Jonathan Haidt and Melvin Konner —
Capitalism and Moral Evolution: A Civil Provocation

It was supposed to be a discussion about "culture and conscience" with two social scientists, as part of a public gathering of the Center for Humans and Nature at the American Museum of Natural History. But Jonathan Haidt is studying the relationship between capitalism and moral evolution, and our conversation took off from there in surprising directions. The liberal view of capitalism as essentially exploitative may remain alive and well, Haidt says. But the ironic truth of history is that capitalism actually generates liberal values as it takes root in societies. Our conversation preceded this American cultural-political season but offers provocative perspective on it.

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is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business. His books include The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and, forthcoming in 2017, Three Stories about Capitalism: The moral psychology of economic life.

is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology and of Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University. His books include The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit and The Evolution of Childhood.

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The political rhetoric of making America great again points at the decline of not only U.S. power, but the erosion of trust among its allies and its own citizens. Mohammed Fairouz stands up for his community in this particular moment in time.

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Culture and Conscience: A Conversation

How do humans discern between right and wrong? How does culture influence our values? Explore more essays and video presentations on culture and conscience, and join the ongoing conversation at the Center for Humans and Nature's website.

by Jonathan Haidt
»"How Capitalism Changes Conscience"
» "Culture, Conscience, & Capitalism"

by Melvin Konner
» "Why Be Good?"
» "Culture and Conscience: A Personal View"

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A steel worker stands near a furnace used for molten iron in the production area of the Zhong Tian (Zenith) Steel Group Corporation in Changzhou, Jiangsu.

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Thanks once again for another really thought-provoking conversation. Julie Nelson's book Economics for Humans is worth adding to the conversation -- she offers an insightful critique of both probusiness and antimarket thought, showing how each misunderstands the importance of the other, then suggests a very compelling (and beautiful) metaphor for the economy a beating heart.

"A beating heart is essential for the life of an individual body, creating the flow that carries oxygen and nutrients to the body's cells. Likewise, an economy creates the flow of provisions that sustain and enrich the lives of individuals and society....

As a living entity, economic hearts adapt and coevolve with the culture, history, ecology, and institutions that surround them....

The image of the economy as a beating heart not only brings together body and soul, but points us toward action regarding the heartaches of poverty, hunger, injustice, empty consumerism, and ecological destruction."

Another beautiful discussion. Although it wasn't a major thread of the conversation, I thought Krista made a very important disagreement to Jonathan by clarifying happiness was a very complex construct and not easily quantifiable. Her conviction also beautifully intersects with the conversation published last week with Rebecca Solnit, where they discussed that abstract things such as happiness can't be a) quantified, or b) talked about in isolation. Happiness and money aren't simply correlated, there are many more complex concepts constantly emerging and adapting in the present that we can't foresee when isolated in vacuum.

I also found the discussion of the curve towards justice very intriguing . This also relates back to a number of things discussed in the conversation with Rebecca Solnit. Additionally, it seemed there were a lot of implicit references to complexity theory through this phase of the discussion, which we generally associate more so with biological sciences than with culture and politics. Further, complexity theory gives a lot of insight to the role of conflict (or partisanship in this discussion) to cultural survival and adaptability. Conflict generally provides more robust, adaptive solutions than those created by a non-diverse population. However, in order to realize those benefits, I do feel individuals have to play a role in constantly working to expedite the trajectory towards justice.

" The liberal view of capitalism as essentially exploitative"

This seems like a very American-centric view of liberalism (perhaps you forgot to prepend the "a-" or "il-").

The libertarian/right feels they have the right to officially define the beliefs of humanity.

Yes. The libertarian/right is in a conspiracy to take over the world just so they can leave everybody the hell alone! Lol.

Finally an On Being conversation in which the participants disagree with each other! On Being episodes are always thought provoking, but this one was even more so. Give us more disagreements!

Very relieved this conversation is emerging. Thank you very very much.

We're just all wrong (Haidt). Typical arrogance of the Libertarian/Right and the "I'm just right" and that's that attitude. And we must accept their interpretation of the rest of us.

Liberals are capitalists. They just oppose unbridled unregulated capitalism.

Once again, I am struck by the fact that the vast majority of people, only study religion when they are children. Their minds get stuck there. We all need to study religion as adults to get a much broader view of our religion.

