#40 America's Angry Political Divide. Mark Gerzon: How Do We Fix It?

More than any time in recent decades, American politics are deeply divided. Compromise is a dirty word.

"The way that we're running the country is that we're not running the country," says our guest Mark Gerzon, author of the new book, "The Reunited States of America."

As President of Mediators Foundation, the group he founded 25 years ago, Mark has brought people together in conflict zones around the world  Concerned about increasing polarization in the U.S., Mark is working on the ideological frontier between left and right.  

"We can work together to solve the problems we all face in a country we all love," Gerzon tells us on this episode of "How Do We Fix It?" But what we have now is a permanent campaign by both parties. "And after election day they start the next campaign." 

"We can't solve any of the problems we face if we're tearing each other down the whole time."

Mark's fixes include urging individual citizens to engage in discussions with people we don't agree with, asking questions about what they think, rather than stating fixed opinions. 

"Do you want to get drunk on being right and enjoy that feeling of being with the people you agree with and bad mouth the people you don't?," asks Mark.  

News media coverage, he says, is biased in favor of controversy, contests and clashes. 

"There's a whole America out there that's not getting any news coverage. And that's the America where Americans work together."

Resources for compromise and open-minded dialog include: livingroomconversations.orgbridgealliance.useveryday-democracy.orgdemocracyfund.org

#36 The Risks of Safety: Greg Ip: How Do We Fix It?

Anti-lock brakes make many motorists drive faster.  Introducing helmets and face masks in football raised the risk of concussions.  Financial regulators and central bankers played a role in creating conditions that led to the 2008 mortgage meltdown.

The illusion of safety can lead to reckless behavior. These fascinating insights are part of "Foolproof- Why Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe", the recently published book by Greg Ip, chief economics commentator at The Wall Street Journal.

"Life is about risk," Greg tells us in this episode of "How Do We Fix It?" When we believe the world is safe, it affects our behavior.  "Many positive things happen from taking risks and we should not let the pendulum swing all the way to the other side - trying to eliminate all risks from our lives."

Our collective aim to make life safer comes into conflict with the equally strong desire to make things bigger and more complicated.  It is in our nature to safeguard our world - and yet sometimes, more often than we realize, protections end up being the things that threaten our safety and well-being.

Accidents will always happen, says Greg.  Among the solutions he calls for are safe spaces: allowing banks to fail without taking down the entire financial system and creating flood plains that all rivers and coastal waters to rise without creating havoc in nearby communities.

Greg argues for a balance between independence, risk and safety.  Regulate too much and we reduce the opportunities for innovation and create a sense of potential
 complacency. "Black swan" events are inevitable.  Our systems of governance and rule-making should recognize that we cannot plan for every eventuality.

#35 Our Flawed Fight Against ISIS: Maajid Nawaz: How Do We Fix It?

Before The U.S. and other nations can be successful against Islamic State (ISIS) and other global jihadists, we must understand the difference between Islam and Islamism. That's the argument from our guest on this week's episode, Maajid Nawaz.

"It happens to be that today we are dealing with an insurgency that's rising and growing within my own Muslim community," he says. It doesn't help to deny it."

A Sunni Muslim and a former Islamist fundamentalist, who is founding chairman of the London-based counter-terrorism foundation, Quilliam, Maajid makes a powerful argument for freedom, tolerance and respect. 

He says that President Obama and many other liberal-minded politicians and journalists have been reluctant to call Islamist ideology by its proper name. "Here's where people become paralyzed by political correctness," he argues.  "We are unable to say 'Islamist extremism' as distinct from Islam the religion."

"I call this the Voldemort affect," citing the villain in the Harry Potter books and movies. Maajid compares the refusal to speak out against Islamists to those in the novels who were so petrified by Lord Voldemort's evil that they simply called him "he who must not be named."

"We're not talking about Islam the faith we're talking about politicalization of the faith."

Maajid Nawaz is author of the book “Radical: My Journey Out of Islamist Extremism.”

