Joy Casino Ап Икс Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America - Open to Debate
February 11, 2015
February 11, 2015

America owes $6 trillion to China, our sprawling military complex often appears helpless against disparate threats abroad, and the War on Terror has stripped us of the moral high ground. Washington is paralyzed by bitter partisanship, our children are falling behind their international peers, and our middle class is no longer the world’s most affluent. But we’ve been warned about America’s decline before. Remember Sputnik? Yes, times are tough, but America is recovering from the Great Recession faster than almost any other advanced country, an energy boom could add billions to the GDP, we’re still a leader in technological innovation, and our military strength and geopolitical advantages remain unrivaled. Are our best days behind us, or should the world still bet on America?

08:00 PM Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Arguments For (6 RESOURCES)


Country Comparisons (10 RESOURCES)

Wednesday, December 31, 1969
  • 00:04:28

    John Donvan:

    So, please let’s welcome now to the stage the chairman of Intelligence Squared U.S., Mr.

    Bob Rosenkranz.


    Robert Rosenkranz:

    Hi, John.

    John Donvan:

    So, Bob, this one, “Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America,” what — how did we get to

    this one?

    Robert Rosenkranz:

    Well for one thing it’s a very special occasion because — I don’t know if you said this in

    your warm-up but this is our 100th debate.

    John Donvan:

    That’s amazing. Yeah.


    John Donvan:

    I did not say that because I wanted you to get that line and that applause.

  • 00:05:26


    Robert Rosenkranz:

    That is very kind.

    John Donvan:

    That all worked out.

    Robert Rosenkranz:

    Good. So but why this topic, bet on America? Well, it seemed to us really appropriate

    for our 100th because so many of the debates that we’ve done over the past six years

    have been on topics that really are central to whether America is a power in decline or a

    power in the ascendancy. So, we’ve debated topics like higher education. We’ve

    debated topics like inner city schools and the role of teachers’ unions. We’ve debated

    topics on the economy, on income inequality, for example, on foreign policy, on

    America’s proper role in the world, whether it should be the world’s policeman or

    whether it should clip its global wings, to pick the titles of two debates. We’ve talked

    about health care, which is certainly one of the largest public policy challenges that the

    country faces, income inequality, and so forth.

  • 00:06:30

    So, so many of the basic ingredients of whether America is coping well or poorly with

    the challenges of the 21st century are debates that we’ve held in the past that have

    been very exciting, that have engaged a very broad audience, and it seemed like for the

    100th it might be really nice to have something that’s so broad that it can encompass a

    lot of those themes and a lot of those ideas.

    John Donvan:

    So, this is the meta debate in a sense.


    Robert Rosenkranz:

    In a sense it is, and we’re really proud to be doing it.

    John Donvan:

    And something that we have done intentionally in a debate about betting on America is

    we’ve made sure that at least half of our panel is not American.

    Robert Rosenkranz:

    Well, that’s part of the view of — bringing different points of view to the stage.

    John Donvan:

    Well, let’s welcome our debaters to the stage and thank Bob Rosenkranz.


    Robert Rosenkranz:

    Thank you, John.

  • 00:07:20

    John Donvan:

    So, as I said we are — we are going to be broadcasting ultimately as — we’re

    livestreaming now but we will be broadcasting ultimately as a podcast and a radio show.

    And for that reason unless you’re actually live tweeting, which we’re delighted to have

    you do — our hashtag will come up on the screen in just a second for tonight’s debate as

    well as our handle, which is @iq2us — we’d ask that you shut down your phones so that

    it’s not your phone that an NPR listener hears ringing in Idaho several weeks from now.


    John Donvan:

    And I just heard my own phone go off in my pocket, so that’s what reminded me. So I

    appreciate that. And, again, just to launch the whole thing, I’d like to invite one more

    round of applause to Bob Rosenkranz, and we’ll get started.


    John Donvan:

    Hello, I’m John Donvan.

  • 00:08:28

    Welcome to Intelligence Squared U.S. “As a city upon a hill –” a scriptural metaphor

    that was beloved by both John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan to describe this project

    called, “America” — but at various times, and this is one of them, we have heard it said

    that the city upon a hill is actually going downhill. And in a time when the middleclass is

    shrinking and when events overseas are not going according to American wishes and

    plans, the question comes up again, and that question is, has America peaked? Are we

    on the downhill path or is that all just a lot of Chicken Little stuff? Well, that sounds like

    the makings of a debate. So, let’s have it, “Yes,” or, “No,” to this statement, “Declinists

    Be Damned: Bet on America,” a debate from Intelligence Squared U.S. And this is our

    100th debate.


    John Donvan:

    We’re at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City.

  • 00:09:27

    We have four superbly qualified debaters — two of them are Americans, and two of

    them are our honored guests from other lands — to argue for and against this motion,

    “Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America.” As always, our debate goes in three rounds,

    and then our live audience here in New York votes to choose the winner, and only one

    side wins. Again, our motion is “Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America.” Let’s meet the

    team arguing for the motion, arguing to bet on America. Please, ladies and gentlemen,

    let’s first welcome George Joffe.


    John Donvan:

    Josef? Josef, I’m going to — Josef, Josef, I gave you the wrong cue and I need you to sit

    down, because that’s the wrong cue. Josef just got off – never again George, because

    his name is not George. His name is Josef and that’s why for the radio broadcast, thanks

    to the magic of editing —


    John Donvan:

    — which has saved my career on more than one occasion.

  • 00:10:28


    John Donvan:

    And it also means that all of you are sworn to secrecy when you leave tonight not to tell

    anyone what I just did. I’m going to once again say ladies and gentlemen, let’s please

    welcome Josef Joffe.


    John Donvan:

    Josef Joffe, you are the publisher and editor of the German weekly Die Zeit and you are

    a senior fellow at Stanford. You grew up in Cold War West Berlin, but in 1961 you

    ended up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and you went to high school there. And I want to

    know, does that have something to do with your quite favorable view of the United


    Josef Joffe:

    Absolutely. First of all, because it was a hot shower every day, which I wasn’t used to in

    Berlin. Second, root beer floats.


    Josef Joffe:

    Fifteen cent hamburgers and 28 flavors of Baskin Robbins.

  • 00:11:25

    John Donvan:

    What more could you want? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome the pro-America Josef



    John Donvan:

    And Josef, who is your debating partner tonight?

    Josef Joffe:

    Well, don’t you know his name?


    John Donvan:

    I do. Obviously I’m having problems with that.


    Josef Joffe:

    I don’t know how to pronounce it. Peter, that’s easy.

    John Donvan:

    Peter Zeihan, ladies and gentlemen.

    Josef Joffe:

    Ziehan or Zeihan?

    John Donvan:

    Peter Zeihan, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to our stage.


    John Donvan:

    Peter, you’re also arguing for the motion Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America. You’re

    a geopolitical strategist. You helped launch the global intelligence company Stratfor and

    then you started your own firm. It’s called — actually I don’t have the name right here.

    What’s the name of it?

    Peter Zeihan:

    Zeihan on Geopolitics.

    John Donvan:

    Zeihan on Geopolitics. And you also wrote the book that I do have “The Accidental

    Super Power,” that super power being this one, the United States. And in your

    introduction you clarify that this book is not about what should happen, but what will

    happen, and does that mean you’re really saying that maybe the U.S. does not deserve

    the place at the top?

  • 00:12:33

    Peter Zeihan:

    Better lucky than good.


    John Donvan:

    Okay. That’s the team arguing for the motion: Bet on America.


    John Donvan:

    And the motion has opponents as well. Arguing not to Bet on America. Declinists Be

    Damned: Bet on America. They’re taking the opposite position. Two debaters. First,

    let’s please welcome Chrystia Freeland.


    John Donvan:

    Chrystia, interesting career and recent career move. You’re a journalist. You have

    worked as U.S. managing editor of “The Financial Times,” managing editor — director

    and editor of Consumer News at Reuters, but in 2013 you left journalism to become a

    member of Parliament in Canada. You are on the side against this motion: Bet on

    America. I thought Canadians were supposed to be our friends.

    Chrystia Freeland:

    We are your friends. We love America.

  • 00:13:27

    And it’s the job of the best friend to say, “You know what? You need to raise your game

    a little bit.”


    John Donvan:

    Thank you, Chrystia Freeland.


    John Donvan:

    And do you know your partner’s name?

    Chrystia Freeland:

    I do know my partner’s name. I love my partner and his work and he is the brilliant Jim


    John Donvan:

    Ladies and gentlemen, Jim Rickards.


    John Donvan:

    Jim, you’re also arguing against the motion Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America.

    You’re a portfolio manager. You’re a lawyer. You’re an economist. You’ve written some

    best sellers, including “The Death of Money.” This is interesting. You have also advised

    the U.S. intelligence community and the Department of Defense on capital markets and

    strategy and defense of those. Are they as worried as you are about our financial


    James Rickards:

    They are worried about it, but unfortunately they have very little to say about it. That’s

    left to the Treasury and the Fed. So, the people who are most concerned are the least


    John Donvan:

    Oh, well, that doesn’t work out very well.

  • 00:14:27

    But I guess we’ll hear more about that as the debate continues. Ladies and gentlemen,

    these are our debaters.


    John Donvan:

    Now this is a debate. One team will win and one team will lose, and that will be decided

    by you, our live audience in New York. By the time the debate has ended you will have

    been asked to vote twice, once before the debate and once again after the debate and

    the teams whose numbers have changed the most in percentage point terms between

    the two votes will be declared our winner. Our motion is Declinists Be Damned: Bet on

    America. Let’s register your first vote on this. If you go to the keypads at your seat. You

    see a bunch of numbers. Only pay attention to one, two, and three. If you agree with

    this motion at this point, Bet on America, push Number 1. And if you disagree, push

    Number 2. And if you’re undecided, push Number 3. You can ignore the other keys.

    They’re not live. And you can correct an incorrect vote just by pushing the button and

    it’ll lock in your last vote.

  • 00:15:30

    We’ll lock out in just a minute — less than a minute. Okay. That’s locked out? Let’s

    move on to Round 1. Round 1, opening statements by each debater in turn. They are

    uninterrupted. They will be seven minutes each. Our motion is Declinists Be Damned:

    Bet on America. And here to speak in support of this motion, Joe Joffe. He is publisher

    and editor of Die Zeit and author of “The Myth of America’s Decline: Politics, Economics,

    and Half a Century of False Prophecies.” Ladies and gentlemen, Josef Joffe.


    Josef Joffe:

    America as a has-been is the oldest story in the book. Even right after the Revolution,

    the famous American — French statesman Talleyrand dumped on the United States by

    saying it’s a country with 30 religions and just one dish to eat.

  • 00:16:33


    Josef Joffe:

    Little did he know that a bit later, like today, that one dish would blanket the world with

    35,000 McDonalds.


    Josef Joffe:

    Decline is not a real serious diagnosis. It’s repertoire theater. Today, we are in decline

    5.0. We’ve had four before. And various candidates — Russia, Europe, Japan — were

    about to overtake the United States, leave the United States in the dust, and now it is

    the Soviet — it is China. These prophecies did not pan out because they confused the

    headlines with the long-term trend. Exhibit A for every declinist is the economy, where

    others are always said to be growing faster. But here’s the surprise.

  • 00:17:25

    For the last 50 years, the U.S. share of the global GDP has held steady, around 25, 26

    percent. In the same period, the E.U. lost 11 points, Japan more than two. And Russia

    has cut its share in half. So, who’s declining, if I may ask? Let’s put it this way. If Rome,

    starting some 2000 years ago, had been declining at America’s rate, we would be

    debating in Latin today.


    Josef Joffe:

    Now, a certain measure of power is military spending. The U.S. is in a league of its own.

    It spends almost four times more than China, seven times more than Russia, 12 times

    more than Japan. It spends as much as the next nine countries together, five of whom,

    by the way, are allies. What does all this cash buy? The short answer is that the U.S.

    navy is as large as the next 12 navies together.

  • 00:18:24

    In its heyday, Britain only wanted to be twice as strong as the next one. So, only the

    United States can intervene anywhere in the world, nobody else can. Like those B-2

    stealth bombers that took off in Missouri, dropped a load on Libya, and returned home

    in one trip. Now, that’s a snapshot, our opponents will say — will say. The others will

    inevitably overtake the United States, because they’re growing — they’re rising. Do you

    mean Russia, with an economy that’s one-tenth the size of America? Or China, which

    has a per capita one-eighth of America? China — China, you will say, “Look, they came

    from nowhere. They’re now number 2.” But the days of China’s spectacular growth are

    over. It’s one half of what it once was. And this is no accident — the Chinese growth

    model is like Japan’s, and Taiwan’s, and South Korea — all of them have come down.

  • 00:19:27

    The — and so, there is something inherently wrong with this model. We’ll talk about it

    later. So, the — the — they would say, “But what about the Chinese labor force?” Well,

    the Chinese advantage is gone, too. Productivity has not kept up with the explosion of

    wages. In manufacturing, the wage gap with the U.S. has almost disappeared. And

    worse, this year, the Chinese labor supply will begin to shrink due to rapid aging. The

    U.S., on the other hand, will be the youngest nation in the industrialized world. Let’s

    think about future. What drives growth in the future? Well, factor number one is

    higher education. Did you know that of the top 20 universities, 17 are American? The

    first Chinese university shows up in the 100 to 150 bracket. You look at — you look at

    citations in scientific journals.

  • 00:20:29

    You look at patents. The gap between the U.S. and China is just as wide as the Pacific.

    So and but the greatest — the greatest American advantage is the power of immigration.

    China and Russia, closed societies, don’t even think about immigration. But here, as you

    know, from the very beginning the tide continues to flow in. Why do I harp on

    immigration? Because it keeps the country not only young but also from freezing up.

    Immigration breaks privilege and fuels competition. There’s always another group that

    pushes in, works harder, and rises to the top. The newcomers keep bringing ambition

    and skill as they have done for the — for 300 years. Try to become a Chinese. I want to

    become a Chinese. It’s easy to become an American. Here, I’ll tell you how to do it. I

    celebrate 4th of July and Thanksgiving. I joined the PTA and coach Little League.

  • 00:21:26


    Josef Joffe:

    I stopped smoking. I buy an SUV and shop till I drop.


    Josef Joffe:

    The serious point is anybody can sign up to the American creed. And, “Where did you

    go to school?” beats, “Where do you come from?” any time. As a Chechnyan you’ll

    never become a real Russian, but Sergey Brin could come here from Russia and start

    Google. Did you know that one half of Silicon Valley’s engineers were born abroad?

    Two-fifths of all startups in the Valley built two years ago were founded by immigrants,

    Vladivostok or Kyoto or even Madrid. Immigration is the inexhaustible source of

    rejuvenation, bringing in the world’s best and brightest. That’s the moral of this tale.

    Let me ask — end with a surprise confession. I actually like this American obsession with

    decline. It’s part of the country’s religion of self-improvement —


    Josef Joffe:

    — an offshoot of the prophetic tradition.

  • 00:22:25

    Isaiah: Beware of sloth, pride. Look at your own flaws, and keep on hustling. Declinism

    is the best antidote to decline. But declinism is repertoire theater, like a good scare, like

    another sequel to “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Where are Soviet Russia, Europe, Japan

    today? Where is 15 percent growth of China? The truth is, only one nation can do an

    America, and that is America itself. And that’s why I like this declinist agitation. It will

    make sure it won’t happen. So, to repeat from — I’ve been going downhill at the

    American rate, we would be debating in Latin today, like “Gratias [unintelligible]”, which

    means, “Thank you, and see you in the next round.”


    John Donvan:

    Thank you. Thank you Joe Joffe.


    John Donvan:

    And that’s our motion, “Declinists be Damned: Bet on America.”

  • 00:23:26

    And here to argue against the motion, Chrystia Freeland. She is a member of the

    Canadian Parliament and author of the book, “Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global

    Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.” Ladies and gentlemen, Chrystia Freeland.


    Chrystia Freeland:

    Thank you very much, John. It’s great to be here tonight. As John said, I’m an MP. I

    debate in a Westminster-style parliament. So, I am used to all sorts of rhetorical dirty

    tricks from the honorable members, the opposite side of the aisle. And I wanted to start

    by warning you about what I thought were going to be the fiendish rhetorical moves

    tried out by the other guys. So, here are the three things I want you to beware of and

    not to be misled by. The first one is — and it’s the tough thing about debating our side of

    this question — that in voting for our side, which is the correct one, you are going to be

    accused of being insufficiently patriotic.

  • 00:24:33

    And efforts are going to be made to impugn your love of the United States. Don’t fall for

    that one. The highest form of patriotism is to see clearly what’s happening in your

    country. The second one, which I’m sad to say we’ve already heard a lot from in Joe’s

    beautiful, eloquent presentation, is what I call the cleanest dirty shirt argument. And

    this is the defense of the United States which basically says, “Okay, we may have our

    problems, but everybody else is worse. Look at those Europeans. Look at those

    Japanese. Look at those Russians. Look at those Chinese.” We’re not debating here, “Is

    the U.S. in less trouble than the world’s other countries?” We’re debating, “Is the U.S.

    in decline, relative to where it has been?”

  • 00:25:28

    And you know what? You guys have a responsibility to be super good. You are the last

    remaining superpower. We need you to be morally, intellectually, and, in terms of

    world authority, better than everybody else. So, just to be a little bit less bad, that’s not

    good enough. So, why do we believe — and we say this with real sadness — why do we

    fear that America is in decline? The first evidence is what’s happening internationally.

    In the Cold War era and then following the collapse of the Soviet Union, we lived in a

    time of what you might call the Pax Americana. And as a Canadian it was a great time.

    It wasn’t just a great time for America. It was a great time for the world. Unfortunately,

    we’re seeing America pulling back. We’re seeing that on big issues like climate change,

    a huge — there’s lots of kids here.

  • 00:26:29

    We need to be fixing this for you guys. Where’s American global leadership on this

    issue? We’re seeing in a place like Syria, there was a red line, the red line was crossed,

    what happened? And we’re seeing it most acutely — and this is something I’m just so

    terrified about — in Russia and Ukraine. Joe pointed out, and he is quite right, the

    Russian economy is one-tenth the size of the U.S. economy. So, how come Putin is

    getting away with redrawing the borders of Europe and no one, least of all the United

    States — the U.S. isn’t even at the Minsk peace talks right now. Is that not a superpower

    in decline? And this is bad news for the whole world because superpowers, as Bob

    Kagan wrote very brilliantly, are not allowed to retire. Second argument is your political


  • 00:27:25

    And here I think we would all agree that the genius of America is the ingenuity of the

    American people. It’s what each individual person does, and that is fantastic. But I think

    we would all also agree there’s a role from time to time for government to do a few

    things. Joe talked movingly, and I totally agree with him, about immigration being such

    a strength in America. You guys have a few problems to sort out with that, and you’re

    going to need government to act, and I don’t see government acting. Now, you may

    say, “It was ever thus. Washington has always been a mess.” I’m a politician. I know

    what people say about politicians. But Sarah Binder of Brookings did a study last year,

    and she found that the likelihood of Congressional gridlock on a given issue has doubled

    over the past 65 years. Your government is ineffective at a time when you need

    effective government for yourselves and for the world.

  • 00:28:25

    Finally, and this to me is the biggest problem, this is the thing that really keeps me up at

    night, democratic capitalism, that great U.S. model, isn’t working the way it used to and

    the way it is supposed to. For the past 30 years, the U.S. middle class has been

    hammered. Wages have stagnated, and wealth has stagnated or declined, while the

    people at the very top have seen their incomes and wealth skyrocket. That is a huge

    problem for the United States because the U.S. promise, as Joe so eloquently said, is “If

    you work hard and play by the rules, you can succeed.” But that is not what the U.S.

    economy today is delivering, and that’s why gridlock is such a problem because it is

    going to take a massive, united social effort and really inspired, brilliant leadership to

    resolve this economic conundrum, which I believe is a challenge comparable to the

    challenge presented by the industrial revolution.

  • 00:29:38

    Now, you may say to me, “Well, but isn’t this a problem that all the Western

    industrialized economies face to some degree or another?” And I would agree with you.

    It’s a thing we’re worried about in Canada, too. But this income inequality is worse in

    the U.S. than in any other Western industrialized country. Your elites are doing better,

    and your middle class is more hammered. Did you know that working men, so men

    between 20 and 50, the employment rate of men in that group in the U.S. is lower than

    in France? That’s a problem. I want to conclude with a quote. This is from Thomas

    Jefferson. He wrote, “We have no paupers. The great mass of our population is of


  • 00:30:25

    Our rich, who can live without labor, either manual or professional, being few and of

    moderate wealth. Most of the laboring classes possess property, cultivate their own

    lands, have families, and from the demand for their labor are entitled to exact from the

    rich and the competent such prices as enable them to be fed abundantly, clothed, and

    to raise their families.”

    John Donvan:

    Chrystia Freeland. I’m sorry. Your time is up, but thank you very much.


    Chrystia Freeland:

    I’ll finish it next time.

    John Donvan:

    And the reminder of what’s going on. We are halfway through the opening round of this

    Intelligence Squared U.S. debate. I’m John Donvan. We have four debaters, two teams

    of two arguing it out over this motion: Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America. You have

    heard from the first two debaters and now onto the third. Here to argue in support of

    the motion Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America, Peter Zeihan. He’s a geopolitical

    strategist and he is author of the book “The Accidental Superpower: The Next

    Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder.”

  • 00:31:27

    Ladies and gentlemen, Peter Zeihan.


    Peter Zeihan:

    I considered declining this invitation when it was made. NPR intellectual is not really my

    crowd. I live in Texas. But then I realized that the word “damn” was in the proposition

    so I’d be allowed to swear. On NPR. A lot.


    John Donvan:

    So, here I am. But enough about my hopes and dreams. Let’s talk about you. Where

    are my boomers? People born 1946 to 1964. Come on. Hands up, yeah, yeah, yeah.

    You guys are a freakin’ army. You’re the largest generation we’ve ever had.

    John Donvan:

    You need to tell the radio audience how many people put hands up.

    Peter Zeihan:

    Oh, it’s like a third of the total, but we’ve got a lot of youngsters up top. So, you know,

    it’s a swarm. Most of your consumption, however, is behind you. Your kids have left

    home. The house is paid for. You’re at the height of your tax-paying experience, which

    means that the government’s like, “I’ll take some of that, and then I’ll take some more.”

  • 00:32:26

    Today’s budget battles, that’s the start of our debate about figuring out not how to pay

    things with your money, but about how to pay your retirement without your money.

    Something to look forward to. Which sucks for this next group. Where are my Gen-Y?

    Or excuse me, Gen-X. Gen-X. Oh, we’re all here. Yeah, we’re the smallest generation as

    a percentage of the population. So very soon it will be up to us, all 11 of us, —


    Peter Zeihan:

    — to pay for 75 million retiring boomers. Taxes are going to be awful, but it’s not quite

    as bad as it seems. Because while the boomers are so convinced that they’re so special,

    there’s actually a boomer class globally that relative to the population is about 20

    percent larger than it is here. So, yes we do have a boomer donculous [spelled

    phonetically] tax bill just around the corner, but it’s actually considerably less than what

    everyone else is going to have to pay.

  • 00:33:24

    So, you know, not exactly hope, but you know, schadenfreude. And then there’s Gen-Y.

    Gen-Y folks, you know, the millennials. Oh, a few of you showed up tonight. That’s

    great. Your age group does the consuming. Kids, houses, cars, pot. It’s —


    Peter Zeihan:

    — spend, spend, spend. Your purchases, especially the pot, by the way, are why the

    economy is doing so well right now. Because of you, because of your bulk, the United

    States is going to be the youngest developing — excuse me, developed country in the

    world in just four years, younger than China. And in 15 years when you have matured,

    and I use that term in the loosest possible way —


    Peter Zeihan:

    — you will swarm into the taxpaying class with a fervor that Gen X just could’ve never

    matched. And Gen X will be settling into the tardis-like space that the boomers will be

    vacating and America’s 20-year effort to digest the boomer demography will finally be

    over. Now, as an X-er it really pains me to say this, but you Gen-Y-ers are special.

  • 00:34:33


    Peter Zeihan:

    Because there are no German Y’s or Japanese Y’s or Italian or Canadian Y’s. It’s as if the

    entire developed world forgot how to have kids around 1975 and I think we’ve all

    traveled enough to know they got the basics down.


    Peter Zeihan:

    This combination of bigger global Boomer cadre, but no global Y cadre spells disaster.

    Consumer activity and tax income will shrink every single year. Retiree costs will

    increase every single year. It’s a deflationary spiral with no escape and it will happen

    everywhere but the United States. And that’s the good news. Let’s talk about the bad

    news. Let’s talk about trade. The idea that you can trade with a country a quarter, a

    third, halfway around the world, that’s a very strange idea.

  • 00:35:27

    Until recently, major countries used their navies to protect trade between their colonies

    and their mainland. You didn’t trade with your neighbor if you could avoid it, because

    you never knew when someone might throw a war, and you lose access to everything.

    These separate imperial systems clashed, and those clashes culminated in World War II.

    Now, at the end of that war, the United States forced all of its allies to sit down, and we

    imposed a new economic system upon the world. We called it free trade. We told

    them they didn’t need navies. We would patrol the global oceans and allow them to

    send whatever they wanted anywhere to anyone at anytime. In addition, we would

    open our market — the only consumer market survived the war — so, they could export

    their ways back to affluence. In exchange, there was one demand. This alliance would

    fight the Cold War our way. You heard that right. We bribed up an alliance to take on

    the Soviets. And it worked. Free trade created the free world. Europe united. Japan

    rebuilt. China modernized.

  • 00:36:24

    The global population tripled. Global GDP increased by a factor of 10. One-third of the

    Chinese and Italian GDP — export-driven. The EU? The Chinese Communist Party? All of

    that would have been impossible without the safe and reliable access to the global

    oceans and the U.S. market. Which leads us to the world’s most inconvenient truth —

    the United States didn’t create free trade as an economic plan, but as a strategic gambit.

    We don’t use free trade’s economic features. Our exports — 9 percent of GDP, the

    lowest in the world by a significant margin. We are the least integrated country out

    there. America’s economy, and future, are not dependent upon the global system. It’s

    the global system that is predicated upon America’s willingness to sublimate its market

    and its military in order to fight a war that ended a generation ago. That is not a safe

    bet. I mean, really, have you met Americans? We kind of shoot from the hip.

  • 00:37:27

    The world is now dependent upon our mood. And even should we stick to our Prozac

    regimen, the majority of the world’s Boomers will still retire around 2020, which just as

    surely will trigger a Great Depression, if we’re lucky. There are many other reasons,

    similarly inevitable, why the U.S. will remain the global superpower well beyond our

    lifetimes. The shale revolution has pushed North America within 2 million barrels per

    day of outright oil independence. And we now have the lowest electricity prices, nonsubsidized

    — in the world. The U.S. is home to nearly half of global consumer spending,

    double that of the combined BRICs. The Navy has a 10:1 ratio, conservatively, in terms

    of global firepower. And the commitment of that imbalance to the global commons is

    why trade works. And the dollar is the sole denomination for every commodity in every

    country, especially for those export-driven rivals who are utterly dependent upon free

    seas and open markets.

  • 00:38:28

    So, when you think of the U.S., it doesn’t matter if you feel a swelling pride, a loathing,

    or a resigned sigh. Your conclusion is as singular as it is clear. Bet on America.

    Declinists be damned.

    John Donvan:

    Thank you, Peter Zeihan. And that is our motion, Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America.

    And here to argue against that motion, Jim Rickards. He is Chief Global Strategist at the

    West Shore Funds and author of “The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the

    International Monetary System.” Ladies and gentlemen, Jim Rickards.


    James Rickards:

    Thank you, John. I want to begin with a simple declarative statement, which is, I love

    America. I pray for her. And I wish her well. And it’s precisely for that reason that I’m

    here arguing this side, because when you love your country and you see it in decline,

    when you see a disaster coming, as you do, you really just stand up and say that.

  • 00:39:25

    And I appreciate the opportunity to talk about that tonight. The second thing I want to

    say is that almost everything — practically everything our opponents said is correct, but I

    would suggest irrelevant. Joe was exactly right. No one knows more about the

    diplomatic history of the last 50 years. But if you had been an observer at the Battle of

    Hastings in the morning, you would have said the English had the advantage. They had

    more troops and higher ground. If you had looked at the battlefield at noon, the English

    were still winning because they withstood a barrage of arrows from William the

    Conqueror. If you looked at the battlefield about 3:00, the English were still winning

    because their lines had held. They only had to wait until sundown. It wasn’t until

    shortly before sundown, at the end of the day, in a desperate move, that William the

    Conqueror pulled out some new tactics. The English lines broke, and the course of

    history was changed forever. My point is, take no comfort from the fact that prior

    prognostications have not played out, because I think — I’ll explain in a minute why

    we’re in a much more dangerous zone. Joe talked about — described a declinist view

    involving rhetoric, agitation, and religion. What I’d like to do is — there’s nothing – I

    have no problem with rhetoric and religion, but let’s talk about science for a minute.

  • 00:40:34

    The most important question in economics and geopolitics today is “Are capital markets

    and is our society a complex system?” If it’s not, then maybe our opponents win. But if

    it is, we have serious problems ahead of us. What do I mean by a “complex system”? A

    lot of people think, you know, your watch might be complex. It’s — the technical name,

    “It’s complicated, it’s not complex.” The complex system has the following

    characteristics. It has diversity, lots of points of view. It has interconnectedness so that

    those different points of view are in touch with each other. It has communication, so

    you’re communicating, you’re transacting, you’re interacting with each other. And

    finally it has adaptability, which is other people’s behavior affects your behavior. So,

    those are the four defining characteristics of a complex system. There is no question,

    capital markets, finance is not only a complex system, it is the complex system,

    nonpareil. And this — again, this is physics, but it applies very carefully, very closely to

    these economic systems.

  • 00:41:30

    So, let’s just take — let’s just do a thought experiment. We’ll use the — use the audience.

    We’ll use all of you. There are about 500 people in the room. Let’s say that right now a

    third of you got up, screamed, and ran out the door as fast as you could. What would

    the rest of you do? I daresay you’d be right behind them. You wouldn’t know what was

    up. You would say, “Well, they know something I don’t. The place is on fire. There’s a

    bomb scare. I’m not going to stay around to find out. I’m right behind them.” Let’s say

    a third of you were particularly nervous. You’re more nervous than the rest. For you, it

    would only take 20 people jumping up, screaming, running out the door, and you would

    be right behind them. Now, let’s say there are 20 of us who are the most nervous of all,

    very, very — very, very much on edge, and for you it would only take five people

    standing up, screaming, and running out the door, and you would right — you would be

    right behind them. How many people do I have to persuade to empty the whole place,

    to cause a panic, to cause this whole place to run out the door? The answer is five

    people, because if five people run, 20 more will run.

  • 00:42:26

    If 20 run, a third run, and if a third run, the whole audience runs. I like to say when it

    comes to the collapse of the dollar, Paul Krugman will be the last guy to leave the room,

    but that’s his problem. But the point is, what I just described, there’s a technical name

    for it, hypersynchronous ising model, but the point is that’s a cascade. That’s how

    complex systems operate. It takes very small changes in initial conditions to completely,

    catastrophically change the outcome. What kind of complex system do we have right

    now? We have got more debt than we had in 2008. You all remember 2008, too big to

    fail? Well, the biggest banks in 2008 are bigger today. They have a larger concentration

    of their total financial assets. Derivatives books are bigger. In a complex system, when

    you increase the scale, and that’s what I’m talking about, the risk goes up exponentially.

    So, let’s say I increase the derivatives books — I triple the derivatives books at the major

    banks, how much did the risk go up? Well, if you ask Jamie Dimon, he would say, “You

    know, very little because, you know, it’s long, short, long, short. It all pairs off. You net

    it down, it’s a tiny little amount.” If you ask my 84-year old mom, she might use

    intuition and say, “Well, if you triple the system, maybe you triple the risk.”

  • 00:43:31

    The correct answer in a complex system, it’s exponential function. If you triple the scale

    of the system, you’ve increased the risk by a factor of 100 or 1,000. You’ve made it

    much more dangerous, and I just showed you how it takes a very small change in the

    initial conditions to cause the entire thing to collapse. So, that’s the system we’re living

    in now. We’re right on the knife-edge. Very small preservations, very small changes

    could cause a catastrophic financial collapse. And I’m not talking about the kind of long,

    slow, gradual decline that Joe is expert on. And, you know, Peter, no one knows more

    about this sort of geography of geopolitics than Peter. But what are we talking about in

    the world today? We’re not talking about an amphibious invasion on the beaches of

    New Jersey or Long Island. Peter’s analysis might have been certainly pertinent in 1860,

    probably as late as 1960. Admiral Rogers, who’s the head of the United States cyber

    command, said the next war will be in cyberspace. And my only quibble with Admiral

    Rogers is that, that war has already begun.

  • 00:44:27

    We’re in a — we’re in a cyber war with Russia right now. In 2010, it was disclosed that

    Russian intelligence had penetrated the NASDAQ market operating system with an

    attack virus. These are not hackers trying to get your credit card numbers. This is — this

    is the military intelligence unit getting in the operating system of our second largest

    stock market. In August 2013 NASDAQ was closed for half a day. We’ve never been

    offered a explanation as to what happened there. I want to suggest if the explanation

    was an attack, there would be good reason not to tell us because it would panic

    investors, start those people running out of the theater exactly as I described. So, this is

    the situation we’re living in today. One last point, what’s the R&D budget for fire? How

    much did it cost to invent fire? The answer is, “Zero.” The R&D budget was —

    somebody had a bright idea someday, maybe they saw some lightning, who knows

    what, but they invent a fire. What’s the payoff to humanity from the invention of fire?

    Incalculable. What was the R&D budget for the Boeing 787, the Dreamliner? It’s $32


  • 00:45:27

    What was the improvement? Well, I’ve flown on a 787. I can’t tell the difference. It

    looks like a 767 or a 777. The point is this is characteristics of complex systems. You get

    to a point where you have larger and larger inputs for no pay off. Fire was free, huge

    benefit. Boeing spent $32 billion on a new airline, very hard to see if there’s any benefit

    at all. How are we paying for this? We’re printing the money. We’re using derivatives.

    We’re creating a dynamically unstable system. It would take very little to cause it to

    collapse almost overnight. Thank you.


    John Donvan:

    Thank you, Jim Rickards. And that concludes round one of this Intelligence Squared U.S.