Susan - very true. Reminds me a bit of the sophist's position in Plato's dialogues, ridiculing Socrates for taking philosophy seriously as an adult. The idea being - all of that is feel-good platitude and fantasy for coddled minds. But grow up!

After listening for the whole hour I held an oval shaped jar with its oval cover. It simply will not screw on.
This episode is a good example of the globalization of narcissism which is pointing us to the sixth extinction!

I was surprised Krista did not, at least, gently challenge this sunshin-y view of capitalism as having brought us ever-increasing prosperity and better values. Did the history of the twentieth century really have nothing to do with capitalism? Were World Wars One and Two not carried out by competing capitalist powers? And don't Asia, Africa and Latin America owe their pasts, as well as their present reality, to colonization by capitalist powers?

What about the worldwide financial crisis whose wreckage we are still dealing with? What about the growth of extreme inequality in our own and every other capitalist society in the world? And how about global warming? Why can't we get a handle on addressing the potential destruction of the whole ecosystem that supports us? Why are we instead dredging up the Tar Sands, and fracking every drop of fossil fuel out of the ground like there's no tomorrow? Does capitalism really have nothing to do with that?

The most hilarious bit came when Krista Tippett mused about her guests' proposition that "young people don't care about government -- their activism will come in the form of inventing an app" or some other way to solve our problems without reference to politics, power or public policy. Perhaps this was prophetic of the current political season, she suggested.

Riiiight. Obviously young people no longer care about quaint concerns like racial inequality, or the problems of boring institutions like "the police." Obviously they are supremely confident that their lives will be better, happier and more prosperous than those of the parents in whose basements they are living. And we've certainly learned that no candidate for president could possibly drag "millenials" into action to challenge the future of our society! Except maybe ... the one who keeps challenging the unbridled sway of capitalism?

All in all, I love the show, but every once in awhile it plays host to snake-oil salesmen, pure and simple. This was one of those times.

Yes! One of the least inspiring interviews! Too many old-time theories about growth, 'happiness' and social evolution left unchallenged. And what about all the guests over the years who have proffered other 'models' of communal living. Those of indigenous communities come to mind immediately, those destroyed in the face of advancing capitalism. Yes, these are complex issues and worthy topics for discussion, but, to paraphrase Einstein on this, no solution can come from the same energy that created the problem.

I thought this segment was incredibly interesting but it was regrettable that you did not allow the guests to speak very often. You would ask questions and then go on and on without actually allowing them to speak. Once you even interrupted one mid-thought! It might be good for your editorial crew to go back and review how much of this half hour segment you actually allowed your guests to speak- it felt like 2 minutes out of the 30 minute segment. It was very frustrating to listen to.

To practice epistemological humility, I listened to the uncut episode after having listened to the radio version. I am a person on the left who really finds it important to listen to others. Yet, after listening to this interview twice, I was surprised to see how Mr. Haidt drew a caricature of both liberals and conservatives, which really surprised me because On Being usually tries to fight simple narratives. I loved the fact that Krista remained neutral, listened, and in a few occasions really questioned what Mr. Haidt had to say.

I also found it quite difficult to understand what was meant by "liberal" and "conservative", and would have loved for the speakers to define what they meant by those terms. Since living in Spain for the last five years, what we in the US understand as "liberal" and "conservative" has a different meaning in other Western and capitalist countries.

I understand that the scope of capitalism is very wide and that for an hour conversation it needs to be narrowed down, but I found the topic to be very US-Centric. The narrative given was that capitalism is the best model and there is no other alternative because communism has proven not to work; the idea is that there are no alternative solutions that are challenging both of these narrative and models (e.g. slow capitalism, social entrepreneurship, co-ops, etc.). Besides, Mr. Heidt said something quite interesting, " so much of who we are are conditions of our childhood and our local environments". I would have loved for him to further developed this idea and discuss the role of income-inequality as he said that parents just had to pick a "good environment" for their children.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the show (uncut) was when Mr. Konner, who I found very insightful, said that " the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice only because good people help it." I really loved that Mr. Konner spoke up when Mr. Haidt basically said we will get a more justice world eventually and those of us who are "social justice warriors" are just too self-righteous or want to give our selves credit for bringing about change. Again, I felt there were too many biases and generalizations made by Mr. Haidt which made me question in the end who was more bias and polarized. A perfect example of those who help justice bent were those who helped fight the Keystone Pipeline. Many thought that environmental activist stood no chance against this ,and contrary to what many said, environmentalist, grassroots movements, and local citizens helped change both people's opinion and policy.

