Michael Shellenberger is an author. His books include Apocalypse Never and San Fransicko. He is the founder of the publication Public.
Liberal Conservative Libertarian Christian
Max Raskin: From your politics, it’s pretty clear that you have positions on both the right and the left, but I wonder — in terms of your actual day-to-day life, do you look more like someone on the progressive left or someone more on the conservative right?
Michael Shellenberger: What do you mean by that?
MR: Do you own a gun, or do you go to Equinox?
MS: That’s so funny. Culturally, I’m definitely more on the left. I just went to Stonehenge.
MS: Because it’s incredible. It’s one of the great mysteries. It’s a calendar aligned with the summer solstice, and we don’t know what it is. I think there’s a bunch of questions that have not been resolved about our pre-history that are super interesting and are starting to come out now.
But culturally, I live in the Berkeley Hills. To boil it down, at the end of our political campaign we said, “I’m a liberal in my compassion for the vulnerable. I’m a libertarian in my love of freedom. And I’m a conservative in that I believe you need civilization to protect both of those things.” The identity question is a very interesting one.
I think that the old view that liberals are important to move society forward and for progress, and conservatives are here to protect what you need to protect — I think that’s still basically right. I do think that we have a better sense of the values that undergird these political ideologies thanks to the work of Jonathan Haidt and other social psychologists.
MR: His next book is going to be about the harmful impacts of cell phones and social media on Gen Z and I wonder — do you do anything in your personal life that would differ from your average person of your caste? Do you limit your phone time, for example?
MS: I regret not having limited the phone for the kids and some of it wasn’t totally in my control. I think Jonathan Haidt has won that argument. I’m convinced. Keep the smartphones out of schools. I would just not allow kids to have them before the age of maybe 16, kind of like with cigarettes.
MR: Do you have a religious practice? Are you religious at all?
Categories: Culture Wars/Current Controversies