Hosts Daniel Wiser, Jr., and Devorah Goldman sit down with the authors of National Affairs essays to discuss pivotal issues — from domestic-policy debates to enduring dilemmas of society and culture — that are often overlooked by American media. Each episode promises a fresh view on contemporary and enduring questions across a wide range of topics, all with one central theme: to help you think a little more clearly.
Can We Trust the Polls? (with Karlyn Bowman)
Elections in America and around the world in recent years have raised concerns about the reliability of opinion polling. But the challenges facing the industry go beyond simple reliability and predictive power, revealing a chasm between pollsters and the public they observe that poses a threat to the credibility and usefulness of opinion surveys in our democracy. After the shocking election results in 2016, will Americans find the polls more trustworthy in 2020? Guest Karlyn Bowman joins us to discuss.
https://www.aei.org/profile/karlyn-bowman/ (Karlyn Bowman) is a senior fellow and research coordinator at the American Enterprise Institute, where she studies trends in American public opinion on a wide variety of social and political topics. She is also the recipient of the Roper Center’s 2020 Warren J. Mitofsky Award for Excellence in Public Opinion Research, one of the highest honors in polling and public opinion.
This podcast discusses themes from Karlyn’s essay in the Summer 2018 issue of National Affairs, “https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-trouble-with-polling (The Trouble with Polling).”
Should States Declare Bankruptcy? (with David Skeel)
This year's public-health crisis has ravaged state budgets across the country, as revenues plummet while spending explodes. For some states, this has dramatically worsened pre-existing fiscal problems caused by decades of mismanagement of pension obligations. Guest David Skeel argues that in order to help those states in particular, Congress should create the option of state-government bankruptcy, which current law does not allow.
https://www.law.upenn.edu/cf/faculty/dskeel/ (David Skeel) is the S. Samuel Arsht Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and the author of https://www.amazon.com/Debts-Dominion-History-Bankruptcy-America/dp/0691116377/?tag=natioaffai-20 (Debt’s Dominion: A History of Bankruptcy Law in America). David also served as a member of Puerto Rico’s Financial Oversight and Management Board, following the territory’s bankruptcy crisis in 2016.
This podcast discusses themes from David’s essay in the Summer 2020 issue of National Affairs, “https://nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/state-bankruptcy-revisted (State Bankruptcy Revisited).”
Reforming Government before the Next Crisis (with Philip Wallach)
When we step back and consider America's 21st-century politics, our responses to crises — in 2001, 2008-09, and this year — vastly exceed "normal" times in terms of importance. This change of perspective should compel us to reject the idea that polarization is the defining feature of our era, and to reassess our understanding of the American political system's capacities and infirmities. Guest Philip Wallach discusses how we can better prepare for emergencies before they happen — or, better yet, prevent them from becoming emergencies at all.
https://www.rstreet.org/team/philip-wallach/ (Philip Wallach) is a resident senior fellow in governance at the R Street Institute, where he researches America’s separation of powers with a focus on the relationship between Congress and the administrative state. He was previously a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, and he served as a fellow with the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress from May to October 2019.
This podcast discusses themes from Philip’s essay in the Summer 2020 issue of National Affairs, “https://nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/crisis-government (Crisis Government).”
Religious liberty at the Supreme Court (with William J. Haun)
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.
William J. Haun is counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which recently represented the Little Sisters of the Poor, Our Lady of Guadalupe School, and St. James Catholic School before the Supreme Court. Will also represents Catholic Social Services before the Court. This podcast discusses themes from Will’s essay in the Spring 2020 issue of National Affairs, “Religious Liberty and the Common Good.”
Vapers and public-health experts (with Sally Satel)
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.
Sally Satel is a psychiatrist, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and a visiting professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. This podcast discusses themes from Sally’s essay in the Spring 2020 issue of National Affairs, “The E-Cigarette Revolution That Wasn’t.” You can also read an annotated version of Sally’s essay here.
Religious liberty is not enough (with Ryan Anderson)
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.”