    Debate where our motion is, “Declinists be damned, bet on America.” And remember

    how you voted before the debate — before the arguments began. We’re going to have

    you vote again after closing statements. And once again, the team whose numbers have

    changed the most from the first to the second vote will be declared our winner. Now

    onto round two.

  • 00:46:23

    Round two is where the debaters address one another directly and also take questions

    from me and you and the audience. Our motion is this, “Declinists Be Damned: Bet on

    America.” And remember how you voted before the debate, before the arguments

    began, we’re going to have you vote again after closing statements. And, once again,

    the team whose numbers have changed the most from the first to the second vote will

    be declared our winner. Now on to round two. Round two is where the debaters

    address one another directly and also take questions from me and you in the audience.

    Our motion is this, “Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America.” Do you want to get a glass

    of water or —

    Female Speaker:

    I got one.

    John Donvan:

    — yeah, okay. I’m just going to say that again because there would be this lady coughing

    in the background in the — remember that thing about editing? We have a — I just was

    told by that mysterious voice in my ear that we can get you a cough drop.

    Female Speaker:


    John Donvan:

    Yeah? Let’s bring up the cough drop. We’re going to watch a cough drop brought up on

    the stage.


    John Donvan:

    Let’s see how this plays out. Here you go.


    Female Speaker:

    I’m just so worked up about American decline.

    John Donvan:



    Female Speaker:

    It’s a physical thing for me.

    John Donvan:

    I’ll let you get that started or — you’re good? You’re good? Okay. So I’ll go ahead and

    do this one more time.


    John Donvan:

    This is nothing compared to some of the stuff that I’ve had happen to me up here, so —

    Male Speaker:

    This is great radio, huh?

    John Donvan:

    — yeah, yeah. Round two is where the debaters address one another in turn and take

    questions from me and you and the live audience.

  • 00:47:28

    Our motion is this, “Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America.” We have two teams

    arguing for and against, the team arguing for, Joe Joffe, and Peter Zeihan — I’ve said

    we’ve heard this whole declinist thing before. It always turns out to be exaggerated,

    that, in fact, the long term trends are very much in America’s favor, strong GDP, its

    military is supreme without any near rival, other countries that might be rivals just don’t

    have the advantages that the U.S. — which include access to new talent through

    immigration, the fact of our education standards, our demographics, which mean that

    our population will soon be younger than almost any population in the rest of the

    developed world, we’re on our way to energy independence, the dollar is supreme, that

    things just couldn’t really be better, a very optimistic scenario. The team arguing against

    the motion, Chrystia Freeland and Jim Rickards, much more pessimistic while saying that

    they argue that with sadness, but that to point out the flaws in the system are — is, in

    itself, an act of patriotism.

  • 00:48:33

    But they say that the system is very fragile, that we’re at a state where government is

    essentially ineffective at a time when capitalism is not working the way it’s supposed to

    be and the middleclass is losing out with no way to get out of the rut that it’s in, that the

    immigration argument is a good one but that we haven’t sorted out how we’re going to

    do it, and that economically that conditions are in place for a dangerous and quick and

    overnight collapse, given the level of debt, which is greater and in more mysterious

    places than ever before, not to mention that we are very vulnerable in issues of cyber

    attack. It sounds to me that there are areas in which the two of you agree on some of

    the basics, for example, the relative strengths and weaknesses internationally between

    the United States and some of its rivals. But where you appear to disagree I would say is

    on this notion of whether the team arguing — the team arguing against the motion,

    arguing not to bet on America, is really portraying a situation in which there’s a rot at

    the core of things.

  • 00:49:32

    That there’s this fragility that over time is going to undermine much of the American

    dream. And I want to take that side — or that argument to the side arguing for the

    motion to get specific. Peter Zeihan, your opponent, Chrystia Freeland, argued that the

    American middleclass is really just in a corner that it can’t get out of, both because of

    the way things are running economically and because of political gridlock, that — and

    that — that they’re — that in itself is the reason that you — that they can argue right now

    not to bet on America because of the critical role that the American middleclass has

    played in building America. What’s your response to that?

    Peter Zeihan:

    Well, actually, the data doesn’t support that. But it’s my debate partner that is in

    command of the data on that topic, so I think I’ll punt that one to the right, here.

    John Donvan:

    Okay, Joe Joffe, do you want to take that?

    Josef Joffe:

    Well, we heard this number about the — declining middle class for a long time.

  • 00:50:31

    I don’t think it has anything to do with the issue whether the country itself is declining,

    but let’s go with the issue of equality. The way to measure inequality is not by

    anecdote, but by something called the Gini coefficient, which measures inequality

    around the world. And lo and behold, you’ll be surprised. Once you take into account

    taxes and transfers, the United States has a Gini coefficient of 0.37. Total inequality will

    be one. Zero will be no inequality. The great state of Canada has a genie coefficient of

    0.34. The great state of Germany, the model of the wealthiest state, 0.35. Italy almost

    0.4. So, if you want to talk inequality, talk the right numbers.

  • 00:51:28

    Do not talk anecdotes and repeat what you read every other day in “The New York


    John Donvan:



    [talking simultaneously]

    James Rickards:

    The Gini coefficient point. Joe said that that was after you take into account taxes and

    transfers. That’s a little like saying it’s a nice day except for the three feet of snow. The

    problem is if you include taxes and transfers this is moving very strongly in the direction

    of a government run society. So yes, with taxes and transfers. Without them, without

    them our Gini coefficient is worse than Mexico and when I grew up Mexico was a classic

    oligarchical society. But not taking into account taxes and transfers, we’re actually

    worse than Mexico. That’s something —

    [talking simultaneously]

    Josef Joffe:

    You can’t argue both sides. Either you talk inequality or [unintelligible]. If inequality

    comes down by government action, isn’t that what the welfare state is all about?

    Chrystia Freeland:

    No. Let me —

    John Donvan:

    Chrystia Freeland.

    Chrystia Freeland:

    So, it is a truth universally acknowledged, including I am sure by you, Joe.

  • 00:52:27

    That what we have seen over the past 30 years is an increase in inequality in the United

    States, an increase, a huge increase in the share of income taken by the top 1 percent

    and 0.1 percent and a stagnation of incomes and wealth of people in the middle. Now, I

    warned you guys he would use the cleanest dirty shirt argument and say well yeah, but

    it’s bad all over. In this case America isn’t the cleanest dirty shirt on the stagnate middle

    class. It is a problem for everybody. I completely agree with that, but it is —

    Josef Joffe:


    Chrystia Freeland:

    Hang on. Hang on, Joe. Hang on, Joe. It is a particular problem for the United States for

    two reasons. The first is we collectively — I mean, I’m very passionate about this

    because figuring out how to make the technology revolution 21st Century economy

    work for the middle class, I think, is the biggest challenge of our generation. And for the

    western world to figure it out, we’re going to need a strong American lead and we’re

    going to need America to accept that this is a problem.

  • 00:53:29

    John Donvan:

    Oh, let’s let Joe Joffe respond.

    Josef Joffe:

    Let me respond?

    John Donvan:


    Josef Joffe:

    I think that the issue of equality is an interesting moral issue, but it has nothing to do

    with what we’re debating about today. We are talking about whether the United States

    is declining or not relative to other nations. We are not talking about where the United

    States was 50 or 100 years ago. It was a hell of a lot more unequal in those days. We

    are talking about by the measures that we normally use to measure power, economy,

    military, education, research and development spending, scientific achievements.

    Those are the measures as opposed to anecdotes that measure up or down.

    John Donvan:

    Well, I think the language of the motion does not say relative to other nations. You can

    make the argument that the motion includes relative to other nations and that’s fair and

    they can convince the audience that it means something else. It’s up to you to be

    persuasive on that.

    [talking simultaneously]

    James Rickards:

    No one in the British Empire, the Roman Empire, the French Empire, would say we’re

    going to have a good deal for everybody.

  • 00:54:33

    What they said is there’s rich and poor, elites and everybody else. That was the deal.

    So yes, we have these other things going for us, but fairness, income distribution, that is

    the heart of the American dream. When you take that away there’s nothing left of

    America. We are different.

    John Donvan:

    Peter Zeihan.

    Peter Zeihan:

    I’ll go now. Yeah. I’m sorry, but how much better than the top slot in absolute relative

    term do you have to be to win this debate?


    Peter Zeihan:

    The Euro is dissolving as a global currency. Three trillion dollars has flooded the United

    States in the last five years. Skilled migration is at all time highs. By every measure that

    matters the United States has not fallen behind. It’s pulling ahead. And that assumes

    that we keep maintaining a trade system that hasn’t benefited us for 30 years. God

    forbid we have a bad hair day.

    James Rickards:

    I’ll tell you where America is number one.

    John Donvan:

    Jim Rickards.

    James Rickards:

    We’re number one in terms of incarceration. The percentage of people behind bars in

    the United States has doubled.

  • 00:55:28

    And this is just developed countries. We’re not talking about Angola here. Just the

    OECD members, the developed countries. America is Number 1. Number 2 are our

    friends, Chile, who have less than half that rate. Turkey is Number 10. Remember that

    midnight express? They only have one quarter of incarceration rates. So, that’s — we

    are number one incarceration, which is a major dysfunction of society.

    Josef Joffe:

    Turkey has more —

    John Donvan:

    Joe Joffe.

    Josef Joffe:

    — journalists in jail than any other country in the world that I know of. Let me just say

    something about decline. I think decline is a relative issue. It’s not an absolute issue. I

    am taller or fatter, or thinner than you are. Just to say that I’m taller, or fatter, or

    thinner is not a very interesting issue unless I compare myself to others.

    John Donvan:

    Well, let’s take a moment — let’s take a moment for Chrystia Freeland to respond to

    that. Is it a relative issue? You said in your opening statement you’re comparing it to

    what we used to be at some point in time.

    Chrystia Freeland:


    John Donvan:

    But why is their measurement not valid, relative to other nations?

    Chrystia Freeland:

    A couple of reasons. First of all, I think America rightly measures itself not against


  • 00:56:29

    Is America supposed to be proud it imprisons fewer journalists than Turkey?

    Josef Joffe:

    We have none in prison.

    Chrystia Freeland:

    I said — no. No. Hey, Joe, I didn’t interrupt you. so, that’s really not good enough.

    America really is the city on the hill, and America needs to measure itself against itself.

    I’m arguing decline on two main points. One, America is failing Americans. And this is

    not about some, you know, namby-pamby NPR-ish, you know, ethical, moral point.


    Chrystia Freeland:

    This is about saying the middle class is falling behind. And you talked, Peter — movingly,

    about generation Y. If we talk to the Generation Y, people here — there are no good

    jobs for Generation Y. Generation Y is being Uber-ized and task rabbit-ized.

    John Donvan:

    Let’s let Peter —

    Chrystia Freeland:

    And that is a problem.

    John Donvan:

    Let’s let Peter Zeihan respond — but before you —

    Chrystia Freeland:

    And Generation Y knows it.

  • 00:57:27

    John Donvan:

    Before you do that, Peter, I just want to point that in celebration of our 100th

    anniversary, NPR has some executives in the audience joining us tonight.



    John Donvan:

    I mean, they’re thinking things over. Peter Zeihan.


    Peter Zeihan:

    Let’s talk about America’s past. You want to make this relative to the United States’s

    past rather than the rest of the world, that’s fine. Andrew Jackson’s wife was accused in

    a live debate of being a prostitute while she was first lady. Gridlock is normal. John

    Adams was accused of being a hermaphrodite with any of the positive characteristics —

    whatever the hell that means.


    Peter Zeihan:

    Gen Y doesn’t have opportunities? Let’s take it from the economic side. Look back to

    the 1800s. We had an empty continent that anyone for the price of a KIA car could load

    up the family, head west, take land that we stole from the natives, and be exporting

    grain for hard currency to war-torn Europe within six months.

