Transcript for Ben Shapiro vs Destiny Debate: Politics, Jan 6, Israel, Ukraine & Wokeism | Lex Fridman Podcast #410

This is a transcript of Lex Fridman Podcast #410 with Ben Shapiro vs Destiny Debate. The timestamps in the transcript are clickable links that take you directly to that point in the main video. Please note that the transcript is human generated, and may have errors. Here are some useful links:

Table of Contents

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Destiny (00:00:00) Something has to happen with Iran. There has to be some diplomatic bilateral communication there.
Ben Shapiro (00:00:04) No. What has to happen is the containment of Iran.
Destiny (00:00:06) History moves in one direction.
Ben Shapiro (00:00:07) Why?
Destiny (00:00:09) Because of time.
Ben Shapiro (00:00:10) Communism, Nazism, all of that was a regression from what was happening at, for example, the beginning of the 19th century into the 20th century.
Destiny (00:00:16) In what way?
Ben Shapiro (00:00:17) Do you think that today Donald Trump knows that he lost the election?
Destiny (00:00:20) Absolutely.
Ben Shapiro (00:00:21) I don’t.
Destiny (00:00:22) This is one of the areas where we get into this, I don’t understand if there’s brain-breaking happening or what’s going on. I don’t know what world we can ever live in where we say that Trump is less divisive for the country than Biden.
Ben Shapiro (00:00:33) Joe Biden literally used the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration to try to cram down vax mandates on 80 million Americans. That’s insane.
Destiny (00:00:41) What about supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?
Ben Shapiro (00:00:43) What about pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis?
Destiny (00:00:45) Yeah, or the science terms.
Ben Shapiro (00:00:45) Yeah, exactly.
Destiny (00:00:46) Or what about the 7,000 letter thing that’s from part of a biochem.
Lex Fridman (00:00:49) I got my education in the Soviet Union. So we just did math. We didn’t run any of this.
Ben Shapiro (00:00:53) That’s why you’re a useful person.
Lex Fridman (00:00:54) Does body count matter? The following is a debate between Ben Shapiro and Destiny. Each arguably representing the right and left of American politics respectively. They are two of the most influential and skilled political debaters in the world. This debate has been a long time coming for many years. It’s about 2.5 hours and we could have easily gone for many more. And I’m sure we will. It is only round one. This is the Lex Fridman Podcast to support it. Please check out our sponsors in the description. And now, dear friends, here’s Ben Shapiro and Destiny.

Liberalism vs Conservatism

(00:01:36) Ben, you’re conservative. Destiny, you’re a liberal. Can you each describe what key values underpin your philosophy on politics and maybe life in the context of this left to right political spectrum? You want to go first?
Destiny (00:01:50) Yeah. So I think that we have a huge country full of a lot of people, a lot of individual talents, capabilities, and I think that the goal of government, broadly speaking, should be to try to ensure that everybody is able to achieve as much as possible. So on a liberal level, that usually means some people might need a little bit of a boost when it comes to things like education. They might need a little bit of a boost when it comes to providing certain necessities like housing or food or clothing. But broadly speaking, I mean, I’m still a liberal, not a communist or a socialist. I don’t believe in the total command economy, total communist takeover of all of the economy, but I think that broadly speaking, the government should kick in and help people when they need it.
Lex Fridman (00:02:32) And that government can and should be big?
Destiny (00:02:34) Not necessarily. I noticed that when liberals talk about government, especially taxes, it seems like they talk about it for taxes sake or bigness sake. So people talk about taxes sometimes as like a punishment, like tax the rich. I think taxing the rich is fine insofar as it funds the programs that we want to fund. But Democrats have a really big problem demonizing success or wealth. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be wealthy, to be a billionaire or whatever, as long as we’re funding what we need to fund.
Lex Fridman (00:03:03) Ben, what do you think it means to be a conservative? What’s the philosophy that underlies your political view?
Ben Shapiro (00:03:07) So first of all, I’m glad that Destiny, you’re already coming out as a Republican. That’s exciting. I mean, we hold a lot in common in terms of the basic idea that people ought to have as much opportunity as possible and also insofar as the government should do the minimum amount necessary to interfere in people’s lives in order to pursue certain functions, particularly at the local level.
(00:03:33) So a lot of governmental discussions on a pragmatic level end up being discussions about where government ought to be involved, but also at what level government ought to be involved. And I have an incredibly subsidiary view of government. I think that local governments, because you have higher levels of homogeneity and consent are capable of doing more things. And as you abstract up the chain, it becomes more and more impractical and more and more divisive to do more things.
(00:03:59) In my view, government is basically there to preserve certain key liberties. Those key liberties pre-exist the government insofar as they’re more important than what priorities the government has. The job of government is to maintain, for example, national defense, protection of property rights, protection of religious freedom. These are the key focuses of government as generally expressed in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. And I agree with the general philosophy of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
(00:04:31) Now, that doesn’t mean by the way, that you can’t do more on a governmental level again as you get closer to the ground, which by the way is also embedded in the Constitution. People forget the Constitution was originally applied to the federal government, not to local and state government. But if I were going to define conservatism, it would actually be a little broader than that because I think to understand how people interact with government, you have to go to core values.
(00:04:50) And so for me, there are a couple of premises. One, human beings have a nature. That nature is neither good nor bad. We have aspects of goodness and we have aspects of badness. Human beings are sinful. We have temptations. What that means is that we have to be careful not to incentivize the bad and that we should incentivize the good. Human beings do have agency and are capable of making decisions in the vast majority of circumstances. And it’s better for society if we act as though they do.
(00:05:17) Second, the basic idea of human nature. There is an idea in my view that all human beings have equal value before the law. I’m a religious person, so I’d say equal value before God. But I think that’s also sort of a key tenet of Western civilization being non-religious or religious, that every individual has equivalent value in sort of cosmic terms.
(00:05:36) But that does not necessarily mean that every person is equally equipped to do everything equally well. And so it is not the job of government to rectify every imbalance of life. The quest for cosmic justice, as Thomas Sowell suggests, is something that government is generally incapable of doing, and more often than not, botches and makes things worse. So those are a few key tenets and that tends to materialize in a variety of ways. The easiest way to sum that up would the traditional kind of three legs of the conservative stool, although now obviously there’s a very fragmented conservative movement in the United States would be a socially conservative view in which family is the chief institution of society, like the little platoons of society as Edmund Burke suggested, in which free markets and property rights are extraordinarily valuable and necessary because every individual has the ability to be creative with their property and to freely alienate that property.
(00:06:34) Finally, I tend toward a hawkish foreign policy that suggests that the world is not filled with wonderful people who all agree with us and think like us. And those people will pursue adversarial interests if we do not protect our own interests.
Destiny (00:06:46) Can I ask a question on that? I’m so curious.
Lex Fridman (00:06:47) Okay.


Destiny (00:06:49) I’m excited for this conversation because I consider you to be really intelligent, but I feel like sometimes there are ways that conservatives talk about certain issues that seem to defy logic and reason, I guess. And I’m sure you feel the same way about… Well, I feel the same way about progressives, but even some liberals for sure. Before I ask this question, it’s going to relate to education. We can agree broadly speaking that statistics are real and that not everybody could do everything. So for a grounded example, my life was pretty bad. I got into streaming and I turned my life around and that was really cool. But I can’t expect everybody to do what I did. Right? Like everybody being able to join the NBA or to be like a streamer.
Ben Shapiro (00:07:27) Of course, everybody has different qualities. Sure.
Destiny (00:07:29) Okay. So I used to be a lot more libertarian when I was 20, 21. And one of the things that dramatically changed my view on government, manipulation of things in the, I guess, in society when it came time to deal with my son and the school that he went to. And one of the things that I noticed was when time to send my son to school, I could either do private education or I could do public.
(00:07:51) Personally, I did 12 years of Catholic private education. However, the public schools in Nebraska, depending on where you lived, were very, very, very good. I opted for a certain district, I bought a house there, I moved there, and then my son was able to go to those schools. And he’s been going through those schools and the difference of availability of technology, these kids are taking home iPads in first grade. They’ve got huge computer labs and everything. Do you think that there is some type of, I don’t want to say injustice or unfairness because not even looking at it that way, just pragmatically that there might be children that are in certain schools that if they just had better funding or more access to technologies or things available to them, that those kids would become more productive members of society that would like a little bit of a help that they could actually achieve more and do better for all of society?
Ben Shapiro (00:08:39) So I think that on the list of priorities when it comes to education, the availability of technology is actually fairly low on the list of priorities.
Destiny (00:08:46) Sure. The two things I’ve heard are food availability, and I think air conditioning I think are the two biggest ones that I hear, but sure.
Ben Shapiro (00:08:51) Well, I mean the biggest thing in terms of education itself, not just the physical facilities that we’re talking about, would actually be two parent family households.
Destiny (00:08:59) Sure.
Ben Shapiro (00:09:00) Communities that have fathers in them. It’s actually the number one decisive according to Roland Friar and many studies done on this particular topic. And the idea that money alone, that investment of resources is the top priority in schooling is belied by the fact that LAUSD, which is where I went to school when I was younger, they pour an enormous amount of money into LAUSD. We’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars very often per student, and it does not result in better schooling outcomes.
(00:09:25) So when you say, if we could give every kid an iPad, would you give every kid an iPad? The question is not, if I had a replicator machine from Star Trek, would I give everybody an enormous amount of stuff? Sure, I would. Every resource is fine. It every resource is limited, and you have to prioritize what are the outcomes that you seek in terms of the means with which you are seeking them.
(00:09:47) And so, again, I think that the question is… I quibble with the premise of the question, which is that, again, the chief injustice when it comes to education on the list of injustices is lack of availability to technology or that it’s a funding problem. I just don’t think that’s the case.
Destiny (00:10:02) Sure. And I can half agree with you there, but I don’t think any amount of changes in the schools will create two parent households. We can’t bring a-
Ben Shapiro (00:10:10) I totally agree with you. That’s why I think that the fundamental educational problem is not in fact a schooling problem. I think that it preexist that.
Destiny (00:10:17) Sure. Now, I feel like this is kind of the conservative merry-go-round where it’s like, what can we do to help with schools? So two of the things that I’ve seen I think that are usually brought up in research is one is air conditioning that children in hotter environments just don’t learn as well. And then the second one is access to food. So kids that are given a breakfast or a lunch that’s provided at school increases educational outcomes.
(00:10:38) Now, I agree that neither of these things might be determinative in, well, 20% of kids were graduating and now 80% of kids are graduating. Or these kids are all going with their GEDs into the workforce, and now these kids are all suddenly becoming engineers. But in terms of where we can help, do you think there should be some minimum threshold or minimum baseline of… At the very least, every school should have a non-leaky gym or every school should have… If children can’t afford lunch or breakfast like some sort of food provided or every school should have these baseline things?
Ben Shapiro (00:11:07) So again, I’m going to quibble with the premise of the question because I think that when it comes to, for example, food insecurity, school food programs… Again, you can always pour money into any program and at the margins create change. I mean, there’s no doubt that pouring money onto anything will create change in a marginal way. The question is how large is the margin and how big is the movement? So the delta is what I’m looking at.
(00:11:28) I think that you’re starting at a second order question, which is what if we ignore what I would think are the big primary questions of education, namely family structure, value of education at home. How much you have parents who are capable or willing to help with homework? What are the incentive structures we can set up for a society that actually facilitate that? How local communities take ownership of their schools is a big one, right?
(00:11:48) All of these issues we’re ignoring in favor of, say, “Air conditioning or lunch programs.” And so in a vacuum, if you say air conditioning and lunch programs sounds great in a vacuum. In terms of prioritization of values and cost structure, are those the things that I think are going to move the needle in a major way in terms of public policy? I do not. And in fact, I think that many of them end up being disproportionate wastes of money. I’ve talked before pretty controversially about the fact that an enormous amount of school lunch programs are thrown out.
(00:12:17) An enormous amount of that food ends up in the garbage can. Is there a better way to do that? If there is a better way to do it, then I’m perfectly willing to hear about that better way to do it. But it seems to me that one of the big flaws in the way that many people of the left approach government is what if we hit every gnat with a hammer? And my question is, what if the gnat isn’t even the problem? What if there is a much bigger substructure problem that needs to be solved in order to… If you’re shifting deck chairs on the Titanic, sure, you can make the Titanic slightly more balanced because the deck chairs are slightly better oriented. But the real question is the water that’s gaping into the Titanic, right?
Destiny (00:12:50) Yeah. And I agree with you 100%, but again, I feel like we’re on the conservative merry-go-round then of never wanting to address-
Ben Shapiro (00:12:57) That’s not a conservative merry-go-round. I can give you 10 ways.
Destiny (00:12:59) Well, sure. So here would be the merry-go-round. I would say that there is a minimum funding for schools that I think would help children, and then we go, “Well, the thing that would help them the most is two parent household.” Then they go, “Okay. Well, two parent households actually aren’t the problem. The issue is access to things like birth controls that people don’t have children early on.” And it’s like, “But the issue isn’t actually birth control, the issue is actually you need a certain amount of money to move out early and to get married and then to have a two-parent household.” So it’s actually like economic opportunity.
Ben Shapiro (00:13:21) No.
Destiny (00:13:22) Well, it’s not…
Ben Shapiro (00:13:23) Just two parent households. That’s it.
Destiny (00:13:24) But what are the pre-cursor-
Ben Shapiro (00:13:26) Don’t fuck people before you’re married and have babies.
Destiny (00:13:27) Sure.
Ben Shapiro (00:13:27) Done.
Destiny (00:13:28) That’s great. We can say that and try to fight against however many hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution, but people will have sex and people will make babies.
Ben Shapiro (00:13:34) And then they used to get married. The vast majority of people in this country with kids used to be married. The vast majority of people with kids in this country now are not married increasingly.
Destiny (00:13:44) But a lot of those-
Ben Shapiro (00:13:44) It’s obviously a societal change. Something changed. It wasn’t human evolution.
Destiny (00:13:46) But a lot of those things in terms of resting on whether or not people get married, have to do with financial decisions. Do you have the money?
Ben Shapiro (00:13:52) People are worse off now than they were 50, 60 years ago when the marriage rates were higher.
Destiny (00:13:54) People are delaying the start of their careers because education is going to be increasingly important.
Ben Shapiro (00:13:58) So in other words, people are richer now and they have more education now, and yet they’re having more babies out of wedlock now because they’re richer and have more education?
Destiny (00:14:05) I’m saying that one of the biggest indicators for whether or not somebody is willing to get married is how much money both people are making if they can move out of their household. People don’t tend to want to get married at 22 when they’ve just finished college, when they don’t have the money to move out and they can’t afford a house.
Ben Shapiro (00:14:16) Because we have changed the moral status of marriage in the culture. Meaning that everyone poor, rich and in between used to get married. By the way, a huge percentage of marriages in the United States used to be what they would call shotgun marriages, meaning that somebody knocked somebody up and because they did not want the baby to be born outside of a two-parent household, they would then get married.
Destiny (00:14:32) Do we think that shotgun marriages though are a way to bring back equilibrium to education?
Ben Shapiro (00:14:37) Yes, absolutely. Yes, 100%. A child deserves a mother and a father because that is the basis for all of this, including education.
Destiny (00:14:44) Do we think that shotgun marriages are… Well, let’s say this. Do we think that that’s a reasonable direction that society would ever take? Or is this-
Ben Shapiro (00:14:51) Yes. It was the reasonable direction for nearly all of modern history
Destiny (00:14:53) Was, but history moves in one direction.
Ben Shapiro (00:14:55) Why?
Destiny (00:14:56) Because of time.
Ben Shapiro (00:14:57) People don’t think that’s… In what ways?
Destiny (00:15:00) I don’t think we’ve ever regressed social standards back to like, “Oh, well, let’s go a hundred years back and do things that used to exist before.”
Ben Shapiro (00:15:06) The entire left right now is arguing that we regressed social standards by rejecting Roe v. Wade. So that’s obviously not true.
Destiny (00:15:11) The Roe v. Wade is not a social standard. It’s a supreme court ruling, number one. But number two, if you read the actual majority opinion on Roe v. Wade, we can see that socially we ever actually never made huge progress on how society viewed abortion. This has always been an incredibly divisive thing. Even that was, I think, part of Alitos writing on it was that things like gay marriage, for instance, we’ve kind of moved past, and it’s not really as debated anymore, but abortion was never a subtle topic despite Rove v. Wade.
Ben Shapiro (00:15:33) The notion of the the arc of history constantly moves in one direction is belied by nearly all of the 20th century.
Destiny (00:15:39) What do we mean by that? [inaudible 00:15:42] women’s rights? Civil rights?
Ben Shapiro (00:15:42) Barbarism, communism, Nazism, all of that was a regression from what was happening at, for example, the beginning of the 19th century and the 20th century.
Destiny (00:15:49) In what way?
Ben Shapiro (00:15:51) Nazis and communism weren’t a regression from what was going on in 1905?
Destiny (00:15:54) Well, in terms of communism being a regression, for instance… I’m not Not a communist, but the industrialization of the Soviet Union happened under communist society, the industrialization-
Ben Shapiro (00:16:03) Except murder of tens of millions of people.
Destiny (00:16:04) Yeah. There’s-
Ben Shapiro (00:16:07) I consider that regression, a moral regression, which is what we are talking about now, moral regression. And you’re suggesting that moral regression, I wouldn’t term. I would term return two traditional values a moral regression. You would. But your suggestion is that history only moves in one direction, and I’m suggesting that history does not only move in one direction, it tends to move actually back and forth.
Destiny (00:16:22) Sure. I don’t think that all of history moves in one direction. There are going to be wars, there are going to be times of peace. I think in general, we’re more peaceful now than we have been in the past, but I think when we look at the way that people live their lives, I think that we tend to move in a certain direction socially. So when it comes to things like racism or when it comes to things like slavery or women’s rights, I think that there are two huge things that probably aren’t changing in the US and one is access to contraception and one is women working jobs.
(00:16:45) I think that these two things are probably huge things that are moving us off of shotgun marriages or getting married very early on, and I don’t see… Do you think that those two things are going to change fundamentally?
Ben Shapiro (00:16:54) First of all, what the data tend to show is that actually more highly educated people, as you are saying, tend to get married more. So the idea is that women getting an education somehow throws them off marriage. It’s the opposite. Usually it’s women who are not educated-
Destiny (00:17:06) But those women aren’t getting shotgun marriages. Those women aren’t having children.
Ben Shapiro (00:17:09) But now you’re shifting the topic. My topic was how to get more people married. And then you suggested that higher levels of education are delaying marriage and making it less probable. What I’m telling you, because this is what the data suggests, is that actually as you raise up the educational ladder, people tend to be married more than they are lower down on the educational ladder. If you’re a high school graduate, you’re less likely to be married than if you’re a postdoc.
Destiny (00:17:33) I agree with you, but that’s because one of the biggest precursors to getting married is having a level of economic stability. So as people get more educated, they obtain this economic stability and then they’re in a more comfortable position to explore more serious relationships.
Ben Shapiro (00:17:43) There’s another confound there. I mean, the confound is that people in stable marriages tend to be the children of stable marriages, and there’s only one way to break that cycle, which is to create a stable marriage, and that is something that is in everyone’s hands. Again, this notion that it is somehow an unbreakable, unshatterable barrier to get married and have kids, I don’t understand where this is coming from. Why is that such a challenge? It’s not a challenge.
Destiny (00:18:03) I don’t it’s unbreakable or unshatterable. The initial point was for school, if we can provide a minimum level of educational stuff for children, that’d probably be good. But when we retreat back to, well, it has to be the families that are fixed first, fixing families is a multivariate problem that so many [inaudible 00:18:19]
Ben Shapiro (00:18:19) I’m fine within my local community. Again, I’ve suggested that there’s a difference between local community and federal. I’m fine with my local community voting for school lunches or air conditioning or whatever it is that we all agreed to do. Because the more local you get, the more homogeneity you get in terms of interest and the more interest you have in your neighbors. All of that is fine. I’m part of a very, very solid community. In our community, we give to each other. We have minimum standards of helping one another.
(00:18:41) All that is wonderful. When it comes to the actual problem of education, what I object to in the political sphere, and this happens all the time, is everybody is arguing on top of the iceberg about how we can move the needle 0.5 percentage points as opposed to the entire iceberg melting beneath them. And we just ignore that and we pretend that that’s just sort of the natural consequence of thing. The arc of history suggests that people are never going to get married again.
(00:19:04) Well, I mean, actually what the arc of history suggests realistically speaking is that the people who are not getting married are not going to be having kids. And what it also suggests, the people who are married are going to be having kids. So the demographic profile actually over time is rather going to shift toward people who are having lots and lots of kids. I’m married, I have four kids. Everyone in my community is married. That’s like minimum buy-in my community is four kids.
(00:19:24) So what’s happening actually in terms of demographics is that the people who are more religious and getting married are having more kids. And so if you’re talking about the arc of history shifting toward marriage, I would suggest that actually demographically over time, long periods of time, not over one generation, over long periods of time, the only cure for low birth rate is going to be the people who get married and have lots of kids.
Destiny (00:19:42) I don’t necessarily disagree with any of that, but I’m just saying that, again, on the… I know you’re upset when I bring up the term merry-go-round. I think that there are good conversations to be had about people getting married because stable families produce stable children that are less likely to commit crime, that are more likely to go to school, that are more likely to be productive members of society, et cetera, et cetera.
(00:19:58) I’m not going to disagree with you on any of that. All of that is true. It’s just frustrating that sometimes when you bring up any problem, all of it will circle back to other things that makes it seem like we can’t make any progress in any area without fixing something [inaudible 00:20:10]
Ben Shapiro (00:20:10) In what way? I literally just told you that on the local level, I’m fine for people voting for [inaudible 00:20:13]
Destiny (00:20:13) For instance, on the local level. So for school funding, school funding is done, I think generally per district. So what do you do when you have poor districts that can’t afford air conditioner for their schools?
Ben Shapiro (00:20:23) I mean, the idea there would be that presumably if the society, meaning the state, and I generally don’t mean the federal state. I mean the state of California, for example, decides that everybody ought to have air conditioning. People will vote for air conditioning, and that’s perfectly legal. I don’t think there’s anything morally objectionable about that per se.
Destiny (00:20:40) Cool.
Ben Shapiro (00:20:40) I also don’t think that that’s going to heal anything remotely like the central problem.
Destiny (00:20:43) Sure. I agree.
Ben Shapiro (00:20:43) And I think that what tends to happen in terms of government is people love arguing about the problems that can be solved by opening a wallet. And nobody likes to solve a problem by closing their sex life to one person, for example, or having kids within a stable religious community. The things that actually build society… I’m fine with arguing about each of these policies and whether we apply them or not is a matter generally of pragmatism, not morality.
(00:21:10) It’s a matter of incentive structures, not per se morality, because incentive structures do have moral underpinnings. There’s such a thing as… For example, if you’re going to use a welfare program, you have to decide how effective it is to what crowd. It applies where the cutoffs are. Does it disincentivize work, does it not? All of these are pragmatic concerns. But on a moral level, the generalized objection that I have to people on the left side of the aisle is that they like to focus… In these conversations very often it feels as though it’s a conversation with people who are drunk, searching under the lamp for their keys. The problems they want to look at are the problems that are solvable by government, and then all the problems they don’t want to look at, which are the actual giant monsters lurking in the dark and not particularly solvable by government are the ones they want to ignore and assume are just the natural state of things. And I don’t think that’s correct at all.
Destiny (00:21:54) And I 1 billion percent agree. But then obviously my criticism for the conservative side is the exact opposite where there are parts where government could remedy some issues. For instance, children having sex with each other and producing other children out of wedlock. Sometimes having afterschool programs is nice to prevent that. I didn’t have time for these things. When I was in school, I was doing football practice, I was doing cross country practice. I went in early for a band. I agree with you that sometimes people only focus on one end of the problem as I hate to be that guy, but as somebody that… Have you ever watched The Wire?
Ben Shapiro (00:22:21) Sure.
Destiny (00:22:22) I’m not going to cite The Wire as a real life example, but obviously there’s only so much you can do in a school when the children coming in are so beyond destroyed because of the family life and everything prior to them even getting to school that day. So I agree. Government is not like the solution to broken families. That would never be the case.
Ben Shapiro (00:22:36) And it’s actually not the solution to education depending on the kind of solutions that you’re talking about. Some solutions, yes. Some solutions, no.
Destiny (00:22:43) Yeah. The only thing I’m looking at is, as I said earlier, just these minimum threshold things where it’s like, where can government make… Because you mentioned marginal, which I think is a really good way to look at things. Marginal costs and marginal utility to things where the first thousand dollars per student you spend might give you a huge return, but the extra 20,000 after is just a waste.
Ben Shapiro (00:22:59) I think these are all pragmatic discussions.
Destiny (00:23:00) Sure, of course.
Ben Shapiro (00:23:00) And actually, this is what we used to hash out in legislatures before they turned into platforms for people grandstanding. But yes, sure.
Destiny (00:23:05) Okay.

Trump vs Biden

Lex Fridman (00:23:06) As we descend from the heavens of philosophical discussion of conservatism and liberalism, let’s go to the pragmatic muck of politics. Trump versus Biden. Between the two of them, who was in their first term, the better president? And thus who should win if the two of them are, in fact, our choices should win a second term in 2024. Ben?
Ben Shapiro (00:23:30) Sure. So in terms of actual job performance, you have to separate it into a few categories. In terms of actual performance informed policy, I think Trump’s foreign policy record is significantly better than Biden’s, the world being on fire right now, being a fairly good example of that. And we can get into each aspect of the world being on fire and where the incentive structures came from and how all of that happened in a moment.
(00:23:53) When it comes to the economy, I think that Trump’s economic record was better than Biden’s. Doesn’t mean he didn’t overspend. He did. He wildly overspent. But he also had a very solid record of job creation. A huge percentage of the gains in the economy went to people on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Actually, the gross income to the average American was about $6,000 during his term. The unemployment rates were very, very low before COVID.
(00:24:18) I think that you almost have to separate the Trump administration into sort of before COVID and during COVID, because COVID obviously is a black swan event, the most signal change in politics in our lifetime. And so governance during COVID is almost its own category, which we can discuss. But in terms of foreign policy, in terms of domestic policy, I think that Trump was significantly better than Biden has been. And that’s on the upside for Trump.
(00:24:40) On the downside, for Biden, obviously you’re talking 40 or highs in inflation. You’re talking about savings being eaten away. You’re talking about everything being 20 to 30% more expensive. You’re talking about massive increases to the deficit, even at a rate that was unknown under Trump. The deficit under Trump raised by about a little under a trillion dollars every year up until 2020. Again, 2020 was COVID year, so everybody decided that we’re going to fire hose money at things.
(00:25:01) But then Joe Biden continued to fire hose money at things in ’21, ’22, and ’23. That obviously is, in my opinion, bad economic policy. And then you get to the rhetoric, and you get to the stuff that Donald Trump says. As I’ve said before, my view is that on Donald Trump’s epitaph, on his gravestone, it will say, “Donald Trump. He’s said a lot of shit.” I think that Donald Trump does say a lot of things. I think that that is basically baked into the cake, which is why everyone who’s bewildered by the polls is ignoring human nature, which is at the beginning when you see something very shocking, it’s very shocking.
(00:25:33) And then if you see it over and over and over, and over for years on end, it is no longer shocking. It’s just part of the background noise like tinnitus. It just becomes something that your brain adjusts for. And so do I like a lot of Donald Trump’s rhetoric? No, and I never have. Do I think that that is dispositive as to his presidency? No, I do not. When it comes to Biden, again, I think he’s underperforming economically. I think that his foreign policy has been really a problem.
(00:25:57) Even the things I think he’s done right are, I think, band- aids for things that he created by doing wrong. And when it comes to his own rhetoric, you can argue that it’s grading on a curve because Trump was coming in with such wild rhetoric that just a maintenance of that wild rhetoric doesn’t really change again the baseline. For Biden, he came in the same way that Obama did on the soaring rhetoric of American unity.
(00:26:20) Trump came in and he is like, “Listen, I’m the president for what I am, and I’m going to say the things I want to say. I’m beyond the toilet and I’m tweeting.” We’re like, “Okay, that’s what it is.” With Biden, he came in with, “I’m a president for all Americans. I’m trying to unify everybody.” And that pretty quickly broke down into a lot of oppositional language about his political opponents in particular, an attempt to lump in, for example, huge swaths of the conservative movement with the people who participated, for example, in January 6th, or who were fans of January 6th, and the sort of lumping in of everybody into MAGA Republicans who wasn’t personally signed on to an infrastructure bill with him.
(00:26:56) That sort of stuff I think has been truly terrible. I thought his Philadelphia speech was truly terrible. And again, I think that you do have the problem of he is no longer capable of certainly rhetorically unifying the country when every speech from him feels like watching Nik Wallenda walk across a volcano on a tightrope. It really is like you’re just sort of waiting for him to fall.
(00:27:16) I mean, it’s sad to say. I mean, the other day he was speaking for what was, in effect, his campaign kickoff, and this was in Valley Forge. I mean, Jill rushed up there. As soon as he was done, Jill rushed up there like she’d been shot out of a cannon to come and try and guide him away so he didn’t become the Shane Gillis Roomba. And that’s not really… Let’s put it this way. It does not quiet the soul to watch Joe Biden rhetorically. Again, that’s a different problem than Trump’s problem, but that’s my analysis.
Destiny (00:27:47) This is one of the areas where we get into this, I don’t understand if there’s brain-breaking happening or what’s going on. I don’t know what world we can ever live in where we say that Trump is less divisive for the country than Biden. I think it is so patently obvious. Trump is so divisive. Not only does Trump make an enemy out of every person in the opposition party, he makes an enemy out of his own party and every single person around him. We all watched him bully Jeff Sessions. We all watched him bully his own party on Twitter. We all watched all of these people walk away from him.
(00:28:18) Even recently, I think the Secretary of Defense Esper and John Kelly, the chief of staff were saying, “I think Trump is a threat to democracy.” You’ve got all of his prior people that were around him, some of his closest allies. You’ve got Bill Barr that won’t co-sign a single thing that he says. You’ve got all these people that he used to work with that all say, “Trump is a horrible, evil person. He’s ineffective as a leader. He doesn’t accomplish anything.” And he didn’t.
(00:28:43) To say that Biden has failed at bipartisanship when we’ve gotten the CHIPS Act, we’ve gotten the IRA, we’ve gotten the ARP, we’ve gotten the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill, when we’ve gotten all this major legislation that is working in this historically divided Congress as opposed to Trump that got us tax cuts and deficit spending. I don’t understand where we ever are in this world where Biden is somehow-
Destiny (00:29:00) I don’t understand where we ever are in this world where Biden is somehow more divisive than Trump. Even the speeches that Ben is bringing up, they always bring up… I remember that one. I think we might’ve even done it on our episode. The one speech that Biden gave where at one point that the background is red and probably-
Ben Shapiro (00:29:17) [inaudible 00:29:17] speech I referenced.
Destiny (00:29:17) … Yeah. And they’re like, “Oh my God, it’s over. This is the end.” And then meanwhile, you’ve got Donald Trump coming into office saying things like, “If you burn the flag, you should have your citizenship revoked” or talking about MSDNC, that I’m going to investigate every single one of these media organizations for corruptness. I’m going to open the libel and defamation laws. I’m going to take all of these guys to court. You’ve got this weird Project 2025 stuff where is it John Paschal, I think, is talking about we’re going to investigate all of these people and we’re going to try to throw crimes at all these people.
(00:29:48) Trump is like the most divisive president I think we’ve ever had, at least in my lifetime of being an American citizen. And the rhetoric from him is just, it’s on a whole other level in terms of the demonization of political opponents. I mean, this is a guy that’s known for giving his political opponents bad nicknames, right? That’s what Trump does.
(00:30:08) It’s funny, but even as a resident of Florida, if Florida had another natural disaster, do you think Trump would withhold aid because you had… I think that was one of the few nice things that DeSantis actually said about Biden was that like, “Hey, listen, when the buildings collapsed in I think was Miami Beach.”
Ben Shapiro (00:30:24) Surfside. Yeah.
Destiny (00:30:24) Yeah, that for the hurricane stuff, that Biden was there. He was saying, “If you guys need aid, however many billions, you can have it.” Meanwhile, Trump, I think, was threatening to withhold federal funding from blue states that wouldn’t… I think it had to do with the National Guard stuff, the deployment of the National Guard, that they weren’t doing enough for the riots and Trump was threatening to withhold aid from some of these blue states. Yeah, Trump is literally the most divisive person in the world. I don’t see how on any metric he has ever succeeding in the divisive category.
(00:30:52) In terms of the economy. I do think it’s funny that Republicans are very keen to say that, “Well, we can’t really grade Trump post-COVID” because obviously, COVID messed everything up, which is fair. But pre-COVID, what did Trump do? He did deficit spending tax cuts. He presided over historical low interest rates and an economy that was already like blazing past the final years of Obama. We were posting all time highs in all the stock markets in 2013 onwards. Unemployment rates were falling. Now under Biden, unemployment rates are even lower than they were under Trump. But it sucks that for Trump, we can say, “Well, we can’t really hold him accountable for 2020. That was COVID.”
(00:31:25) Well, all we have for Biden is post-COVID. We don’t have any pre-COVID Biden economy. And it was the same thing for Obama too, coming in right after the housing collapse as well. And it sucks that Republicans are able to walk out of office having burned the entire American society to the ground economically. And now, we’ve got to try to evaluate, “Okay, well, what did Obama do during his first two to three to four years just trying to recover from where the housing crash left it.” And then we look at Biden now who’s trying to recover from COVID and now we’re grading him on a totally different scale than what Trump is being graded on. Yeah, that sucks, I think. We can go into-
Lex Fridman (00:31:58) Can you comment on the foreign policy policy?
Destiny (00:32:00) On the foreign policy, I’m going to be honest, I am very liberal. I’m very not progressive. I’ll probably come off as more hawkish than others because I’m not a big fan of this, which also, I mean, if Ben agrees, I think people like Trump are going to be the most dovish, isolationist people ever. They don’t want to do anything internationally. They just want to protect America, be at home, protect our economy, don’t do anything internationally, which is why he was constantly undermining NATO and constantly attacking all of the European Union and cheering on the UK for Brexiting away from the EU.
(00:32:34) I think that being said, I think that Biden has done a phenomenal job when it comes to foreign policy. I think that the coalition building was so important for Ukraine, Russia, and I’m so happy that he decided to go to our European allies and our NATO allies and try to build a coalition of people to help Ukraine, so that that wasn’t only the United States.
(00:32:53) Personally, especially after doing a whole bunch of research, I do tend to side with Israel over Palestine in a lot of the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. I’m glad that Biden, while remaining a staunch defender of Israel, is trying to rein in some of the more aggressive posturing towards the Palestinians and the Gaza Strip. I’m proud that Biden said, “Hey, listen, we are going to delay some of these attacks. Hey, listen, we are going to allow humanitarian aid here. Hey, listen, we are going to try to not kill as many Palestinian people down there” while still signaling that he would be a staunch supporter of Israel in the conflict, assuming the civilian casualties don’t go too high.
(00:33:29) For foreign policy, I mean, blemishes, I mean, the biggest one you can give to Biden is Afghanistan and the pull-out there. But man, are we going to talk about the Inspector General report that says that one of the biggest reasons why the Afghanistan pull-out was so disastrous was because of the Doha Accords where Donald Trump headed talks that didn’t even include the Afghanistan army. I mean, these were disasters. When Biden took office, we had 2,500 troops left in Afghanistan. What was the options even afforded to Biden at that point?
(00:33:59) Obviously, you’ve got the abandonment of the Kurds in Northern Syria for the Turkish armies to lay waste to. You’re talking about Iran and North Korea, although I’m not sure where Ben would land on those, but yeah, that’s a broadly [inaudible 00:34:11].
Lex Fridman (00:34:11) That’s a lot from both, right? You want to pick at something where you disagree with here?
Ben Shapiro (00:34:14) Well, I mean, there’s a lot. So I want to ask a few questions on each one of these.
Destiny (00:34:19) Yeah, sure.
Ben Shapiro (00:34:20) So let’s talk about divisiveness for a second. So there’s no one who can make the case that Donald Trump is not divisive. Yeah, of course, he’s incredibly divisive. It’s a given. Do you treat Biden’s rhetoric with the same level of seriousness that you treat Trump’s rhetoric, or I should probably put that the other way around. Should we treat Trump’s rhetoric with the same level of seriousness as Joe Biden or, say, Barack Obama’s rhetoric?
Destiny (00:34:43) I’m going to try to be concise when I say this. Broadly speaking, especially in studying Israel, Palestine and Ukraine, Russia, I try not to take politicians at their word because sometimes, they just say stuff to say stuff. I understand that. But broadly speaking, I’m going to look at the rhetoric and the actions and I am going to grade them the same. So yes, I would hold Biden and Trump to the same standard.
Ben Shapiro (00:35:00) Right, so my feeling is, and this is one area where for clarification, we’re going to have a division, is that I of course don’t treat Trump’s rhetoric in the same way that I treat Biden’s or Obama’s. He’s utterly uncalibrated and he says whatever he wants to at any given time and it doesn’t even match up with his policy very often.
Destiny (00:35:14) Can I ask you, for our head of state, our chief executive, shouldn’t rhetoric be arguably one of the most important things that he does?
Ben Shapiro (00:35:23) The answer would be yes. And now, I’ve been given a choice between a person who I think in calibrated ways says things that are divisive and a person who in uncalibrated ways says things that are divisive. And so the evidence that Joe Biden is divisive is every poll taken since essentially August of 2021. He is, by all available metrics, incredibly divisive. A huge percentage of Americans are deeply unhappy not only with his performance, but don’t believe he’s a uniter. That’s just the reality. And that may just be a reflection. I mean, honestly, we may be putting too much on Trump or Biden personally. It may just be that the American people themselves are rhetorically divided because of social media, and social media can, in fact, be assessable and [inaudible 00:36:02].
Destiny (00:36:02) One thing that I would ask you about that, though…
Ben Shapiro (00:36:05) Sure.
Destiny (00:36:05) … is I agree, especially when you look at the favorability, but sometimes, when I look at these polls, when you start to disaggregate them by party, I wonder if it’s actually is Biden historically divisive or I’m trying to think of a really polite way to say this. The people that like Trump worship Trump. I don’t know. One of the most prescient things that Trump could have probably ever said was that I could kill someone on Fifth Street and nobody would hold him accountable. So is it really that Biden’s historically divisive, or is it that every single Trump supporter will always say that Trump is great [inaudible 00:36:32].
Ben Shapiro (00:36:31) No, the reason I would say that Biden is, in fact, historically divisive is because Republicans felt much more strongly about Barack Obama than Joe Biden, actually.
Destiny (00:36:40) I agree. But they didn’t feel as strongly about Trump as they did about Romney or McCain. Right?
Ben Shapiro (00:36:44) In what way? I mean-
Destiny (00:36:45) The allegiance to Trump.
Ben Shapiro (00:36:47) … oh, no, there’s certainly more allegiance to Trump than there is to Romney or McCain, largely because Trump won in 2016. But beyond that, the point that I’m making is that if you’re looking at the stats in terms of divisiveness, Republicans always find the Democratic president divisive. The question is where the rest of the country is. And right now, there are a lot of Democrats who either don’t agree with Biden or find him divisive. There are a lot of independents who find them divisive.
(00:37:08) So when we’re comparing these things, I don’t think they’re leagues apart in terms of the divisive effects of what they say, right? And I’m separating that off from the inherent content of what they say because obviously, what Trump says is more divisive just on the raw level. I mean, if he’s insulting people as opposed to Joe Biden doing MAGA Republicans, if I were to just… if I were an alien come down from space and look at these two statements, I’d say this one’s more divisive than this one. But then, there’s the reality of being a human being in the world and that is everyone has baked Donald Trump into the cake. And Joe Biden, again, started off with a patina of being non-divisive and now has emerged as divisive.
(00:37:42) If you don’t mind, I actually want to get to the foreign policy questions because this one is actually slightly less interesting to me.
Destiny (00:37:45) Sure. Can I ask just one quick thing, I guess.
Ben Shapiro (00:37:48) [inaudible 00:37:48], go for it.
Destiny (00:37:48) We can say the reality of it and we can look at opinion polls. What if we look at legislative accomplishments? Like Biden is working on a 50-50 divided Senate. Donald Trump had both House of Congress and the Supreme Court and got no major legislation passed.
Ben Shapiro (00:38:01) Well, I mean, he did lose Congress in 2018.
Destiny (00:38:05) But prior to that, we got the Infrastructure bill, I think, in one year, which Trump promised for his entire presidency, didn’t get anywhere on it.
Ben Shapiro (00:38:12) I mean, yes, his Republican base was not in favor of mass spending on infrastructure and neither am I. So there’s that. I think that’s mostly a state and local issue.
Destiny (00:38:18) But they were in favor of mass spending for tax cuts?
Ben Shapiro (00:38:21) That’s not a spending. It-
Destiny (00:38:21) I mean, effectively it is, right?
Ben Shapiro (00:38:24) Effectively, it’s not.
Destiny (00:38:25) If you’re cutting tax receipts, but you’re not changing the level of spending like Biden did with the IRA.
Ben Shapiro (00:38:30) Again, we have a fundamental philosophical difference here. I think that when the government takes my money, that is not the government somehow being more fiscally responsible, and when the government allows me to keep my money, I don’t see that as the government spending. I see that as my money and the government is taking less of it.
Destiny (00:38:45) That’s great, but at the end of the day, the government is still going to be in a deficit spending and they’re going to have to borrow money from the Treasury.
Ben Shapiro (00:38:49) Right, we have a spending problem, in other words, not a receipts problem is the case that I’m making.
Destiny (00:38:52) Right.
Ben Shapiro (00:38:52) The problem with Donald Trump is not that he lowered taxes. The United States has one of the most progressive tax systems on the planet, and in fact, if you wish to have a European style social welfare state, what you actually need is to tax the middle class to death, the reality is that the top 20% of the American population pays literally all net taxes in the United States after state benefits and all of this.
Destiny (00:39:09) Sure.
Ben Shapiro (00:39:09) So if you actually wanted to have the kind of social welfare state that many liberals seem to want to have like Northern Europe, for example, you’d actually have to tax people who make 40, 50, $60,000.
Destiny (00:39:19) And I don’t want that. I agree with that, but how do you explain the lack of legislation, I mean, if he’s such a uniter.
Ben Shapiro (00:39:24) Because I think the Republican party itself is quite divided, and I think that Trump can-
Destiny (00:39:27) But isn’t that his job? He’s the head of the Republican Party. He’s the president, Republican President of the United States.
Ben Shapiro (00:39:31) I mean, again, I don’t think that Joe Biden has passed wildly historic legislation, other than-
Destiny (00:39:36) The infrastructure bill was the largest [inaudible 00:39:38].
Ben Shapiro (00:39:38) So here’s the problem. If you’re a Republican, the only bills that you can get consensus on tend to be bills that either… let’s be real about this, that are tax cuts because as you would, I think, agree with. When it comes to polling data, Americans constantly say they want to cut the government and then the minute you ask them which program, they have no idea what they’re…
Destiny (00:39:57) Right.
Ben Shapiro (00:39:57) … right, exactly. And so it’s much harder to come up with a bill to cut things than it is to come up with a bill to add things, which is why spending was out of control under Trump as well. But there are some Republicans who still don’t want to spend on those things, right? So inherently, the task that, this goes back to the first question, the task that Republicans think government is there to do is different than the task that Democrats think that government is there to do. So the way that the very metric of success for a Democratic president versus Republican president, namely, for example, pieces of legislation passed. As a Republican, one of my goals is to pass nearly no legislation because I don’t actually want the government involved in more areas of our life.
(00:40:32) I want to ask a couple of questions on the foreign policy. Sure.
Destiny (00:40:35) Yeah. Okay, wait, real quick, just so for instance, Donald Trump wanted to punish China and he wanted to bring microprocessor manufacturing to the United States. Biden did that with legislation with the CHIPS Act. You talk about spending being out of control, and I mean, I can agree with that. I think anybody that looks at the numbers has to agree with that. But why not pass legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act, which is at least spending neutral, right? Why are there not bills where Donald Trump could take-
Ben Shapiro (00:40:57) Well, first of all, I think that whenever the government says something is spending neutral, it rarely materializes that way. That is not going to be a spending neutral bill. [inaudible 00:41:02].
Destiny (00:41:01) Sure, but there’s difference between at least they say it’s spending neutral versus this is a $500 billion bill over 10 years.
Ben Shapiro (00:41:07) Well, but again, I don’t see a tax cut as a matter of spending neutrality. The big problem is they keep spending, not that they are allowing me to keep the money that I earned and they did not earn, but [inaudible 00:41:16].
Destiny (00:41:15) Okay. So then just to understand, so if somebody just did massive reductions in tax receipts, so tax cut after tax cut after tax cut, but they didn’t change spending at all, you wouldn’t consider that an increase in deficit spending or out of control spending. You would just say they’re just tax cuts?
Ben Shapiro (00:41:29) No, the opposite. I would consider it a wild overspending, meaning-
Destiny (00:41:34) Okay. So then was it under Trump then when he did the tax [inaudible 00:41:36]?
Ben Shapiro (00:41:36) … I mean, the deficit spending, by the way, under Biden is way worse than it was under Trump.
Destiny (00:41:39) Of course, but we’re in post-COVID, right?
Ben Shapiro (00:41:41) COVID ended effectively… I mean, you live in Florida. COVID effectively ended in the state of Florida by the middle of 2021.
Destiny (00:41:46) Yeah [inaudible 00:41:47].
Ben Shapiro (00:41:47) Even if you’re a vaccine fan, by April, May of 2021, there was wide availability of vaccines, whether or not you like the vaccines, and at that point, we were done. [inaudible 00:41:55].
Destiny (00:41:55) I agree. But we’re in a post… how many trillions of dollars have been dumped in worldwide that are leading to inflation, right? The inflation is a worldwide issue right now because of the economy shutting down for a year or two. It’s not like those effects are gone in one year, right? COVID might be gone, but the after effects of all the stimulus spending and the unemployment and everything else.
Ben Shapiro (00:42:11) The definition of inflation is too much money chasing too few goods. So pouring more money on top of that makes for more inflation. That’s what it does.
Destiny (00:42:17) Sure. I agree. But there’s also the definition of when do you deficit spend is when economies are headed for recessions, right, rather than when economies are doing really well that we’re under Trump and he was deficit spending, whereas Biden can at least make the argument that I ought to be deficit spending because the economy is heading for potential recession.
Ben Shapiro (00:42:31) So here’s the thing. I don’t think that the economy was actually headed for a recession. In fact, if you look at the economics statistics-
Destiny (00:42:37) And every economist said it was.
Ben Shapiro (00:42:38) … no, [inaudible 00:42:39].
Destiny (00:42:39) They’re still saying that there’s a recession coming, right?
Ben Shapiro (00:42:41) But that was largely because of the after effects of inflation, meaning if you inflate the economy, what you are going to end up doing is bursting a bubble and then when that bubble bursts, you’ll get a recession. I mean, that was the basic idea, right? The idea, the question was whether you’re going to get a soft landing. But if you actually look at, for example, the employment statistics or the economic growth statistics in the United States, what they look like under the last year’s Obama and then Trump, I mean, this is what the chart looks like. Because it looks like this and then it hits March of 2020. It goes like that, right, and then by September, it bounces back up, right? It’s a V-shaped recovery, and then it starts to peter out.
Destiny (00:43:09) Sure. A lot because of the American Recovery Plan, right, that Biden did as well.
Ben Shapiro (00:43:13) I mean-
Destiny (00:43:13) 4 million jobs. Yeah.
Ben Shapiro (00:43:14) … no, I’m not going to attribute it to that because the rates of growth in job growth from September, October, November were actually very similar to the rates of job growth after Joe Biden took office. What you see is actually kind of a straight line. I mean, what the chart looks like-
Lex Fridman (00:43:15) Let’s get on.
Ben Shapiro (00:43:27) In any case, okay, on the foreign policy stuff, this is getting abstruse.

Foreign policy

Destiny (00:43:31) [inaudible 00:43:31].
Ben Shapiro (00:43:30) But on the foreign policy stuff, so the questions that I have with regard to Biden on foreign policy, very, very simple question. Do you think that the situation in the Middle East is better now than it was under Donald Trump?
Destiny (00:43:51) Probably. That’s a hard one.
Ben Shapiro (00:43:54) Why?
Destiny (00:43:55) The factors that I’m making right now are obviously you’ve got the Israel- Palestinian War that’s going on right now, which is kind of bad, but broadly speaking, I’m not sure how much that affects the Middle East as much as the collapse of Syria. 2013 Syrian Civil War sent millions of immigrants throughout all of Europe-
Ben Shapiro (00:44:12) Which was under…
Destiny (00:44:13) … which was under Obama and continued under Trump.
Ben Shapiro (00:44:13) Right.
Destiny (00:44:15) Trump didn’t do anything to alleviate any of the Syrian Civil War. [inaudible 00:44:18].
Ben Shapiro (00:44:18) Why did Syria end up as a preserve of Russia again?
Destiny (00:44:22) How did Syria end up as a preserve of Russia?
Ben Shapiro (00:44:24) Yes. Why did it end up being essentially a client state of Russia?
Destiny (00:44:28) I know that Putin enjoys access to the ports down there. I don’t know. You tell me.
Ben Shapiro (00:44:32) I mean, the reason is because Barack Obama suggested that there was a red line that would be drawn in the face of chemical weapons used.
Destiny (00:44:36) Sure.
Ben Shapiro (00:44:36) Bashir Assad then used chemical weapons in Syria, and Barack Obama was unwilling to then essentially create consequences for Syria in the form of any sort of Western strike and so instead, he outsourced it to Russia. This is 2013, 2014.
Destiny (00:44:49) Sure. Do you think there might’ve been some hesitancy after seeing how Libya ended up that maybe us intervening [inaudible 00:44:55].
Ben Shapiro (00:44:54) Who’s president during Libya? Yeah. I mean, [inaudible 00:44:57].
Destiny (00:44:59) But what does that have to do with anything, though? I’m just saying there might’ve been a mistake learned.
Ben Shapiro (00:45:01) The point that I’m making is that actually the Middle East, I mean just historically speaking, was historically good under Donald Trump. I mean, it’s very difficult to make the case that either before or after Trump were better than during Donald Trump.
Destiny (00:45:10) Was it? I don’t think that Trump contributed to the Syrian situation improving much. He wrecked a lot of-
Ben Shapiro (00:45:18) I mean, he wrecked ISIS. He did wreck ISIS, which was in the [inaudible 00:45:20].
Destiny (00:45:19) I mean, ISIS had been getting wrecked by the Kurds in Iraq, by every single person, by Assad’s army, by Putin, by Turkey.
Ben Shapiro (00:45:26) [inaudible 00:45:26].
Destiny (00:45:26) Literally, everybody was fighting against ISIS at that point.
Ben Shapiro (00:45:29) There’s a spike in violence and then the Trump… I mean, you get credit for when you’re president, presumably. I mean, things got better with ISIS under Trump.
Destiny (00:45:36) I mean, yeah, they did. I mean-
Ben Shapiro (00:45:37) Things got worse with ISIS under Obama.
Destiny (00:45:40) … for sure.
Ben Shapiro (00:45:40) He called them the JV squad, and then they became not the JV squad.
Destiny (00:45:44) But I don’t know if ISIS is originating in Syria and Baghdadi and all of the growth of that is necessarily Obama’s fault. I know that we like to say that Obama created ISIS. I don’t know if you say that, but I’ve heard that saying a lot. I think that’s a little bit simplistic. I don’t think that when I’m looking at actions that presidents have taken, the biggest criticism I have for Middle Eastern policy is I think the Doha accords were a disaster and I think that’s one of the biggest blemishes that we have right now. I would also argue that moving the embassy to Jerusalem was also kind of silly and arguably contributed to some of the conflict we see right now between [inaudible 00:46:16].
Ben Shapiro (00:46:16) No, I’ll argue precisely the opposite, especially given the fact that after the movement of the embassy to Jerusalem, the Abraham Accords continued to sign and actually expand and that if Donald Trump had been elected, I have no doubt in my mind that Saudi Arabia would now be a part of the Abraham Accords. In fact, that was basically pre-negotiated and then when Joe Biden took office, Joe Biden took a very anti-Saudi stance on a wide variety of issues. The biggest single effect in the Middle East of Joe Biden’s presidency, and again, I agree with you that not every foreign policy issue can be laid at the hands of a president. Joe Biden’s main approach to the Middle East was very similar to the Obama approach, which is why the Middle East was chaotic under Obama and chaotic under Biden and that was to alienate allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel and instead, to try to make common cause or cut deals with Iran.
(00:47:00) What that did is incentivize terrorism from Iran. What we’re watching in the Middle East is Iran attempting to use every one of its terror proxies in the Middle East and it was specifically launched in an attempt to avoid what Biden actually was trying to do, which was good, which was after two years of failure with Saudi Arabia, try to bring them into the Abraham Accords, right? That was what was burgeoning at the end of last year and Iran saw that and Iran decided that they were going to throw grenade into the middle of those negotiations by essentially activating Hamas. Hamas activates. Hamas commits October 7th. Israel, as a sovereign nation state, has to respond to the murder of 1,200 of its citizens in the taking, kidnapping of 240. Israel has to do that not only to go after its own hostages and try to restore them, but also to reestablish military deterrence in the most violent region of the world.
(00:47:40) Hezbollah gets active on Israel’s northern border. Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy. They get active on the northern border. The Houthis in Yemen get active. The only reason all this is happening at the same time is because Iran is doing this, right?
Destiny (00:47:53) [inaudible 00:47:53].
Ben Shapiro (00:47:53) Not just that, they’re threatening global shipping.
Destiny (00:47:56) Sure.
Ben Shapiro (00:47:56) If you’re talking about the effects of global supply lines, which I totally agree, had a major inflationary effect on the economy, thanks to COVID. Right now, the cost of shipping is nearly double what it was just a few weeks ago and that is because a ragtag group of Houthi barbarians are attacking international shipping and forcing everybody to stop using the Bab-el-Mandeb freight, instead of going around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa.
Destiny (00:48:17) Sure.
Ben Shapiro (00:48:18) All of that is the result of the fact that Joe Biden reoriented the United States in the very early days in favor of a more pro-Iranian stance. He appointed Robert Malley to negotiate the Iran deal who, as it turns out, was using proxies. Many of his aides were actually taking money from Iran. The Biden administration, literally one of their first acts was to delist the Houthis as a terror organization and sanctions against the Houthis. These are all moves that Biden made very early on. They were disastrous moves. But when it comes to domestic policy, I think he hasn’t been nearly as damaging in domestic policy as-
Destiny (00:48:18) Wait, wait. Domestic policy. Let’s do…
Ben Shapiro (00:48:18) Foreign policy.
Destiny (00:48:47) … sure, sure. So just on a couple of Middle Eastern things. So one of the big things that threw the Middle East into disaster was what we all traumatized by it now was the Iraq invasion [inaudible 00:48:56] Republican president.
Ben Shapiro (00:48:56) Sure.
Destiny (00:48:57) You hear that, right?
Ben Shapiro (00:48:57) Sure.
Destiny (00:48:58) The deposition of Saddam Hussein and everything that followed after probably contributed more to the growth of ISIS and the destabilization of that entire region probably more than anything else. I think that prior to Bush for Clinton and even at the beginning of Bush’s presidency, we were on some kind of road to normalcy with Iran, which I think has to happen whether we liked them or not until Bush, for whatever reason, decides to throw Iran into the Axis of Evil.
Ben Shapiro (00:49:21) You emphasized that we’re on a road to normalcy with Iran in the 1990s.
Destiny (00:49:23) We do in the… wait, what?
Ben Shapiro (00:49:25) That we are on a road to normalcy with Iran in the 1990s.
Destiny (00:49:27) My understanding is that, yeah, from the late ’90s and prior to the Axis of Evil labeling of Iran, that there was going to be some path forward to where we could start to normalize relationships with them.
Ben Shapiro (00:49:36) I find that very difficult to believe, and I don’t see a lot of evidence. I mean, we can just disagree on that.
Destiny (00:49:41) Sure, okay, yeah, sure. We can disagree on that, but I know that once I [inaudible 00:49:43].
Ben Shapiro (00:49:43) By the way, the after effects, just a quick note, the after effect of the Iraq War that was the most devastating was the increase in power of Iran.
Destiny (00:49:48) I agree, yeah, because of the destabilization of Iraq and Iraq not having a government there that was functional for at least a decade.
Ben Shapiro (00:49:55) And was, in fact, a Sunni government, right? Originally, it was a Sunni government. The Sunni army was one of the worst things that the Bush administration did.
Destiny (00:50:01) Banning all the former Ba’ath party [inaudible 00:50:03].
Ben Shapiro (00:50:02) Sectarian, yeah.
Destiny (00:50:03) All horrible under a Republican president.
Ben Shapiro (00:50:06) Don’t disagree.
Destiny (00:50:07) That that probably contributed more to ISIS, to the growth of power in Iran, maybe even to the destabilization of Syria, probably more than anything that Obama did. Also, when we look at Iran funding people in the region, I don’t disagree with that as well. I think Iran is the number one instigator of bad-guy things right now in the Middle East. Iran, the IRGC I supported when Donald Trump killed Soleimani. I think that was a great thing. I think that Iran is a major problem.
(00:50:30) However, I don’t know if the path forward is constantly being a belligerent to Iran or trying to figure out some road to normalcy. I don’t know if the collapse of Iran or the destruction of that country, considering how unpopular the Ayatollah even is there. The citizens of Iran, I don’t think, are big supporters of the government there. I feel like moving on a path where, let’s do our nuclear inspections. We had that Iranian nuclear deal that Trump pulled out of. Let’s do the nuclear inspections. Make sure you’re not on the way to nuclear weapons. Let’s unfree some funds. Let’s move in some direction where we get on a good term with you. I feel like that’s the most important thing that needs to happen in the Middle East. As much as people like to look at the Abraham Accords, who cares if… what was it? Bahrain, I think Oman. I think [inaudible 00:51:10].
Ben Shapiro (00:51:10) UAE, Morocco.
Destiny (00:51:10) The UAE and Morocco… like all of these people, even Saudi Arabia already have like de facto normalization with Israel anyway. They’re all trading [inaudible 00:51:18].
Ben Shapiro (00:51:17) No, I mean, to pretend that anybody even 15 years ago would’ve been talking about normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel is insane. I mean, that’s insane.
Destiny (00:51:26) They were already on that path. They were already de facto trading partners with each other. They had already been collaborating [inaudible 00:51:34].
Ben Shapiro (00:51:33) That’s a wild claim that Israel and Saudi Arabia were going to normalize 15 years ago?
Destiny (00:51:38) 15 years ago might’ve been a wild claim, but after Turkey, after Jordan, and then in the past 20 years of economic relations and ties with each other, all of the leadership in the Middle East and you’ll agree with this. Look at Israel. Then they go, okay, well, we’ve got Palestinians who God bless them, do nothing, and then you’ve got Israel, which is on a region with no natural resources to somehow become an economic giant. They’re good to trade with their population’s educated. They have military power. All of the leadership in these Middle Eastern countries are wanting to be friendly with Israel and are engaging in trade de facto with Israel and the idea that the UAE and Bahrain were brought in to say like, oh, well, now we’re going to officially say this.
Ben Shapiro (00:52:15) Those were the first steps toward obviously the formation of a new Middle East in which economics would predominate over sectarian conflict. The chief obstacle to that is Iran. I agree. The notion that negotiations with the Ayatollah, were going to be a solution to any of this is, but do we think Absolutely. The night,
Destiny (00:52:32) Is it the Abraham Accords that’s convincing Saudi Arabia to take a stance against Iran?
Ben Shapiro (00:52:37) No. I mean, they’re
Destiny (00:52:39) Already fighting. They’re already fighting with each other. Right. I don’t think the Abraham Accords moved us any closer towards any type of real peace in the region. It has to happen is something has to happen with Iran. There has to be some diplomatic bilateral communication there.
Ben Shapiro (00:52:49) No. What has to happen is the containment of Iran, which was what was taking place with the increased normalization with the Sunni Arab world and Israel combined with significant economic sanctions. The notion that there’s this far-fetched notion in foreign policy circles that diplomacy can sort of be wish cast out of thin air. That if you sit around a table that you can always come to an agreement with somebody. The Ayatollahs do not have common interests with the United States. They do not, and this idea that they’re willing to take money in exchange, for example, some sort of peaceful acquiescence to Israel’s existence is obviously untrue, literally,
Destiny (00:53:23) Historically. Hasn’t that been the case though, that you’ve had a region with tons of sectarian violence for a long time, and then finally Turkey was like, you know what? This isn’t worth it. The United States paid them a lot of money. They had conversations with Israel, and you know what? The economy, the economic gains, same thing with Jordan. Same thing with
Ben Shapiro (00:53:40) Turkish politics, but the situation with Turkey was actually quite warm between Israel and Turkey in the nineties when you had the sort of secular Muslim regime
Destiny (00:53:52) In the nineties, but they signed
Ben Shapiro (00:53:53) Out of Turk in place, and now Erdogan has joined in the fray. Erdogan is significantly more radical than
Destiny (00:53:59) What came before. Sure. I’m so sorry if I said Turga in Egypt, my
Ben Shapiro (00:54:02) Bad. Egypt
Destiny (00:54:05) In terms of Egypt and Jordan, right, we’re the first two you
Ben Shapiro (00:54:08) Need big, so here’s the thing. Is it possible that you could theoretically come to a deal with Iran only with a new leadership crew? Okay. This is true for every peace agreement in the region. You could not, Israel could not have made peace with. Well, they
Destiny (00:54:20) Made peace with Egypt, and Sadat was the leader for Yom Kippur.
Ben Shapiro (00:54:23) They did not make peace with Nasser. Right. The point is that this is a different regime. You need a different regime,
Destiny (00:54:28) But I’m saying the same regime that part of the Yom, Kippur war was the same regime that negotiated peace with Israel.
Ben Shapiro (00:54:34) I mean, that’s true. It is also true that that is a relationship that could be cultivated specifically because it was Sadat who made clear he was going to come to the table. Have the Iranians ever made clear that they would come to the table over, for example, the existence of the state of Israel?
Destiny (00:54:48) No.
Ben Shapiro (00:54:50) That is not a thing that’s going to happen, but
Destiny (00:54:51) I think people probably thought the same.
Ben Shapiro (00:54:53) Every single one of their proxy rules, every one of them not only calls for the destruction of the state of Israel, they also call for the destruction of America. I mean, this is literally the Houthi slogan. They’re busy hitting ships, and their slogan is literally Ahu Akbar, death to America, death to the Jews, death to Israel. It doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker, but it’s not all like catchy, but that is in fact their slogan. The notion that the regime that propagates that is going to be approached with diplomacy is not only wrong, the problem is that it’s easy to say the stakes of diplomacy are okay, so we try to talk jaw-jaw is better than war-war. Sure. The only problem is that in the Middle East, weakness is taken as a sign that aggression might be an appropriate response. That is how things work in the Middle East, and the fact that Barack, that Joe Biden rather came into office with an orientation toward continuing the Obama policies in Iran has led to conflagrations these sort of brushfires breaking out everywhere that Iran has borders with either the West or Israel or both. Right. Any place that’s happening, it’s leading to Brushfires because again, the logic of violence in the Middle East is not quite the logic of violence in other places in the world. By the way, I think the logic of violence in the Middle East is actually closer to what most international politics looks like than we wish that it were. I mean, I think that’s part of what’s happening in Ukraine as well, which brings me, by the way, here’s my question about Ukraine. Well, just real quick-
Destiny (00:56:13) So you think that for Iran, right, a country that has been sanctioned for God knows how many years now, you think that for Iran just continuing to sanction them and contain them is an effective way, is more effective than trying to engage them in bilateral or multilateral peace talks?
Ben Shapiro (00:56:26) Yes, 100% and the proof is in the pudding.


Lex Fridman (00:56:28) Before we go to Ukraine, can I ask about Israel? So you’re both mostly in agreement, but what is Israel?
Destiny (00:56:34) I don’t know if I’d say that.
Lex Fridman (00:56:35) Okay, but as I’m learning what is Israel doing right? What is Israel doing wrong in this very specific current war in Gaza?
Ben Shapiro (00:56:47) I mean, frankly, I think that what Israel’s doing wrong is if I were Israel, again, America’s interests are not coincident with Israel’s interests. If I were an Israeli leader, I would’ve swiveled up and I would’ve knocked the bleep out of Hezbollah early. What does that mean mean? What does that mean? So I would have Yoav Galant, who is the defense minister of Israel, was encouraging Netanyahu, who’s the prime minister and the war cabinet, including Benny Gantz. People talk about the Netanyahu government. That’s not what’s in place right now. There’s a unity war government in place that includes the political opposition. The reason I point that out is because there are a lot of people politically who will suggest that the actions Israel is currently taking are somehow the manifestation of a right-wing government. Israel currently does not have a quote, right-wing government, they have unity government that includes the opposition.
(00:57:27) In any case, Yoav Galant was urging in the very early days of the war that Israel should turn North and instead of hitting Hamas, they should actually take the opportunity to knock Hezbollah out because Hezbollah is significantly more dangerous to the existence of the state of Israel than Hamas. I actually agree with that. As far as what Israel has been doing wrong in the actual war, I mean, I think that, again, from an American perspective, I think that Israel is doing pretty well from an Israeli perspective via Israeli. I would actually want Israel to be less loose about sending its soldiers in on the ground level. So Israel’s attempting to minimize civilian casualties, and the cost of that has been the high.
Ben Shapiro (00:58:00) … on the ground level. So Israel’s attempting to minimize civilian casualties, and the cost of that has been the highest military death toll that Israel has had since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. I mean, I personally know, through one degree of separation, three separate people who have been killed in Gaza, and that’s because they’re going in door to door, it’s because they’re attempting to minimize civilian casualties and they’re losing a lot of guys in this particular war. The problem that Israel has had historically speaking is that Israel got very complacent about its own security situation. They believed the technology was going to somehow correct for the hatred on the other side of the wall. That, okay, so our people have to live underground for two weeks at a time while some rockets fall, but at least it’s not a war.
(00:58:40) And that complacence bred what happened on October 7th. So to me, what Israel did wrong was years and years and years of complacence and belief in an Oslo System that is at root a failure because you cannot make a peace agreement with people who do not want to make peace with you. So that’s what I think Israel is doing wrong. I have a feeling that there’s going to be wide divergence on this point.
Destiny (00:59:02) Maybe. So in terms of broadly speaking, I generally oppose settlement expansion is a thing that Israel does incorrectly that I think is kind of provocative to at least all the Palestinians in the West Bank, and it probably energizes hatred in the Gaza Strip for them as well. In terms of conducting warfare, the one thing that I always say to everybody, especially Americans, is you can’t evaluate things from an American perspective. It’s very stupid. It happened a lot with Ukraine where people are like, “Oh, well, they work with the Nazis?” and “Weren’t the Soviets the good guys?” And it’s like, well, in other parts of the world, it’s not quite as simple. And I think the same is true for Israel-Palestine, that a lot of Americans will analyze the conflict as just being one between only Israel and Palestine, which it’s not, it’s a conflict between Israel and then Palestine, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and Iran. Right now, it is.
(00:59:51) However, one area where I’ll break with, Ben, is I think that minimizing civilian casualties and everything is very, very, very important I think on the Israeli side. I don’t think it’s important so that the US will stay with them because I think the US is probably going to stick with Israel as long as they’re not doing anything crazy, and I don’t even think it matters for the international community. It definitely doesn’t matter for the UN because Jesus Christ. However, I think it’s really, really, really important that… I think that in the Middle East, broadly speaking, I think that leadership, especially in the Gulf, has gotten over the Palestinian issue.
(01:00:22) I think that leadership is kind of like they don’t care as much anymore, but the populations still care quite a bit. And I think that the main issue that Israel could run into is if the civilian death toll does climb too high, and if they start to hit this 40, 50, 60,000 number of civilian casualties, they run the risk of the civilian populations in the surrounding Middle Eastern states becoming so antagonistic towards Israel that they start to take steps back towards normalization in the region.
(01:00:47) So for instance, I know that Bahrain, I think, already pulled out their ambassador to Israel. My guess is going to be it’s temporary. I know that on the public speaking side, you’ve got a lot of people condemning Israel for the attacks. And on the private side, you’ve got people telling Israel, “Please kill all of Hamas because this is untenable and nobody wants to work in this situation.” I don’t know if this ended up being true or not. I’m guessing it didn’t, but I saw on a couple of Twitter accounts, it was leaked that potentially, Saudi Arabia was considering installing a government in the West Bank that they would run.
Ben Shapiro (01:01:18) No, I mean, I think Israel would love nothing better than that, but that is [inaudible 01:01:21].
Destiny (01:01:21) For sure.
Ben Shapiro (01:01:22) One of the big problems in the Middle East is literally no one wants to preside over the Palestinians. No one. In the Arab states, Israel, no one.
Destiny (01:01:29) So I think the issue, and I’m largely actually, I’m very sympathetic towards the Palestinians because I think that since ’48 and onwards, I think that all of the Arab states super gassed them up on that. They wanted the Palestinians to fight because they wanted to fight with Israel. However, as time has gone on and they’ve realized that it’s kind of a lost cause, states have started to drop out. So you’re getting these bilateral peace treaties with Egypt and with Jordan, you’re getting multilateral agreements like the Abraham Accords, and now, the Palestinians are looking around. I’m like, “Okay, well, you guys told us to fight all this time, and now, the only people that we have supporting us are Iranian proxies.” So the Palestinians are in a very weird spot where they’ve lost all their support.
(01:02:06) Yeah, I think that Israel, what I would say to be, quote, unquote, “critical” of Israel is Israel needs to take strong steps towards peace that probably involves them enduring some undue hardship. So not the October 7th attacks, because Jesus, that’s way too much, but other types of attacks that they might have to deal with that might cause some civilians to die that they don’t come out over the top with and retaliate with if there’s ever going to be peace in that region. However, another thing that I’ve always said is a huge problem between Israel and Palestine is I think that both sides think that if they continue to fight, it will be good for them. But the problem is one side is delusional. I think Israel wants to continue to fight because they get justifications for the annexation of the Golan Heights. They get justifications for expansions, especially in the Area C that, I think, they’re probably going to try to annex soon. They get justifications for the increased military posturing towards the Gaza Strip and the embargoes.
(01:02:59) And Israel is right that if the conflict continues, really, the situation only improves for Israel over time. But the Palestinians also all believe that if they keep fighting, they thought this since 2000 under Arafat, that if they just keep fighting, they’ll get better gains too. But that’s not the case.
Lex Fridman (01:03:12) Is there a difference between Palestinian citizens and the leadership when you say that?
Destiny (01:03:16) I love all people. I love all people around the world, and I think that when we analyze issues, I think that we have to be very honest with what the people on the ground think. And the idea that Hamas is just this one-off thing in the Gaza Strip is not only incorrect with the situation on the ground, it’s also incredibly ahistorical. And the idea that the Palestinians in the West Bank, of which I believe the most recent polling shows, I want to say 75 to 80% support the October 7th attacks. Palestinians, in general, want to fight in violent conflict with Israel. That’s not just the position of the government. That’s not just people. There’s a reason why Abbas doesn’t want to do elections in the West Bank, and it’s because the Palestinian people really do want to fight with Israel.
(01:03:57) But to combat that problem is like you have to get the UN on board, we’ve got to do an actual addressing of the Palestinian refugee problem, which is handled like a joke right now. Iran has to be brought to the table in terms of negotiations. There has to be huge efforts made to economically revitalize these Palestinian areas. Even though they’re one of the highest recipients of aid in the world. You have to do something about the embargo and the blockade and the Gaza Strip, which isn’t just maintained by Israel, it’s also maintained by Egypt. You should ask why. Yeah, there’s a lot of things that have to happen to fix that problem. But the reality is I don’t think Israel really wants to because they get to continue their expansion into the West Bank, and I don’t think anybody around the world really cares that much because in a month, we won’t be talking [inaudible 01:04:36].
Ben Shapiro (01:04:36) I will argue with that. The idea that Israel does not want to end the conflict is belied by the history of what just happened with the Gaza Strip. So when we talk about settlements for example, Israel did have settlements inside the Gaza Strip. There were 8,000 Jews who were living inside the Gaza Strip in Gush Katif. Up until 2005, they withdrew all of those people, I mean, took them literally out of their homes, and the result was not the burgeoning of a better attitude toward the state of Israel with regard to, for example, the Palestinian population in Gaza. In fact, it was more radical in Gaza than it was in the West Bank. The result was obviously the election of Hamas, the October 7th attacks, in which unfortunately, many civilians took part in the October 7th attacks. There’s video of people rushing, who are civilians and dressed in civilian clothing, into Israeli villages.
Destiny (01:05:22) Oh, careful. Not always the same thing.
Ben Shapiro (01:05:23) Well, no, no. That is 100% true, obviously. And when it comes to Area C and Israel’s supposed deep and abiding desire for territorial expansion in Area C. Area C, so for those who are not familiar with the Oslo Accords, and again, this is getting very abstruse, but the Oslo Accords are broken down into three areas of the West Bank. Area A is under full Palestinian control. That’d be like Jenin and Nablus, the major cities, for example. There’s Area B, which is mixed Israeli-Palestinian control, where Israel provides some level of military security and control, and then there’s Area C. And Area C was like to be decided later. It was left up for possible concessions to the Palestinian authority if the Oslo accords have moved forward. Those are disputed territories. There is building taking place in Area C by both, actually no one talks about this, but by Palestinians as well as Israelis.
(01:06:10) And the question as to whether if Israel stopped building, there’ve been many settlement freeze in the past, including some undertaken by Netanyahu, and it actually has not done one iota of good in moving the ball forward in terms of actual negotiations. Again, the biggest problem is that the leadership for Palestinians has spent every day since, really, ’67. It’s not even ’48. Because between ’48 and ’67, Jordan was in charge of the West Bank and Egypt was in charge of the Gaza Strip. And at no point did either of those powers say, “Hey, maybe we ought to hand this over to an independent Palestinian state.” Which was originally the division that was promoted by the UN Partition Plan in ’47. Because of that, the leadership post ’67, and really, starting in ’64, the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in ’64, and it called for the liberation of the land in ’64. They had the West Bank and they had the Gaza Strip. So they’re talking about Tel Aviv.
(01:07:02) When it was founded in ’64, the basic idea, as kind of indicated by that, was Israel will not exist, and that was a promise that’s been made by pretty much every Palestinian leader in Arabic to the people that they are talking to. Yasser Arafat famously would do this sort of thing. He’d speak in English and talk about how he wanted a two-state solution, and then he’d go back to his own people and say, “This is a Trojan Horse and we’re going to…” If Israel could, if you think that Israeli parents want to send their kids at the age of 18 to go and monitor Jenin and Nablus and be in Khan Yunis, you’re out of your mind. You’re out of your mind. Israelis do not want that. In fact, Israelis didn’t want that so much that they allowed rockets to fall in their cities for full on 18 years in order to avoid sending soldiers en masse back into the Gaza Strip.
Destiny (01:07:45) True. But I think Israel does want to continue to expand settlements into the West Bank, right? They want to continue to build, they want to have all of Jerusalem, East Jerusalem as well.
Ben Shapiro (01:07:52) Well, I mean, East Jerusalem has already been annexed. So East Jerusalem is, according to Israel, a part of Israel. That’s not a settlement.
Destiny (01:07:56) Sure.
Ben Shapiro (01:07:56) Okay. So there’s that. With regard to does Israel have an interest in expanding settlements in the West Bank? Why would they not until there’s a peace partner?
Destiny (01:08:04) Sure.
Ben Shapiro (01:08:05) [inaudible 01:08:05].
Destiny (01:08:05) That’s what I mean. But I’m saying as long as the conflict continues, because even when you talk about-
Ben Shapiro (01:08:08) But no, your suggestion is that they’re incentivizing the conflict to continue so they can grab more land.
Destiny (01:08:12) Well, no, let me be very clear. I don’t think there’s a… So some people say, for instance, they’ll take that one quote from Netanyahu and they’ll try to say that he was funding the people on the Gaza Strip by allowing Qatari money to come in, even though he was actually speaking in opposition to Abbas, allowing the Gaza Strip to fall for Netanyahu to clear it out for him and they give it back, et cetera, et cetera. I’m not claiming those theories. I’m just saying that I think that Israel will take a relatively neutral stance towards conflict and enduring, because as long as the conflict endures, and as long as the settlements can expand, I think that ultimately benefits Israel.
Ben Shapiro (01:08:42) I think there would be… Let’s put it this way, if suddenly there are arose among the Palestinians, a deep and abiding desire for peace approved by a vast majority of the population with serious security guarantees, I think you’d be very hard-pressed to find Israelis who would not be willing to at least consider that. [inaudible 01:08:57] not expanding bathrooms [inaudible 01:08:59].
Destiny (01:09:00) I would’ve agreed with you on October 6th. I think we’re probably a year or two away from that right now.
Ben Shapiro (01:09:04) No, no. But no, the point I’m making is that Israelis now realize that the entire peace process was a sham, meaning the people who were on the other side of the table were using it as a Trojan Horse in the first place. The death of Oslo is not the death of Israeli hopefulness. It’s the death of the illusion that on the other side of the table was anyone worth bargaining with. That’s what’s happening, and that’s why you have this sort of insane disconnect right now between the United States and the Israeli government. Again, it’s a unity government. No one in Israel is talking about making concessions to the Palestinian authority for a wide variety of reasons, including the fact that Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah continues to pay actual families of terrorists who killed Jews.
Destiny (01:09:35) Sure, the Martyr fund. Yeah.
Ben Shapiro (01:09:35) Right. And the fact-
Destiny (01:09:37) Which is from the moderate West Bank.
Ben Shapiro (01:09:39) Right, exactly. So again, the taste in Israel for this is even the people who are the Hilonim, those are the most secular people in Israel, which was, by the way, the place that was attacked on October 7th. I mean, what people should understand is that October 7th was not an attack against settlements in the West Bank. It was an attack on peace villages that were essentially disarmed, and many of these people who were killed were peace activists who were literally trying to work with people in Gaza to get them… I mean, it’s mind-boggling. That’s why you’ve had this ground shift in Israel. The next 20 years in Israel is going to be about security and economic development. Period, end of story. Everything else goes second, third place.
Destiny (01:10:12) And I will say, I agree essentially with everything you’re saying. Not to loop back on another topic, but this is one of the reasons then why I was so critical. I don’t want to say critical, but kind of nonchalant about the Abraham Accord because they didn’t address anything with the Palestinians whatsoever. They brought countries that weren’t super relevant to the conflict. They didn’t bring in Qatar, which is where a lot of the money and support for the Gaza Strip comes from. It didn’t involve Iran at all. They involved bilateral [inaudible 01:10:33].
Ben Shapiro (01:10:32) No, but it’s totally changed the mentality, and this is why what I’m seeing right now, this is why… Listen, I think that Biden has done better than I certainly expected him to do in terms of support for Israel. Obama was way less supportive of Israel than Biden by every metric. With that said, the rhetoric that he’s been using recently and the blanket have been using recently about Israel needs to make painful concessions for peace, Israel… Re-centering, this issue at the center of relations in the Middle East is doomed to failure.
(01:10:55) The magic, magic is a strong word… The benefit of the Abraham Accords was proof of what you’re saying, which is true, which is that all of these surrounding countries, in reality, have abandoned the idea that there’s a centrality to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That is not the central conflict in the Middle East. And by the way, one of the reasons it’s not the central conflict in the Middle East is because actually, ironically, because of the rise of Iran. It’s SUNY states that are largely signing up with Israel because they’re realizing they need some sort of counterweight to a burgeoning nuclear power in Iran.