The only thing I can agree with Mr. Haidt is that we need political diversity. Having a relationship with people who are politically different from you can help overcome those generalizations and caricatures some make about conservatives and liberals. Whenever I find myself falling pray to conservative stereotypes based on something someone said, I think about my own conservative friends and try to remember that even within a single label, there is difference ; our relationships change the narratives we believe and tell each other.

Thank you, Lucia.

My personal OnBeing reflection: Thank you, for my every Sunday morning Mindfulness Practice at 7am with the OnBeing class that feeds my insatiable curiosity. Capitalism and Moral Evolution: A Civil Provocation - if only I lived in NYC I would have been present at this enlightening, humorous, thought-provoking conversation! Instead this morning @7am on WHYY On Being, I was riveted to the questions, ideas (not answers) and civil disagreements being explored. By 8am, my day started with a sense of hope that we can depend on our Millennials to change the world of hate to civil rights for all; working to save our planet from self-destruction by their involvement toward preserving our environment. One day when my kids are curious, they'll go through my Facebook posts, to explore, and learn as much about their Bubbie as they know about their own values, character, and curiosity that extends from their small world to the larger world of humanity! Note: My Facebook page is my personal diary of thought-provoking conversations worth saving and sharing with only 6 "friends" - my children & grandchildren, when they want to avail themselves to my eclectic thirsts for enlightenment including links to OnBeing conversations. What I believe: make sources available. Model curiosity. Ask questions. Children are listening and watching. They are our hope for humanity. From Mr. Rogers wisdom: Our world hangs like a magnificent jewel in the vastness of space. Everyone of us is a part of that jewel. And in the perspective of infinity, our differences are infinitesimal.

Dear Ms Tippett, Drs. Haidt and Konner,

I cannot thank you enough for the illuminating and at times 'mind-bending' , yet, equally consciousness expanding interview and discussion provided to the listener through the sharing of [all] your experiences, knowledge and expertise during the OnBeing program at AMNH. Several of my friends and I[New Jersey pals/tribe] came to the American Museum of History presentation...and did not leave without more knowledge, questions...and , at-least for me...hope.

Ms Tippett's OnBeing radio dialogue is true on-going leadership. Ms Tippett provides an invaluable service to our-body-politic. OnBeing is a space for divergent views aired with respect, and with discussion that allows listeners to be better informed citizens...for the time devoted through the conversations presented.


Dear Ms Tippett and OnBeing Staff,

As stated in a previous note...the presentation was at the AMNH was invaluable and ,now...the very interesting reply's and comments. I hope that y'all at OnBeing would consider adding as a guest [soon] Dr Alan Fiske [as to the importance of understanding...sociability/sociality in its basic form(s)]. Dr. Alan Fiske, UCLA… studies and scholarship are far reaching: "Structures of Social Life-The Four Elementary Forms of Human Relations; "Relational Models Theory"; and most recently, "Virtuous Violence". How's that title for catching the ear of a listener? I urge the listeners of OnBeing to follow up with any of these books. And, thank you all...who behind the scenes bring us...OnBeing. Keep up the great work!

Thanks to all of the listeners for your views,


Thank you,

Agreed on asking Dr. Fiske for an interview. Whether or not Relational Models Theory is the single explanation for social interaction, it's a thought provoking basis for understanding our lives.

I don't think Darwin had it right - atheistic. Dawkins also tries to explain everything without God. The idea that all can be explained by capitalism sounds like Marx - the means of production determines culture, etc., also atheistic and incorrect. But their clear eyed view of food needs, etc., is good, though the only one who can rescue us is God.

More people were killed in the 20th century than at any other time, the "century of martyrs "John Paul II.

It seems pretty obvious that Jonathan Haidt would like capitalism. He's doing great. I loved his lack of self awareness in talking about how his leftism at Yale gradually dissipated and how later, in his 40s, he realized that capitalism is good! Well duh, Jonathan. Capitalism gave you a successful career! If you made a career of criticizing capitalism do you think you would be making a fantastic living teaching at the Stern School of Business? It would be nice to hear someone who didn't go to an Ivy League school discuss how great capitalism and the neoliberal "meritocracy" is.

Have you been paying attention to the presidential election? The youth is overwhelmingly voting for the Democratic socialist who wants to nationalize health care. Young people realize government is corrupt and useless, but they know the solution to health care is not to give up entirely on the government and get to work creating an app.

