Dinesh D'Souza
Dinesh D'Souza
The Virtue of Prosperity
ISBN: 0684868148
The Virtue of Prosperity
We live in an era of unprecedented prosperity. The United States has created the first mass affluent class in world history, and most of us are more successful than we ever dreamed we could be. New technologies have given us extraordinary abilities to communicate and share information, and also godlike power over nature and ourselves. Yet, individually and collectively, we are divided about the new economy. Its champions embrace the power of technological capitalism and the wealth it creates—they believe it will feed and heal and liberate the world. Its detractors warn that techno-capitalism creates enormous inequalities, undermines families and communities, and destroys our most cherished values. How can we heal this division that runs deep in our society, and in our hearts? How can we learn to be happy with our success?
—from the publisher
TRANSCRIPT
The Virtue of Prosperity
Program Air Date: January 14, 2001

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Dinesh D'Souza, author of the "The Virtue of Prosperity," buried in your book is a moment where you're playing chess with a bum in San Francisco. What's that about?

Mr. DINESH D'SOUZA (Author, "The Virtue of Prosperity"): Well, in that section, I'm testing a proposition, and the proposition is that the--the poor may not have as much money as the rich, but they are in some ways--are more virtuous, and this is an old tradition that goes back to the Bible: `Love of money is the root of all evil.' And I recount this anecdote where on Market and Powell Street in San Francisco, I'm playing against the bums, but the bums aren't the bums. They're actually Soviet emigres. They're very good chess players, and they--they play against the tourists.

And we're playing for $1 or $2, and the first game, I blunder, I lose, I pay my $2. And then the guy's emboldened, and he says, `Well, le--let's play for $5.' So I say, `OK,' and I'm not a--I'm not Garry Kasparov, but I'm a pretty good player. So the second game, I'm doing better. I'm starting to win. And the guy goes, `Excuse me, I--I kind of have to go to the bathroom,' and, of course, we're playing on the street, so he goes to the nearby Hyatt or the nearby hotel, and I'm studying the position, contemplating my strategy and my triumph, and the guy next to me goes, `What are you waiting for? That guy is not coming back. He's gone.' And I--I thought to myself--for a moment, I was outraged, because I said to myself, you know, `How can the guy be so petty for--for a few bucks?' But then it occurred to me, `Wait a second,' you know, `$5 for me may not be a big deal; to him, it's probably a substantial amount of money.' And I cite--I cite the anecdote to make the point that poverty and drudgery and necessity imposes a moral cost on us that makes us do things, it makes us pettier and it makes us do things we would not do if we were more comfortable.
LAMB: You tell us that you live in Rancho Santa Fe, California, which is not a poverty community, if I remember correctly.
Mr. D'SOUZA: That's true. It's--it's a nice area, and in some senses, I suppose I'm reflecting a little bit of--of an immigrant success story. It's also, interestingly, a voluntary community, and by that, I mean the people who live in San Diego are people whose--whose lifestyles are flexible. We have screenwriters who move from LA, venture capitalists who move from San Jose, pilots who have lived all over the world. And what's interesting about the community is that I find in it many of the elements of true community. In other words, people talk about the decline of community, you don't get to know your neighbors. And I think that technology and wealth are in some ways making possible a revitalization of--of the old village, not the old village in which the farmers starved, but the new village, which is high-tech, but the high-tech people are putting the church steeple back up and the church bells are tolling again. So in some ways--in some ways, I'm seeing a way in which the new economy is undoing some of the problems with the old economy.
LAMB: Why do you live in Rancho Santa Fe?
Mr. D'SOUZA: Well, we moved partly for--for family reasons. My family is in Bombay, India. My wife's family lives in San Diego. We have a little 5-year-old, so we had family reasons for moving. I also wanted to be--I was--I had lived in Washington for many years and was part of the political culture here. And--and Washington is a great place to live, but I suddenly--it began to dawn on me that there has been a big shift in the country away from the bureaucrat or the intellectual and toward the entrepreneur. And there's this thing out there called a new economy, and there are all these new guys who are staking a claim to leadership of society, and I said to myself, `Who are these guys? What do they believe?' So I wanted to be in California because I wanted to study the new economy.
LAMB: How do you make your money?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I divide my time between writing and speaking. I am paid a basic salary at the American Enterprise Institute, where I am a research scholar. But my main source of income is book royalties and lecture fees. My--my main stomping ground has been the campus. My earlier books on political correctness, on the race debate, have been ideally suited to crossing swords with the leading lights, the leading defenders of affirmative action. So I've had the--I've have the privilege and then the fun of debating Jesse Jackson and many of the other advocates of affirmative action.

Increasingly now, I'm finding I am--I am speaking more to business groups and addressing what does if effect of the new economy on society? How is it going to change education and politics and culture and philanthropy and religion? Those issues haven't gotten a lot of attention, and I--and I'm trying to be the voice for those--those thoughts.
LAMB: How lucrative has this speaking world become in this country?
Mr. D'SOUZA: It is a--it is a--it is a quite lucrative world. I would say that I am in general probably at the top end of the college speaking market, which is not nearly as lucrative as the business market. The college speaking world is still a rag-tag world where you show up at a college town, and instead of a limousine waiting to greet you, you're calling some kid in his dorm to--you know, to come pick you up. On the other hand, you know, as someone who's started out in journalism, you can spend six weeks on an article that runs in The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times and they pay you $300. On the other hand, you can get paid a few thousand dollars to give the same speech or some--with some minor variations, again and again and again. So for those of us who are--have a journalistic background, speaking is an important part of--of our livelihood.
LAMB: What are you finding at these college campuses about the issue of wealth?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I find that there is a--a huge moral shift. The baby boom generation is, in general, ambivalent about wealth. Many people say, you know, `I've done well, but I want to do good.' Or, `I've done well. I've got more money than my parents ever thought I'd have, but I wonder if I've sold out my values?' Now this is a--this is the qualm of--the qualms of a generation raised in the 1960s. The younger generation doesn't feel that guilt about success, and they feel that entrepreneurship is a good idea.

Look, when--when I first came to this country in the '70s, the prevailing ethos had been set by John F. Kennedy: If you're young, if you're idealistic, if you care, do what? Join the Peace Corps, become a public servant. And the assumption was that if you go to the private sector, well, you're kind of a selfish, greedy guy. But if you go to work for the government, you're an altruistic, idealistic and noble person. That's changed.

And so the young people today, they want to be more--they--more of them want to be like Bill Gates than Bill Clinton. There's a sense in which by creating new things, we not only do well but we make the world better. And so you'll hear lots of the young people--idealistic young people, the same guys who 30 years ago went to the Peace Corps--say, `What I want to do is I want to give the kid in Nigeria the same access to information via the Web that a Yale professor has. And that is my way of saving the world.'
LAMB: You have a statistic in your book that says that from 1950 to the year 2000, we went from an average of 1,000 square feet in our homes to 2,200 square feet in our homes. What does that mean to you?
Mr. D'SOUZA: What that means to me is that the big story in America is not the super rich, the tech tycoons. It's true, the idea of having a young guy in his 30s who has a net worth that equals the GNP of a small country, that's--that's amazing and that's never happened before. But the really big story in America is the rising tide of affluence as it affects the ordinary guy. I mean, we live in a society where the ordinary guy walks into a coffee shop and spends four bucks for nonfat latte. That wouldn't have happened 20 years ago. We live in a society where--where you--where airplane travel, which was once the preserve of the few, is now a mass pursuit. We live in a society where in 1980, there were 750,000 families that were millionaires, had a net worth of $1 million or more; today, 5 million families, so 20 million people are living in a millionaire household.

So what I say in the book is we have created the first mass affluent class in world history, and I call it the overclass. And what it tells me is that the great achievement of the West, which was to create a middle class, to take people who are poor and give them basic comfort, has now been topped. What we have done is taken people who are middle class and elevated them to a level of well-being that in the past only--only the very few, only aristocrats have enjoyed.
LAMB: What was the reason you came to the United States in 1978?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I came as an exchange student sponsored by the Rotary Club. I lived with four American families. I then ended up applying to college, to Dartmouth. And in a sense, I--I never left. I think--I think if I had come and someone had told me, `You're never going home, I mean, except to visit,' I would have been too scared to come. But I kept extending my stay a little by little, and then slowly but surely, I sort of fell in love with the American idea and over time, just stayed and have become a citizen and so on.
LAMB: What kind of family did you come from?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I come from a middle-class family. My father is a chemical engineer; my mom, a housewife. And I've thought hard about what is it that has made my life different about America, and I would answer this way: If I had stayed in India, if I'd remained, I would have probably ended up living one mile from where I was born. I would probably have married a girl of my identical religious and socioeconomic background. I would be now probably a doctor or a lawyer or a software programmer, and I would have a whole set of opinions that could be predi--that could be predicted in advance.

By coming to America, my life has taken a totally different shape. I became interested in American politics. I became--went into writing and journalism, public speaking. I joined the government, the Reagan administration. So America, in a sense, gave me the chance to write the script of my own life. And I think that's the intoxicating appeal of America to outsiders, is it--it--it's a country that's sort of like a blank sheet of paper and you are the artist, and you get to create your own destiny instead of having it given to you.
LAMB: Middle class in India vs. middle class in the United States--what's the difference in--in just living?
Mr. D'SOUZA: The middle class in India, like so many middle classes, is essentially defined by the triumph of the struggle against necessity. And that means you're middle class, basically, if you don't have to worry where your next meal is coming from, and you're middle class if you have a roof over your head, and you're middle class if you don't have to worry that your children will have a--get a disease and die and so on. So it's--the ability to triumph over grinding necessity defines the middle class in India.

Now obviously, the middle class here lives in considerably greater comfort. The middle class here, these are the guys who take the bargain cruise to the Bahamas. I was talking to the novelist, Tom Wolfe, not long ago, and I asked him, I said, `Are you amazed at the level of affluence in New York society?' And he said to me, `No.' He said, `What's really amazing is that even as we talk,' he said, `my plumber or my air conditioning repair guy is taking his third wife to St. Kitts, where they're getting ready to sample the local cuisine.' And his point was that never before has the ordinary man lived this well.
LAMB: If I remember my statistics, there--there are a billion people in India and then 250 million of them are middle class.
Mr. D'SOUZA: Yeah. The Indian--there's a demographic, there's a shift in India. It used to be that the country had a very small rich, a very small middle class and a very large poor, so it was a kind of a pyramid. And what's happening now is that the middle class is becoming more sizable. And, of course, that's the definition of--of a stable society, so I'm very pleased to see it.

And the software revolution, the technology revolution, is accelerating that. In fact, it's--it's created an entrepreneurial class in India for the first time, the first Indian millionaires, the first billionaires, and many people are saying, `Hey, this is a very--this is a very good thing.' I--I even talked to a guy in the Indian software industry who said that the computer industry will realize Gandhi's dream of wiping a tear off every Indian face, and so what these guys are saying is that--is that the old model, which is that you use government and philanthropy, was well-motivated, but the guys that are going to get the job done, the people who will really fulfill the biblical mandate to feed and clothe and heal the world, that's going to be technology and capitalism.
LAMB: India is often cited as the world's largest democracy. What's the difference in the Indian democracy and the American democracy?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I think that there is a strong sense of democratic participation in--in both countries. The main problem with Indian democracy is illiteracy. Democracy depends upon a certain basic level of education, and the problem in India is, as a result of illiteracy, there is not the same intellectual accountability. And so what happens is you've got the routinization of corruption, both in the political class and in Indian life, more generally. In that sense, India would be similar to Mexico. And that's the one thing I found very stifling. I mean, I had a happy childhood, I loved growing up in India, but the idea that you have to constantly lie and pay people off, this--this idea that corruption is reduced to everyday living, is a very suffocating idea.
LAMB: When was the last word written for this book?
Mr. D'SOUZA: The last word was written a few months ago. Technology has made it such that books no longer--you no long--no longer have to wait a year and a half for your book that's done to come out. It's...
LAMB: Do you remember the exact month? I--I'm asking for a reason.
Mr. D'SOUZA: It was probably in June or July.
LAMB: Because you mentioned an awful lot of people in here, and since June and July, a lot of the people you're talking about, their wealth isn't anywhere close to where it was.
Mr. D'SOUZA: Well, that's true. We--we're living in a sector, and at the time, when there are incredible gyrations in the market. I mentioned, for example, Jay Walker of Priceline.com, who was worth a few billion dollars and is now worth many millions, but probably--probably less than a billion.
LAMB: Well, let me--I--I went--actually, today--and this is being recorded in December--I went today to check on the actual value of their stock, and the fellow you just mentioned, Mr. Walker, on the list here--if I can find it--his stock went from $104 in the year to $2 today--$2.
Mr. D'SOUZA: Right.
LAMB: Michael--strateg--Michael Saylor of MicroStrategy, who you mention, his stock was $333, high of the year; it's down to $12 today. John Little, who you talk about, Portal Software, in February, it was $86; today, it's $5.
Mr. D'SOUZA: Right.
LAMB: And I just wonder be--and there are a lot more of them. Michael Hughes is not even alive anymore, of Herbalife, and his stock--actually, I don't have his stock. He died at 44 this year. Dell was at $60; it's down to $19. Microsoft this year--a year ago, $120; it's down to $56. The point of doing that is, does that--would that change anything that you write in the book about how much money...
Mr. D'SOUZA: It fundamentally doesn't change things for a couple of reasons. One is many people think that the typical rich guy in this country is a young 32-year-old Internet guy who just started a company. And the fact is that the typical rich guy in this country is a 58-year-old white guy who has a pest control business in Cleveland. Most people have gotten wealthy by home appreciation, by investing in the long-term upward trend of the market, and by owning their own business or professional pa--practice, like a partner in a law firm, for example.

