America has a victimhood problem. And that victim mentality has helped to create a ‘vacuum at the heart of American souls,’ says Vivek Ramaswamy, author of ‘Nation of Victims.’ But, thankfully, Ramaswamy believes he has the answer. He explains to Glenn how rejuvenating Americans' ‘unapologetic pursuit of excellence’ can help to create a new national identity that leaves victimhood far behind…
Below is a rush transcript that may contain errors
GLENN: There is a must-read book, that has just come out called nation of victims. Identity politics. The death of merit and the path back to excellence. It's out today.
Vivek Ramaswamy is the author, and he joins me now.
Vivek, first question. And don't hate me for this, if I've had it wrong the whole time. I am the worst on names. The worst. And every time I see you on a show, you never correct anybody. And they're always pronouncing your name a different way.
Am I getting it wrong, and you're just being polite? Or is Vivek the way you say your name?
VIVEK: Vivek is right. Ramaswamy. Ramaswamy.
GLENN: Ramaswamy. Ramaswamy.
VIVEK: Right. Exactly. You know, there's TV hits, you usually get three to four minutes. I prefer to talk about content. Since you asked, I love it.
GLENN: Yeah. So, Vivek, out of respect for you, because I'm watching it. And I'm so paranoid, I always get things wrong on names. Always. Like my wife, I would screw up her name. I just wanted to make sure. Okay. So nations -- nation of victims is out.
And you're known at least on this program, as somebody who is very into ESG. You know, very -- against it. You are doing everything you can, to bring back merit. This book does not really deal with ESG or anything like that. This is the answer in our own lives. Would you agree?
VIVEK: That's right, Glenn. I would agree. I think there are two sides to this equation. Right? Even if you think about the kind of stuff we usually talk about in this program. The kind of stuff I'm working on, in the private sector. Yes. That is about corporate meddling in our culture. It is about the use of corporate power to advance one-sided progressive agendas. But it takes two to tango. What do I mean by that? It also takes a population, and a consumer base, that is willing to buy those narratives, and use that to actually be moved by it. So what this book is about is the broader question. Why is it that consumers are so hungry for a cause, and purpose, and meaning and identity. That they fall for these victim narratives. That companies and other cynical actors to sell them. That's what this book is about. And the case that I make in this book is that we've fallen into a moment in our history, where we see hardship as the same thing as victimhood.
Well, guess what, my thesis is that hardship is not the same thing as victimhood. Hardship is part of what teaches who we are, both as individuals and as a people.
And I think the black hole, at the vacuum of Americans. And the vacuum of the heart of the American soul right now, is our absence of a shared national identity. And the case I make in this book, is that we can fill that vacuum, with a shared national identity, based on the unapologetic pursuit of excellence. Through our system of free market capitalism. And as individuals who are free agents in the world. Regardless of the color of our skin. Or where our parents came from. That's why I wrote this book.
GLENN: So where do you think the big turning -- because I think it was 2008. Where the bailout happened. We're now doing all of that. And it's the end of personal responsibility for corporations.
VIVEK: It really was. It was a different level of responsibility at every level of society. So I think 2008 was a big turning point for a lot of reasons. What happened in 2008? We had the 2008 financial crisis. We had the bailouts. We had no accountability for a lot of financial institutions, that took risk at the public -- at the public -- when times were good, they got paid. When times were bad, the public had to bail them out. That was also the birth of the identity politic wing of the new left. It was Barack Obama elected as the first black president of the United State, a lot of victimhood narratives that went with that. We're also in the thick of the greatest intergenerational wealth transfer in human history. From the Baby Boomer generation to my generation of millennials and Gen Z. And I think that creates a new victimhood culture. And a culture of entitlement as well.
Just there were a lot of things around the turn of the last decade. There were a lot of factors in our culture that conspired to create this new culture of victimhood. And one of the things I -- one of the things I describe in the book, is also the rise of a laziness culture. Even in our work. But in our culture more broadly. And one of the things I say in the book, is that victimhood fits laziness like a glove. In that people today, who are lazy, and that don't want to work. Construe that as not just their own sloth. Which is one of the human vices.
But also a narrative of the grand fight of the oppression of capitalism. The oppression of modernity, the colonialism of capitalism. This is the kinds of things you hear, as part of the great resignation in the pandemic, started back in the post 2008 era. So I think it was a combination of a new laziness culture of entitlement, that came from my generation being on the receiving end of this large inter-generational wealth transfer.
But combined with these victimhood narratives, this justified that laziness with a moral veneer.
That is part of what led to us now having a shared national identity based on victimhood. We're a nation of victims. And I think the case I made, we need to graduate from that.
You talk about Plato's ideal society. And you talk about it, because you say, that's how we find the ideal citizen.
What is the ideal citizen in 2022?
VIVEK: In America, this is the question of our hour, okay. So I think there are two parts to what it means to be Americans. And I think each of us has some of this in our heart. On the one hand, we all want to be an individual, who is able to pursue our own individualistic dreams through the system of free market capitalism. That's what we think of as the American dream.
I have that impulse. You have that impulse. Most of the listeners in this program, share that feeling too. That's half the story. That's what I call the pursuit of excellence. The unapologetic pursuit of excellence. But I think there's another half of the story too, Glenn. I think many of us on the right, have missed for years. Which is also our hunger to be part of a nation, that is greater than the sum of its parts. A collective whole as citizens. And that's the side of our identity as individuals, that really, I think revolves around also the revival of civic duty. One of the chapters of the book is entitled A Theory of Duty. It's a play on John Rawls' A Theory of Justice, which was the North Star of the left, for much of the late 20th century.
I offer what I call A Theory of Duty, which talks about the revival of a civic duty. And the case I make, is it's not at odds with liberty, to have a civic duty. Our civic duty as citizens is different than the freedoms we want to have, in all of the spheres of our life, including economically. And I think it's one of the things that conservatives sometimes get wrong. We get wrong. In our -- in our obsession. We just talked about freedom. And believe me, I'm ten out of the scale of ten on that discussion. We miss the fact, that we have civic duties as citizens, that actually gives us greater fortitude to pursue our freedoms through the system of free market capitalism, through our pursuit of excellence as individuals, which is not the philosophy at the heart of this book, actually.
GLENN: I'm old enough, that in high school, you couldn't graduate without having a class called rights and responsibilities. And we have forgotten the responsibility part. And that is, like you say, huge.
But, you know, I learned something, when I lived in New York City.
When I moved to New York City, I was always a guy, who if there was garbage on the street. I would pick it up and throw it in the garbage can. And it was just ingrained in me. I grew up in a smaller town. And after about two years of living in New York, there was garbage at the front of my building, at sixth avenue. And it was just this newspaper. It was just blowing everywhere. And my first thought was, how much money do I have to pay this stupid city, for them to keep it clean?
And I stopped in my own tracks, and I thought, oh, my gosh. I've turned into one of them!
VIVEK: Well, that's really honest of you, Glenn. To talk about. Look in the mirror that way. That's something more of us ought to do. That's before we point the finger outward, let's take a mirror and look within. It's funny, I'm talking to you from a car in New York City right now, where I'm literally seeing bottles lining the street on the left hand side of my car, without somebody stepping down to pick it up.
And I think that idea of civic duty is something that -- I could call out the liberal side of this. I have been for years. I do a little bit of that in the book as well. But I think it's a place for the conservative movement to look internally and say, all right. Look, we can criticize the poison that fills the vacuum, all we want.
At the end of the day, we're not rising to the occasion. If we don't fill that vacuum with something more meaningful, something more rich, that dilutes the poison.
GLENN: So help me out.
Because, Vivek, I think -- and I know religion plays a big part in religion and in your life. The right would say, we do our civic duty. We're much more charitable. We work through our churches. I know people who go on missions all the time. I mean, we do do our civic duty. That's what they would say.
VIVEK: I think we need more than that. I think there's definite -- that's why -- that's why I'm more interested in speaking to the conservative movement than I am to the left. Because I think that there's a greater chance of filling that national vacuum, and we have to pick which political party or which political movement is going to do it. I'm more optimistic about the conservative movement.
That's why I'm preaching to that choir, rather than the other one. Because I think that's our best chance of success.
I think we need to revive that though. And I think there's one of two directions, for the future of the conservative movement. Either one that wallows in a new version of victimhood, in response to left-wing victimhood.
Which I've been -- by the way, a big critic of. And a lot of what I'm saying is a self-reflection, Glenn. I've spent the last two years criticizing a lot of woke victimhood culture. Left-wing victimhood culture. But one of the things I've learned, introspective for myself.
Is how much -- and we're moving the needle a little bit, by putting the spotlight on the problem. If we want to move the needle in a big way. We won't have a generation left, to save the identity of this country.
And if we're going to do it, it's not going to come by just pointing our finger at all the hypocrisies of the other side. Because that would take all of our time. We would have no time left, and time would run out, before we would be able to save our national identity. We need to fill the void of national identity with something else.