  • 00:58:26

    That will never happen again. Because there’s not another continent.


    John Donvan:

    James Rickards. Jim Rickards, please.

    James Rickards:

    I’m glad Peter brought up Andrew Jackson. He’s one of my favorite presidents for two

    reasons. Number one, he abolished the central bank of the United States. We went for

    about 80 years with no central bank, thanks to Andrew Jackson. But the other thing he

    did — he paid off the national debt. I don’t mean he ran a budget surplus. I mean, there

    was no national debt. Zero. At the end of the Jackson administration. Today our debt is

    over 100 percent of GDP. Now, the last time it was that high — and this is sort of Joe’s

    point — you know, it was the end of World War II. And Paul Krugman says, “Hey, we had

    a 100 before. No big deal. We got out of it.” Yeah, but we won World War II. We had

    60 percent of global GDP. Today we’re declining on a relative basis. We have debt. We

    didn’t get anything for the money. The Fed printed the money — actually the amount of

    money the Fed has printed is roughly equal to the amount of additional debt in the last

    five years. They have monetized the debt. There is no way out.

  • 00:59:24

    The — when this collapses, they’ll be — they won’t be —

    John Donvan:

    Okay. Let me —

    James Rickards:

    — able to do it again.

    John Donvan:

    Let me take it back to Joe Joffe.

    Male Speaker:

    [inaudible] —

    John Donvan:

    Joe Joffe, there’s sort of a ticking time bomb scenario on the economy?

    Josef Joffe:

    [unintelligible], relative decline.


    Josef Joffe:

    And relative decline, by the way — let me tell you — of course the United States had 50

    percent of GDP and 45. The rest of the world was destroyed. The point is, its share has

    held steady for the last 50 years. But let me get away from this. Let me talk about

    gridlock, about the inability, you know, the inability to govern. Do you know what

    gridlock looked like in the days of Jefferson, when they used to shoot each other?


    Josef Joffe:

    Okay. That was just a debating point. Let me say something about how, in spite of this

    so-called gridlock and ungovernability, how this country got out of the great recession?

    It flooded the country with liquidity.

  • 01:00:22

    It went into heavy deficit and it recapitalized the banks, this gridlocked country, that

    totally polarized country, as a result of which this country is now growing at 3 to 4

    percent. What about the Europeans? I’m sorry to compare the United States to other

    countries, but where are they in terms of growth now? They’ve tried something. It

    doesn’t work. Do you know with the banking system in China, you just hold a little

    match to it and it will explode like a nuclear weapon.

    John Donvan:

    So —


    Chrystia Freeland:

    Can I —

    John Donvan:

    — Chrystia, your argument could be, “The United States is in decline along with

    everybody else,” is what it sounds like?

    Male Speaker:

    No, no.

    Chrystia Freeland:

    — well, I think — I think that there is a big problem in how the Western industrialized

    economies are operating, and I think it’s partly to do with rent seeking and, you know,

    the inside dealing and changing the rules of the game to suit elites. I think it’s mostly to

    do with the technology revolution and globalization.

  • 01:01:20

    And the economy today is not delivering the kind of good middle class jobs which were

    behind the rise, certainly of America, but also of Western Europe and Canada, in the

    postwar years. That’s gone. We’re living through a second industrial revolution,

    comparable in its scope to the industrial revolution. And you might say to me, “Oh,

    okay, well, that’s fine because the industrial revolution, it sort of worked out. And it did,

    but it took two world wars, a great depression, the long depression in the 19th century,

    oh, and also a communist revolution in Russia and China before we —

    Peter Zeihan:

    50 percent [unintelligible] unemployment in southern Europe.

    Chrystia Freeland:

    — hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on. I didn’t interrupt you

    guys. Don’t be sexist and speak over women’s voices.



    Chrystia Freeland:

    It happens. I’m sorry. It does happen, okay? So, it — so communists — we were on

    communist revolution —

    John Donvan:

    Just really, you know, I can’t help you out on that one.

    Chrystia Freeland:



    Chrystia Freeland:

    Studies show it. Read Sheryl Sandburg.

  • 01:02:22

    Anyway, so communist revolutions in Russia and China, and then the Western world

    figured out this was a crisis. Industrial revolution was great, but you needed a new

    social and political accommodation so that it worked for the mass of society.

    John Donvan:

    Okay, no —

    Chrystia Freeland:

    And it was — hang on, hang on —

    John Donvan:

    — no, no, now as moderator —

    Chrystia Freeland:


    John Donvan:

    — and as a sexist, I’m going to —

    Chrystia Freeland:

    We need to do the same thing now. That’s why gridlock [unintelligible].

    John Donvan:

    Peter, you’re on. Peter, you’re on.

    Male Speaker:

    She was being sexist.

    Peter Zeihan:

    No, I mean, actually in terms of the —


    Peter Zeihan:

    — industrial revolutions, I am in complete agreement. But, wow, if it’s going to hurt

    here, it’s going to wreck everybody else. I want to bring up — go back to a point that —

    John Donvan:

    No, no, no, I actually want you to respond to her point.

    Peter Zeihan:

    — I did,

    John Donvan:

    About how bad — well, not very eloquently. I mean, she —


    John Donvan:

    — she laid out a pretty dire picture of things, and I think we’d like to know where that


    Peter Zeihan:

    Social development, social revolutions as part of technological change are as old as


    John Donvan:

    So you’re just saying that we’ll get over it, we’ll get through this difficult time?

    Peter Zeihan:

    No, it’s going to hurt. Gen Y in particular has to find a new way of doing things because,

    let’s be honest here, government is not going to lead the way in a private enterprisedriven

    system to whatever comes next.

  • 01:03:25

    We didn’t do it the last time around. We didn’t do it the time before that. We’re not

    going to do it this time around.


    Peter Zeihan:

    And from my point of view, that’s neither good nor bad. It just is. But Jim brought up a

    comment that I really want to get back to on the dissolving of the U.S. dollar. Into

    what? Ever since the euro zone decided to confiscate insured bank deposits to bail out

    Cyprus everyone moved out. What’s left then? The yen, the yuan, less than 2 percent

    that’s actually traded?

    Male Speaker:

    That’s right.

    Peter Zeihan:

    You got the Swiss Franc and the Canadian dollar are the next two. Those cannot be a

    global currency. So the United States —


    Peter Zeihan:

    — not suggesting for a heartbeat that I think printing currency is a good idea, but we are

    the only country in the world that can actually do it because, you know why? Three

    quarters of it isn’t even held here because it’s a [unintelligible] trade system.

    John Donvan:

    All right, let me give it to Jim Rickards.

    James Rickards:

    Yeah, I’ll respond to two points. There’s an old saying, “You’re entitled to your opinion.

    You’re not entitled to your own facts.” Joe, I wish —

    John Donvan:

    That comes up so often at our debates, actually.


    James Rickards:

    — you know, Joe, I really wish we were growing at 3 to 4 percent, as you said.

  • 01:04:27

    The fact is in 2014, the U.S. economy grew at 2.4 percent growth. Since the end of the

    recession, it’s 2.2 percent. The debt is growing faster than that. We are going bankrupt.

    We are on the road to Greece. So, those are the facts. Now, on Peter’s point —

    Josef Joffe:

    What’s going bankrupt? Just tell me again, who’s going bankrupt?

    [talking simultaneously]

    James Rickards:

    Well, okay, let’s get to that. So this goes to Peter’s point, nobody’s going to replace the

    dollar, you’re right. It’s not going to — it’s not going to be the yuan, Peter, it’s not going

    to be the yen, it’s not going to be any of those kinds of things you mentioned. But I’ll

    tell you what will replace the dollar and sooner than you think. The Fed printed $4

    trillion to get us through the last recession. What happened was they substituted public

    debt for private debt. So, you’re right, the banks are propped up. But now all that

    debt’s on the balance sheet of the Fed. When the next liquidity crisis comes, what are

    they going to do, print another four trillion, eight trillion, 12 trillion? What is the

    confidence limit? There is only one clean balance sheet left in the world. When crisis

    comes, the world is going to be reliquified by the IMF using the special drawing right,

    which has been around since 1969, SDR’s world money — and, by the way, China will

    have a big vote, the U.S. will lose its veto. That’s how they’re going to reliquify the


  • 01:05:26

    So, by the way, we won’t have it in our pockets. The dollars will be walking around

    money like Mexican pesos or Turkish lira, but the big stuff, the price of oil, balance of

    payments, that’ll be in SDRs —

    John Donvan:

    Jim, I want to break in — I want to move on to something specific that I heard the two

    sides clash on in their opening statements, and that was the part that education is

    playing in this debate. The team arguing to bet on America talked about the much

    vaunted American education system, and the opponents argued that there’re real

    problems with education. So, let’s start with the opponents — your argument about

    access to education in the middleclass.

    Chrystia Freeland:

    Okay, so, first of all, there wasn’t a point made, which I totally agree with, about the

    excellence of American elite universities. Your universities are great. I went to Harvard.

    I loved it. The problem with American education is it is a symptom of this wider

    problem of the hollowed out middle class. American education isn’t delivering to the

    people at the bottom, in the middle. And that’s — you know, everyone in this room is

    going to agree with that.

  • 01:06:25


    Chrystia Freeland:

    It’s — whether you’re on the right or the left, you know that’s the case. And in a winnertake-all

    economy, which is today’s high tech economy, that means that social

    opportunity is being blocked, too.

    John Donvan:

    Joe Joffe.

    Josef Joffe:

    Did you pay your way at Harvard?

    Chrystia Freeland:

    No, I got scholarships.

    Josef Joffe:



    Chrystia Freeland:

    From the province of Alberta.

    Josef Joffe:

    Let me give you a number —


    Josef Joffe:

    — 60 —

    Chrystia Freeland:

    Thank you, Sandy Taggert [spelled phonetically].

    Josef Joffe:

    — 60 percent of the so-called elite universities, 60 percent of those students are getting

    scholarships in one way or another. This is probably the best ladder of advancement

    you can get is the so-called “American elite universities.” When I look at these kids in

    my seminar at Stanford, and I blame them for not knowing American history and then

    they all look up, and I see Korea, China, India, and so on, so that is one thing. One other

    point, the next — once people concede the best universities in the world, they say, “Yes,

    but what about secondary education?”

  • 01:07:28

    Again, one has to look at the numbers. Most Americans don’t know it, but there’s an

    OECD — regular OECD study called PISA, Program of International Student Assessment.

    And, lo and behold, that maligned American high school, when it comes to reading and

    math skills, these kids are pretty much in the middle of the Italians, French, Israelis are

    far down, and Germans. So, that American state school system, which has been

    maligned for the last hundred years, is delivering pretty good stuff, at least it is not as

    everybody thinks, at the rock bottom.

    John Donvan:

    Okay, I’m going to go to the audience now for some questions. And how this works is if

    you raise your hand a microphone will be brought to you. We want you to not ask the

    question till you get the microphone to you and have it about the same distance from

    your mouth as this is from mine so that the radio broadcast can hear you and the

    podcast. And we’d like you to tell us your name and then be very, very terse in asking a

    question that keeps us on point.

  • 01:08:27

    And I’m going to go right into the center, here. And if you can stand up, the mike will be

    brought down to you. Thanks. Once again, just tell us your name.

    Female Speaker:

    [unintelligible], I’m — it’s a question for the opposition. Why does it matter that there is

    inequality if even the lowest are better off? So, if everyone has moved up, why does the

    inequality matter?

    John Donvan:

    Okay, great question. Who would like to take that?

