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Peter Robinson: Welcome to "Uncommon Knowledge." I'm Peter Robinson. Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Dr. Hanson is the author of many books, including the classics study "A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War," Dr. Hanson's newest volume, published this very month of October, "The Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America." Victor, welcome.
Victor Davis Hanson: Thank you for having me.
Peter Robinson: All right, let's begin with the text for today, the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 22, and an incident that took place 2,000 years ago. St. Paul is testifying in Jerusalem. The crowd reacts so violently that Roman soldiers intervene and the commander orders Paul flogged. I'm going to pick it up at verse 25: "As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the Centurion standing there, 'Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen?' When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. The commander went to Paul and asked, 'Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?' 'Yes, I am,' he answered. The commander was alarmed when he realized have had put a Roman citizen in chains," close quote. The story continues Paul demands a trial in Rome, and, indeed, he is taken to Rome, where he is martyred. 2,000 years ago citizenship meant something so definite, so meaningful, so specific that it commands respect from a common commander hundreds of miles from Rome. How should Americans read that passage today? As a reproach to our own loss of the idea?
Victor Davis Hanson: With nostalgia.
Peter Robinson: "With nostalgia."
Victor Davis Hanson: Because what Paul is talking about... It's a take-off on a very famous passage, I think, from Cicero, where he says any man in the Republic, the late Republic / early Empire, all he had to say was, "I am a"... And the doors were open because of the prestige. And so you can really see what people want and what they're naive about or they don't care about or they're lackadaisical about. People are crossing our border. Are we having an outcry? "I need to be a citizen. I wanna be a citizen." They talk about Amnesty, but nobody says, "Amnesty, I wanna be a citizen," and so the dividing line from a resident and a citizen, what is it now? It used to be monumental. It was you can't hold unless you're a citizen.
Peter Robinson: A citizen.
Victor Davis Hanson: I think that's still... That's been under attack. I can't vote unless I'm a... You can vote in some board elections in Massachusetts and California if you're not a citizen. You cannot qualify for entitlements. That's gone. A citizen has the permission to leave his country and come back at will, but now it's just the opposite. I come into SFO and I don't have a passport, I go into a little room and I'm in trouble. I go fly into Mexico City and I cross the border, I can do it with impunity. So those barriers, or divides, or whatever term we use, have dissipate. They no longer exist.
Peter Robinson: "Today only a little more than half the world's seven build people"; I'm quoting from "The Dying Citizen"; "are citizens of fully consensual governments enjoying constitutionally protected freedoms. They're almost all Western. These realities explain why millions from North Africa risk drowning in the Mediterranean to reach Europe and why millions more uproot from Mexico and Latin America to cross the southern border of the United States," close quote. Here's the question that that raises right away: is citizenship coincidental or is it central to the way of functioning that sets the Western world apart? D'you see what I'm saying?
Victor Davis Hanson: I do.
Peter Robinson: Let's say, a Mexican from some poor mountain town in Oaxaca, what he wants is a better life for himself and his family. He's drawn to the economic engine of the United States. Citizenship is incidental in his mind, but is it incidental to the American project itself?
Victor Davis Hanson: Well, citizenship is a synonym for a constitutional republic, and it's very rare. It's fragile, doesn't exist in history very much. It's the aberration. And it's very difficult to make people pick their own leaders, audit 'em, vote on issues of revenue and taxation, et cetera, so most people will outsource that to monarchs or tyrants or somebody else. But this idea that you're an independent autonomous middle-class citizen is very rare. And when you talk to people who come from Mexico, and I do a lot, they say things that nobody would guess. They don't say, "I just came here for better wages." There's a friend of mine, Raul. I won't give his last name. He said, "You know, I came up here because when I was in Oaxaca, no one ever called me senior. It was 'You' or 'Rau.' I came up here. The first thing I notice when I went into the doctor's office in Selma California"; I'll just use the word Mendez; "'Mr. Raul Mendez, can I help you?'" In other words, as citizen... He thought he was a citizen, but people were given a modicum of respect, so we wanna cherish that. You cannot have citizenship, as I said in the book, unless you have a sacred space that inculcates traditions and customs.
Peter Robinson: Borders.
Victor Davis Hanson: Borders.
Peter Robinson: A sacred space within borders.
Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, you go to Greece, wars were over borders because they thought that Thebes and Athens or Argos and Sparta, that they had to have that space, and they were very jealous of it because outside of the space, they didn't have the power, they didn't have the control, they didn't have the money to extend their citizenship. The idea was if you try to extend citizenship beyond your natural confines, then you dilute it at the core, like the British Empire. And then, right at the core, at London, you've got Dickens writing "David Copperfield." It's rotten at the core.
Peter Robinson: Right, right, Victor, you divide the book "The Dying Citizen" into two parts, and the first part of the book you entitled "Precitizens," and you describe certain states from which entities, nations, must raise their people before they can achieve real citizenship and into which various forces are now dragging Americans back, right?
Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.
Peter Robinson: Could we take a few of those?
Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.
Peter Robinson: Just take me through them. One of these is... I'm going to call it disappearing self-sufficiency, but I'm going to quote you: "The population cannot exercise its rights without material security that only the economic self-reliance and autonomy of the middle class ensure," close quote. And you illustrate this point by talking about the democracy of ancient Greece where only those with a certain degree of property, not the very rich, but they had to have some property, were permitted to participate in the assembly. I'm continuing to quote you: "Today the modern suburban everyman is becoming a nostalgic ideal rather than a vibrant reality. Indeed, the American middle class has lost economic ground for nearly half a century." During this half a century, by one mismeasure after another... The country's gotten richer, so you don't mean just... We all have iPhones that we didn't used to have.
Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, and I say in the-
Peter Robinson: So what do you mean? What do you mean by this?
Victor Davis Hanson: Well, we have these appurtenances, and we can call Nigeria or Moscow, and we couldn't do that with a million dollars 30 years ago. I understand that, but I'm talking about the ability to function within a society in an autonomous fashion. So if you're a young person, you get your sociology major, and what d'you do? Ya have $50,000/$60,000/$80,000 in debt, $1.7 trillion in debt. And if you die in your middle-
Peter Robinson: In student debt.
Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, student debt. The average person dies with about a net worth of $10,000 and about $10,000 in credit card debt, so you're not creating people who are going to say to wealthy people, "I wanna be very careful that these very powerful influential people do not leverage/warp/massage government action." I'm quoting, almost, Aristotle now, and you don't want people who are very impoverished to say to the government, "I need a subsidy." So you've got these middle people that said: I don't need the government, and I don't need wealthy people. I'm an independent person. I'm going to audit my elected officials. I'm gonna speak out if I disagree with General Milley. If I don't like Anthony Fauci's policy, I'm gonna say so. I'm not worried about the government retaliating to me. I'm not worried about a Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. He can't hurt me. I'm an independent. And yet what d'you have? Tocqueville was brilliant. In "Democracy in America," basically, he forecast what would happen when you had an entitlement state: you have a prolonged adolescence. So what are we doing now? If you look at the first age of marriage, 23 to 29; first child, 26 to 30.
Peter Robinson: Over what period of time? Over the last 20 years or so?
Victor Davis Hanson: Over about 50 years.
Peter Robinson:Okay, all right, sorry.
Victor Davis Hanson: 50 years, and then, buying a house, we were making progress, 63%. It's going down, and the age is going up. And so we're having these people. I guess Obama knew something that we didn't when he had the Pajama Boy commercial and "The Life of Julia," that we were creating dependent people upon government or the largesse of wealthy people.
Peter Robinson: An infantilized population.
Victor Davis Hanson: It was. It was very valuable for-
Peter Robinson: whether it has cellphones or not does not make for citizens.
Victor Davis Hanson: And just to finish on the middle class, I was very lucky that I was a classics student, because that's central, the , or central to the experience of civic government and consensual government, and they're mentioned everywhere in classical literature, Roman and Greek literature. But I've also lived in California, and it's a medieval society of rich and poor with the highest poverty rate the United States, the most people in the country that are on-
Peter Robinson: Hang on a second. When you were a boy growing up on the family ranch in Selma, what was California like?
Victor Davis Hanson: Boy, it was an-
Peter Robinson: California was wonderful in the '50s, but I'm not... What was it actually like? What was the like?
Victor Davis Hanson: It was an agrarian grid. The average farm size where we lived was about 60 acres. There was a house and a family, and they were in the PTA. They were on the hospital board. They were the Little League coaches. There was a community.
Peter Robinson: Those 60 acres were theirs.
Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, and we would say, poor people, they were not very wealthy but they were wealthy in a different sense. They had their own food. They canned them. We dried tomatoes. Therefore, we had 'em all winter. We had grape... We did everything. And we were outspoken. We didn't care what the wealthy thought of us. We don't want anything to do with 'em, the poor. And there was the natural diversity. There was a Greek American family. There was a Mexican American family. There was the Armenian family. There was a Japanese... No one cared.
Victor Davis Hanson: Peter Robinson: Because everybody had standing.
Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, and they were all autonomous. And yet, now that same grid... I'm the last person of that neighborhood.
Peter Robinson: Replaced by? Super agri...
Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, vast corporate farms.
Peter Robinson: Big Ag?
Victor Davis Hanson: And I rent min out to a corporate farm, my little 40 acres, and the houses are now rented to very impoverished people, so we're plagued with gangs and crimes, and there's no sense of community. And that's California. We've had about 8 to 10 million people leave the state who are middle class. We had an open border where very impoverished, hard-working but impoverished, people came under illegal auspices, and then, we had the highest concentration of wealth in the history of civilization in Silicon Valley, $5 trillion, a few miles from where we're speaking right now, of market capitalization. And so you can see that it's a coastal elite, and then, it's a vast peasantry in the interior and the Foothills, Northern California.
Peter Robinson: The erosion of borders, "The Dying Citizen" once again: "States must privilege citizens over mere residents, and citizens must live within established borders." Here's that marvelous phrase of yours again: "must live within established borders sharing a sacred physical space," close quote. The trouble today, again, "The Dying Citizen": "We now live in an increasingly borderless world," close quote. Borderless, I get the borderless because you turn on the television and you can see streams of people from the South not being... I don't know what the word... Well, they're streaming across.
Victor Davis Hanson: Two million in this fiscal year?
Peter Robinson: Right, right, streaming across the southern border, but you mean more than that. You said a moment ago we can call Nigeria or Moscow on our cellphone. There's some sense of a loss of... Part of the problem is tech? No? Yes? No? I'm trying to feel my way here.
Victor Davis Hanson: Well, absolutely, and this has some relevance for the last chapter, on globalization. What we were saying is that the communications eroded time and space, so we could go somewhere, or you could speak somewhere, and there was a uniformity of culture. I get that, but in reaction to that, the physical borders in Europe but especially, in the United States, southern border and places in Asia started to collapse, and people got angry because the first thing they discovered is when people migrated across, usually for economic reasons, and they did so in mass, often under illegal auspices, often without capital or skills, then they became wards of the state, and they added to the subsidies that were required to give them parity when we're enlightened societies and the tax's burden on the middle class. And wages fell. Middle-class wages fell, and crime rose. It's just a fact. And when you meet somebody at the barbershop and you meet somebody at the hospital emergency room and they're not a citizen and they're not here legally or they're not even a legal resident, what d'you have in common, other than your basic humanity? Do you say, "What d'you think of Fourth of July this weekend?" "Who's your favorite president?" "Are you gonna be a Little League coach?" There's a foreignness there. It's okay if it's a small minority of a population, but when you have 40 to 50 million people that were not born the United States... Some of 'em are legal residents. Some of 'em have been natr-. A lot haven't. Or 27% of the state of California were not born the United States; again, some, legal residents. Then, you're encountering too many people that don't have the common, shared civic reinforcement. And so when you ask them, "What d'you think of the electoral college?" or "what d'you think of getting rid of the nine-person Supreme Court?" or "what d'you think of outlawing gas lawnmowers in California?" or "d'you like the 99 being the most dangerous highway in the United States?" you're met with a blank stare: "I don't know anything. Ask me a question about Oaxaca and I can tell you." And when you add it, finally, Peter, to the host... We're the host, and we used to say: "You chose to come in. We didn't ask you. You chose to have a different paradigm from where you left, and we're gonna have a little bargain. You're gonna assimilate. You were gonna integrate ya. We're gonna make you a perfect American, and if you do this, you have just as much right as somebody who came across on the Mayflower," as Teddy Roosevelt said. "Seven generations mean nothing. You are the equal to the daughters of the Conf- the Revolution." And now we say, "Who are we to judge? Who are we to say that our system is better than theirs?" Hello? They left theirs. They forsake it. They're here.
Peter Robinson: They're the ones who said that our system is better than theirs. Victor, there's the economic argument again. I just wanna put it to you to see what you do with it. Here's somebody called Andy Semiotuk, if I'm pronouncing it correctly, in "Forbes": "According to the last census, the U.S. population grew at the second-slowest rate over the last decade since the founding of the country. The two main reasons were declining fertility rate and a reduction in immigration. Our future wellbeing is intricately linked to increased immigration, a lot more immigration," close quote, 'cause ya need immigrants for economic growth.
Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, well, when he says that... I don't wanna be untoward, but he uses the word immigration. He didn't say, "Legal immigration," versus illegal immigration. We have two million people coming in this fiscal year illegally, and the first thing they do is violate federal law when they step foot in the United State. The second thing they do is violate federal law when they reside here, and often, until this administration, the third thing they do is have identification that justifies or protects them when asked, fraudulent Social Security number, driver's license, et cetera. So they conflate the two. Just take away illegal immigration and look at legal immigration. We take more legal immigrants than any country in the world, unless you say, "Well, Saudi Arabia has guest workers that go back and forth," so already, we are the most liberal country in the world as far as immigration. Everybody knows that, but what people do is, because they have other agendas, whether they're corporate people who want cheap labor, whether they're ethnic groups that want an identity politics base, whether they wanna change the electorate for the electoral college, whether the Mexico or they want reparations, excuse me, remissions, 60 billion for Central America and Mexico per year from people who are mostly on subsidies in addition to their wages to send back to Mexico. Maybe they want a safety valve, so revolutionaries go north rather than march on a racist Mexico City. Whatever the reason is, people realize that illegal immigration benefits people, benefits people. But it does not benefit the citizen, the middle class. Legal immigration does.
