TODAY'S GUEST Max Rashbrooke's TED Talk on upgrading democracy has touched a nerve, and has been viewed over 1 million times in a matter of months. He's a Wellington-based writer and public intellectual, with twin interests in economic inequality and democratic renewal. His latest book is Too Much Money, about wealth disparities in New Zealand, and his previous books include Government for the Public Good: The Surprising Science of Large-Scale Collective Action. Max is a Senior Associate of the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies. His work appears in outlets such as the Guardian and Prospect magazine.



In this conversation we talk about:

  • How moving from a wealthy school to a failing school in a low income neighborhood opened his eyes to his own privilege and the extent of poverty in the world.
  • How he became fascinated with the problem of entrenched and compounded inequality and lack of mobility as a financial journalist in London during the financial crisis.
  • The dangers of increasing inequality and immobility, and how it leads to a mistrust in institutions, an attraction to populist authoritarianism, and a crisis for democracy.
  • How he proposes to upgrade democracy for the digital age, by increasing participation and incorporating tools like citizen assemblies, online consensus building, and participatory budgeting.
  • And why having faith in our fellow citizens and in the power of the government to do good is essential to healing democracy in our lifetime.
I really enjoyed talking to Max, and hope that you'll enjoy his excellent introduction to the growing movement of more participatory democracy. Max is one of dozens of great conversations with thinkers, activists, and makers who are trying to remake our lives in some meaningful way. If you don't want to miss them, please make sure you subscribe in your favorite podcast player.


And now let's jump right in with Max Rashbrooke.




[3:31] Life During Covid

[7:06] Early Life Lessons

[13:03] A Journey to Economic Inequality

[17:00] Compounded Inequality

[18:34] A Lack of Progress

[20:13] A Lack of Trust

[22:31] The Rise of Authoritarianism 

[24:53] A Mistrust of Institution

[28:08] Defense of Democracy

[32:05] Upgrading and Renewing Democracy

[35:59] Citizens Assemblies

[40:06] Political Brands

[41:45] Online Consensus Building

[46:02] Participatory Budgeting 

[48:43] The Delegation of the Vote

[54:11] A Mindset of Faith

[57:52] Working Together

[1:00:25] A Short Sermon