Episode #39: Burdens of Freedom with Larry Mead

Peter Wood

What’s the chief threat to American leadership today? Larry Mead, Professor of Politics and Public Policy at New York University, argues that it is the decline of individualism.

In this episode, Larry sits down to discuss his new book, Burdens of Freedom: Cultural Difference and American Power. Along the way, we talk about welfare reform (Larry was the chief exponent of work requirements), envy, global warming, and more.

Show Notes

0:00 Peter introduces Larry and his book Burdens of Freedom.

2:00 Peter and Larry discuss Larry’s earlier work. Among academics, Larry was the chief exponent of work requirements for welfare.

8:10 Larry says the experts almost universally opposed work requirements—but the public generally supported them.

10:10 Larry and Peter discuss Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, in a draft of the Green New Deal, to guarantee income for those who don’t want to work.

12:25 How important is envy to society?

19:00 What motivates charity in an individualistic society?

24:15 Peter and Larry look at different geographical areas, especially Asia.

32:57 What makes Americans more individualistic than the British or Irish?

38:22 Peter brings up his book A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Today, in which Peter argues that anger has gone from something society expects people to control, to something we feel entitled to vent.

51:07 What unites three social problems: persistent poverty in America, though we are the world’s richest country and there are plentiful jobs; the troubled assimilation of many new immigrants; and persistent government failure in development countries?

59:00 Peter and Larry discuss global warming.

59:37 How did NYU and the rest of academia treat Larry’s book?


Peter Wood, A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Today

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