." "Every one of our past presidents "was formed by a set of institutions "as either a senior military officer "or a government official. "Donald Trump is the first American president "who has not been shaped by any experience "in such institutions." Now, you know, that a lot of people will answer immediately, "Yes, and it was about time."

Yuval Levin: Yeah, well, I would say, first of all, Donald Trump is not the beginning of this problem in the presidency. He's an example of it, but so is his predecessor, and it's something we've seen building for a long time. But I do think that the there's a way in which President Trump thinks about the presidency as an outsider, as a platform on which to stand and complain about the government. When the President is an insider is the insider and should think of himself as operating the executive branch more than speaking about it. And so this book isn't focused on complaining about Donald Trump far from it but I do you think that--

Peter Robinson: What do you what did you see during the Obama administration? I mean, Trump is somebody that's sui generis, let's take Obama.

Yuval Levin: I think Barack Obama thought of the presidency in performative terms, more than any of his predecessors,

Peter Robinson: Really?

Yuval Levin: Maybe not as much as Donald Trump has, but more than any prior president in the sense that he understood it as a place to change the culture. He understood it in terms of a way to elevate his own profile more than to work with the system. He barely knew any members of Congress, he very rarely worked with the legislative branch in a way that presidents generally do to advance an agenda. He used executive power in ways that were just intended to avoid interacting with the system and working inside it. And by the way, part of what that's meant is that he wasn't a very consequential president, because everything he did was ephemeral. It just went away when the next show came on. I worry that some of that is happening now and with things that I do like they're also being pursued by executive action and the democrats are just keeping a list and they're gonna go through it and undo it all as soon as they have an opportunity.

Peter Robinson: The campuses, shifting from the federal government to the campuses, "A Time to Build." "Conservatives have clearly long been a minority "of American academics, but their numbers have dwindled "to a tiny remnant. "In 1969, a quarter of American professors "described themselves as right of center. "By 1999, that figure was down to 12% "recent surveys that put the number below one in 10 "and the situation is far worse in the social sciences "and the humanities. "As political scientists, Jon Shields noted in 2018," you were quoting Jon Shields, "By some prominent measures republicans make up "4% of historians, 3% of sociologists, "and a mere 2% of literature professors." And in my experience that 2% is a wild overestimate.

Yuval Levin: Yes.

Peter Robinson: So what's going on? What's going on?

Yuval Levin: I think part of this is a transformation of the culture of the university as an institution, again, into a kind of platform for political expression. So that rather than understand itself as a place for teaching and learning, it understands itself as a place for changing the culture, through forms of activism. And that means that in the course of hiring, and in the course of shaping curriculum, it's only natural to exclude people who have a completely different idea of what the purpose of the institution is. And so if you talk to people in the academy, who are involved in professional hiring decisions, they'll just they don't even understand themselves as involved in a political effort when they do this. They just think those people aren't doing what we're doing. And this is our department. And the fact is, I mean, that's worse than them setting out to exclude conservatives. I think they now understand the university in a way that systematically excludes conservatives.

Peter Robinson: So if I'm not putting it too simply in the older understanding of the university, the first mission was to understand reality. And there are lots of ways of understanding reality. That's the kind of open ended comprehensive mission. But if the mission is to pursue a particular agenda, either you're with an agenda or you don't belong here.

Yuval Levin: Yeah, I think that's right. But you know, I would say and I argue in a book that there's always been some degree of social or moral activism in the academy.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Yuval Levin: You know, universities in America in particular, were generally founded as religious institutions, with the aim of somehow transforming our society. But through teaching and learning, that's the difference. So there have always been people in the academy, who were just trying to get people skills to get jobs in our economy, that's fine. But through teaching and learning, there have always been people who are pursuing something more like liberal education, again, through teaching and learning, and there have always been some activists too. I think the real transformation we've seen even more than in the faculty is in university administration, that now understands itself as pursuing a social justice agenda. And not necessarily at all through teaching and learning, but through an administration of the campus that uses social justice language and concepts as a way of deploying power. And that is different. We've been through university crises before. But I think we're looking at one now that's a fundamental transformation of the institution's self understanding, and it is a very dangerous problem.

Peter Robinson: Conservatives used to console themselves that the kids would snap out of it. As soon as they graduated, got a job, started paying taxes and paying rent, and got out into the working world. "A Time to Build." "Talk to anyone in management "in an elite white collar company. "And you'll hear stories of the youngest employees "expecting the company to enforce "a code of political correctness "utterly unfamiliar in the world of work "until the last few years, "the reason for that is not so much "that activist professors taught them to think this way, "as that activist administrators "taught them to understand authority this way." That is the notion that now there is a transmission belt from the university, to the larger society of the progressive agenda, is entirely new, isn't it?

