“From wherever you stood, the opposing side offered respectable, credible views. In today's fractured culture the evening struck a blow for civility.”
- The Huffington Post
April 04, 2013
Had a rousing and often substantive debate last night sponsored by the group Intelligence Squared. My partner was the great and eloquent Karen Kornbluh (listen to the podcast -- I really thought Karen did a great job merging morality, compassion, and the facts of the case); the opposing team was Russ Roberts and Jim Dorn. The proposition was "the minimum wage should be abolished." I'll let you guess which side Karen and I took, but the good news: the audience votes at the beginning and end of the debate and team that gets more people to switch to their side wins. We won.
March 14, 2013
Does the U.S. need a strong dollar policy?
The Kaufman Center played host to a debate on monetary policy Wednesday night. Officially the resolution under consideration was "America Doesn't Need a Strong Dollar Policy"—although what it really ended up being about was the wisdom of the gold standard.
The sponsor of the Wednesday night's debate was an outfit called Intelligence Squared U.S., which turns these things into podcasts, and public radio and television broadcasts.
November 15, 2012
Feisty exchanges in New York last night reflect a country wondering more than ever about radical drug-law change.
Legalization is in the air right now, and an unusually constructive debate was waged in Manhattan last night on whether the US should end its prohibition on all currently illegal drugs. Hosted by the Intelligence Squared foundation, to be broadcast on NPR and Channel 13, it featured what debater Nick Gillespie (editor-in-chief at Reason.com, for the motion) characterized as four sometime participants in the drug war: a soldier (Paul Butler, law professor at Georgetown University and former federal prosecutor, also for legalization); a general (Asa Hutchinson, former DEA administrator and Congressman, against); a medic (Theodore Dalrymple, former prison doctor and psychiatrist, against); and a "conscientious objector" (Gillespie himself).
Butler kicked off with a passionate plea to end America's mass incarceration, in which he used to collaborate. Noting that "No country has ever found a way to stop people using drugs," he drew attention to the grotesque racial disparities in drug-law enforcement in a country where black people use drugs no more than white people, but are far likelier to be imprisoned for it. Doubting that Hutchinson would call the cops if he caught his own daughter using cocaine, Butler concluded that "What is good enough for our children and friends is also good enough for African Americans." Hutchinson admitted that many changes are needed in the way US drug laws are enforced, but said that this doesn't mean the drug laws themselves should disappear. Stating that a $2.5 trillion total drug-war expenditure has helped to halve illegal drug use in the last 30 years, he argued, "The idea that prohibition isn't working may appeal to the popular culture, but does not pass muster on closer examination."
Gillespie made the libertarian case for "pharmacological freedom": granting adults the right to decide what they put into their own bodies. "If we don't have the right to change our minds [by using drugs]," he asked, "then what rights do we really have that are worth a damn?" A drug user who no longer boozes ("because I'm a bad drinker: I tried and tried, but..."), he raised laughs with his sense of the ludicrous—at one point imagining "fair-trade methamphetamine." But he predicted that full legalization would change little, except to jail fewer people, give us "a couple more options" in our bathroom cabinets, and "Monday mornings would be a lot easier to face." Dalrymple responded by focusing on the harm drugs can do—noting the huge addiction and overdose toll of opioid painkillers in the US, "all created perfectly legally." Citing examples like buprenorphine use in France, he argued that making drugs legal increases their availability, and that "Supply can produce a large and disastrous demand." He conceded Butler and Gillespie's point that most people who take drugs don't become addicted, adding, "but then 99% of drunk drivers get home perfectly safely—I know, because I've done it myself."
Audience votes were recorded before and after the debate, with a swing towards legalization seeing Butler and Gillespie declared the winners. But it felt more like a beginning than an end. With marijuana now legal in Colorado and Washington, America's drug-legalization debate is going to expand both in geography and scope. It will rarely remain this civil.
October 25, 2012
“The rich are taxed enough,” argued Columbia Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard.
The man who The New York Times called Mitt Romney’s “go-to economist” and who is considered a leading candidate to be treasury secretary in a Republican administration made his case at a debate in New York.
“Raising tax rates on the rich is both counter-productive and unnecessary to fund the government we want,” said Hubbard.
While steering clear of specifics, Hubbard told the audience at the Intelligence Squared Debate that “higher tax rates won’t necessarily produce enhancements in revenue.”
“We can and should achieve fairness and growth without taxing the rich more than they are today,” he said.
Hubbard’s somewhat dry tone was balanced by the passion of one of his debate opponents, former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Speaking against the motion “the rich are taxed enough,” Reich argued called the idea “absurd.”