Happiness would be defined by some as union with God.
Philosophy has given up on finding the idea of happiness mostly - though recently it has turned to virtue some as leading to happiness, reinventing the wheel - but classically happiness is the goal of philosophy.

But there are more people in slavery now than there were in 1860.
The arc of the universe bends toward justice because God is infinitely just and is leading history, and he is 'putting all his enemies under his feet'.

I enjoyed the discussion. I've heard Dr. Heidt on your show before and have read his work. I did have three somewhat critical thoughts: 1) It struck me as ironic that Dr. Heidt would urge us to be "epistemologically humble". He is one of the least intellectually humble people I've heard. I'm not sure what "epistemologically humble" means, but he seems to be pretty certain that he has the answers. It was nice to see Krista kind of call him out on this when she inquired as to whether his books were going to make a difference, after he said nothing would make a difference (which I found really dismissive of all those who sacrificed life and limb to help the downtrodden gain freedom, a bit ivory towerish), 2) It is the luxury of people who are not currently being oppressed or at the receiving end of terrible injustice to suggest that people are too inpatient about the progress that is being made. Sounds very ivory tower elitist. Go live among the severely oppressed and tell them to be patient for change. 3) Why are things discussed in terms of false dichotomous? There is no pure capitalism and no pure socialism. In some ways what people refer to as capitalism is a different form of socialism. Let the few fortunate make the big $$$ but let's socialize the cost (e.g., damage to the environment). My larger point is that I thought it was doing a disservice to the topic for such great thinkers (and I do have great respect for all involved) as speaking of capitalism and socialism as dichotomies. Do I think that the profit motive should be taken out of weapons manufacturing and healthcare? Those are socialist ideas worth considering. Should the government control the manufacturing of cell phones? Probably not. The best answer is probably going to be to find a way to weave the best of capitalism and socialism together.

Thank you, Michael. Yes, the 'epistemologically humble' point. Heidt seems to be saying your thoughts and efforts don't matter as much as you think, and your views are far more partial and distorted than you will admit. (I guess because we are not HIM). Just leave the driving to The Invisible Hand. There was the parallel ethical idea: that a "good" society doesn't come about by good people. Perhaps it doesn't even produce them. But that doesn't matter, because we don't look in heads or hearts for the 'markers' of the good.

I have to agree with you - Mr. Haidt came across as one of the least intellectually humble people I've heard. I have read his books and enjoy his work (I particularly like The Happiness Hypothesis). So I was looking forward to listening to this interview. I don't doubt that a lot of the points he made here could have truth to them, but his conversational style and manner of delivering those points struck me as antagonistic, self-satisfied, and impatient. Overall, it was not the most enjoyable intellectual discussion to listen to.

It's possible you were just overstating your opinion to make a point, but when you asserted that there really isn't any more happiness to be had from earning $2 million vs. $70,000, I felt like reaching through the radio and yanking on your probably very nice quality clothing. I like quality myself, and try to have things of quality in my environment, my mind, my body, and that of my family. However, at $70,000, my family survived, but was on edge in ways that I cannot imagine money wouldn't have fixed. Do you think that never taking a vacation that didn't involved my husband's business (he builds classical guiars) didn't effect my family? That my kids memories of vacations involve eating food from home in the car, and sleeping on the living room floor of friends. Yes, big fat first world problem -- but do YOU stay in hotels, or go out to restaurants with your family? Are you able to have actual vacations? Do you buy the good quality olive oil you like, or hope they have some good oil from Spain at Ross? Do you buy clothes from Ross? If a doctor told you not to lose too much weight before you had your gall bladder removed, do you wait two years until you are Medicare (and now cannot gain weight), because even though you are paying an ungodly fortune for Blue Shield health insurance, you cannot afford the co-pay for a surgery? The difference between $70,000 and $100,000 is significant in terms of worry, and the ability to enjoy leisure and feel a shred of security about the future. I found your comment to be unbearably tone deaf.

Good episode and comments. Having read Haidt's two excellent trade books, and some of his academic work, all I can suggest is that his thinking is extraordinarily sophisticated and nuanced. It's worth seeking out. Without familiarity with his work, it may be challenging to know where he's coming from. See, e.g., "The Emotional Dog and Its Rational Tail," which appears to be available on the web. We should all strive for epistemological humility (the only defensible position?), so I would love to see someone try to construct a counterargument to his compelling main thesis. Most people just find someone they agree with and don't take it any further--confirmation bias. Look into Haidt's work and you'll see how his thinking has developed over time through honest inquiry and reflection.

I know that often there is a focus on the "positive" side of things, but while I was driving I listened to part of this show and was surprised to hear one of the guests (I believe Melvin Konner - but the issue with driving and listening is that this is often hard to catch) make some blatantly false statements around the disappearance of slavery. By many accounts the total number of slaves worldwide is over 45 million (2016 Global Slavery Index estimates that 45.8 million people are in some type of modern slavery, enslaved through "human trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, forced or servile marriage or commercial sexual exploitation." ). Sure, the U.S. outlawed slavery, but it hardly disappeared, nor has it done so world wide.

The word evolution is used. But, the irony is that humans have bypassed biological evolution. By many standards, with the total number of refugees world wide at about the same number as slaves (another 43 million - source UN statistics), one could say we have bypassed evolution from a moral and cultural perspective too. We don't cooperate worldwide on much of anything and the nation state is alive and well.

The economic aspect is interesting in that it gives us the freedom to contemplate these issues, but the minute the economics decline, even the slightest, we revert to a form of tribalism.

In short, I am much less sanguine than what I heard in the latter half of the show (I apologize that I have not yet had a chance to listen to the first half).

As a freelance writer, I have unusual freedom to select the environment I work in. A friend of mine, a high school teacher, doesn't have that luxury. As much as I would like to believe that overall, humanity will progress as things change in new generations, my friend brings me stories about her students that are harrowing.

My friend and I are practicing Jews and are well versed in Jewish history. The district my friend teaches in has very few Jews, and she has seen ample evidence of anti-semitism amongst her students. My friend doesn't advertise her Jewishness but people at the school do know that she's Jewish. She's had pennies left by her desk almost every day for several years. She's received heil hit-ler salutes and overheard discussions about the correct pronunciation of Auschwitz. One student, when handing in his assignment, said to her under his breath that there may be a small swatstika in the paper. hit-ler's birthday is celebrated annually (informally amongst a group of students but very noticeably).

Not everyone is finally integrated into positive environments. There are strains of people all over the world whose life energy flourishes on hatred of other groups. This hatred is passed from generation to generation, and the students I spoke of above are just carrying out their legacies. Hatred is in their DNA, in their mother's milk.

It's very important not to generalize about environments, especially in such a diverse country as the United States

I thought your last show was great! As someone whose mom and grandparents escaped from the Soviet Union, it's scary to see so many young people scoff at capitalism. The monetary benefits of capitalism make so much possible, (including the national endowment for the arts which makes it possible for me to listen to your show on NPR). It the right of a free society as socialism by its nature makes us less free. All you have to do is look at North Korea or China. It was refreshing to hear someone on an NPR broadcast actually tout the virtues of the impact of capitalism on our society.

The next time you talk about capitalism, instead of in a historically incorrect and facile manner you could have a real socialist (not Bernie Sanders but perhaps David North) on the program to help straighten out myth makers like these two gentleman, Melvin and Johnathan. What utter nonsense these two put forth. That Lenin had anything to do with the Stalinist measures began after his death in 1924, is historical deceit. That no one can still utter the name of Leon Trotsky only speaks of the fear and contempt of bourgeois academics such as these men, of the truth of the October revolution. No one could either utter the widely known and indisputable fact that income inequality (so then inequality of life itself in the global makeup) is at its highest peak in history IN THE U.S.!!!!! 62% of all wealth is now concentrated in the top 10% of our population? Come on people, jesus de christo wake up!! Capitalisms dna is inequality! And all the human misery that comes with that. No one made the connection that the refugee crisis now gripping the EU is because of U.S. Imperialist lust for geography, resources and profit. What pure poppycock and insult to anyone who was listening. Incompetent ignorant discussion. Stay with your spirituality Krista, it suits your audience I.Q.

One thing I'd like to point out to listeners - Haight at one point commented that even scientists didn't use mathematics, and high school mathematics should be eliminated in favor of classes on statistics and capitalism. I want listeners to know that mathematics beyond algebra is in fact used daily by scientists and engineers the world over. I can't imagine how Haight reached his conclusion, although it's easy to assume that Haight has only used statistics as a psychologist.

At any rate, most scientists and engineers are not social psychologists. and they would be hamstrung without mathematics. Don't think of making our kids even less educated than they are now.