Yuval Levin: I think that's right. It's part of another novel development, which is that we in America now to a greater degree than ever, I think, have a single elite at the top of our institutions. It used to be the case and Europeans would always comment on this, that the people who ran America's elite cultural institutions were just from a different planet than the people who ran its business institutions.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Yuval Levin: Or who ran its universities or its banks. These are just different elites. They came from different parts of our society they had different educational backgrounds, different cultural affinities. I think we now have a sector of society that is our elite, and it runs everything. And these are folks who all went to the same schools who all have the same kind of formation, the same kind of culture. And that means that there is a transmission belt from the culture of Yale to the culture of our major corporations. And there is a sense of expectation that these places should be like one another, they should all operate by this logic of a kind of social justice. I do think it still happens that people mature out of a kind of immature progressivism, but it happens, less--

Peter Robinson: First, they support Bernie Sanders

Yuval Levin: Apparently so right? I think it happens less in our elite institutions. And that matters a lot, because those are important institutions. So we still find people gradually becoming a little more conservative over time, but there's a transmission now that makes a difference.

Peter Robinson: Yuval what you're saying is if you go to Yale it takes you much longer in life to wake up to reality.

Yuval Levin: Well, yeah, because then you find yourself moving into all kinds of other institutions that encourage you to understand the world in the way that Yale did rather than in the way that the world demands.

Peter Robinson: You talk about the old, the last elite, the old WASP, the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant elite, played a big role of running the company right up until the 1960s. And the person, George H. W. Bush, the old man they were still here through the 80s and first couple of years of the 90s. Dean Acheson in the State Department, John J. McCloy, these large figures, especially who built the post war world, "A Time to Build." "They were expected to subject themselves "to a code of behavior, a commitment to public service, "a degree of personal reticence, "a regard for the rules of fair play, "and a sense of responsibility rooted "in the implicit recognition that their power "was an inherited privilege, not an earned achievement." That old crowd, yes, if you weren't white, and if you weren't protestant--

Yuval Levin: That's important.

Peter Robinson: You were gonna have a hard time. And in those days, of course, if you were a woman, it was exclusive. Nevertheless, on its own terms.

Yuval Levin: Yeah.

Peter Robinson: It wasn't oppressive.

Yuval Levin: Now I don't want to overly idealize that. And the book is careful about that there were ways in which they abused their power. But they did have this standard, so that those abuses were also hypocrisies. And that matters. It matters that people, I would put it this way, I think it's useful to pretend to be a good person, because over time, that's how you become a good person.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Yuval Levin: Right, and so to hold yourself up to a standard and at least make the claim that this is your standard does make an important difference. I think part of what's happened is that in an age of meritocracy, we're much more careful about letting people into our elite institutions, about broadening the paths upward in American society. But we care much less about then constraining those elites and holding them to a standard so that people who make their way up through the meritocracy then are not expected to subject themselves to the kind of standards that more aristocratic way of thinking about power would hold them to. And the aristocrats didn't live up to those standards perfectly. Don't get me wrong, but having the standard allowed for society to have a way to judge the people running our institutions that we now really lack and it's harder to take them seriously when it doesn't seem like they're serving the public.

Peter Robinson: All right, this is, I think this is actually kind of a chilling passage, in which you describe today's elite. "Our meritocracy," you have a high SAT score, you go to a top 20 school. "Our meritocracy is radically individualistic, "and dismally technocratic, "merit is demonstrated by test scores and a glittering resume, "rather than service to the larger society, "and is then often put to use "in various forms of management and administration. "The sort of elite this produces implicitly substitutes "a cold and sterile notion of intellect, "for a warm and spirited understanding of character." We have a new ruling class. And they're repellent.

Yuval Levin: Well, I worry about this. I mean, this is the argument that the book really ends with. It's a case for recovering a more formative idea of institutions. Because I think that ultimately, we need institutions to act as constraints on the tendency of this kind of elite, to abuse its power in these ways. And what institutions when they're healthy can do for us is hold us up to a standard of integrity. Integrity is another way of saying character, and it's more than just competence. Though our elites are incompetent too and the way that elites often are. But there's an additional problem that they don't hold themselves up to a standard of character and integrity. And that becomes intolerable. I think that is why our society is so frustrated with its elites. That's why we're living in a populist moment. It's not that it's too hard to get into Yale, it's that once you do, you then have a way of using your power that's not held up to a standard. And that can't be answered with any amount of greater affirmative action or more meritocracy. It has to be answered with a standard of integrity.