Peter Robinson: All right, one more of these categories of pre-citizenship, tribal identity. "The Dying Citizen," quote: "All citizens should give up their own ethnic, racial, and tribal primary identities. Only through such a brutal bargain of assimilation"... You come here, you learn English, you learn the way our government works, correct? That's the kind of assimilation you mean. "Only through such a brutal bargain of assimilation can they sustain a common culture." What's wrong today? Again, "The Dying Citizen": "Until the late 20th century, the United States suffered only sporadic episodes of blood-and-soil exclusivity and instead, usually through intermarriage and assimilation, made the idea of racial or ethnic purity inert." Now the nation is threatening to go tribal: "Once a man owes more loyalty to his first cousin than to a fellow citizen a constitutional republic cannot exist," close quote. Explain that.
Victor Davis Hanson: First of all there's been very few multiracial societies of any sort in history. The natural birds of a feather flock together is the norm, as Socrates said. Okay, so when you have a multiracial country and people are naturally tribal, you can use coercion like the Soviet Union did or the Ottoman Empire or the Roman Empire, or you try to be a democratic consensual country. Or you can do Yugoslavia. Remember how that worked out? Or Rwanda? Or you can be consensual like India and Brazil. Doesn't work out that great. We're the only one that's tried. If you, Peter Robinson, says, "I love Japan, so now I wanna be a Japanese citizen and rise high and be a political pundit on Japanese TV and run for office," zero chance.
Peter Robinson: Zero. Zero.
Victor Davis Hanson: If I say, "I love Mexican people"; I do, and I love Mexico; "I'm gonna go down and be a Mexican citizen and someday be pre-," zero chance.
Peter Robinson: Gringo forever.
Victor Davis Hanson: Zero, okay, so this was a unique experiment. Nobody seems to appreciate that, and Martin Luther King, Jr., told us that the content of our character was more important than the color of our skin. Here we are 50 years after the civil rights movement, and we're retribalizing with complete ignorance of where that trajectory leads in history. It leads to blood-and-soil violence. It leads to incompetency. It leads to the destruction of meritocracy.
Peter Robinson: Could I?
Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah.
Peter Robinson: You just mentioned Martin Luther King, Jr. You write here that we had only sporadic episodes of blood and soil, but, of course, we have Jim Crow.
Victor Davis Hanson: We did, and we had slavery.
Peter Robinson: But the argument is that, somehow or other, there was a century of delayed assimil-. What is it? How does that fit into your argument about the virtues of this republic, about how we finally come to-
Victor Davis Hanson: Because it's innate in the Declaration of Independence: "All men are created equal." And in the constitution, there's not a mention of race at all, so you have these European-
Peter Robinson: So the ideas are latent, and finally, we live up to them.
Victor Davis Hanson: They're human. They're just fought the British, and now they've got this country. And then, half of 'em, not half but a quarter of 'em, have slaves, and the other people say, "You shouldn't have slave." And they said, "We're gonna keep our slaves." And then, it's a question: "Don we wanna have another war right after this war?" And they said no.
Peter Robinson: Let's kick that one-
Victor Davis Hanson: "Okay, so let's do this, but let's work on it." And so they worked on it, and they were slow and tardy, but the innate logic of this constitution is self-criticism and improvement, and we always do that. But now, speaking as someone who's taught 21 years with mostly minority students in classics, I was under the impression that, because of economic conditions and innate prejudices, I was going to take Southeast Asian students, Mexican American students, Mexican national, the diaspora of Oklahoma poor whites and teach them classics, diction, logic, analysis, English composition, maybe they could read French, and history, literature. And then, they were gonna have a prep school education at Cal State, Fresno, and I was gonna send them where they wanted, to go to med school, law... And they would be better prepared, racially blind. And it worked, and then, all of a sudden, I noticed that some of my students were very, very successful, and guess what. The last 10 years, I notice that they started to trill their R's on their name or they put a hyphen with an accent mark or they started to say, "As a Chicana" or "As a black person." And I said, "Where did you get that? You're better educated than a guy from Andover." And they said, "Well, it pays dividends." We're making a retrogression to a pre-civilized state of mind.
Peter Robinson: The second half of the book, "Postcitizens." Part one, "Precitizens," the state of humanity from which it must be raised in order to enjoy citizenship.
Victor Davis Hanson: It's natural, precivilizational state.
Peter Robinson: "Postcitizens" doesn't transcend citizenship except in the minds of the people who see themselves as post-
Victor Davis Hanson: And, as I say, it's mostly an elite right.
Peter Robinson: Okay, so let's take a couple of these. I want to stipulate that's you've written a book, and this is a vidcast. I'm working really hard to reduce an ox to a bouillon cube here.
Victor Davis Hanson: You're doing a very good job.
Peter Robinson: Well, thank you, but people should read the book "The Dying Citizen." All right, permanent bureaucracy.
Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.
Peter Robinson: "The Dying Citizen," quote: "An unelected federal bureaucracy yearly creates more laws and regulations than the House and Senate. The Bureaucratic elite"... Both of those words are doing a lot of work in that sentence: "The bureaucratic elite believes that it can and should preempt any elected official who it deems dangerous," close quote. Preempting elected officials has what to do with ordinary citizens, ordinary middle-class citizens?
