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Ep. 37: People Over Profits (w/ Nathan J. Robinson)

Dec. 17, 2019

Ep. 37: People Over Profits (w/ Nathan J. Robinson)

Current Affairs editor Nathan J. Robinson stopped by the DC office for a conversation with Briahna about socialism and putting people back at the heart of politics.

Nathan's book, Why You Should Be a Socialist: us.macmillan.com/books/9781250200877

Transcript

Briahna Joy Gray: Bernard Sanders has the best, most progressive policy platform in the race. And this isn't just the subjective claim of his national spokesperson. It's been corroborated by third parties over and over again.

For example, the Sunrise Movement recently gave Bernie Sanders the top score among all 2020 candidates for his Green New Deal policy. In The Nation, sociologist Nikhil Goyal described Bernie's K through 12 plan as, "The most progressive and equitable public education agenda of any presidential candidate in the modern history of the United States." Terrell Starr at The Root, wrote that Bernie's criminal justice plan is, "Just as radical as his economic policies," lauding in particular his policy to limit qualified immunity for police officers. No other candidate has a plan to end at will employment, an employment standard which, by the way, lets your boss fire you for any reason at any time. And only Bernie has a plan to save journalism from corporate corruption.

This, and I cannot stress this enough, is enormously important and reason alone to support Senator Sanders. But it happens not to be at the core of why I support Bernie. The reason I support Bernie lies beyond any one policy. It has more to do with his worldview. A worldview which says, preserving human dignity is the ultimate test, not polls. A perspective that understands the intrinsic value of human life. A worldview which says, none of us are free until all of us are free.

The policies are good in the first place because they stem from humanistic principles. That's how you get an environmental policy that sees meeting decarbonization goals as a prerequisite, not merely an option. A policy which ensures a just transition for those currently working in the carbon energy sector, to good paying jobs, in clean energy or elsewhere. This is how you get a health insurance policy that understands that at no point should financial considerations affect whether or not a person seeks treatment, something that can only happen if you embrace a free at point of service Medicare for All. And this is how you get the confidence of knowing that when something unexpected comes up, whether it's the Iraq War, the AIDS crisis, or the question of whether incarcerated Americans should have the right to vote, Bernie Sanders is going to be on the right side of history.

I think of this mindset as putting people first, putting society first. And it presents a stark contrast with the way most politicians have operated historically. See usually, capital or money comes first. We are all used to politicians who embrace a system that says, if you become unemployed, tough luck if you don't have health care, or a home, or tuition for school. They say markets should decide how much pollution or toxic chemicals should be released into our environment. And that we should trust corporate CEOs who admit that their driving doctrine is to increase shareholder value with our health, our planet, and our future.

I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. The average American understands how money influences outcomes. You know that interest groups like pharmaceutical companies and banks don't support political campaigns out of the goodness of their hearts, but to ensure a candidate's agenda is friendly to their bottom line.

Bernie Sanders: If these contributions don't impact you, why do you think the wealthiest people in America are contributing to you? Do you think they're dummies?

Briahna Joy Gray: Heck, billionaire Michael Bloomberg has entered the presidential race with an initial $57 million ad investment because spending $57 million is cheaper than losing half of his $50 billion fortune. And sickeningly, it's working. Bloomberg has bought his way to the middle of the pack. I don't think it's radical to say that the President of the United States should be driven by a different principle than the one that drives CEOs like Bloomberg. Call me crazy, but I think the first priority of politicians shouldn't be maximizing shareholder value, but traditional little notions like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Our conceptions of freedom must include freedom from want, or they mean nothing at all. It's not enough to be free to consume, to smoke Virginia Slims, and eat sugary cereal, and buy guns. We also need the choice to leave abusive employers without risking losing our insurance. We need the freedom to choose between trade school and college without a lack of financial resources making that choice for us. We need the freedom to go to work, and to school, and to dance, without fearing we're going to die from gun violence.

Whether you call Bernie's worldview democratic socialism, and the alternative capitalism, or whether you reject all those labels in favor of a gut feeling, I think it's important to realize the stakes are higher than any one agenda item. Bernie has already changed the way Americans see the world, making a $15 minimum wage, Medicare for All, and a wealth tax overwhelmingly popular policies that form the baseline now of the Democratic Party agenda. We shouldn't, we can't stop now.

This is Hear the Bern, a podcast about the people, ideas, and policies that drive the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign and the movement to secure a dignified life for everyone living in this country. My name is Briahna Joy Gray. And I'm coming to you from campaign headquarters here in Washington, DC.

This week, I spoke to my good friend and former colleague, Nathan J. Robinson, co-founder of Current Affairs magazine, about his new book, Why You Should be a Socialist. If you're skeptical about that title, it's okay. In fact, he wrote the book for skeptics like you. I wanted to talk to him, on this episode, not because I wanted to evangelize about socialism, per se, but because he might be the single best writer I've ever read, when it comes to capturing why kindness and decency must be a central starting point for anyone's politics. And why I'm so glad it's at the heart of our revolution.

I think some people, not a lot of people, but some people who listen to the podcast do know me from Current Affairs. And they're always asking me when I'm going to go back and write for them.

Nathan J. Robinson: I would also ask you that question.

Briahna Joy Gray: I know, I-

Nathan J. Robinson: When, when you're gonna wrap up all this [laughs] nonsense and come back to our tiny lefty magazine in New Orleans.

Briahna Joy Gray: You, you gotta ask Bernie. You gotta ask Bernie. So, I will credit you with being the one that has made me Briahna Joy Gray because before I was just going for it ... My first article I ever published was actually under a pseudonym. And then the first article I ever published under my own name was with Current Affairs, and you're the one that set the Joy in there.

Nathan J. Robinson: I'm the joy. I put the joy in there [crosstalk 00:08:32] [laughs].

Briahna Joy Gray: You put the Joy in Briahna Joy Gray. And I think it's a little bit like I think a Nathan J. Robinson, I think the J middle name [crosstalk 00:08:39].

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah, if you have joy in your name, [laughs] you've gotta use it because it just makes people happy to meet you.

Briahna Joy Gray: That's my mom's idea, and she'll be very gratified to hear that you [crosstalk 00:08:51] carried out her plan to fruition. But tell me a little bit Nathan, for those who don't know about Current Affairs, and what the magazine is like. I think it's a good segue to talking about your book because obviously your ideology or worldview is expressed in the pages of this magazine as well.

