[EconTalk] Arthur Brooks on Love Your Enemies

Arthur Brooks on Love Your Enemies

08/07/2019 by EconTalk: Russ Roberts

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=75384594
Episode: http://files.libertyfund.org/econtalk/y2019/BrooksAenemies.mp3

Economist and author Arthur Brooks talks about his book Love Your Enemies with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Brooks argues that contempt is destroying our political conversations and it’s not good for us at the personal level either. Brooks makes the case for humility and tolerance. Along the way he discusses parenting, his past as professional musician, and the challenges of leading a think tank.

Listen Date: 2019-09-13


  • I went into this episode with some skepticism, even cynicism, born from experience that the argument that people should give space and respect to their opponents is usually made with an agenda of victim playing or ‘Other people should respect me.’
  • The episode wasn’t as bad as I feared, and tried to talk in as general terms as possible; but I feel that even that short of both-sides approach made it less credible than it would have been with an approach of ‘Yes, respecting your enemies is hard, and this is the way I try to do it anyway.’ Tea With Alice is bloody good at that sort of thing.
  • Frivolous observation: Arthur Brooks. #othersdont
  • One of my main worries about this episode is that everything Arthur Brooks cited is faff-business-school-or-leadership-research that could be overturned five years down the line.
  • Eventually I ended up being less cynical about Arthur Brooks’ argument being ‘Why don’t people respect my argument’, and more about his claim that everything he needed to learn to run a think tank, he learned from being an orchestra musician. It’s possble, of course, but what if Brooks simply stopped learning after leaving the orchestra, and doesn’t even know what else he needs to run a think tank that a music career didn’t teach him. I realise this is more of a nitpick over language and framing; and that his music insights are pretty good in their own right.
  • The neuroscience of habits comes up again, slightly after I read Atomic Habits.
  • The viola player joke, and what it says about vanity and approval seeking; could have been an episode in itself, one I would have thoroughly enjoyed.
  • After reading The Theory of Moral Sentiments, I’ve been maintaining that vanity is the real deadly sin, and that pride is okay. But this episode challenged that comfortable belief, and reminded me that both pride and vanity can be destructive in their own way. This ties up with both Deirdre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Virtues; and how sins are untempered or excessive virtues; and with the Granny Weatherwax / Oats conversation from Carpe Jugulum: ‘He said that it is through other people that we truly become people.’
  • The line about envy being the only deadly sin that isn’t even fun, was very nice.
  • I would really like to know more about Russ Roberts’s gripe with Aristotle.
  • In fact, this whole episode was full of asides that were more interesting than the main discussion:
    • habits, addiction, and reprogramming your behaviour
    • Aristotle
    • the dark side of seeking approval
    • dignity
  • On admiration being a virtue – if you propose that admiration is expressed as gratitude, then this ties up with the Thanks a Thousand episode.
  • The minimum wage segment seemed as though Russ Roberts was veering into self pity.
  • Which takes us full circle: is there a dividing line between pity and contempt?


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