Think tank director, former Harvard administrator discusses American decline

Wes Scarborough

Toby Stock, vice president of development and academic programs at the American Enterprise Institute, spoke at UT on Wednesday about issues he believes are directing America’s future toward a decline.

American Enterprise Institute is a conservative, nonprofit institution created to research political issues. Stock is also the former assistant dean for Harvard Law School admissions and an associate at McKinsey & Company. Stock said he thinks the conflict between Republicans and Democrats stems from both parties being more focused on their own opinions rather than what is going on in America.

“I think today’s gridlock is caused by the fact that today’s parties are less regional and more ideological,” Stock said.

He said the reason there is always a standstill on Capitol Hill is because of the constant antithesis of America’s bipartisan nature.

“When one party wants to decrease the size of government, and the other wants to increase the size of government, it’s hard to find a compromise,” Stock said.

According to Stock, liberals are more likely to unfriend those who do not share their political views on Facebook than conservatives. He also said 43 percent of Republicans say they have a “very unfavorable” view of the liberal opinion while over half of liberals share a similar dislike for conservative opinion. Stock said he is worried about the increasing polarization of the political parties and what that might to do for American success.

“One of the biggest risks to face is the unwillingness to accept that the other side has a legitimate answer,” Stock said. “Somehow, we need to help our policy makers understand the other side.”

Stock said if people were working at the rates that they were during the Eisenhower administration, America would have 20 million more people in the workforce today. He also said that the employment to population rate stands at 59 percent, which is nearly the lowest rate in the past 30 to 40 years.

Adam Blum, a member of the American Enterprise Institute chapter in Austin, said it was important that America has a free enterprise system to encourage success.

“Whatever the environment presents, whether it is super partisan, highly regulated, or even if we disagree with [an opinion], there are new opportunities that conflict creates,” Blum said.

Stock concluded his lecture with a story about him and an unnamed senator in Washington D.C. The senator asked him to come by his office to talk after an election. Stock said the senator asked him what the Republicans wanted.

“The next office over is a Republican office,” Stock said. “All he has to do is walk down the hall and talk to one of his colleagues.”