Lex Fridman (01:11:25) Can we talk about Ukraine?
Destiny (01:11:26) Sure.
Lex Fridman (01:11:27) Do you have a disagreement with what Destiny said?
Ben Shapiro (01:11:31) My main problem with Biden’s policy with regard to Ukraine is that he outsourced the end goal of the war to Zelenskyy early on. Now, that might make sense if that goal were something that he was willing to fund to the point of achievement or if Zelenskyy could have achieved it on his own. But right now, and this has been true since pretty early on in the war, it’s a point Henry Kissinger made, that pretty early on in the war, it was very clear that for example, Crimea was going nowhere. The Russians had control of Crimea, barring the United States giving permission to fly F-16s over Crimea, nothing was going to change over there. The same thing was true in most of the Donbas, in Luhansk and Donetsk. That was not going to change. Zelenskyy’s stated goal, and you understand it, he’s the leader of Ukraine, is that there was a predation on his territory in 2014 and that the Russian sent their little green men across the border, and then they took all of these areas. And so he, as the leader of Ukraine, is saying, “Okay, I want all of that back.”
(01:12:25) Now, the reality is that the US’ interests had largely been achieved in the first few months of the war, meaning the revocation of the ability of Russia to take Ukraine and just ingest it. And two, the devastation of Russia’s military capability. I mean, Russia has just been wrecked. I mean, the military is in serious straits because of the war in Ukraine. From an American perspective, I’m very much pro all of that. I think that we have an interest in Ukraine maintaining a buffer status against a territorially aggressive Russia. I think that the United States does have an interest in degrading the Russian military to the extent that it can’t threaten the Baltic states or threaten Kazakhstan or other countries in the region. The problem I have with Biden’s strategy is as always, I think that it’s a muddle, and I think muddles tend to end with misperceptions.
(01:13:10) War tends to break out and maintain because of misperception, misperception of the other side’s strength, the other side’s intentions, and all of the rest. People misperceive what’s going to happen. They say, “I’ll cross that line and nothing will happen.” This is what Putin thought. He thought, “I’ll cross that line. They’ll greet me as a liberator. And because the United States just surrendered in Afghanistan, essentially, they won’t do anything, and the West is fragmenting because NATO’s fragmenting and all the rest of this.” And obviously, he was wrong on all of those scores.
(01:13:32) The problem for Biden is that as with virtually every war, no end line was set. And so it became out recently that it was widely reported that actually there was a peace deal that was on the table in the first few months that Putin was on board with that basically would’ve seeded Luhansk and Donetsk and Crimea to Russia in return for solidification of those lines. American and Western security guarantees to Ukraine, right? Ukraine wouldn’t formally join NATO, but there would be security guarantees to Ukraine. We’re ending up there anyway. It’s just taking a lot more money and a lot more time to get there.
Lex Fridman (01:14:04) And do you think Trump would’ve helped push that peace?
Ben Shapiro (01:14:07) Yes, and I think that Biden actually did Zelenskyy a bit of a disservice because Zelenskyy knows where this war is going to end, and it’s not going to end with Luhansk and Donetsk and Crimea in Ukrainian hands. It’s just not going to, and he knows that. What actually, in my opinion, Zelenskyy needed was for Joe Biden to be the person who foisted that deal upon him so that he could then go back to his own people and say, “Listen, guys. I wanted all those things, but the Americans weren’t willing to allow me to have all those things.” And so we did an amazing job, we did a heroic job in defending our own land. We devastated the Russian military even though no one expected us to, but we can’t get back those things because it’s unrealistic to get back to those things because America basically, they’re a big funder and they’re the ones who want the deal.
(01:14:46) Instead, what Biden said, and this was reported in the Washington Post last year, the Biden administration said, “We’re going to fight for as long as it takes with as much as it takes.” And when they were asked until when, they said, “Whatever Zelenskyy says.” And that’s not a policy, that’s just a recipe for a frozen conflict with endless funding. Now, it may be that Putin has walked away from the table and that deal is no longer available. If that deal is available right now, I certainly hope that’s being pursued behind closed doors. My main critique again of Biden is that when you outsource the end goal to another country without stating what America’s interest is, that’s a problem. I also think that Biden did really quite a poor job of sort of explaining what America’s realistic interests are. I don’t like it when American leaders… It’s weird for me to say this, but I’m not a huge fan of the we’re in it to protect democracy kind of rhetoric because frankly, we are allied with many, many countries that are not democracies, and that’s not actually how foreign policy works.
(01:15:41) We should, as an overall 30,000-foot goal, advance democracy and rights where we can, but the reason that we were fighting in favor of Ukraine, and when I say fighting, I mean giving them money and giving them weaponry, the reason that we were doing that in favor of Ukraine is not because of Ukraine’s long history of clean voting and non-corruption. The reason that we were doing that is to counter Russian interest in the region. I mean, it was a pure, real politic play, and that real politic play is hard to deny no matter what side of the aisle you’re on. I think that what many Americans are going to, are reverting to is we have no interest there. Why are we spending the money there and not spending the money here? And that kind of stuff. And that argument can always be applied unless you actually articulate the reason why it is good for Americans beyond simply the ideological for the United States to be involved in a thing.
(01:16:26) So for example, I think right now, when Biden is taught, I think that what Biden just did, the United States as we speak, is striking the Houthis. I think that that’s a really, really good thing. I think that’s a necessary thing, and I think American people should understand why that is happening. It’s not because of, quote, unquote, “ideology”. It is, I mean, on a very root level, but really, it’s because you’re screwing up the straits. I mean, you can’t do that. You can’t screw up free trade, and Americans have an interest in not seeing all of our prices at the grocery store double and triple because a bunch of ragtag pirates akin to the Barbary pirates from 1800 are bothering everyone. Right?
Lex Fridman (01:17:00) So Ben said a lot there. Do you disagree with any aspect on the Ukraine side [inaudible 01:17:04]?
Destiny (01:17:04) A little bit, yeah. I think on the macro, I agree. Maybe we get into weasel a little bit on some things. On the final thing that he said, though, I wish that Americans could have honest conversations about foreign policy. I think that it would just be better for everybody. I don’t know if it’s Red Scare after the Cold War where it was literally the behemoths, we’re fighting against communism and we felt like after ’91, every single foreign policy decision needs to be able to be explained in seven words, like he’s the bad guy, and that’s it. I wish we had more honest conversations about what our foreign policy interest is in a particular region, because I don’t think most Americans honestly could even articulate why Israel would be an important ally or why it’s important to defend Ukraine against Russia or why should we care about Taiwan at all. I don’t know if most Americans could articulate anything there, even though they might have very strong opinions about why we ought to be involved in certain conflicts. So I do agree with that. I wish we had more honest conversations about foreign policy. In terms of how Biden has handled Ukraine. The things that I liked the most were one, that he was very clear in the beginning about what we wouldn’t do. So Biden saying that, “We’re not going to do not a red line, no-fly zones over Ukraine. We’re not going to be deploying troops on the ground in Ukraine. We’re not going to be doing anything that would have US soldiers and Russian soldiers crossing swords with each other. That’s not going to happen.” I liked that he made that very clear at the beginning, and I liked that he coalition-built between NATO and the EU to get people to send funds, training, soldiers, airplanes and everything to Ukraine. I thought those two things were really good. In terms of basically writing Zelenskyy a blank check, I would like to hope that Biden and the entire United States learned a lesson from Iraq and Afghanistan, that open-ended missions with unlimited budgets and no clear goal are like the worst foreign policy decisions you can ever do. They’ve defined US foreign policy for the past two or three decades, which is unfortunate, but seems to be the case.
(01:18:57) My feeling would be, and this is just a feeling, I don’t know if internal cables have leaked that say otherwise, is the Biden administration has probably always had a quiet position of at some point, there’s going to be an off-ramp here, and I think even a month or two ago, I think those talks were being leaked, that discussion had begun with Zelenskyy looking for an off-ramp. But publicly, of course, the United States is never going to come out and say, “We are going to support you guys to fight as much as you want for three months. And then after that, it’s no more.” Obviously, that can’t be the statement. It’s always going to be that, “We’re going to support you in your fight against Russia [inaudible 01:19:28].”
Ben Shapiro (01:19:28) Yeah, we tried that under Obama with Afghanistan. It was terrible.
Destiny (01:19:30) Sure. You can’t-
Ben Shapiro (01:19:31) We’ll escalate the troops levels to X, but only for six months and then we’ll [inaudible 01:19:34].
Destiny (01:19:34) You just can’t do that. It’s always going to come off as, “We’re going to support you forever and as long as it takes and as long as you need, whatever we have to do to defend freedom and democracy in your country.” And any other statement would be absurd. So I can understand why it feels like on a public level, a blank check and an indefinite time period was granted to Zelenskyy, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case. I think, again, I hope we’ve learned our lessons in the Middle East about the forever wars, that this isn’t going to be a forever funding to Ukraine to fight for as long as they want. I do disagree. I feel like we’re playing a little bit retrospectively, saying that, “Well, it’s obvious that they’re not going to capture the Donbas. It’s obvious that they’re not going to capture Crimea.” I agree, for Crimea, that was incredibly obvious, but it was also really obvious that in two weeks, Russia would own Kyiv and Ukraine was going to be Belarus 2.0.
(01:20:14) I think that even for a lot of military people and analysts around the world, that that was an expectation or at least a significant probability. Nobody knew, the phrase that’s thrown right now is paper tiger, that Russia’s military was as ill-equipped as they were. So I can understand why, especially if you’re Ukraine and if you’ve repelled an invasion from one of the world’s largest armies, why you might feel like, “Well, fuck it, let’s fight for a few months. Let’s fight for a year. Let’s see what happens.” And I can understand the United States supporting them, but I agree that there has to be some reasonable off-ramp, but we’re not going to fight forever. I think the US State Department has already begun those conversations with Zelenskyy to look at what that off-ramp looks like. But yeah, I’m not too sure other than explicitly stating publicly you can only fight until this date. I don’t really know what else I would… I don’t think the Biden administration should have done that. I don’t know what else-
Ben Shapiro (01:21:02) Do you think Biden should cut this deal on the funding? Meaning there’s this $105 billion deal that’s been held up by debate between Republicans and Democrats over border. So basically, it contains $60 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel, another several billion dollars for Taiwanese defense against China, and then includes some border funding and some border provisions. Republicans want the border funding and the border provisions because we can get into the illegal immigration issue, but that’s a pretty serious issue, and Biden Democrats have been unwilling to hold that up, and that seems to me like just from, put aside Republicans, Democrats, it seems like political malpractice, meaning there’s a widespread perception in the United States that the border’s a disaster area. Joe Biden wants these things. Many republicans don’t want these things. If he caves on the border stuff, he gets all the things that he wants, and he’s going to be able to go back to the moderates in the country and say, “I did something about the border.” It seems like such an obvious win.
Destiny (01:21:48) If he caves on the border stuff, you mean on the Ukraine stuff?
Ben Shapiro (01:21:50) Yes, because then he gets the whole package, meaning he can go back to his own base and he can say, “Listen, guys, I want it to be easy on the border. The Republicans forced me to it, but we needed the Ukraine aid. We needed the Taiwan [inaudible 01:21:59].”
Destiny (01:22:00) Honestly, you’re going to be more educated than me on this. I don’t like, or maybe I just don’t know enough. I don’t like the principle that when we negotiate things in the United States, there’s like 50 million hostages at all points in time for every single thing. Like, “Oh, boy, here comes the debt ceiling. What do the Republicans want? What do the Democrats want? Oh, boy, we can’t fund our government.” But I mean, obviously, the argument is going to be that if the Ukraine funding doesn’t come in this bill, and if Biden and his administration feel like it’s really important that not unilaterally, but as a single issue, it’s not going to pass. So I would say that at this point, and I don’t know what the conversations look like between the Biden administration and Zelenskyy, I would say at this point, that it’s probably fair to start making contingencies on the money that we give to Ukraine that, “Listen, this conflict has waged on now. Now, we need to start looking for potential peace. We can’t just write you an unlimited check.” So I mean, if those strings are attached, I’d be okay with it. But the broader question of is it okay to make this particular piece of legislation with all this funding contingent on the Ukrainian funding? I mean, that just seems to be the way the government works now, unfortunately.