Victor Davis Hanson: I think people, from the founding realized, when they looked at other paradigms, whether it was the, the Spanish Empire or Versailles of the French Empire, or the Bourbons, or the Kremlin, the czars, that government, by nature, has people who master its intricacies. They're not elected. These people were not elected, but even when monarchs come in, they have to rely on these other people.
Peter Robinson: They need the bureaucrats.
Victor Davis Hanson: And when you apply that to the democracy, it's contradictory to the spirit of a citizen legislature or executive or judge, and so they were very wary of that. The government was pretty small. Federal government basically dealt with tariffs. It didn't get into civil... So we started to expand, and we expanded on the notion that equality, to its fruition today, is now equity. It's not equality of opportunity. It's equality of result. Now, you and I are not born equally. I don't know. You might have better health or worse health. Your IQ's probably higher than mine.
Peter Robinson: Doubtful, but carry on.
Victor Davis Hanson: I may be luckier than you. You may be luckier than I, but if the government says we're gonna be equal, then it needs enormous powers of coercion to make you go down and me go up, and so that requires a huge government, and that was what the philosophical tradition warned about. And yet, we've got two million people in the federal government, and about 40% of Americans work for some sort of government. It's from the trivial or the everyday when you're driving down the 99 or I-5, and you see a road construction, and there's girders all over the road, and there's guys working, and you think, "I could sue that guy." It's the most dangerous work site. And then, you say, "Caltrans, I can't sue them. They're the government." But if a private contractor did that, and I'm speaking as a private farmer... As we know from the Soviet, when government is everything, you have no power of redress, and then, second, at the existential level, what does Lois Lerner, IRS commissioner; General Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs; John Brennan, James Clapper-
Peter Robinson: Former senior for...
Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, John Brennan had the CIA.
Peter Robinson: CIA, right.
Victor Davis Hanson: Be fair to all of 'em. James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence. We can add in, if we want, Andrew McCabe, acting FBI, and James Comey. What do they all have in common? We'll put in Anthony Fauci because you've had guest that talked about that. They're never responsible for the consequences of their own ideologies. So if John Brennan says, "Well, I lied. I admit that. I didn't tell the truth about the Senate commuters that we in the CIA surveil. All right, yes, there were people who were killed on drone... I misspoke under oath," try that with the IRS. Or when James Clapper says, "Well, the NSA does surveil people, but I gave the least untruthful answer," or Lois Lerner said, "Well, we did use political considerations to target these nonprofit groups and delay them before the election of 2012," or General Milley said, "Well, ya know, I really didn't, kinda sorta didn't, break the chain of command by interrupting the protocols about nuclear codes-
Peter Robinson: And calling the Chinese.
Victor Davis Hanson: Or violating Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice by calling my Commander-in-Chief a Nazi, or Hitlerian." That's alleged in Bob Woodward's book. I could go on, but you have this elite. They're like an amoeba, and they're not accountable, and they're judge, jury, executioner. They're executive, judicial, legislative power.
Peter Robinson: The rules do not apply to them.
Victor Davis Hanson: And that's why they make-
Peter Robinson: And they also cannot be voted out of office.
Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, I was very naive. I was a classicist and a farmer. And then, I learned one day; I think it was at the age of 26; I didn't own the raisin crop that I was growing. The federal government called the Raisin Administrative Committee owned it, and so, all of a sudden, the price fell out in 1982-3. I thought, "Wow, it doesn't make sense to send the crop. I'll just pack it and send it farmers market." And they said, "No, you don't. The Raisin Administrative can set aside a reserve tonnage. This year it's 70%. 70% of that crop is ours. You don't own it. We're gonna take it. And we're gonna make cattle feed or throw it away or send it to Europe for free." I said, "But you don't own it." Yes, you do. It took a 30-year lawsuit for one grower that challenged it. So it's too big, and it's two unaccountable, and it does a lotta things that are very scary. And we're watching it now, whether it's the Pentagon or an intelligence. Eisenhower said, "Beware of the military-industrial complex." Now, I think, we're gonna have to say, "Beware of the military, industrial, intelligence, and investigative complex," to encompass these bureaucracies.
Peter Robinson: Globalism, "The Dying Citizen," you cite the widespread belief among elites, quote, that "Americans are becoming citizens of the world.
Victor Davis Hanson: Good word in Greek.
Peter Robinson: An ancient but unworkable idea of cosmopolitanism has reemerged," close quote. "An ancient."
Victor Davis Hanson: Cosmos, universe, citizen, Socrates and Diogenes supposedly said it, supposedly.
Peter Robinson: But I think of this idea of citizenship of the world... This idea comes to us because air travel is cheap and easy, because it's very easy to communicate with anybody on the face of the planet who's hooked up to the internet. With WhatsApp it's free to call Europe. I think of this a technology erasing our sense of citizenship. But then Victor says, "This is an ancient idea." Explain.