Peter Robinson: It is worth repeating. You mentioned it just now. But if you're puzzled by the emergence of populism, Donald Trump on one side and Bernie Sanders on the other,

Yuval Levin: Yeah.

Peter Robinson: This is an adequate explanation. Ordinary Americans in the 10s of millions have had it with this ruling class. I'm putting it a little crassly. But that's what you're saying that's your argument isn't it?

Yuval Levin: There's a lot to that, I think that that the idea that the people at the top of these institutions aren't working for us, but for themselves, is what makes it impossible for us to have confidence in our society. And that can only be changed by holding them up to some standard.

Peter Robinson: And one more question about this. The old, the old Waspy elite operates on a sense of noblesse oblige. They recognize they're in a privileged position and that confers a responsibility on them to engage in public service. George H. W. Bush is the prime example of this. Okay, on the other hand, well, we're talking about a Yale man we may as well stick with Yale. Every kid in that gorgeous campus in New Haven today benefits from privilege from from shared giftedness. They were born with them, they didn't achieve the brains that enabled them to get the SAT, they were born with it. They also didn't simply, no doubt they all worked hard. But they had parents who engaged in a heroic effort and teachers who backed them and they are just as much the beneficiaries of sacrifice and shear giftedness as were George H. W. Bush and Averell Harriman and the old WASP elite. Why did the George Bush's of the world feel a sense of responsibility? And these kids are now in it for themselves? What's gone--

Yuval Levin: You know, there's something interesting about the language of privilege in today's social justice talk, because that language is all over the place, right? But it's used in a way that simply delegitimizes our institutions that says privileged can't be made right. So that what it means is that the people who have it are essentially illegitimate. I think what the George H. W. Bush's of the world understood, is that there's no getting around having an elite in a society somehow one way or another there's always gonna be one. And so the answer to that is not to say that it's illegitimate but to say that it has to answer to the larger society, that there have to be imposed upon it some obligations of service and responsibility. And that that's the way to make it more legitimate. Today's left almost says there's no way to make it more legitimate. And given that there's no alternative to it that basically just leaves them saying our society is illegitimate, which is what they say about our society. I think we have to find ways for us to understand how our society can find paths to democratic legitimacy, given the fact that there is no perfectly equal society and that there is always going to be an elite. And I think an understanding of institutions as morally formative is an essential piece of that puzzle and that we've lost that understanding. So that's part of why we're a little lost on this question.

Peter Robinson: All right, this brings us of course, to what is to be done. "A Time to Build." "The way to take on the crisis of legitimacy "that we now confront, is to reinvest ourselves "in our institutions, to work to reform them "with integrity in mind "and at the same time to pour ourselves into them. "And so let form us. "What I'm proposing here, in other words, "is a modest change in our stance "toward our country and the social crisis it confronts, "thinking and speaking just a little differently "about how we live together "and can make a bigger difference "than you might even imagine." All right, Yuval, a modest change, thinking and speaking just a little differently. I took this book and I just thought, Yuval, for the first 4/5 of this book, you thunder, as if you were Jeremiah, the prophet himself. And then when it comes to recommendations, a modest proposal thinking, you sound like Mr. Rogers, what this is... I have to say that, I wanna say, "Yuval no, you've gotta tell us more than that."

Yuval Levin: So look, I'm a conservative. I think it's important to resist the urge to respond to big problems with an agenda of public policies and this book doesn't end with one of those, it just doesn't. I don't think there's a solution to this problem that looks like public policy. I think there's a solution to this problem that looks like a kind of moral reformation. And I think that starts by an individual change in attitudes. Look, it would be great to also have a religious revival. That'd be wonderful. I don't know how to do that. And I wouldn't want to pretend to know, I don't think this is a book that could have ended with a with an agenda chapter. I think it's a book that has to end with a call for thinking differently. And really, actually, that's what thundering about social and moral problems should lead to, it should lead us to understand that we are each part of the problem. And that means that we each can be part of the solution. And at the core of that is what I think of in the book as the great unasked question of American life in this moment, which is given my role here. How should I behave? Given that I'm a parent or a president or a member of Congress or the vice principal of an elementary school, given that, what choice should I make in this situation? I think the failure to ask that question is behind an amazing amount of what's wrong in our country in this moment, and that the people we respect in this period are people who seem to ask that question when they should. We can all start by doing that. And beyond that, there are reform agendas in each of our institutions--

Peter Robinson: Name a few people you particularly respect. Who are a few examples?