The Internet boom has been the most visible side of wealth, to be sure, but I think what is now going on is a re-evaluation. In other words, for a long time, people said, `Look, everybody is going to be buying everything on the Internet, not only books at Amazon but also barbecue grills at Amazon.' And Amazon's stock price reflected a wild guess that the future value of that company was going to be gigantic. Now there's a re-evaluation and people are saying, `Wait a minute--are the dot-com companies going to benefit from this technological revolution or is it the old economy companies that are embracing technology?'

In other words, you know, in the early part of the 20th century, there were 40 to 50 car companies. And if you had bought stock in most of them, it would be completely worthless a few years later. But that doesn't mean that the car was not a radical and important new invention that would alter the American landscape, change the shape of small towns and make a lot of people rich, but it--the companies it made rich--I mean, Henry Ford because he was a winner--but also, all of the other companies that were able to use the automobile to do their business more efficiently. So similarly, it may turn out to be that the Internet makes the typical sort of old economy companies more efficient and more valuable, even though a lot of the dot-com companies fall by the wayside.
LAMB: There's a quote in your book--and I thought I had it here; I'll have to find it again--page 43, you say, `The total income of America's 12 million black households is approximately $430 billion a year. The net worth of the 30 richest Americans, according to Forbes'--now this is six-month-old numbers, but--`The net worth of 30 of the richest Americans--it equals approximately $440 billion. That's $10 billion more than all blacks in America. So 30 people in this country have a net worth that exceeds the collective annual earnings of black America.' What does that mean?
Mr. D'SOUZA: Well, the figures haven't--haven't changed much, and while some guys are in--go up and down on the Forbes list, the richest get richer every year without--almost without fail. I think what it means is that the rising tide of prosperity is inevitably accompanied by large and sometimes grotesque inequality. I mean, we have Americans who are living on--Americans think nothing of buying a bottle of designer water for $3 when the average guy in many countries in the Third World is living on less than $2 a day. We have Internet tycoons who have a--a--a net worth that exceeds the GDP of Sri Lanka. We--we live in a society where a nurse works very hard to make a modest income and in which a--a star basketball player or singer makes $36 million a year.

It brings--in some senses, I think, what this teaches us is that capitalism has won the economic debate, but it hasn't won the moral debate. It's defeated socialism and other schemes as a means of creating wealth, but whether or not capitalism assigns wealth in proportion with one's sort of moral desserts--is it rewarding you, in a sense, for a life well-lived? I mean, that remains open to question, and, in fact, the irony of capitalism is that it supplies rewards purely based on what the consumer wants. I mean, if I can do something strange like throwing a knife in the air and catching it in my teeth or walking on hot coals, to take sort of a home-grown example, whether that skill makes me rich depends on only one thing: Do people want to pay to watch me do this? If they're willing to pay, it makes me successful. If they're not, it won't.
LAMB: How did you sell this idea to Free Press?
Mr. D'SOUZA: Well, I said to the Free Press that--my--my earlier book was on Reagan. It was explaining the paradox of this ordinary guy--Eureka College, C-grade student, turns out to leave very big footprints. Important things happened in the '80s, including the technological revolution--ve--very few Americans had a computer in 1980--the beginning of the end of the Cold War, and so that book looks at how did this ordinary guy achieve these extraordinary results. I went to the Free Press, and I said, `Look, the Reaganite idea, which is to have the market and not the government run the economy, is here. We're living in it.' You know, 15 years ago, we were having big debates in this country over whether blue ribbon commissions of bureaucrats, intellectuals, corporate leaders, would sit down and decide things like how many computers should be made next year. This--this was a serious debate, called industrial policy, modeled on the Japanese.

And today, if you proposed that, you would be--you would be laughed out of the room, so that what's happened is we are living in an entrepreneurial era. I kept hearing in--intriguing things, like, `These new economy guys are all Libertarians--they hate the government.' Then I realized, `Wait a second, they all love Clinton.' Many of them, you know, voted for Al Gore.

And I realized that many of these sort of generalizations about this new class were wrong. And so I wanted to go out and do what I do, which is I like to meet these guys, look at their homes, talk to them, pose questions to them, say, you know `You say, Michael Dell, that you're not in this for the money. You say that you're motivated by something else. But would you do what you do for free?' So this is sort of my strategy, is to go out and find an interesting group of people and--and--and ask them questions, so the book is built around that.
LAMB: Where did you do the most interesting interview?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I think the most interesting interviews were both with the champions of the new economy, trying to capture their incredible zeal. In other words, you have guys who say, `Look, I'm--I'm not just doing this to get rich. I want to empower people. I want to realize Mother Teresa's idea of--of feeding the sick. I want to extend the life span. I'm going to use biotechnology to--to make people live to 150 years old. I look forward to the day when I can put computer chips in my brain, so, you know, homo sapiens evolves into some higher form.'

