What is an institution? How can we learn to see institutions more clearly in our daily lives? Yuval Levin, Director of AEI’s Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies department, editor of National Affairs, and author of the new book “A Time to Build” on restoring American institutions, joins the show to discuss the structures of American associational life.

Adam asks him about the challenge of upholding existing institutions, and how American citizens should think of themselves as parties to the institution that is the Constitution. Meanwhile, Yuval’s ability to speak in full paragraphs amazes and delights the audience.

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Children entering the foster care system have often experienced serious trauma, but there is nothing inevitable about their life’s trajectories.

In this episode, Naomi and Ian discuss what happens to youth aging out of foster care, how the child welfare system can increase the recruitment and retention of foster parents, and the difference between child abuse and neglect.

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How strong is the least dangerous branch? Moreover, how self-restrained should it be?

In this episode of “Unprecedential,” Adam White interviews Greg Weiner, AEI visiting scholar and associate professor at Assumption College. Professor Weiner’s latest book, “The Political Constitution: The Case Against Judicial Supremacy,” argues that an over-active judiciary undermines the Constitution’s republican qualities. He and Adam discuss judicial restraint, judicial legitimacy, and the Madisonian and Burkean themes of Weiner’s previous books.

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From Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France to Yuval Levin’s new book, A Time to Build, conservatives have long been fascinated by the relationship between the American individual, state, and mediating institutions. Building properly-functioning institutions of all kinds – media, religious, or educational — is crucial to the politics and social lives of a self-governing people.

David Gelernter, Yale computer scientist and polymath, addresses the lack of institutions that would challenge growing left-wing domination of the cultural and educational landscapes. His Bradley Lecture, “New Institutions for a New Cultural Establishment,” examines with incisive wit how the center-right can build badly-needed institutions when they are needed most.

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Decades prior to today’s political arguments about “coastal elites” misunderstanding “flyover country,” film critic, author, and talk show host Michael Medved made a cultural argument. Medved contended that the cloistered cultures of Hollywood were unresponsive to market demands, and chose to push a narrative—one that would not serve their own financial interests — about religion, the US, and the human condition.

Will Baird joins the podcast once again to discuss the themes that drew Medved’s ire, the conservative case for irreverence in film, and whether there’s something truly the matter with the film industry in Hollywood.

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Prolific historian, author, and social critic Gertrude Himmelfarb (1922-2019) leaves behind a legacy of scholarship transcending time and place. Her insights into the past, such as her studies of Victorian England, help fashion a worldview for the present, one emphasizing virtue, truth-seeking, and humility.

AEI Senior Fellow Karlyn Bowman joins the podcast to memorialize Dr. Himmelfarb and discuss what lessons her life and works hold for future generations.

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“In my business,” explained one immigrant entrepreneur in the mid-1930s, “I am the best economist.” So went the argument against centralized power acting for what it believed to be the common good. Knowledge is too diffuse for a command economy to function – just one lesson among many that historian and author Amity Shlaes gleaned from her study of New Deal administration and compiled into her 2004 Bradley Lecture, “The New Deal and Class Warfare.”

This lecture was originally delivered in April 2004.

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The first Amendment to the Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” 200 years later, the Supreme Court determined that a nonsectarian prayer at a high school graduation violated the Establishment Clause, and was not protected under the Free Exercise Clause. It was a puzzling decision for those who understood the centrality of religion to public life throughout American history.

University of Chicago Law professor Michael W. McConnell, later a federal judge, was among the puzzled. He endeavored to trace the impulse to turn “freedom of religion” into “freedom from religion” in the public square. AEI Visiting Fellow and religious freedom expert Ramesh Ponnuru joins the podcast to discuss McConnell’s argument, First Amendment Jurisprudence since the early 1990s, and ongoing threats to religious life in America today.

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In 2019, everyone from seven-time NBA All-Star James Harden to the writers of South Park has something to say about China. The narrative is fairly simple: China is an economic behemoth, full of billions of consumers ready to support American business – as long as said business keeps quiet about Chinese authoritarianism and human rights abuses.

Almost twenty tears ago, after China liberalized much of its economy and opened up to foreign investment, Arthur Waldron spoke of the paths its government might choose. Chinese economic liberalization could be followed by political liberalization, or it could double down on authoritarianism and militarization. Waldron’s Bradley Lecture, “China after Communism,” explores those very themes – and cuts to the heart of what it means to be a free, democratic country.