“The rich have done extraordinarily well but the rest haven’t,” said Reich to audience applause. “The percentage of total U.S. income of the top 1 percent has doubled in the past 30 years. Given where we are now, we shouldn’t even have this debate.”
Hubbard opposed raising tax rates for the rich but added, “We need a progressive tax system.”
“The wealthy should pay a disproportionate share of taxes,” he said.
Hubbard and his debate team colleague, Arthur Laffer, spoke out for tax reform that would lower rates but also broaden the tax base.
“We need to think about growth and fairness. Tax rates should not rise,” said Hubbard.
The United States already has one of the most progressive tax systems in the world, he argued. Comparing the U.S. economy to a tall building, Hubbard said the “lower floors are flooded” while the people in the penthouse are doing well -but “the elevator is broken.”
If the tax base were broadened with lower rates and tax reform, opportunity would be expanded and “we would get more revenues” to pay for the government,” he said.
September 13, 2012
Super-political action committees sound patriotic, as defined by David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics: “It’s Americans getting together and pooling their money to talk to other Americans.”
Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center, takes a darker view that super-PACs could hurt the country by corrupting the elected officials who benefit from their election spending.
July 04, 2012
A recent debate from Intelligence Squared U.S. examined the growing American shale gas boom and brought experts together to discuss the pros and cons of fracking.
July 02, 2012
After an Oxford-style debate Sunday night, environmental attorneys Deborah Goldberg and Katherine Hudson convinced 15 percent of the audience here to change their minds about hydraulic fracturing.
February 11, 2012
Sorry, Uncle Sam, but you’ve been benched in the fight against obesity. That’s according to the Intelligence Squared debate earlier this week, where more voters were swayed to believe that weight control is a personal decision—leaving little room for government intervention.
February 08, 2012
Last night, Intelligence Squared U.S. continued its spring 2012 season with a sold-out debate and a victory against the motion “Obesity is the Government’s Business.” In the final tally, John Stossel and Paul Campos won the Oxford style debate by convincing 16% of the audience to change their minds and oppose the motion. Overall 55% of audience members agreed that government should be involved in public health initiatives to combat obesity.
February 08, 2012
America is fat, but Americans disagree about what this means. Either the country’s obesity rates—one third of all adults are obese—are a dangerous health crisis, or they show that the nation is healthier and wealthier than ever. Either the government must act immediately to curb our waistlines, or we must act to curb our bloated government. These were the questions debated in NYU’s Skirball Center last night at the Slate/Intelligence Squared live debate, in which four health and policy experts argued the motion that “Obesity is the government’s business.”
January 18, 2012
On February 7, Intelligence Squared U.S. (IQ2US) will take on one of America’s biggest problems when they host the debate: “Obesity Is the Government’s Business.” Obesity costs our health care system nearly $150 billion a year and is a major risk factor for expensive, chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Should the government intervene, or is this a matter of individual rights and personal responsibility?
November 23, 2011
At a debate last night hosted by Intelligence Squared US, syndicated columnist Deroy Murdock argued that "we want the TSA and others to recognize that the current threat to passengers and airliners comes almost exclusively from one source..." Countered former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff: "The problem with using racial and religious profiling is it takes you down a road to looking at people who you don't need to look at and avoiding looking at people that you should look at..."
November 03, 2011
[T]wo teams squared off last month to debate the question of whether Congress should pass President Obama’s jobs plan – piecemeal, if necessary. The debate, held under the auspices of Intelligence Squared US, pitted Moody’s Analytics economist Mark Zandi and Princeton University policy wonk Cecilia Rouse against Richard Epstein, an NYU law professor, and Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute, with the latter duo arguing that what’s needed for the economy to rebound and ultimately create new jobs is structural reform, not what Mitchell called “faux stimulus.”
October 27, 2011
There was really no point to any further debate, but I went to the debate, anyway. It was part of the Intelligence Squared U.S. Debate Series at New York University's Skirball Center on Tuesday night. The topic: "Congress Should Pass Obama's Jobs Plan--Piece By Piece." It was fun watching four wonkish brainiacs flagellate each other over a $447 billion stimulus plan that was pretty much dead on arrival weeks ago.
October 25, 2011
Earlier this week, President Obama, ardent lover of three-word mantras, introduced a new slogan for his American Jobs Act: "We can't wait!" The president exhorted Congress to act on the jobs creation plan he introduced in September. The audience at last night's Slate/Intelligence Squared U.S. live debate at NYU's Skirball Center vehemently agreed with the president: After the conclusion of the debate, 69 percent voted for the motion "Congress should pass Obama's jobs bill—piece by piece"; 22 percent voted against the motion; and 9 percent were undecided.
