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Opinion

Democracy Works: Ro Khanna on dignity and democracy

Rep. Ro Khanna is the author of "Dignity in a Digital Age: Making Tech Work for All of Us"
Rep. Ro Khanna is the author of "Dignity in a Digital Age: Making Tech Work for All of Us"

The concept of dignity comes up a lot when we think about the condition of American democracy. Francis Fukuyama wrote about the demand for dignity and the politics of resentment and Chris Bail talked with us how dignity offline impacts our behavior online, just to name a few.

Rep. Ro Khanna combines his experience in politics and technology policy to address the question of dignity in his new book, "Dignity in the Digital Age." Khanna presents a vision for how the digital economy can create opportunities for people all across the country without uprooting them. He argues that democratizing digital innovation to build economically vibrant and inclusive communities. Instead of being subject to tech’s reshaping of our economy, Khanna says we must channel those powerful forces toward creating a more healthy, equal, and democratic society.

We begin this conversation by talking about the war in Ukraine and whether it might help bring unity to America. We also discuss why it's essential to make sure companies are contributing more than just jobs to the communities they operate in, as we heard from Alec MacGillis in his work on Amazon.

Khanna represents Silicon Valley in Congress. He has taught economics at Stanford, served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Obama Administration, and represented tech companies and startups in private practice.

Episode Transcript
Chris Beem
From the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State University. I'm Chris Beem.

Candis Watts Smith 
I'm Candis Watts Smith.

Jenna Spinelle
I'm Jenna Spinelle and welcome to Democracy Works. This week, we are talking with Congressman Ro Khanna, who is a Democrat representing the Silicon Valley in California. He's here to talk with us about his latest book dignity in a digital age. And, you know, this, this book, and I think his broader mission is to help take some of the innovation and the prosperity and the wealth that exists within his district in Silicon Valley and bring it out to the rest of the country, whether that's an urban community, whether it's an urban community or rural community, how can the rest of America benefit from all of the things that technology has brought to his district?

Chris Beem
Yeah, and and that centers, most specifically around the technology as an economic engine, right. Silicon Valley, I think he says it's, it's, it is worth that Silicon Valley is worth significantly more than the GDP of like Russia, right, it is an enormously powerful economic engine. And there's no signs of that kind of stopping. But many Americans and especially Americans in rural communities, and, you know, underserved, marginalized communities feel that none of that is coming to them that, that they have been left out of this of this revolution. And so Khanna says, true. That is That is true. And that's a problem. And that's a problem that our nation needs to address, and needs to figure out ways to bring the opportunities of a digital age throughout the United States.

Candis Watts Smith 
This book, Dignity in a Digital Age, also kind of gets at some of the themes that we talked about with for example, with Daniel Allen, who you know, mentioned that, it is going to be really difficult, like we have a goal of creating a multiracial, egalitarian democracy. And I think for the representative, that means, you know, to be able to contribute, and to have a say, and how things are going on, but we have a lot of problems. A lot of them who say this, we have a lot of challenges, you know, social media, AI fractured media, landscape, a fractured media, landscape polarization. And then we have vast economic inequality. And by kind of thinking about ways of getting the wealth and innovation out of Silicon Valley, into other communities across the country,

Chris Beem
I mean, going back to, you know, the or text for, for us how democracies die, they, they talk at the very end that there has never been a genuine, a gala, terian, multi ethnic, multiracial democracy, and we have no choice but to try to construct that. Make that real, not to say, I mean, not merely to say that we should do it right, that it's a matter of justice, but that it's incumbent upon us, we can't not do it anymore. And and so what ro comma is doing is arguing that this this digital dimension of the economy, the most fertile, the most dynamic, the most wealth producing aspect of our economy must be extended to these other communities. And it's important to say that's why the title is dignity. It's not merely a matter of making a living. And and, you know, having some economic stability, it's also the dignity that comes from having a job that you can be proud of and be happy in being part of this nationwide effort to build something.

