Video Playlist: Uncommon Knowledge

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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. Guests have included a host of famous figures, including Paul Ryan, Henry Kissinger, Antonin Scalia, Rupert Murdoch, Newt Gingrich, and Christopher Hitchens, along with Hoover fellows such as Condoleezza Rice and George Shultz.

The show started life as a television series in 1997 and is now distributed exclusively on the web over a growing network of the largest political websites and channels. To stay tuned for the latest updates on and episodes related to Uncommon Knowledge.

Video Playlist: Uncommon Knowledge 2021

Newest videos are on the bottom of the playlist list.

Video Playlist: Uncommon Knowledge 2020

Newest videos are on the bottom of the playlist list. (34)

The Impeachment Handbook with John Yoo & Richard Epstein

Recorded on January 15, 2020 The impeachment proceedings against President Trump has now reached the Senate and to help our viewers navigate the legal and political issues surrounding it, Peter Robinson sits down with the Hoover Institution’s Visiting Fellow John Yoo and Senior Fellow Richard Epstein, two of the foremost legal scholars in the country. We cover the Articles of Impeachment submitted by the U.S. House of Representatives, the pluses and minuses of calling witnesses, the role of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts in the proceeding, and whether or not President Trump should testify on his own behalf. Finally, Peter asks Epstein and Yoo for their vote predictions on conviction and acquittal and gets their predictions for the election in November.

The World According to Thiel

Recorded on January 17, 2020 – Peter Thiel, the cofounder of PayPal and Palantir; early investor in Facebook, LinkedIn, and SpaceX; and the founder of the Thiel Fellowship, which encourages young people to drop out of college to start their own businesses, is interviewed live on stage in front of the members of the Mont Pelerin Society. This wide-ranging conversation covers globalization, the continuing and ever-growing threat from China and what the United States can and can’t do it about, what the rise of Bernie Sanders means for the future of US capitalism, the “derangement” (Thiel’s phrase) of Silicon Valley in the last decade, the scourge of political correctness on campuses and in society at large, and why Thiel thinks we should rethink the doctrine of American exceptionalism.

The Great Society: A New History with Amity Shlaes

A Conversation with Vice President Mike Pence

Recorded on February 24, 2020 – This week, Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson travels to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the nation’s capital for a special one-on-one interview with Vice President Mike Pence. In a wide-ranging conversation, they discuss Senator Bernie Sanders’s statements about Fidel Castro, the killing of Iranian major general Qassim Soleimani, the current situation in Venezuela, the US relationship with China, the effect of the Trump tax cuts, the growing popularity of socialism amongst the nation’s youths, and yes, the formation of the Space Force. Robinson ends the interview by asking the vice president to speculate on his and President Trump’s chances for re-election this fall (spoiler alert: he likes them).

Recorded on January 17, 2020 – This week on Uncommon Knowledge, a conversation with author and historian Amity Shlaes on her new book, Great Society: A New History. Begun by John F. Kennedy and completed by Lyndon B. Johnson, the Great Society was one of the most sweeping pieces of legislation ever enacted in American history. On its surface, the Great Society was a plan to reduce rural and urban poverty, but at its roots were the socialist and communist movements of the 1930s. Shlaes shares the history of those movements and lays out how they influenced the post–World War II generation of American politicians, including lesser-remembered figures such as Sargent Shriver, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Walter Reuther. In addition, the Great Society was a harbinger of many of the policies and ideas that are in vogue today, including Universal Basic Income and Medicare for All. Shlaes also argues that what the Great Society’s marquee policy initiative, the War on Poverty, and the new flood of benefits actually achieved “was the opposite of preventing poverty—they established a new kind of poverty, a permanent sense of downtroddenness.” Shlaes proves that, once again, policies and laws with the best of intentions often have the opposite effect.

The Corona Economy with John B. Taylor

Recorded on March 25, 2020 – In this first of a new series of Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson conversations done via webcam, Peter Robinson talks to John B. Taylor, the Hoover Institution’s George P. Shultz Senior Fellow in Economics. They discuss the huge impact of the COVID-19 virus on the US and world economy, the likely impact of the federal government’s multitrillion-dollar relief efforts, and what the economy might look like as we get to the other side of this crisis.