Thank you, Dave. Heidt seems fond of the sweeping shock statement.

Jonathan Haidt has great faith in the providence of The Invisible Hand. It is hard to deny the material benefits that have accrued to the fortunate minority on the planet. I was struck by his recollection of sharing a stage with the Dalai Lama, who thought that a communistic approach of social organization would make us kinder people. Haidt didn’t deny that, but asserted that capitalism makes us better off. In fact, later in the program Haidt asserted that we over-estimate the role we play in progressive social policy and the evolution of conscience. If we sat back, he says, it would still evolve; just a little slower. Haidt seems to be saying that competitive behavior at the micro- individual personal scale is the best way to make macro-improvements. His thesis is that liberal progressive policies naturally flower at a certain comfort stage of capitalism. But a conscience that is not individual is no conscience at all; underneath his arguments lurks a deceptive fallacy of ‘moral automation.’ What do we make of the difference, after all, between being ‘conscientious’ and being ‘better off’? The next step, I suppose, is to assert that kind people make us worse off, and impede the ethical evolution of society.

I appreciate On Being's continued commitment to bringing diverse voices to listeners. But I cannot tell you how frustrating it was to listen to Jonathan Haidt's narrow and then increasingly condescending perspective.

I see his point that the more comfortable a community becomes, the more it tends to think less about itself and then become more concerned for others. I would tend to agree. But he laid all of the comfort gained at the temple of capitalism while the truth of this perspective is mixed in our American story. Yes the bold innovations of industry pushed our economy to new heights, but the relative equality of prosperity in the 20th Century was directly related to the influence and high membership in labor unions. With out that collective pressure, the middle class would have been small and the gulf between rich and poor vast.

As we move through the early years of the 21st Century, that gulf is widening once again as more wealth is cordoned of to the upper already wealthy and then that capital is moved out of communities and countries to be horded. Haidt's brushing aside of this gap was disturbing, saying that the poor are much better off than they used to be. This is a common trope used to diminish the real lived experience of living in poverty. The argument goes that if the poor have access to a refrigerator, microwave, a car, or a cell phone, they aren't really poor. They need to just suck it up an be happy for this wonderful world they live in.

And then as the program drew to a close, this straight, white, male of privileged lamented the "micro-aggressions" or political correctness on college campuses these days and people should stop complaining so much. As I have heard said recently, when those who have lived in privilege have to give up some of that privilege, it feels like oppression. The airing of these comments came just days before a privileged white, male student at Stanford University received a minimal jail sentence for sexual assault. Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Sandra Bland lie dead and those responsible for their deaths are free because of this privilege.

While I do not think that voices like Mr. Hait's should be eliminated from your programming, it was disappointing that their was no voice challenging his limited view point. I really appreciated a couple of years ago when you brought together two opposing voices on the issue of abortion. They respectfully challenged each other and in the end I felt that the listener could come away with a better understanding of both sides of the issue. That level of challenging discourse was missing from this program.

By the way, I still love the program and continue to look forward to each week's episode.

nope. i love this program normally, but this episode was a TRAVESTY. not cute. i was deeply offended by most of what these guys had to say and disgusted with their total lack of self-awareness about their privilege. i mean really, how are you gonna sit there from yr place within the wealthy, white, male elite academic class and say that people are just "expecting too much?" tell that to folks drowning in the mediterranean and eating out of garbage cans in the bay area and black children being shot by police. expecting more is an absolute necessity at this juncture in human history when our very survival as a species is threatened by the ravages of capitalism. the equation is simple: capitalism *requires* a feasted-upon class in order to function, end of story. it is not a force for good, it's an evil and we must muster the imagination and take responsibility for going another way.

i was especially horrified to hear the flippant erasure of centuries of indigenous wisdom & lifeways, the world over, as one of your guests talked about the present time being the first time in history where we've had an understanding of our interconnectedness - that capitalism had helped that develop, even! the arrogance! the ignorance!

i protest this episode. i wish, dear krista, y'all had had the courage to challenge these problematic assertions instead of just giving them a stage upon which to play out.

While this topic and discussions was interesting, Jonathan Haidt was irritating to listen to for much of it not because of his viewpoint but because of his rude manner. He interrupted and actually talked over both the other guest and Krista more than once. All of his answers seemed to rattle off statistics, rather than some filling out of what he may possibly believe, though he may only believe statistics. I have to say that he is off putting enough to me, though I am an avid reader, I'm disinclined to read any of his books.
That said, this was an interesting topic and very interesting viewpoints; as usual, Krista did an excellent job of moving things forward and trying to dig deeper into these viewpoints of capitalism.