Candis Watts Smith 
One of the kind of central components here is that, you know, he says like people should should be able to stay in their hometowns. And that you know, I am, I have been reading a lot about the late 19th and early 20th century America, where people black people are leaving their homes are leaving the place. This is where they were born, to go, you know, to Chicago, New York, to California, to get the things that they need. People don't want to do that. And, you know, I think his argument is that people shouldn't have to do that. You shouldn't have to leave your home to, you know, have good work, to be able to contribute, to have good education, so on and so forth.

Jenna Spinelle
And that kind of gets to this other point, which we'll talk about in the interview. But I couldn't help as I was reading the book and having this conversation, think about the episode that I think both of you are on with Alec MacGillis, about Amazon, and how all of these tech jobs are not created equal. And what do you have to do to ensure that it does that the job is not just somewhere people go to earn a paycheck? What is that connection to dignity and to community and the ways that those two things intersect? And I think that is still very much an open question. And, you know, Connor kind of realizes that, but it's part of I think he sees that as part of his project or his mission to try to figure out how to how to remedy some of those disparities.

Chris Beem
There's a lot that I want to jump in with there. What can we what can capitalism demand of us? And what can we demand as people who, as people who demand dignity, what can we demand of capitalism, but I think it makes sense first to go to his interview, and then we can come back and talk about that.

Jenna Spinelle
Let's go now to the interview. Congressman Ro Khanna Welcome to Democracy work. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Ro Khanna
Thank you for having me.

Jenna Spinelle
So before we dive into your book, dignity in a digital age, I want to just talk briefly about the war in Ukraine, and specifically something that we have been grappling with on on the show, and I think perhaps relates to some of your ideas about democracy. And that is, you know, is what we are seeing unfolds going to be the type of shock to the system that might make America and perhaps other Western democracies realize just how fragile democracy really is. Or is it perhaps going to be something that we all watch on TV and you know, Doom scroll all day long, but see something that's happening over there and not maybe make that that connection outside of Ukraine and Russia more broadly? What what is your take on that? And are you perhaps seeing any evidence from your constituents or your colleagues in Congress about about how things are playing out?

Ro Khanna
I definitely think that they says, rally the American people and my colleagues to stand with Ukraine, a understanding that the world is still a brutal place that American leadership matters, that Ukraine is an example of why it's important for us to support NATO, why it's important for us to be unified at home, so that people don't perceive weakness in standing up for freedom and democracy. I think it the resistance of Ukraine has been extraordinary. When that has inspired Americans. In many ways people are inspired by President Zelensky. And all of what they're seeing on social media. It's still a brutal war. And Russia has a lot of just manpower and a lot of equipment. So I'm hopeful that the Ukrainians can continue to hold on and put on a resistance. But at some point, there has to be a ceasefire and an off ramp so that we can have peace. But overall I've been I do think that Americans are engaged and don't view this as a distant problem, but are rallying around the President in the country.

Jenna Spinelle
And you mentioned social media. There we are, of course, seeing so much of this conflict play out on on social media, and I know that you you represent a lot of Silicon Valley in your congressional district, you know, as we as we think about kind of the history of, of social media, there was perhaps a period of, of utopianism that maybe culminated in the Arab Spring, followed by a more dystopian period that perhaps culminated in the January 6 2021. insurrection. And, and it's, you know, we're sort of moving perhaps into another phase now, but it's unclear, at least to me where things are going to go from here.

Ro Khanna
I think that there's been a huge huge contradiction with social media. On the one hand, it is really empowered voices that were marginalized. You saw that with the Arab Spring, you see that with the me to movement, you see that with black lives matter. We are seeing that to some extent with with Ukraine. They inspiring pictures that people in Ukraine are posting in videos that they're posting of the resistance of the heroic efforts of fathers taking their families outside and then coming back into Ukraine to fight a lot of that we know because of social media, not traditional reporting. And it is countering a very large behemoth in in Russia. On the other hand, you've had social media use with Russia itself with Russia and Russia, TV to sow disinformation, as you pointed out, it led to the January 6, the lies and an insurrection of violence. The challenge for us that is how do we take this new medium that's created a new digital sphere? And have it become more a forum for the democratization of voice for thoughtful dialogue, rather than a place for mobilizing nationalism or extremism? And I think we're just starting on that project. Remember, it took 100 years after the printing press for that not to be used for pamphleteering that started wars. So this is a humanities test to build the liberal democratic institutions online, that can harness the Internet to be a force for good.

Jenna Spinelle
Yeah. And I mean, as as you talk with, you know, leaders, from these companies that that that you represent in your district, how are they thinking about this challenge?

Ro Khanna
I think there's an awakening of their social responsibility, their political responsibility. I don't think that was on the forefront of their minds. For many years. It was just how do we grow our business? How do we grow more users? How do we grow more engagement, and that was the algorithms that they created an optimized for. But suddenly, they realized that just growing more users just growing more engagement doesn't mean necessarily that you're going to be a force for good. And their mission statements were not just about profit, but being a force for good. And now they realize, wow, there's some huge negatives to this that, you know, Instagram in some ways is the worst of junior high at times, and the prolific proliferation of hate dope extremism online, needs to be checked, the proliferation of misinformation needs to be checked. We saw today, they're beginning to embrace their role as new media companies, but it's not sufficient for them to do that voluntarily. We need thoughtful regulation. So we can make sure that these spaces are conducive to the democracy.

Jenna Spinelle
Yeah, and I know you you write about this in your book. So let's let's go there and dive in. I want to start with your theory of democratic patriotism. It's which as I understand it is is borrowed from Frederick Douglass and John Rawls, and perhaps others. So can you lay lay that out for us what it is, and perhaps how you came to this theory?

Ro Khanna
Well, democratic patriotism is the view that a country is stitched together by more than procedural justice. And by that I mean, the famous view of us, of America that the is, well, we're a country based on an idea. We're a nation that is rooted in liberty and equality and a constitution. And all of that is true. But there's more to America, there's a culture to America, whether that's a sports culture, music, culture, a popular culture, and their customs and traditions, right, Douglass, in this brilliant speech in 1869, talks about being a composite nation, that an American culture will emerge out of all of the different cultures and the fear of America, we will sort of build a composite. And what I write about is, how can we do that in a 21st century America, where everyone has the quality of participating in building this culture, and so we can be patriotic about America, for all it stands, not just a procedural conception of America, but that it's so important that everyone has inequality in creating that. And I linked that to technology and saying, if we don't have equality of technological production in a modern economy, you're not going to have inequality to participate in the creation of culture.

Jenna Spinelle
Yeah, and say, say more about that what you mean by equality of technical production?

Ro Khanna
Well, in my district, in the surrounding areas, you have $11 trillion of market cap. I mean, it's staggering. Russia's entire economy as a GDP is $1.6 trillion. And young people are very optimistic about the future. They think the world is their oyster. They want to do robotics. They want to do the next technological Innovation. But the opportunities have been so concentrated. And so you have billionaires, millionaires, and all of these techies having disproportionate cultural influence a disproportionate economic influence, and large parts of the country, rural America, black and brown communities that have been totally excluded from modern wealth generation not having the opportunities to build the economic prosperity in their hometowns. And so what I argue is with the decentralization a lot of technology, the argument that the 25 million new digital jobs that pay twice the median average need to be distributed across the country. And you,

Jenna Spinelle
You give several examples in the book of of this about, you know, cities and towns that are really trying to embrace this idea and, you know, bring bring tech jobs, you you write a lot about the future of, of tech jobs, and how we need to expand our definition of what a tech job even is, can you just walk us through an example of what this looks like in practice on the ground?

Ro Khanna
Sure, I start the book with Alex Hughes. Because I think it's so important that people not caricature this as let's make coal miners coders. That's a horrible way of thinking of this, because most of the 25 million jobs don't require any real coding. In fact, the new mantra among a lot of tech companies is low code, no code, meaning these jobs don't require much coding, and they don't even require a college degree. So Alex Hughes is making stuff. He's making refrigerators, he's making dishwashers. And he says, I know how to do this. My family knows how to do this and get lucky, we go back generations where the hues make things where technicians, we build things. Now he's just doing it with some software that allows him to make smart appliances. And the point is, he got a six month or 10 month credential in that in using that technology software. But the job itself is a manufacturing job. So the technology jobs of the future going to be manufacturing jobs, retail jobs, health care, jobs, education, jobs, they're going to require a technical proficiency, they're going to require some ability to understand or manipulate software, but they're not going to require advance.

Jenna Spinelle
So as I was reading your book, I couldn't help but think about Alec MacGillis, his book "Fulfillment" all about Amazon, we got him on the show earlier this year. And, you know, the story that he tells is, yes, these jobs come but Amazon's not paying any taxes. So you know, that that limits the the benefit or sort of that the downstream effects that these these communities where the new Amazon locations come can really provide the people living there is, I mean, how do you think about solving that problem? And is it perhaps do we make too much is is is Amazon the exception and not the rule when it when it comes to these these types of you know, relocations and and companies opening new facilities?

Ro Khanna
Well, I love Alec MaGillis, his book, I think I cited a few times in my own. And he's absolutely right that the jobs of Amazon warehouses are not often good pay good, dignified jobs, where you have an algorithm as your boss, where people were making 30 bucks an hour now making 15 bucks an hour where the work conditions are not safe, and are taxing. And data centers often are disruptive in these communities and are creating jobs. The question though, is not where will we create new Amazon fulfillment centers, workforce centers is wherever we create new Amazon digital jobs which which are paying $80,000 On average, which are good pay, and those should just be kept concentrated in a few cities, Seattle or or Virginia, those should be more distributed. And the workers need to have more pay and benefits and dignity which Amazon can can afford. So I think we need a decentralization of the good paying digital jobs. And we need a raising of standards of the service jobs that often are accompanying those digital jobs.

Jenna Spinelle
Yeah, and this this idea of dignity, I think also gets to something you describe as the spirit of civility. And you you talk a little bit about how this played out in your own life growing up in in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, not far from where we are here at Penn State. Can you just talk a little bit about that that spirit, how it developed in you and how you see it today?

Ro Khanna
Well, I think on the Democratic side, we're very, very good about talking about fairness as a matter of rights, the right to health care, the right to education, the right to nutrition, but justice in my view requires more than just the right to the basic material goods sold Those are so important. That requires the ability to contribute the ability to make a meaningful difference, the ability to produce, and the ability to, to do that if you want for your hometown. and dignity to me was this sense that people don't feel like they have that opportunity anymore for them or their families, that they're being told to move that they're told that their kids aren't going to have those opportunities. And that the they don't want a future simply where you have redistribution, tax the billionaires in my district and provide them a handout. Now, we should tax the billionaires in my district, and we should tax Amazon more. But we have to do more than just the taxing and redistribution, post production and economy. We have to respect people's dignity, which means respecting their ability, talent to contribute, but not providing them opportunities to do that. And in my view, I use dignity in the double sense, I say, it means having an opportunity to contribute to economic life, and to citizenship to pose to the citizenship life of a 21st century democracy. And then we're having some say over the digital architecture through digital public spirit.

Jenna Spinelle
How important is it for Democrats to take credit for some of these gains, whether it's bringing these these tech jobs or some of this work about building the new digital infrastructure? I'm thinking for example of you know, former President Trump and the carrier plant and all of his talk about coal jobs. Now, some of that might be unique to his personality and his style of doing things. But it seems to me that, you know, Democrats have been more reluctant to say, No, we are the ones who are doing these things who are bringing these benefits to you.

Ro Khanna
The President, I think started in a great way when he recognized Intel in my district, the CEO Pat Gallagher. And, and, and he was able to say we're bringing $20 billion into Ohio, to revitalize the Midwest. That's Intel's investment. I mean, that's far more than Trump ever did with the carrier bill is not even comparable or Foxconn. And yet the whole country deal with a carrier deal. And the whole country still doesn't know that Intel is putting $20 billion into all IO, after the President mentioned it at the beginning of the State of the Union, every Democrat needs to be talking about the revitalization of America through new investment through technology, which is going to create the new manufacturing jobs, the new retail jobs, the new construction jobs, Trump diagnosed a problem. And the problem was the deindustrialization of last parts of America and need that any diagnose the problem of communities left out, but his solution was not a true one. What we have to say is we understand the grievance, we understand the hurt, we understand the anger, here is a plan to actually get opportunity, job creation, prosperity to communities for you and your kids.

Jenna Spinelle
And, you know, political scientists have written a lot in in recent years about the increasing polarization in the US and how much stronger our national political identities are becoming, and how that, you know, it makes it difficult for people to work together even when it is to achieve something that should ostensibly be a shared or common goal. How do you how do you reckon with this idea of polarization in the work that you're doing and the ideas you have about how we move forward?

Ro Khanna
It's a big challenge. I mean, part of my thought is if we're working together and prospering together with the decentralization of technology, maybe that helps somewhat, the fact that Alex years at Paintsville, Kentucky is working with an Indian American entrepreneur, but people in Silicon Valley with people in Atlanta and Chicago, I can only think integrated teams, distributed teams, it can help, to some extent, mitigate the the deep divisions, but it's going to take more than that it's going to take listening to each other, respecting each other, figuring out how do we have some sense of common culture. And that's, of course, Douglass could believe that in 1869, when he defends Chinese immigration, this from a person who was enslaved for 20 years, and he writes America is on the ascent. And I believe we're going to become the first multiracial, multi ethnic democracy, we're going to be this composite nation. Certainly, he overcame much harder odds than we do. He gives the hope that we could do that in trying to better understand each other and have honest dialogue, try to understand where people are coming from, but I think the prerequisite for that is to have economic opportunity in places left out.

Jenna Spinelle
Right. And I think there's also perhaps at play here to rebuilding or, or re establishing trust in some of the institutions that are necessary to make democracy work. You know, some people certainly think that the the media is lying to them. Politicians are bought and sold by lobbyists and corporations, businesses. are out to screw them over. So where does that that idea of trust fit into this thesis?

Ro Khanna
Trust as a huge deficit. But how do we gain that trust? I mean, the question is, what do we need to do for that trust? I think we need to do concrete things like President Biden did with Intel $20 billion 30,000 jobs. This is not just policy, this is not just abstraction, this is happening in the community, and then to tell those stories, and then people say, Okay, this is working, when it's just legislative, when it's just abstract, that I think generate cynicism. So the more concrete proof points we have, the more we can slowly build.

Jenna Spinelle
Right. And, you know, this also, I think, gets to some of the, the racial disparities in in technology, particularly some of the higher end jobs in in engineering and software development and the like, which, you know, we know from from the work of scholars and journalists, what can happen when, you know, algorithms and systems are not designed by people who are representative of the communities that they serve. And I know you also outline ideas for how to solve that part of the problem.

Ro Khanna
Well, I think that the digital architecture is so important in defining the rules of debate and defining who gets to have a voice. And it's not fair for that digital architecture to be constructed simply in Silicon Valley, there ought to be people having a stake in that architecture. Let me give you an example. clubhouse, you know, popularized by black artist has very few black engineers or black people in leadership. And that is a reason in my view, one reason why you have rampant sexism, rampant racism on the platform. So having a more inclusive design, and teams will lead to the platform's themselves being more respectful of different

Jenna Spinelle
We are in in the midst right now of I think, still a realignments when it comes to remote work and where people are going to live versus where they work and how that ties into sense of place, which I know you define as very important to democracy and really making a lot of this, this, these ideas that you outline work, tell us more about, you know, the importance of, of sense of place, as as you see it, and maybe how you see that continuing to evolve as more companies shift to remote or or or hybrid work.

