Uncommon Knowledge — audio edition

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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 in birth rates of illegitimate children and what that means for society. They talk about family as the transmitter of social capital and that when the family fails, free society fails too. In the end they discuss baseball as America’s favorite pastime, and George Will argues it is the sport of America’s future as parents stop letting their children play football because of the dangers of lifelong head and body injuries. Did you like the show? Please rate, review, and subscribe! (Playing time: 48:37)
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 the future of the Catholic Church under Pope Francis and how the Bishops can handle all of the changes. Did you like the show? Please rate, review, and subscribe! (Playing time: 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 the future of the Catholic Church under Pope Francis and how the Bishops can handle all of the changes. Did you like the show? Please rate, review, and subscribe! (Playing time: 58:26)
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 build out their forces in order to project strength abroad. He explains ways that the Republicans and Democrats were able to compromise on increasing domestic discretionary spending so that they can also spend equally on defense. He recounts examples of bipartisanship in order to help Congress get work done. Senator Portman goes into great detail about the opioid crisis a huge issue in his state. Portman is working hard to increase treatment programs for addicts to end the crisis. He tells a story about one young man he met who will be able to become sober and regain his life back because of the new treatment programs. Peter Robinson takes the interview into a lightning round near the end of the program, asking Senator Portman quick questions for quick answers about his thoughts on the situation with North Korea, the Parkland shootings, conservatives and Donald Trump, and why Portman continues to be in public service. Portman ends the interview by explaining why public service matters to him more than making significantly more money in the private sector. Did you like the show? Please rate, review, and subscribe! (Playing time: 46:14)
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 we may not agree with, and to speak up when we believe our friends and country are going in the wrong direction. Did you like the show? Please rate, review, and subscribe! (Playing time: 45:04)
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)
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 Reformation, Paul Revere and the American Revolution, Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union, and social media and Donald Trump. He argues that a networked world is a dangerous world, in that it allows movements and societies to advance in unexpected ways. (Playing time: 51:20)
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 learned from the many soldiers who fought in the war. He tells the story of Hamburger Hill and how the Americans fought to take and then hold the A Sau valley in South Vietnam. He writes how he believes this was an important battle in the Vietnam War even though many professors he’s talked to at West Point and the Army College do not teach it. Wright discusses the changing attitudes of Americans toward the war after four years, and how as the number of people drafted and the number of casualties increased, Americans began turning against the war. He goes into detail about the strategies Nixon began to implement a phase-out for Americans in the war and start handing more combat and control over to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. In the end, Wright argues that, even though Americans pulled out of the war because communist Vietnam did not prove to be a threat afterward because of their long-standing mistrust of China, the United States didn’t fully lose. (Playing time: 44:30)
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 connections to World War II and how it shaped him as both a person and a scholar in his life today. He talks about his motivations to write his latest book, The Second World Wars, and how his family history and the current political climate inspired him to write it. (Playing time: 30:03)
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 stronger and their enemies weaker than the reality. He argues “it took Soviet collusion, American indifference or isolation, and British or French appeasement in 30s” to convince Germany that they had the military capabilities to invade western Europe. In the aftermath of World War I, the allies believed the cost of the Great War had been too high, while Germany bragged about their defeat as no enemy soldiers had set foot on German soil. Great Britain and France both chose appeasement over deterrence, which encouraged rather than deterred Hitler and Germany from moving forward with their plans. (Playing time: 27:41)
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 Congress first created pensions for all the soldiers who had served the Republic during the war. Congress then went on to expand entitlement programs after the Civil War to include soldiers who had fought in the war. Entitlements remained restricted to only those who had served the Republic until the New Deal when entitlements were extended to all citizens above a certain age (Social Security). This was the first time that entitlements were given to citizens who had not served. This was also the first time that entitlements were granted to everyone until the end of time. Additional Resources • Blueprint for America: Entitlements and the Budget • Pension Pursuit • The High Cost of Good Intentions: A History of US Federal Entitlement Programs • America the Fixer Upper • Finding the Money for America the Fixer Upper About John Cogan John Cogan is the Leonard and Shirley Ely Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and a faculty member in the Public Policy Program at Stanford University. Cogan is an expert in domestic policy. His current research is focused on US budget and fiscal policy, federal entitlement programs, and health care. He has published widely in professional journals in both economics and political science. His latest book, The High Cost of Good Intentions: A History of US Federal Entitlement Programs was published in September 2017. The book traces the history of US federal entitlement programs from the Revolutionary War to modern times. His previous books include Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Five Steps to a Better Health Care System, coauthored with Glenn Hubbard and Daniel Kessler, and The Budget Puzzle (with Timothy Muris and Allen Schick). Cogan has devoted a considerable part of his career to public service. He served as assistant secretary for policy in the US Department of Labor from 1981 to 1983. From 1983 to 1985 he served as associate director in the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and was appointed deputy director in 1988. His responsibilities included developing and reviewing all health, housing, education, and employment training programs and policies. Cogan has served on numerous congressional, presidential, and California state advisory commissions. He served on the California State Commission on the 21st Century Economy and the California Public Employee Post-Employment Benefits Commission. He has served on President George W. Bush's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, the US Bipartisan Commission on Health Care (the Pepper Commission), the Social Security Notch Commission, and the National Academy of Sciences' Panel on Poverty and Family Assistance. Cogan received his AB in 1969 and his PhD in 1976 from the University of California at Los Angeles, both in economics. He received his MA in economics from California State University at Long Beach in 1970. He was an associate economist at the Rand Corporation from 1975 to 1980. In 1979 Cogan was appointed a national fellow at the Hoover Institution, in 1980 he was appointed a senior research fellow, and in 1984 he became a senior fellow. (Playing time: 45:59)
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 Germany, Stalin’s genocide of the kulaks, the Armenian genocide in the early 1900s, the Carthage genocide in 146 BC, the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, and the Yuki genocide in California in the 1850s. Naimark argues that as genocides occur in contemporary society, sovereign states have a responsibility to protect their citizens; if they fail to do so the international community has a moral and civic obligation to step in to stop those genocides from occurring. Granted, he argues, that the cost of intervention needs to be assessed before stepping in but that overall each country has a national obligation to prevent the systematic extermination of people. Interested in buying Norman Naimark’s latest book, Genocide: A World History? You can buy it here. About the guest Norman M. Naimark is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is also the Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor of East European Studies and a senior fellow of Stanford's Freeman-Spogli Institute. He currently serves as the Sakurako and William Fisher Family Director of the Stanford Global Studies Division. Naimark is an expert in modern East European and Russian history. His current research focuses on Soviet policies and actions in Europe after World War II and on genocide and ethnic cleansing in the twentieth century. Naimark is author of the critically acclaimed volumes The Russians in Germany: The History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945–1949 (Harvard, 1995), Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in 20th Century Europe (Harvard, 2001), and Stalin's Genocides (Princeton, 2010). He is also author of the volumes Terrorists and Social Democrats: The Russian Revolutionary Movement under Alexander III (Harvard, 1983) and The History of the "Proletariat": The Emergence of Marxism in the Kingdom of Poland, 1870–1887 (Columbia, 1979). Naimark earned a BA (1966), MA (1968), and PhD (1972) in history from Stanford University. Before returning to Stanford in 1988 Naimark was a professor of history at Boston University and a fellow at the Russian Research Center at Harvard. He also held the visiting Kathryn Wasserman Davis Chair of Slavic Studies at Wellesley College. (Playing time: 49:08)
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 Trump administration. He wrote blogposts about the 2016 election and predicted that Donald Trump would win based on President Trump’s talent stack as a media mogul and businessman who had spent significant time in the public eye so was immune to scandals and thick-skinned enough to handle what the media and other politicians would throw at him. Adams argues that President Trump is one of the best branders, influencers, and persuaders he has ever seen, in that the president uses persuasive techniques in debates and on social media as a way to get people to do what he wants. Adams contends that President Trump’s persuasive techniques will help solve the problem of North Korea because he has already set up China to get involved by intimating that it tried and failed. Adams believes this will cause China to get involved to save face. Scott Adams and Peter Robinson finish by chatting about Adams’s views on the story arc of life. Adams says that he believes he started intentionally selfish so that by the end of his life he can give away all of his wealth, knowledge, and wisdom, a process he says he has already begun. They also briefly discuss his new book, Win Bigly, about the persuasive strategies of Donald Trump. Scott Adams is releasing his new book, Win Bigly, in October 2017. (Playing time: 43:32)