In fact, I showed one of these guys Huxley's "Brave New World," a sort of a--a--dystopia in which sex is separated from reproduction, ch--babies are cultivated in laboratories, and he--he thought it was great. He thought--he could see nothing wrong with it. So there's a sort of techno-utopianism under way here. I fact, I quote James Watson, the co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA, saying that we really want to use biotechnology to eradicate the ultimate human sin, which is stupidity. So the--the--the breathtaking vision of the techno-utopians is something I--I f--I think is--it's important to capture.
LAMB: But name some of the places you went.
Mr. D'SOUZA: Well, I spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley, in Seattle. See, tech used to be just Silicon Valley, but now it's everywhere.
LAMB: But who? Who?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I spoke to Eric Schmidt, the head of Novell, the software company. I've spoken to Dell, Michael Dell, of Dell Computers. I also spoke to people on the other side. I wanted to talk to Studs Terkel, for example, the guy who--the working-class champion, who is a--who is a skeptic; Gertrude Himmelfarb, the historian, who feels that our--our portfolios are up but our values are down; that we may be worth more, but our--our cherished values of privacy and integrity and decency have been eroded. So I wanted the book to be an attempt to adjudicate between the champions and the critics of the new economy.
LAMB: But you also pointed out that the NASDAQ had gone from 500 in 1991 all the way up to 5,000. Now it's back--at least when we're talking today--to 2,500. So what about this incredible swing? Do--do you find these--do you think these fellows would talk differently today, if they're--like in--in Michael Saylor's case, it went from $333 down to $12?
Mr. D'SOUZA: Well, I think--I--I think one can still--you know, while one can still live well with $30 million or $40 million, I--I notice in some of the tech leaders a slight glint of fear that wasn't there six months ago, and it is the fear of tremendous wealth evaporating. But on the other hand, the peop...
LAMB: But do they want wealth?
Mr. D'SOUZA: They do. They want wealth, but not necessarily to make their standard of living better. It could hardly get any better. But the reason they want wealth is as a--as a register of their social achievement. I mean, I grew up in a country where there are many measures of success. You know, in India, if you're a rich guy, that's good. But if you're a Brahman, that's another scale of value, or if you...
LAMB: What's that mean?
Mr. D'SOUZA: A Brahman is the--is the highest man on the totem pole of the caste system. The Brahman is the priest--the priestly class. Or if you are a teacher or a priest or if you're an educator, you speak English--in other words, my point is, there are many ways to achieve social status in India. In America, there's really just one, and it's wealth. It's money. So--so in a sense, I've--I've gone to conferences where I hear these rich guys going, you know, `I moved up five slots on the Forbes 400 list. Whom did you bump off this year?' So wealth is seen almost as a scorecard of personal achievement, rather than a--a way to improve one's standard of living.
LAMB: Who else did you meet?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I was very intrigued to talk to T.J. Rodgers, the head of Cypress Semiconductor, who is a bold, two-fisted champion of capitalism and technology. One of his favorite sayings is, `Money is the root of all good,' you know, playing off against the biblical saying. And what this guy says is, `Look,' you know, he says, `the entrepreneur has done more to--to help humanity than all of the church programs and philanthropic programs and government programs combined.' In a sense, what he is saying is, is that--is that the computer tycoon, the--the Bill Gates of the world, or the Larry Ellison, has done more to put power in the hands of ordinary people than Mother Teresa. Now he's not saying that Mother Teresa doesn't--may--may not have nobler motivations, but he's saying when you measure the practical amount of good done by the technologists and the entrepreneur, it's greater.

So in a sense, what--what we're getting at here is the argument that capitalism should be measured not by its intentions--which may be self-interested, as Adam Smith saw--but by its results, by the actual amount of good it does.
LAMB: In your own life, in your own family, what caste did you come from in India?
Mr. D'SOUZA: My family is--is u--is unusual in the sense that we are a community of Christians who were converted by Portuguese missionaries in a small part of India called Goa, so that my family is outside the caste system, which really applies to Hinduism. The caste system is within Hinduism. And so we would--we would fall outside that group, and I would belong to no caste.
LAMB: What are your par--are your parents alive?
Mr. D'SOUZA: My father died last year, but my mom's alive.
LAMB: You dedicated the book to Alan D'Souza, didn't you?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I did.
LAMB: He was only--if I calculate it, he was only 67 years old.
Mr. D'SOUZA: Yes, and I think, what was--you know, in a certain sense, those sorts of events--the birth of a child, the death of a parent--makes you rethink a lot of things. I went to my dad's funeral last year, and there were a thousand people there. There were people who knew my grandfather, there were people who knew my dad when he was a little boy. And what I realized was that I'd grown up in a very settled community, where you have close relationships and enduring relationships. And America's a society that gives you exhilarating freedom, intoxicating opportunity, tremendous chances for prosperity, but at some level, I ask myself whether or not the `gale of creative destruction'--this is economist Schumpeter's term--the mobility of American life--I mean, people don't live where they grew up; you go off to college and you sort of never come home--whether or not the incredible economic boom of the past half-century has also come at the expense of a moral cost, the cost of our relationships with land and with family and with community. And so this book, in a way, is a personal book for me in the sense that it--it tries to look at the clash between values, on the one hand, and success on the other.
LAMB: Well, let me just ask you that. I mean, this is maybe not fair, but if you died today, how many people would come to your funeral?
Mr. D'SOUZA: Well, I don't know. I--I would think--I would probably get--I would probably get a--a fair amount of people, but they would be people who admire my work or they would be people who know of me, not necessarily people I know well. And that's a big difference.
LAMB: But would--would--would it be anything close to a thousand people?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I doubt it. I frankly doubt it.
LAMB: What was it your father had that got a thousand people to his funeral?
Mr. D'SOUZA: What it was, was that my grandfather moved to Bombay in the '40s, so we lived in the same place for half a century, in the same home. My father was active in the parent-teacher group, he would as--was an amateur actor in plays, he was involved in a religious group. And so in a sense, the tentacles of our family stretch pretty wide in the small world that we were part of.

I have a five-year-old daughter. One of my questions is--you know, in some ways, I feel it's more difficult to raise children well in America than in India. And so in some ways, I am balancing off the incredible success of American life and its possibilities and the idea that I've been able to--to form a kind of career and a kind of life that, quite frankly, I never could have in India. And I also think that there is an expansive notion of freedom, by which I mean this notion of being able to be true to oneself, to find--to--to dig deep in oneself and--and discover the voice of nature in you. This is a sort of idea, very powerful in the think--in the thought of Rousseau, and it's a very appealing American idea, and yet it's one that my grandfather would have found completely incomprehensible.

In fact, at one time, I was trying to explain to him why I wanted to be a writer and not follow the traditional sort of Asian-American path. And I was saying, you know, `I'm trying to be true to myself. I'm trying to discover who I a really am,' and he sat back and he said, `Well, Dinesh, you seem to be saying to me that there's a little Dinesh who lives inside of you, a--and you seem to converse with this guy, and you're telling me that you've lost contact with him and you're trying to recover'--in other words, it wasn't that he disagreed with me, he didn't know what the heck I was talking about.

So in a sense, America is a new way of being human, a new idea of what freedom means. I find it a very powerful idea. And so for all the qualms that I have, I am in some senses very strongly pro-American, and this book is an optimistic book about the new economy and a--and a moral defense of it.
LAMB: Did you become a citizen?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I became a citizen in 1991, although interestingly enough, I was a young policy analyst in the Reagan White House, and I wasn't--I wasn't a citizen. Now that could only happen in America.
LAMB: One of the things you do at the beginning of every chapter is you have a quote from somebody, a lot of people who we've talked about on this program. I just want to list them: Aristotle--now each--each one heads up a little quoted chapter--Aristotle, Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson, John Adams, Montesquieu, Frederick Hayek, "The Federalist Papers," Tocqueville, Thomas Paine, Milton and Yogi Berra. And your Yogi Berra quote--you lead off your first introduction there--"You can observe a lot by watching." Where did you get the Yogi Berra quote?
Mr. D'SOUZA: The Yogi Berra quote, I--I--you know, I picked up from the repertoire of Yogi Berra sort of classic one-liners. And it--it appeals to me very much because I--my opening chapter is subtitled Anthropologist in a Strange Land. There are lots of guys who want to be insiders in the new economy and identify, you know, what they call the next big thing. My approach here has been, here is a--an academic guy, a--a public policy guy, going into the new economy as an outsider and saying, `Let me watch. Let me approach the new economy in the same way that an anthropologist might approach the--the natives in New Guinea, and let me notice things that are strange about these people that they think are--are perfectly normal.' Having grown up in a different culture, I think this is, in a sense, one of the things I bring to my writing. I have--am able to apply a window from a different culture onto America.
LAMB: Now you have a chart in the book, and I want to show it. We'll get it on the screen here. The new class structure. And you say here--you've got the two columns, income and wealth. Superrich, income a year, $10 million. Their total wealth should be over $100 million. A rich person makes between $1 million and $10 million and has a wealth of about $10 million. Upper middle class, between $75,000 and $1 million, has a wealth between $500,000 and $10 million. A middle-class person, between $35,000 and $75,000, and they hold something between $50,000 and $500,000. Lower middle class, $15,000 to $35,000, and they hold $10,000 to $50,000. And then finally, the poor is somewhere--someone who makes between $0 and $15,000, and they hold less than $10,000. Where did you get this, and what was the point of this?
Mr. D'SOUZA: The point of this is that the old definitions of wealth no longer apply. You know, the show, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?", the--the book "The Millionaire Next Door," the presumption of all this is that a million bucks makes you rich. Not anymore. That mystique surrounding the word `millionaire' developed at a time when the average American was making $10,000 a year. So in a sense, I said to myself, `We have a new class structure, and I've got to draw it. I've got to say what it is.' So today, I say to be rich, you don't need $1 million, you need $1 million in annual income. And I'm using a very traditional notion of rich. Rich means--rich has always meant traditionally that you don't have to work. You can live well on, in the old days, on your land and estates. And I figure that today, if you want to live well, you need a net worth of $10 million, at least, and an annual income--and/or an annual income of $1 million.
LAMB: Now living well includes some of the mentions you have in the book of Bill Gates owning a 40,000-square-foot home and somebody else had a 50,000-square-foot home.
Mr. D'SOUZA: I certainly don't--that's not--that--that is--that is a new category here, and that is the superrich. Now the striking thing about the superrich is not just that the extravagance is stunning, but it is that these guys became so rich, so fast. I mean, it took Rockefeller and Carnegie a lifetime to become centimillionaries. Meg Whitman of eBay and Steve Case of America Online and Peter--Joe Ricketts of Ameritrade became billionaires in less than five years. That is something that's never happened before.
LAMB: Why did Ted Turner get up and walk off a set at a John Stossel ABC interview? What was that--what was the point of that story?
Mr. D'SOUZA: The point of that story is that John Stossel of ABC News had said to Ted Turner a very interesting question. He said, `Look, Ted, you're giving $1 billion to the United Nations. Why throw your money down a black hole? You have no idea how that money will be spent. Why don't you invest the money in your own business, create more jobs, pay for more college educations, make people better off?' And Turner became very angry, and he got up and stormed off the set. The point being that Turner draws a moral division between commercial success and doing good. He finds it hard to believe that his own entrepreneurial activities, which he sees as fundamentally self-interested and selfish, are possibly doing more good than any philanthropy he can do. And so we're getting here to one of the paradoxes of capitalism that Adam Smith noted. Adam Smith said that the entrepreneur, even though he intends to do no good, he wants to help himself, he is a self-interested, and Adam Smith says, greedy guy, but against his will, against his intention, through the invisible hand of competition, the entrepreneur ends up doing more to increase the material welfare of society than if he had tried to do good in the first place.
LAMB: Did you find anybody that you talked to get mad at you for asking some of these questions?
Mr. D'SOUZA: No. In fact, I found that a lot of people, particularly people in academia, people in the clergy, the intellectual class, they have felt left behind. They have sort of seen this wealth revolution overtake them, and they have felt that the issues that they care about--on the left, inequality; on the right, community and morality--have been--have been ignored. And the technologists' mantra appears to be, `If I can do it, do it.' And for all I know, the high-tech tycoons pay no attention to what the culture critics have to say. So in a sense, I am opening up the debate and bringing in a lot of people who have been left out.
LAMB: But did you get any sense that the people who are making all this money, living in these big homes, are happier than the person who is in the clergy or--I mean, are they--any way to compare the--the two lives?
Mr. D'SOUZA: It's very hard to do. I would compare it this way: That I think most people, for most of history, have gotten a tremendous sense of fulfillment and meaning in--in prevailing in the struggle over necessity. I think of my parents, for example, who got a lot of satisfaction out of feeding us and clothing us and putting braces on our teeth when we needed them, and at the end of the day, they felt their lives we--were valuable because they had done this. I think what is ironic and a little sad is that for many people today, the struggle for existence is over. And they cannot get a sense of deeper fulfillment and meaning from the same venue that my parents did. And so what you have in the high-tech world is this new search for meaning. Some of it takes a religious dimension. People that--go to hear the Dalai Lama or they go to hear the latest guru from Tibet or from India. There's a whole movement in corporate America called the meaning of work. And you'll hear lots of guys say, `I don't want my work to just be a paycheck. I don't just want to make money. I want to get a sense of deeper satisfaction in what I do.'

Now historically, the priests and the soldier and the philosopher have, in fact, found a sense of higher calling in what they do. I--I think of the Spartan soldier bleeding on the battlefield who felt, `Look, I'm not just dying for nothing. I'm giving my life for the greater glory of Sparta.' And I--I mentioned this at a high-tech conference, and one guy goes--he says, `Well, that's the way I want to feel about e-commerce solutions.' So there is this yearning, which--which some people ridicule, but actually, ultimately, I don't. I feel it's a healthy search for something higher that will--will bring a lot of fruit down the road.
LAMB: Now you created--I don't know whether you'd call it a gimmick or what it is, the--the Party of Yeah and the Party of Nah. Is that--am I pronouncing it right?
Mr. D'SOUZA: Right. I--I--I would talk to these high-tech guys, and I noticed one of the big phrases which they usually use with a thrust of the arm is `Yeah.' You know, the market goes up. `Yeah, I'm a millionaire.' And so I called it the Party of Yeah. And on the other side, it's the skeptics, and I call them the Party of Nah, meaning, you know, `It's a bubble, it's a hoax. All this will come crashing down. And even if it's real, it's bad for us.'

I was talking to--the other day, to a cultural conservative. And conservatives, as you know, have been defenders of markets. But this woman, an historian, was saying to me--she said, `Look, you know, we hear about Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation."' And she says, `What made the greatest generation so great was the Depression and World War II.' The virtues of the greatest generation came out of scarcity and war. And the reason the greatest generation failed, in one respect, namely it failed to replicate itself, it could not create another great generation, is due to affluence. That the parents of the '30s and '40s wanted their children to have what they never did. And by giving their children everything they wanted, in a sense, the frugal and self-disciplined and sacrificial generation of World War II produced the spoiled children of the 1960s, the--the Clinton generation. So there is a certain sort of moral re-evaluation going on here, and the book takes that moral criticism seriously, although ultimately, tries to answer it and disagree with it.
LAMB: You also tell us that you teach your 5-year-old daughter how to play chess.
Mr. D'SOUZA: Yes. The--I--I--I love to play chess. And I feel it's a game of strategy, it's a game that is about human nature. And it is a game that develops mathematical skills, spatial reasoning, logic. And my 5-year-old knows how to make the moves and I think doesn't yet have any sense of what the game means in the sense of strategy. How do you go about killing the other side's king? But I enjoy it.
LAMB: What's her name?
Mr. D'SOUZA: Her name is Danielle. She is--she is a--about to turn six.
LAMB: And what does she think of learning to play chess?
Mr. D'SOUZA: She treats me as a large, overgrown guy who needs to be educated by her, and so one of her phrases, whenever I teach her strategy and so on, is, `Daddy,' as if to say that it's something--it's a point that I haven't gotten that she wants to communicate to me. No, it's--no, it's one of the ways in which I--I relate to her and have fun with her, and it--it--I feel that that sense of--of spending time, as a parent, is a very important way that one can resist some of the destabilizing pressures of American life. I mean, I travel a lot, for example, giving lectures and so on, and so I try--I cherish the time that I--I do have to spend at home.
LAMB: Where'd you meet your wife?
Mr. D'SOUZA: We met, interestingly enough, at the Reagan White House, where she might be reluctant to say this now, but she was a White House intern. And I--I remind you that this was in the days of the Reagan administration. And--and the perks of the job were not the same as they were later. But, no, we met--we met in the Reagan White House, and this was in '87-'88. We were married in '92.
LAMB: And you also indicate that she doesn't work, that she takes care of your daughter, that--and I'm getting back to the whole lifestyle thing where, back in the community, in Rancho Santa Fe, where you live, it's not a two-income family-type situation.
Mr. D'SOUZA: It is true that in--it is true that in more affluent communities, in a sense, one could say that affluence and technology are making the traditional family viable again. They're allowing a lot of wives to work and--or--I'm sorry. They're allowing a lot of wives to stay home. But it's also important to realize that many wives are working out of the home, thanks to technology, and many husbands are working increasingly at home, so that in our--in our neighborhood, for example, you'll find a lot of dads who drive their daughters to school. I do. My wife, yes, she actually has been at home raising our daughter, but she also is interested in politics and she gets involved in causes, and we--we actually wrote--we have been doing some articles together, so she is now--with our daughter going into school, she has more time to actually get involved.
LAMB: What's her name, by the way?
Mr. D'SOUZA: Her name is Dixie. She was actually born in Louisiana, but she is a California girl.
LAMB: Now back to the little quotes you have in fr--you talk in here a lot about reading. And now--it's what I really want to get to is, you know, some of these names, the Tocquevilles and the Thomas Paines and all that. I want to find out from your perspective who--who are the most important people that you have read since you have been in this country and thinking and going to school and writing?
Mr. D'SOUZA: To me, the great appeal of America is that it is a nation based on thought. I mean, it's the only nation where a bunch of people sat around a table and said, `What kind of country do we want to be?' Most countries are based on history and accident or force. America is a nation built on ideas. The other thing is I found the great books to be an enormously liberating source of ideas in my own life. When I went to Dartmouth, I was very much the typical Asian-American student. I wanted to major in economics, go to business school. And then I suddenly heard a bunch of guys talking about things like what books should you read to be an educated person. What are the rules that govern a liberal arts community? Should corporations do charity, or are they actually stealing the money of their shareholders who have entrusted it to them to make money? I heard people discussing the merits of direct democracy, which the Athenians had, vs. representative democracy, which we have.

