4/11 When The U.S. Government Stopped Caring w/ Elizabeth Popp Berman

April 11, 2022

Emma hosts Elizabeth Popp Berman, associate professor of organizational studies at the University of Michigan, to discuss her recent book Thinking Like An Economist: How Efficiency Replaced Equality In U.S. Public Policy, on how the era of neoliberalism saw a new mode of reasoning in Washington, and the lasting effects it has today. First, Emma and Professor Berman paint a picture of how she opens her book, diving into why the election of Obama in 2008 serves as a perfect climax of the hyper marketization of US policy over the last half-century, looking at his facade of change and aesthetic of progress grounded in policy that ultimately looked nothing like the progressive action of Democrats from the ‘30s to ‘60s. Next, Professor Elizabeth Popp Berman jumps back to the ‘60s as she works to summarize this Econ 101 mode of reasoning that centers microeconomic concepts such as incentive and efficiency, originally coming into the Defense Department from the Rand Corporation, emphasizing cost-benefit analysis and catching on quickly in the midsts of LBJ’s Great Society expansion. As this way of thinking spread throughout Washington, one of the most disastrous effects was how it hooked itself into the Democratic party, defanging any talk of larger social spending in the name of equality after Johnson, led by a technocratic ideology of the markets, and coming into full swing under Carter as the early administrations of the ‘70s proved its efficacy in bolstering political and market power. Diving further into Carter’s regime, Beth and Emma look to public interest groups and policy schools in bolstering faith in technocracy and the elite hyper-marketization of our government, undermining healthcare accessibility, anti-trust regulation, and much more in favor of maximizing efficiency, before touching on how these schools of thought effectively ingrained themselves in Washington’s culture. Emma then dives into the incongruous relationship between efficiency and broader claims about rights (human, civil, economic, or other), as Professor Berman discusses the impact of this on social justice policy in the neoliberal era, before they wrap up the interview by looking at the hyper-specificity of this mode of economic reasoning (opposed to a labor-focused or Keyensian mode of economic reasoning), and discuss what the future of the left looks like, particularly when it comes to shifting away from this constraint on policy. Emma also dives into updates from Ukraine, as Jake Tapper posits meeting bloodshed with even more bloodshed in order to stop the bloodshed, and looks to France as she discusses the neoliberal centrist drive to appeal to the far right.

And in the Fun Half: Emma takes a call with Dan from Boiling Springs on the new age spirituality community’s growing dissolution with the vitriol in Q Anon-like conspiracy, Chris Coons apologizes for responding to Republican corruption with obstructionism, William from CA discusses getting around abortion bans, and a start-up guru takes a dip into promoting unhealthy habits to lower insurance costs. Caitlyn Jenner gives an unsurprisingly despicable take on the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, Jeff from New Mexico gets into the nitty-gritty of today’s interview, and Jean from France discusses his “lesser evil” conundrum ahead of the upcoming election. DJT forgets who’s prosecuting him for what, and Pradeep from Canada dives into how Jordan Be Peterson-ing and the Texas abortion indictment, plus, your calls and IMs!

Check out Elizabeth’s book here: https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691167381/thinking-like-an-economist

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