#34 The backlash against science. Alice Dreger: How Do We Fix It?

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We'd like to think that science should exist outside of politics and researchers follow the truth wherever it goes. 

But the ideal of rational non-ideological science is under attack at many colleges and universities, says our guest, Alice Dreger. An historian who studies human sexuality and the ethics of medical research, Alice is the author of the provocative new book, "Galileo's Middle Finger." 

"I'm really looking at how activists go after scientists who have ideas that the activists don't like - usually about human identity," she tells us. 

Alice speaks of her concerns about attacks from conservatives from the outside universities and the "ideological bubble" inside, "where you have this sort of ...knee-jerk liberalism that causes people to shut each other down on the basis of 'you're making me uncomfortable.'  That is tremendously dangerous," she says.

Alice's argument is that facts are sacred.

Colleges, she says, should adopt principles from The University of Chicago. "Our job is to disagree with each other. Our job is to raise uncomfortable questions. That is what we do for democracy."

#33 Fighting Over Land in The West: Nancy Langston - How Do We Fix It?

The armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the dry prairies of Southeast Oregon by members a small militia group is the most recent chapter in the very long-running dispute over land in The West. 

Our guest is environmental historian Nancy Langston, author of Where Land and Water Meet. A Western Landscape Transformed.”  

In some western states the Federal Government owns more than half the land.  This set the stage for impassioned arguments between ranchers, conservationists, corporate interests, local communities and native American tribes.  All have a role to play.

As for the seizure of government property, "there is very, very little local support for the militia's tactics for this kind of violent anarchy," Nancy Langton told us on this episode.

"They have nothing to do with this region and I don"t think there are many local ranchers or anybody else in the community who approve of their methods."

But there is considerable support for changing the way federal lands are managed and giving local interests a greater role.  Some believe that land should be turned over to state and local control.  Langston says collaboration and respect for different interests are the only ways to solve the disputes.  We examine the arguments in this "Fix It" episode and suggest solutions.

The Malheur example is more important than the case of the Hammonds, the two Harney County ranchers who were sent back to prison.  The argument is part of a national debate over increasing federal government power, especially during the past 40 years,  since new environmental regulations were established by  the Nixon Administration.

The occupiers claimed that government discriminated against local ranchers, who use federal land for cattle grazing.  Is there merit to their argument, or do ranchers get over-generous subsidies from taxpayers to raise livestock on the public's land? 

#32 New Year's Resolutions for 2015

It's easy to make resolutions to improve our lives, but how do we boost our chances of following through?

The first two guests on this New Year's Resolutions special are Dave McRaney of the podcast, "You Are Not So Smart" and Dr. Peter Whybrow, Director of the Semel Institute at U.C.L.A., author of The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience And The Life Well Lived."

Dave dives in to confirmation bias, when we seek out information that confirms our world view, rather than challenging ourselves with the truth. Peter says we often make short-term choices that conflict with our best long-term interests.

Instant gratification is often the enemy of a balanced budget.  Beverly Harzog lived through her own personal crisis of bad debt and now helps people repair their credit.  She explains how she got into credit card debt and how you can get out of it. She has more helpful information at her website, BeverlyHarzog.com.

Farnoosh Torabi, host of the popular podcast, "So Money", gave us creative ideas on how to make more money and preserve your wealth by being your own best financial advocate.

Many people make major mistakes when purchasing home, life, auto or health insurance. While some don't have enough coverage, others buy duplicate insurance.  Laura Adams, host of the "Money Girl" podcast and insurance quotes.com says the cost of term life insurance may be much cheaper than you think.

If you plan to buy or rent a home in 2016, Nela Richardson, Senior Economist with the real estate website, Redfin, has some useful tips.  Jeff Koyen, Editor-in-Chief of VanWinkles.com talks about the importance of getting enough sleep. He gives us some creative ideas on improving our sleeping lives.
Read more at http://howdowefixit.libsyn.com/#teaIQO1OJmltXhH2.99

#31: 2015 in Review: Some of Our Best Moments

If you want to get of sense of what we're about, this highlights show may be a good place to start.  We've put together a "best of" podcast that reflects our values and makes the argument for why we're worth listening to.
 