And what I offer in this book is two reasons for that. One is the revival of the shared pursuit of excellence. That's part of what I'm working on in the private sector. In the board of directors at Chevron, last week. Doing what I'm doing at strive. I'm trying to do that through the private sector.
That's still only half the story, though.
And I think that as citizens, we also need to revive our sense of civic duty, to start talking about that more. You know, I think it's a provocative idea, I offered in my last book. I talk about it in this one too, of even thinking about weaving civic service, into education. That's something that makes conservatives, a lot of Libertarian conservatives, even myself, ten years ago, would have recoiled at that idea. That feels like, it's an infringement on our liberty. Well, what I say, is, first of all, if you start at a young enough age, we accept that children, under the age of 18 or 16, are not yet free agents in the world. We have to create those citizens. And weaving the idea of service. Of identity as a citizen in your country, is part of what allows you to actually be an unapologetic capitalist. An unapologetic free agent, once you do enter that free world.
And part of that problem, I think, is we have an entire generation. My generation, that never learned how to do actual service. Nor how to pursue their own self-interests in their own right, by co-mingling the two. We never learn how to actually do either one on its own.
So I think it will actually create a greater generation of capitalists. A greater generation of free individualist agents in the world, if we also revive this idea, of living out our civic duties. And I think you're right. A lot of conservatives in their private lives do that. I think we need to make that as part of a North Star of what it means to America.
GLENN: I think you're seeing that now, with the takeover of the school boards, and you know the local city councils, et cetera.
I mean, conservatives. You know, they were busy keeping their nose to their business. And down to the grindstone. And et cetera, et cetera. And just thought. Oh, this is all being taken care of.
It was being taken care of. Just not in the way we appreciate.
VIVEK: Exactly. And one of the things I like to do, Glenn. Let's take a step back from the present. Let's take a walk through history. One of the things I do in the book. I talk a lot about a post-Civil War history and the Reconstruction Era. But one of the areas of history I go to is Roman history. One of the things I reminded myself of. You know, you hear a lot of analogies today, between the fall of the American experiment. And the fall of Rome. Well, guess what, there was no one rise or one fall of Rome. There were many rises, and many falls.
And it -- you know what, I don't think we're done with this American experiment quite yet either. There were many rises and many falls of Rome. There were many rises and many falls with this great country, and this great experiment as well.
And I tell the story of, it's interesting, I hadn't studied this since high school. Emperor Septimius Severus, he was known as the black Emperor. Okay. That's how I studied him in high school at least. One of the things I learned doing the research of this book. He only got that name, the black Emperor. In the last few decades. As he was redescribed in modern American history. There was a TV series that highlighted the story of the first black man to walk on England's soil came not as a slave, but as a conqueror. And then they made a whole narrative around it. Well, the funny thing is, if you go back to the Roman era, people could see that he had dark skin. It was no different than someone having dark eyes or dark hair.
The thing they actually cared about were, were you a Roman citizen? Or were you not?
Were you a member of this nation, or were you not?
That's how they actually saw him. And in a certain sense, we've created our vision, even in history. He's the black emperor we need. Not the black emperor he was. That was never how the Romans saw him. And it just shows you how anachronistically we even view history. That if we're able to take off the Googles of the present. The filters of the present. And actually even take ourselves out of the present, it suddenly becomes politically less controversial. We're able to talk about these ideas in ways that are 1,000 years removed. But then you come back to the present and you see what a strange world it is that you live in.
GLENN: Yep. Yep.
VIVEK: And I think that's one of the reasons why I felt compelled to write this book. It's not for everybody. But if you're a lover of history, if you're interested in potentially the parallels between Roman history and modern American history, how we got here, dating back to the post Civil War.
Reconstruction Era, where victimhood culture began, and I think how we were able to translate that into the victim culture that we see today.
You know, for those who actually enjoy that walk through history, that's who this book was intended for, in contrast to Woke Inc. my last book, which was more about current events and the current era. This is a walk through history, that gives us hopefully a different view of the present.
GLENN: Yeah. Well, you've really targeted the wrong audience for that.
VIVEK: I don't know about that. I don't know about that.
GLENN: This audience -- you're speaking their language. It's great. It's called a nation of victims. And it's written by Vivek Ramaswamy.
And we appreciate everything that you do, Vivek. Thank you so much. God bless.
You bet. Nation of victims. A must-read. All right. Back in just a second.