Non-profit

Hoover Institution

Website:

www.hoover.org/

Location:

Stanford, CA

Formation:

1919

Type:

Think-Tank

Director:

Condoleezza Rice

Legal Status:

Division of Stanford University

The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace is a think tank that is a division of Stanford University. The organization began as an archive that includes a great many documents dealing with the history of the Soviet Union, as well as the papers of prominent right-of-center intellectuals, including those of Nobel Laureates in Economics Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. The institution has hosted five Nobel Laureates in Economics as fellows.

Fellows as of 2022 include historians Victor Davis Hanson and Niall Ferguson, economist Thomas Sowell, legal scholar Richard Epstein, and author Shelby Steele.

The organization began as an archive; today it holds millions of primary documents for scholars studying 20th century history, including some of the largest archive of documents about the history of the Soviet Union, as well as the papers of prominent right-of-center intellectuals, including Nobel Laureates Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek and such organizations as the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, the Heartland Institute, and Young Americans for Freedom.

Overview

The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace is a think tank.  Although the organization has an independent endowment, it is a division of Stanford University, with many of the senior fellows jointly holding jobs at Stanford and Hoover. Five Nobel Laureates in Economics — Gary Becker, Milton Friedman, Douglass North, Thomas J.  Sargent and Michael Spence — have been Hoover fellows. Hoover fellows as of 2022 include historians Victor Davis Hanson and Niall Ferguson, economist Thomas Sowell, legal scholar Richard Epstein, and author Shelby Steele. [1]

Origins of the Hoover Institution

In 1919, Herbert Hoover was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson to be head of the American Relief Administration, the organization which provided food and shelter to Europeans after the end of World War I. Historian George H. Nash notes that a few years earlier Hoover had read the autobiography of educator Andrew Dickson White, who had collected material on the origins of the French Revolution while a student in Europe in the 1850s. Hoover proposed collecting primary documents about the war and donated $50,000 to Stanford University to house the documents he collected.  Stanford agreed to keep the documents Hoover had acquired “in a separate collection, with separate stacks and a separate room for its use.”  The Hoover War Library was born. [2]

After President Herbert Hoover lost the 1932 election, he vowed to continue to add documents to his collection, an activity he called “Operation Pack Rat.” [3] The Hoover War Library’s interests expanded to include collecting documents on the origins of Nazism and World War II. By 1950, the archive held twice as many documents as 1939. [4]

In 1944, Hoover proposed that an institute be created to study the papers in his archive to be “a research center upon the most vital of all human questions—War, Revolution, and Peace.” [5]

Donor Intent Controversy

In the 1950s Herbert Hoover became increasingly concerned that the Hoover Institution was being taken over by the political left. The institution’s director, C. Easton Rothwell, had been a protégé of suspected Communist spy Alger Hiss at the State Department. Using grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, Rothwell hired left-wing staff. According to George H. Nash, the only conservatives on Hoover’s staff in 1958 were Polish émigré Witold Sworakowski and former President Hoover’s personal archivist, Thomas Thalken. [6]

Herbert Hoover had a showdown with Stanford president Wallace Sterling. Sterling believed that the Hoover Institution was a department of Stanford University, and, like any other department, did not have the authority to hire staff without Stanford approval. Former President Hoover thought the Hoover Institution was independent of Stanford and had more autonomy. [7]

David Packard, chairman of the Stanford board, acted as negotiator. In May 1959, an agreement (known as the “N+1 Resolution”) settled the dispute in former President Hoover’s favor. The agreement stated that “the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace is an independent Institution within the frame of Stanford University.” The Hoover Institution was given freedom to hire staff without being subject to Stanford tenure review committees, denying those committees a left-wing veto on Hoover staff. Finally, gifts made to Stanford University and designated for support of the Hoover Institution “shall be used for that designated purpose and no other.” [8]

Another agreement was made in 1962, when Stanford agreed that the Hoover Foundation, which George H. Nash calls “a New York corporation comprising various Hoover family members and friends,” had to give approval of all future directors of the Hoover Institution.  When this agreement was signed, former President Hoover transferred control of his non-presidential papers to the Hoover Institution; his presidential papers were already under control of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library. [9]

Herbert Hoover then returned to fundraising, securing grants for the Hoover Institution from the Pew Memorial Trust, Jeremiah Milbank, and the Fleischmann Foundation. In April 1960, he wrote to retired Admiral Ben Moreell, cofounder of Americans for Constitutional Action: “the liberal foundations have turned me down in my raising funds for the Institution at Stanford…I have raised, within the last seven months, about $1,250,000 for my Institution from righteous foundations.” [10]