And I suddenly realized here is a whole world that I don't know anything about. And so one of the great joys of what I do is that I am able to spend a lot of time immersing myself in this world. Now I don't write philosophical cogitations, and so while I'm very interested in these ideas, I try to find real-world conflicts, like the race debate and the debate over the new economy and, in a sense, use those as a means to raise philosophical issues. And so my book is trying to bridge the divide always between ideas and current issues.
LAMB: But name me some folks that you like a lot.
Mr. D'SOUZA: I am--I greatly admire the--Milton's "Paradise Lost." I love "The Federalist Papers." There is a book by Harry Jaffe called "Crisis of the House Divided: A Study of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates," which I think is a very profound reflection on America. I love the philosopher Charles Taylor, his book, "Sources of the Self," is an exploration of how we went from the idea of the soul to the idea of the self. People used to believe that in a sort of moral order that was external to us, which made demands on us. The Ten Commandments came out of that sort of idea. Now people tend to believe that, `If I want to know what's right, I don't consult some external code, I look within myself. I find, what is the right thing for me.' Where does that notion come from, that one digs into one's self? I am very interested in--in--in these current attitudes, but also in their philosophical underpinnings.
LAMB: Are you a member of the Party of Yeah or the Party of Nah?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I am a member of the Party of Yeah that takes the concerns of the cultural skeptics seriously. So in other words--a lot of the Party of Yeah guys believe in freedom. And if you told them, `250 American--250 million Americans are going to use their freedom and prosperity to be like Larry Flynt or Hugh Hefner. What do you think about that?' They would say, `That's great. More power to them.' So they don't feel that freedom, in a sense, depends upon any kind of content. It doesn't matter how you use your freedom. I don't agree with that. I think you defend freedom and you defend a free society based upon the kind of person it produces. And in that sense--in that--that sense, ultimately, I am making a moral defense of the free society.
LAMB: Your chapter, The Conquest of Human Nature--i--i--if--first of all, what is it, and then where do the different party people end up on this subject?
Mr. D'SOUZA: The concept of the conquest of human nature arises out of a phrase in Francis Bacon, the philosopher of science, who spoke of science as trying to achieve the conquest of nature. Before this, the--the old world view was that we are part of nature and we live in harmony with nature. And scholars talk about the enchanted view of nature. Think of the American Indians who believed that nature embodied spirits. And the modern view is, no, nature, in a sense, is separate from us, and we can conquer it. We can look at the amoeba at the micro--in--under the microscope. We can traverse the heavens. We can, in a sense, seize control over our surroundings, and--and we have done it. We have conquered nature to a large degree.

And now the technoutopians step back and say, `But we have one more battle to win. We have conquered nature. Now we have to conquer human nature. Wouldn't it be great, if, on a computer screen, we could choose the characteristics in our children? Couldn't--wouldn't it be great if we could design our own offspring?' That extends freedom and choice to the ultimate. We are able to prevail over our own genes. We can redesign humanity. Of course, the Party of Yeah, there are many of its smartest minds who are--who are excited by this. And on the other side, the Party of Nah is horrified by it. And their view is--I mean, these are the people who are upset about genetic corn. Can you imagine when you talk about manipulating human genes? So there is a huge resistance mounting to all this. And--and--and this is one issue where I think the Party of--of Nah has a point because what they're really saying is that--is that we need to use freedom and prosperity to affirm our humanity, not to transcend or repudiate it.
LAMB: You say you don't have any problem with anti-aging drugs?
Mr. D'SOUZA: No. I think that--look, the life expectancy in this country in 1900 was 47. It has increased 30 years in a single century. If we can increase it another 15 years in the next century, I think that would be a great achievement. That's consistent with what science is for. The people who make me nervous are not the people who say, `Let's try to use biotechnology to heal disease and extend the life span.' I think all of that is--those are moral gains. That's why science is good. The danger is hubris. It's the old temptation in the garden; it's the notion that we can become as gods. And I quote one of the technoutopians saying, "Of course, we are like gods. Now we just have to get good at it."
LAMB: What do you know about this Kevin Warick and implanting of silicon chips in his body?
Mr. D'SOUZA: Well, in--in a recent book about--called "The Age of Spiritual Machines," a guy, Raymond Kurzweil, the inventor, talks about--he says, `Look, pretty soon, computers, which are getting smarter by the day--they have beaten the best chess player in the world. Pretty soon, the computer will be so sophisticated, it will have the processing power of thousands of human brains.' And the point here is that man's creation, technology, might, in fact, overtake man, unless--unless man merges with the machines; unless we take this technology, and in a sense, become one with it. And so we hear a lot of talk about Robo Sapiens and the--the sort of notion of implanting chips in our body.

So one guy is actually doing it. This is a professor of computer science in--in England. And what he does now is he has chips in his arms. He uses them to open doors. His secretary can page him. He now wants to put chips in his wife's body and he wants them to feel the same emotions. If he feels pain, he wants her to feel pain. He wants to speak to her via the Internet. So...
LAMB: But how does it work if you put a silicon chip in your body? What happens?
Mr. D'SOUZA: The--the silicon chip in your body communicates, in a sense, via wireless with the Internet, so it becomes a sort of wireless device.
LAMB: What does it do? I mean...
Mr. D'SOUZA: He--the idea here--and it's at a very primitive stage--is to try to--ultimately, to do something very hard and that is to integrate the chip with the processing power of the body. See, the basic assumption here, which I think is a questionable assumption, is that we are machines and that our genes are software and that our brains are e--essentially a form of information processing. And all that being the case, the idea is that there is no reason in principle that software that is within us cannot be updated through software that we are making. It--it's a radical notion, and I think slightly crazy, but many of the best minds in the scientific world are pretty serious about it.
LAMB: How would you find your political views today?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I think I would describe myself as--as an independent conservative. And by conservative, what I mean really is that--is that I am a guy who believes in the crooked timber of human nature. I believe human nature is defective, it's warped, and we need institutions and ideas to constantly shape it and rein it in and check, in a sense, our wayward impulses. The liberal impulse is a utopian impulse. It tends to locate defects not in us but in society. It blames society for what--in a sense, what we do wrong.