Questioning Conventional Wisdom in the COVID-19 Crisis, with Dr. Jay Bhattacharya

Recorded on March 27, 2020 – Dr. Jay Bhattacharya is a professor of medicine at Stanford University. He is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a senior fellow at both the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the Stanford Freeman Spogli Institute. His March 24, 2020, article in the Wall Street Journal questions the premise that “coronavirus would kill millions without shelter-in-place orders and quarantines.” In the article he suggests that “there’s little evidence to confirm that premise—and projections of the death toll could plausibly be orders of magnitude too high.” In this edition of Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson we asked Dr. Bhattacharya to defend that statement and describe to us how he arrived at this conclusion. We get into the details of his research, which used data collected from hotspots around the world and his background as a doctor, a medical researcher, and an economist. It’s not popular right now to question conventional wisdom on sheltering in place, but Dr. Bhattacharya makes a strong case for challenging it, based in economics and science.

Kevin Warsh and The Long Road Back to Economic Recovery

Recorded April 1, 2020 – As the COVID-19 crisis continues, Peter Robinson sat down (virtually over Zoom) with Kevin Warsh, the Shepard Family Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and a former member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. They discuss the nuts and bolts of the Federal Government’s 2 Trillion dollar (and rising) recovery and aid package, why it was needed, and its chances of staving off a depression. In addition, they discuss how the government can help (and possibly hurt) both small businesses and large corporations. Finally, Kevin gives some reasons to be optimistic (in the long run at least) and makes an argument as to why the U.S. economy is well suited to make a strong recovery. Note: Kevin’s audio is not as good as we would have hoped (the hazards of producing shows under shelter at home orders). We apologize in advance for any inconvenience.

Trump, China, and the Geopolitics of a Crisis

Recorded on April 1, 2020 – Stephen A. Kotkin is a professor of history at Princeton and a fellow at the Hoover Institution. Kotkin is one of the nation’s most compelling observers of foreign affairs, past and present, and is now working on the third and final volume of his definitive biography of Josef Stalin. From that perspective, Peter Robinson and Kotkin discuss Trump’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, Kotkin’s thoughts on the Chinese leadership class and the advantages they may seek to exploit, and which country—China or the United States—will come to represent the more successful or compelling model to other nations.

Kicking and Screaming: WSJ’s Kim Strassel on the Media vs. Trump

Recorded on April 9, 2020 – As a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a commentator for Fox News, Kim Strassel is a card-carrying member of the mainstream media. But Strassel is appalled by the media’s treatment of Donald Trump, and not just from journalists from the left. She describes the “resistance” in detail in her recent book, Resistance (at All Costs): How Trump Haters Are Breaking America. She and Peter Robinson discuss the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis and the way the media has covered it and disseminated the information to the public. They also discuss the upcoming presidential election (yes, we are still having one) and the politics of the $2 trillion stimulus bill, with more spending on the way, and the realities of restarting the economy in a post- or partial-post-COVID-19 world. Finally, they discuss the pluses and minuses of Donald Trump’s temperament, and the possibility of something good coming from this current crisis.

The Fight against COVID-19: An Update from Dr. Jay Bhattacharya

Recorded on April 17, 2020 A month ago, we interviewed Dr. Jay Bhattacharya just as the COVID-19 crisis was shuttering the economy and governments were ordering citizens to shelter at home. In that interview, Dr. Bhattacharya mentioned that he himself would soon be conducting tests for COVID-19 in Santa Clara County, California, one of the most active hotspots in the country. Today Dr. Bhattacharya returns to discuss the results of that study and one currently under way in partnership with Major League Baseball. We also discuss some signs of hope, and specifics about how the economy can be restarted safely and efficiently. Dr. Bhattacharya also gives some (unsolicited) advice to Dr. Anthony Fauci, California governor Gavin Newsom, and president Donald Trump.

The Trade-Offs on Tariffs and International Trade, with Professor Douglas Irwin

Douglas Irwin is the John French Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College. He is the author of a number of books, including the definitive history of American trade policy, Clashing over Commerce. In this sheltering at home edition of Uncommon Knowledge, we delve deep into the issues around the Trump administration’s imposition of huge tariffs on goods from China and elsewhere, and the impact of a health crisis that has businesses across the country re-examining their investments abroad. Also, what’s the right way to think about international trade? Is free trade still the best policy? We get deep into the weeds of the issues around imports and exports with Professor Irwin.

Victor Davis Hanson on Corona, California, and the Classical World

Victor Davis Hanson is both a classical scholar at the Hoover Institution and a farmer in the San Joaquin Valley of California. He’s also a defender of the President, (his book The Case For Trump spent weeks on the best seller lists in 2019), and a close observer of the scientific and medical communities. These disparate interests and fields of study give him very unique perspectives and insights on the current COVID-19 crisis. We discuss the current situation with him in great detail, including the difficulties encountered by farmers, by research scientists and doctors, why some areas of the country are affected more than others, his theories about when the virus actually appeared in the U.S. and finally, what plagues of the ancient world can teach us about how to best manage and get past the situation the entire world finds itself in.

What’s So Funny about Corona, Politics, the Media, and the Culture? Andrew Ferguson and P.J O’Rourke

In this special plague-time episode of Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson, two of the nation’s most brilliant and accomplished humorists have a good time—and say some serious things. P. J. O’Rourke and Andrew Ferguson on COVID-19, their wasted youth, Trump versus Biden, the state of journalism, and why they’d both bet on the United States over China any old day.

The Importance of Institutions, with Yuval Levin

Yuval Levin is director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the America Dream. The book and this conversation lay out the importance of institutions—from the military to churches, from families to schools—as these institutions provide the forms and structures we need to be free. Levin also explains why political correctness is rampant in the culture, why America’s elites have created a closed-off aristocracy in order to transmit privilege generationally, and why it is vitally important that we as a society recommit to rebuilding and maintaining the institutions that provided the foundation for American society for 200 years. Programming note: this interview was recorded before the COVID-19 crisis reached the United States, so it is not mentioned.

How Innovation Works, with Matt Ridley

A true Renaissance man, Matt Ridley is a British journalist, a member of the House of Lords, a businessman, and the author of many publications, including The Rational Optimist, his very influential book about the innate human tendency to trade goods and services, which he argues is the source of all human prosperity. Ridley’s new book, How Innovation Works, chronicles the history of innovation and argues that we need to change the way we think about innovation, to see it as an incremental, bottom-up, fortuitous process that happens to society as a direct result of the human habit of exchange, rather than as an orderly, top-down process developing according to a plan. Ridley also discusses the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the world’s economies, the real story of Thomas Edison and why he was one of the greatest innovators in human history, why China may not be the threat it appears to be (at least not technologically), and some predictions as to what the world may look like in 2050.

Ross Douthat’s Decadent Society

In his new book, The Decadent Society, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat presents a theory: “Western society stopped advancing in the second half of the 20th century, and the combination of wealth and technological proficiency with economic stagnation, political stalemates, cultural exhaustion, and demographic decline creates a strange kind of ‘sustainable decadence,’ a civilizational languor that could endure for longer than we think.” Against this backdrop, Peter Robinson and Douthat discuss movies, TV shows, the iPhone, SpaceX, and the 747, with some detours into the COVID-19 crisis and our current political situation.

Mitch Daniels: Plain Talk from the President of Purdue

Mitch Daniels is the former governor of Indiana (2005–13), former director of the Office of Management and Budget (2001–03), and current president of Purdue University (since 2013). In this wide-ranging conversation with Peter Robinson, Daniels discusses his insistence on keeping Purdue’s tuition below $10,000 and how he does it, his vision for Purdue that includes mix of online and onsite education, and his efforts to hire an ideologically diverse faculty and recruit students from various backgrounds and ethnicities. He also shares his thoughts on the recent civil unrest, protests, and looting across the United States, and his plans on how to open Purdue and keep it open this fall amid the continuing COVID-19 crisis.

Jimmy Lai: The Last, Best Hope for Saving Democracy in Hong Kong

When Hong Kong democracy advocate Jimmy Lai last appeared on Uncommon Knowledge in October of 2019, the situation in Hong Kong was dire but still hopeful. Now, eight months later, the situation has gone from bad to worse, and since that interview, Lai has been arrested twice. In this conversation, Lai explains the widening crackdown the Chinese Communist Party is imposing on Hong Kong, including his interpretation of the recently proposed national security law, which Lai believes will give China the ability to control all aspects of Hong Kong’s freedoms and culture and destroy the city’s financial and media businesses. Lai also makes a plea to the United States and the rest of the world: help Hong Kong by sanctioning China, because in the wake of COVID-19, the country is at its most vulnerable moment in the last 40 years. Says Lai, “If we surrender, we will lose [our] freedom, we will lose the rule of law—we will lose everything.” Whether the world will hear Lai and the rest of the Hong Kong protestors and take action on their behalf remains to be seen. Finally, we ask Lai why he continues the fight for democracy even against seemingly unsurmountable odds. A visibly emotional Lai responds: “Now is not the time for safety, now is the time for sacrifice. . . . I can’t leave; I will fight until the last day.”