    Chrystia Freeland:

    Yeah, I’ll take it.

    John Donvan:

    Chrystia Freeland.

    Chrystia Freeland:

    Two reasons, first of all, strongest biggest problem is the middle is stagnant at both — on

    income and on wealth. And employment is a real — those good jobs for the middleclass

    are vanishing. That figure that I cited about comparing 20 to 50-year-old men in the U.S.

    and France, the fact that employment is lower in the U.S., that’s a real issue. So that’s

    the biggest reason.

  • 01:09:24

    James Rickards:

    And inequality doesn’t matter if the lowest are moving up, but they’re not moving up.

    That’s the problem. They’re getting lower. That’s the problem.

    John Donvan:

    Do you want to respond to that?

    Male Speaker:

    I would be happy to.

    John Donvan:

    That was sort of a question from your side, but go ahead. Peter Zeihan.

    Peter Zeihan:

    Those of you in Gen Y who have college bills, they suck. I totally relate. Those of you

    who are in Gen Z, did you know that the cost of education if you don’t go to Harvard is

    probably going to drop by 90 percent by the time that you’re in college because you’ll

    be able to attend schools online? Now, that’s a problem if you’re a college professor at

    the University of Wisconsin, but if you’re somebody who’s an education consumer, you

    are on the verge of the fastest advancement in the educational quality ever in the

    history of this country. And you know what? No one planned it.

    John Donvan:

    Now, would you like to respond to that or should I go to another question? I’d like to

    move on unless you’re strong — feel strongly. Okay.

    Male Speaker:


    Chrystia Freeland:

    Well, I’ll just say, you know, those — I think that technology transforming education is a

    terrific thing apart from the professors who are going to be laid off, but the real issue is,

    “What are going to be the jobs for those kids when they graduate?”

  • 01:10:28

    Peter Zeihan:

    Well, I don’t know, but I don’t —

    Chrystia Freeland:

    That’s the problem.

    Peter Zeihan:

    [unintelligible] that question in 1940 who knew what they were going to be in 1960.

    That’s the whole point of change.

    Chrystia Freeland:

    It was a different phase in the technology revolution. We have to accept that it’s not

    discontinuum. You know, the industrial revolution changed how the economy works.

    The technology revolution is doing the same thing and we’re going to have to change

    how politics in society —

    John Donvan:

    Okay. We’re getting repetitive on the point, so I want to move on to another question,


    Male Speaker:


    John Donvan:

    No, it’s okay.

    Male Speaker:

    Hi. I’m Zachary Karabell. This is a question for Mr. Rickards. So let’s say I agreed with

    you that there is a high probability of a global synchronous economic collapse, which I

    don’t, but if I did, in what way is that an indictment or proof of the statement that

    America is in decline rather than a separate debate about the tenuousness of the global

    financial system?

    James Rickards:

    Well, it’s like a school bus full of children heading for a cliff and America is the driver. In

    other words, you know, America is so much better off than the rest of the bus.

  • 01:11:24

    The school bus driver is so much more mature than the kids in the back, but if you’re

    going over the cliff you won’t — I don’t dispute that when the dollar collapses the other

    countries will be right behind it, but this is about American leadership, which was

    Chrystia’s earlier point, which is that the rest of the world, you know — the USA is

    missing in action in Minsk today. We’re missing in action in Brussels where the Greek

    EU negotiation was going on. There is no leadership from the United States. We are the

    largest economy in the world. We are the leader. We control the global financial

    system through the federal reserve.

    Male Speaker:

    Can I —

    James Rickards:

    We’re the ones driving the bus over the cliff.

    John Donvan:

    Joe Joffe.

    Josef Joffe:

    Let me again try to bring this back to the issue of the debate. You can’t prove the point

    about decline versus non-decline by anecdotes. Now let’s take the so-called withdrawal

    of the United States from the global arena, which by the way, is not exactly a liberal kind

    of critique, but more from the right, but it’s true that under Obama this country has

    withdrawn, whether it’s Minsk or Brussels or Pinsk or whatever.

  • 01:12:30

    Do you guys know where Pinsk is? No.


    Josef Joffe:

    I do.

    Chrystia Freeland:

    I’ve been there —

    Josef Joffe:

    So — wait, wait, wait, wait.



    Josef Joffe:

    Now the problem is here with these arguments is that we can or you can vote Obama

    out of power in two years and this may change. The kind of long-term forces we keep

    talking about that Europe suffers under, China suffers under, Japan, you name it, cannot

    be decided or changed by vote and that’s why I plead with you to keep anecdotes and

    trends apart.

    John Donvan:

    Joe Joffe, I don’t understand why you say an argument can’t be made by anecdote


    Josef Joffe:

    No .

    John Donvan:

    I mean, Hitler rose to power and messed up Germany. That’s an anecdote and it’s true.

    Josef Joffe:

    No, it’s not. It’s not because —

    John Donvan:


    Josef Joffe:

    No, I’m sorry. To explain Hitler’s rise you have to go into heavy duty sociology and

    economics and history.

  • 01:13:30

    Anecdotes prove nothing. They just make good debating points.

    John Donvan:

    Joe, if I’m —

    [talking simultaneously]

    Josef Joffe:

    I’m talking about friends and forces.

    John Donvan:

    Chrystia Freeland.

    James Rickards:

    Joe, I —

    John Donvan:

    I’m sorry. Jim Rickards.

    James Rickards:

    I took pains. I took pains to avoid anecdote. I used science. If hypersynchronous ising

    model is complexity theory. I was putting in the scientific space. We probably don’t

    have time for the equations, but I was not using anecdotal evidence. I was telling you

    how collapses happen.

    John Donvan:

    I want to remind you that we are in the question and answer section of this Intelligence

    Squared U.S. debate.


    John Donvan:

    I want to remind you we’re in the question and answer section of this Intelligence

    Squared U.S. debate. I’m John Donvan, your moderator. We have four debaters, two

    teams of two debating this motion Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America. I love this

    audience. These questions have been great. Sir, in the back there. Keep the streak


    Male Speaker:

    Thanks. My name is Nick. The four side described many of America’s advantages. So,

    question for both sides.

  • 01:14:25

    How are those advantages dependent or not dependent on our economic might that

    the other side argued quite heavily against?

    Josef Joffe:

    Well, if I may say. If I’m allowed to repeat myself, some of the points I made have

    nothing to do with economic might. The power of immigration I’m talking about has

    nothing to do with it. The fact, what does it mean for somebody like Sergey Bryn to

    start Google? It means the freedom to dream, invent, and invest. It means rule of law.

    It means property rights. It means no barriers to competition. That’s why this Russianborn

    kid did Google here and not in St. Petersburg.

    John Donvan:

    Sounds like an anecdote to me.

    Josef Joffe:




    Josef Joffe:

    No. The anecdote made a very important point.


    Josef Joffe:

    When I talk about the rule of law, that’s not an anecdote.

    John Donvan:

    Okay. Let’s let the other side respond. Chrystia Freeland.

  • 01:15:26

    Chrystia Freeland:

    That’s an excellent question, and it gives me a chance to make a point that I really

    wanted to make around the immigration and demographics argument. I agree — those

    are tremendous strengths. And I think the 21st Century is going to be won by countries

    that are open to immigration and are feminist, and therefore are able to have

    demographic growth. What I’m worried about with the U.S. on — and they’re related, is

    when it comes to immigration, you guys are divided, and you’re fighting about it. You

    know, would Sergey Brin get into the United States today? There is a huge immigration

    crisis in the U.S. with millions of undocumented immigrants. And your country can’t

    decide whether to keep them and give them status or to kick them out. That, to me, is

    not a country which is united around what I believe Joe correctly points out to be the

    virtues of immigration.

  • 01:16:22

    But I think you’re incredibly divided and torn on precisely this issue. So, I see the

    American debate, and you know, frankly the American paralysis — gridlock, if you will,

    around immigration as a measure of decline.

    John Donvan:

    Okay. Let’s have —

    Male Speaker:

    I —

    John Donvan:

    — Peter Zeihan respond.

    Peter Zeihan:

    Thank you. On the immigration debate, we are divided. But if you look around the

    wider world, you’re right. There isn’t that division, because most of them say, “No.” And

    the ones that don’t say “Hell no” — the United States has the third largest foreign-born

    in the world — Canada, of course, is Number 1. The United Kingdom is Number 2. You

    know, there are some commonalities here. But I want to talk about something a little

    bit more structural that I think might help with that argument. Moving stuff from A to B

    is really hard, but if you move it on water, it’s 1/12th the cost. The United States has

    more miles of interconnected, navigable waterways than the rest of the planet put


    John Donvan:

    Peter, I’m going to — I’m going to cut you off there because that’s not really to the

    question. I want to go back to questions.

    Male Speaker:

    [unintelligible] —


    John Donvan:

    Sir, right up behind — behind you, actually. I’m sorry. Thanks.

  • 01:17:30

    Male Speaker:

    Hi. My name is Hans. Why is moral power not on the table for this debate, specifically

    as it relates to foreign policy?

    John Donvan:

    Can you — can you —

    Male Speaker:

    As far as the measures of power that the team arguing in favor —

    John Donvan:

    Well, you’re asking why isn’t it on the table. And that’s not a question that’s going to get

    them to this — that’s a different — think about a way to — I’m going to go on to another

    question. If we have time, I’ll come back — and I do mean it — a way to get them to

    actually be debating the issue of moral power. Down in the front here, sir.

    Male Speaker:

    John Tierney. I’ve got a question for the opposition, for Ms. Freeland. The economy

    tends to grow faster in times when you have divided government in Washington. So,

    my question is, what’s the problem with gridlock?



    Chrystia Freeland:

    The reason that I cited the Brookings Survey is to show — it’s easy to argue it’s actually

    not different this time.

  • 01:18:29

    And the reason I cited that Brookings study is I think it’s qualitatively different if you can

    argue that compared to 65 years ago, it’s twice as hard to get legislation passed. This is

    not a sort of healthy divided government, where the parties are coming together and

    making deals. This is a government where you’re actually voting to stop funding the

    government. Is that how an adult country runs itself?


    John Donvan:

    Would the other side like to respond?

    Male Speaker:


    John Donvan:

    Sir, do you want to try again? Did you want to give another shot at the moral question?

    Male Speaker:

    I’ll answer, John.

    John Donvan:

    Oh, I’m sorry.

    Male Speaker:

    [inaudible] —

    John Donvan:

    I wanted to — I actually wanted to give the other side a chance, unless you strongly feel

    so — would you like to respond to that point?

    Peter Zeihan:

    Well, we’re not an adult country. We’re a young country. Are we making mistakes?

    Yeah. Do we make the most of our gifts? Of course not.

  • 01:19:24

    But how much better than everybody else do you have to be?

    John Donvan:

    All right. Let me bring it back to Jim Rickards.

    James Rickards:

    I left the moral part of it out of the argument because I was trying to do some less

    obvious things. A country that celebrates the degradation of “Fifty Shades of Gray” is

    way past the point of declinance [spelled phonetically].


    John Donvan:


    Josef Joffe:

    Have you seen —

    John Donvan:

    I’ve got to pass on it —

    Josef Joffe:

    Have you seen the hit this movie has made in Europe?


    John Donvan:

    Right down in front here.

    James Rickards:

    That’s relative decline, Joe.

    John Donvan:

    Dana, how are we on time? Okay. Right down in front here.

    Female Speaker:

    Hi. This is for the pro team. It seems to me like —

    John Donvan:

    For the motion, Bet on America?

    Female Speaker:

    For the motion.

