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ON THE COVER
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Spring 2016
HOOVER D I G EST

T HE ECON OMY
9

A World of Fresh Starts
How to foster growth and opportunity around the globe. By
Michael J. Boskin

14

The Zero-Sum Fallacy
Incomes rise or fall together—what moves them is economic
growth. Why we’re all in this together. By Edward Paul
Lazear

17

Cast Out the “Economic Evils”
Five ideas for getting monetary policy back on track. By John
B. Taylor

22

Share and Share Alike
The sharing economy isn’t just about convenience. It’s a
revolution in the use of labor and assets. By Michael Spence

27

Fail and Fail Again
Like a bad penny, socialism keeps coming back. By Allan H.
Meltzer

TAXES
33

The Tax Code, Unchained
We really could transform our nightmarish tax system. Here’s
how. By John H. Cochrane

H O O V ER D IG E S T • S P RING 2016

3

P O L IT IC S
36

Stuck in the Middle
It’s the independents, not the true believers, who make or
break a candidate. And they don’t think all that much of
Donald Trump. By David Brady

41

What Trump Knows
The GOP may not need the Donald, but it certainly needs his
supporters. By Jeremy Carl

HE A LT H CA R E
47

Better Ideas, Stat
Just as predicted, patients are facing higher costs, fewer
choices, and swelling bureaucracy. ObamaCare needs urgent
care. By Scott W. Atlas

51

ObamaCare Gets a Checkup
It’s neither dying nor thriving—but it does need some bitter
medicine. By Daniel P. Kessler

56

Cadillac in the Ditch
The tax on high-cost insurance plans was running rough from
the start. Here’s what that clunker has taught us. By Charles
Blahous

4

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR I N G 201 6

61

Healthy Budget, Healthy Americans
Six ways to put consumers, and not bureaucrats, in control.
By Lanhee J. Chen and James C. Capretta

64

Perils of “Consent”
What do we owe a patient whose own body has led to medical
breakthroughs? Trying to figure it out could tie up progress,
making everyone worse off. By Richard A. Epstein

F OR E IGN P OL ICY
71

The End of Modernity
When it should act, America hesitates—and around the world,
hard-won freedoms slip away. By Charles Hill

76

Tear Up the Map
The borders of the Middle East are unworkable. What if we
drew them all over again? By Michael S. Bernstam

83

“Easier to Make the Speeches”
Barack Obama so wanted to end “Bush’s wars” and close
Guantánamo. It hasn’t worked out that way. By Jack
Goldsmith

T E R R OR ISM A ND DE FE NSE
87

Rocketing the Casbah
In proclaiming a state, ISIS surrendered a strategic
advantage, giving its bombs a return address. By Josef Joffe

91

Missile Defense Makes Sense
How outdated strategic thinking is leaving us wide open. By
Frederick W. Kagan

H O O V ER D IG E S T • S P RING 2016

5

R USS IA
95

Comrade Frumkin’s Prophecy
Among the millions of ordinary people who ran afoul of the
Soviet police state, one predicted its doom. Astoundingly
enough, he survived. By Mark Harrison

IRA N
101

Reading Tolstoy in Tehran
Today, War and Peace would be set in Iran, with its oppression,
tumult, and sense that everything must change. By Niall
Ferguson

S C IEN C E
104

Fishmongers
Genetically modified salmon have finally been approved. Why
did they have to spend so much time swimming upstream? By
Henry I. Miller

E DUCAT I ON
108

Servants of All
Advice to would-be school reformers: argue less, listen more,
and check your halo at the door. By Michael J. Petrilli

6

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR I N G 201 6

T HE CON ST IT UT ION
111

We the (Inconvenient) People
Foes of a proposed constitutional convention don’t care about
legal purity. They care about their power. By Thomas Sowell

DE M O C RACY A ND FR E EDO M
115

Beware the Nativist Lurch
Yes, promoting democracy can be frustrating and dangerous.
But freedom and pluralism are still the only way to sustain
effective, lasting governments. By Larry Diamond

