The first of our two-part conversation with Naill Ferguson is on applied history’s lessons of the 1920s and the 1970s…for the 2020s.

Niall is a historian and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and he previously taught at Harvard, NYU and Oxford. He’s the managing director of Greenmantle, a macroeconomic and geopolitical advisory firm. Niall is also the author of 17 books including “The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook” and “Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe”.

Welcome to our new podcast, “Call Me Back”, where we try to zoom out from minute-to-minute news and look back to how we got here, what we can learn from earlier decades and where we might be going in these roaring and raging 2020s.

In each episode, I’ll call a friend who is deeply immersed in some of the most transformative issues of our time.

The recent electoral outcomes in Virginia, New Jersey, New York City, Buffalo, Minneapolis and other areas across the country were as much to do with the pandemic — and the economic and cultural shocks from the pandemic — as anything. Was it a political blip or some kind of realignment?
Where does the Democratic Party go from here? And what about the Republican Party? What does it mean for Joe Biden and Donald Trump? Is the Glenn Youngkin campaign a model for our future politics?
Matthew Continetti is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, founding editor of The Washington Free Beacon, and a columnist for Commentary Magazine. He’s also the author of several books. He has a new book being released in April 2022, called “The Right: The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism”.

Have we revolutionized vaccine development? What does this mean for our lives and our health well beyond the vaccine for Covid-19? Could this kind of life sciences revolution only happen in America? And what about Operation Warp Speed? Is it a model for future public-private partnerships to solve big problems?

Greg Zuckerman of The Wall Street Journal joins the podcast to discuss his new and fascinating book, “A Shot to Save the World: The Inside Story of the Life-or-Death Race for a COVID-19 Vaccine.”

In the middle of the pandemic, Dr. Nicholas Christakis released a sweeping book, called “Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live.” In it, he drew on scientific, medical, and sociological research, and assessed the transmission of the virus, responses worldwide, and prognosis for the pandemic’s end, including some bold predictions. The paperback edition is just out with some new material.

During the pandemic, standardized tests were suspended in an entire range of educational institutions. Will these changes be temporary or permanent?
More than 600 of these institutions switched from a mandatory to optional test for the 2020-21 application season, and many just flat out refused to accept a test at all in their application process. According to the editor in chief of the Princeton Review, “That is a tectonic change for many schools.”
According to Smithsonian Magazine, “The pandemic sped up changes that were already afoot; even before Covid, more than 1,000 colleges had made the tests optional. Many had been turned off by the way the tests perpetuated socioeconomic disparities, limiting their ability to recruit a diverse freshman class.”
Concerns about disparities in outcomes, at the core of this massive shift, have been behind Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s agenda in New York City, including his past efforts to eliminate the entrance exam for the City’s seven specialized high schools. While that effort has experienced a setback in the State Legislature, the fight will likely carry on by other political leaders. And more recently, the Mayor announced a plan to make sweeping changes to the gifted program in the City’s elementary schools. There are similar efforts in other cities across the country.

Joining today’s conversation is Adrian Wooldridge, a longtime journalist at The Economist, where he is political editor and writes a column on British life and politics, and before that he penned the Schumpeter column on business, finance and management. He was previously the Washington bureau chief for The Economist, where he also wrote the Lexington column. Prior to his role in Washington, he was The Economist‘s West Coast correspondent, management correspondent and Britain correspondent.

JASON RILEY’S BOOK: “Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell”

Books and essays discussed in this episode:

Shall We Wake the President: Two Centuries of Disaster Management from the Oval Office by Tevi Troy

On this podcast, we’ve talked to a lot of policy-makers, pundits, professionals and practitioners about big picture trends they are observing and experiencing as a result of the pandemic.

Today, however, we are going more micro. We’ll talk to a venture capitalist about his portfolio of start-ups, and how those companies have been impacted by changes in the way we work and live, and what they tell us.

To find the published pieces discussed in this episode:

“What the Coronavirus Crisis Reveals About American Medicine”, by Sid Mukherjee, The New Yorker (April 27, 2020)

The Pandemic has either caused a crack-up in our politics or accelerated the crack-up that was well under way. And just when it looked like things were stabilizing, the politics of Covid have evolved along with the Delta variant. Ground zero for how this is playing out right now is California.

California is home to approximately 40 million people and the 5th largest economy in the world. It’s about to have an election on whether to re-call its incumbent governor, Gavin Newsom. How California voters have experienced government regulations — from lockdowns, mask mandates, school closings, and not to mention double-standards — shapes the political environment there.

A few websites referenced in this episode:

AEI’s Critical Threats Project:

China’s borders have been sealed for well over a year now. And those borders will be closed for the foreseeable future. That, obviously, is a result of the pandemic; but, is there a larger grand strategy at play?

For decades now, China’s coupling with western economies has been the dominant theme of the global economic landscape – beginning with China’s 2001 accession to the World Trade Organization.

This was supposed to be the summer that we returned to normal, here in New York City and in every major city around the world. Right?

But now there’s increasing speculation that it might not happen, because of the Delta variant, and other variants that may hit us from the mutating virus.

Who do presidents, prime ministers and business leaders listen to in the midst of managing a crisis? It’s a question that’s always interested me, from my time in government and business and also as a moon-lighting student of history.

I thought about that a lot during the covid pandemic. On this podcast series, we’ve talked about how the formal channels in our governments performed these past 18 months. But how about those unofficial channels from outside the government that wind up shaping our leaders’ thinking and approach to world-changing events.

Yuval currently wears three hats:

At the American Enterprise Institute think tank, he’s the Director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies.

Many have been surprised that areas of the real estate market are booming, Post Corona. So what do we know about the pandemic’s impact on an exodus from some cities, and the growth of other cities?

One of the ways that I have learned on this limited series podcast is from our top flight guests, but also from our listeners. A business practitioner – an operator or investor – will hear one of our experts on the pod and get a hold of me with an alternative analysis; it’s like I get to crowdsource ideas from our listeners.

We thank the 92nd Street Y for hosting us then, and for this podcast episode now. You can subscribe to the 92Y podcast here:

One piece that we reference throughout both discussions is by former New York Times science reporter Nicholas Wade that he published on Medium. Here is the link to Wade’s piece: