Bill Whalen: Welcome to GoodFellows, a Hoover Institution broadcast exploring social, economic, political, and geopolitical issues. I have the great honor of sharing the stage with three very wise men whom we call Hoover's "GoodFellows." That would be the economist John Cochrane; geostrategist and hopeless optimist H. R. McMaster; and historian and author Niall Ferguson-Hoover senior fellows all.
Let's talk a bit about the role of think tanks. What caught my eye was a piece in the Economist that ran two years ago. The headline: "Can think tanks survive in a post-fact world?" I think what they were getting at is think tanks are populated by pointy-headed academics, many of whom did not see Brexit coming, did not see Donald Trump coming, maybe they do not see the world the way they should be. Let's talk about the relevancy of think tanks these days.
Niall Ferguson: Let me begin by saying that in many ways Hoover is not a think tank in the conventional sense. I mean, we are a strange hybrid entity which is part academic center on the campus of one of the world's leading universities. But unlike many academic institutions, we are interested in policy. So we want our findings to become actionable. I think in that sense Hoover occupies a unique position that sets it apart from the Washington-based think tanks, particularly at a time when academia has swung so far to the left that most people would be absolutely staggered by the things that go on on a typical campus. We are in the unique position that we can at least offer some antidote to rampant wokeism and identity politics. I think Hoover is not really a think tank in the same way that the American Enterprise Institute or Heritage are. We are really trying to make academic research, the most sophisticated research on economics, on history, on international relations. We are trying to make it relevant to the people who have to make the decisions, whether it is in Washington or further afield, because I do not think our scope is purely the United States.
H. R. McMaster: I would say that is the key: the connection between scholarship and then having a positive influence on policy but also education. I think one of the ways that we get out of the mess that we are in, in terms of the lack of strategic competence we have seen in Afghanistan and elsewhere, is for the American people to demand better from their leaders. I think Hoover's uniquely positioned to do that. The other problem you sometimes see with some think tanks is they become very superficial; they are trying to have immediate policy impact with essays or events or discussions that may or may not be grounded in rigorous academic research. We have a tremendous opportunity to do that here. We have amazing students at Stanford and the opportunity to work with them as research assistants. It is like an ongoing seminar as we...