Uncommon Knowledge

By Hoover Institution

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Description

For more than two decades the Hoover Institution has been producing Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson, a series hosted by Hoover fellow Peter Robinson as an outlet for political leaders, scholars, journalists, and today’s big thinkers to share their views with the world.

Episode Date
Judging Brett Kavanaugh and the Supreme Court with John Yoo
00:54:03

Recorded on August 28th, 2018. 

Is Brett Kavanaugh ready for the Supreme Court? John Yoo, Yale Law alumnus and Hoover Institution visiting fellow, breaks down Kavanaugh’s law career in the U.S. Court of Appeals. Yoo argues that the United States has concentrated too much power in the Supreme Court since the New Deal era legislation and that the Supreme Court is now more powerful than Congress and the President. Based off of Kavanaugh’s past career, Yoo predicts that Kavanaugh will help reign in the power of the Supreme Court and give it back to the states.

Yoo argues that based off of the Constitution, power to decide social issues should reside with states rather than the court. According to Yoo, prior to the New Deal era, the Supreme Court focused on regulatory issues rather than social issues. He argues that momentous social legal decisions like Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges are meant to be left to the individual states to decide.

Yoo analyzes th [...]

Sep 05, 2018
Russia, China, and the Future of Democracy
00:44:04

Recorded on June 22, 2018

In a special edition of Uncommon Knowledge at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit, Peter Robinson interviews former presidents and prime ministers on one subject: democracy. Following a unique format, Robinson asks each of the guests the same questions to get their distinctive perspectives on issues such as the rise of authoritarianism in Russia, communist China, and the prospects for democracy.

The guests include the former deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom, Nick Clegg; former president of Mexico, Felipe Calderón; former president of Estonia and current Hoover visiting fellow, Toomas Henrik Ilves; and former prime minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The guests analyze economic growth in China and how that growth did not lead to the democratic country predicted by economic experts in 90s. They dive into why China does not truly have a free market, nor does it follow traditional Leninist/Marxist communism’s dis [...]

Aug 20, 2018
Uncommon Knowledge in Copenhagen: Revitalizing Democracies Around the World
00:50:19

Recorded on June 22nd, 2018

At the Copenhagen Democracy Summit, Peter Robinson moderated a panel discussion featuring prominent politicians from some of the world’s leading democracies as they discussed why democracy is declining around the world and what the prospects for democracy are in the future. They discussed how we can build friendships that will support our ambition of bringing together an international alliance of democracies for a freer and more prosperous world.

Participants include José María Aznar, former Prime Minister of Spain; Felipe Calderón, former President of Mexico; Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Stephen Harper, former Prime Minister of Canada; and Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former President of Estonia and Hoover Institution fellow.

For many citizens around the world they do not feel that democracy is working, that there is too much corruption, too much nepotism, and too much bad behavior for democracy to s [...]

Jul 26, 2018
How to Get the Best from Brexit with Daniel Hannan
00:36:56

Recorded on June 22, 2018

Will the United Kingdom really follow through on Brexit? British politician Daniel Hannan believes that Brexit is happening and cannot come soon enough. As a staunch proponent for the “Vote Leave” side, Daniel Hannan has been ready for Brexit since the referendum vote in 2016. He sits down with Peter Robinson to chat about what Brexit means for the UK, how soon it’s coming, and the likelihood of compromise between the now polarized British parties.

The United Kingdom became a member of the European Union in 1973. In June 2016, in a close 52 to 48 vote, UK citizens voted to leave the EU. Two years later and the UK is less than a year away from their deadline to leave by March 2019. Guest Daniel Hannan explains that while Brexit will ultimately be a good thing for the UK, arguments in Parliament have dragged out the question of if Brexit will happen, even though it’s already been settled by a referendum. Hannan argues that pola [...]

Jul 12, 2018
Joseph Stalin: Waiting For Hitler
00:29:28

Did you miss part one? Listen to part one of the episode here.

Recorded on January 25, 2018.

“If you’re interested in power, [if] you’re interested in how power is accumulated and exercised, and what the consequences are, the subject of Stalin is just unbelievably deep, it’s bottomless.” – Stephen Kotkin

In part two, Stephen Kotkin, author of Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929–1941, discusses the relationship between Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler leading up to and throughout World War II. Kotkin describes what motivated Stalin to make the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Hitler and the consequences of his decision.

Kotkin dives into the history of the USSR and its relationship with Germany during WWII, analyzing the two leaders’ decision [...]

Jun 25, 2018
Why Does Joseph Stalin Matter?
00:46:15

Recorded on January 25, 2018

“Joseph Stalin, Soviet dictator, creator of great power, and destroyer of tens of millions of lives …” Thus begins this episode of Uncommon Knowledge, which dives into the biography of Joseph Stalin. This episode’s guest, Stephen Kotkin, author of Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941, examines the political career of Joseph Stalin in the years leading up to World War II, his domination over the Soviet Union, and the terror he inspired by the Great Purge from 1936–38.

“Why does Joseph Stalin matter?” is a key question for Kotkin, as he explains the history of the Soviet Union and Stalin’s enduring impact on his country and the world. Kotkin argues that Stalin is the “gold standard for dictatorships” in regard to the amount of power he managed to obtain and wield throughout his lifetime. Stalin stands out beca [...]

Jun 07, 2018
Defending the Nation With Secretary of Defense James Mattis
00:46:25

Recorded on Friday, May 11, 2018 in Washington DC.

In his first televised interview in almost a year, Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis sits down with Peter Robinson to discuss a wide range of issues facing the United States Armed Forces at home and across the globe. Earlier this year, Secretary Mattis published the National Defense Strategy, the first such document in a decade. Secretary Mattis describes why the document is an important blueprint for the Armed Forces and what he hopes to accomplish by publishing it.

After a moving story about a captured Iraqi suicide bomber, Secretary Mattis describes the complicated nature of our relationship with China and the possible flash points in the South China Sea. A discussion follows about Europe and how political controversies with Russia affect our military relationship and why Secretary Mattis believes NATO is not a threat to them. Moving on to the Middle East, Secretary Mattis defines our mission in Syria, comments [...]

May 14, 2018
Discrimination and Disparities with Thomas Sowell
00:40:21

Recorded March 14, 2018

Rich or poor, most people agree that wealth disparities exist. Thomas Sowell discusses the origins and impacts of those wealth disparities in his new book, Discrimination and Disparities in this episode of Uncommon Knowledge.

Sowell explains his issues with the relatively new legal standard of “disparate impact” and how it disregards the American legal principle of “burden of proof.” Sowell and Robinson discuss how economic outcomes vary greatly across individuals and groups and that concepts like “disparate impact” fail to take into account these variations.

They chat about the impact of nuclear families on the IQs of individuals, as studies have not only shown that children raised by two parents tend to have higher levels of intelligence but also that first-born and single children have even higher intelligence levels than those of younger siblings, indicating that the time and attention given by parents to their children g [...]

May 02, 2018
George F. Will is the umpire on politics and baseball
00:48:37

Recorded on March 29, 2018 Washington Post columnist and author, George F. Will, sits down with Peter Robinson in Austin, Texas to chat about the current administration and America’s favorite pastime—baseball. They discuss politics in the age of polarization and the future of America. Will argues that Americans need to stop looking at presidents as moral exemplars and instead focus on the president as the head of the executive branch. Will and Robinson discuss a quote from his 1984 book, Statecraft as Soulcraft: What Government Does, “The United States acutely needs real conservatism, characterized by a concern to cultivate the best personas and the best in persons. It should express appreciation for the ennobling functions of government.” They use this quote as a launchpad to discuss the future of American politics. The discussion turns to young adults and teenagers, and Will argues why history should be a required class for all college students. They also discuss the rise [...]

Apr 19, 2018
To Change the Church With Ross Douthat
00:58:26

Recorded on February 27, 2018 What do Catholics think of Pope Francis’s changes to the Catholic Church? Ross Douthat explores that question in his new book, To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism. Douthat joins Peter Robinson on Uncommon Knowledge to discuss his new book, his thoughts and critiques of Pope Francis, and the changing conception of divorce under Pope Francis’s ambiguous teachings. Douthat and Robinson spend a large portion of the episode discussing the Catholic teachings surrounding marriage, divorce, and communion. They examine the history of Catholicism and divorce, going back so far as to understand the lessons of the New Testament on divorce and how those lessons were radically conservative for the time. They talk about how problematic the terms “conservative” and “liberal” are when used in the context of the Church as the political leanings do not necessarily correlate with moral leanings of religion. They go on to discuss th [...]