Victor Davis Hanson: Well, I think what's happened in the last 30 years, what you talk about, the global inclusivity of cellphones and dish TV, jet travel, has been confused that because we all wear tie-dye T-shirts and flip-flops and jeans whatever country we're in or we say, "Okay, man," or the F-word or you can go to Argentina or you can go to Taiwan and hear rap music, we're all in the brotherhood of man. We're not. As I aid, 190 nations, as your read. Less than half of 'em are consensual, so if you confuse this harmony that's a veneer, this similarity, with something existential-
Peter Robinson: It's only similarity. It's only similarity.
Victor Davis Hanson: It's only a similarity. And give ya an example. Where it leads to is Secretary of State Blinken asking the United Nations to investigate whether the United States is racist or not, so it basically is telling Americans, "I trust and ecumenical body of nations 60% of whom are not consensual, and they include China that has 1.4 people in camps, and they may have political reasons to find us racist," but we're gonna abide by their recommendations? Or the criminal court or the Paris Climate Accord. It was summed up by Klaus Schwab, the architect of Davos. Remember him?
Peter Robinson: Right.
Victor Davis Hanson: Good old Klaus Schwab. I've read some of his books, and he wrote a book "The Great Reset" and "well, if we could just get all of the elites together, a Bill Gates on one side of the table, a John Kerry, and we can get 'em all here. And then, we can decide that there shall be an international tax code," which they're gonna decide, they did, "and then get rid of that Ireland undercutting everybody to get investment. And we're gonna get together. We'll have diversity. We'll set quotas for diversity. We're gonna run things," It's just like frightening Plato's republic with his guardians. They're superior people, and they're gonna talk down to people, the elite, philosopher king.
Peter Robinson: Victor, mental experiment, Facebook, 2.8 billion users, so, since this country has a population of 330 million, we got 80-85% of Facebook users are outside this country. Facebook has offices around the world. It pays taxes in one country after another. Why should the people who founded and run Facebook think of it as an American company?
Victor Davis Hanson: It's not.
Peter Robinson: All right, so what should we do about Facebook? Anything?
Victor Davis Hanson: I think we should say if you have a competitor like Parler... I have conflict of interest. I know the founder of Parler, and I like her a great deal, but don't try to put her outta business. And we used to treat people like you that were entrepreneurs, brilliant, successful but mastered or rigged the game... They were called Rockefeller/Carnegie, and we had antitrust laws. They're saying to us, Peter, "If you don't wanna have a Facebook account and you don't like our censorship and you don't like that we've rigged certain new stories," or Google is saying to us, I think, 85% of the searches, and we know that they calibrate the results on political , "then go somewhere else." Sort of like saying to an African American in 1950, if you were in Alabama or Mississippi, "If you don't like my lunch counter, it's a free country. Go to that other lunch counter." And he says, "Well, there is no other lunch counter." Oh, I didn't know that.
Peter Robinson: Can't help ya there.
Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, "Well, if ya don't like Facebook, go to another"... "There is none. You've got a monopoly. You bought out 200 companies," and so there are monopolies.
Peter Robinson: Can I ask, then: is your reading of antitrust at the turn of the 20th century, Teddy Roosevelt, great champion of antitrust, what's going on, at some basic level, is ordinary middle-class Americans... At that stage there were still a lotta farmers. Selma was still being farmed in those days. And they look at J.P. Morgan, and they look at John D. Rockefeller, and they look at Andrew Carnegie, and they say, "Hell, I don't know the details, but that's just too big. That's just not American. It's unhealthy."
Victor Davis Hanson: It's not bigness or size.
Peter Robinson: It's not?
Victor Davis Hanson: It's control of the market by undercutting competitors and forcing to sell out or offering them money or censoring the use of their product according to partisan or political views. We used to have this term dark money. Remember Jane Mayer "Dark money"?
Peter Robinson: Yes, yes, yes.
Victor Davis Hanson: What is $500 million of Mark Zuckerberg infused in the 2020 election at particular precincts to enhance the registrar or the balloting work of the government?
Peter Robinson: Will it be a test for you over the next 5 or 10 years if Americans say more or less coherently... But if there's at least an impulse to say, to Facebook and Amazon, "We have to control you," is that a test?
Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, I think we did that with AT&T. We've done that lot. Why doesn't just Amazon say, "You control all of our purchases. You've gained $100 billion during the lockdown. Just sell off your books or your kitchenware group to another thing." We could do that if we want, but we didn't think this up. We love these companies, and then, we discovered something, that they manipulate searches, that they manipulate the order of a search, that they let the Taliban tweet but not the former president of the United States on Twitter. And so there are active economic, social, and political agendas, and we're not the political one. They are the political one, and they have an agenda, and they're using their power and monopolies for a particular political purpose.
Peter Robinson: And the correct response is "we're citizens. Don't treat us like serfs."
Victor Davis Hanson: The correct response is "you do your worst, and we'll do our best, and may the best man win. We're the citizens, not you, and we'll see who wins."
