05/06/2023 - Debts Coming Due

Mark Blyth, political economist at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, and Carrie Nordlund, political scientist and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs at Brown University, share their take on the news.

On this episode:

  • Biden, Trump, and the upcoming “remaquel” to the 2020 election
  • Fox settles with Dominion, fires Tucker Carlson, and will be just fine
  • The debt ceiling crisis: America’s ‘Brexit’?
  • Clarence Thomas is very corrupt, but will face no consequences
  • Diane Feinst—wait, have we talked about anyone under 80-years-old on this episode?!
  • King Charles III is crowned, and no one seems to care
  • Mark and Carrie try to end on a positive note. They fail.

Learn more about the Watson Institute's other podcasts




CARRIE NORDLUND: Hello, and welcome to Mark & Carrie from the Watson Institute for International Public Affairs at Brown University. Hello, Blyth. Welcome to May.



MARK BLYTH: It is finally May and it's wet, which is kind of interesting because all of Europe's already in a drought.


MARK BLYTH: So once again, nobody knows what's going on with the weather, and it is what it is. What have you been doing?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I just wanted to add something to that. I saw there was going to be a heat wave in the UK in London for the coronation. And people were excited because of Double Bank holiday, I guess, as well. And I just was curious what the temperature was going to be, and it's like a high of 63, so I thought that was like a funny heat wave.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, that's more like it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Not a lot going on, just end of the semester sort of stuff. What's going on with you?

MARK BLYTH: Well, there's plenty going on in the news?


MARK BLYTH: Shall we turn to that? After all, that's what we usually do.

CARRIE NORDLUND: That is true. I don't know if you watched, because I'm sure you did first thing in the morning, when President Biden announced via three-minute video that he was running for reelection. Shock.


CARRIE NORDLUND: And the campaign slogan, or at least the video, for the moment, the campaign slogan was "let's finish the job," which I'm sure inspires you to just want to go out there and knock on doors and vote for Joe Biden.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, it is that sort of gerontocracy problem that we do have very old people running everything and they don't want to stop running things. I mean, look, I get Biden's sort of thing here. He's cleared the field of other possible candidates in the Democratic party because there aren't any. And then essentially, because he beat Trump once, he thinks he's the only guy that can beat Trump again, which is assuming that Trump is going to get the thing, which he probably is. So we're stuck with this kind of, what do you call it again, a remake, a remaquel or whatever it is, a sequel that's a remake or something like this. I don't know.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, we will, but it just feels like another year and a half if those are the-- if Trump gets the nomination-- I agree with you, it looks like he will-- and just to redo Twenty Twenty or whatever year that was that we had to redo it. The other thing that I thought was interesting about the video, because I did watch it and I then fell asleep like halfway through because it was just not as exciting as I would have hoped, is that the Vice President was all over it. So clearly, they're going-- I mean, she's the Vice President, and they're not going to try to move her to the side.

MARK BLYTH: Although that's what they do when he's actually in power.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, that's right. [LAUGHS]

MARK BLYTH: They move her to the Southern border and say, can you deal with this total nightmare that we can't talk about? That would be awesome. Thanks very much.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, you're so right. She gets put prime time for the election and then pushed to the side. What are your thoughts over the last few weeks since we last talked about Little D Meatball Pudding Fingers DeSantis?

MARK BLYTH: [LAUGHS] It seems that the Republican money's running away from him because they've begun to realize that he actually deeply cares about trying to imprison trans people, but most people in America don't. And this may not be a winning combination. This sort of endless culture war and moral panic might work for like keeping you in power in Florida but might not translate to the rest of the country so well. So I don't know, he doesn't seem to have anything else going on.

When he sort of did the-- he did the Republican Party line on Ukraine, which is essentially, we don't give a crap, and if I get into power, I'll probably try and stop this as fast as possible, and then he had to backtrack on this one. So I don't know. I mean, the thing about American politics, like when it comes to the presidential stuff, I mean, you go back and think in the mid-Nineteen Seventy-Five, did anybody really think Jimmy Carter was going to be the winner?


MARK BLYTH: Right? Ronald Reagan was laughter, right? He got two terms out of it. So I think this stuff is always inherently unpredictable, except that in this case, it's just probably going to be Trump and Biden again.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I mean, I think you're so right. We had a President Rick Perry at some point and a President Michael Bloomberg at one point and, I mean, we're still-- even though it feels like we're there, still a year and a half away from something. I mean, the Disney fight, I'm curious here why he would ever pick a fight with the main generator of everything in Florida.

But also, I just-- I'm not, but I am surprised that Republicans just won't-- they've just given up. They're like, OK, I guess it will be Trump. I mean, you have all these establishment Republicans who no one really cares about endorsing Trump already, senators. You have like DeSantis kind of takes them on, but then doesn't really-- Nikki Haley doesn't really-- I mean, so you feel like they're just now kind of running for like Secretary of Commerce, maybe, but everyone's kind of thrown in the towel.

MARK BLYTH: But that's really interesting in the following way, right? What it shows is that they've completely lost control of the party.


MARK BLYTH: Right? The Republican primaries are not sort of like this stage-managed thing where you bring in the activists and throw them some red meat in the culture wars and then they all get in line and vote for Mitt Romney.


MARK BLYTH: Right? That's over. And they are Trump's people.


MARK BLYTH: And they have just adopted themselves to the fact that they have no control over this process and they'd better get in line with Trump because it says party.


MARK BLYTH: That's basically what this is.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And, I mean, it's a continued thing that we have talked about again and again about why is everyone so afraid of him, like getting a nickname or what have you? But I was thinking more about this, and it's like, yeah, I would be scared of like a nickname like Pudding fingers, but also that his voters show up. I mean, this is all about just, like, basic political science mobilization theory. His voters show up time after time and they vote people out of a primary and they put up some Looney Tunes candidate and they lose, but the person who you would think maybe might have more mainstream appeal loses. So, I mean, the fear is really based just in turnout and that I'll lose that primary election or what have you.

MARK BLYTH: No, absolutely. Other things that have been going on-- there's so much to discuss in this particular episode-- I want to get your take on the sudden settlement. Like, everybody really wanted Dominion to take it to the wire, so we got even more juicy details about Fox. So we've got the settlement, which was sort of like disappointing from a kind of entertainment point of view. But then a really interesting thing happened, of course, is that Tucker's fired as a consequence of this. Apparently saying that that's not how white men fight is the thing that threw them over the bus. I find that hard to believe that amongst all of the stuff that he's said, that's the thing that disturbed the internal lawyers. But what's your take on the whole thing?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I want to say something, because I'm with you about the Fox-Dominion suit. I mean, you kind of were-- back to the nonagenarian-- what was the word? Gerontology--

MARK BLYTH: Yes, yes.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Geritol commercials is that I was kind of wanting to see Rupert up there on the stand. But I think the thing that made me laugh the hardest is people were saying, commentators, $700 million, or whatever the settlement was, is a lot of money. It's not a lot of money for Fox and it's not coming from Rupert's checking account or something either.


CARRIE NORDLUND: I saw this a little bit on Twitter was that Fox gets like almost $2 billion from cable user fees, so people still have cable. There are these fees that you pay, and Fox charges more than the Oprah Winfrey Network, right? Exactly.

MARK BLYTH: Everybody else, right. Yeah, yeah, right.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So, in fact, this money isn't even really going to be a rounding error for Fox because they'll increase the user fee by just a tiny little bit. And so the people who have cable will actually pay for the settlement. So I just thought it was an interesting, like, the commentary around it about the settlement. I mean, the Tucker Carlson thing I thought was really interesting and all of the behind the scenes, and whisper, and gossip.

For me, it boiled down to you can't drag your boss on texts. Like, you can be racist, and sexist, and anti everything, and be just a real jerk on TV, but once your texts are publicly revealed about your boss and you call her nasty names and your boss's boss nasty names, I think that's when you're going to get fired. So that was my takeaway from it. What was your perspective?

MARK BLYTH: No, I mean, that's as plausible as anything else. To me, it's kind of interesting though that what you do is to minimize the rest of the channel, you settle.


MARK BLYTH: But then you fire your biggest star, which causes people to walk, which threatens the channel.


MARK BLYTH: Right? There's something about this that just doesn't add up and I don't know what it is. We'll see how it plays out. But does it lead to the long-term weakening of Fox? Well, if it does, then what it means is the strengthening of news marks, sort of like something that's even more partisan. So once again, I'm not sure that democracy wins. Where do you want to go after this? What else?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I just want to say one more thing about Tucker. I guess I just thought it was funny and interesting to see sort of the liberal media, the Atlantic, et cetera, New York Times, say, oh, well, does this mean that Rupert is dragging Fox back maybe towards the center-right? And I was like, no, this does not mean that at all.


CARRIE NORDLUND: They'll bring somebody else up. It'll be fine. I mean, it's a continuation of the themes that they've been saying for a long time. And I think the other thing in the combo of Tucker and Dominion was that Fox cares about one thing, and that's about profits. And they know that what they say, the more incendiary it is, the more people they get to watch.

And there's no-- that's their profit, so they're not going to suddenly pull back on that and lose viewers. So, I mean, I think it's just the basic economics of it as well that were revealed in all of those text messages, and filings, and everything like that. A four-letter word, Blyth, "debt." Where-- the debt ceiling, I mean, like--

MARK BLYTH: The debt.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I don't even know where we--

MARK BLYTH: The debt is due.

CARRIE NORDLUND: --where we are on this thing.

MARK BLYTH: You know that 70% of US debt is held by other Americans?


MARK BLYTH: So essentially, it's sort of like a contingent credit claim of one part of society onto another part of society in the same currency. It doesn't really make all much sense. Anyway, what do we do with us? So there's a friend of mine called Bill Blain who's a bond trader in London. And he has sort of a daily he writes called the Porridge because he's Scottish, so he would. And he has this thing called, the sort of the Virtuous Sovereign Trinity, which is you have a well-functioning deep and liquid bond market, you have a debt management office that knows how to run it and to make sure that you can place your stuff and the price is right and all the rest of it.

And then behind all that, the third leg of the stool is a competent and credible government. Now, key to being competent and credible on this sort of bond market stuff is not voluntarily defaulting on your stuff or doing otherwise mental things. And we already had a dress rehearsal for this. It was called the Liz Truss incident.


MARK BLYTH: But you will cast your mind back and remember that what she said was, we're coming out of the pandemic, the economy is really, really hurting, Brexit has definitely made things worse, we've had a devaluation and we haven't picked up anything in exports, in fact, we've actually lost trade. It's not looking good. Let's do a round of really accentuated to the top tax cuts and let's not fund them with cuts anywhere. We'll just blow a hole in the deficit.

So to a certain extent, what you're saying to the bond markets is, to hell with you, we're just going to do this and you're going to deal with it. And they said, no, you're not. And the bond market ground to a halt, and the Bank of England had to step in, and there was devaluation, the whole lot. We're about to do exactly the same thing, right? This one will go to the wire and we'll go over the wire. There will be a default.

Now, the thing is, a default usually means you can't pay. This is a default where you can pay, you just don't want to, and that's when you tell everyone that you're no longer credible and serious. Like, that one leg of the Virtuous Sovereign Trinity has just fallen off the stool, and that does damage. So there's been a lot of stuff about, is the dollar in decline and will it be replaced and all the rest of it?

And I did a podcast with a student here about this last week. And you go through all the reasons and it's like, no, no, no, no, no. But there's one thing that can really do the damage and it's this, it's just literally sort of doing a voluntarily harm. This is kind of like the sort of currency market and bond market equivalent of Brexit. It is just an act of self-harm.


MARK BLYTH: And they said that Brexit would never happen, and look what happened.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, god, this really takes the wind out of my sails in that, I mean, not that I had much in my sails, I guess, but I didn't think that it was going to-- I thought the politicians would become serious, like, the day before and do something. But I can see where-- I can see your point that it's going to go over the edge, and then everyone's hair will be on fire. And, oh, god, it's just--

MARK BLYTH: Mm-hmm, and then they'll be blaming, and then it'll be your fault, and it'll be, no, it's because you don't have a-- and if you look at the Republican thing, it's like most of the budget is fixed. There's entitlements and they want to cut it, but they can never admit it in public. And then the other side of it is defense and they want to spend more rather than less. So what you're left with is basically, all right, what's marginal and vulnerable? Food stamps, right? So we're going to get rid of food stamps. What exactly is the causal connection in your brain when basically taking away the sort of the dinner on the table from the kids of the poorest Americans somehow improves the economy?


MARK BLYTH: Right? Like, what exactly is, well, it's just wasteful expenditure. Yes, of course, because starvation motivates you.


MARK BLYTH: I mean, like, what's the causal logic here? It's really sad because it's just nonsense. It's literally just nonsense.

CARRIE NORDLUND: No, it's just politicians being dumb and just putting power in front of-- or whatever their political interests are, in front of this important issue. What does this do about a potential recession? Does it put us closer to being in a recession if, in fact, there is one, or are these two separate things?

MARK BLYTH: Well, we're still in the phase of, like, we have no idea how the economy works despite the fact that we keep pretending we do. So the latest jobs report just came out and it's like 100,000 stronger than people thought it would be, but there are other indicators, right? Pick your indicator, and this is down, or this is up. And there's the whole thing about, are these banking stresses, as money leaves the more vulnerable regional and smaller banks and goes to the big banks, is that going to have an effect on credit? Yes, it is. Does that mean the Fed doesn't have to tighten as much? Well, they only raised it by 0.25. Inflation's falling maybe as it depends on the indicator.

So basically, nobody knows really what's going on. So you chuck into the middle of that a bunch of ignorant yahoos who are about to say, full faith and credit? [BLOWS RASPBERRY] Whatever, right? And pull a Liz Truss, that could tip you into recession, it really could. It could really tip you into like a bad place.

Because the United States has this unique position of being the global reserve asset, right? The United States debt market is what everybody uses as a savings bond. And if you turn around and say, we don't care, we are not going to pay anything back, we're not going to pay you the interest on these savings bonds, it's like, what? This is big stuff. So we'll see where that one goes.

But in terms of the Fed, as far as I can figure out, they are just basically trying to figure out what's going on. They don't really know. Inflation's not as falling as fast as they'd like. They've hiked another quarter of a percent. They'll talk tough. It's just a continuation of what we've seen before.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Happy days. Wow.

MARK BLYTH: Happy days, exactly.


MARK BLYTH: Tell me about Clarence and Ginni and sort of secret tuition payments, secret consulting payments, unlimited foreign holidays of absurd luxury. I mean, is this a thing or is it just once again it'll be swept under the rug because the partisan advantage is too good?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I mean, we've talked about this before, but the Supreme Court was the last-- there are three branches of government. It was always the one that had really hot-- American people were like, yes, the Supreme Court, like, I approve, like 70% to 80%, and Congress was like 0%, and the President is slightly better than 0%. So I think this is an interesting moment from an academic point of view. The Chief Justice has refused to testify before the Senate on these ethics issues. I didn't realize-- I thought that when you became a Supreme Court, you had justice, you had to put everything in a blind trust. I think that's like everything, like some do, some do not.

I don't know. I mean, Clarence Thomas I think is so vilified by the left. But then with a little bit of like, oh, I don't know how far I can really vilify this person, so it's hard. I don't think it really goes anywhere. God, this really continues the theme of being kind of a buzzkill. Because he has his job for life and, like, he can take the slings and arrows. Does he really care? Probably not. I mean, he still got these payments and he's still going on. Yeah, he's probably going to do it this summer, and that's kind of it. What else are we going to do, impeach him?


CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, maybe.

MARK BLYTH: And that's not going to happen, right?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Probably not. Right.

MARK BLYTH: But again, it shows this thing whereby if you're a federal worker and you, like, take a free hamburger at lunchtime, you can lose your job.


MARK BLYTH: And you do this, and you have basically a kind of like lesser-known son who isn't your biological son, and then you get a billionaire to, like, pay for their expensive private education. And like, yeah, that's totally fine.


MARK BLYTH: It's like, what?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Our public officials-- there used to be like some-- I could be publicly shamed, but I just don't think that exists anymore publicly shame to actually do-- that actually would remove somebody from office. And I just don't think that-- there's too much at stake. If he steps down, I mean, there's just too much at stake.

MARK BLYTH: Let's stop for a minute and let's just think about everything that we've been talking about. So you've basically got Biden's running again, right? Now, I had a great quip the other day which is like, do you think Biden can win in Twenty Twenty-Four? And the answer was, I don't know, I'm not a cardiologist.


MARK BLYTH: So there's that one, right? Then, there's sort of like, Trump again. The first time around, it was like fun for the vulgarity and the mean tweets. This time around, it's just going to be bad.


MARK BLYTH: Your media is dominated by sort of like right-wing demagogue who will take a $700 million to maintain his ability to just feed nonsense into people's heads as much as he can. The Fed doesn't really know what it's doing and doesn't really understand the economy and things aren't working quite as we thought. There's a bunch of total yahoos who really don't understand how the economy works, or at least doesn't understand how bond markets work or how debt works for a country like the United States, and they're about to possibly throw it off a cliff and do more damage than a doubling of the actual amount of debt would ever do. And the people who sit atop of the apex refuse to recognize corruption right underneath their nose. Did I miss anything?

CARRIE NORDLUND: No, no, I think that's pretty-- and there's probably three or four things that we haven't talked about that would fit neatly into those different categories that you just listed.

MARK BLYTH: What about Dianne Feinstein?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, man. Poor DiFi. I mean, the other thing I wanted to point out that all the things that you listed are people that are 80 years and older. I mean, Rupert's like 90.

MARK BLYTH: Right, and that's why I thought of her. That's why I thought of her. It's like, what is going on here? I mean, it used to be the case-- like, when Lyndon Baines Johnson became president, how old was he?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I don't know. I mean, maybe in his 60s. I'm just guessing 60s.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, right, exactly. And he was seen as old after Kennedy.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Who was in his 40s. Right.

MARK BLYTH: Who was in his 40s, right? So then Jimmy Carter, he was sort of like not exactly old when he had it, right? Nixon had been around for a long time, wasn't an old guy. Reagan was considered old. Didn't he finish out in his 80s? He finished in his 80s?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, maybe even late 70s.

MARK BLYTH: Right. And now we've got basically the entire thing is just a bunch of sort of like 80-year-olds who are just like, I'm hanging on for everything because I have everything.


MARK BLYTH: I mean, what is Feinstein-- I mean, do you have any insight into this? Like, why is she just not going, clearly I can't do this anymore, I'm totally lauded, maybe I'll just put my feet up?

CARRIE NORDLUND: You don't know how cognizant she-- I don't know. I only know what I read and listen to, just the same as you. It seems to me no one really knows how aware she is of situations, and so is it her chief of staff, is it her staff that is making these decisions for her? Like, it's just so unclear.


CARRIE NORDLUND: I think the New York Times did an interesting podcast in it just in terms of the Judiciary Committee and sort of where-- they wanted a replacement, the Democrats. She asked for a replacement at the committee so they could move forward on federal judges. Mitch McConnell said no. And now, there's the thought that, actually, unless they show-- unless she shows up and pushes the button, they're not even going to seat somebody that took her place. And Mitch McConnell will find an obstructionist way to-- unless it's Dianne Feinstein in the seat, no one's taking that seat.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, my god.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So the bigger question that you ask is just unclear of like who's making her decisions, and that is unclear. And, of course, you can't-- I don't know, can you push people out? I don't think you can. Rupert is, like, firing people, so if he's the model, you're not pushing anybody-- no one's pushing anybody out. They're making their own decisions even if they're nutty.

MARK BLYTH: And even if they're not actually making the decision themselves, those decisions still have massive consequences.


MARK BLYTH: Let's round this out-- I'm going to round this out to something else that makes decisions, which is AI, the topic of the moment.


MARK BLYTH: So I was in New York yesterday, and I was at an event. And it's Chatham House Rule, so I can't really tell you who I was talking to. But I was talking to somebody who really knows how this stuff works, like really knows how this stuff works.

And I said to that person, all right, kind of the Nobel Prize of computer science is called the Turing prize. And three people won the Turing prize for their work on neural nets. Neural nets are the underlying technology of these large language models, ChatGPT, Bard, et cetera, et cetera, right? And one of them says, this is awesome, it's going to be great, everything's going to be great.

And one of them says, ooh, bad people could be really bad with this. And another one says, this thing has a black box which is learning faster and faster. We don't know why it's learning, but it's learning to do some pretty wicked stuff. If it keeps learning at this rate, it's actually going to be smarter than us, and then it will eventually kill us. And I said to that person, which one of those views is right? Now, that person kind of read me the website version of it. And I went, now, come on, really? And they're like, honestly, nobody knows.


MARK BLYTH: So imagine the following, imagine there's a 1/3 possibility that there's a technology that's been invented, and that technology's really kind of hard to understand. Most people don't know what an algorithm really is. Most people don't understand, like, large language, training data, the whole lot. I'm not sure. I understand it and I've tried hard, right? And neural nets and all that stuff, right? And there's a 1/3 chance that this thing literally could go Skynet on us, right? And the people in charge of this are a bunch of profit-seeking individuals, who run tech companies, who think that they're god.


MARK BLYTH: It just can't go wrong, can it?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and this is maybe one of the underlying sub-points of what you laid out in terms of the summary of things we've discussed, which is all of the ethical issues. Like, DiFi should retire just based on an ethical-- she's not able to vote. Clarence-- and so I think the thing that I've been interested in is that there's no sort of-- to the point that you're making about for-profits, there's no ethical standard for any of this.


CARRIE NORDLUND: Like, whoa, OK, it can write like your cover letter, and a haiku, and write a rom-com for you, and there's no-- but what about like the underlying stuff that's happening in Ukraine with Russia? I mean, AI has something to do with defense. I don't know what it is, but it's--


CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, so it seems like governments actually have to do something. Like, should we have something?

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, but who's the government? Go back to your earlier point, it's a bunch of 80-year-olds.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right, who are like--

MARK BLYTH: Do you think they have any idea what this stuff even is?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Really, is there a mass--

MARK BLYTH: So they're the ones that are meant to make the decisions about regulating this stuff, regulating stuff that we don't even know how it works? It's good fun, isn't it?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Is there a mouse in my computer doing that? Like, is it algorithm-- is that his or her name, right?


CARRIE NORDLUND: But I have to believe that there are people in government that do have some idea. And is there some oversight body between like the EU? I mean, I've heard some people say there should be like a NATO--



MARK BLYTH: Here's your problem, it's a black box, right? We don't know why it produces the outputs it does, and we don't know why it does the things it does. As it gets smarter, the size of the black box, the bet of the thing that you think you understand gets bigger and bigger. You don't understand it. How do you regulate an unknown, unknown? You don't.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, that really-- yeah, I just assumed people way, way-- that know how this thing works.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, they all work for the tech companies that want it to happen. Let's not even think about the labor market consequences for this. I've always been massively skeptical about the robots taking our jobs. But let's say that this one really is it, right? So you're talking about a country that we just described earlier, with that list of stuff, that's extraordinarily polarized, where most people think that like the elites are out to get them, that they are getting the rough end of the deal, somebody's always getting a better deal than they are or whatever.

And imagine you come along and literally over the next 10 years just wipe out about 30% of the jobs in a country that has no functioning welfare state. And all the returns go to those tech companies because they're very-- oh, it's going to be great. I mean, people will be upskilling. Really? People don't want to upskill when they're 55. They just want to do their job and then retire, right? And again, where is the government on this, who should be thinking this through and like doing all this other stuff? Nowhere to be seen.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and I think a lot about what does this mean for the labor market? What does this mean for lower-skilled workers?

MARK BLYTH: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, you don't want to fall for the lump of labor fallacy. There's only a certain amount of work to be done, so if the robots do it, there's no work for us. There's always work to be done, particularly with an aging population, it's going to be in health care, it's going to be in elderly care, whatever. We just don't want to think about those jobs or pay for those jobs, right? And we used to do that with immigrants, but we don't like them anymore, so they can't do that.

Wrapping this up, darling, because, of course, unfortunately, I have to run off at the end of our recording. But I do want to put in a plug for the fact that Britain is getting its act together and we're going to have a celebration of an actual patriarchy, King Charles-- is it the II or III? It's the III. King Charles III, an actual coronation. What do you think? Are you excited about it?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I'm super psyched for the coronation. I mean, I think it's a little bit odd that in Twenty Twenty-Three that we're celebrating this, like, 76-year-old ascended to the throne for a country that has looted natural resources all around the world, and the Royal Family has accumulated wealth based on those looted natural resources--


CARRIE NORDLUND: --and that take money from the public, but we're not really even sure how rich they are or how much they don't pay in taxes.

MARK BLYTH: Yes, exactly.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And you might have seen the Guardian articles. They're trying to sort out exactly how rich the Royal Family is, and they've met all of these barriers. Essentially, the Buckingham Palace has said, it's none of your business, you don't need to know this, et cetera. So the transparency of the Royal Family as public figures is zero.

MARK BLYTH: How about his brother is reputedly a sex offender?


MARK BLYTH: [LAUGHS] I mean, come on. It's just like-- it's absurd. So my favorite bits of this are the whole thing of you have to swear an oath to the King. And rather than it just being the people in Westminster Abbey, the whole country is meant to swear an oath. And some people are saying that if you-- because they've done this, under some interpretation of English law, if you don't swear an oath, then you're not really subject, so then you can do whatever you like. So we might be inadvertently about to finally really legitimate the sovereign citizen.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I think that's awesome. You can actually throw off, or people who are not subjects of the King can throw off the mantle of the patriarchy. Go citizens of the UK.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, there's an interesting consequence. Exactly.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I was talking to one of my friends who's a public school teacher in Oxford, and he teaches fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. And I asked whether any of his students were interested with the coronation. And he his answer was like, what, who, essentially meaning his students don't know and they're not really connected to the coronation stuff.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, the Daily Mail newspaper will be basically like, hang anyone who doesn't sing the National Anthem for 24 hours straight. But other than that, nobody would really care that much, I don't think.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So maybe we can try to end on a slightly higher note and maybe talk about our summer plans. Any summer blockbuster movies on your list to see?

MARK BLYTH: Have you been back to the movies since the pandemic?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I think so. I might have seen Batman, but now I don't remember. Wait, so have you been back to the movies?

MARK BLYTH: I can tell you I haven't. And I've looked through the films that are being released. And this goes to sort of-- I remember years ago, I said that Steven Spielberg was right in this. He said that the Marvel action films, the superhero films, they're going to go the way of cowboy films. Like, I think by the mid-nineteen-fifties, 1 in 3 films in Hollywood were cowboy movies, and then by like Nineteen Sixty-Three, there were none, and people just got sick of it. And I think that was it. You went through that entire Marvel thing, you know, building up all these characters in 20 different movies or whatever, and now they want us to do it all again. And you're just like, no, I just don't care about any of this. [LAUGHS]


MARK BLYTH: Speaking of gerontocracy, there's a fifth Indiana Jones film, and he's 75. I mean, enough, enough. It's just too much. Too many bloody old people doing stuff. Go retire.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right, and go put your feet up.

MARK BLYTH: Exactly. That's what I'm going to do for the summer, I'm going to put my feet up.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, you really deserve it. But I hope before you put your feet up, we'll get a chance to talk again because I'm sure there's going to be tons of stuff to talk about, and I chuckle. There are Supreme Court decisions that are still waiting out there for us, I'm sure more stuff about Pudding Fingers, another Trump indictment. You just never know, Blyth.

MARK BLYTH: And he'll still run. It doesn't make any difference whatsoever. Yeah, the saga will continue, and we will be there to comment on it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, Mark, as always, great to see you, good to talk. Thank you all for listening.

MARK BLYTH: Always a pleasure. Bye, everyone.



About the Podcast

Show artwork for Mark and Carrie
Mark and Carrie
Mark Blyth, political economist at The Watson Ins…

About your hosts

Profile picture for Mark Blyth

Mark Blyth

Host, Rhodes Center Podcast
Profile picture for Carrie Nordlund

Carrie Nordlund

Co-Host, Mark and Carrie