120

Borders and Barriers
Overwhelmed by migrants and terrified of terrorists, Europe
is rebuilding walls that only recently came down. By Timothy
Garton Ash

125

Europe Stumbles
Europeans have failed to cherish, and now to defend, the
nation-state system. Americans must pay heed. By Peter
Berkowitz

CALIFORNIA
130

Reservoirs, Yes; Rails, No
In the latest Golden State Poll, Californians say that providing
enough water must come ahead of building multibillion-dollar
trains. By Jenny Mayfield

IN T E RVIE WS
134

Plowshares into Swords?
Hoover fellow William J. Perry worries that disarmament
has stalled—and the specter of nuclear war has returned. By
Kenji Kato

H O O V ER D IG E S T • S P RING 2016

7

141

Sister Act
Ideological opposites, Kori N. Schake and her sister, a Clinton
adviser, have found that family harmony is the best policy. By
Meghan Daum

148

“There’s a Market for Foolish Things”
Although he insists that he has devoted much of his long career
merely to pointing out the obvious, Hoover fellow Thomas
Sowell feels certain he’ll never be out of a job. By Kyle Peterson

VALUES
154

Now Trending: Mob Think
America’s checks and balances have always protected us from our
worst impulses. Now they’re eroding. By Victor Davis Hanson

HISTORY A ND C ULT UR E
160

How the Cold War Ended
Hoover fellow Robert Service focuses on the historical
endgame. By Duncan White

HOOV E R A RC HIVE S
166

On the Firing Line: A Fiftieth Anniversary
Where have you gone, William F. Buckley? A new Hoover
exhibit highlights unforgettable exchanges with America’s
most public intellectual. By Jean McElwee Cannon

180

8

On the Cover

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR I N G 201 6

T H E ECON OM Y

A World of Fresh
Starts
How to foster growth and opportunity around
the globe.

By Michael J. Boskin

G

lobal growth was anemic last year—and the forecast is only
slightly better for 2016. Something must be done to boost
incomes and expand opportunities for people everywhere. Here
are some economic resolutions that could bring good cheer this

year and beyond.
Let us begin in Europe. Despite the European Central Bank’s monetary
accommodation, a sharp depreciation of the euro, and negative short-term
interest rates, the European economy remains in the doldrums.
In 2016, Europe’s leaders must stop expecting monetary policy to solve
their problems, and instead pursue faster, firmer resolutions to the myriad
crises they face, from the intertwined growth, banking, currency, and governance crises to the escalating refugee crisis, which is threatening free movement across internal borders. They must pursue supply-side fiscal, structural, labor-market, and regulatory reforms, with commonsense solutions for
the struggling periphery economies’ fiscal crises and the stronger economies’
medium-term debt woes topping the agenda.

Michael J. Boskin is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a member of Hoover’s
Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy and Working Group on Economic
Policy, and the T. M. Friedman Professor of Economics at Stanford University.
H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

9

In Latin America, the situation is more varied. After a decade of progress
(with some exceptions, notably Venezuela), the region is facing serious
challenges, stemming partly from a sharp decline in global commodity
prices.
Indeed, plummeting oil prices helped push the region’s largest economy,
Brazil, into its worst recession in decades, while a major corruption scandal
at Petrobras, the state oil company, has thrown the country’s politics into
disarray. This makes the pursuit of economy-saving resolutions exceedingly
difficult. The new leftist finance minister will probably make things worse.
Political instability is undermining economic prospects elsewhere, too.
In Ecuador, where President Rafael Correa, who seems intent on imitating
Venezuelan Chavismo, has eliminated term limits on his office, high inflation
is a growing risk.
In Latin America’s second- and third-largest economies, however, new
leadership offers reason for hope. President Enrique Peña Nieto’s decision
to open Mexico’s deep-water oil deposits to international energy companies
will help the country overcome declining production, lagging technology,
and corruption at Pemex, the national oil company. Nieto also recognizes the
imperative of improving Mexico’s education system, and thus is taking on the
powerful teachers’ union.
In Argentina, newly elected president Mauricio Macri is nothing like his
anti-business, anti-American predecessor Cristina Kirchner, who pillaged the
central bank, channeling
funds toward favored
local governments, and
Europe’s leaders must stop expecting
monetary policy to solve their problems. even fudged national
statistics to obscure skyrocketing inflation. Among Macri’s resolutions are market-oriented reforms
and clearing the many economic land mines that Kirchner planted. He is off
to a good start, having freed the peso from its official peg, reduced taxes, and
moved toward freer trade.
Venezuela also has reason for hope. The opposition, having won a supermajority in parliament, defeating the ruling socialists for the first time in
seventeen years, should be able to limit the harm caused by the policies of
President Nicolás Maduro, heir to Hugo Chávez. But if opposition forces are
to turn the economy around, they will need to win the presidency in 2019.
In Asia, all eyes are on China, the epicenter of a growth slowdown that
has reverberated throughout the region (and beyond). The remarkable
growth spurt of the last three decades has degraded the natural environment