Ro Khanna
Well, this says this is my corollary to Adam Smith, who obviously had the sense that we're markets work in our efficient and we should allow people to move around wherever the jobs take them, and to construct a society based on trade. And there's a lot to recommend markets, there's a lot to recommend trade. But I say it can't be unconstrained, unrestricted with no sense of place that when you just tell people move, go where the jobs are, go try it, and you have no sense of respecting community respecting place, then you end up destabilizing communities, you end up destroying hope and opportunity for many people who can't afford to move or don't want to move. And you end up creating the polarization as beset not just our democracy, but many democracies in the West. And so my sense is, let's have some focus in our democratic society on Yes, economic growth and economic development, but also a focus on place and making sure that every place has a chance to part participate in that in it was most acute in the case of the digital revolution, which has left out so many places in this country.

Jenna Spinelle
Right, and you outline so many policy proposals and policy ideas in this book, we don't have time to get to them all in this conversation, but how do you think about how to prioritize them moving forward? Are there are there certain things or is there an order that you see or or certain, you know, hierarchy of of you know what we need to be tackling first?

Ro Khanna
The book was supposed to be a conversation starter, not sort of here is my manifesto for the the digital age but more, here are some ideas, what do you what do you think and let's start let's experiment and what can be done. But if I had to pay, I would say let's do two goals. One, a jobs goal. Let's create 2 million new digital jobs for rural Americans and black and brown Americans in the next five years. I think that's achievable and can be done with a partnership between universities in the private sector with the federal government's leadership, and two, let's make sure or that we have some real legislation on an internet bill of rights that gives people rights online. So that the worst excesses of online speech our

Jenna Spinelle
Last question, Congressman, what does democracy mean to you?

Ro Khanna
Democracy to me means the recognition of the genius, extraordinary potential of each individual, the idea that you don't have to be a king, or an aristocrat to have an extraordinary life to have a meaningful life, it's not just about the right to vote, it's a, it's a fundamental belief that contribution and excellence of living is something that is accessible to all, and not just to the privilege field. And that's a radical thought, it's a thought that probably only has been really vibrant for the past 100 to 200 years, certainly, in terms of being inclusive. It's a true thought, but we have a long way to go to make it a reality.

Jenna Spinelle
Right? Well, thank you for all of your work in this book, and in Congress to try to get us closer to that reality. And thank you for joining us today to talk about it.

Ro Khanna
Thank you. I really enjoyed the conversation.

Candis Watts Smith 
Thank you, Jenna, for that great interview. One of the things that stands out to me as I was listening to Representative comma, but and, and also, you know, reading the book, is that he seems to, you know, kind of be like a mix of an optimist and a pragmatist. And, you know, one of the ways that we see this is in his kind of notions of progressive capitalism. Um, you know, and I think that, you know, we can point to a lot of problems with capitalism. But, you know, as a pragmatist, I think, politically, it's, I think he sees it as important for us to consider, well, what are our constraints? And how do we work within our constraints?

Chris Beem
What are the constraints regarding capitalism? Or what are the constraints regarding his role as a US? Rep, both both? Alright, so I think you're right. And I think he, but I also think that his position is, is fairly principled, and it's not unique to him, right? I mean, there's a lot of people who will argue that who was Nehru was a socialist in India, right? And, and really achieved little to nothing in terms of the well being of your average Indian, and then India embraced capitalism. And as a result of that, you know, for whatever good or bad, I mean, for all the negatives, it worked out well enhance the well being of your average Indian. And so there is an argument to be made, that there is nothing there is no economic system that is as powerful as producing what at producing wealth and enhancing the economic well being of people as capitalism, however, and I think that's what Ro Khanna would say, and that's what people in the Silicon Valley would say. However, he would also say that there that an unbridled capitalism and unregulated capitalism, a capitalism where there are no values or objectives outside of the profit margin, or profit motive is just not good. It's not, it doesn't produce good ends for the people that it claims to serve. It only serves a select few,