Apr 04, 2018
Senator Portman on Why the New Tax Bill Helps the Middle Class
00:46:13

Recorded on February 25, 2018 “On Election Day in 2016, Donald Trump carried Ohio by eight percentage points. Our guest today carried the state by twenty-one. Senator of Ohio Rob Portman joins Peter Robinson at a special live taping of Uncommon Knowledge. They discuss the 2018 tax bill, the opioid crisis, the Parkland shootings, North Korea, and much more. Senator Portman stands by his decision to vote for the new tax bill as he has seen the benefits right in his home state. He recounts several anecdotes of his constituents who have already seen benefits from the new tax bill. He tells the story of one small-business owner who is finally able to offer health care to her full-time employees because of the tax breaks for small businesses. He also discusses meeting with microbrewers who are now able to expand their facilities and grow their businesses because of the tax cuts. Portman also discusses how the new federal budget helped the Department of Defense and the US military to bu [...]

Mar 30, 2018
Fear No Evil With Natan Sharansky
00:45:00

Natan Sharansky sits down with Peter Robinson to discuss Soviet communism and its impact on his personal life. He discusses his book Fear No Evil: The Classic Memoir of One Man’s Triumph over a Police State, which details a compelling account of his time in a Soviet prison and the inspiration he found in himself, the Hebrew Bible, and Ronald Reagan’s speeches about freedom. Sharansky realized through KGB interrogations and his time in prison that nobody but himself is responsible for his own human dignity. Sharansky also becomes fully aware of how important freedom is—especially the freedoms included in the US Constitution and that Reagan often refers to in his speeches. Sharansky’s interview should open our eyes and minds to the lessons learned from silencing people we disagree with. The examples of silencing dissent, resulting in the empowerment of Stalin and the strengthening of the former Soviet Union, should be a lesson for all of us: to listen to ideas and views w [...]

Mar 14, 2018
Shelby Steele On “How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country”
00:45:19

Recorded on January 25, 2018 Shelby Steele, a Hoover Institution senior fellow and author of Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country , joins Peter Robinson to discuss race relations in the United States. Steele tells stories about growing up in segregated Chicago and the fights he and his family went through to end segregation in their neighborhood schools. He draws upon his own experiences facing racism while growing up in order to inform his opinions on current events. Steele and Robinson go on to discuss more recent African-American movements, including Steele’s thoughts on the NFL protests, Black Lives Matter, and recent rumors about Oprah Winfrey running for office. (Playing time: 45:20)

Feb 08, 2018
Niall Ferguson’s The Square and the Tower
00:51:14

Recorded on November 9, 2017 With social networks like Facebook and Twitter in abundance, the effects of networks on society in the twenty-first century are inarguable. However, Niall Ferguson, author of The Square and the Tower, argues that networks are not a new phenomenon and have been impacting human culture from the beginning of history. Niall Ferguson and Peter Robinson discuss networks and hierarchies throughout history in this episode of Uncommon Knowledge. Ferguson breaks down what he means by networks and hierarchies using the imagery of the Piazza Del Campo in Siena, where the Torre del Mangia, representing the hierarchy, casts a long shadow over the Piazza Del Campo, representing the network. Ferguson argues that this powerful imagery invokes the essence of his book and the intertwined nature of networks and hierarchies within society. Ferguson goes on to discuss the importance of networks in social movements throughout history, including Martin Luther and the Reformatio [...]

Jan 25, 2018
Enduring Vietnam with James Wright
00:44:30

Recorded April 11, 2017 Historian James Wright, author of Enduring Vietnam: An America Generation and Its War, joins Peter Robinson on Uncommon Knowledge to discuss the challenges and successes of the Vietnam War. They discuss why the Vietnam War mattered, how the United States entered the war, the changing feelings of Americans at the time of the war, and much more. Wright expands on how the Vietnam War fit into the greater strategy of the United States in the Cold War and why the United States entered it. He argues against the common idea that the baby boomer generation was the “Me Generation” in that 40 percent of them enlisted or were drafted into combat. He argues that we need to recognize that the baby boomer generation served our country in this war because most people today have not had to deal with the challenges faced by many during the draft. Wright interviewed more than one hundred people for the making of this book; in it, he discusses some of the stories he learne [...]