Jimmy Lai: The Last, Best Hope for Saving Democracy in Hong Kong

When Hong Kong democracy advocate Jimmy Lai last appeared on Uncommon Knowledge in October of 2019, the situation in Hong Kong was dire but still hopeful. Now, eight months later, the situation has gone from bad to worse, and since that interview, Lai has been arrested twice. In this conversation, Lai explains the widening crackdown the Chinese Communist Party is imposing on Hong Kong, including his interpretation of the recently proposed national security law, which Lai believes will give China the ability to control all aspects of Hong Kong’s freedoms and culture and destroy the city’s financial and media businesses. Lai also makes a plea to the United States and the rest of the world: help Hong Kong by sanctioning China, because in the wake of COVID-19, the country is at its most vulnerable moment in the last 40 years. Says Lai, “If we surrender, we will lose [our] freedom, we will lose the rule of law—we will lose everything.” Whether the world will hear Lai and the rest of the Hong Kong protestors and take action on their behalf remains to be seen. Finally, we ask Lai why he continues the fight for democracy even against seemingly unsurmountable odds. A visibly emotional Lai responds: “Now is not the time for safety, now is the time for sacrifice. . . . I can’t leave; I will fight until the last day.”

The Doctor Is In: Scott Atlas and the Efficacy of Lockdowns, Social Distancing, and Closings

Dr. Scott Atlas is the Robert Wesson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, an accomplished physician, and a scholar of public health. For several weeks, Dr. Atlas has been making the case in print and in other media that we as a society have overreacted in imposing draconian restrictions on movement, gatherings, schools, sports, and other activities. He is not a COVID-19 denier—he believes the virus is a real threat and should be managed as such. But, as Dr. Atlas argues, there are some age groups and activities that are subject to very low risk. The one-size-fits-all approach we are currently using is overly authoritarian, inefficient, and not based in science. Dr. Atlas’s prescription includes more protection for people in nursing homes, two weeks of strict self-isolation for those with mild symptoms, and most importantly, the opening of all K–12 schools. The latter recommendation is vital for restarting and maintaining the economy so that parents are not housebound trying to work and educate their children. Dr. Atlas is also adamant that an economic shutdown, and all of the attendant issues that go along with it, is a terrible solution—the cure is worse than the disease. Finally, Dr. Atlas reveals some steps he’s taken in his own life to try to get things back to normal.

The Case against Revolution with Ayaan Hirsi Ali

As the United States and the world embark on fraught conversations about race, history, law enforcement, and the underpinnings of our very civilization, Ayaan Hirsi Ali joins Peter Robinson for an enlightening conversation. A refugee from Africa, Hirsi Ali fled to Europe to escape an arranged marriage, becoming an activist, (now former) member of the Dutch Parliament, and now a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. With a different set of life experiences and perspectives from American-born Blacks, Hirsi Ali discusses how, as a Somalian, she views America as the best place on earth for minorities to grow up and achieve their potential. While acknowledging the hardships and miseries that American Blacks have endured and that racism still exists in many quarters of American society, Hirsi Ali emphatically believes that America is more than capable of solving racial inequalities, provided it preserves the institutions that ultimately ended slavery and empowered the protest movements of the 1960s that birthed the Civil Rights Movement. As she wrote in a recent column for the Wall Street Journal, an opinion she reiterates on this show, “There will be no resolution of America’s . . . problems if free thought and free speech are no longer upheld as sacrosanct. . . . Without them, honest deliberation, mutual learning, and the American ethic of problem-solving are dead.”

An Economist Looks at 90: Tom Sowell on Charter Schools and Their Enemies

Recorded on July 1, 2020 The day before this show was recorded, Dr. Thomas Sowell began his 10th decade of life. Remarkably on one hand and yet completely expected on the other, he remains as engaged, analytical, and thoughtful as ever. In this interview (one of roughly a dozen or so we’ve conducted with Dr. Sowell over the years), we delve into his new book Charter Schools and Their Enemies, a sobering look at the academic success of charter schools in New York City, and the fierce battles waged by teachers unions and progressive politicians to curtail them. Dr. Sowell’s conclusion is equally thought provoking: If the opponents of charter schools succeed, the biggest losers will be poor minority children for whom a quality education is the best chance for a better life.

Bjorn Lomborg Declares “False Alarm” on Climate Hysteria

Recorded on July 24, 2020 This week, a conversation with Bjorn Lomborg, a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, the president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, and one of the foremost climate experts in the world today. His new book, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet, is an argument for treating climate as a serious problem but not an extinction-level event requiring such severe and drastic steps as rewiring a large part of the culture and the economy. Bjorn responds directly to some of the most vociferous climate policy critics, including Greta Thunberg, author David Wallace-Wells (The Uninhabitable Earth: Life after Warming), and proponents of the Green New Deal. We also discuss some promising emerging technologies and why worst-case scenarios are often just that—scenarios that are used to motivate the public into action but are not in fact likely to occur. It’s a sobering and even-handed discussion on climate that does not include apocalyptic endings for the planet.

Biden Doesn't Have Americans Best Interest At Heart