Peter Robinson: Victor, what is to be done? Here's my thinking on reading "The Dying Citizen." Education, if we're gonna assimilate people, if we're gonna teach Americans the importance of citizenship, education. But the people qualified to educate in this country overwhelmingly disagree with you, right? In our colleges and universities?
Victor Davis Hanson: I'm speaking at a college campus. I'm glad that you used that euphemism to disagree with me.
Peter Robinson: It's you and me, Victor. It's you and me. That's a special case. What do we make of the declining importance of citizenship to the people who instruct young American citizens?
Victor Davis Hanson: It's tragic. When we were all in school, we had something called civics. I remember, when I was in first grade, we were taught how to fold the flag and march it, and we were taught a whole array... I say, "We were taught." In my first grade class, there was about 9 who were so-called white and 31 that weren't in very impoverished... Had about a 4,000 per capita income in Selma, California, 1960, but everybody learned these protocols. And then, we learned that there was a tripart government. And then, our teacher would go, "Checks and balances." And then, we talked about the crack in the Liberty Bell. And then, we were given little bios, and they were not just Lou Gehrig or George... They were George Washington Carver. Yeah. They were great inventors, Thomas Edison. So there was this inculcation.
Peter Robinson: No matter how poor, no matter where your parents came from, you were taught to be an American.
Victor Davis Hanson: There was an ideological bent to them. It wasn't racism. It wasn't capitalism. It was middle-classism, and the idea was "this guy came from nothing. The Wright brothers." That's what it was, a middle-class chauvinism, if I could, and that's what we were inculcated in. And then, we decided, in our infinite wisdom, the more affluent, leisured, and wealthy we are, we were gonna make this university. And we said to ourselves, didn't we, in the '60s, "The family is racist. It's sexist," or classist, "and the church and the community and the government, so we in the university are brilliant people, and we can't be fair or disinterested, because the whole society is biased, so, guess what, we get to be bias. So we're gonna take you, and we're not gonna give you Socratic inductive education. We're gonna deductively tell you that your heritage, your founding, the nature of your country is toxic. It always was, it is, and it always will be unless you listen to us," so it's an indoctrination. And it levers this effort, partly 'cause of globalization on the coasts that enriched the coast... And that's where the universities are, aren't they? The Ivy League or Stanford or where we are today or USC. There are great universities in the... But that's not where the power lies, and these globalized people and the wealth, endowment 30 billion / 40 billion. They said to us we're going to indoctrinate you in a very noble way and make you enlightened and better, change human nature. Okay, so they did that, and in the process people did what? It's a zero-sum game. They didn't learn language. They didn't learn philosophy. They didn't learn math at the old way. So they became very confident but very ill prepared. And arrogance and ignorance about the most toxic combination you can have. If you also add $1.7 in debt that these universities colluded with the government. And they talk about collusion. 1.7 trillion.
Peter Robinson: In student debt.
Victor Davis Hanson: So these kids, what're they gonna do with a BA from Cal State, San Jose, in sociology when ya owe $80,000. You tell me. And the university jacked up the rate of tuition above the rate of inflation annually. Why did they do that?
Peter Robinson: Victor, China, the billionaire Ray Dalio, quote: "Empires rise when they are productive, financially sound, earn more than they spend, and increase assets faster than liabilities. This tends to happen when their people are well educated, work hard, and behave civilly. Compare China with the United States on these measures, and the fundamentals clearly favor China," close quote. Consensual Government with citizenship at the heart of the entire project, Victor, Victor, Victor, that's yesterday. China is creating an entirely new model, and it works.
Victor Davis Hanson: Well, I know you're playing devil's advocate, but whether it's Hegel, Nietzsche, or Spengler, going back to Tacitus, there's a whole tradition of nihilists, and they warned us. They said that consumer capitalism / consensual government creates affluence and leisure in untold magnitudes and, therefore, the individual must have religion, family, community, tradition, parents, fear or their grandparents looking at them from heaven or hell, whatever, to restrain the appetites and when they're loose, and they'll inevitably be loose, you get what we have now, if you look at our popular culture.
Peter Robinson: Decadence, the word for it is decadence.
Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, decadence. The Romans had the word , luxury, but it meant always pejoratively, was meant. And then, China comes along and says, "We look at these Western decadent people, and, look at them"; I just read a Chinese article; "they had their Pride flag. They had their gender studies at Kabul. They had George Floyd's mural, and what were they doing? They were high-tailing it out, and they were different from the British. At least the British imperialists, when they imposed an enlightened culture, won. And therein, culture is debased, and they're leaving and losing." So that's what the Chinese think of us. And so what I suggest to all of us is that China is a pernicious model. That model that you say is winning has got a million and a half people in concentration camps.
Peter Robinson: The Uighurs.