Yuval Levin: Well, look, I think that there are, I think that there are certainly people in my own life in my religious community, in my children's school, or I think of my parents--

Peter Robinson: And well, see that's actually... You didn't reach for public figures.

Yuval Levin: Yeah, that's right.

Peter Robinson: There's a rabbi. There's a couple of teachers, there are grandparents--

Yuval Levin: We're not blessed by great public figures in this moment, but I do think that you can find at the state and local level, very often my governor in Maryland is somebody who seems to think--

Peter Robinson: It's governor who?

Yuval Levin: Larry Hogan.

Peter Robinson: Haven't been in California for a longtime, don't worry.

Yuval Levin: He's a, oddly a republican governor in Maryland, I don't know how that happened, other than I voted for the guy, but he is somebody who has to work with a very progressive legislature. And he seems always to ask himself, "What's the governor's job here?" Rather than, "What's the show that I need to put on?" I think you can find people in the military who think this way. I'm sure you can find people in your own life and in your own institution who think this way. Look, I wish we had more political figures who think this way. We don't have enough.

Peter Robinson: So let me, let me try an alternative argument on you, which I'm sure you will smash. But I'd like to see how you smash it. Here's the alternative argument. The institutions are just fine. Here's the problem. The problem is that we are engaged in a multi-decade war. And it is, and just as we were engaged in the war in let's say, 1850. Congress wasn't working too terribly well in 1850 either. And what was happening was there was just a deadlock between opposed views in our time, one side is technocratic and materialistic and enthralled with the power of the state. And the other insists on personal liberty and a certain respect for religion and traditional morality. And the institutions actually are holding up pretty well. We still have elections, the rule of law still obtains, but the trouble won't end until one side wins and the other side loses.

Yuval Levin: Well, I think that's never gonna happen.

Peter Robinson: You think there will never be a final victory?

Yuval Levin: Yes, I think we have to understand that our society like any free society is always engaged in some kind of struggle about its fundamental character. And the the structure of our institutions is built to help that kind of society allow enough space for people to build good lives for themselves and their families and the communities given that reality. So if you think about Congress, for example, Congress is not built on the notion that there's going to be a durable majority that will just get to govern and get its way. Some European Parliament's are built that way. Our Congress has never been built that way. It's always been built in a way that demands compromise and accommodation. And only works if that happens. I think that's good for us, given that we are in a struggle, a real struggle and important one, for what the character of our society should be. Given that fact we have to find ways to accommodate each other. Because the people we disagree with, are still gonna be here tomorrow. And I think there is a way that our politics now works in such a way that each party, first of all, thinks the country's biggest problem is the other party. And second of all things after this next election, they're not gonna be a problem anymore. We're gonna win everything. I don't think the first is true. And I'm sure the second isn't true. And there are some actual problems that we could just do better on. Look, they're not gonna go away. But could we be a little better at governing ourselves even given the fact that this culture war is not about to end, I think we could be a little better.

Peter Robinson: Okay, Yuval would you close our conversation by quoting from your book, reading rather from your book, "A Time to Build," let's see.

Yuval Levin: "There is reason to think that renewal is possible "because the hunger for it is evident "in the very symptoms of decline around us now. "The fact of our dissatisfaction "should send us searching for signs of that hunger. "But these signs might not be quite what we expect. "They might at first look like a hard edged "student movement demanding conformity, "when what the activists are really seeking "is legitimate authority. "Or they might look like young people "flocking to teachers of discipline and order "as a first step on a search for meaning or for God. "They might come in the guise of a populism "that insists it sees corruption in all directions, "but as ultimately desperate for an integrity "that it can barely name. "Institutions are what everyone is talking about, "but no one names there at the core of what we lack "the demolition crews are for too long "been allowed to define the spirit of this era in America, "but where we're headed, "will be up to the builders and re builders "and that is what we each should seek to be."

Peter Robinson: Yuval Levin author of, "A Time to Build." Thank you very much.

Yuval Levin: Thank you.

Peter Robinson: For Uncommon Knowledge, the Hoover Institution and Fox Nation, I'm Peter Robinson.