    John Donvan:


    Female Speaker:

    It seems to me — and I could be wrong — that many of the world indexes today still rank

    the U.S. as 23rd or below most industrialized nations in pretty significant markers of

    quality of life, including infant mortality, mortality rates, homicide — which, in the USDI

    [spelled phonetically] for example, is about 1 percent higher than Syria right now —

    literacy, health — healthcare markers, science and math test rankings.

  • 01:20:30

    So, my question to you is how do you factor that into the argument that the U.S. in

    large measure has not been in a state of decline, if not disgrace, for some time.

    John Donvan:

    Joe, do you want to take that one? Joe Joffe.

    Josef Joffe:

    Look, you want disgrace, you can have disgrace.


    Josef Joffe:

    But you can have the disgrace. I mean, the — some of the numbers that you mentioned

    are right. The homicide — by the way, homicide in this country has gone done

    enormously since the ’90s, but that won’t convince — the infant mortality, high, we can

    explain it, but that’s not the point. The point is what kind of standards are you setting


    John Donvan:

    Wait, why aren’t — right, but —

    [talking simultaneously]

    John Donvan:

    — but why isn’t that the point? But why isn’t that the point? And you need to explain


    Josef Joffe:

    No, I don’t — I —

    John Donvan:

    You can’t simply assert what you say are the standards here. You need to explain to her

    why her standards don’t [inaudible].

  • 01:21:25

    Josef Joffe:

    You’re taking sides. I’m sorry you’re taking sides.

    John Donvan:

    No, no, I’m asking to preserve the integrity of the debate, here. She asked a fair

    question, and I’m asking you to explain — rather than dismiss her standards, please tell

    her why her standards are not relevant.

    Josef Joffe:

    I was going [spelled phonetically] to talk about it, but you interrupted me.


    John Donvan:

    All right. You’re true, I — that’s true, I did, and —

    Josef Joffe:

    And you keep interrupting us. Anyway —

    John Donvan:

    — it’s my job.

    Josef Joffe:

    — I can set any kind of standard which no country, no person can live up to. Does the

    United States have flaws? Of course it has flaws. It had tons of flaws. But it has nothing

    to do — this is not an issue — this is a moral issue which this country must fight and

    wrestle with but has nothing to do with the issue of decline or not decline. This is moral

    failure but not a power failure and we are talking about decline — is about power and

    not about going to church.

    John Donvan:

    Okay, you did answer my question. Sir, in the back there.


    Male Speaker:

    Yes, my name is Cliff. And this question is for both sides.

  • 01:22:30

    The United States was founded as a free market capitalist society. We were founded as

    a constitutional republic. How do you see how — today from over the last 300 years,

    have we moved closer to that — to those ideals or have we moved further away? And

    how does that answer the question as to whether we’re in decline or not?

    John Donvan:

    I’ll let the second person —

    James Rickards:

    There’s — I’d say there’s nothing left — there are no markets left. What you have is

    theater. You have the appearance of markets. Prices and things move around, but the

    Fed is manipulating the price of money. Money is the common denominator for every

    market. So when you suppress it and keep it at zero — by the way, what’s the impact of

    that? When you keep interest rates at zero, so let’s say some of your saving accounts

    or, you know, my mom has some money in the bank, they get zero. They get zero. The

    other side of that trade is if you’re JPMorgan and you’re Jamie Dimon, you’re paying

    zero for your cost of funds.

  • 01:23:24

    You can go out and buy some ten year notes [unintelligible] 10 to one and make 20

    percent returns on equity. That is a $400 billion per year wealth transfer from everyday

    Americans to the power elite to the richest bankers. That’s America today. So we have

    no markets left.


    John Donvan:



    Peter Zeihan.

    Peter Zeihan:

    The founding fathers developed the political system for a largely agrarian coastal

    community. The fact that we have evolved so much from that and still have the oldest

    constitution in the world I think is a sign of incredible flexibility and strength on our part,

    and, God forbid me for saying this, even on the part of our political leadership. The

    space that we have is a big part of that on both sides. It also speaks to the question on

    standards. We’re the least urbanized of the industrialized countries. So everything that

    we do for a city that we then have to do it for a constellation of a thousand small towns

    that still have autonomy, that is a degree of political self-determination that doesn’t

    exist in any other political system on the planet, and I think that’s admirable.

  • 01:24:24


    Josef Joffe:

    Can we —

    John Donvan:

    Joe Joffe.

    Josef Joffe:

    — can we compare the United States with the United States? I mean, when we talk

    about moral turpitude or failure, what — how would we rate what followed the crime of

    slavery in the ’60s when I was in college when we took over city hall for civil rights issues

    and stuff like that? Hasn’t this country done a hell of a good job in — with the Civil

    Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, bringing previously downtrodden and discriminated

    people up to turn them into real citizens? Is that not the kind of moral achievement or

    what is this? If we think in terms of inequality, which is to obtain in this country when

    there was a Anglo WASP overclass ruling over others, and now one group after another

    being emancipated and made full citizens, is that moral failure or what is that?

  • 01:25:28

    John Donvan:

    All right, Chrystia Freeland, the argument that there’s moral success, moral fiber.

    Chrystia Freeland:

    So, I think we’re all going to agree that ending slavery is a good thing. I think we’ll

    probably all agree —

    John Donvan:

    No, no, no, but that was — that’s dismissing the point.

    Chrystia Freeland:

    — no, no, but I’m going to continue.

    John Donvan:


    Chrystia Freeland:

    I think we’re all going to agree also that making women citizens and giving us the right

    to vote and participate fully is a good thing. And I would add — because I do think there

    has been a rights revolution, not just in the United States, but around at least the

    Western world. And I think the fact that lesbian and gay people have increasingly full

    rights, although they did have the right to marry in Canada in 2005, is a really important

    and great thing. But we can’t ignore Ferguson and the protests and “Hands up, don’t

    shoot.” There is still an American underclass, and that underclass today is feeling deeply

    oppressed partly by the economic circumstances that I was talking about.

  • 01:26:27

    And the American moral obligation to constantly advance this rights revolution is one

    reason why I am so agitated about dwindling economic opportunity in the middle and

    the bottom.


    John Donvan:

    I want to let the other side respond first.

    Male Speaker:

    Yeah, sure, don’t get me wrong. Ferguson was bad. One happens in Brazil every eight

    hours. I mean, yes, getting shot in the street is bad. Want to live in Gaza? Sure,

    political representation is difficult sometimes. How about the fact that a lot of what

    Snowden stole is being used by the Russians to monitor and destroy communications

    networks across the Russian Federation right now? Do we screw up? Yeah, a lot. That’s

    what happens when you’re a superpower. The lenses are on, your comparisons are

    made, which are not exactly fair. But the trick is to use what we have, which is the

    strongest economic system and the strongest political system in the world, to figure out

    how we want to make it better.

  • 01:27:26

    Will we get it with this Congress? I don’t know. Will we get it with this president? I

    don’t know.

    John Donvan:

    Jim Rickards.

    James Rickards:

    The proposition is, “Is America in decline?” And Joe’s recitation of some of the great

    achievements of American history, and there’s no disputing them, shows, where are the

    accomplishments, that the ’60s were great, that — you know, that many, many great

    things happened in American history. Where are they today? That’s precisely the point.

    Those best days, those highest aspirations, America is a city on a hill. That’s what’s

    behind this. That’s why we’re in decline. We don’t have anything to compare to that.

    John Donvan:

    And that concludes round two of this Intelligence Squared U.S. Debate where our

    motion is, “Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America.” And please remember how you

    voted before the debate. After closing statements, which will be brief, we’ll have you

    vote a second time, and then we will present you with the results. On to round three,

    closing statements by each debater in turn, they will be two minutes each. Our motion

    is this, “Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America.”

  • 01:28:27

    And here to summarize his position in support of the motion, Joe Joffe, senior fellow at

    Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute and editor-publisher of Die Zeit.

    Josef Joffe:

    Okay, a lot of our debate reminds me of the story about Socrates being asked,

    “Socrates, how is your wife?” And he says, “Compared to what?”


    Josef Joffe:

    And let me repeat this again. Remember, you talk about decline? We are talking about

    comparison. And we are talking also, if you wish, about progress, how we compare

    America then with America now. And — but the most important thing is, “Is there

    somebody –” as we have argued in this country from decline 1.0 to decline — “Is there

    somebody who was better, more agile, more virile, more ambitious, more skillful?

  • 01:29:27

    And will that nation overtake the United States?” And as I tried to make the point I was

    trying to make is that these challenges, we thought, we’re growing faster, we’re doing

    better, have all fallen by the wayside, which, therefore, then, made me look at the

    inherent and not the anecdotal sources of strength of this country. And if you look at

    the economy, the way this economy has rebounded while no other economy after the

    crash has rebounded, you must kind of say, there must be something here, or, we can

    explain it. Why the country does better in those respects, if you look at the relative

    decline of Japan, Europe, the United States in terms of global GDP, that gives you a

    sense that, again, transcends individual stories and tells you something about trends.

    And that’s why I think the decline is a good pedagogical device.

  • 01:30:29

    And if you’ll notice, half the time we spoke about how America should get better, which

    is a very good thing to talk about, but the issue is whether this country is declining vis a

    vis others and there you have no data whatsoever that makes the point. In fact, the

    opposite is true.

    John Donvan:

    Thank you, Joe Joffe.


    John Donvan:

    The motion is Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America and here to summarize his position

    against the motion, Jim Rickards, chief global strategist at the West Shore Funds.

    James Rickards:

    I’m not sure how many people in the audience walked to the theater tonight. It’s a New

    York venue, so I dare say some of you walked. New York is a great walking city. And I

    dare say that your walk to the theater tonight was completely undisturbed,

    unperturbed, and that’s a great thing about New York.

  • 01:31:22

    But if this event were being held in Brooklyn, where my daughter happens to live, and if

    some of you lived in Bed-Stuy, I dare say you might not have made it quite so

    comfortably as the people here on the upper west side. You might’ve had your face

    smashed into a granite wall. You might’ve had handcuffs put on you. You might’ve

    been thrown in a van, taken away, taken to a precinct and strip-searched for nothing.

    No probable cause. Completely unconstitutional. Now, we call this stop and frisk.

    That’s a nice euphemism. It sounds good, doesn’t it? You know, you stop. You frisk the

    person. If there’s a gun or there’s drugs, you know, they got a problem. If there’s no

    gun you know, just let them go on their way. You know, it may be unconstitutional, but

    we’re sort of okay with that because, after all, we don’t like guns. But that’s not what

    happens. That’s not what most people experience. They actually have this, I think,

    smash and strip would be a better description than stop and frisk. That’s what’s going

    on in the city of New York. Now, also in the city of New York a few miles away you have

    the most corrupt enterprise in history called J.P. Morgan and its fellow banks, Citibank,

    Goldman-Sachs, Morgan Stanley.

  • 01:32:25

    These companies have paid over $30 billion in fines, penalties, restitution, and

    compliance costs in the last four years and new cases are coming out every day. There

    was a new case in “The New York Times” yesterday about foreign exchange

    manipulation. Another one I saw today. Not one single executive of any of these banks

    has gone to jail. Not one has even been indicted. There hasn’t been a trial. As long as

    America is a country where innocent bystanders are getting smashed and stripped and

    bankers are being left alone, America is a country in decline.


    John Donvan:

    Thank you, Jim Rickards. That is the motion Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America, and

    here to summarize his position supporting the motion, Peter Zeihan, geopolitical

    strategist and author of “The Accidental Super Power.”

    Peter Zeihan:

    Never underestimate the ability of the Americans to panic, learn the wrong lessons, and

    wreck everything. Sputnik. Beeping aluminum grapefruit. We were ahead in

    metallurgy, electronics, even rocketry.

  • 01:33:27

    Sputnik fell from the sky. Three weeks later Vanguard. Our first satellite, still up there.