From Episode 4, released in June, reformer Philip K. Howard made the case for better government and simpler, shorter laws, instead of all the red tape and tangled mess that we have today. In his Ted Talk lecture and his latest book, “The Rule of Nobody,” Philip argues passionately for legal and government reform.
 

Not many parents can say their lives were changed by an uneventful subway ride. Lenore Skenazy, our guest in Episode 20, tells us about the uproar that followed her decision to let her 9-year-old son ride the subway on his own.  Her column about it led to the movement, "Free Range Kids."

Other guests on this highlights show include Hara Marano of Psychology Today, who says there's a mental health crisis on American college campuses and Greg Lukianoff spoke to us in September. His groundbreaking article in The Atlantic alerted us to why trigger warnings are part of a threat to free speech at colleges.

Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" and "Somebody's Gotta Do It" fame on CNN made the case for a change in emphasis in education, giving greater pride of place to training and knowledge about skilled trades occupations.  Our best of 2015 also includes an excerpt from Episode 13, a show every parent should listen to.  Elizabeth Green, author of "Building a Better Teacher," argues for teacher training reform and understanding the importance of the craft of teaching. 

University of Tennessee Law Professor Glenn Reynolds who runs the popular blog, Instapundit.com, was on Episode 10, talking about his proposal for a revolving door surtax. The aim is reduce influence peddling by current and former government officials in Washington D.C.  

All of our guests came armed with thoughtful, constructive and independent ideas with the aim of making the world a better place.

 

#30 How The Internet Is Messing With Our Brains. Abigail Baird: How Do We Fix It?

We love our smartphones, tablets, laptops and game consoles. But what is the explosion in mobile technology doing to our brains?

Our guest, Professor Abigail Baird, is a developmental psychologist, expert on the teenage brain and mother of two young children. She says technology has great benefits, but also could have a negative impact on our conversations, memory and social life. 

The brain's craving for novelty - for constant stimulation and instant gratification - makes our tech toys seem irresistible. So how do we put balance in our lives?

Abigail's fixes include time-out zones and no-screen places and events. Parents, she says, "should consider what is best for their families.  For instance, I love the idea of 'no phone in the car.'"

Another tip for parents is to beware of tethering - when college students sometimes call home at least several times a day.

"Hard as it is for parents, once kids head off to college, they really need to rely on their interpersonal networks at school, not calling home." 

Another fix: "As adults we have to set good examples to our children and not get too attached to our own screens."

#28 Walls, Barriers and Bans: The Cost of Panic Over Immigration & Terror: How Do We Fix It?

From Paris to San Bernardino, terrorist attacks have sparked an outcry from many politicians in Europe and the U.S. - including calls for new controls on immigration, refugees and the free movement of labor across national borders.

The leading Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, called for a total and complete ban on Muslims entering the United States.  

Our guest in episode 29, Peter Coy, Economics Editor for Bloomberg Businessweek, makes a strong case for more - not less - immigration, as well as a greater exchange of ideas across the boundaries that divide us.   

"One of the treasures of democracy is freedom of thought, freedom of action, freedom of movement," says Peter.  "In putting up walls we actually lose what we treasure the most."

The 28-state European Union has been a triumph for economic growth and a peaceful transition from the wreckage of World War 2. 

"You can drive from France into Switzerland without even pumping the brakes at the border," Peter told us. "This has been hugely beneficial to Europe, creating a single Europe with more trade, wealth and commerce than we would have."

Europe is the top destination for U.S. exports, but many economists see a big cost to the economy and to our culture from erecting new barriers in the name of safety. 

#24 Why The Federal Reserve Is So Unpopular Roger Lowenstein: How Do We Fix It?

The Federal Reserve plays a fundamental role in our economy.  But many Americans loathe The Fed - furious that it bailed out banks and other huge financial firms during the 2008 financial crisis.

Our guest, Roger Lowenstein, is the author of "America's Bank - The Epic Struggle to Create The Federal Reserve." His book is a dramatic account of the chaotic years before The United States became the last major industrialized nation to form a central bank.

Our podcast features a lively discussion about American history as well as the present day, with Roger giving us insights that demystify the work of The Fed.

The job of the central bank is to ensure the smooth operation of the money supply, while keeping inflation and unemployment low.  But there are many who are suspicious of the Fed's independence and want to bring it under the tight control of Congress.  

According to opinion polls, only The IRS is a more unpopular government agency than the Federal Reserve. "You've got two candidates running for President - Rand Paul and Ted Cruz - who want to basically abolish The Fed," says Roger.

"Had the Fed failed to come in and be the lender of last resort and save the system (in 2008) I think the anger would be very understandable," Roger tells us. But in this case there was the equivalent of a big fire that nearly burned down the financial system, taking the economy with it.  

"The fireman comes. He puts out the fire and people want to do away with the fire department." 

Roger Lowenstein explains the need for The Federal Reserve and suggests how it could be less controversial in the future.

#23 The Dangers of Confirmation Bias with David McRaney: How Do We Fix It?

More than ever America is divided into political tribes.  One person's truth is somebody else's lie. This show is about confirmation bias and filter bubbles: How our brains play tricks on us as we try to make sense of the world.

David McRaney, host of the entertaining and popular podcast, "You Are Not So Smart", is our guest. His show is "a celebration of self-delusion."  David, who calls himself a psychology nerd, is passionate about the need for all of us to have some understanding of how our brains work. He is the author of two recent books:  "You Are Not So Smart" and "You Are Now Less Dumb."

Confirmation bias helps us separate into rival political and cultural camps.  "This is the thing almost from which everything else springs, because it is the natural default way that human beings tend to make sense of the world," says David.

With the growth of Google and social media site, such as Facebook and Twitter, it's easier for us to deny the truth of anything that challenges our preconceived view of the world. We can retreat into our own personal corner of the internet.

Behavioral economics, neuroscience and modern psychology challenge our sense that we make logical, sensible decisions.   Our show looks at what confirmation bias means to our democracy. 

#22 Gender Inequality at Work with Laura Vanderkam. How Do We Fix It?

Women in the workplace face huge challenges, including discrimination and low pay. The Pew Research Center says women's hourly wages are 84% those of men. The White House says the true number is lower. Many firms insist on rigid working hours, making it hard for many employees to balance work and family life.  

How Do We Fix It? Enter time management and productivity expert Laura Vanderkam, author of "I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time" and "What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. "

Laura shares practical ideas for women and men to make the most of their free time and boost work productivity.  She has innovative fixes for working mothers, companies and government policy.  Flextime, paid parental leave and family-friendly reforms to Social Security should all be considered," she says. 

Gender discrimination is "definitely a problem in the workplace," says Laura.  "But there is also a personal side to it as well."

#21 Climate Shock: Global Warming Threat with Gernot Wagner. How Do We Fix It?

If you had a 10% of facing a flood or getting into a fatal car accident, you'd make sure you bought first-rate insurance coverage.  That's what our guest Gernot Wagner says we should do about climate change. 

Science tells us that if we do nothing, there is the risk of a global catastrophe.  We hear the argument for climate insurance. Gernot is the co-author of "Climate Shock - The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet," and lead senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund.

Even if climate skeptics are right and the risk of global warming is small,  that does not eliminate the need to plan for an extreme emergency.  Gernot Wagner makes the case for pricing carbon as a way of boosting the incentives for energy efficiency. "Unless we act, we will experience major disruptions. We already are experiencing them," says Gernot.  Our interview also looks the revolution in solar energy and ocean damage caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide.

For more information on what you can do to help: https://www.edf.org/action