Past episodes
About Uncommon Knowledge

For more than a decade 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.

Uncommon Knowledge takes fascinating, accomplished guests, then sits them down with me to talk about the issues of the day,” says Robinson, an author and former speechwriter for President Reagan. “Unhurried, civil, thoughtful, and informed conversation– that’s what we produce. And there isn’t all that much of it around these days.”

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, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Uncommon Knowledge by date

January 19, 2009 | Recorded on January 14, 2009

Intelligence and Security with James Woolsey

Former CIA director James Woolsey

James Woolsey discusses the failure of the intelligence community in the run-up to the Iraq war and considers Barak Obama’s selection of Leon Panetta to head the CIA in light of the historical relationship between the president and the CIA director. He outlines the challenges the intelligent community faces in what he calls America’s war against “theocratic totalitarianism.” Finally, he asserts that it is imperative for us to destroy oil as a strategic commodity – not only for our security but also for the good of the planet. (36:56 ) Video transcript

January 5, 2009 | Recorded on December 15, 2008

Crisis Management with John Taylor

Crisis Management with John Taylor

What are the lessons we learned -- and perhaps unlearned -- that permitted the American economy, once so convulsive, to grow in such a robust and sustained way for the last quarter of a century? Economist John Taylor discusses today’s financial crisis, which he labels the most “unusual” crisis since the Great Depression. He identifies a number of factors contributing to the crisis, but locates its origins in the monetary excesses of the Fed. In outlining what the government should and should not do in response to the crisis, he concludes that it will be tragic if we forget all we have learned over the past two and a half decades about the importance of the private sector and the free market. (36:20) Video transcript

December 1, 2008 | Recorded on November 24, 2008

Government, Economic Growth, and Speculative Investing with Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel, President of Clarium Capital Management

In this Uncommon Knowledge interview from November 24, 2008, Thiel argues that a book published in France in 1968, Le Defi Americain (The American Challenge), has a lot to say to us in 2008, including why the United States has failed to rise to the heights predicted by its author, J. J. Servan-Schreiber. In explaining what’s wrong with the US economy, Thiel points out that, although we have benefited from growth that is both extensive (e.g., free trade) and intensive (e.g., technology), we have not featured enough of each. He asserts that the credit crisis of 2008 had nothing to do with the failings of the free market but rather is a by-product of government entanglement, nurtured by the motors of economic growth, working less well than expected. (38:56)

November 17, 2008 | Recorded on November 11, 2008

Shelby Steele on President-Elect Obama

Peter Robinson interviews Shelby Steele

Shelby Steele asserts that Barack Obama won the presidential election by successfully basing his candidacy on race, “Obama’s special charisma … always came … from the racial idealism he embodied. … This was his only true political originality.” Steele holds that whites voted less for real “change” than for documentation of a change that has already occurred in race relations in America. But will four or eight years of Barack Obama free whites from the taint of racism or make them still more complicit in it? (37:40) Video transcript

October 27, 2008 | Recorded on October 21, 2008

Thomas Sowell and a Conflict of Visions

Hoover senior fellow Thomas Sowell

Sowell describes the critical differences between interests and visions. Interests, he says, are articulated by people who know what their interests are and what they want to do about them. Visions, however, are the implicit assumptions by which people operate. In politics, visions are either “constrained” or “unconstrained.” A closer look at the statements of both McCain and Obama reveals which “vision” motivates their policy positions, particularly as they pertain to the war, the law, and economics. (37:38) Video transcript

October 20, 2008 | Recorded on October 7, 2008

Equality Man

Equality Man

In 1995 Connerly campaigned for Proposition 209, which would make it illegal for the state of California to discriminate on the basis of race, intending to end the state’s affirmative action programs. The proposition passed. Since then, Connerly, having won passage of such measures in Washington State and Michigan, has continued the fight. In discussing the battle to end racial preferences, Connerly notes that “the establishment is always at odds with the people on issues involving race.” Martin Luther King, says Connerly, would likely have supported affirmative action back in the 1960s, but were he alive today, he’d say, “We’re beyond that now.” Would a President Obama agree? Connerly weighs in. (33:19) Video transcript

October 13, 2008 | Recorded on August 18, 2008

Anything Goes with Chris Buckley

Christopher Buckley

In this wide-ranging interview, bouncing from the comic to the serious and back again, Christopher Buckley comments on the new media, politics, Republicans, the war, spending, McCain, Obama, and American life. After rating the speechifying of Obama, McCain, Palin, and Biden, he concludes with reflections on life with William F. Buckley. (29:15) Video transcript

September 22, 2008 | Recorded on September 14, 2008

Politics and Catholics with Archbishop Charles Chaput

Rev. Charles J. Chaput

According to the New York Times “A struggle within the church over just how Catholic voters should think about abortion is once again flaring up just as political partisans prepare an all-out battle for the votes of Mass-going Catholics.” Archbishop Chaput weighs into this battle, taking on the thorny issue of where to draw the line between church and state, particularly for Catholics. The archbishop also answers critics who speak of misbegotten forays by the church into other political battles as well as the challenges the Catholic Church faces as its influence declines in American life. (41:28) Video transcript

September 8, 2008 | Recorded on August 28, 2008

The World According to Andrew Klavan

Andrew Klavan

From his vantage point inside Hollywood and the arts and from the perspective of a writer whose work is imbued with religious themes, Klavan deconstructs the Left’s argument that Western civilization — from its embrace of capitalism to its foundations in Judeo-Christian doctrine to its traditions of personal liberty — is in error and needs to go. Klavan says “that argument has failed spectacularly, in every way” and that, when you do not relinquish a failed argument, all you have left is insult and ridicule. (39:22) Video transcript

August 25, 2008 | Recorded on May 28, 2008

The Great Depression with Amity Shlaes

Amity Shlaes author of the Forgotten Man

Amity Shlaes challenges the received wisdom that the Great Depression occurred because capitalism broke and that it ended because FDR, and government in general, came to the rescue. According to Shlaes, it was the government that made the Great Depression worse. And was FDR’s progressivism, as evident in the New Deal, really all that new, or was it a step along a progressive continuum that already had been established? (34:39) Video transcript