10

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

BUSY: Workers perform final testing at a Seagate factory in Wuxi, China,
before sending computer drives to customers. China needs to rebalance its
economy from exports to domestic demand. [Robert Scoble—Creative Commons]

considerably, produced vast excess capacity in basic industries like cement
and steel, and left the banking system saddled with bad loans.
China’s government has committed to reform, but its efforts are lagging.
The rebalancing of its economy from exports to domestic demand remains a
major challenge, not least because its consumers are slow to cooperate. And
the government maintains significant control over major companies, even
some that are listed on public stock markets.
To engineer the soft landing that Asia needs, China’s leaders must
redouble their reform efforts. One key resolution should be to dispense
state-owned companies’ profits directly to the population, to consume the
proceeds or invest them elsewhere.
Japan, for its part, has sunk back into recession, despite Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe’s large and costly economic-revitalization strategy. The Japanese,
like many of their neighbors, hope that enactment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal—which would, among other things, lower tariffs
on thousands of commodities and reduce nontariff barriers—will provide a
much-needed boost.
Africa has been a less visible success story during the past decade. Despite
the many difficulties the continent faces, foreign investment and trade (not
aid) provide major opportunities for growth and development. A resolution to break the scientifically illiterate opposition to
In Asia, all eyes are on China, the
genetically modified food
epicenter of a growth slowdown that would help boost agriculture and exports to Europe
has reverberated around the world.
substantially.
In North America, Canada’s new center-left prime minister, Justin
Trudeau, will be tempted to expand government spending and regulation.
But he must not loosen the strings of the public purse too much. Thanks to
the collapse in oil prices, western Canada is in the early stages of a serious
downturn.
Fortunately, there is room for Trudeau to meet the demands of his supporters without wasteful spending. To this end, he should press America’s
next president to pursue the implementation of the TPP in a way that protects NAFTA; to maintain a sound monetary policy; and to reverse President
Barack Obama’s veto of the Keystone Pipeline.
These steps would also be in the interest of the United States. In fact, US
efforts to promote free trade should go beyond the TPP to target the revitalization of the moribund Doha Round of multilateral trade liberalization. Both

12

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

monetary- and fiscal-policy normalization are critical. And the United States
must capitalize on its expanded energy production, such as by enabling
exports of oil and natural gas, to reduce its European allies’ dependence on
Russian energy.
But perhaps America’s most important resolution should be to return to
global leadership—a role that has gradually eroded over the past decade,
with devastating consequences. That erosion, rooted in deep political fissures
that are evident in the current presidential campaign, is disturbing global
economic, financial, and security arrangements that depend on American
leadership. The United States may have a lot on its plate, but unless it leads
effectively, the challenges it faces will only grow.
Reprinted by permission of Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.
org). © 2015 Project Syndicate Inc. All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Inequality and
Economic Policy: Essays in Memory of Gary Becker,
edited by Tom Church, Chris Miller, and John B. Taylor.
To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.
org.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

13

T H E ECONOM Y

The Zero-Sum
Fallacy
Incomes rise or fall together—what moves them is
economic growth. Why we’re all in this together.

By Edward Paul Lazear

S

peaking about the economy a half-century ago, President John F.
Kennedy told Americans that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Today
many disagree, including those in his party who want to be the
next Democratic president.

Hillary Clinton is one. She has repeatedly claimed, as in Omaha, Nebraska,

last year, that “the deck is stacked,” with “the wealthy getting wealthier at
the expense of hard-working families.”
Bernie Sanders also complains that the system “has been rigged by Wall
Street.” At the Democratic debate on January 17, he said that “ordinary
Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, forty-seven million
people living in poverty, and almost all of the new income and wealth going to
the top 1 percent.”
Nevertheless, what Kennedy said is as true today as it was in the early
1960s.
Most economists who have examined income data believe that the gulf
between top and bottom earners in the United States has widened. Yet data
Edward Paul Lazear is the Morris Arnold and Nona Jean Cox Senior Fellow at
the Hoover Institution, co-chair of Hoover’s Conte Initiative on Immigration Reform, and the Jack Steele Parker Professor of Human Resources Management and
Economics at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.
14

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey (CPS) from
1980 to 2014 reveal that the periods when low-income workers do best are
generally the same as those when high-income workers prosper.
From 1980 to 2000, the earnings of the 90th-percentile earner (the person
whose earnings are higher than the bottom 90 percent of earners and lower
than the top 10 percent of
earners) grew three times
An improving economy is especially
as fast as they did from
important for lower earners.
2000 on. The same was true
of the earnings of the 20th-percentile earner, which also grew three times as
fast between 1980 and 2000 as they did between 2000 and 2014. The average
annual GDP grew about twice as rapidly in the earlier period as it did during
the latter period.
This linkage appears in bad times as well. The 90th percentile, the 20th
percentile, and the median earner (defined as the earner at the 50th percentile) saw actual declines in real earnings in 2008–14.
A more detailed analysis of CPS earnings data reinforces the point.
There is a statistically strong correlation between the growth in earnings
of the 90th-percentile earner, the median earner, and the earner at the 20th
percentile. The middle and bottom tend to grow when the top grows. The
connection between the groups is quite strong with the exception of the highest 1 percent, where the correlation is still positive but statistically weaker in
recent years. But there is no evidence that the success among top earners is
at the expense of lower earners.
The “rising tide lifts all boats” metaphor is off in one respect. When a tide
rises, all boats move up by the same amount. Earnings growth doesn’t follow
that pattern; sometimes the bottom moves up by more than the top. In the
mid-1980s, earnings of the 20th percentile grew about 40 percent more rapidly than earnings of the 90th percentile.
Over recent years, top earners have enjoyed more wage growth than those
at the bottom. This is the source of the complaint that the rich have taken
all the spoils of growth. But the bottom is not struggling because the top is
thriving—and reducing earnings growth at the top wouldn’t increase earnings growth at the bottom.
All groups’ earnings grow when the economy is prospering, and high
growth is especially important for lower-income earners. Additionally, the
lagging earnings among the least-skilled workers reflect deficiencies in
demand for those workers—and this deficiency, crucially, is a result of low
productivity.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

15

In a 2012 study published by the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, James
Spletzer and I found that there are chronically high job-vacancy rates and
low unemployment rates in the most-skilled occupations, but the opposite in
the least-skilled occupations. In good times and bad, there are many more
service workers unemployed than there are job vacancies for those types of
workers.
But job vacancies for managers and professional workers usually outnumber the unemployed. Even in the housing boom year of 2006, while there
were about two professional vacancies for
There is no evidence that top earners
every unemployed prosucceed at the expense of lower earners. fessional worker, there
were more than seven
unemployed construction workers for every construction job vacancy.
Wages move with demand. Just as high wages for skilled labor reflect
strong demand for those who can do the jobs required in our advanced
economy, low wages at the bottom reflect poor demand for those without the
requisite skills.
To raise wages at the bottom, the productivity of the least-skilled workers
has to improve. Better education is at least part of the answer. Redistribution
through the tax system won’t improve those skills; if anything, it will work in
the wrong direction by making skill acquisition less rewarding.
The earnings of individuals with low incomes are most likely to grow when
the incomes of top earners also grow—and the best way to make the poor
prosperous is by improving their skills and growing the overall economy.
Some boats are bigger than others, but draining the ocean won’t help boats
of any size.
Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2016 Dow Jones &
Co. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is
Education in the Twenty-First Century, edited by
Edward Paul Lazear. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or
visit www.hooverpress.org.

