Last week, I hosted my last AEI Annual Dinner as president of AEI. For those not familiar with the event, it’s a lavish black-tie gala for 1,800 guests, at which AEI bestows the Irving Kristol Award, our highest academic honor (named after our beloved late colleague, Irving Kristol). The event is famous in DC and commonly referred to as the “Nerd Prom.” I resent that.
Our recipient and guest speaker this year was British politician, historian, and journalist Boris Johnson. I interviewed Boris, and we discussed topics from Winston Churchill to Britain and America’s “special relationship” to, of course, Brexit. If you’re interested, the full interview can be found here.
Onstage with Boris Johnson, the 2018 Irving Kristol Award recipient.
The day after the Annual Dinner, I headed up to Nantucket to speak at the Nantucket Project, an ideas festival in one of the most beautiful places in America. A fantastic event, complicated only by the fact that as I headed up on stage, I bent over to pick up my notes and split my pants.
You think there’s going to be a picture of that, don’t you? Sorry, no dice. Instead, here’s a picture of a Nantucket sunset I found on the internet.
Isn’t that beautiful? I ruined it for you with the pants, didn’t I?
WHERE I’VE BEEN
I dropped my older son off for his junior year at Princeton. This, in his estimation, is “all moved in.” Ah, to be young again. I, on the other hand, am sorting through 10 years of junk in the basement because we have to sell the house in the coming months. I find myself saying things like, “When did we buy a unicycle?”
Meanwhile, while his high school buddies are starting work and college, this is the scene from my son’s “office” in Idaho, snapped during a FaceTime session. He is a man fully alive.
Here I’m in Austin, recording voice-over for our new documentary, “The Pursuit,” about how capitalism has lifted billions out of poverty while giving each of us choices beyond our dreams. For example, someone actually sold me those shoes.
In Tampa with AEI supporters. I’m asking, “Does anyone know what time it is?”
WHAT I’M THINKING ABOUT
A better world. Given popular discontent with political and economic circumstances in the West, it is easy to think that life is generally getting worse for people both at home and abroad. But new data from the UN tell a different story; namely, that human development has improved at a remarkable rate all over the world in the past 30 years.
More civility. Being kind and respectful as a leader may not seem like a winning strategy these days, but research continues to demonstrate that it’s always in your best interest. A new study has found that acting with civility helps or does not affect — but never harms — a leader’s reputation.
Taxes and innovation. If we want to spur more innovation in America, there’s another reason to consider tax reform: As a recent paper found, higher corporate and personal taxes tend to lower the quality and quantity of inventive activity at both the macro and micro levels.
WHAT I’M READING
A portrait of prime-age men out of the labor force. In 2016, AEI’s Nick Eberstadt published an important book about the decline of male participation in the labor force. But who are these men? A fascinating new report from the Senate’s Joint Economic Committee paints a fuller picture of the backgrounds of these men, including their childhood experiences, their education, and their levels of social connectedness.
Medicare reforms both parties can live with. While Democrats and Republicans may not agree on how Medicare should be reformed, there is bipartisan consensus that reforms are necessary. In this essay, Jim Capretta and Lanhee Chen identify some areas of common ground for possible reforms, including streamlined benefit designs and a better enrollment process.
The crisis next time. If you want to understand the 2008 financial crisis, few scholars are more equipped to explain what happened than Carmen Reinhart, a visiting AEI scholar and professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. In this deep dive in Foreign Affairs, she and Vincent Reinhart explain what we missed in the run-up to 2008 and what we should be paying attention to in order to avoid — or at least mitigate — the next crisis.
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO
Lately, I’ve been listening to one of my favorite jazz pianists, the late Bill Evans. Evans was one of the great improvisational melodists of his day, as you will hear in this recording of “Time Remembered,” on the 1962 album “Loose Blues,” recorded with Zoot Sims (tenor sax), Ron Carter (bass), Jim Hall (guitar), and Philly Joe Jones (drums).
Here’s a live version of the same song.
I probably listened to this 500 times as a teenager. You’ll see why, as you hear new melodies emerge every time you listen.
Like so many jazz musicians from his day, Evans died fairly young (51) from complications related to his many years of drug abuse. I once asked an older jazz musician who had known Evans why so many of them took drugs. His answer: “Because it was fun. Until it wasn’t.”
As they say, “Ask a silly question…”
Until next time,
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