George Mason University

News at Mason

Sen. Ben Sasse delivers enlightening conversation with Tyler Cowen

June 15, 2017   /   by Buzz McClain

U.S. Sen Ben Sasse sitting with Tyler Cowen at the Mercatus Center in Arlington

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Nebraska) best-selling author and former president of Midland University, joins Tyler Cowen for a wide-ranging dialogue as part of the Mercatus Center’s Conversations with Tyler series. Photo by Ron Aira.

A capacity crowd of 650 filled Founders Hall Auditorium and an overflow room at George Mason University’s Arlington Campus to hear a conversation between U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Mason economist Tyler Cowen. It was the latest installment in the “Conversations with Tyler” series hosted by the Mercatus Center.

Prompted by Cowen, Sasse described his new book, “The Vanishing Adult American: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis,” as “100 percent not political and 99 percent not policy. ” Instead, it is an examination of how American youth are becoming lost in what Sasse thinks is a perpetual state of adolescence.

The former college president (Midland University) and first-time politician is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard University and has studied at the University of Oxford and St. John’s College, which led the Atlantic magazine to name Sasse “Washington’s most interesting egghead.”

Some of the highlights from Sasse included:

On driving Uber for charity: “[Passengers] tend to tell you their thoughts when they find out their driver is their senator. I’ve learned to assume voters are smarter than you, but they’re not as deeply versed in the details. So you listen.”

On spending 18 months studying Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s 1762 treatise “Emile: or, On Education,” which he “hate read”: “Rousseau is wrong about a lot of things, but he’s really, really smart. He’s a Romantic and I’m more Augustinian, but there’s a lot of brokenness inside of all of us.”

On higher education: “We need more forms of higher education. We need scores of different types of institutions. Research and teaching missions are different, and we should admit that; research faculty and teaching faculty are different, and we should admit that.”

On study abroad and global travel: “You need to see different forms of social organization to understand your own…. Learning a new language is important to understanding your own language. [Travel] gives you the eyes to see.”

On the American political system: “Both of these parties are completely politically exhausted. They don’t know what they stand for, and they definitely can’t communicate it. They were both ripe for a hostile takeover.”

At the close of the talk, one audience member remarked that Sasse could be “America’s Justin Trudeau,” a reference to Canada’s young, progressive leader.