16

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

T H E ECON OM Y

Cast Out the
“Economic Evils”
Five ideas for getting monetary policy back on
track.

By John B. Taylor

S

eventy-one years ago, President Truman signed the Bretton
Woods Agreements Act of 1945, officially creating the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. As Treasury Secretary
Henry Morgenthau put it, the Bretton Woods agreements aimed

to “do away with economic evils.”
One serious economic evil was the repeated competitive devaluations and
currency wars. The British devalued the pound in 1931 and gained a competitive advantage, but they slammed other countries’ economies in doing so.
Other countries followed, including the United States, which devalued the
dollar in 1934. These actions led to harmful government restrictions and
interventions in other countries. After trying such interventions, Italy, for
example, finally devalued in 1936, matching precisely the US devaluation of
1934.
A second economic evil was the prevalence of exchange controls, in which
importers of goods were forced to make payments to a government monopoly

John B. Taylor is the George P. Shultz Senior Fellow in Economics at the Hoover
Institution, the chair of Hoover’s Working Group on Economic Policy and a member of Hoover’s Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy, and the Mary and
Robert Raymond Professor of Economics at Stanford University.
H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

17

in foreign exchange, or confront multiple exchange rates and government
licenses to export and import.
To deal with these problems, the reformers developed a strategy. Each
country would commit to two basic monetary rules.
First, they agreed to swear off competitive devaluations by having any
exchange-rate change over 10 percent from certain pegs be approved by a
newly created IMF.
Second, countries agreed to remove their exchange controls, with a transition period because many had extensive controls in place.
With commitment to these two rules, the IMF would provide financial
assistance in the form of loans. Chicago economist Jacob Viner explained the
deal: “Other countries make commitments with respect to exchange stability
and freedom of exchange markets from restrictive controls, while we in turn
pledge financial aid to countries needing it to carry out these commitments.”
He concluded that “it is largely an American blueprint for the postwar economic world. . . . It seems to me a magnificent blueprint.”
In important respects the
blueprint succeeded.
Exchange controls were
removed,
though

18

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

it took more than a decade, and the currency wars ended, though the
adjustable-peg system fell apart in the 1970s and gave way to a flexible
exchange-rate system. The 1970s were difficult because monetary policy lost
its rules-based footing and both inflation and unemployment rose. But in the
1980s and 1990s policy became more focused and rules-based and economic
performance improved greatly. By the late 1990s, many emerging-market
countries were adopting rules-based monetary policies, usually in the form of
inflation targeting, and entered into a period of stability.
Unfortunately, this benign situation has not held,
and today the challenges facing the international monetary system resemble
those at the time of the creation,
including currency wars and
new interventions and
controls. In my view
the problem traces
to a departure from
rules-based monetary
policies at both the
national and international level. These
deviations not only
helped bring on
and worsen
the global