In March 1964, three months before his death, former President Hoover persuaded Richard Mellon Scaife to donate $750,000 to the Hoover Institution, the largest single grant the organization received during Hoover’s lifetime. [11]

W. Glenn Campbell

In 1960, W. Glenn Campbell, director of research for the American Enterprise Association (now the American Enterprise Institute), became Hoover Institution director. During his 29 years as director, the Hoover Institution became a major conservative think tank, in part because of a 1972 decision that its fellows could research domestic policy as well as foreign policy. “When liberalism as a political philosophy and force seems in disarray, the Hoover is flourishing,” Kenneth Lamott noted in 1978. “Its budget is bulging and the opinions of its scholars carry weight in Congress .” [12]

In the 1960s, left-wing campus radicals tried to seize the Hoover Institution building. They were blocked but burned an effigy of Campbell in front of the building. [13]

In 1977, donors to Hoover included the Pew Memorial Trust, Scaife Family Charitable Trusts, David Packard, Standard Oil of California, and Pacific Gas and Electric. In 1974, Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, responding to an invitation from Campbell and Stanford president Richard Lyman, gave an address at Hoover, at a time when the Ford administration blocked Solzhenitsyn from visiting the White House. [14]

Associations with Ronald Reagan

At least seven Hoover fellows served in the Reagan administration, most notably Martin Anderson, President Ronald Reagan’s chief domestic policy advisor. [15]

Liberals at Stanford claimed success in preventing the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library from being built on the Stanford campus. Stanford originally agreed in 1985 to accept the library and an associated public policy center, which would have been administered by the Hoover Institution. But many members of the faculty were bothered by having memorials to two Republican presidents on their campus, particularly after W. Glenn Campbell, in the 1986 Hoover annual report, said that having the Reagan Library at Stanford meant the “entire university” could “boast of a ‘Reagan connection.’” [16]

“If we are seen to be not only part of a political party but part of a particular wing of that party, we have a problem on top of a problem,” said political scientist David B. Abernethy. [17]

By April 1987, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation said it had withdrawn its application to house the library at Stanford, following Stanford students voting against the library by a 3-1 margin and the Stanford Faculty Senate voting that the library had to be much smaller if it were to stay on campus. [18]

John Raisian

In 1989, W. Glenn Campbell retired.  Hus successor, John Raisian, who would hold the Hoover Institution’s leadership until 2015, was much more low key. Members of the Stanford Faculty Senate were impressed when Raisian made his first appearance before the Senate wearing a World War I helmet. “The ploy was simple,” but its effect was stunning,” the Chronicle of Higher Education reported. “Tensions in the room vanished.” [19]

The Hoover Institution continued to have influence in Republican politics. In 1996, Hoover fellow John Taylor was the chief economic adviser to Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole. [20] The Hoover archives continued its collections. In 2006, Hoover acquired two shipping containers’ worth of documents about the history of the Baath Party that had ruled Iraq during the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. [21] The documents were digitized, with the originals returned to Iraq in 2013. [22]

Post-2020 Institution-University Controversies

In 2020, Scott Atlas, a Hoover fellow and a former professor of neuroradiology at the Stanford Medical School, was a health adviser to the Trump administration during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and debates over lockdown strategies. Atlas opposed general lockdowns and advocated for policies under which vulnerable people would be protected but many restrictions, such as mask mandates, would be lifted for most of the population. Atlas had also called for residents of Michigan to “rise up “against pandemic restrictions imposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in a Twitter post. [23]

In September 2020, 110 members of the Stanford medical faculty signed a letter condemning Atlas alleging that he made “falsehoods and misrepresentations of science.” Atlas was subsequently condemned by the Stanford Faculty Senate. A separate letter, signed by 123 Stanford professors, called on Stanford to begin “careful renegotiation” of its relationship with the Hoover Institution. “There’s a huge difference between a partisan think tank whose mission is to promote free markets and small government—that constructs knowledge that undergirds a particular message—and a research institution that is committed to free inquiry and objectivity,” Stanford comparative literature professor David Palumbo-Liu told the Los Angeles Times. [24]

In January 2021, Hoover Institution director Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration, told the Stanford Faculty Senate that although ”an awful lot of people, including me” have served  in Republican administrations, several Hoover fellows had served Democratic administrations, such as Michael McFaul, ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration, and Amy Zegart, who served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration. Rice stated that Stanford currently contributed less than two percent of Hoover’s budget, although Stanford investment managers handled Hoover’s endowment. Rice promised to stress scholarship by fellows and not just opinion pieces and said she would increase diversity at Hoover noting that she “was an affirmative action appointment” when Stanford first hired her as a Soviet Union specialist in the 1980s. [25]

Stanford philosophy professor and former provost John Etchmendy said “we have about nine out of 10 Stanford faculty—or faculty at any university, actually—that are Democrats. So Hoover brings at least a little bit of political diversity, and I think that’s extremely important.” [26]

The Stanford Faculty Senate voted that Stanford Provost Persis Drell and Hoover Director Rice had to prepare a report showing “increasing interaction” between the institution and the university by the end of the 2021-22 academic year. [27]

In February 2022, Provost Drell and Director Rice said that Stanford professors and Hoover fellows had held several dinners and everyone recognized the importance of free speech. Drell said that “discourse on campus was less civil than desirable…and that both students and faculty were fearful of expressing thoughts and views.” Director Rice said she was trying to come up with ways to help science professors at Stanford know more about Hoover’s research. [28]

References

  1. “Hoover Institution—Fellows,” https://www.hoover.org/fellows (accessed August 8, 2022) ^
  2. George H. Nash, “On to The Next Century,” Hoover Digest, No. 1, 2020. ^
  3. Richard Norton Smith, An Uncommon Man:  The Triumph of Herbert Hoover (New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1984), 150.: ^
  4. George H. Nash, “On to The Next Century,” Hoover Digest. No. 1, 2020. ^
  5. George H. Nash, “On to The Next Century,” Hoover Digest, No 1, 1920. ^
  6.  George H. Nash, Herbert Hoover and Stanford University (Stanford:  Stanford University Press, 1988), 143. ^
  7. Martin Morse Wooster, How Great Philanthropists Failed and You Can Succeed In protecting Your Legacy (Washington:  Capital Research Center, 2017), 197. ^
  8. Martin Morse Wooster, How Great Philanthropists Failed and You Can Succeed at Protecting Your Legacy (Washington:  Capital Research Center, 2017), 201. ^
  9. George H. Nash, Herbert Hoover and Stanford University (Stanford:  Stanford University Press, 1988), 165. ^
  10. Richard Norton Smith, An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover (New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1984). 420-21. ^
  11.  Martin Morse Wooster, How Great Philanthropists Failed and How You Can Protect Your Legacy (Washington, D.C.:  Capital Research Center, 2017), 206. ^
  12.  Kenneth Lamott, “Right-Thinking Think Tank,” New York Times Magazine, July 23, 1978. ^
  13. Kenneth Lamott, “Right-Thinking Think Tank,” New York Times Magazine, July 23, 1978. ^
  14. Kenneth Lamott, “Right-Thinking Think Tank,” New York Times Magazine, July 23, 1978. ^
  15. William Trombley, “Reagan Library Strains Link Between Stanford and Hoover Institution,” Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1987. ^
  16.  William Trombley, “Reagan Library Strains Link Between Stanford and Hoover Institution,” Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1987. ^
  17.  William Trombley, “Reagan Library Strains Link Between Stanford and Hoover Institution,” Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1987. ^
  18. William Trombley, “Southland, Not Stanford, To Get Reagan Library,” Los Angeles Times, April 24, 1987. ^
  19. Karen Grossmuch, “Chief Brings Peace to Stanford-Hoover Institution Feud,” Chronicle of Higher Education, June 12, 1991. ^
  20. Burt Solomon, “George W. Bush’s New Hooverville,” National Journal, March 27, 1999. ^
  21. John Gravois, “Disputed Iraqi Records Find a Home at the Hoover Institution,” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 1, 2006. ^
  22. Marsin Alshamary, “Important Iraqi Documents Are Now Back in Baghdad,”washingtonpost.com,, September 1, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/09/15/important-iraqi-archives-are-now-back-baghdad-where-were-they-what-happens-now/ (accessed August 8, 2022) ^
  23. Michael Hiltzik, “Stanford in a Bind Over Covid Remarks,” Los Angeles Times, November 18, 2020. ^
  24. Michael Hiltzik, “Stanford In a Bind Over Covid Remarks,” Los Angeles Times, November 18, 2020. ^
  25. “Condoleezza Rice, Faculty Senate Talk Structure of Hoover, Relationship with Stanford,” Stanford Daily, January 29, 2021. ^
  26. “Condoleezza Rice, Faculty Senate Talk Structure of Hoover, Relationship with Stanford,” Stanford Daily, January 29, 2021. ^
  27. Victoria Hsieh, “Faculty Senate Votes to Put University Provost, Hoover Director in Charge of Reporting on Relationship Between University, Hoover,” Stanford Daily, February 12, 2021. ^
  28. “Faculty Senate and Hoover Work to Repair Relationship.” Stanford Daily, February 25, 2022. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Doug Rivers
    Senior Fellow
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Hoover Institution

434 Galvez Mall Stanford University
Stanford, CA