October 25, 2011
Last night NYU’s Skirball Center saw an overwhelming victory for the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, “Congress Should Pass Obama’s Jobs Plan – Piece By Piece.” According to the final votes, Cecilia Rouse and Mark Zandi won the debate by convincing 24% of the audience to change their minds to support the motion, thus winning the Oxford style debate. They argued Obama’s jobs plan is a necessary step toward avoiding another recession and stimulus legislation will stem an economic downturn.
October 05, 2011
Last night's Intelligence Squared U.S. debate series took a look at America's health care entitlement programs and examined their impact on future generations.
September 23, 2011
How you can watch - and participate in - the live Slate/Intelligence Squared debate October 4 at NYU.
June 08, 2011
With world governments still reeling from the WikiLeaks fallout, acclaimed debate series Intelligence Squared US turned its attention to the balance between national security and freedom of the press. After watching the heated debate, IQ2US’s live, sold-out audience came down in favor of the Dershowitz/Sanger team, deciding against the motion that “Freedom of the press does not extend to state secrets”.
May 04, 2011
There was a good crowd at New York University Tuesday evening for the Intelligence Squared debate. These are full-dress formal disputations on topics of public interest, held roughly once a month through the season, very professionally organized and broadcast on Bloomberg TV and NPR. Tuesday’s topic was “Don’t give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,” the reference being to Emma Lazarus’s poem on the Statue of Liberty.
May 03, 2011
With the first anniversary of Arizona’s illegal immigrant law just behind us, last night’s debate at Intelligence Squared US, “Don’t give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses”, was a rousing, heated exchange on the nation’s hottest issue. According to live audience voting, the Kobach/Tancredo team made the more convincing argument by moving the most audience votes to their side at the end of the evening although the Castro/Jacoby team carried 52% of the final vote.
April 01, 2011
With a $300,000 salary, Bill Ritter is paid way more than the average academic at Colorado State University. So the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at CSU surely ought to know his stuff.
March 08, 2011
Can cleaner sources of energy not only power our economy but also drive a recovery from the Great Recession? That's the question confronted by policymakers across the U.S.—and by debaters in the Intelligence Squared series hosted March 8 by New York University.
March 08, 2011
In the latest round in America’s premier debate series, Intelligence Squared Debates (IQ2US), Bill Ritter, the former governor of Colorado, who established the state as a leader in renewable energy joins Kassia Yanosek, co-founder of the U.S. Partnership for Renewable Energy Finance support the motion while Robert Bryce, author of “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future” and Steven Hayward, author of “Almanac of Environmental Trends” oppose it.
January 19, 2011
For an actual debate on the law, here's a debate sponsored by Intelligence Squared US, featuring two authors whose writing I admire and follow: Paul Starr and Jonathan Cohn.
January 14, 2011
The debate, the first in IQ2US’s spring series “America’s House Divided,” was particularly timely given the planned House of Representatives vote to consider repealing the landmark health care reform bill. Arguments on both sides of the motion were passionate and insightful but in the end, one side had the clear support of the vast majority of the live audience in New York and the motion was rejected soundly.
November 30, 2010
Zeba Khan was born and raised in a middle-class home in Toledo, Ohio, and for nine years attended the local Jewish day school, The Hebrew Academy, going to morning minyan every day. She graduated in 1993. She says she would have continued on with her Jewish education but the school only went through sixth grade. “I knew Hebrew better than most of my classmates,” she recalled in a recent interview, “and I wanted a bat mitzvah.”
November 29, 2010
As an American Muslim, I’ve come to recognize, sadly, that there is one common denominator defining those who’ve got their eyes trained on U.S. targets: MANY of them are Muslim—like the Somali-born teenager arrested Friday night for a reported plot to detonate a car bomb at a packed Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in downtown Portland, Oregon.
November 26, 2010
Since 9/11, al Qaeda has not succeeded in launching another terrorist spectacular in the United States. But it has succeeded in provoking a spectacular debate about aviation security. Several weeks ago—and even earlier at some airports—the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) initiated full-body scans and enhanced pat-downs, including inspections of private parts, that in some quarters are fueling outrage.
November 24, 2010
As Americans fly this Thanksgiving holiday, critics of new security measures are arriving at airports in kilts. Subsequent pat downs will be quite enhanced, indeed. Pre-flight screening has moved from safety to comedy. Before it devolves into tragedy, airline employees and government officials should start profiling terrorists. America must focus its finite capabilities on those who crave the destruction of planes and the people who ride them.