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College campuses play a central role in shaping the thinking of future leaders and current public intellectuals. But starting in the 1990’s, campuses took a strange tack, engaging in more banning than shaping. Speech codes developed by shadowy bureaucracies restricted activities that might offend – whether speech, laughter, or even pinning up a calendar.

light on the draconian codes of the ‘shadow university,’ explaining the origins of this “betrayal of liberty,” and makes the renewed case for robust First Amendment protections for all Americans – even college students.

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Are we doomed? Probably. But the reason for that doom depends on whom you ask. If you ask a candidate at a recent Democratic town hall event on climate change, we might be doomed because our planet cannot sustain current population levels. But if you ask writer Jonathan V. Last, he will write a book explaining why the opposite is true: We need higher fertility rates to fend off the disastrous economic, social, and even environmental consequences of dwindling population levels.

Lyman Stone – AEI fellow, demographer, and unabashed baby-supporter – joins the podcast to discuss Last’s Bradley Lecture, “What to expect when no one’s expecting.”

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“Predictions are hard,” goes the proverb, “especially about the future.” But as the 2020 election season ramps up and Democrats compete for the opportunity to take the White House, it seems as though everyone will try anyway. Some predictions are based on a close look at demographic and other long-term political trends, while others depend upon the very short term – that whatever is most important to Americans in November 2020 will decide the coloration of the electoral map.

AEI Senior Fellow and public opinion guru Karlyn Bowman joins the podcast to discuss Sean Trende’s analysis of the political landscape, whether demography is destiny, and how we might discern what surprising political trends may be on the horizon.

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The counterculture that developed in the 1960s rocked post-World War II America and changed the course of the 21st century. Its art, protest culture, and worldview, moreover, led AEI scholar Irving Kristol to identify the counterculture as “adversary to secular humanism” in a way that was previously “unthinkable.”

Kristol examines the origins and legacies of this counterculture—and how it continues to reverberate in the world of politics today.

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“So much depends on our theory of human nature,” said psychologist Steven Pinker. “We use our conceptions of human nature to manage our relationships, to control our own behavior, and guide our policies in law and government.” But what is human nature?

In formulating his own understanding of human nature, Pinker rejects three popular conceptions and proposes his own framework based on recent scientific conclusions.

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Leave it to a legal scholar to ask: Is a stigma a tax? If so, can government act legitimately to remove that stigma?

To legal scholar Cass Sunstein, the answer is yes. Certain social norms, Sunstein explains, such as wearing a seatbelt in Hungary or carrying a gun in Sunstein’s neighborhood, act as taxes on particular behaviors. Norms that encourage certain behaviors are, analogously, subsidies.

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To some, Thomas Jefferson’s declaration that “all men are created equal” is the height of American greatness. To others, given Jefferson’s ownership of slaves, it represents the height of hypocrisy. Where you fall probably depends upon how you interpret the word “equal” – which is the topic of Gordon Wood’s Bradley Lecture, “Thomas Jefferson and the Idea of Equality.”

To discuss Jefferson’s complicated legacy and Wood’s analysis, we welcome to the podcast Nicole Penn, AEI researcher, Virginia Dynasty expert, and fearless disentangler of Jeffersonian contradictions.

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This Juneteenth – the day celebrating the end of slavery in the United States – take a moment to think about what it means to be free.

Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson provocatively argues that without the notion of slavery the concept of freedom cannot fully exist. In his lecture, “Free at last: How slavery begat freedom,” he explains that freedom is a concept unique to the west. Without our ugly history of slavery, in Patterson’s telling, we could not cherish the gift of liberty as we should.

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What are schools for? To prepare students for participation in an economy? To cultivate virtue? Or just to make sure that no child is left behind?

Economist Sam Peltzman argued in 1993 that American public schools were failing by at least one of those standards, and that certain political conditions were to blame.

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“QUIT. Go teach somewhere else, you racist… (Maybe Charlottesville?)”

After publishing an op-ed in the New York Times calling for greater viewpoint diversity on college campuses, Sam Abrams found a sign saying just that on his office door at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY.

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Is Israel a Jewish state? Or just a state of Jews?

In this Bradley Lecture, Israeli political philosopher Yoram Hazony examines the growing discomfort on the part of many Israelis with Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Using examples such as military codes of ethics and history curricula, he sketches a picture of a state shying away from its sense of common history, values, and role in Jewish history.

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