Nathan J. Robinson: Yes. So, we ... Current Affairs is a, as I said, a little lefty print magazine. We were founded in 2015 through our crowdfunding campaign. And we've kind of ... I mean, we're still small, but we've kind of taken off a bit. We do political analysis and commentary, but the magazine also has, like, I'm trying to make political writing not feel like eating your vegetables. I'm trying to have it not be like something that you put yourself through because you feel obligated to, but have the writing itself be really enjoyable. So, the magazine has puzzles, and cutouts, and games, and it's got a kind of Mad Magazine feel to it.

The editors that we have amassed at Current Affairs, and you were an editor with us for some time, are people who have very, very strong political commitments, but who are also fun and who have, you know, a, a real sense of bringing like life should have some pleasure in it. And our magazine has some pleasure. And I hope this book also continues. So, when I was thinking about writing the book, I was thinking, well, how do I write something about socialism that is readable to non-socialists, and that doesn't feel boring?

Briahna Joy Gray: And I think that you've genuinely succeeded. I was breezing through this on the train recently, and I was struck not just by what a fun and easy read it was, but I think the reason why it's so digestible is that it's not just this didactic recounting of the history of socialism, or political arguments about why socials, and there's some of that in here as well. But it's also a book that is very much woven in with your morals, and values, and how you see the world and the world as it, as it should be. Can you talk a little bit about why this book and what the case to make in it is?

Nathan J. Robinson: So, I mean, first, a lot of that comes from the audience that I was imagining for this book, right. My working title was socialism for people who are extremely skeptical of it.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Nathan J. Robinson: And I wanted to think about ... I read a lot of right-wing books, and one of the things I do a lot at Current Affairs is right long take down pieces or just mostly dissections of conservative arguments.

Briahna Joy Gray: God bless you for that work.

Nathan J. Robinson: And, and so I have a, a pretty strong understanding of how the right thinks and what the right worldview is. And so, I wanted to think well, how would I persuade someone who really bought into what I think are the myths about socialism? And so, I don't actually think that people who have a very fixed, conservative worldview are going to read my book and become socialist, I, I think that's, that's wishful thinking on my part. But what I did want to do is make sure that people who are skeptical, as I say, of socialism, come away with it, at the very minimum, with respect for socialists and feeling as if what we are talking about, when we use that word and the underlying ideas that we're referring to, are not crazy, and that a lot of us are very smart.

We think about the criticisms that are made of socialism and we, and we deal with them. And there is a real strong sense that socialists are just naive, they just believe in random free things, they just have a child's view of the world. And actually, sometimes we do have a child's view of the world because we think morality is often very simple. But I want them to sort of feel like socialism is a, is a respectable position to come from.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, for the skeptics, why do you think that people are skeptical? Why should they not be skeptical? And who knows any legitimacy to folks who do have a kind of aversion and knee jerk response when they hear the S word?

Nathan J. Robinson: Let's first talk about the, the ... what socialism has historically been, which is, the way I kind of define it in this book is as a political tradition that captures a lot of different ways of thinking, right. There are arguments between socialists, very strong arguments between those socialists who believe in a strong centralized state, and those socialists who are anarchists and don't believe in state at all. But they cohere around the idea that ordinary working people should be more empowered. All socialists detest to the idea of having a ruling class of extremely wealthy people and a laboring class of people who essentially have no freedom at work and who, who subsist basically. That has been the, the core socialist complaint about the world.

And it is obviously very understandable that when people hear the word socialism, they react in the way that we've all been taught to react, which is to think about the, the most famous examples of a socialist society, you know, which Soviet Union or North Korea, right. It's kind of understandable, but what you have to understand is socialism has a very rich political tradition, Mm-hmm [affirmative] and there were socialists all the way along who were criticizing centralizing tendencies or very, very pro liberal ... libertarian approach to freedom, which is, we don't want the state to crackdown on free speech, or we don't, we don't want prison abolitionists, we don't want gulags.

And democrat ... people who call themselves democratic socialists have always been very, very strong on, you know, fighting attempts by the state to repress dissidents, whoever they are .

Briahna Joy Gray: Right. Like Bernie Sanders, that, that, that tradition that he leans on and something that's difficult for this campaign because we always say democratic socialists and the media prefers to say socialists. Not that it is an epithet, but it's used that way, right. And so, there's this constant dance of having to stick the democratic back in there because it does reassure people that what we're talking about, to your point about libertarian socialism, is not state control that putting control back in the power in the hands of the people.

Nathan J. Robinson: Ultimately, it shouldn't have to have the word democratic in front of it because if we take socialism to be a principle of worker ownership or common ownership of the commons, then an undemocratic system isn't socialism. If you ask the question, you know, is North Korea a socialist country? Well, do working people, are they empowered, do they, do they feel like they have control over their lives and their working conditions? Not really. So, not particularly socialist. I mean, North Korea also calls itself, The Democratic People's Republic of ... but they're not democratic in the Republic.

Briahna Joy Gray: Right.

Nathan J. Robinson: So, I think we should think about socialism the same way. A country that calls itself socialist is not socialist because it calls itself that. And the fact that people have rallied under banners of things that they don't actually carry out doesn't discredit the underlying ideas, it just means that we have to take the ideas seriously, and we have to be very, very critical, and we have to say, no, you're not actually upholding the principle for which we stand.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, one thing that kind of makes me crazy about this debate about socialism, democratic socialism, is that we're constantly asked the question, what is socialism? How do we define it? But very rarely has anybody asked to define capitalism and defend some of the vulnerabilities of the system that we currently live under. Mm-hmm [affirmative] And a lot of what you do in this book is to unpack some of these basic premises, these ... a lot of them are economic in nature, that are the foundation of the system that we live in. Can you talk a little bit about why you doubt capitalism as a preferred system and what kind of the worst kind of ills are that we're living with today as a consequence of capitalism?

Nathan J. Robinson: When people talk about capitalism, they often try and use it, especially defenders, to mean just markets, mm-hmm [affirmative] exchange. And so, when they criticize socialism, they usually say, well, here's why a society needs money, and, you know, why free exchange is good. But there are more aspects that define capitalism. There's been exchange preceded capitalism. And when socialists talk about capitalism, what we're really talking about is that class division between having a small owning class and a very, very large working class. And what we're trying to fix is that kind of power arrangement mm-hmm [affirmative].

And that really has very little to do with markets. There is a philosophy called, market socialism, which some people think is contradictory, there are socialists who think it's, it's contradictory. But what markets socialist advocate is common ownership of things and then a market, for example, we'd all collectively owned Amazon, but we'd still buy things through Amazon, right? But the Amazon shares would be owned, you know, it's a nationalized company, all owned by everyone in the country equally, right. But that doesn't actually change the use of the, of the platform, it just changes the ownership of the institution and who receives the benefits. That's the kind of thing that market socialists advocate.

And I think when we, when we try to zero in on the class differences and the questions of power that socialists are concerned with, that becomes much more difficult for defenders of capitalism to stick up for. This is why socialists zero in on billionaires because billionaires are incredibly, incredibly powerful people. You know, money is power. So, concentrated money is concentrated power, which means it's undemocratic, it's undemocratic in the way that like having one person have a billion votes would be undemocratic.

Briahna Joy Gray: And that's an, an incredibly powerful point. There's a quote in this book, I don't remember by who, that says, you can have large concentrations of money among very few people or you can have democracy, but you cannot have both.

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: There was an also an article along those lines written recently, in I think the New York Times, where the author was arguing that it's not just about redistribution, wanting to have a more progressive tax plan, the kinds of plans that Bernie Sanders has put forward, it's also about preserving democracy mm-hmm [affirmative] because originally, the ... even the founding fathers understood that there should be a limit to the life of a corporation. That sure, there's some utility in, in generating large amounts of money so you can build bridges, or highways, or what have you, at, at the end of the day, if you have that much money in the hands of so few people that necessarily it's going to compromise the ability of every person's vote and every person's voice to be equally weighted.

Nathan J. Robinson: A lot of people who sort of defend capitalism say, well, why are you so concerned with people at the top? Why don't you just say, you know, we're going to tax Bill Gates enough to provide a, a social safety net. And then it's fine, you should bring the bottom up, mm-hmm [affirmative] you shouldn't tear the top down. But having concentrated wealth at the top, again, money is power, so money is speech. If you have a lot of money, you can get your message out, you can buy a newspaper. I mean, this is what happens in, in Britain, in Britain it's even worse because very, very rich people own the papers and they're basically just [crosstalk 00:19:11].

Briahna Joy Gray: Do we not also have that [laughs].

Nathan J. Robinson: But like having someone like Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates means they have the power to shape the country to fit their vision. I mean, Bezos has this vision for like moon colonies mm-hmm [affirmative], he can have a private space program that like builds, rebuilds space in the image of his dreams. Bill Gates can take the American education system and he can say like, these are the reforms that I want to the American education system, and there's no democracy because money isn't democratic. We don't get to vote on how money is spent.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah. Yeah. So, I want to, I want to start back mm-hmm [affirmative] in the beginning because there are a lot of people who say, okay, fine, there are a lot of things abstractly, ethically that I agree with. I agree that income inequality, wealth inequality has gotten to extremes. I can see that there's a reality of life expectancy going down mm-hmm [affirmative], among white Americans at least, suicide rates going up, diseases of despair increasing mm-hmm [affirmative], you know, and this is a problem.

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: But why do we have to completely up in our system? Can't we just tweak capitalism? Why do you have to use this word that is potentially so off putting to so many people? What's your response to that?

Nathan J. Robinson: So, I think one of the, the mistakes people make is to think of capitalism and socialism as systems where like, we have capitalism and, and we can decide whether like Finland has capitalism. Socialism is best thought of as a spectrum of more capitalistic policies and more socialistic policies. And what we're saying is, we should continuously move in the direction of more and more socialistic policies. So, more and more common ownership, more and more cooperatives, a stronger labor movement, more things that we do possessed in common instead of things that just serve a small number of private interests.

And if you think of it that way, then obviously, the Nordic countries are far more socialistic than the United States. And when you say up end the entire system, well, again, you're moving along a spectrum. You're not up ending the entire system, these things are done through experimentation, you try some policies, some of them don't work. But the point is that the policies that you introduce and the direction that you move in is a socialistic direction. It's an egalitarian direction that is concerned with having a society in which people don't feel powerless, in which people don't feel like their lives are controlled.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, I think that's a, that's an interesting point that there are socialistic aspects of our current system mm-hmm [affirmative] that just aren't perceived that way.

Nathan J. Robinson: Oh, yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: And if it helps people to embrace this idea better, it's helpful to point out that, okay, we're talking about the fire department, right. So, over lunch just now we were talking about how there is this controversy over whether or not we should have free public college in the universities in this country.

Nathan J. Robinson: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Briahna Joy Gray: And many on the left will draw the comparison with, you know, will we have free elementary, and free Middle School, and free High School, majority of jobs now require a college education it only makes sense that we should have free public colleges as well. But there's another comparison that you also like to draw, what is that?

Nathan J. Robinson: Well, okay, let's just take Medicare for all, for example, right. Medicare for all, which the purpose is to have people not have to pay for their health care. It's paid for because it's paid for in taxes, but it's free at the point of use, right. Which is you don't have ... When you go to the doctor, you don't get a bill. That is currently the way the fire department operates. When you call them to come and extinguish your house, you don't get a bill and it's a government service, it's owned and operated by the state. It's funny that Ronald Reagan said that the scariest words in the English language were, I'm from the government and I'm here to help, because when your house is on fire, those are exactly the words you want to hear because you need the government to come and help you.

Now imagine if history of young little differently and it was the fire department that today operated the way that medicine operates, and ambulances, there was an ambulance department and they came, they picked you up, they took you to the hospital and you didn't get a bill, right. If firefighting operated the way, it would be crazy, right, because it would mean that, first off, you have plenty of people who, who just had to pay giant bills to private companies to come and extinguish their house. Then there'll be this system of insurance, of private insurance so that people paid like a monthly firefighting premium and then there was a deductible if your house burned down where you still have to pay $5,000 but you didn't have to pay $25,000.

Briahna Joy Gray: Do you pay more if your house is older, or is living closer to other wooden houses, or if it's bigger, requires more resources [crosstalk 00:23:39] existing condition.

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah, has your house burned down before in which case it'd be hard to get insurance, it'd be higher? And of course, Obamacare would be like, well, we're going to provide subsidies for people's private fire insurance for their private fire companies. And it's just kind of a crazy system to imagine. And you can also see how it would have the incentive effect of causing people not to want to call the fire department the way that today, people put off essential medical care because they know they can't afford it.

Briahna Joy Gray: They take Ubers to the hospital when they have a heart attack.

Nathan J. Robinson: People don't want to call an ambulance. People are begging not to be put in an ambulance. I mean, I begged once not to be put in an ambulance because I knew it would cost $1,000. They put me in an ambulance anyway, they said, you need an ambulance, you cannot take a taxi. And so, that is an incentive that you don't want ... You don't want to have people thinking about money in regard to the house burning down, or in regard to their basic health care. And the point of single payer health care, which is not even as radical as socialized medicine, which they have in Britain, which is like a fire department. But the point of it is to, is to really take away having to think about money.

And we want more things where you can focus on the thing that, that's about, and free college is the same. We want people to, to judge whether they should go to college not based on whether they can afford it, whether they're going to be in 10 years of debt, for going to college, based on whether they want to go to college, whether it's useful for them, and whether that what they're interested in learning.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, in the beginning of the book how talked about how millennials, in particular, are very open to this concept. In part because we have been dealing with some of the worst effects of late stage capitalism, some of which I went through. And to us, what you're describing is a kind of freedom mm-hmm [affirmative]. Freedom from feeling like your healthcare is tied to your employer, freedom to go and get a new job or to leave a job where you're being abused because you don't have to worry about whether or not you can pay for health care. Freedom to choose what you want to do, whether it's trade school, whether it's go to college, but not to have to make that decision based on how wealthy your parents are.

And yet, as you point to in the book, one of the many arguments that is often levied against the idea of socialism is that it, it limits freedom. Can you talk a little bit about that? What is the counter argument that you get and why is it so disingenuous?

Nathan J. Robinson: Well, you know, usually the counter argument is just the word Venezuela [laughs]. So, you know, you know, this authoritarian society called itself socialism. What libertarians say is, well, okay, every time you empower the state, you necessarily crush someone's freedom they, you know, taxation is, is theft, and people should be free to do what they want with their, with their property instead of it being taken away from them by force and used to subsidize someone else's healthcare.

That's a conception of freedom. But what we point out is that, in practice, what it ends up meaning is that if you can't sell your labor, if you don't have value on the market, if you're, you know, a disabled person, a senior, you know, or if you just don't ... there are no jobs, you will starve to death. And if you don't get a job, because if you don't get a job, you starve, you have to accept whatever conditions your employer attaches to your work. So, if your employer says, as a condition of your job, you have to hand over your ... all your social media passwords, and we get to look through all of your chat history. As a condition of this, you're not allowed to work in, another ... in this industry in another job for five years. Every grievance you have will go to arbitration.

They could even, you know, fit in the libertarian world, they could even write in, like, you're going to be subject to sexual harassment and you have to, you know, and you have to put up with it because that's contractual freedom. You signed up for it so [crosstalk 00:27:21].

Briahna Joy Gray: In these Fox News contracts.

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah. [laughs] Well, you know, there is kind of that conception, which is like, if you take a job, your choice is to put up with it or leave, because you made the choice. You had freedom.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Nathan J. Robinson: And what we point out on the left is, we care way less about the freedom of people who already have tons of money to bully and exploit people, than the freedom of other people to live well and not be subject to harassment, and abuse, and not have to think of money when they go to the doctor.

Briahna Joy Gray: And this is part of why I'm such an evangelist for our Workplace Democracy Act, which when you're flipping through our policies, maybe the workplace democracy act isn't the one that jumps out at you. But being the only campaign that wants to end at will employment, a constantly and trying to make the point that this is a social justice issue, this is a racial justice issue, this is a gender equality issue because if you don't have the freedom to leave those exploitative environments, you're much more likely to be part of them and it, and it's important also to have employers who aren't able to dismiss you for those kind of protected reasons, without having to justify why, right.

There is this necessarily wedded moral argument that you're making, but you're making it in tandem with a real vigorous scrutiny of these underlying economic presumption mm-hmm [affirmative]. So, one of them that you talk about is this idea that willingness to pay equals ability to pay mm-hmm [affirmative]. And the coercive miss that is inherent in having a system where you're bounded in basically by scarcity, right. And so to put it in simple terms, it feels to me like you're coming into this book in your ideology more broadly saying, I have a very low tolerance, complete intolerance even, for these kind of systemic inequities that a lot of people just kind of assume are a part of the world.

Nathan J. Robinson: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Briahna Joy Gray: It is what it is. There's always going to be some poor people, that's what you hear capitalists say all the time.

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: People who have a lot of money have a lot of money because they just worked harder.

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: Jeff Bezos worked, I don't ... can't even do the math in how many billions of times harder than me and you that he is, is alleged to have [crosstalk 00:29:29]. How do you come to that ideology? Like what, what does it take to shake people from the presumptions that we've all been encoded with over the last 30, 40, 50 however many years of our lives?

Nathan J. Robinson: Well, to me, all it takes is actually looking at the world, right, because the free market story is a kind of like almost science fiction, almost like speculative fiction, it's like a description of how a world would work. Like how this beautiful lemonade stand economy where, you know, Milton Friedman has this quote where he says, "Well, employment contracts aren't coercive because if someone ... people don't want to enter the marketplace, a household could just produce for itself." And you're like, well that in a world of farmers and artisans maybe, but you can't produce for yourself that's not-

Briahna Joy Gray: This, this might at least allow for a rooftop garden [laughs].

Nathan J. Robinson: You can't, can't do it. It's not actually an option. So, it is actually coercive, you have to, you have to get employed in the, in the real world that, that we're actually in. You know, it's very easy for like, for example, someone like Ben Shapiro to make the argument he cites the Brookings Institute success sequence, which is, if you graduate high school, get married and have a full time job, you won't be in poverty. Which is kind of true, but it ignores the fact that most of the people in poverty are, you know, people ... are old people, students, people who can't work, children, they're like, you're going to tell a child, well, why didn't you just graduate high school and get married? Because it's [laughs] ... It's not the real world. You're not actually looking at the situa- or their caregivers, people who have to take care of other people in their families that are poor, right.

This is the reality of the world. And so, you need to just look around you and you have to say, does this freedom, this freedom to choose, what does it look like at work? And the answer is, it looks like surveillance, but it looks like a surveillance state by your boss. I mean, Elizabeth Anderson has this great book, Private Government, where she talks about the workplace as a private government mm-hmm [affirmative], and how if we evaluated companies by the same principles that we do political philosophy, in regard to the comp-, it would be a dictatorship.

