An EconTalk Podcast Listening Guide

John Ralston Saul on Reason, Elites, and Voltaire’s Bastards

Listen to the EconTalk podcast John Ralston Saul on Reason, Elites, and Voltaire’s Bastards and consider these questions.

1. How does Saul describe the “illegitimate offspring,” or consequences, of Voltaire’s view of reason? How do they differ from Voltaire’s view of reason, according to Saul?

2. Why have the humanities come to be seen as the enemy of reason, a trend Saul calls “one of the greatest follies of our civilization?”

3. Saul describes Voltaire’s Bastards as a pre-nineteenth century approach. What does he mean by this? How does this differ from most books today?

4. What did Richelieu and McNamara have in common, according to Saul?

5. Why does Saul consider Thomas Jefferson to be a part of the humanist tradition? To what extent would you agree?

6. How can Nazism and fascism be considered a natural outgrowth of the worship of reason, according to Saul?

7. What is the difference between “responsible individualism” and “wild-card individualism,” according to Saul? Which would you prefer, and why?

8. Saul describes living in a democracy as being engaged and restrained simultaneously. What does he mean by this, and to what extent do you agree with his characterization?

9. How does Saul suggest that populism can lead to fascism? What evidence does he see to support this claim today? Do you think he is right? Why?

10. After listening to this podcast, who would you regard as more of a romantic, and why, Roberts or Saul?