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRIN G 2016

19

financial crisis, they have been a factor in the subpar recovery and the recent
global volatility.
So we need a new strategy, and it can build on the old strategy of the 1940s.
We now have evidence that the key foundation of a rules-based international
monetary system is simply a rules-based monetary policy in each country.
Research shows that the
move toward rules-based
monetary policy in the 1980s
The Bretton Woods agreement,
was the reason economic
according to an economist at the
performance improved in
time, “seems to me a magnificent
the 1980s and 1990s. More
blueprint.”
recent research shows that
the spread and amplification of deviations from rules-based monetary policy
are drivers of current international instabilities. And research also shows
that if each country followed a rules-based monetary policy consistent with
its own economic stability—and expected other countries to do the same—a
rules-based internationally cooperative equilibrium would emerge.
As in the 1940s we should forge an agreement where each country commits to certain rules. In keeping with today’s global economy, it would not be
an adjustable-peg system but a flexible system in which each country—each
central bank—describes and commits to a monetary policy rule or strategy
for setting the policy instruments.
The strategy could include a specific inflation target, some notion of the
long-run interest rate, and a list of key variables to react to in certain ways.
Experience shows that the process should not impinge on other countries’
monetary strategies nor focus on sterilized currency intervention. The rulesbased commitments would reduce capital flow volatility and remove some
of the reasons why central
banks have followed each
We need a new strategy, and it can
other in recent years.
build on the strategy of the 1940s.
Such a process would
pose no threat to either the
national or international independence of central banks. It would be the job
of each central bank to formulate and describe its strategy. Participants in
the process would not have a say in the strategies of other central banks,
other than that the strategies be reported. And the strategies could be
changed or deviated from if the world changed or if there was an emergency.
A procedure for describing the change and the reasons for it would be in the
agreement.

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H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

This reform is important, but supporting reforms are also needed. A
second reform would set up rules for eventually removing capital controls.
Currently, thirty-six countries have open capital accounts, but forty-eight are
classified as “gate” countries and sixteen as “wall” countries with varying
degrees of capital controls. The removal should be gradual and accompanied by adequate safety and soundness regulations. Though controversial,
the reform would be conceptually the same as the agreement to remove
exchange controls in 1944.
A third ingredient to the rules-based system would be a rule for the IMF
itself to apply when lending to countries. The most practical way to proceed
would be to restore the Exceptional Access Framework. This sensible rule
was first put in place in 2003, but was broken in the case of Greece in 2010
when loans were made in a clearly unsustainable situation, contrary to the
framework.
A fourth reform would wean the IMF from making unnecessary loans as
part of its advice-giving and monitoring activities. When the real need is
simply for the IMF to give advice to a country in implementing or monitoring
reforms, there is no need for a loan. The most practical way to proceed would
be to greatly expand the use of the Policy Support Instrument, which was
introduced in 2005.
And finally, there should be an inclusive process for selecting the next
managing director of the IMF, who could well be from an emerging-market
country. The impacts of departures from rules-based policies have been particularly hard on emerging markets.
Reprinted from John B. Taylor’s blog Economics One (http://economicsone.
com).

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is
Government Policies and the Delayed Economic
Recovery, edited by Lee E. Ohanian, John B. Taylor,
and Ian J. Wright. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit
www.hooverpress.org.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

21

T H E ECONOM Y

Share and Share
Alike
The sharing economy isn’t just about convenience.
It’s a revolution in the use of labor and assets.

By Michael Spence

W

hen Amazon was founded in 1994, and eBay the following year, the companies harnessed the connectivity of
the Internet to create new, more efficient markets. In the
beginning, that meant new ways of buying and selling

books and collectibles. Now e-commerce is everywhere, offering customers
new and used goods—and becoming a global force in logistics and retail.
Likewise, while today’s sharing-economy companies may be just out of their
infancy, their services will one day be ubiquitous.
By now, most people have heard of Airbnb, the online apartment-rental
service. The company has just six hundred employees but a million properties listed for rent, making it larger than the world’s biggest hotel chains.
Of course, what Airbnb offers is different from what hotels provide, but if
Airbnb offered options for, say, maid service or food, they could become
closer competitors than one might initially imagine.