January 6

Lex Fridman (01:23:02) Quick pause, bathroom break. One of the big issues in this presidential election is going to be January 6th. It’s in the news now, and I think it’s going to become bigger and bigger and bigger. So question for Destiny first. The Donald Trump incite and insurrection on January 6th, 2021.
Destiny (01:23:22) Absolutely. This is probably ignoring every other issue we’ve talked about, of which I think there are plenty that I would say disqualified Trump from holding office. I think that the conduct and the behavior leading up to and including January 6th, I think is wildly indefensible. I am excited to see Ben try to… Yeah, the three to four stages are the taking what I think any reasonable [inaudible 01:23:48] knowingly false information about elections being rigged or ballot box is being stuffed, or Ruby Freeman running the ballots three times in Georgia. Taking that knowingly false information and trying to call state secretaries and stuff to have them flip their electoral vote, that was horrible. The plot that Eastman hatched in order to have these false slates of electors where all seven states had citizens go in and falsely say that they were the duly elected electors that could submit votes to Congress, that was insane. That happened. Asking or begging Pence to accept these false states of electors initially, and then just say you should just throw it out completely and throw it to the house delegation, which was majority Republican, that was absolutely unbelievable.
(01:24:36) And then on the day of January 6th, trying to capitalize on the violence by him, Giuliani, and Eastman making phone calls to senators and congressmen saying, “Well, don’t you think maybe you guys should delay the vote a little bit? Don’t you think they’re just really mad about the election?” I think he said to McCarthy, “They’re more upset than you.” And his utter dereliction of duty and not doing anything to stop the rioting that happened on January 6th because he was too busy taking advantage of it, I think all of these things are horrible. I look forward to seeing the Jack Smith indictments play out in court, maybe even the Georgia RICO case. But yeah, I think all of these things are unfathomable, and I think when you look at the plot from start to finish, clearly, the goal the entire time was to circumvent the peaceful transfer of power. That was the goal from start to finish, whether it was through false claims, whether it was through illegal schemes, or whether it was through violence at the Capitol to delay the certification of the vote.
Lex Fridman (01:25:28) Ben.
Ben Shapiro (01:25:29) So I’m glad you’re excited. It’s always fun. So there are two elements to incitement of insurrection. One is incitement, the other is insurrection. So incitement has a legal standard, so does insurrection. Neither of those standards are met. So if you’re asking me, morally speaking, did Donald Trump do the right thing between November 4th and January 6th? I said, I will continue to say no, he did not. I think he was saying things that are false with just factually false about his theories with regard to the election, about the election being stolen, about fraud. This is all adjudicated in court. He did not even bring many of the claims that he has brought publicly and all the rest of that. If we’re talking about incitement of insurrection as a legal standard, he doesn’t meet any of those standards.
(01:26:05) When it comes to incitement, it has to be incitement to immediate lawless action. That’s the standard for incitement. And I’m very meticulous in how I use this because I happen to speak publicly a lot, and that means there are lots of people who listen to me, which means some of those people are probably crazy and some of them may go and do a crazy thing. Did I incite them? The media tends to use the word incitement very loosely with regard to this sort of stuff, in the same way that Bernie Sanders, quote, unquote, “incited” the congressional baseball shooting. He did not. Bernie Sanders has a lot of things I disagree with. I think Bernie’s a schmuck, doesn’t matter. He did not incite that.
(01:26:34) So saying bad things is not the same thing as inciting violence. Inciting violence, the legal standard in the United States is, I want you to go punch that guy in the face. That’s inciting. With regard to insurrection, typically, in insurrection, and there are some descriptions in case law, though none in statutory law as far as [inaudible 01:26:50]. The typical description in case law is the replacement of one legitimate government of the United States with another by violent means. The notion that Donald Trump coordinated any such insurrection is belied by the FBI itself. The FBI put out a report in, I believe it was…
Ben Shapiro (01:27:00) … is belied by the FBI itself. The FBI put out a report in, I believe it was August of 2021, suggesting that there was no well-coordinated insurrectionist attempt coordinated by the White House. In fact, what you had was Donald Trump thrashing around like that weird alien in the movie, Life. I don’t if you ever saw it with Jake Gyllenhaal, where he’s like kind of thrashing up against this glass box, just an alien just thrashing up against the glass box. That I think is more what you were seeing from November 4th to January 6th.
(01:27:25) And then again, the claim that January 6th itself was an insurrection… I’m not aware that anyone was charged with actual insurrection. There were some people who were charged with seditious conspiracy. There are insurrection statutes that do exist. No one was charged under those particular statutes. There were some people who you could say informally had insurrectionist ideas. Those would be the people who wanted to hang Nancy Pelosi or kill Mike Pence, and those people are in jail right now. And the election went forward. The election was certified. Mike Pence presided over the certification. Mitch McConnell presided over the certification. Joe Biden has been the President for the last three years.
(01:28:01) Donald Trump, by the way, was still President at that point. If he had actually wanted to do what other people who’ve actually launched coups have done, he would’ve theoretically called the National Guard not to put down the riot but to actually depose the sitting Government of the United States in the name of a specious legal theory. He did not do that, he did not attempt that. Nobody working for him did that. The most you can say, I think, about what everybody was doing… and I don’t want to say everybody. We can talk about Trump because this is really about Trump.
(01:28:28) He used a phrase that Trump was disseminating knowingly false information. The word that’s carrying a lot of weight there is the word knowingly. Knowingly implies a knower. Do I think the information he was disseminating was false? Yes. Do I think that Donald Trump has unique capacity to convince himself of nearly anything that is to his own benefit? Absolutely. And I think that that’s actually what Donald Trump was doing there, and the evidence for that is Donald Trump being a human and all of us watching him for the last several years.
(01:28:54) So the idea that he knew it to be false, I’m not even sure those standards apply in any… just assessing him as a human, which is really what we’re being asked to do because there’s an intent element to this crime. Do you think that today, Donald Trump knows that he lost the election?
Destiny (01:29:09) Absolutely.
Ben Shapiro (01:29:10) So I don’t, actually. I think that-
Destiny (01:29:13) So I’m glad that you have the attorney background. When we are assessing mens rea, when we’re looking at certain criminal statutes where intent is required, it’s a reasonable person standard, right?
Ben Shapiro (01:29:14) Well-
Destiny (01:29:22) Would a reasonable person have known that they were-
Ben Shapiro (01:29:24) No, it depends on the mens rea standard. So it’s not the same in every case. If you have to establish individual intent, then it’s not enough to say a reasonable person should have known. That would be enough for a negligent statute.
Destiny (01:29:35) Sure, but for-
Ben Shapiro (01:29:35) Usually when you’re talking about reasonable person statutes, just legally speaking, a reasonable person statute is should a reasonable person have known. That’s when you get to manslaughter. You can’t do a reasonable person standard on first degree murder.
Destiny (01:29:45) So for-
Ben Shapiro (01:29:46) You have to establish actual motive and first degree murder.
Destiny (01:29:47) But for first degree murder, you don’t need the statement of, “I plan to kill this person,” or “I intend to kill this person.”
Ben Shapiro (01:29:55) No. No, you need a-
Destiny (01:29:55) We can prove that state of mind from a ton of other circumstantial evidence.
Ben Shapiro (01:29:57) Correct. Yes, sure. You can prove it.
Destiny (01:29:58) So I feel like my feeling for Donald Trump was there were all these people around him that he trusted to investigate election fraud. He trusted Barr and the DOJ. He asked Pence, his Vice President, to look into it. He asked his chief of staff, he asked his legal counsel. He asked so many people that, ostensibly, he trusts them if he’s asked them to look into it, and when all of them looked into it and reported back to him, “No, we found nothing.” Unless we’re going to literally make the concession that Trump might actually be a delusional psycho man, at that point, should he not have realized, well, okay, maybe this thing-
Ben Shapiro (01:30:26) I think he should have realized the day of the election that he lost the election, but that’s not what-
Destiny (01:30:29) Sure. But I’m saying that, at that point, should he not have known that for him to go and propagate those claims that he’d asked all of the people he trusted to research, and then for him to take those claims to Michigan and to Georgia and then publicly and to try to convince people to throw out the election. You don’t think that-
Ben Shapiro (01:30:45) But you’re doing the same thing. You’re reverting to should a reasonable person have known. Yes, a reasonable person should have known. Did Donald Trump know? That’s a different question, and so conflating those two questions is going to get you into some messy territory. By the way, this is why Jack Smith charged the way Jack Smith charged.
Destiny (01:30:58) Yeah, which was-
Ben Shapiro (01:30:59) But Jack Smith did not charge conspiracy. Jack Smith did not charge insurrection. He did not charge seditious conspiracy, right?
Destiny (01:31:05) But I think for Jack Smith-
Ben Shapiro (01:31:07) Jack Smith is a good lawyer. What he’s doing is he’s actually broadly, I would say pretty obviously, expanding statutory coverage in weird areas in order to cover a thing that doesn’t quite fit into any of these legal categories. But the point that I’m making is that Jack Smith is on my side of this. He doesn’t think that he can actually establish the intent necessary to convict under a seditious conspiracy or an insurrection charge.
Destiny (01:31:29) I agree with that, but I think a lot of the underlying facts though, because he does bring up those calls to Raffensperger in Georgia, he does bring up and the indictments that they were knowingly false information. So it seems like that’s going to be part of the case. Maybe not to convict on any of the four particular charges that he mentioned, but it seems like that’s probably going to be part of what he’s going to have to establish in court to convict Trump.
Ben Shapiro (01:31:47) So I want to look at the actual text of the charges. So I’m sorry that I don’t have them memorized. I believe one’s a fraud charge that generally does not apply to cases like this. Generally, the fraud charge is like you’re trying to steal money from the Government. One is-
Destiny (01:31:59) Sure. Fraud has been used pretty broadly in the past though. Because Smith has done oral arguments in response to a lot of the claims by Trump’s lawyers. This was one of them. The infinite civil and criminal immunity was another one of them where he cites past cases where these types of things, because I think it was to defraud of civil rights, I think was the fourth charge.
Ben Shapiro (01:32:13) Right. So the defraud of civil rights is usually somebody standing in the actual voting house door and preventing you from voting, not you have a specious legal theory that you espouse in court about whether those votes should be thrown out.
Destiny (01:32:24) Sure, although I don’t like… when we say specious legal theory and novel application, which I do agree, some of these in some ways is novel. I don’t think we’ve ever also had a President try to do this before. It is a novel situation-
Ben Shapiro (01:32:36) Well-
Destiny (01:32:36) … where somebody has resisted the peaceful transfer of power this clearly in so many different ways.
Ben Shapiro (01:32:40) Well, if you’re talking about the legal cases, I mean that’s not true. Gore sued in 2000. I mean, if we’re talking legal cases, right?
Destiny (01:32:47) If this was comparable to Gore, then-
Ben Shapiro (01:32:48) I’m not saying it’s comparable to Gore. I’m saying that if the idea is that espousing a legal theory in court amounts to de facto some form of election-
Destiny (01:32:56) Well, I’m just saying that Gore-
Ben Shapiro (01:32:57) … denial or interference in some way, that’s not true. As a general principle, it’s over inclusive.
Destiny (01:33:04) Sure. Gore wasn’t trying to de-certify the vote though for states. Right? They challenged their thing to the Supreme Court, they lost their case in the Supreme Court and then power transfer happened afterwards.
Ben Shapiro (01:33:12) Right, and Donald Trump had a bunch of legal challenges, and then he had a rally, and then there was a riot, and then he left power.
Destiny (01:33:16) Yeah, but the Eastman theory of what Pence could do in Congress is a far cry away from-
Ben Shapiro (01:33:22) A truly shitty theory. I mean, make no mistake. It’s a really shitty theory.
Destiny (01:33:24) But not just shitty. I think that if any Democrat had done this, I feel like we’d be looking at it in a far different lens. As in we would be using terms like attempted coup, a subversion of peaceful transfer of power. If a Democrat Vice President had tried to essentially say that in Congress, they could throw away the vote.
Ben Shapiro (01:33:44) So I think what I want to get to here actually, so we can be more specific, is why are these terms important? We agree on, largely speaking, what happened. I think, the characterization of the term, we keep kind of bouncing around between two different categories, and I want to make sure we-
Destiny (01:33:44) We can dump the legal stuff actually-
Ben Shapiro (01:34:02) Okay. So we’re just talking… Fine, fine, fine.
Destiny (01:34:03) We’re not looking at incite… because like you said, Jack Smith… nobody’s charging with incitement, and I don’t believe insurrection is part of that. So we’re dumping legal. Just in terms of like a President that is trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. So we do call that a bloodless coup or a coup or whatever contemporaneous term you want to use.
Ben Shapiro (01:34:17) So prevent the peaceful transfer of power with all means or using means that are inappropriate, not quite the same thing. Meaning means that-
Destiny (01:34:25) Using means that are inappropriate or illegal.
Ben Shapiro (01:34:26) Okay. So illegal? I don’t think so. I don’t think that these charges actually meet the criteria for the various charges, and we can discuss each case if you want. As far as inappropriate, sure, I think tons of inappropriate stuff. I mean, inappropriate seems not-
Destiny (01:34:42) The reason why I don’t like the word inappropriate though is because then conservatives are very quick to say, “Well, sure he was inappropriate, but everybody who’s inappropriate.”
Ben Shapiro (01:34:47) I mean, I’ll concede that he’s more inappropriate than others. I just don’t see that-
Destiny (01:34:50) Okay, the most inappropriate?
Ben Shapiro (01:34:51) Sure. I mean-
Destiny (01:34:52) Okay. That’s important to me though. Does it not bother you that Donald Trump sought, through legal and extralegal and Trump magical ways of trying to entrench his power as President passed when he should have been able to? Is that not something that was incredibly troublesome?
Ben Shapiro (01:35:09) I mean, the question to me is… the bigger question that I think the Democrats are trying to promote in this election cycle, which is this means he’s a threat to democracy sufficient that if he were to win the election, there would not be another. And my answer that is-
Destiny (01:35:24) But he tried to do that last time. Could he not try it next time?
Ben Shapiro (01:35:26) I mean, he could try to do whatever he wants, presumably, and he would fail the same way that he did last time.
Destiny (01:35:30) Why do we think that?
Ben Shapiro (01:35:31) Because he failed.
Destiny (01:35:33) So [inaudible 01:35:33]-
Ben Shapiro (01:35:33) Because there was a riot and in three hours… Yes.
Destiny (01:35:38) Lord, save me. Let’s say hypothetically Giuliani was the next head of the Department of Justice, Giuliani was the next Attorney General.
Ben Shapiro (01:35:46) How would he be confirmed?
Destiny (01:35:49) Well, I’m not entirely sure because so much of the Republican party, despite feeling like they don’t support Trump when it comes time to actually back him in Congress-
Ben Shapiro (01:35:56) Also, I would have to check whether he would be barred by a criminal conviction from holding… I don’t know the answer to that.
Destiny (01:36:02) Sure. Well, yeah, especially with the 14th Amendment. We’re figuring out a lot of this right now. Yeah, but I mean, say if not Giuliani, say if there are any other number of insane people that Trump could theoretically put on his side of the Government that wouldn’t tell him no next time, because there were a lot of people that rebuked him. There were Republicans in a lot of the states. Right? Raffensperger is one of them. There were Republicans in his own administration. You’ve got Rosen. You’ve got Barr. There was his own Vice President. But theoretically next time, and I feel like last time going in, I’m going to do a little bit of mind reading and macro… Maybe you’ll agree, maybe you’ll disagree.
(01:36:35) I think that Trump kind of thought… One, I don’t think Trump knows much at all about how the Government works. I think we probably agree with that. I think Trump probably thought that if he had people that were at least in his party and kind of camp, that they’ll basically do whatever needs to be done to give him what he wants, and with no respect for process. But now that he sees that, well, it’s not enough to just have allies; I need people that are fiercely alleged to me, would we not be worried that a guy that tried to essentially steal the election for real wouldn’t try to pick people that would be more amenable to his plans in the next administration?
Ben Shapiro (01:37:04) I believe in the checks and balances of American Government. I believe they worked on January 6th. So if you’re asking me, do I think that Trump has bad intent or could have bad intent with that sort of stuff, sure. Do I believe that the guardrails held and will continue to hold? Also sure.
Destiny (01:37:18) So if somebody was running and they blatantly said, “I…” I don’t want to use the fascist word, but if they said, “I want to be an authoritarian, I’m going to abolish all elections,” you would say, ” Sure, he’s saying that, but I don’t think he can actually do it. So it’s okay if he runs for President.” You don’t care at all as long as you feel like the guardrails [inaudible 01:37:36]?
Ben Shapiro (01:37:36) I mean, I might prefer other candidates, but I think that also one of the things that you do is that politicians… Again, this would be an exceptional circumstance, but politicians constantly make promises about the things that they’re going to do and then don’t fulfill, and we tend to take those out in the wash, meaning that, if I promise that day one, as Donald Trump has pledged to do that, he’s going to deport literally every illegal immigrant into the country, do I think he’s actually going to do that? I mean, I really highly doubt it. He didn’t do it last time he was in office. There are many examples of this.
Destiny (01:38:03) I agree.
Ben Shapiro (01:38:04) Here’s my question. Do you think the guardrails are going to fail to hold?
Destiny (01:38:07) I’m not sure.
Ben Shapiro (01:38:08) Really?
Destiny (01:38:09) Yeah, because I think the issue is one, when it’s election time, Republicans are spineless in office, and I don’t know how many congressmen would support what he wants just because they want to win reelection or because they think it’s inevitable anyway.
Ben Shapiro (01:38:20) I mean, I think that one of the things that happened in 2022 is Democrats ran directly on this platform, and a bunch of Republicans who were running on this platform. Literally every Secretary of State who ran on the Donald Trump, we should deny elections platform, lost in every state.
Destiny (01:38:33) Sure, but are there Republicans that have been-
Ben Shapiro (01:38:34) A great way to lose local office is this.
Destiny (01:38:36) Sure, but I mean, look at what happened with like Kinzinger and Cheney, right, who were very staunchly anti-Trump after J6 for that select committee, right? Kinzinger even run again, and Cheney lost her election by I think the widest margin that anybody has ever lost an election ever, in the history of all of US politics.
Ben Shapiro (01:38:54) Right, yeah. People who were not yet born voted against her, yes.
Destiny (01:38:54) Yeah. I guess it’s a surprising position to me for me, if we’re looking at principled stances of Government, the idea that a man who has… and I think we both agree on this, that Donald Trump’s only allegiance is to Donald Trump, right? We agree on that. The only thing he cares about is Donald Trump.