I'm listening to this as I type and am appalled at the discussion about the "at about $70,000 USD ( $100,000 CAD, by the way)" it would appear that there is an ideal "happiness" cut-off. I made about $70,000 CAD (or $45,000 USD) at my peak employment. My DH was on a disability pension ($10,000 CAD +/- per year, gently indexed) due to Type 1 Diabetes. *His health/illness* --- NOT my salary --- was a *significant* -- dare I say the *major* -- determinant of our family's happiness and well-being. And we were blessed to be in Canada where we weren't bankrupted by the cost of his care -- which included kidney dialysis for a decade, as well as insulin, supplies and surgeries -- very little of which (in the scheme of things) we paid for ourselves.

I am also reminded of Jesus' parable that ends with "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:24)...and the fact that (perhaps because of a lack of theological exploration on the part of the interviewees) there was such arrogance about what really matters in life. It would seem to me that the interviewees, in their scientific bias, have failed to enrich themselves with spiritual knowledge. Pity.

That said, thankfully there was a nod -- however slight -- to the 'unpredictable' -- without naming any sort of 'outside source' (e.g., the Divine)...I am not a "creationist"...but I do believe that the Creator controlled creation from the "Big Bang" forward (and still does)...and am not about to deny the very real presence of the Mystery in our lives and what happens here on our planet (and elsewhere in the universe) day by day and moment by moment.

I must conclude by applauding Krista for having the courage to interview persons with such challenging, arrogant, presumptive views. Thank you.

I greatly enjoyed this episode. Can you please inform me of the author's name mentioned by Jonathan Haidt (I believe) regarding the History of Capitalism? I believe it was a series of lectures, but it greatly interested me to access this information. Many thanks.

Annie Parsons's picture

Hey Nina! Jon Haidt doesn't call out the book by name, but he says it's by Jerry Muller. Here's a page with all of Muller's books:

I think that this is the episode where Krista mentions decay with a negative connotation and as undesirable. I disagree. Without decay, life can not go on. Decay is a necessary part of the food web so that resources are constantly available to life. I think that focusing on growth for the sake of growth at any cost sounds like cancer. Desirable growth could be the growth of things that disassemble living things so that others can live. In fact, our stomachs and intestines could be thought as decay machines for our food.

When we think about Capitalism and its many manifestations across cultures and continents, I wonder how globalization' rise and now seemingly quasi-global demise in the wake of global financial crises, has affected capitalist morality with respect to a rise in nationalist tendencies and ideologies. Are we turning inward away from our Capitalist heritage toward nationalism and anti-openness? If so, to what end? Or does the crisis in Gramsci’s terms: “'...[consist] precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born.' Like all such periods, this will [too] pass"?


Two white "middle" class privileged men talking about "his-story", how grateful we ought to be, and that this is as good as it gets because it used to be much worse. I would have loved to have had Charles Eisenstein weigh in on this conversation.

"Do you have any words for the younger generations?"
"Yes, you're going to have a revolution or you're going to starve."-Satyajit Das and Michael Hudson

This episode was very disappointing. It was basically a promotion of neoliberalism by two elitists. Imperialism is the final stage of Capitalism which does not create expansion and creates economic global disparities. The globalization of capitalism has not created an evolution in consciousness but severe circumstances where youth are forced to take dire measures even if their organizing doesn't seem to be productive. The youth they talk about is a minority and a privilege. Capitalism narrows the "markets" and creates monolopies. When we see all these diverse brands they all stem from one corporate behemoth trying to give us the illusion of diversity, prosperity, and choice. The oppression of the global south by the global north for resources, money, and labor through slavery, militarism, and exploitation was disgusting. But now since everything is a monopoly countries are crumbling and virtually non existing to the point where European countries the initial imperialists are meeting extremes like the third world countries they exploited, and are feeling the same level of economic turmoil. Their esteem and efficiency to carry out policy is now inept. The people have no say as to how their government is run because of corporate interests and financial runners buying campaigns etc. Governments are no longer for the people. The USA the only colonized country that became a super power and a covert imperialist is slowly being sucked into the decay. Capitalism now imperialism seemed to work but it's not. I know Onbeing values trying to bring different perspectives to their shows but this was infuriating. .