So, I mean, mine is a belief in freedom, in personal responsibility, in moral decency. Those are my--my core beliefs. Now the way that they are expressed can shift. In other words, for example, I am--I take the issue of inequality much more seriously than I did before. Why? Because the old idea was merit. You went to work for a company, you worked for General Electric for 30 years. And--and when you retired, you hoped to be well off. Wealth was the reward for a meritorious life. Today, it's kind of hard to argue if a guy starts a new company, and four years later, he's worth $30 million, doesn't have to work another day in his life; it's a little hard to argue that same point. So in a way, I--I'm worried that many people believe that we live in a casino economy, and a--where, in a sense, it--the--the lottery of success is smiling on some and not on others. So this--this concern that the--the American dream, the idea that if you play by the rules, you'll get your rewards, is being jeopardized. I would take that issue more seriously than many fellow conservatives.
LAMB: Back to--we talked about very early in--in the discussion, you--you--you came over here in 1978 through the Rotarians. What--what kind of a person were you in India where you had even liked the idea of going--I mean, how did you find out about the Rotarians and how did you find out about being able to come here as an exchange student?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I was a relatively timid student who went to a high school that was run by Spanish missionaries; Jesuits, actually. And it never crossed my mind to come to America, but the Rotary Club came and made a presentation at our high school, and they said, `We feel it would be a broadening experience if we could send some of our young Indians abroad to learn about America and other countries, too. And in exchange, we'll have an American kid come and stay in your house.' My parents thought that was kind of a cool idea, and the idea was for me to come for a year, get a sampling of America and then go back and do what sort of aspiring Indian families want, which is get your--you know, get your advanced degrees from London is sort of the old colonial idea and then come back to India.

But my life took a different shape. I--I sort of came to America. I--I fell in with a group of people who were interested in very different things. I found my professional interests, my academic interests shifting toward American politics and toward philosophy and ideas. I was always interested in writing, but I thought, `That's a hobby. I--I can't make a living doing that stuff.'
LAMB: By the way, what happened to the kid that went to your parents' house?
Mr. D'SOUZA: That was a guy from Connecticut. He lived with us for three months and with other families for three months. He went back and is today working for a bank in Germany.
LAMB: Now when you--when you came here, you said you had four different families?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I did.
LAMB: Where were they?
Mr. D'SOUZA: They were all in a very small town called Patagonia, Arizona, which is 60 miles south of Tucson, almost on the Mexican border. I went to a high school with 30 kids. And the way I actually ended up in college is my high school counselor, who had sort of nothing to do, took me under his wing, and said, `Oh, you know, let me--you'll be my project for the year and so on.' And so in a strange way, I--I kind of ended up almost by a series of accidents as a student at Dartmouth, becoming interested in politics. I can quite easily see my life taking a very different path.
LAMB: So you went from Arizona to New Hampshire.
Mr. D'SOUZA: I--that's right.
LAMB: Now the four--how come four families?
Mr. D'SOUZA: That's the way the program works. The idea here is that if you spend three months in each family, you will get a sort of cross-section of American life, and I did. I--I--I stayed with a wealthy rancher. I stayed with the postmaster. I stayed with a clergyman, who every time "Charlie's Angels" would come on, would run into the room and turn the TV off, because he didn't want to corrupt this nice young boy from India. So I had a--I had a range of families, and to be honest, I think a lot of my sense of comfort with America came out of that year. Because I--I then went to Dartmouth as a freshman and I saw foreign students who came to college and felt alienated. Even though they were on a beautiful pristine campus, they sort of felt like--they felt like misfits. And I haven't felt that way, and I think my year as an exchange student was instrumental in giving me a sort of inside understanding of how American families live.
LAMB: Was there one person in that time period that had a real strong influence on you?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I would say that the person who has had a big influence on me would be sort of my mentor, which is Jeffrey Hart, an English professor at Dartmouth. Because here was a guy who was conservative but not in a boring way. Here's a guy who would--who was playful. In fact, he would sometimes walk around the campus in a large raccoon coat with a button that said, humorously, Soak the Poor. And his idea was to infuriate other professors and get them to argue with him and so on. But he was a very colorful character who was genuine--genuinely interested in ideas. And he opened up, for me, a world of literature and philosophy that has immeasurably enriched my life.
LAMB: Now he wrote a column for a lot of years. Is he still alive?
Mr. D'SOUZA: Yes. He is. He is not actually emeritus, so he's not teaching anymore, but he lives in retirement in--in a--in a community called Lyme, outside of Dartmouth. And he's--no, he's living a very full life, and--and as far as I can tell, still very productive.
LAMB: What book is this for you?
Mr. D'SOUZA: This is really my fourth book. I have written about political correctness, about racism, about Reagan, and this is my take on the new economy.
LAMB: What is--how old are you now?
Mr. D'SOUZA: I'm 39.
LAMB: And what is your life's goal now at this point?
Mr. D'SOUZA: Well, I realize that, in life, one can produce a--a corpus of maybe 14 or 15 books, good books. And so, in a sense, I am thinking what--you know, what is--what--what is the contribution I can make? I mean, I--I have worked in the government sector. I've worked in academia. I have worked as an author. In a sense, my life has a tremendous balance. I can become a hermit and think and read, and then I go out there and I spend a lot of time talking to students, talking to business groups and getting my ideas out there. So I feel like I'm doing what I--what I'm sort of gifted to do. And so I feel very grateful about that.
LAMB: Our guest has been Dinesh D'Souza. This is what his latest book looks like. It's called "The Virtue of Prosperity: Finding Values in an Age of Techno-affluence." Thank you very much.
Mr. D'SOUZA: My pleasure.
End

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