Abuse of power

Ben Shapiro (01:39:08) I don’t think it’s the only thing he care about it. I think it’s certainly the largest thing he cares about.
Destiny (01:39:10) It’s the largest thing he cares about, right?
Ben Shapiro (01:39:10) Sure.
Destiny (01:39:11) So you’ve got a man who only cares about himself.
Ben Shapiro (01:39:14) Welcome to politics. I mean, it may more-
Destiny (01:39:16) But that’s not even-
Ben Shapiro (01:39:16) It may be more with Trump, but it’s certainly not unique to Trump.
Destiny (01:39:19) I think that the issue with Trump too though is I think he’s even a threat to the Republican party in which I think… I think you would mostly agree with me, maybe not overall, but on every individual point. Trump picks bad candidates. He has no concern for the future of the Republican Party. For instance, I think there is a chance… I don’t think it’ll happen because of the polling looks now, but if Trump didn’t get the nomination, I think Trump would say, screw it and run as an independent because he thinks he can win or whatever.
Ben Shapiro (01:39:41) I doubt that he would do that, but theoretically-
Destiny (01:39:44) It’s possible.
Ben Shapiro (01:39:45) Yeah. I mean, again-
Destiny (01:39:45) He was really content to throw Georgia… the two runoff elections under the bus because Raffensperger didn’t support him for the election stuff.
Ben Shapiro (01:39:52) What is all of this in serVice of? What’s the generalized argument that you’re making. I’ll go back to my question.
Destiny (01:39:58) [inaudible 01:39:58]-
Ben Shapiro (01:39:58) Do you think if Trump wins, there will be no more elections?
Destiny (01:40:02) I don’t-
Ben Shapiro (01:40:03) Put a percentage on it. What percentage do you think that that’s a reality, that if Donald Trump becomes President-
Destiny (01:40:06) Comes general Trump wins, I think there is a 100% chance that he will try to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. In terms of would he succeed-
Ben Shapiro (01:40:12) I can guarantee you he will not do that.
Destiny (01:40:14) Why is that?
Ben Shapiro (01:40:14) Because he’s in the second term and he’s no longer eligible, and he will believe he won and he will leave.
Destiny (01:40:17) But hasn’t Donald Trump himself joked about running for a third term?
Ben Shapiro (01:40:20) That’s not-
Destiny (01:40:21) I think that having a third term-
Ben Shapiro (01:40:22) What has Donald Trump not joked about? I mean, for god’s sake.
Destiny (01:40:25) Okay, hold on. Here’s another-
Ben Shapiro (01:40:28) If you want to prevent him from creating a revolution, you probably should actually just appoint the President and he can’t run again, so…
Destiny (01:40:32) Here’s another broad argument that I don’t like in favor of Trump, and this was brought up earlier in terms of we talk about not grading Presidents on a curve, but then earlier we said we take Biden’s rhetoric seriously-
Ben Shapiro (01:40:40) No, I totally grade Trump… No, I 100% grade Presidents on a curve. Are you kidding?
Destiny (01:40:43) Oh, okay. Well, then I feel like-
Ben Shapiro (01:40:44) I grade pretty much everybody on a curve.
Destiny (01:40:44) I feel like-
Ben Shapiro (01:40:45) I don’t treat my seven-year-old the same way that I treat my nine-year-old. And I don’t treat Trump the same way I treat Biden.
Destiny (01:40:49) Sure, but I don’t like that it feels like we’re treating Donald Trump like a seven-year-old or a nine-year-old. I think we should treat him like the President of the United States. I don’t think having a President that has taken concrete steps to prevent the transfer of power, which he did with the electorate sham, which he did with Pence, and which he did with trying to capitalize on the J6 violence. A President that’s taken concrete steps towards coup-ing the Government essentially. I don’t know why that guy, we’d say, “Well, it’s Trump, he does Trump things. The guardrails held. They’ll probably hold next time. Let’s throw him in.”
Ben Shapiro (01:41:11) I mean, when we say we shouldn’t, do you mean that he should be actually barred from office?
Destiny (01:41:15) I’m just talking about support form. I don’t even think Republicans should support Trump. You lose your incumbent advantage. The guy’s obviously self-destructive. He’s destructive to the political party itself.
Lex Fridman (01:41:24) Do you think he should be on the ballot? You think there’s a case to be made to remove him from the ballot?
Destiny (01:41:30) I think there’s a case to be made, but man, the phrasing… For as much as our Governmental founding fathers and everybody else wrote nice amendments and wrote nice in the Constitution, some of the phrasing is very, very, very… And the section three, the not requiring any type of actual conviction, I don’t have a strong feeling on it. I will say I’m very interested in reading the majority opinion from the Supreme Court. I seriously doubt the Supreme Court is going to uphold that States should be able to decide if they leave him off the ballot or not. I think for the political future of the United States, it’s probably not healthy that the leading opposition candidate is now going to be barred from the ballot. It’s probably not healthy for us, because then what-
Ben Shapiro (01:42:08) You want to talk about threats of democracy, that would be a pretty serious one, applied across the board by-
Destiny (01:42:13) It would be. However, that threat to democracy was earned by Donald Trump and the conservatives that supported him. I think conservatives made a dangerous gamble when they threw Trump into office, and now all of the fallout from that is something that we all as Americans have to deal with.
Ben Shapiro (01:42:25) I mean, I think that the unprecedented legal theory that a state can simply bar somebody from the ballot in an informal way, believing that he’s, quote, unquote, an insurrectionist is pretty wild. I mean that is-
Destiny (01:42:36) We can say it’s pretty wild, but there is an amendment in the Constitution, the 14th Amendment, that says that if they have engaged in this, they shall not be, or you shall… I don’t remember the phrasing because it doesn’t require conviction, but it’s a self-executing, arguably thing.
Ben Shapiro (01:42:47) If we’re getting into constitutional law, I mean there are a number of provisions that suggest that this is, number one, not self-executing. I mean, minority opinions in the Colorado Supreme Court case are pretty thorough. The number one contention, which is that this is not self-executing because other elements are not self-executing, that ignores subsequent actual law that happened. I mean, the Congress passed a law, for example, in 1872 defining who was an insurrectionist, who is not an insurrectionist for purposes of elections. In 1994, Congress passed a law that specifically defined insurrection as a criminal activity so that somebody could theoretically be convicted of insurrection and therefore ineligible to run for office.
(01:43:20) It is unlike, say, the analogs that are used by the majority opinion, like age. Obviously this is not the same thing. We can all tell what somebody’s age is by looking at their birth certificate. I can’t tell whether somebody’s an insurrectionist without any reference to a legal statute or definition of the term.
Destiny (01:43:34) I would also be careful with that because remember, one of Trump’s first big political actions was challenging Obama’s birth certificate.
Ben Shapiro (01:43:40) And I thought that was dumb at the time, but in any case…
Lex Fridman (01:43:43) I like that you both said, 100% chance that Trump will try to go for third term and 0% chance, which statistically-
Ben Shapiro (01:43:50) Third term? He’s done, man. Are you kidding?
Destiny (01:43:51) He would want to.
Lex Fridman (01:43:51) But try.
Ben Shapiro (01:43:52) Trump’s going to walk around, hands up high. He’s going to be like, “I’m a two-term President. I’m the only President since Grover Cleveland…” He wouldn’t know, but since Grover Cleveland who served two non-consecutive terms. I kicked Joe Biden out of office and I kicked Hillary Clinton out of office. Dude would be… he’d be living large. Are you kidding? He doesn’t want the presidency anymore after that.
Destiny (01:44:06) I think it’s scary that Donald Trump… It feels like for all of the accusations that are made sometimes against Democrats, like Biden is ordering Garland to investigate Donald Trump and blah, blah, blah, it seems like Donald Trump would actually do that with his DOJ. Would give them orders.
Ben Shapiro (01:44:21) He didn’t. He didn’t. He didn’t do it with his DOJ.
Destiny (01:44:22) Well, he kind of did though, right? So for instance, with Jeffrey Clark, Jeffrey Clark went to Rosen and Donahue and said, “Hey, listen, I need you guys to sign off on a letter that we’re going to use, essentially to bully states into overturning their elections by saying we found significant election fraud.” And part of that threat was Jeffrey Clark saying, “Listen, if you’re not going to do it, Rosen, Trump’s going to fire you and just make me the acting attorney general.” That was the threat that he carried, and I think Trump repeated that threat in a meeting later on that was only rebuked when I think like half the White House staff said, “If you do this, we’re resigning.”
Ben Shapiro (01:44:53) Okay, so that’s a slightly different topic because now you’re getting into all the election shenanigans and all of this, but-
Destiny (01:44:57) Sure. I’m just saying he threatened to fire his acting attorney general if he wouldn’t carry the same platform essentially. If Trump could order his DOJ to do something, would he? It’s not beyond the pale for him, right?
Ben Shapiro (01:45:08) It’s not beyond the pale for him to order them to do it, and then it’s not beyond the pale for them to reject him doing that, which is the story of his entire administration-
Destiny (01:45:12) I agree.
Ben Shapiro (01:45:13) … whereas Joe Biden orders his DOJ to do things and then they just do them.
Destiny (01:45:15) Well, we can get into the specifics there. It-
Ben Shapiro (01:45:20) This is one of the big problems that I have with… I mean, for example, all the talk about Trump tyrant, Trump executive power… I mean, Joe Biden has used executive power in ways that far outstrip anything that Donald Trump-
Destiny (01:45:29) Every President has been stretching and stretching and stretching executive power. That’s-
Ben Shapiro (01:45:33) Joe Biden has gone well beyond anything Trump even remotely attempted to maintain via just pure executive power. And actually Trump’s use of executive power is nowhere near even what Obama’s was. Obama used executive power [inaudible 01:45:44] ways.
Destiny (01:45:43) I mean, Trump’s inability to get border policy passed literally had him using executive power to march the military down to the border to do border policy. I mean-
Ben Shapiro (01:45:51) I mean, Joe Biden literally used the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration to try to cram down vax mandates on 80 million Americans. That’s insane.
Destiny (01:45:59) Sure, but why can’t-
Ben Shapiro (01:46:00) He literally said, ” I cannot relieve student loan debt,” and then tried to relieve hundreds of billions of dollars in student loan debt.
Destiny (01:46:05) Yeah, but what happened to that?
Ben Shapiro (01:46:07) It got struck down by the Supreme Court, and then they still did it. They still did it. Biden brags about it. He brags about having relief [inaudible 01:46:13].
Destiny (01:46:14) For what he was able to relieve, which I think were related to particular types of student loan debt. But I’m just saying that well, the guardrails are holding with Biden as much as they’re holding with Trump. The only difference is that once Biden exhausts his executive power, he’s not running around lying to people or trying to extort people or trying to and concoct insane schemes.
Ben Shapiro (01:46:31) Well, I mean, here’s the way I would think of this. Think of the guardrails holding as the filter, meaning the coffee is in the filter. What you want is going to get through and all the stuff that the guardrails prevent the other stuff from getting through. Now the question becomes what liquid are you pouring into the filter? Meaning if the filter exists, if the guardrails hold, and if Donald Trump can’t steal elections, what’s the policy that comes through the other end of the filter? The policy I get from Donald Trump on the other end of the filter is a bunch of stuff that I like. The policy that I get from Joe Biden on the other end of the filter is a bunch of bullshit I don’t. So that’s the basic calculation.
Destiny (01:47:01) Okay, so then the idea is essentially that Donald Trump’s rhetoric is insane, but we don’t care. Donald Trump would probably try to steal an election if he could, but he probably won’t be able to.
Ben Shapiro (01:47:11) He’s not going to do it again. I told you. He’s not-
Destiny (01:47:14) You don’t think he has any… Why not?
Ben Shapiro (01:47:16) Because he won’t be eligible to be on the ballot in… I mean, by the way, you want to talk about 14th Amendment? That’s where the 14th Amendment applies. Okay? That’s where it actually applies, meaning he’s not qualified to be on the ballot in 2028 if he’s the President of the United States. States can literally, in self-executing fashion, take him off the ballot. Just like he’s passed the age of 35, once you have been President two times, you’re no longer eligible to be President of the United States.
Destiny (01:47:39) Why-
Ben Shapiro (01:47:39) Then you actually have a strong case to keep him off the ballot.
Destiny (01:47:42) Yeah, but why would the 14th Amendment stop him if he thought Vice President Pence could unilaterally decide the outcome of the election?
Ben Shapiro (01:47:48) When he’s not on the ballot? So now your theory is that he’s going to get re-elected, and then in 2028, he’s not even going to be on the ballot and he’s going to direct his new Vice President, Kerry Lake, to simply declare him President of the United States when he has not been on a ballot?
Destiny (01:48:02) I don’t know what the scheme would be. I think we can kind of laugh and say there’s no scheme we could even concoct, but I think that-
Ben Shapiro (01:48:08) Macho, like with the machine gun, he’s going to walk into the-
Destiny (01:48:10) I think the issue though is that the idea of electing another President that has tried to circumvent the peaceful transfer of power using extralegal means and then pretending like we can’t concoct a single scheme that he could try to circumvent other legal processes to have a third term or to have a longer term or to install who he wants as the next President… When a person has already shown you who they are and when every single person around him agrees with that, when every single person that’s worked with him, save for, what? Sydney Powell, Eastman and Giuliani, which I don’t think anybody would want to throw their lot in with those three, it just seems wild to me that we would say like, “Yeah, we’re just going to go ahead and trust this guy with another term or President, but he can’t run for a third term, so it’s fine,” when there’s like 50 million other things he could concoct-
Ben Shapiro (01:48:50) I’ll make you the case that if you want him not to make election trouble, you should elect him President in the next election cycle, and then he will be ineligible.
Destiny (01:48:56) Okay. I find that be a wholly unconvincing argument, but okay.


Lex Fridman (01:49:00) Well, recently in the news, the Presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT failed to fully denounce calls for genocide, and that rose questions about the influence of DEI programs at universities. And so maybe either looking at this or zooming out more broadly at identity politics at universities or identity politics, wokeism in our culture, how big of a threat is it to our culture to Western civilization, Ben?
Ben Shapiro (01:49:30) So obviously I’m going to say it’s a huge threat. The reason that I think this is a huge threat… I want to give a definition of wokeism because people are very often accused of not using wokeism properly or believing that it’s sort of a catchall phrase. I don’t think it’s a catchall term. I think that wokeism has its roots in postmodernism, which essentially suggests that every principle is a reflection of underlying structures of power, and that therefore any inequality that emerges under such a system is a reflection, again, of that structure of power.
(01:50:01) That used to be applied in sort of Marxist ways, the suggestion being that economic inequality was the result of misallocation of power in the structure preserved by an upper crust of people who wanted to cram down exploitation on people. That was sort of the Marxist version of postmodernism, and that got transmuted into sort of a racial version of postmodernism in which the systems of the United States are white supremacist in orientation, and are perpetuated by a group of people who are in fact in favor of the preservation of white power and white supremacy. That is the generalized theory of Critical Race Theory as proposed by, for example, Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado in their book on Critical Race Theory.
(01:50:41) That has taken a softer form that we refer to as DEI. The key in DEI is the E, meaning equity. So equity is a term that does not mean equality. People mix it up. Equality is the idea that we all ought to have equal rights, that we all ought to be treated equally by the law. Equity is the idea that if there is an inequality that emerges from any system, it is therefore due to discrimination, and the best way to tell whether somebody has been victimized is by dint of their race, and we can tell whether you’re a member of an oppressed group or an oppressor group by the intersectional identity that you carry, and by the nature of your group’s success or failure predominantly along economic and power lines in American life.
(01:51:22) This means that if one group is predominantly successful economically, they must be a member of the victimizing class, and the only corrective for that would be, as Ibram X. Kendi likes to suggest, effectively anti-racist policies, racism in the serVice of destroying racism. That you’re going to have to in order to correct for discrimination that’s baked into the system. That’s incredibly dangerous. It leads to a victim-victimizer narrative that is unhealthy for individuals and terrible for societies. It relieves people of individual responsibility and it destroys the very notion of an objective metric by which we can decide meritocracy and meritocracy is the only system human beings have ever devised that has positive externalities in literally any area of life.
(01:52:06) Every other distribution of wealth, power done along other lines that is not having to do with merit, has negative externalities. Every system having to do with merit has positive externalities because presumably the most effective and useful people are going to succeed under those systems. That’s the very basis of a meritocracy. And the externalities of that mean that other people benefit from the meritorious and excellent performance of those people.
Lex Fridman (01:52:29) Maybe it would be good to get your comments… your old stomping ground Harvard. Do you think the President Harvard should have been fired, forced out-
Ben Shapiro (01:52:37) I mean, I think she should’ve been fired not over the plagiarism allegations. I think she should have been fired based on her performance just at that congressional hearing. If the word black had been substituted for Jew in that statement by Elise Stefanik, that she was asking about-
Destiny (01:52:51) Or trans.
Ben Shapiro (01:52:52) … or literally any other minority in America, maybe with the exception of Asian, then the answer would’ve been very different coming from Claudine Gay. With that said, I don’t think the firing of Claudine Gay really accomplishes very much. Did she get what she deserved? Sure. Does that mean that the underlying DEI equity-based system has been in any way severely damaged? No. I think that this is a way for universities, this is true for McGill and Penn also, to basically throw somebody overboard as the sacrifice to maintain the underlying system that continues to predominate at American universities where they spend literally billions of dollars every year on DEI initiatives and diversity hires and diversity administrators and all of this.
(01:53:31) I mean, one of the costs of education escalating is in the massive administrative function that is now undertaken by universities, as opposed to teaching and cost of dorms and such.
Lex Fridman (01:53:42) You guys probably agree on a lot of this, right?
Destiny (01:53:44) Kind of. Maybe, yeah. I don’t know what makes things do this, but it feels like we can never have a good thing and then have it end as a good thing. Things always get taken to their extreme, and then we have to fight on those extremes. I would argue that… Back in my day, we called it SJWs, Social Justice Warriors, before it became woke. I think it was like 2013 onwards, whatever. There are aspects to wokeism that I think are good. Like I like the additional representation that we have in media now. I like how, as much as people complain about the internet and how it’s regulated, that there are way more groups that are represented on the internet, whether we’re talking X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, or Facebook or whatever. Or whether we’re pushing women’s achievements in school and in the wider workforce. I think that these are all good things.
(01:54:31) The issue that you run into is people don’t ever have a stopping point, and I think people kind of get lost in this woke-for-woke-sake thing where we start to see these very weird workings of these academic, I guess, arguments that are used for really horrible things. So for instance, I think that you can talk about in the United States, things like white supremacy or things like Oppression or certain demographics, especially with Jim Crow laws and pre-Jim Crow, and you can even talk about effects from that.
(01:54:58) But then when you run into this weird world where we’ve kind of worked these things so that not only is white supremacy still as present today as it ever has been, well actually black people and other minorities can’t even be racist. They don’t have the power to, because we’re going to use a different definition of racism and we can only talk about punching up as opposed to punching down. And then we’re actually going to say it’s totally okay for these people to say or do whatever they want, and it’s never bad. But white people, who have always been the oppressors, even if you’re like a trailer park guy whose family’s addicted to meth, you have all this privilege, etc, etc.
(01:55:24) I think that you run into these issues where woke ism, it starts off as a really good idea and I would argue has achieved really good things, especially in regards to women’s education and everything, and then it just gets so academia-ized… There’s a word there, academic, whatever, where you take something and you put it into school too much and then it comes out as some Frankenstein cancer baby of horrible things, such that today when I’m reading stuff, and I know Ben is the same way, if I even hear somebody say the word anti-racism, I’m probably ignoring every other thing you have to say.