Victor Davis Hanson: The Uighurs, and it is a racist society, endemically racist. During the COVID breakout, they went and looked at African American, foreign, students and began to arrest them to see if they had COVID, and they created myths that it came from Africa. If you're not Han Chinese, you're not gonna make it in China. Okay, so they have these ideas. The way that we are supposed to compete with them... And we have to compete from a symmetrical relationship, so if they're gonna steal patents and copyrights and run up big surpluses and dump currency and manipulate the financial markets, okay, we can still beat them if we're better than they are, but what are we doing in these universities? California just passed a rule that said everybody has to learn ethnic studies in high school. Why not just say everybody has to have a knowledge of the English language or analysis or physics or math or biology? If we're going to have a multiracial society, which we do have, why don't we make it more educated than China? And when I had students that took classical Greek from all different backgrounds, guess what, I didn't have to teach ethnic studies, 'cause everybody forgot who they were 'cause it was such a difficult subject they worked together. They dated. They married. Why don't we do that? Why don't we tell people that our impoverished that are of Hispanic background or African, "It's my duty, as someone's who's better off economically, to tutor you, and I'm going to give you the skills to beat the Chinese, and aggregately, we're gonna beat the Chinese"? And I think we could do that easily. I also think, because it's not a consensual society, that they have a rendezvous from problems, but I'm not gonna say, "Oh, don't worry about the Chinese. They're a dictatorship" or "Don't worry. They're racist," as a lotta people do. No, they're very smart, and they understand the Western mentality better than we do, and they are ahead. We have to catch up, but it doesn't do any good to whine about how they cheat. The question is... Don't get mad. Get even. And get even with a different approach to education.
Peter Robinson: Victor, let's close with John Fitzgerald Kennedy speaking in West Berlin in 1963.
Victor Davis Hanson: 2,000 years ago, the proudest boast was . Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is
Peter Robinson: Not quite six decades ago, a president of the United States could speak a phrase in Latin and take it for granted that his audience would get the reference.
Victor Davis Hanson: And they did.
Peter Robinson: And they did. He could speak a second phrase, "I am a Berliner," in the confidence that his audience would understand the concept of citizenship on which that phrase turned: "I stand with the people of Berlin," a specific place in time, bordered; "I stand with the nations of the West," actual nations, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, specific bounded places, against the globalist challenge of communism. Can we recover the sense of history and citizenship that made that moment six decades ago possible?
Victor Davis Hanson: I hope so, because if he gave that speech on a university campus he would be disinvited or deplatformed or canceled because they would say, "Well, what if you weren't a citizen? Who were the oppressed?" So we gotta do a couple of things. We have to say that history and the past is not melodrama where you pick winners and losers, bad guys and good guy. It's tragedy, and we in the present don't go back and use our standards and judge these people that were preindustrial people. They didn't know whether they were gonna die the next day from a ruptured appendix. If they had farsighted problem, they couldn't see. They hadn't glasses. We give them no allowances, and we don't ever say, "Peter, I'm really worried about our culture because 50 years from now people are gonna judge us by their standards. They're gonna say a million viable infants were aborted. or 7,000 African Americans were butchered in the streets, and nobody stopped it. Or there's 700,000 people defecating on sidewalk. That was what the sum total of us in... Do we want that?" And this arrogance we talked about. This ignorance of history comes a natural arrogance. So we've gotta be a lot more humble, and we've gotta say to ourselves, "You don't have to be perfect to be good," and that was a theme in the book. You just have to be better than the alternatives, so what Kennedy was saying was that it wasn't perfect in Rome but there were elements that were better than what was going on on the other side of the Danube among Germanic tribes or among the Huns or the Vandals. We have to say that. This country is better than the alternative, and we're good people. Don't put the burden of being perfect... And who are we to judge that were impoverished and died at 35 when we have all the technology on the shoulders of giants. Their scientific developments and contributions we were the beneficiaries of. And yet, the wealthier and more leisured we are... A future Generation's gonna say, "My God, look at that culture. Where was your Beethoven? Where were your giants? And when you had people that spoke out and were individual minds, you made fun of 'em or you called racist or sexist or transgender- or homo-phobic. And who are you people to say that?" And the answer, of course, is a little humility, a better educational system, and unity, unity, unity. And that's why, in "The Dying Citizen," to finish... Remember the middle class is the hope for citizenship. Remember that you have to have a sacred space with secure borders remember that the road to perdition is tribal affiliation rather than making it incidental, not essential, to who we are. And do not trust our elite who say we need unelected unaccountable bureaucrats who are technocrats and experts that stupid legislators and voters don't know about and the, be careful about the unelected and the evolutionaries who say, "Let's change the system because it doesn't benefit us. Get rid of this Supreme Court membership. Get rid of the electoral college. I didn't help me right now." And finally, we're not citizens of the world. We're citizens of a very unique republic that is, in itself, with no need of input or advice from communist China or Putin's Russia or the European Union. It's the singular most successful civilization in history, and it's the most human. And it would be just absolutely suicide to turn over our sovereignty to those who haven't earned it.
Peter Robinson: Victor Davis Hanson, author of "The Dying Citizen," thank you.
Victor Davis Hanson: Thank you.
Peter Robinson: For "Uncommon Knowledge," the Hoover Institution, and Fox Nation, I'm Peter Robinson.