Candis Watts Smith 
You know, so let me just preface this when I was in graduate school, I took a class and, you know, we have to do these weekly responses, and we would get an assessment on the responses. And one day, I can't remember what we were talking about. But my read the response on my paper was Candace, you don't know shit about capitalism. And I was like, okay, and I think on some level, I have always shied away from thinking a lot about capitalism, because I was discouraged from doing that. But it also seems that with capitalism, as we've seen it, we've also see increases in inequality. We see lots of exploitation. And I just, you know, I think the other thing is that like, there's this idea about the free market. And the fact of the matter is, is that we've never had Free markets, the US government in particular, and maybe in other countries, I don't know, has always help capital. And so they've used the power to enhance and equality, and equity and exploitation. And so I guess I'm curious to know, if you think that we are at a point when our political representatives have the will, and that the public has an understanding of the dynamics in such a way to kind of say, like, alright, let's let the government use its power to undo some of the things that we've seen, I feel at the center of many of the arguments here is leveraging capitalism for good. And I just haven't seen evidence of that doing good for the most amount of people,

Chris Beem
Right. Um, there is a, a tradition, it's probably a minority tradition. And it probably only happens in periods, or, but it's most likely to happen in period of crises. But there are times in American history where we have constrained capitalism, right? Clean Water Act, constrained capitalism, Clean Air Act constrained capitalism. These were, you know, the air and the water were, you know, economists call them public goods and externalities. And so the capitalist was able to say, hey, look, I'm not doing anything. I'm just, you know, putting in the air, it's just the air. And then we come to find out that that's not good for everyone. And so eventually, government stepped in and said, No, you can't do that. And if and OSHA is the same thing, right? These put constraints on capitalism in order to serve and other than profit, other than an individual's profit. I think that Ro Khanna greatly underestimate the power of the condition of our society right now, with respect to advancing the role of government as a constraint on capitalism.

Candis Watts Smith 
I see. Yeah, I guess even as you're talking about, like clean air, and clean water, I was thinking of like Flint, and have like redline areas that still have worse air than places that weren't redlined. So I, you know, even then, like the incentives have often been to, you know, ensure that people who are better off stay better off and those who are worse off can be you know, that's where you're are made worse off?

Chris Beem
No, I think he oversells. That, to be quite honest, I don't think it's nearly as as easy. All right. Well, not easy. Don't say it's easy. I don't think it's nearly as viable, as he would argue it is. But I mean, I have a hard time arguing against any one of the goals that are in there, I just don't think it's going to happen.

Candis Watts Smith 
I actually think that one of the things that is helpful in the book is that he does kind of correct the idea about tech just being these jobs where people are on their computers. Right, that tech does still have a manufacturing component. Right. And there are some other kind of other, you know, like, I think, for example, in farming, farming is a place where, you know, our, our ideas and concerns about climate change, intersect with technology intersect with also kind of racial equity matters, there are actually a lot of black farmers and farmers of color, right, who have been carved out of that occupation systematically. But there are right there are opportunities to invest here with technology. You know, one of the things I think, if I were just gonna, like try to tap into my optimistic side, is that, you know, we talked about moments, right, that there are moments when we see the government moving, you know, toward constraining capitalism, there are moments that we see more racial equity, there are these moments and I wonder if this will be a moment where we see that, you know, people are freaking out about gas prices and inflation and so I wonder if this is a moment of opportunity, where we can see like, hey, maybe we should have Have more green energy and technology here. And that those, you know, that kind of work could be done. And rural places.

Chris Beem
There is this sense in which this book is fundamentally laying out a vision of what's possible, and a vision for, you know, democratic politics going forward, that engages people who feel resentment and who feel left out. And it's the policy, you know, you said it, it's like a laundry list. This is not your typical political laundry list. It's, it's thoughtful, it's well documented. And, and, you know, we're, we should feel grateful to have it part of our political discussion. So thank you to Ro Khanna for writing the book. Thanks to Jennifer the for the terrific interview. I'm Chris Beem.

Candis Watts Smith 
And I'm Candis Watts Smith. Thanks for listening.