Institutional capture

(01:55:50) If you utter the word like colonial anything, I’m probably going to say you probably don’t have anything good to say. Yeah, a lot of it has just taken way too far. But you know what I will blame on some of this is I will blame conservatives for some of this-
Destiny (01:56:00) But you know what I will blame on some of this is I will blame conservatives for some of this because I think one issue that happens, and I think Ben might even agree with me here too, is I think there’s two huge problems that have happened in the United States I think broadly speaking is that, one, we become more different than we ever have been. And, two, we become more similar than we ever have been. And when I say this, what I mean is like we’re splitting off into these groups and then these groups are enforcing this insane homogeneity between these two separate groups. I think one of these schisms has been conservatives’ reluctancy to participate in things related to higher education.
(01:56:33) For a long time, conservatives are saying, oh, the educational institutions are against us. Rush Limbaugh talks about how evil the colleges are and blah, blah, blah. And then what happens is conservatives are less and less willing to engage in them. So then you get this scenario or this environment where everybody that’s engaged in academia on the administrative side are fucking insane. They’re even more so to, and I also want to draw a distinction between the administrators and the faculty because oftentimes when you’re reading story after story after story of all of these insane admins that are pushing further and further left, usually the faculty is fighting against it. A lot of the tenure professors, a lot of people in their departments are saying, hold on, well, we actually don’t agree with this.
(01:57:09) But I feel like, because conservatives for so long have demonized these institutions rather than critically evaluated them and tried to have honest critique and engagement, that they’ve just completely broken off. And when you only have a bunch of lefties or righties together, all they’ll do is they veer off even more into their insane directions. I feel like that’s a big problem that we’ve run into in the country to where conservatives have totally broken off some conversations, broken away from where they won’t participate in them anymore, and then the people that you have left just run as far to the left as possible.
Ben Shapiro (01:57:39) Certainly when you look at certain institutions, I think that one of the things that people on both sides of the aisle are constantly looking at is has the institution suffered such capture that there is just no capacity to fix it? And when you talk about the universities, I’m not going to blame conservatives for the failure of the universities because they haven’t been present in major positions at universities since effectively the late 1960s. You can go read Shelby Steele’s work on this where he talks about how he used to be, he’s now a conservative black person. He was a liberal black person at the time. He was actually quite a radical black activist at the time in the ’60s. And he talks about walking into the office of liberal administrators who were largely on his side with regard to civil rights, and being a radical, him claiming that the systems of the university were inherently broken, were inherently wrong, unfixable.
(01:58:24) And he talks about this, it’s a very evocative episode where he’s talking about how he’s smoking, and as he’s smoking, the ash is growing more and more, and the ash falls down on this very expensive carpet. And the president of the university who’s listening to him rant and rave, Shelby Steele says, “I thought he was going to say something about this. I mean, I was wrecking a thousand dollar carpet in his office being a jackass, and instead, I could see him wilt inside. I could see him collapse. He didn’t have the institutional credibility or sort of the spiritual strength to just say, ‘Listen, I agree with you on some of these things, but you’re acting like a jackass.'” And what you see in the late 1960s and early 1970s is in fact the collapse of these institutions to the point where, by the time I was going to college, there was this radical disproportion between conservatives and liberals.
(01:59:08) The problem is that when it comes to a system like the universities, basically you have to separate the universities off into two separate categories. One is STEM, where the universities are still pretty damn good. American universities, when it comes to STEM, are still leading universities in the world. Harvard’s main creations these days are coming from actual hard science field. Then you have the liberal arts field in which you basically have a self-perpetuating elite because that’s actually how dissertations work. If you have somebody who’s very far to the left and you decide that you’re going to write a dissertation on the history of American gun rights, the chances that that is going to be approved by your dissertation advisor are much lower than if you happen to write something that tends to agree with the political positions of your dissertation advisor. Now, listen, I think there are open and tolerant professors, even in the liberal arts at these universities.
(01:59:48) I went to these universities. I went to UCLA, I went to Harvard Law School. When I was at Harvard Law School, one of my favorite professors was Lani Guinier. Lani Guinier, they tried to appoint her, I believe, Secretary of Labor under Clinton. And she was too liberal and she got rejected. So she was like a full- on communist. By the time I went there, she was great. We had debates every day. It was wonderful. She used to write me recommendations for my legal jobs. After we left, Randall Kennedy, I don’t agree with him very much. Randall Kennedy was terrific professor. There are some professors who are like this. Unfortunately, there tends to be, in these echo chambers, more and more ideological conformity that is rigorously enforced, and it is by left on left. So, for example, when I was at Harvard Law School, the president of the university was another president who ended up being ousted, Larry Summers.
(02:00:26) Larry Summers had been the Secretary of Treasury under Bill Clinton, and he made the critical error of suggesting that perhaps the dearth of women in hard sciences in prestigious positions was due to possibly two factors that people were refusing to talk about. One was the possibility that women actually didn’t want to be in hard sciences at nearly the rates that men do, which happens to be true. And, two, was the distribution of STEM IQ, which is something that you certainly were not allowed to talk about. The idea that the men’s bell curve when it comes to IQ, particularly on STEM subjects, tends to be shallower than the women’s bell curve. So when you get to the very end of the bell curve, what you tend to see is a lot of really dumb guys and a lot of really smarter guys.
(02:01:01) And so when you’re talking about the top universities, maybe that has something to do with the disproportion. And he’s trying to explain that to say that our systems are not discriminating if we end up with more men than women, maybe more men are applying and more men are qualified. That’s quite a… He was ousted for that by a left-wing faculty and general alum network at Harvard University. There’s a lot to blame conservatives for surrendering the playing field. I totally agree that conservatives should not have surrendered the playing field in some institutions. Colleges were surrendered a lot earlier than 20 years ago. They were surrendered in the late 1960s, early 1970s.
Destiny (02:01:32) I think that, a couple of things. One of the big issues that I have with this, I don’t know if we call it era of Trumpism or populism, is this total disregard for institutions and this disconnect from participation in the system. So it’s one of the big things that I fight with progressives about, who cares because they’re all 20 years old, they don’t vote anyway. But it’s another thing that I noticed with a lot of people that are Trump voters, Trump fans, or whatever, is this idea where we say, this institution is irrevocably destroyed, it’s irredeemable, it can’t be saved. Nothing that we do can fix it. And I think that what that leads people to doing is, one, they disconnect further.
(02:02:08) And then, two, there’s a general hopelessness when it comes to how society is ran or structured, such that you fall into that populist brain rot of the only person that can save me is Donald Trump. I can’t trust literally anything. And I think that when you start driving people into that direction, all it does is it further amplifies all the problems that you’re complaining about. So that’s one of the reasons why when we talk about conservative participation, I want there to be more conservatives that are trying to participate in academia. But I feel like the leading thought or the leading speaking out against it is basically saying it’s a waste of time. It’s completely lost.
Ben Shapiro (02:02:38) So I think that the alternative to that is that you are seeing on the right a growth of, for example, alternative universities, saying-
Destiny (02:02:44) Yeah, but this is the worst thing.
Ben Shapiro (02:02:45) No, I don’t think so at all. I think competition is a great way of incentivizing some change on behalf of universities that may have forgotten that there’s an entire another side of the aisle in the United States, meaning-
Destiny (02:02:54) No shot. I don’t believe. I don’t think even you think that.
Ben Shapiro (02:02:56) So first of all, first all, let me be clear.
Destiny (02:02:57) Go ahead.
Ben Shapiro (02:02:59) I think the entire educational system at the upper levels, if you’re not in STEM, is a complete scam. I think it’s a complete waste of money. I think it’s a complete waste of time. And I think that it’s all it is is a formalized, very expensive sorting mechanism for people of IQ. That’s all it is. People take an SAT, you go to a good school, you take four years of bullshit. I know. I did it at UCLA. And then, we analyze based on your degree where you should go to law school. I could have gone directly from high school to law school with maybe one year of training, and then done one year of law school, and been done. Okay. The reality is that this is a giant scam, and this is, again, it’s a bipartisan problem, but it’s just a generalized problem. You want to talk about things that hurt the lower classes in the United States? The bleeding of degrees up is so wild and crazy. There’re so many jobs in the United States that should not require a college degree that we now require a college degree to do because there was this weird idea that came over Americans where they mistook correlation for causation. They would say, oh, look, people who go to college are making more money than people who don’t go to college, therefore everyone should go to college. Well, maybe the reason is because people who are going to college were better qualified for particular jobs because, on average, not all the time, but on average, a lot of those people were smarter and making more money because of that. And so all you’ve done is you’ve now created these additional layers of stratification. So a person who used to be able to get a job with a college degree now has to have a postdoc degree in order to go get that degree.
(02:04:10) A person who used to be able to just graduate high school, now it’s de facto, you got to go to JuCo, and then you got to go to college, or nobody’s even going to look at your resume. It’s really, really terrible for people who can’t afford all of that. It’s led to this massive increase in educational cost that is inexplicable other than this particular sort of bleed up. And by the way, federal subsidies for higher education, again, one of my problems with federal subsidies for higher education, I’d love for everyone to be able to go to college if qualified to do so and if it is productive. But one of the things I did when I went to law school is I took loans because a bank said I was going to get my money back if I got a law degree from Harvard. But you know when you’re not going to get your money back? If you’re a bank, you’re not going to lend to some dude who wants to major in Art Theory because is that a good bet? There’s no collateral.
(02:04:50) If I give a loan for a house, I can go repossess the house. How do I repossess your garbage college degree from UCLA? There’s no way to do that. This is the broader conversation about education in general. I think the educational system is cruising for a bruising, and I think all that’s necessary for it to completely collapse on the non-STEM side where you actually learn things is for people who employ to simply say, give me your SAT score and I will hire you for an apprenticeship directly out of high school. That it would cut out so much of the middleman. But as far as the general point that you’re making about institutions, I may disagree on the education and how far it’s gone. In general, I agree with you. So in general, I agree. And, I guess, to use my favorite longest word in the English language here, I would consider myself in many cases an anti-disestablishmentarianist.
Lex Fridman (02:05:34) Nice.
Ben Shapiro (02:05:35) See that? I like to drop that because if you’re an establishmentarian, that means you like the establishment.
Destiny (02:05:39) The opposite is disestablishmentarianism.
Ben Shapiro (02:05:40) Disestablishmentarianism, right? So I’m an anti-
Lex Fridman (02:05:41) Can you say that word, Destiny?
Destiny (02:05:42) That’s the one we all learned growing up, anti-disestablishmentarianism.
Ben Shapiro (02:05:44) There you go.
Destiny (02:05:45) The longest word in the dictionary.
Ben Shapiro (02:05:48) And so he is also. But I think-
Destiny (02:05:48) Then some candidate group say, what about supercalifragilisti- and then you’re-
Ben Shapiro (02:05:50) What about [inaudible 02:05:51]?
Destiny (02:05:50) Or the science terms.
Ben Shapiro (02:05:53) Exactly.
Destiny (02:05:53) Or what about the 7,000 letter thing that’s from part of biochem.
Lex Fridman (02:05:56) I got my education in the Soviet Union, so we just did math. Didn’t learn any of this.
Ben Shapiro (02:06:00) That’s why you’re a useful person.
Destiny (02:06:02) Soviet Union Math. Was that one plus one, how to make that equal three?
Ben Shapiro (02:06:04) We know long words, and he streams on the internet, and I talk for a living, so anyway. But the point is that I don’t disagree that there is a general populist tendency on all sides of the aisle to look at the institutions and then throw them overboard. I think that some of that is earned by people who are in positions of power at institutions who have completely undermined the faith and credibility of those institutions. I think that you have to examine institution by institutions, which ones are salvageable and which ones are not. So I’m not a full anti-disestablishmentarianism. I’d be partially in that camp. There are certain institutions like higher education in the liberal arts that I think we may be better off without. And then there are certain institutions like, say, participation in American government where when people talk about we need a revolution, like, no, we don’t. That’s not a thing. We need an evolution. We need change. We can use the system. But I think you have to establish, you have to look at it industry by industry, just institution by institution.
Destiny (02:06:58) On that position, are institutions, do you think Biden or Trump would salvage you more?
Ben Shapiro (02:07:01) As far as the institutions?
Destiny (02:07:02) Yeah.
Ben Shapiro (02:07:02) I think the institutions in the United States at the governmental level are robust. I think the social institutions are fair.
Destiny (02:07:06) But I’m just curious on your general view of institutions, do you think Biden or Trump would salvage you more on how you view them?
Ben Shapiro (02:07:11) I mean, I think that, in rhetoric, Biden would, and then I think that he would tear out the face of the institution wearing it around like a mask, like Hannibal Lecter. I mean-
Destiny (02:07:18) Even though he resisted some people’s calls to pack the court and…
Ben Shapiro (02:07:22) Yes, because I think that his use of executive power was greater than that of Donald Trump. The power that he had, he used to greater effect than Donald Trump. Donald Trump, again, thrashed up against the sides of the box, but could not get out of it.
Destiny (02:07:34) For just real quick, because that answer went a lot farther than the initial question. But just on the real quick thing, the reason why I, again, my main problem that I feel like we have today in society is people are getting into their own bubbles. The idea of having conservative schools and liberal schools seems like the saddest thing in the world to me. I would want conservatives and liberals going to school together because I think these people need to interact with each other more, if for no other reason than to say that the other person is not an actual monstrous, horrible entity that wants to destroy the country.
Ben Shapiro (02:07:59) Listen, I think a classically liberal idea for many schools would not be a bad thing. I think it would be a good thing. I just wonder if that’s salvageable. And if it’s not salvageable, then the answer to that is to actually create alternative institutions.
Destiny (02:08:08) I feel like the biggest issue that we have is people are they sort into these different phantom worlds to where, even if you live in the same city, there are totally different worlds that exist between liberals and conservatives. And I feel like one of the big barriers to people understanding the other side, sometimes it’s just a little bit of information or a little bit of firsthand experience. So in terms of information, I’m sure you saw, I don’t know if this is a full-on study, but they were talking about how some huge percentage of students would change their mind on from the river to the sea when you told them what from the river to sea, actually-
Ben Shapiro (02:08:36) What the river was and what the sea was?
Destiny (02:08:37) Yeah. Or when you said like, what does a one state solution mean? A lot of them, such that the numbers went from 70% to 30% in terms of support would fall. And it wasn’t because you were doing a radical redefining their whole ideology. You were just giving them a little bit more information. And then something that I’ve seen on a firsthand level is when I go and speak or do debates at universities, sometimes I’m in very, very, very conservative areas. Some of my fans are trans. Having a trans person show up and talk to conservatives for a little bit, not in a speech, but just in a bar or a setting, a lot of them walk away. They’re like, oh, not every trans person is like this insane lunatic from Twitter that is a fucking, an actual crazy person. And then for some of my fans, when they hang out with conservatives like, oh, these guys are actually pretty friendly. I thought they would’ve all been homophobic, racist, transphobic, and evil, but they’re not. They’re just like normal people. I feel like we need more of that-
Ben Shapiro (02:09:16) I totally agree with that. Certainly.
Destiny (02:09:17) And I feel like on our social media platforms, on our algorithms, and our schools, I feel like we’re sorting harder and harder and harder, and any type of rhetoric that encourages the sorting is really bad and damaging. We need to continue to mix up. And there’s other things I wanted to talk about, but Lex is opening his mouth.
Lex Fridman (02:09:31) Destiny, the uniter. Wow.
Destiny (02:09:32) Like Biden. Not like Trump.

Monogamy vs open relationships

Lex Fridman (02:09:36) As we approach the end, let us descend into the meme further and further. Ben, you’re in a monogamous marriage. And Destiny, you’ve been mostly in an open marriage until recently. How foundational is marriage, monogamous marriage, to the United States of America? Can open marriages work? Are they harmful to society? Ben.
Ben Shapiro (02:09:58) Marriages are the single most important thing that people can do in the United States because the things within your control are easier to control than the things outside your control. People tend to think about big political change, obviously about things they can do to change the entire system, but the reality is the thing that you can do that best changes society is to get married and have kids and raise your kids responsibly. That is the single best thing that you can do. Can an open marriage work? I mean, I think that it depends on your definition of work. So in my version of work, the answer is no, because what you actually need in order to facilitate the healthy growing of a child is a father and mother who are committed to each other. All ideas about there being no emotional component to sexual activity are completely specious. That it is true for men, that it is for women, but it’s not true for either.
(02:10:41) The idea of a full commitment to a human being with whom you genetically create children, which is typically how we’ve done it throughout human existence, is in fact the fundamental basis for any functional civilization. It allows for the transmission of culture and values. It allows for the transmission of beliefs and responsibility. And it gives the great lie to both, the communitarian lie, the atomistic individualist lie. The communitarian lie is that you belong to the giant community of man, which is not true because you have a family. And your allegiance should be and is naturally to the members of your family first. That’s how we learn, and then we expound that out.
(02:11:21) And it also is a lie to the notion that we are all atomistic individuals with no responsibilities. We are born into a world of responsibilities. Everyone is born into a world of responsibilities, and rules, and roles. And those are good. And if we do not actually socialize our children that way, there will be, number one, no children. Number two, there will be no healthy children. Number three, there will be not the foundation for either social fabric, which is the real glue that holds together society or for a functional government. So, yes. Yes, monogamous marriage. I’m a fan. 15 years married, four kids. Yes.
Lex Fridman (02:11:55) Destiny, what do you think?
Destiny (02:11:56) I think that when we talk about relationships or marriage, I think something that’s really important is we have to talk about whether or not children are being discussed or not. Because I think once you introduce the child aspect, I think the style or the type of relationship that you do is going to become way more important than whatever exists prior to that. I would agree, for instance, in terms of what Ben is saying, that there is probably going to be some structure that is ideal for the care and the raising of a child. I think that having a child gives you a much bigger buy-in to society because now, all of a sudden, you care about a lot of things that you might not have before because not only do you exist in society, you can’t just run. Now you’ve got a child that exists there and you’ve got to ensure that everything functions smoothly, not just for you, but for that child as well.
(02:12:34) And, arguably, although we’re getting into weird places I guess in the world now, children are the primary conduit for where you transmit cultural values and everything. The one kind of weird thing that we are coming up against, that we have been coming up against now for some number of decades and we’ll continue to is as societies progress, seems like people are having less children. And I actually don’t know 100% what the answer is to that question.
Ben Shapiro (02:13:00) I do.
Destiny (02:13:00) I’m sure you do. I mean, an implementable answer that works that we know we can get everybody on board with. It seems like, for a large part of human history, having children, and it still is, having children is awesome, and children are cool and children are magical and miraculous and all of this, but you didn’t really have much competing for your attention to have a child. When you hit a certain age and you started working, especially if you’re a woman, I mean, childbirth is kind of the next step. And then having a family, raising your children, and then doing that was kind of the next step. Nowadays, especially with women being able to work, especially with women having access to birth control, there’s a lot available in the world that’s competing for the interest of people that could otherwise be having children such that we’ve almost flipped it, such that, as Ben brought up earlier, wealthy people tend to have less children than not wealthy people, or unless you’re part of particular religious communities that push childbirth a lot.
(02:13:46) I don’t know if I would say there exists a moral imperative on an individual to have children. I think that there’s a lot of interesting arguments down that path. I don’t know if we’re quite at the point yet where we need to say like, oh my God, we’re running out of people. We need to have more kids. I don’t think we’re quite there yet, but we are seeing weird demographic trends that are having big impacts on how countries are playing out. For instance, the fact that we have a disproportionately huge aging population that needs to be taken care of with medical expenses and everything, that vote in different ways than our younger population, and that when they die off, the way that society is going to look is going to be a lot different. I don’t actually have a, I’m not entirely sure what the future’s going to look like in terms of pushing people to have kids when every single industrialized country, as they become more industrialized, have fewer and fewer and fewer children.

Rapid fire questions

Lex Fridman (02:14:29) Rapid fire questions.
Ben Shapiro (02:14:32) My answer was go to church.
Destiny (02:14:33) Religion, yeah. I figured.
Lex Fridman (02:14:35) Well, we could talk about religion, but that’s not rapid fire at all. Let me ask, this is from the internet, does body count matter?
Destiny (02:14:42) Jesus Christ. You’re really bringing up the red pill stuff.
Lex Fridman (02:14:47) Are you avoiding answering?
Destiny (02:14:48) I mean, it’s totally, it depends on who you are. If you’re somebody that doesn’t care about it, it doesn’t. If you’re somebody that does care about it, yeah, it does, of course. Depends on the-
Ben Shapiro (02:14:48) The answer is yes.
Lex Fridman (02:14:56) Okay. Should porn be banned?
Destiny (02:14:58) No.
Ben Shapiro (02:15:01) If you could do it, yes. There is no benefit to pornography. It’s a waste of time and destructive to the human soul.
Lex Fridman (02:15:10) I can’t believe I’m asking this question. Is OnlyFans empowering or destructive for women?
Destiny (02:15:17) Jesus. These are rapid fire?
Lex Fridman (02:15:19) Yeah, just you can’t-
Destiny (02:15:20) I mean, it’s probably empowering for the ones that are making a lot of money off it. It probably feels disempowering for others that feel affected by the cultural norms set by women that do OnlyFans. There’s my rapid fire answer.
Ben Shapiro (02:15:28) It’s destructive to even the ones who are making a lot of money because when you degrade yourself to being just a set of human body characteristics that other people jack off to, it’s bad for you and it’s bad for them.
Lex Fridman (02:15:38) Is rap music…
Ben Shapiro (02:15:40) Absolutely.
Lex Fridman (02:15:41) Have you evolved on this or-
Ben Shapiro (02:15:43) Have I evolved on this? So again, I’m going to go to what’s the definition of music? My original argument about rap was that music involves the following three elements. Rhythm, melody, harmony. Rap typically involves maybe one of those. There maybe, maybe a melody, maybe sometimes. So it depends on the kind of rap. With that said, I could be convinced on this issue. But, listen, I’m a classical violinist. I mean, it’s how I was raised. I listen to Beethoven and Brahms and Mozart in the car with my kids. So is it comparable, is it in the same category as Beethoven, Brahms, and Mozart? I have a very hard time sticking it in the same category as that.
Lex Fridman (02:16:23) All right. You’re both world-class debaters, even public intellectuals, if I can say that.
Destiny (02:16:31) Jesus.
Ben Shapiro (02:16:32) [inaudible 02:16:32] real hard here.
Lex Fridman (02:16:33) I know. You both care about the truth. What is your process of arriving at the truth?
Destiny (02:16:41) I think it’s really important to, everybody will say that they’re objective and that they are nonpartisan. I think it’s really important to have mental safeguards for bad opinions. So, for instance, a couple of things that I’ll ask myself is for a particular debate that I’m having, can I argue convincingly both sides of the debate? If I can’t, I won’t bother having the debate because I realize that I’m probably too partisanly dug in if I can’t even represent an opposite argument here. Another question that you might ask yourself is like, well, what would it take to convince you out of a certain position? If you feel very strongly that Medicare for All is a good system by which to run the United States healthcare, and somebody says, well, what would it take you to convince you otherwise? If you can’t even fathom, well, what would it take to convince me otherwise, you’re probably too dug into a position.
(02:17:23) So I think if you go through life saying, well, I try my best to be unbiased rather than saying, I try my best to be aware of my biases because the latter is more realistic and the former is literally impossible unless you’re a computer. So I think having actual mental practices that you engage in to try to counter some of the biases that you have is more important than trying to pretend that you’re free of all biases and then consuming all your media from one source.
Lex Fridman (02:17:47) Ben?
Ben Shapiro (02:17:49) I mean, I agree with a lot of that. I think that the easiest practical guide is read a bunch of different things from a bunch of different sources, and where they cross is probably the set of facts, and then everything else is extrapolated opinion from different premises. That’s sort of the short story. So read the New York Times and Breitbart, and they’re going to disagree on a lot, but if the core of the story-
Lex Fridman (02:18:09) And the Daily Wire.
Ben Shapiro (02:18:10) Certainly read the Daily Wire. If you read the Daily Wire and you read the Washington Post and there’s a nexus of the same thing, then you can pretty well guarantee that, at least, if we’re all blind men feeling the elephant, at least, if we’re all feeling the trunk, we know that there’s a trunk there. You may not know what the elephant is.
Lex Fridman (02:18:26) And if you’re feeling frisky, then watch Destiny as well.
Destiny (02:18:31) Thanks.
Lex Fridman (02:18:31) You’ve talked about having a conversation, debating Ben for a long time. What is your favorite thing about Ben Shapiro?
Destiny (02:18:40) My favorite thing about Ben Shapiro is, at least when we’re in election season, he’s very critical of his own party. I appreciate that. I feel like Ben generally tries to adhere more to the fact-based arguments than other conservatives that I listen to, which is something that I appreciate because it’s more fun to fight on the factual grounds of discussing things like foreign policy or whatever, rather than people that only inhabit the idealistic or philosophical grounds because they don’t want to learn about any of the facts. So I appreciate that.
Lex Fridman (02:19:07) Ben, you’ve gotten a chance to talk to Destiny now. What do you like about the guy?
Ben Shapiro (02:19:11) A lot of the same sorts of things, but it’s really fun to see how you do your process. That is a cool thing. That is a cool thing. And it’s a gift to the audience because, honestly, doing what we do, so much of what we do is sitting and reading and being behind closed doors and educating yourself and talking with people. But getting to watch you do it in real time is a really cool window into how people think and how people learn. So that’s a really neat thing.
Lex Fridman (02:19:30) Well, gentlemen, this was incredible. It’s an honor. Thank you for doing this today.
Ben Shapiro (02:19:34) Thanks a lot.
Destiny (02:19:35) Thanks for having me.
Lex Fridman (02:19:36) Thanks for listening to this debate between Ben Shapiro and Destiny. To support this podcast, please check out our sponsors in the description. And now, let me leave you with some words from Aristotle. The basis of a democratic state is liberty. Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.