And if you told people ... that if you gave people a free market story about an actual dictatorship, you say, well you can leave, that wouldn't make it not a dictatorship. You'd say no, I'm not gonna leave, I need to reform this. We need to have a fair structure. And so, you need to start thinking about workplaces the same way.

Briahna Joy Gray: I want to ask you about Bernie a little bit.

Nathan J. Robinson: Oh, yeah, let's talk about Bernie.

Briahna Joy Gray: Because, you know, throughout this book in, in, Current Affairs ... I mean, one of the things that really helped put Current Affairs in the map was this article that you did in 2016-

Nathan J. Robinson: That if people had just listened to [laughs] a lot, a lot of mess would have been avoided.

Briahna Joy Gray: Right. So, in 2016 you wrote this article about how if Bernie Sanders isn't the nominee, Donald Trump is going to be president. And it wasn't this, it wasn't this just like [crosstalk 00:32:16] based on old numbers, it's kind of like empty vapid piece, it was an accounting of what the vulnerabilities of the different players in 2016 were lined up against a Trump's vulnerabilities and his strength.

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: And substantive analysis that said, hey, a corporatist candidate, a status quo candidate is going to have trouble pointing to the flaws in Donald Trump when they have been running basically in the same circles for their entire life, they're taking money from similar places, they have similar issues with their personal lives that are very different in scope and magnitude but are easily manipulated by someone who is as dexterous with the truth power wise [laughs] as Donald Trump. So, going into this next round, where we have similar kind of like teams that have formed in terms of more progressive wing of candidates and a more moderate wing of candidate, I'm curious how, how you're seeing this play out in, in 2020.

Nathan J. Robinson: Well, first, in 2016, when I was analyzing, you know, I was look- ... I had this moment where I looked at Hillary and I looked at Bernie and I went, oh my god, the democrats are about to nominate someone who's gonna lose mm-hmm [affirmative]. They're gonna ... She, she's gonna lose.

Briahna Joy Gray: I mean it was really just you, Michael Moore, [crosstalk 00:33:27].

Nathan J. Robinson: Right. And Michael, really got the reasons why, why she lost. I mean, he's like, Midwest, is going to lose the Midwest, it's gonna be a disaster because no one likes her there, you know. But, you know, as I looked at that, I thought, well, hang on a minute. Let's imagine Hillary on the debate stage with Donald Trump and he'll talk about, you know, how Bill harassed a bunch of people and he'll talk about the Iraq War, he'll run to the Hillary's left on things. But let's imagine Bernie on the debate stage with Trump, I still want that to happen. You know, Trump agreed with it to a debate with Bernie and then backed out mm-hmm [affirmative] at one point.

Briahna Joy Gray: Did he?

Nathan J. Robinson: I, I, I think there was a moment where like he maybe, he maybe [crosstalk 00:34:03]. No, [laughs], you know, I think that Bernie would just do phenomenally against Donald Trump because Donald Trump thrives on scandal, personal things, things he can pick at, that are just ... he wants to distract you. He wants someone who's gonna talk about Ukraine because a lot of people don't care very much about the Ukraine thing. So, Donald Trump would love to talk about like, you know, just get people lost in this, in this mess.

Briahna Joy Gray: I'm gonna clarify on that. There were some people, you know, who criticize the left and say, how can you not care about, someone committing an impeachable offense? It's not about not caring that Trump has done that, right. But it's about understanding that people's personal lives and their kind of day to day concerns tends to crowd out what's happening on the MSNBC circuit. And if we're talking about putting together a coalition that can beat Trump, it's going to be a broad-based working-class coalition filled with people who aren't spending every day watching MSNBC and don't know the latest on the impeachment he- hearings. But if you want to mobilize voters, you have to speak to bread and butter issues.

Nathan J. Robinson: The incredible thing about Bernie, and the thing that gives him a real gift as a politician ... I mean, Bernie Sanders is ... one of the greatest communicators that we have.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yes.

Nathan J. Robinson: And, you could see other candidates just lift Bernie's approach and his policies because they understand that Bernie breaks things down simply, he breaks things down in a way that, that people can relate to. He says, let's take your life and the problems that you face in your life. Now, I'm gonna tell you what I'm gonna do that is going to ... I'm gonna identify the source of the problems, I'm gonna show you why they're happening-

Briahna Joy Gray: Yes.

Nathan J. Robinson: ... and I'm gonna show you what we're going to do together-

Briahna Joy Gray: Yes.

Nathan J. Robinson: ... to stop them. Every time I meet people, they have problems where I go, oh, Bernie speaks to your problem. I- my Uber driver on the way o- over here was a guy from Honduras who's a citizen, but his family is stuck because the Trump administration won't grant them a Green card and he also he was like Uber takes all my money, they take, you know, 4- 40% and I can't make my rent and I was like, if I tried to talk to him about like, well, what Trump said to the president of Ukraine about Joe Biden, how do you feel about that? He'd be like, "I'm trying to get my f- f- family over here.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Nathan J. Robinson: Like all he thinks about is the fact that he hasn't seen his children in four months, and he Skypes them every night and they say, when are we going to get to be with you? That's what he told me like ... and Bernie says to that guy, we need to get your kids over here.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Nathan J. Robinson: What matters in your life is your children and we have to get them here now. You have to help me to ... in order to make that happen. And that's so powerful, because it's what people need to hear.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah, well, so the counter example that people raise is this idea that okay, but what about socialism? He's gonna get on the stage and Trump is just gonna hit him as a socialist. You know, I was on YouTube and every other commercial I get on that YouTube is a Trump commercial and the one I got today was, let me know what you think about socialism, text, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and, and tell the Trump campaign.

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: You know, what do you think is gonna happen? Do you think that, that using the S word as it were is gonna be a liability?

Nathan J. Robinson: One thing that works really well about Bernie is that he leans into and embraces and doesn't hide things. And I think in the same way that Donald Trump when people pointed at him and said you vulgar and crass went damn right [laughs] I'm vulgar and crass like, that's why you should vote for me.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Nathan J. Robinson: Bernie isn't ashamed of being a socialist. And Bernie says, OK, you've heard the word socialism. Now, let me tell you what it means to me. I can't predict whether that's going to work. I mean, there is going to be when Bernie gets the nomination, there's going to be a massive propaganda campaign-

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Nathan J. Robinson: ... to destroy him because he is such a threat to so many people's riches, right? That they are going to try [laughs] ... They're gonna come after him with everything they got, and they gonna say that word socialism over and over. What ... it's one of the reasons that I wrote why you should be a socialist [laughs] because I want to preemptively say when they say that to you, you need to remember that it is not true that they're associating these ... the word with ideas that we don't hold and here's what it really means. And Bernie's really, really good at doing that.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, I want to do a rapid fire because you do the section of the end of the book, or toward the end of the book, where you basically do a quick accounting of all of the kind of speeches attacks that are levied against socialism-

Nathan J. Robinson: Oh yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... and why everybody should ignore or why they're not true basically.