    As a result of our panic attack we re-fabricated everything about our educational and

    scientific system. We coasted on that for three — I’m sorry, for two generations.

    Vietnam. We lost a post-colonial war to a rice producer. It wasn’t our colony. We

    didn’t lose a single ally and we were the world’s largest rice exporter at the time. As

    part of our overreaction to Vietnam we have crossed what was then information

    technology with weapons so we would never have to fight at arm’s length again. We

    got everything from cruise missiles to cell phones out of that. Japanophobia. We

    became convinced in the 1980s that we had lost our position as the super power. Not

    would. Had. To a country with less usable land than Massachusetts who we were

    occupying at the time.


    Peter Zeihan:

    Wall Street forced the corporate reckoning that generated the biggest burst of capital

    that we have ever seen.

  • 01:34:28

    We are reliably our own worst enemy, but we are also reliably our own best motivators.

    You want to talk about the next crisis that we’re likely to cause? Look at the aftermath

    of 9-11. We now have pre-positioned military forces on either side of every significant

    trade and energy artery on the planet. We are one waking up on the wrong side of bed

    away from perhaps precipitating the worst economic and military catastrophe this world

    has ever known and it’s one that we would be largely immune to. So, Declinists Be

    Damned. Bet against America if you will, but do so at your own risk. The record just

    doesn’t hold. I urge you to support the motion.

    John Donvan:

    Thank you, Peter Zeihan.


    John Donvan:

    That is the motion Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America and here to summarize her

    position supporting this motion Chrystia Freeland, member of Parliament in Canada.

  • 01:35:24

    Chrystia Freeland:

    My mother was born in a displaced person’s camp, which you would probably call a

    refugee camp in Germany. Her family was fleeing the Soviet invasion of Ukraine during

    the Second World War. And so, it was a particular personal pleasure for me to start my

    career as a reporter in 1991, in the Soviet Union, as it fell apart. I was in Ukraine when it

    voted for independence. I was in Belarus when Yeltsin, Kravchuk, and Shushkevich

    signed the document that dissolved the USSR. And I thought then, as I think many

    people did, that that was going to be the beginning of an era when even more people

    around the world could enjoy capitalist democracy, this thing created by many

    countries, but particularly represented and led by the United States. Instead, where are

    we today?

  • 01:36:23

    Today, as we speak, an irredentist Russia has actually annexed, made part of Russia part

    of Ukraine. And instead of opposing this, some of these great rising democracies —

    Brazil, India — are actually on Russia’s side because they don’t want the U.S. to be a

    bully in the world. So, the world needs an America which is strong enough to assume

    moral and political leadership, whose middle class feels it has so many opportunities at

    home. It has the strength and the will to share those with the world. If we can’t hang

    together like that, surely we will hang singly. Now, we’ve heard from Peter and Joe that

    America sometimes screws up, but then it comes to its senses, changes course, and gets

    it right. I’m arguing this side, because I think, in a lot of ways, America needs to change

    course. Denial is not a strategy. So, please vote for us.

  • 01:37:28

    And then go out and vote in 2016, and start changing your country’s course. It’s really

    important for all of us —

    John Donvan:

    But — thank you, Chrystia Freeland. Your time is up.


    John Donvan:

    And that concludes our closing statements. And now it’s time to learn which side you

    feel has argued the best. We’re going to ask you again to go to the keypads at your

    seats, and take a look at this motion: Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America. If you

    agree with this motion, push Number 1. If you disagree, Push number 2. And if you

    became or remain undecided, push Number 3. And we’ll give that about 15 seconds,

    and then we’ll lock out the vote and have the results in just a moment. While we’re

    doing that, the first thing I wanted to say was I wanted to congratulate the debaters for

    the quality of the argument they brought to the stage.

  • 01:38:29


    John Donvan:

    Really — and I want to tell Joe Joffe, I apologize for calling you George. And I apologize

    for interrupting you if it felt like too much. I —

    Josef Joffe:

    George is okay. George is okay.

    John Donvan:

    The George part was okay. All right.


    John Donvan:

    What were you saying?

    Male Speaker:

    [inaudible] —

    John Donvan:

    No, no, no don’t talk to me!


    John Donvan:

    All right. And the questions were also terrific tonight, even the question that — as you

    saw, the moral question — that was picked up by one of the debaters. So, thank you to

    all — everybody who asked a question as well today.


    John Donvan:

    So, on this occasion of our 100th debate, I’d like to thank our first-time and long-time

    audience members for coming tonight. We have a number of former Intelligence

    Squared debaters who are with us today, so you’ve probably seen them here in the past

    as well. We have members of our Board and our advisory council.

  • 01:39:23

    And to all of our friends, the generous supporters who make these debates possible — I

    just want to say thank you, after a hundred of these things, for bringing this whole

    enterprise together. I also want to encourage everybody to please visit the

    site and make a donation. The — I know that you’ve paid to get in here with tickets, and

    we very much appreciate that, but the truth is that the ticket price doesn’t come close

    to paying the cost for it. We rely on donations. We have a lovely app that you can get

    on your iPhone or your Android phone, and you can donate through there or through

    our website. And it would mean a great deal to us so that we can grow and keep this

    going for another hundred debates. Our next debate will be right here, March 11th, at

    the Kaufman Center. We will be debating whether the U.S. should adopt Europe’s

    version of the right to be forgotten. Debating with us, we’ll have a former director of

    global public policy at Google, and law professors from Harvard and the University of

    Chicago, and the E.U. Commission’s Director of Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.

  • 01:40:23

    And before that, on Tuesday, February 24th, we’re going to be holding a debate in

    Washington D.C. at George Washington University. The motion will be “Liberals Do Not

    Tolerate Intellectual Diversity on Campus.” For the full list of those debates and to

    purchase tickets, visit our website and as I pointed out our app allows you to

    download all now after tonight 100 of our debates and you can search for IQ2 US to find

    the app in the iTunes store or Google play and you can watch the live stream. So, we’re

    going to have the results in just a second, but we’re going to do something unusual

    tonight. We’re going to bring on a special guest with a piece of art for a few minutes

    who is going to celebrate with us our 100th anniversary in the form of a short rap

    history of IQ2. I want to bring on Baba Brinkman. I need, as a disclaimer, this is a work

    of art. The views expressed will be Baba Brinkman’s.


    John Donvan:

    They will be excellently well done. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Baba


  • 01:41:28


    Baba Brinkman:

    What do you do when you’ve had 100 debates besides hire a Canadian rapper to try to

    summarize them in four minutes. Right?


    Baba Brinkman:

    All right. Welcome to the Gladiator Pit. Where blood is entirely metaphorically shed

    with razor wit. The crowd is agitated only death can satiate it; they bay for it, also

    metaphorically. Actually the crowd patiently sits evaluating each debater’s degree of

    persuasiveness while waiting for their moment to key all of their appraisals in. If you

    can think of a major disagreement of today, it’s probably safe to say that this place has

    debated it. Everything from Obamacare to designer babies. Intelligence Squared ,oh

    yeah the kind of crazy from politics to religion if it’s controversial they’ve covered it.

    They’ve had debaters Christopher Hitchens to Arianna Huffington.

  • 01:42:20

    Now in 2006, the culture of New York was enhanced by the godfather of this event, Bob

    Rosenkranz —


    Baba Brinkman:

    He saw the competitions they were putting on in Britain and damn he thought New

    Yorkers would want to give it a chance and bam a hundred debates later it’s still an

    affair, it’s got a buzz like Phil Collins can fill in the air, Intelligence Squared —


    Baba Brinkman:

    Debaters are debonair like Fred Astaire. Peter Singer was here peddling unpopular fare

    advocating for euthanasia and rationing end of life care. Robert Reich persuaded a

    crowd such as yourself to tax millionaires. But Karl Rove won his debate, so it’s not just

    Liberals in here. The proposition was George W — the worst president in 50 years.



    Baba Brinkman:

    Michael Crichton stood on this stage to deny climate change, followed by hurricanes in

    New Orleans, along came the waves, and now Michael Crichton is rolling over in his

    grave. If you want to debate you came to the right place even the titles are designed to

    get a rise and make us irate.

  • 01:43:25

    Things like “Millennials Don’t Stand a Chance” “Spy on Me. I’d rather be Safe,” hey

    “Legalize Drugs,” “Don’t Eat Anything with a Face.” Some of the titles are provocative

    and some are just odd. “The U.S. Drone Program is Fatally Flawed.”


    “Men By The Way are Finished.” Wait, how about this one “Science Refutes God.”

    Dinesh D’Souza disputed that and got indicted for fraud.


    See most of the debate titles are actually pretty safe and straight forward and safe,

    except the hydraulic fracturing one. They called it no fracking way. So, how come the

    other debate titles don’t get a pun. This was “Declinists be Damned” But I think of a

    better one like you got to know when hold them, know when to the fold them, know

    when to walk away from America, know when to run.


    See, I don’t know if betting against America is a rational choice or if it’s just a feeling, but

    if it’s just a feeling then it’s one that’s shared by many such as myself and Chrystia

    Freeland, and I would’ve included you as well Peter, but your last named isn’t

    pronounced “Z-lin” so that [unintelligible].

  • 01:44:27

    See you know I don’t know whether it’s really going to happen, like, betting on America

    doesn’t seem hard, because I am a Canadian right here applying for a Green Card. See

    or maybe the other side will carry it off, I mean here is a Canadian stealing an

    American’s job, but either way —


    Look this place is no stranger to controversy, Ayaan Hirsi Ali debated mercilessly. Three

    out of four people would have said that Islam is a religion of peace, but when that little

    infidel had finished her piece, well then after that 55 percent disagreed. Booyah! You’re

    grandmother’s benefits, they were defended by Howard Dean and wait a minute, what

    about banning college football? Only 16 percent agreed, but Malcolm Gladwell flipped

    that number to 53, the audience blinked and the tipping point was achieved.


    This event is put on an elite team. No embellishment. You’ve got Dana from Canada.

    Lia, Clea, Amy and Alison.

  • 01:45:25

    You’ve got Adelaide, not the city. And Kris who does the research and it’s hard to

    overstate how much John Donvan needs her.


    Speaking John Donvan, he’s a rock, Mr. Constant. 82 straight debates, Mr. Cool, calm

    confident. Nobody is better at telling an audience member their question is unwanted.


    Although you guys did pretty well tonight, I have to say. But I swear Donvan can

    moderate a peace treaty between Brothel and Convent.


    Intelligence Squared, It’s a New York City phenomena and tonight’s debate is about to

    make it 100 strong. Give the audience what it wants. Persuasion and clever statements

    and straight facts and make some noise for the next gladiator debaters to enter the cage



    John Donvan:

    All right.

  • 01:46:39

    All right. The results are all in. The motion is this: Declinists Be Damned: Bet on

    America. You have voted twice, once before the arguments and once again after the

    arguments. And the team that wins is the team that has changed its position the most

    in percentage-point terms. Let’s look at the first vote. The result was 49 percent agreed

    with the motion: Bet on America. 23 percent were against. 28 percent were undecided.

    So, those are the first results. Again, it’s the number — whose team has moved the most

    — it’s the team whose numbers move the most in percentage point terms. Let’s look

    now at the second vote. The team arguing for the motion, the second vote, they got 64

    percent. They went from 49 to 64 percent. They picked up 15 percentage points.

  • 01:47:25

    That’s the number to beat. Let’s see the team arguing against. They went from 23

    percent to 27 percent, only four percentage points. Not enough. The team arguing for

    the motion: Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America — has won this debate.


    Our congratulations to them. Thank you from me, John Donvan and Intelligence

    Squared U.S. We’ll see you next time.


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