Uncommon Knowledge
Peter Thiel on “The Straussian Moment”

Peter Thiel on “The Straussian Moment”

September 23, 2019

Recorded on September 5, 2019.

Peter Robinson opens the show by asking Thiel’s views on his own essay “The Straussian Moment.” Thiel responds by saying that people today believe in the power of the will but no longer trust the power of the intellect, the mind, and rationality. The question of human nature has been abandoned. We no longer trust people’s ability to think through issues. Thiel notes that this shift began to take place in 1969, when the United States put a man on the moon; three weeks later Woodstock took place, moving the culture in the direction of yoga and psychological retreat. 

Thiel further adds that there was still hope that things would open up for the world in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed, but that the leaders of China and other East Asian countries did not accept that openness would solve their problems. Instead they learned the opposite lessons from those events: that if you open things up too much, then things fall apart.

Thiel ends the interview by noting that there is nothing automatic or deterministic about how history happens, and he expresses his views that economic growth plays a vital role in a country’s future.

Jim Mattis on Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead

Jim Mattis on Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead

September 3, 2019

Recorded on August 21, 2019

Peter Robinson opens the show by asking General Jim Mattis, former secretary of defense, to explain the word “chaos” from the title of his new book, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead. (“Chaos” is an abbreviation for “Colonel Has Another Outstanding Suggestion.”) Mattis notes that chaos has been a part and parcel of his life growing up, in the marines, and traveling the world.

Mattis further talks about how chaos has been introduced by organizations to disrupt order and keep opponents at the top of their game. But on the battlefield, it is better to introduce chaos early, in order to disrupt enemies’ plans and thus create problems for them and, ultimately, dominate them.

Robinson asks about what led Mattis to join the marines and why he decided to serve so long. Mattis explains his love for the country and the great people he met in the service. The fellow soldiers kept him going and inspired him to jot down lessons he had learned that could help future generations learn to serve and lead in better ways. Mattis notes that it is the very high quality of the people whom he met in the armed services that kept him in the military for his career. Mattis talks about how soldiers are brave, rambunctious, and selfless, and how he would rather have crummy jobs at times and work with great people than have a great job and not work with the outstanding people Mattis encountered in the military.

 Additional resources:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/jim-mattis-duty-democracy-and-the-threat-of-tribalism-11566984601

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/gen-jim-mattis-on-war-and-trump/

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/james-mattis-on-why-he-left-the-trump-administration-but-wont-criticize-it

https://www.npr.org/2019/09/02/756681750/jim-mattis-nations-with-allies-thrive-nations-without-allies-wither

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