Dec 21, 2017
Part 2: The Second World Wars with Victor Davis Hanson
00:30:00

Recorded on October 23, 2017 Could the Axis powers have won? What are the counterfactuals for World War II? Find out in part two of this episode as military historian, editor of Strategika, and Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow Victor Davis Hanson joins Peter Robinson to discuss his latest book, The Second World Wars. Victor Davis Hanson explains the counterfactuals of World War II, the “what-ifs” that easily could have changed the outcome of the war. If Hitler had not attacked Russia or the Japanese had not attacked Pearl Harbor, the USSR would have never turned on Germany and the United States would have never entered the war. Hanson argues that the leaders of the Axis powers overreached in their strategies, which ultimately caused their downfall. Hanson also explores the counterfactual surrounding the American commanders and the “what-ifs” that could have prevented American success in the war. Victor Davis Hanson also reflects on his own family history and connecti [...]

Dec 13, 2017
Part I The Second World Wars with Victor Davis Hanson
00:27:39

Recorded on October 23, 2017 How were the Axis powers able to instigate the most lethal conflict in human history? Find out in part one of this episode as military historian, editor of Strategika, and Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow, Victor Davis Hanson, joins Peter Robinson to discuss his latest book, The Second World Wars. Victor Davis Hanson explains how World War II initially began in 1939 as a multitude of isolated border blitzkriegs that Germany continued to win. In 1941, everything changed when Germany invaded their ally, the Soviet Union, and brought Japan into the war. He argues that because of the disparate nature of World War II, it’s much harder to think about as a monolithic conflict. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history with approximately sixty million people killed. Victor Davis Hanson argues that World War II and the many lives lost was preventable, but due to a series of missteps by the Allied forces, Germany believed they were stronge [...]

Nov 28, 2017
The High Cost of Good Intentions Featuring John Cogan
00:45:55

Recorded on October 24, 2017 How old are entitlement programs in the United States? Entitlement programs are as old as the Republic, according to John Cogan, former deputy director of the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and a Hoover Institution senior fellow. Cogan joins Peter Robinson to discuss his latest book, The High Cost of Good Intentions,on the necessity for entitlement reform in the United States. Currently there are a bevy of entitlement programs in the United States, each costing a large percentage of the federal budget each year. These programs are open-ended and hard to estimate into the budget because people with the average number of benefits vary greatly from year to year. These programs have become complex and bloated over the many years since they’ve been instated and are in dire need of reform. According to John Cogan, entitlement programs such as pensions, Medicaid, and Social Security have been a part of US history since the Revolutionary War when Co [...]

Nov 16, 2017
Genocides: A World History featuring Norman Naimark
00:49:08

Recorded on February 14, 2017 Norman Naimark, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and an expert on Eastern Europe and genocides throughout history, brings his considerable expertise to Uncommon Knowledge to discuss the history of genocides from ancient to modern times. Peter Robinson sits down with Naimark to discuss his latest book, Genocide: A World History. Naimark argues that genocides occur throughout history, from biblical to modern times across the world. He considers genocides to be “the crime of crimes, worse than war crimes or crimes against humanity,” Naimark defines genocide as “intentional killing of a group of people as such,” meaning that the intention is to eliminate that group completely. He stresses the difference of this definition from warfare, as in war two sides are killing each other with the intention of subjugation rather than extermination. He goes into detail about a few incidents that he considers genocides, including but not limited to Nazi [...]

Oct 11, 2017
How to Fail at Almost Everything with Scott Adams
00:43:29

Recorded on July 12, 2017 The Dilbert comic strip artist and political philosopher Scott Adams sits down with Peter Robinson to discuss his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. He discusses with Peter his theory of “talent stacking,” the idea that rather than being an expert in one particular skill (i.e., Tiger Woods and golf), one can become successful by stacking a variety of complementary nonexpert skills. Adams demonstrates how talent stacking has been beneficial in his life because he has stacked comic artist skills with his MBA and experience in corporate environments to create a wildly successful comic strip that resulted in spin-off books, a television series, a video game, and merchandise. His business skills gave him the tools to create a business satire comic strip and the skill set to manage the business that evolved from that strip. Adams also discusses how he uses his Dilbert blog to discuss his political philosophies and observations about the [...]

Sep 15, 2017