Legal and cultural debates involving religious liberty are converging toward a single question: is free religious exercise an element of the common good, that contributes to society’s overall well-being? In the landmark 1990 case of Employment Division v. Smith, the answer was no.

But the Supreme Court issued several decisions favorable to religious liberty in the 2019-2020 term, and the Roberts Court looks likely to reconsider Smith this fall. Guest William J. Haun joins to discuss the recent Court term and the future of religious liberty at the nation’s highest court.

Just a few years ago, e-cigarettes were lauded as a public-health miracle that could wean addicts off of far more harmful smoking habits. Today, the same e-cigarettes are denounced as a public-health nightmare, and their sale is increasingly restricted. How did this happen? And which view is more right?

Guest Sally Satel joins us to tell a story of tone-deaf manufacturers, flawed regulation, media scare-mongering, and an extraordinary lack of intellectual integrity in a prominent sector of the public-health community. And she discusses the implications for America’s public-health experts going forward as we continue to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The past decade has witnessed some intense battles over religious liberty. But guest Ryan Anderson argues that when you consider the character of those battles, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that both sides have treated religious liberty as the subject under debate in order to avoid the real points of dispute between them — points of basic moral principle, and ultimately of metaphysical reality. And for religious Americans, there’s a lesson to learn from those battles, Ryan says: Religious liberty is a prerequisite for a moral life, but it is not a substitute for the hard work of moral argument and moral formation.

Ryan Anderson is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation, and the St. John Paul II Teaching Fellow in Social Thought at the University of Dallas. He is also the founder and editor of Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, NJ. He has written numerous books and articles on religious liberty and received his doctoral degree in political philosophy from the University of Notre Dame. This podcast discusses themes from Ryan’s essay in the Spring 2020 issue of National Affairs, “Proxy Wars over Religious Liberty.”

When it comes to education, conservatives have been far better at explaining what they are against than what they are for — at least beyond school choice in K-12 and freedom of speech on campus. But guest Rick Hess argues that conservatives are actually well positioned to lead much more effectively on education, because the left’s entanglements with unions, public bureaucracies, and the academy constrain the options available to progressives.

It isn’t hard to see why the right has tended to play defense on education, Rick
says, but it’s time to do much more than that. He outlines an agenda that could
appeal to the public and dramatically improve education in America.

Cultural renewal is a generational project, and therefore an educational project. Guest Ian Lindquist suggests that Americans looking for signs of hope that such a project remains achievable should look to a growing network of primary and secondary schools preparing young Americans for life in a free society. These schools compose what is now called the classical-education movement; Ian believes the story of their success provides valuable lessons about how Americans can rise to meet the challenges posed by cultural, social, and institutional decay.

Ian is the executive director of the Public Interest Fellowship and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in D.C. Before coming to Washington, he served as a middle- and high-school teacher, as well as assistant headmaster, with Great Hearts Academies in Phoenix, Arizona.

Our view of the modern economy often pits American industrial workers who have fallen behind against assorted elites who rig the system for their own benefit. While there is some truth to this story, it is also false and misleading. Seeing just how would help us think more clearly about economic and social policy.

In this episode, guest Donald Schneider discusses the massive economic shifts America has experienced in the last several decades and how they have contributed to labor inequality. He then suggests some policies that might begin to address this inequality and that go beyond simply railing against elites.

America is in the grip of a gradually building crisis of “worklessness” among men. Unemployment numbers fail to reflect this; the men involved are not even seeking work. But over the last 50 years, the percentage of men not in the labor force has jumped from 3 percent to over 11 percent.

Most experts argue that this crisis is grounded in decreasing employer demand for labor supplied by America’s least educated workers, which then requires significant improvements in American education to help men get the skills the economy requires. However, guest Nicholas Eberstadt discusses why that view is simply inadequate. It neglects a number of critical features of this crisis — features that could help us better understand and address the ongoing decline of work among men in modern America.

Open trade promotes peace and prosperity. But in its abstract form, that clear principle neglects crucial complexities about how trade actually works in practice. As trade tensions with China intensify, America is learning this the hard way. In this episode, guest Samuel Hammond discusses some of those complexities, and what they might say about the future of our labor market and politics. 

Samuel Hammond is the director of poverty and welfare policy for the Niskanen Center. Previously, he worked as an economist for the government of Canada specializing in rural economic development, and as a graduate research fellow for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. His research focuses on whether cash transfers help reduce poverty, and how social insurance can complement free markets. This podcast discusses concepts in Sam’s essay from the Fall 2019 issue of National Affairs, “The China Shock Doctrine.”

Recently, the term “economic dynamism” has become as popular as the assumption that it is always beneficial. However, guest Oren Cass challenges that view, arguing that we must carefully weigh the costs of economic disruption against its well-known benefits.

Oren Cass is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, where he addresses issues ranging from the social safety net and environmental regulation to trade and immigration to education and organized labor. He also writes extensively on the nature of climate change and on the process of formulating and evaluating public policy. Cass has written for publications including the New York TimesWall Street Journal,and National Review, and regularly speaks at universities and before Congress. This podcast discusses concepts from Oren’s essay from the Spring 2019 issue of National Affairs, “Putting Dynamism in its Place.” 

Proposals to reform Medicare usually call for adjustments within its existing structure. In this episode, James Capretta joins Devorah and Dan to discuss why this approach does not go far enough. Instead, he outlines a plan for fundamentally rethinking Medicare, which he argues is necessary to address the program’s serious fiscal challenges and detrimental effects on our broader health-care system.

James C. Capretta is a resident fellow and the Milton Friedman Chair at the American Enterprise Institute. Since joining AEI, he has focused his work on health care, entitlement, and U.S. budget policy, as well as global trends in aging, health, and retirement programs. He also serves as a senior adviser to the Bipartisan Policy Center. This podcast is inspired by Jim’s essay from the Spring 2018 issue of National Affairs, “Rethinking Medicare.” 

Profiles of Irving Kristol, the late founder of The Public Interest, have long emphasized his personal qualities and political evolution over his ideas. In this episode of the National Affairs Podcast, Matthew Continetti joins hosts Devorah Goldman and Daniel Wiser, Jr., discussing Kristol’s thoughts on the deep links between politics and religion. They argue that these teachings still hold valuable lessons for us today, as we struggle through cultural conflicts.

Matthew Continetti is a resident fellow at AEI, where he focuses on American political thought and history. He is also a contributing editor for National Affairs and former editor-in-chief of the Washington Free Beacon. This podcast is inspired by Matt’s essay from the Summer 2014 issue of National Affairs, “The Theological Politics of Irving Kristol.”

National Affairs assistant editors Devorah Goldman and Daniel Wiser, Jr., talk with Philip Jeffery about his essay on an American cultural agenda from our Summer 2019 issue.

The conservative legal movement is in the midst of a great debate about its future. For decades, originalism — the idea that the original meaning of the Constitution is binding on today’s interpreters — has been the default theory of legal conservatism, and so it remains. But the meaning of originalism is now in flux, as novel theories have challenged longstanding beliefs about its core philosophical premises. In this podcast, attorney Joel Alicea discusses his essay from our Spring 2015 issue, which dealt with the varying interpretations of originalism and its future in the conservative legal movement.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address surely stands with the Apology of Socrates and the Funeral Oration of Pericles among the great speeches offered at crucial civic moments in human history. It is familiar and justly famous to all Americans. But as Diana Schaub discusses in this podcast, it is precisely because we know it so well that it can be hard to appreciate the scope of its achievement. To truly understand how a statement so brief could run so deep and last so long, Schaub says that we must carefully consider its substance and structure, and its place in Lincoln’s thought.

This conversation is inspired by Diana’s essay from our Spring 2014 issue on Lincoln at Gettysburg. Read it here: