Hoover Institution (Stanford, CA) – The Hoover Institution hosted its seventh annual Summer Policy Boot Camp from Monday, August 14, to Thursday, August 17, convening 112 undergraduate students and recent graduates for intensive sessions with Hoover scholars who lectured on a broad set of public policy disciplines.

Codirected by senior fellows Scott W. Atlas and Joshua D. Rauh, the highly selective program included students representing a total of 75 colleges and universities and ten countries. Participants were assigned scholarly readings before the four days of sessions. Following the sessions, they had the opportunity to engage with and ask questions of presenting fellows.  

Hoover Institution director Condoleezza Rice led a keynote conversation with former Stanford and All-Pro NFL quarterback Andrew Luck, who discussed leadership lessons from the football field and his decision to walk away from the game. In another keynote, she interviewed Stripe CEO Patrick Collison, who described how he and his brother built up the digital payments processing platform from a start-up in Palo Alto to a multinational company.

Atlas said, “Our goals for the program were twofold. Our first objective was to teach that policy is derived from a process, one based on evidence, then critical analysis of that evidence, and only then the design of policy. Our second objective was to offer an environment that is rare to find on university campuses these days—free discussion of differing views, even on the most controversial policy issues of the day, without censorship or fear of cancellation. The highly interactive format allowed for a unique, intimate experience for the students to engage in direct discussions about most of today's key policy issues with an unparalleled array of outstanding Hoover faculty members.”

“The Traitel Building was abuzz with discussion and debate among these future policy leaders making connections with one another and with Hoover’s fellows that will last a lifetime, added Rauh.  “I was impressed with the participants’ open-mindedness and willingness to question their prior beliefs in the face of new evidence, an approach that I hope they will carry with them through their entire careers.”

Rauh continued, “The students, as always, put forth thoughtful questions to speakers, but perhaps even more importantly, they continued those discussions with their peers every day."

Following are highlights of the 2023 Boot Camp sessions and selected resources upon which the scholars’ lectures were based.


Senior Fellow John B. Taylor, who gives the opening lecture each year at the Boot Camp, described how US Federal Reserve officials were hesitant to raise interest rates following recent inflation, believing that the high inflation rates would be transitory. He underscored that monetary policy rules and strategies, when adopted by central bank officials, have resulted in more predictable economic outcomes.

Senior Fellow Joshua D. Rauh critiqued studies that support media and political narratives that the United States is experiencing vast wealth and income inequalities. Rauh explained that the progressive US tax and welfare system has, in fact, greatly reduced inequality, which is not actually increasing. According to Rauh’s analysis of the evidence, further redistribution measures will have detrimental economic impacts, he said, including crowding out investments and reducing business and job creation, the supply of goods and services, and consumption. In addressing inequality, Rauh argued, policy leaders should focus on creating opportunities in the labor market.

Senior Fellow Amit Seru explained that the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank was due to the devaluing of assets that were vulnerable to interest rate increases, and runs by wealthy individuals whose deposits exceeded the $250,000 FDIC insurance liits limits. To prevent future bank collapses, regulators should, in the short term, stress-test banks to separate the solvent but illiquid banks from the insolvent ones. Insolvent banks should be consolidated or sold instead of receiving taxpayer-funded bailouts. Over the long term, Seru argued, regulators should better anticipate risks posed by interest rate hikes.

Senior Fellow Stephen Haber provided a historical overview of the economic conditions that spur innovation. In particular, he described how the US patent system created incentives for inventors to generate ideas and develop products without the risk of free riders exploiting their intellectual property.

Senior Fellow John F. Cogan explained that all federal spending growthover the past sixty years can be attributed to the increasing cost of entitlement programs. Further, 60 percent of the beneficiaries of entitlement programs are not poor. He argued that the federal government is on an unsustainable fiscal path. To correct course, Cogan said, policy makers should restrain entitlement growth.


Senior Fellow Caroline Hoxby discussed her research demonstrating that low-income, high achieving students can acquire the same resources for higher education as their wealthy counterparts. She explained that the reason why not enough of these students attend elite colleges and universities is that they lack access to information about admission processes and financial support for tuition costs.

Senior Fellow Eric Hanushek argued—based on data from the results of the fall 2022 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP)—that US K–12 students in the COVID-era cohort stand to earn 5-6 percent less over their lifetimes compared with prepandemic student cohorts. In GDP terms, this translates to a reduction of as much as $28 trillion over the century. To make up for learning losses, Hanushek maintained, schools need to be made better than they were prior to the pandemic, and the best way to reach that goal is to hire and retain the most effective teachers and fire the least effective ones.  

Library & Archives

Research Fellow Bertrand Patenaude provided a history of the Hoover Institution’s origins as a library and archives for the collection of materials documenting war, peace, and political, economic, and social change. He also described Herbert Hoover’s disaster relief efforts in Belgium during World War I and in the Soviet Union following the war, which are documented extensively in the Institution’s collections.


Senior Fellow Steven Koonin argued that claims of a climate crisis offer scant scientific support. Poor and ill-considered policy responses to climate fears threaten individual economic well-being and degrade national security. Koonin said that although short-term weather patterns appear alarming, when considered in a many-decades context, they are not unprecedented. Further, over time, technology has enabled people to become more resilient to the effects of adverse weather.

American Democracy and Institutions

Senior Fellow Brandice Canes-Wrone explained that campaign money does not have a significant impact on election outcomes, as is commonly assumed. The biggest factor in successfully conducted campaigns is getting messaging fundamentals right. She also described how today individual donors—above parties and political action committees—are the largest source of a congressional candidate’s campaign funds. Further, she said that congressional members often vote with national donor opinion when it comes into conflict with their own district’s policy preferences.

Visiting Fellow Jeffrey Clemens outlined the shares of spending and division of policymaking between federal, state, and local governments. He noted that since the World War II era, government spending has expanded at a rapid rate, to an amount that is proportional to two-fifths of all economic activity today. To responsibly administer public finances, Clemens said, we should first consider the rationale for undertaking a specific activity. If that activity is worthwhile, we should examine whether the federal government is the appropriate entity to execute this function.

Hoover Fellow Elizabeth Elder presented evidence that demonstrates that social groups (people who share a common identity marker by choice or ascription) help individuals better make sense of politics—including candidate and party policy positions, values, and priorities. However, groups also can have the downside of polarizing societies and electorates. Elder also described how race (and racial attitudes) deeply structures public opinion and how gender shapes engagement with politics.

Visiting Fellow John Yoo analyzed the recent Supreme Court decisions related to affirmative action in college admissions and whether the government can use antidiscrimination laws to compel business owners to conduct services contrary to their religious beliefs. He explains that in the US court system, policies are created through judges’ decisions on cases brought by petitioners. Thus, the facts presented in the individual cases are supremely important.

In a conversation with Distinguished Policy Fellow Bill Whalen, Senior Fellow Victor Davis Hanson said that “woke” ideologies exhibited in today’s society and politics are a modern iteration of tribalism. He told the audience that the historical record demonstrates that tribalist paradigms don’t end well.

National Security, Diplomacy, and Geopolitics

Hoover Institution director Condoleezza Rice described current challenges to American national security interests, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and global competition posed by the People’s Republic of China. She underscored that the biggest obstacle to addressing challenges to our security is internal political and social division. However, Rice said that she is optimistic about the progress and resolve demonstrated by NATO and security partnerships among democratic countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

Senior Fellow Stephen Kotkin gave a presentation on concepts of world order, describing the potential pitfalls of American and western policy leaders engaging in wishful thinking about the ability of the United States to actively advance democracy globally.  Other risks include misunderstanding what drives opposition to the American-led order and  abandoning democratic values in an effort to compete effectively with authoritarian adversaries.

Senior Fellow H.R. McMaster explained that before making the decision to enter their country into conflict, government leaders must have a just end in mind and develop a strategy that achieves the desired outcome at an acceptable price for its citizens. He advocated that policy leaders, in formulating a strategy, define the challenge on its own terms and from the perspective of the adversary; view the challenge through the lens of vital national interests; craft an overarching goal and specific objectives; identify assumptions on which the strategy is based; and examine history to foster understanding, ask the right questions, identify opportunities, and avoid pitfalls.

Distinguished Visiting Fellow Jendayi Frazer described the current great-power competition in Africa involving the United States, China, and Russia. With its 1.3 billion people—skewed toward a younger demographic makeup—the continent represents the work force of the future. Further, it is rife with highly coveted minerals and natural resources. Frazer explained that although Africans have a favorable view of China’s infrastructure investment programs, they consider the American model for development to be preferable, because it is based on free-market and democratic principles.

Senior Fellow Russell Berman provided an overview of United States’ Middle East policy. In particular, he explained how the so-called pivot to East Asia diminished American influence in the region and allowed other great powers to fill the void. China, in particular, has recently engineered a rare diplomatic achievement in brokering a normalization agreement between rival Gulf states Saudi Arabia and Iran.  However, Berman asserted that the rising generation of Iranian citizens—many of whom are politically active and critical of their government—presents a significant opportunity for future US engagement.

Hoover Fellow Jacquelyn Schneider traced the history of US cyber strategy from the Obama administration to today. She explained that cyber strategy increasingly emphasizes resilience, whereby states are focused largely on strengthening their nation’s infrastructure to effectively withstand malicious activities while also deterring a small number of threats.

Health Care 

Senior Fellow Scott Atlas explained that the Affordable Care Act enrolled millions of Americans into Medicaid, offering poor medical coverage that more than half of doctors do not accept. To expand access to quality care, Atlas recommended that policymakers advance reforms that provide incentives and equip consumers to consider price and seek value; increase the supply of medical care and stimulate competition for patients’ money; and reform the tax code to eliminate harmful and counterproductive incentives.

As a capstone to the Boot Camp, each participant was invited to write an essay of 1,500 to 2,000 words that advocates a specific public policy measure, supported by facts, statistics, and valid arguments. Students who submitted top essays will be honored with the Director’s Award, which will be presented by Condoleezza Rice at a future Hoover board meeting.

All participants who attended the entirety of the Boot Camp sessions received a certificate of completion for the program.

The Hoover Institution Summer Policy Boot Camp is made possible by the generosity of the Kurt Hauser Family. The application process for the 2024 Summer Policy Boot Camp will open in October 2023. Please check back at Hoover.org for updates.

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