Recorded on July 23, 2017 Thirty years after Ronald Reagan’s famous denouncement of the Berlin Wall, Peter Robinson reflects on writing the Brandenburg Gate speech and why it was so important to include the now memorable words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Pat Sajak, host of Wheel of Fortune, turns the tables on Uncommon Knowledge’s host, Peter Robinson, sitting him down in the interview chair to discuss that famous speech and his journey to becoming Ronald Reagan’s speechwriter. Peter Robinson's journey to becoming Ronald Reagan's speechwriter began in Oxford as he was trying his hand at becoming a novelist. After a year of writing a book Peter wasn't thrilled with, William H. Buckley advised him to try to become a speechwriter in Washington, DC. Peter left Oxford and. after a series of interviews, was given the task of speechwriting for then vice president George H. W. Bush and eventually became a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan. Five years after Peter Robinson became President Reagan's speechwriter it was Peter's turn to write one of the president's important speeches of the year to be delivered in Berlin during the height of the Cold War. To get the speech right, Peter spent a day and half in West Berlin researching the points of view of diplomats and politicians, all of whom all made it seem as though the Berlin Wall was something people hardly noticed any more. This view turned out to not be shared by the citizens of West Berlin, as Peter discovered later that evening when he sat down to dinner with citizens of West Berlin, where the dinner host said if Mr. Gorbachev is serious about perestroika he'd get rid of this wall. Peter’s dinner hosts went on to talk about how much they missed their families whom they hadn’t seen in decades because, though they lived just a mile away, the wall stood between them. That statement and the sentiments of the people of West Berlin struck Peter; after a series of drafts he came up with the now well-known line, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" That line, however, almost didn’t make it into the final draft of the speech as various advisers counseled against it and tried to persuade Peter and President Reagan to remove it. In the end, though, President Reagan insisted, and the line was kept in and remains to this day one of his most famous statements. (Playing time: 50:39)
Recorded on July 12, 2017 Ayaan Hirsi Ali joins Peter Robinson to discuss her new book, The Challenge of Dawa: Political Islam as Ideology and Movement and How to Contain It, and her views on the challenges facing Western civilization in regards to political Islam. She argues that Islam needs to be separated into two different parts, one part of religion and the other part, political philosophy. She concedes that many aspects of the religious part of Islam are peaceful but argues that the political side is much more concerning due to its focus on Dawa, which means “to plead or to call non-Muslims to Islam.” This call to convert people to Islam is what she argues was a driving force behind the spread of Islam throughout history. Hirsi Ali argues that American political philosophy and classical liberalism are young philosophies in comparison to the fourteen centuries of Islamic political doctrine and that its age and layered-ness are often underestimated by Western minds who are more familiar with younger political philosophies. She discusses the critiques of the philosopher Karl Popper of communism and fascism and how they relate directly to the ideologies of Islam. She argues that the language of appeasement often used toward radical Islamic terrorism is too gentle and that discussions of how to deal with Islam need to be considerably franker. Earlier this year Ayaan Hirsi Ali was called before Congress to testify on her book The Challenge of Dawa. She discusses her testimony and that although she was invited by a Democrat senator to speak “about the ideology of radical Islam,” the Democrats present didn’t ask her a single question because they were likely uncomfortable with what she had to say about Islam. She argues that just as Western civilizations have defeated dangerous ideologies in the past, she is optimistic that Western civilization will succeed against political Islam for, as she says, “[Jihadis] can’t destroy us without permission.” She says if we take the fight to the “battlefield of ideas” we can defeat radical Islamic ideologies with Western beliefs. About the Guest Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1969. As a young child she was subjected to female genital mutilation; as she grew up she embraced Islam and strove to live as a devout Muslim. But she began to question aspects of her faith. One day, while listening to a sermon on the many ways women should be obedient to their husbands, she couldn't resist asking, "Must our husbands obey us too?" In 1992 Hirsi Ali fled to the Netherlands to escape a forced marriage. There she was given asylum and in time citizenship. She quickly learned Dutch and was able to study at the University of Leiden, earning her MA in political science. Working as a translator for Somali immigrants, she saw firsthand the inconsistencies between liberal Western society and tribal Muslim cultures. From 2003 to 2006 Hirsi Ali served as an elected member of the Dutch parliament. While in parliament, she focused on furthering the integration of non-Western immigrants into Dutch society and on defending the rights of Muslim women. In 2004 Hirsi Ali gained international attention following the murder of Theo van Gogh. Van Gogh had directed her short film Submission, a film about the oppression of women under Islam. The assassin, a radical Muslim, left a death threat for her pinned to Van Gogh's chest. In 2006 Hirsi Ali had to resign from parliament when the then Dutch minister for immigration decided to revoke her citizenship, arguing that Ayaan had mislead the authorities at the time of her asylum application. The Dutch courts, however, confirmed that Hirsi Ali was indeed a legitimate Dutch citizen, leading to the fall of the government. Disillusioned with the Netherlands, she subsequently moved to the United States. In 2007 Hirsi Ali founded the AHA Foundation to protect and defend the rights of women in the United States from harmful traditional practices. Today the foundation is the leading organization working to end violence that shames, hurts, or kills thousands of women and girls in the United States each year and puts millions more at risk. Hirsi Ali is a fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Hirsi Ali is currently researching the relationship between the West and Islam. She must live with round-the-clock security, as her willingness to speak out and her abandonment of the Muslim faith have made her a target for violence by Islamic extremists. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" of 2005, one of the Glamour Heroes of 2005, and Reader's Digest's European of the Year for 2005. She is the best-selling author of Infidel (2007) and Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now (2015). (Playing time: 42:24)
Recorded on February 27, 2017 In the latest episode from Uncommon Knowledge, Sir Roger Scruton, a formally trained political philosopher, talks about his life and the events he’s witnessed that led him to conservatism. He first embraced conservatism after witnessing the leftist student protests in France in May 1968. During the ensuing riots in Paris, more than three hundred people were injured. Scruton walked away from this event with a change in worldview and a strong leaning toward conservatism. Visits to communist- controlled Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1979 cemented his preference for conservatism and his distaste for the fraud of communism and socialism, initiating a desire to do something about it. From thereon he dedicated himself to helping organize underground seminars for the young people oppressed behind the iron curtain. Sir Roger examines a brief history of conservatism in the twentieth century of England in regard to Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill. Although he appreciates what Margaret Thatcher stood for, he argues that she had many conservative ideals but never used the conservative framework to organize her overall political strategy. Instead she organized around market economics, which was not always effective in the social, cultural, and legal areas. Peter Robinson argues that Winston Churchill did a much better job of organizing around conservative ideals but eventually lost an election because he didn’t have the vocabulary or the focus on free markets. They discuss the tenuous relationship between free markets and conservative ideals that have not mixed well together in British politics. Robinson and Sir Roger discuss the 2016 political upset of Brexit in the United Kingdom and how the political analysts failed to predict the vote outcome, much like what happened in November 2016 in the United States. They deliberate how the issues around immigration from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom contributed to Brexit, in addition to general dissatisfaction with the European Union. Thus, in the cases of both the United Kingdom and the United States, the media and intellectuals ignored the will of the “indigenous working classes” who made their voices known through their votes. About the Guest: Sir Roger Scruton Sir Roger Scruton is an English writer and philosopher who has published more than fifty books in philosophy, aesthetics, and politics. His book discussed in this episode was How to Be a Conservative; it was published in 2014. He is a fellow of the British Academy and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He teaches in both England and America and is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington. DC. He is currently teaching an MA in philosophy course for the University of Buckingham. Sir Scruton was knighted in 2016 by Queen Elizabeth II for his “services to philosophy, teaching and public education.” (Playing time: 44:46)
Recorded on June 10, 2017 Senator Rob Portman sits down with Hoover Institution fellow Peter Robinson to talk about the threats and problems related to Russia's meddling in democratic elections in the United States and around the world. Portman then discusses the complex process of health care reform, noting that the process has been difficult because health care is a complex issue that needs to be handled correctly. In the conversation about health care reform, Portman says that the number-one cause of death in Ohio is opioid overdose and that Medicaid plays an important role in getting addicts the help they need so they don’t end up in jail or in the emergency room. Along with health care, the Senate will take up tax reform; Portman believes this is the most important reform that the Congress and the president can make to help the economy grow. Portman also touches on wages and jobs and helping those who are struggling to make ends meet. Finally, Portman reflects on the fraying of the American fabric and what can get us back to the concepts, values, ideas, and ideals that made the United States one of the most successful and longest-running democracies and a beacon of hope for the world. (Playing time: 40:44)
Recorded on June 10, 2017 The forty-second governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, joins Peter Robinson on Uncommon Knowledge to discuss Illinois’s budget crisis. With the end of the fiscal year deadline (June 30) looming ever closer Governor Rauner and House majority Democrats will have to come to an agreement to get the budget passed and prevent Illinois’s bond rating from being downgraded to junk, causing Illinois to lose investment-grade status. Peter Robinson and Governor Rauner discuss this financial crisis and Rauner’s goals for the budget. He insists that no budget will be passed unless it is a balanced budget that includes, but is not limited to, term limits, consolidating the government, and pension reform. Governor Rauner talks about why he chose to enter politics after a successful business career and how he plans on fixing the state that is his home. He details out how Illinois has historically dealt with thirty-five years of deficits and how it ended up in the current financial mess. He also discusses the difficult opposition he's facing with a Democrat-controlled state legislature. The GOP governor and the Democrat-controlled legislature have reached an impasse several times during his tenure as governor, as he refuses to pass a budget that will increase the deficit further than in 2015 and 2016. Background on the Illinois Budget Crisis: Illinois has been operating without a budget for two years now, as the state legislature has been unable to pass a budget up that will not increase the deficit and also satisfy the requirements of Governor Rauner. The Illinois legislature has managed to keep the state running through temporary stopgap measures, but as the state’s debts continue to rise to more than $150 billion, stopgap measures and the lack of budget will no longer be able to keep the state running. Illinois has been plagued with financial issues during the last several years, even being unable to provide lottery winners with their winnings. The state has been running a deficit for thirty-five years now. If a new budget isn’t passed by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, the Illinois bond rating will be downgraded even more than it already has, and Illinois stands to lose millions of dollars in federal funding. To pass a new budget, the plan will have to be passed by a three-fifths majority vote in the Illinois House. As it stands, if Illinois’s bond rating is downgraded, Illinois will be the first state since 1970 to lose investment-grade status. (Playing time: 30:14)
Recorded on June 2, 2017 Senator Benjamin Sasse joins Peter Robinson to discuss his book The Vanishing American Adult and the growing crisis in America of prolonged adolescence. Senator Sasse argues that children are growing up, entering adolescence, and becoming stuck in the transitional stage to adulthood as they fail to become financially independent from their parents. He argues that because this generation of children is growing up during a time of relative peace and prosperity, it has allowed millennials to grow up without the issues of previous generations that were raised in war time. In this era of consumption and material surplus, he argues that adolescents are leading age-segregated lives and not developing a work ethic and that both their parents have an obligation to teach their children to grow up. Furthermore, he stresses the importance of intergenerational learning by allowing children to be raised around their grandparents and other adults to help them learn that the trivial trials of youth don’t matter in the long run. Senator Sasse believes that there are certain virtues that American children have to learn to become productive and happy adults. Part of that is by teaching children the distinction between production and consumption and how to find happiness and self-worth through jobs that make one feel like a necessary part of the company/society. This, he argues, will help raise peoples’ self-worth and lead them to happiness and fulfillment in their everyday. Senator Sasse finishes by stressing the importance of building children’s identities as readers to help foster the growth of ideas and active learning over the passive activities of sitting in front of screens. He notes that sedentary life is not fulfilling and that by encouraging people to participate in production over consumption will lead to more fulfilling lives. He ends on the optimistic note, that while our youth may still need guidance, overall America’s best days still lie ahead. (Playing time: 38:10)
Today, we’re introducing Area 45, a new political podcast from the team behind Uncommon Knowledge, The Classicist, and the Libertarian. Host Bill Whalen interviews Uncommon Knowledge’s host, Peter Robinson about presidential communication in this age of shock tweets and nonstop news cycles. Presidents are defined by rhetorical moments: Reagan and Kennedy at the Berlin Wall; George W. Bush rallying the nation after the 9/11 attacks. And Donald Trump? So far his presidency hasn’t been one of major addresses. Hoover fellow Peter Robinson, author of Reagan’s famous speech at the Brandenberg Gate, discusses the art of presidential wordsmithery in this age of social media and nonstop news cycles. New episodes of Area 45 are released each week. Subscribe now on iTunes, SoundCloud, or via RSS on your favorite podcast platform. (Playing time: 55:32)
Recorded on May 11, 2017 John Michael “Mick” Mulvaney, director of the Office of Budget and Management, sits down with Peter Robinson to discuss the complex process of budget reform by having to blend President Trump's budget proposal with the realities of dealing with Congress. Mulvaney explains the need for bipartisanship in budget negotiations within the Senate to get the budget passed, which means getting at least eight Democrats to vote for the proposed budget (to get to the magic number of sixty votes) and keeping Trump's promises to his base. Mulvaney talks about the unique opportunity for the Republicans to reform the federal budget five months ahead of schedule as a result of the Obama administration’s inability to get a twelve-month budget passed. Furthermore Republicans have been able to invoke old laws that allow them to undo many policies enacted in the late days of the previous administration. That loophole allowed them to confirm several appointments and to pass the proposed budget without the requisite sixty votes but with fifty votes. But the Republicans need sixty votes in the Senate to pass the appropriations bill. The Democrats wanted a shutdown, but the Republicans were able to move money around to satisfy the Democrats and get the votes necessary to pass the appropriations bill and avoid a shutdown. For example, there was/is no money for new bricks and mortar construction of the “Wall,” but Republicans moved money around and funded their priorities for border security via a virtual wall with money already available for technology and surveillance. Mulvaney notes that the budgeting/appropriations system is set up so the House and Senate pass twelve appropriations bills every year. Those are the spending bills, which are the end process of the budget. The budget is the start of the process, authorizations go in the middle, and appropriations go on the end, which is how money gets out to be spent. Mulvaney was in Congress for six years, in which time Congress should have approved seventy-two appropriations bills but only approved three. Mulvaney says that the system is broken because of the sixty-vote rule to approve appropriations bills in the Senate. Therefore instead of small manageable appropriation bills that Congress could negotiate and pass, Congress ends up with large unwieldy bills that no one knows what is in them and thus punts with a resolution to continue with what done earlier. Mulvaney says that the system is not even close to what the Founding Fathers created and/or what is needed for a manageable and functioning government and society. Mulvaney describes his vision for the future of the American economy, noting that the way to reduce the deficit isn't necessarily cutting spending or raising taxes but creating room in the American economy for growth. He argues that the lack of new businesses and jobs, because of regulations and taxes, has prevented the ideal three percent growth necessary to eliminate the deficit and grow the economy. He also argues that regulatory reform can have twice the impact on economic growth that tax policy can. Mulvaney ends the interview saying that he loves his job and loves going to work. The eighty-plus-hour workweeks go by in the blink of an eye because the work is engaging and invigorating and because he feels he has a golden opportunity to change things for the better and get the United States, especially the economy, on a better trajectory. Mulvaney said that he is working at the highest levels on complicated but wonderful ideas, ideals, and issues with the leader of the free world and that President Trump is a great boss. (Playing time: 38:21)
Released May 18, 1996 In the 1996 first ever episode of Uncommon Knowledge, Peter Robinson discusses the origins of Uncommon Knowledge before invited guests former US attorney general Edwin Meese III and former San Jose police chief Joseph McNamara. They have a spirited debate about the war on drugs and the best way to handle the drug problem in the United States. According to Peter Robinson, “Ed Meese wants to win the war on drugs; Joe McNamara wants to end it.” Twenty-one years later, we look back as Meese and McNamara debate the merits of marijuana legalization and make predictions about where the United States would be in ten years (2006). Although their predictions were not entirely accurate, their insights into the legalization debate and the war on drugs remain helpful today. They answer questions about how they believe that legalizing marijuana will increase crime and addiction rates, how to beef up educational and prevention programs, and the effect of middle-class drug use in the United States. (Playing time: 26:32)
Recorded on March 16, 2017 Although many people have heard of Carly Fiorina, former presidential candidate and first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, few have had the chance to sit down and speak with her. In this special live taping of Uncommon Knowledge, at the National Review Institute’s Idea Summit, with guest host Michael Franc, director of Hoover’s Washington, DC, Programs, Fiorina discusses the 2016 presidential election, her personal path to conservatism, and her beliefs about the future for US and global politics. She opens up about the often-brutal criticisms she received during the election, her choice to become conservative, the loss of her stepdaughter to drug addiction, and the ways in which she believes conservatives are fighting to help people help themselves by giving them the tools and resources necessary to change their own path. Fiorina goes on to analyze the current state of the union, the disenfranchised Americans she’s met, and the solutions she believes in for the future of the United States. Special Guest Host: Michael Franc is the Hoover Institution’s director of DC programs, where he oversees research and outreach initiatives to promote ideas and scholarship in our nation’s capital. He holds a dual appointment as a research fellow. Mike Franc is a longtime veteran of Washington, DC, policy making. Before joining Hoover, Franc served as policy director and counsel for House majority leader Kevin McCarthy. He also served as the vice president of government relations for the Heritage Foundation from 1997 to 2013. During that time, he managed all the think tank’s outreach with Capitol Hill and the Executive Branch. He also completed a tour of duty as communications director for former House majority leader Dick Armey (R-TX) and worked for the US Department of Education and the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He has been quoted widely in the print and broadcast media and was a regular contributor to the National Review Online and other publications. Franc has a BA from Yale University and a JD from Georgetown University. (Playing time: 40:04)
Recorded on February 14, 2017 CEO Robin Hayes and Hoover Institution board member Joel Peterson talk to Peter Robinson about how JetBlue has remained successful, despite all the regulations, competition, and pitfalls of running an airline. Peterson and Hayes argue that consolidation and the limited number of airlines in the United States have allowed for sustainable operating margins. JetBlue continues to have double-digit operating margins and great customer loyalty by focusing on safety, culture, and delighting customers. JetBlue has been voted best airline for customer satisfaction by JD Power for twelve years in a row. Hayes and Peterson support the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) managing the safety aspect of regulations, but they prefer that another independent entity run the operations aspect of the airline industry. Although the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978 deregulated the airline industry, the airlines are still one of the most regulated industries in the United States, with more than 13,000 pages of FAA regulations. Additionally, 21 percent of the cost of the air ticket goes to the government via taxes. Legacy airlines, like United, American, and Delta, will charge high fares until a new airline comes in; then the legacy airlines will lower their fares to try to drive out the new airline/entrant. You need a low-cost structure to compete, which JetBlue has; JetBlue has not had to go into debt to fund its airplanes. They discuss how JetBlue has become synonymous with innovation and its decision to bring JetBlue’s investment arm to the Silicon Valley to further integrate disruptive technology into their airline. JetBlue, which wants to use technology to improve customer relations and track equipment, has invested in FLYR to study how the pricing method can be disruptive and thus improve ticketing. JetBlue’s keys to success and longevity are a great culture, innovation, great products, and maintaining cost advantages. JetBlue seeks to create a culture in which all employees are empowered to improve customers’ experiences, from the time they check-in to the time they pick up their bags. (Playing time: 40:54)
Recorded on March 22, 2017 In a lively debate Avik Roy and John Podhoretz discuss health care coverage and whether the American Health Care Act (AHCA), created to replace Obamacare/Affordable Care Act (ACA), will solve our health care problems. They both agree that if we could begin again we would never design a health care system like ours, but, since we cannot start over, how can we make things better. They debate whether universal health care coverage is a good idea, how to provide health care coverage to the most needy, and allow the wealthy and more capable citizens to choose and pay for their own coverage. Roy thinks the system the Affordable Care Act put in place caters too much to the wealthy and that the AHCA will just exacerbate health care inequality. Podhoretz and Roy’s debate ranges from health care to race, inequality, history, and the election of 2016. They note that the Republicans and Democrats are split/disagree on many issues and ideas. Trump voters watch different TV shows and movies, read different newspapers, and have different cultural experiences than the Clinton supporters; therefore the two parties see the world through very different lenses. They examine the changes in the Republican and Democratic Parties over time, including their involvement in the Civil Rights movement and the rise of identity politics and racism. The interview ends with a question on fatherhood and how it shapes both Podhoretz's and Roy's thinking as journalists and public intellectuals. Podhoretz does not want to foist his feelings and views on his children but notes that the media no longer make it possible for children to keep their innocence. Roy dreads sending his children to public schools and discusses some of the problems facing parents and children today. Roy says that parents can choose the environment in which they will raise their children and that there is no need to turn their children over to popular culture.
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Podcast Details

Created by
Hoover Institution webmaster
Podcast Status
Hiatus/Finished
Started
Aug 8th, 2011
Latest Episode
Apr 19th, 2018
Release Period
2 per month
Episodes
137
Explicit
No

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