Nathan J. Robinson: Oh, yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, [laughs] of course when it's socialist dislike freedom, they only care about equality [crosstalk 00:38:28]

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah, well, I mean, we've kind of talked about this, right, which is these different conceptions of freedom where libertarian freedom is the freedom of your boss to fire you when you get pregnant, and socialist freedom is your freedom to spend time with your kids when you have them so you don't have to go back to work the day after giving birth.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah, it's just like negative freedom versus positive freedom, like framing up. I had a law professor who used to open every class, radical kind of leftist law professor who used to open every class with commercials from the '90s, that were all about choice and something being cut from you, and how you need to have a choice whether it was Virginia Slims, it's your way baby, men have been telling you-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... to smoke these thick cigarettes, now we got skinny girly cigarettes for you, this is freedom, or whether it's Trix are for kids, your mom and dad are[crosstalk 00:39:13] coming for your cereal or like. Cookie Chris was like a literal burglar that's coming for your like your Cookie Chris. And once you start seeing commercial [laughs] after commercial like oh my god-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... every single American commercial is manipulating this idea that-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... someone's trying to take something from us-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yes.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... and that we need to rest it back in [crosstalk 00:39:29]

Nathan J. Robinson: And the way to rest it back is by buying our product.

Briahna Joy Gray: Right. Glucose in cigarettes [laughs] [crosstalk 00:39:33]

Nathan J. Robinson: Yes. Smoke these cigarettes and you will be free.

Briahna Joy Gray: Right. And so, I think that being able to talk about freedom from want-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yes, yes.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... is an incredibly powerful tool and something that I hear Bernie Sanders doing kind of uniquely in, in this field. So, the second one is Venezuela, Venezuela, Venezuela.

Nathan J. Robinson: Well, that's all they say, basically, [laughs] right? I mean, no one who says that usually has like a sophisticated analysis of the Venezuelan economy. They just go Venezuela was socialism and look at, look at all the people starving there. Now, the, the question that you posed the response is, what are the things that were done in Venezuela that you think that we're trying to do here-

Briahna Joy Gray: Right.

Nathan J. Robinson: ... in particular, like Medicare for all? Is that what you think is gonna ... you get ... In what ... Tell me, tell me the path between that and Venezuela. Of course, also, the fundamental to democratic socialism is anti-authoritarianism, right? We don't want power concentrated in dictators, right? So, when democratic socialist look at Bolivia, for example, which people don't like to talk about, because it's so much more successful than Venezuela, even under socialist government, right, it saw poverty went down, growth went up. But of course, Eva Morales, sort of concentrated power and that, you know, if you're a, if you're a sophisticated socialist, you say, "Well, I don't like that part of it. I like the part where you reduce poverty, but I also think it should have been more participatory and you should have like, not ... should have just been one guy."

Briahna Joy Gray: Right.

Nathan J. Robinson: And that's really important about Bernie, too, and it's one of the things that I think, I think makes him trustworthy is that he says, it isn't about me. That's super, super important is he says it isn't about me. This movement has to be larger than me. It has to involve the cultivation of young leaders who can take over. I am a vehicle for enacting your aspirations, but let's not have a personality cult and I think we always need to be on guard against being too much about Bernie and not about the things that Bernie stands for.

Briahna Joy Gray: Right. That kind of partisan, partisan first, putting people on a pedestal step is ho- how we get democrats not having a problem with the consolidation of power under, you know, Barack Obama, and then continuing somehow mind mindbogglingly, not actually having a critique of Trump, and his interventionism the same way ... There are still people who are arguing increase voting for his military budgets, having no problem with his foreign policy-

Nathan J. Robinson: Right.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... even as they kind of wring their hands about domestic affairs. Right? So, to have a consistent approach about that also, I think gives Bernie trust in the eyes of a lot of Republicans to say, "Okay, I might not always agree with him. But he's been ... he's consistently not wanting to aggregate power in the executive branch-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... whether it's Republican or Democrat in office.

Nathan J. Robinson: Well, I mean, yeah, this is very important. And, you know, foreign policy is one of the areas that Bernie really, really sticks out, and that nobody ever talks about, largely because the American media doesn't care about the lives of non-Americans. That's not an overstatement. I have data in the book about-

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Nathan J. Robinson: ... how little they care, you know, you can literally measure how much a death in one country counts against another death.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Nathan J. Robinson: Right? People in this country don't pay attention to the victims of American military power. Bernie has been consistently anti-war. And that's incredibly important, because non-American lives matter. And for an example of that, like Lyndon Johnson was a liberal, he gave us the Great Society, right? So, he's a reformer. He gave us the, you know, the Civil Rights Act, the voting rights, and he signed them into law, you know, but Lyndon Johnson was a monster because of the Vietnam War, because the Vietnam War killed millions of people.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Nathan J. Robinson: And so foreign policy is really important. If you just look at domestic policy, and you don't think we'll have ... What is this person's approach to the use of American power? People die from that.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah, you use the example of a kind of the pink washing of fighter jets at some point in this book.

Nathan J. Robinson: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Briahna Joy Gray: And I think the example, you know, the conclusion of that is that you can paint a fighter jet pink and say it's for women's equality or breast cancer, whatever it is, but the, the brown lives that are being killed-

Nathan J. Robinson: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Briahna Joy Gray: ... by the pilots of those planes matter as well. And it's difficult. There's, emphasis on identity and identity politics, however you define it. You talk about your book, how it's kind of all over the place where people would find it. There's a focus on identity politics without a focus on the intersectionality, which takes identity politics from being purely representational-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... to being about relative power-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yes.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... and how we are able to equalize it. Right?

Nathan J. Robinson: Yes.

Briahna Joy Gray: I could go on and on. I don't want to belabor the point here in the book, but I do want to ask you ... oh, that one's a good one.

