Tales of Enlightenment
By Amy Willis
Is American culture locked in a death spiral? Have we misused the gifts of the Enlightenment? These are some of the questions EconTalk host Russ Roberts invited this week’s guest to explore. Richard Reinsch, host of the Liberty Law Talk podcast and editor of Law and Liberty joined Russ for a wide-ranging conversation on the Enlightenment, the role of tradition in our culture, and the rise of populism.
And now it’s your turn. Let us know your reaction to the prompts below, or pose some questions of your own. Let’s continue the conversation!
1- How do Roberts’s and Reinsch’s definitions of Enlightenment compare? Their definitions of liberalism? And, as Roberts asks, why does it matter?
2- To what extent do you agree that people feel more alienated today than in times past? What does that mean, and what might be the causes of such feelings? To what extent does Reinsch correctly identify the cause(s) of alienation?
3- What does Reinsch mean when he says, “Citizenship is not just rent-seeking.” What does citizenship mean to you? How does one become a good citizen, and whose responsibility is it to ensure good citizens?
4- Reinsch acknowledges that some traditions have been mistakes, such as racism and slavery. He also notes that tradition is not simply “blind adherence.” What then is tradition for Reinsch, and how does he reconcile the value of tradition’s permanence with the periodic need to revive or retire certain traditions? To what extent are traditions emergent?
5- How do Reinsch’s and Roberts’s views on the current political climate in America compare? Who’s the more optimistic? Who do you think better describes today’s climate, and why?