Nathan J. Robinson: What's that one?

Briahna Joy Gray: Socialists elevate their collective and forget the individual.

Nathan J. Robinson: Oh, this is really-

Briahna Joy Gray: That's a good one.

Nathan J. Robinson: ... an interesting one because the idea that socialism is collectivist, because we talk about society, and Margaret Thatcher says, there's no such thing as society, there are just individuals. Well, it's interesting, because what actually happens is the people who talk about capitalism, talk about the collective, the aggregate, they say, oh, look on the aggregate statistics, we got, we got more innovation or whatever. But you ever to think like people don't live in the aggregate and there are lots of people, inequality means that this arrow can conceal that for a group of people, it's going the other way. You know, life expectancy can be going up, while life expectancy for poor people is going down. So, what socialists do is we disaggregate, and we look at individual people.

Now a funny thing, of course, is that there is no more collectivist institution than a corporation. A corporation is a place designed to serve the, the single-minded interest of the serving of shareholder value. Right? Walmart is Maoism, right [laughs]? You know ... kill people, but like you gotta wear uniforms, you gotta [crosstalk 00:45:15] you've got to devote yourself to the good of the ... Yeah, well [laughs] ... But, but that's the thing, right? You've got to ... If we really care about collectivism versus individualism, you've got to look at what people's lives are like, and there's no individualism in an Amazon fulfillment warehouse, none. There's literally like, if you don't ... you're turned into a piece of machinery. This is the socialist critique of capitalism is that we don't think individuals should be pieces of machinery where they can be discarded, when they're no longer useful, where their value is in proportion to how much output they can put out.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Nathan J. Robinson: We care about people as human beings, and that has historically been the socialist critique. So, if you don't like collectivism, come on and join the left.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah. You make a point at one point about, imagining a future-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yes.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... and how ... imagining utopia is this important part of this project because it helps people to understand what a world ... the future world really aiming for could look like and you referenced Star Trek, which anybody who knows me who's listening to the podcast-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yes.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... knows this is my absolute favorite. [laughs] And a point that I like to make about Star Trek, as you know, in a post scarcity world, describe it as achievement matters more than the accumulation of wealth, the stars of Star Trek, their, their jobs outside of being a Star Trek Captain are I'm an archeologist-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... or outside of being, you know, Captain Benjamin Sisko, his dad has a Cajun restaurant in New Orleans, which I'm sure is very near and dear to your heart given that's where you're based and where current affairs is based, and his son ends up being a writer, right?

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: And so, if we're talking about freedom and, and ... what is more collective than being kind of a drone in a warehouse as-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yes.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... compared to being able to fulfill whatever personal intellectual pursuits including a lot that are of incredible value to the world helping professions, teachers, things like that as well. The last one I will ask you to do is people are inherently greedy or lazy.

Nathan J. Robinson: I love this one because it usually says more about the person making the criticism than about people. They're like, well, you know, all the people I'm around or like, but you know, for the, rest of us, we know that that's not true because we know people, we're neighborly people, we're friendly people, people ... we just ... this is not how human ... If human beings were inherently greedy, if they operated according to a pursuit of economic self-interest model of the human being, we would never have been able to build the great institutions that have made human civilization to the extent that it's a good thing possible. It's just not true. You just go in you, you ... around the world and you see, if you actually look at people's lives, there's this big fear that like if we give people leisure time, they're just gonna lie in front of the television. Well, not, if you give people a real alternative. It's not that people don't want to work, people don't like jobs generally, which are very different [laughs]. Like, people like productive activity-

Briahna Joy Gray: Right.

Nathan J. Robinson: ... people like to be doing things 'cause doing things is interesting. It's the structure of a job that is miserable. So, when you see, you know, people do- don't want, don't want to work, it's not that they don't want to work, it's because they don't want a job [laughs].

Briahna Joy Gray: It's true. When, when I was at my law firm, wasting time, it wasn't that I was just putting my time away on the internet. I was definitely writing current affairs a- articles [laughs] at my desk.

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: I read a study once, it was like a historical review that was talking about different attitudes toward various racial groups and the perception of them being lazy, and how there was this remarkable pivot that would happen where all of the mythology about a group would be they were really hard working.

Nathan J. Robinson: Yes.

Briahna Joy Gray: Africans are so industrious, Indians are so industrious, as we're like colonizing, colonizing them. Oh, yeah. We got to recruit them to do all this stuff for us and work. And the second freedom that comes on the table, it's oh, they're lazy, and we have to keep them in captivity or keep them under the boot of colonialism because otherwise if left to their own devices, they wouldn't do anything. How self-serving [laughs] these kinds of arguments and inconsistent they are.

Nathan J. Robinson: Immigrants are lazy, at the same time, they're so hard working, that they're gonna [crosstalk 00:48:59] all of your job. Right, this kind of contradiction. Now you can look, instead of just like creating a vision of what people are like, you can actually ... there's data, people run experiments to see how ordinary people treat each other in situations, how they share out resources. It turns out people are sharers; they want to collaborate. You have people who can't get along with others and who do pursue their self-interest, but those people are called libertarians and they're very rare [laughs], and there are problem because [laughs] you can't have a good society when you have people who believe it's okay to just take as much for yourself as you possibly can which billionaires do believe.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Nathan J. Robinson: They do. I mean, you know, Leon Cooperman, this guy who was criticizing the wealth tax is a billionaire goes, you know, I made my money, I built my millions, I, I buy billions and you know, no one could take it away, an- and you go so you believe that you are entitled to just half as much as you like and you don't have to do anything. You're just-

Briahna Joy Gray: I mean, they talk about laziness. I mean, you make a great point about inherited wealth in the book as well.

Nathan J. Robinson: Inherited wealth and also capital income.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Nathan J. Robinson: Right? So, passive income which is huge part of the economy is money you earn in your sleep. And so, when we talk about people not working for their money, I give the example of like all the houses that Sean Hannity owns, they pay him rent every month. He's not like fixing up the houses even though he's the landlord-

Briahna Joy Gray: Right.

Nathan J. Robinson: ... he's the owner. If you just own stuff, your money makes the money, your labor doesn't, doesn't make the money, your capital makes the money. Now there's ... there are defenders that are often they say, wow, they're putting their capital at risk. You go, that's a separate argument from the question is work it what gives you the money and it turns out the work is not at all what gives you the money because the people who work the hardest get the least, we know that.

Briahna Joy Gray: Right. So, okay, [laughs] I could sit here and like-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yes.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... literally chapter by chapter go this entire book, but I will leave it to people to actually buy it and read it. And where can they find it?

Nathan J. Robinson: I think in bookstores everywhere and I also did the audio book so they can listen to 12 hours of me reading-

Briahna Joy Gray: Wonderful, because you have the best voice.

Nathan J. Robinson: ... the entire in my weird [laughs] voice. They can listen to the whole thing [crosstalk 00:51:02]

Briahna Joy Gray: Although it is a controversial voice, I don't know if you're, if you're very online watching this, there were deep, deep internet controversies about whether Nathan Robinson is affecting his accent [laughs].

Nathan J. Robinson: Oh, that controversy. Yeah, that's a real-life controversy.

Briahna Joy Gray: Didn’t you get your mom to call in and say-

Nathan J. Robinson: My mother can ... if you asked my mother, if you doubt me, because she will attest, I was born in England, I came over to the United States and I have a sort of weird hybrid accent has a very, very British and I was born there, and I have a passport to prove it.

Briahna Joy Gray: This isn't judgment free zone. It's a safe space. But I will, I will ask you, you know, for people who say, OK, I don't identify as a socialist, I don't necessarily even think of myself as a capitalist. What should I take away from this book? What-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... what is, what is the distinction you're trying to make here or that you successfully make here-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... between the world, what worldview is represented-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yes.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... by this book in this thinking that is, that is in this book, versus kind of the status quo thinking of how we perceive ourselves, at least as a nation that is capitalist in nature.

Nathan J. Robinson: At the very least, it's focusing on the right things. One of the things that socialists have historically done so well, is they have had sharp moral sensibilities. They have looked around at the world and they have seen the problems with it. And they have said, "Look, this is intolerable. You can't tolerate this." And this is why Bernie fits with the socialist tradition. And in doing so, they have challenged society to live up to free, quite basic moral ideals. And I think it's easy to say one of the frustrating things is, you know, when I say things like, well, you know, here, here's a bunch of social injustices people go, "Oh, yes, of course. Of course, we care about those." And you go, yeah, but do they make you sick? Do they make you angry? Do you really feel like a, a boiling over rage when you ...? I, I get the Wall Street Journal and I, I read the, the Friday real estate section which is called Mansion, and then [laughs] and it's like 10,000 square foot houses and he bought one. This is how to move your 10,000 square foot house when the sea levels rise. [laughs] and, and, it makes me so angry because I, I live in a French Quarter in New Orleans and there are homeless people lying in the doorways who's sleeping in the doorways, and they're homeless people in, in the French Quarter, they sleep next to the piles of trash that are put out for pick up. And sometimes you can't tell the difference between who's people and what is a bag of garbage.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Nathan J. Robinson: And the idea of a society that has like how to move your 10,000 square foot house and also has that should be outrageous. When you see the, the art exhibit, the banana taped to the wall that [laughs] someone paid $120,000 for-

Briahna Joy Gray: Yes.

Nathan J. Robinson: ... and you see people on GoFundMe-

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Nathan J. Robinson: ... trying to pay for their insulin for the next few months. That should make you angry, that should make you sick to your stomach. And what I like about Bernie is it does make him angry, and this is what distinguishes him from other candidates. And what distinguishes him from liberalism, I'm critical of liberalism in the book and one reason is because I think it sort of talks about injustice, but it doesn't feel that sense of urgency and this is why Martin Luther King was critical of liberals because the liberals would all go, yes, yes, yes of course we share the goals of social justice, but you just need to take baby steps and we make society better slowly. And he was going to no, every moment that this persists is an indefensible moment. And I love that Bernie does that and I think that's what socialists have always done. That's what Eugene Debs did when he said, you know, when there is a lower class, I am in it and it's what Bernie did when he sort of echoed that and said, you need to fight for people who don't ... where you don't necessarily share their problems. If they're an immigrant, you're not an immigrant, you still need to fight for them.

that is what socialists do. And it is very, very important. And I think it is the only thing that can really lead to social change, because social change is difficult, and you have to really be passionate about it in order to make it happen because there are plenty of interests in not having it happen. Plenty of people are gonna try and stop you. So, if you're going to make it succeed, you're going to have to fight.

Briahna Joy Gray: I used to feel like maybe it was Pollyanna. I think the society tries to make us feel like we're Pollyannas for saying simple statements like I ... it makes me uncomfortable. It makes me angry to see homelessness-

Nathan J. Robinson: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Briahna Joy Gray: ... and broader and justices. And what I e- enjoy about the socialist movement, the green New Deal people like ASEANs, these young climate crusaders, who have brought these conversations to the mainstream, is that I feel like I have permission to feel as bad as I think we should all be-

Nathan J. Robinson: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... feeling about it without feeling like I'm being somehow naive or childish.

Nathan J. Robinson: I do think people should go back to the questions that they had when they were children. This really is something important, which is simple questions that you never got satisfactory answers to. And if one of those questions is like, why does this person pose as an advocate of social justice in public, but then in private, they're really cruel to their subordinates? That shouldn't be acceptable. You ... don't rationalize things that you think are obvious injustices. This is your really, really important because people will try and make you think, think you're stupid, they will try to give you explanations that don't really seem to hold up, what I say is no persist. Your judgment is good judgment and it's right to be outraged.

Briahna Joy Gray: Thank you so much for coming here and sharing your outreach with us Nathan J. Robinson.

Nathan J. Robinson: Of course.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... and I hope you guys all enjoy this book as much as I did.

News Clip: The newly homeless population in New Orleans is on the rise. Intense gentrification following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina has caused rent and housing to skyrocket in many neighborhoods. More people are seeking shelter, sleeping in cars or abandoned houses. The marketing now here is ae 8-900 to $1,000 for a one-bedroom house or two-bedroom house but some unfortunate senior parents can't afford $800. Despite working two jobs [inaudible 00:56:56] still doesn't make enough to afford housing for herself and toddler.

Briahna Joy Gray: That's it for this week. Let us know what you think at [email protected] or send us a tweet with the hashtag #HeartheBern. If you haven't already, please take a moment to rate, review, or like us on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud or wherever you're listening. As always, transcripts will be up soon. And don't forget, with the new version of the Bern app 2.0, you can very easily share the podcast through the app to all the friends you've identified there, and it's a great tool to help spread the message of the revolution. Till next time.