Michael Spence is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a professor of economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business, and the Philip H.
Knight Professor Emeritus of Management in the Graduate School of Business at
Stanford University. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001.
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H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

The insight (obvious in retrospect) underlying Airbnb’s model—and the
burgeoning sharing economy in general—is that the world is replete with
underutilized assets and resources. How much time do we spend actually using the things—cars, bicycles, apartments, vacation homes, tools, or
yachts—that we own? What value do office buildings or classrooms generate
at night?
BORROW YOUR YACHT?
Answers vary by asset, individual, household, or organization, but the utilization numbers tend to be astonishingly low. One recent answer for cars was
8 percent, and even that may seem high to someone not burdened by long
commutes.
But those numbers are changing, as the Internet enables creative new
business models that increase not only a market’s efficiency but also the utilization of our various assets. Hundreds of experiments are being conducted.
Clearly, not all of them will experience the astonishing growth of Airbnb and
Uber. Some, like Rent the Runway for designer clothes and accessories, may
find profitable niches; others will simply fail.

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

23

The digital platforms that act as the basis of all this e-commerce need to
meet two related challenges. The first is to produce a network effect, so that
buyers and sellers find one another often enough and rapidly enough to make
a business sustainable. Second, the platform must create trust—in the product or the service—on both sides of the transaction.
Trust is crucial to the
network effect; hence the
The world is full of underutilized
need for two-way evaluation
assets and resources.
systems that encourage buyers and sellers to be repeat
users of the relevant platform. Small players can then act in large markets,
because—over time—they become known quantities. The power of these
platforms derives from overcoming informational asymmetries, by dramatically increasing the signal density of the market.
Indeed, in order to encourage infrequent e-commerce users,
innovators and investors are exploring ways to combine the

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H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

evaluation databases of separate, even rival, platforms. Whatever the legal
and technical issues that must be overcome, down the road we can surely
imagine the kind of data consolidation already practiced internally by retail
giants like Amazon or Alibaba.
There can, of course, be other incentives to support “good” behavior, such
as fines and deposits (for bicycles borrowed for too long or not returned, for
example). But punitive measures can easily lead to disputes and inefficiency.
By contrast, refining evaluation systems holds far more promise.
The urge to exploit underutilized resources should not be confined to
material assets. The McKinsey Global Institute recently studied Internetbased approaches to the labor market and the challenge of matching demand
for talent and skills with supply.
Some sharing models—perhaps most—rely on both labor and other assets:
for example, a person and his or her car, computer, sewing machine, or
kitchen (for home-delivered meals). This throwback to the cottage industries
that preceded modern production is possible today because the Internet is
lowering the costs of dispersion that once compelled the concentration of
work in factories and offices.
COMPET I T ION AT LAST
Perhaps inevitably, regulatory issues arise, as ride-hailing service Uber
is now discovering from California to Europe. Taxis and limousines are
to some extent protected from competition because they need licenses to
operate; they are also regulated for customer safety. But then Uber invades
their market with a differentiated product, subject largely to its own
regulations for vehicles and
drivers. In the process, it
threatens to lower the value The Internet-led process of exploitof licenses just as surely
ing underused resources is both
as any official decision to
unstoppable and accelerating.
issue new licenses would.
No wonder the taxi drivers of Paris and other French cities—hitherto protected from competition—have protested so vehemently (and, on occasion,
violently).
An intriguing question is how far the financial sector will embrace the
sharing economy. Peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding already represent
new ways of matching borrowers with investors. Clearly, issues relating to
liability and insurance will have to be addressed in all sharing-economy models, especially financial ones, but these are hardly insurmountable obstacles.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

25

The truth is that the Internet-led process of exploiting underutilized
resources—be they physical and financial capital or human capital and talent—is both unstoppable and accelerating. The long-term benefits consist
not just in efficiency and productivity gains (large enough to show up in
macro data), but also in much-needed new jobs requiring a broad range of
skills. Indeed, those who fear the job-destroying and job-shifting power of
automation should look upon the sharing economy and breathe a bit of a sigh
of relief.
Reprinted by permission of Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.
org). © 2015 Project Syndicate Inc. All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Making
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Jackson, and John B. Taylor. To order, call (800) 8884741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

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H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

T H E ECON OM Y

Fail and Fail
Again
Like a bad penny, socialism keeps coming back.

By Allan H. Meltzer

C

ollege students’ enthusiasm for Senator Bernie Sanders’s “democratic socialism” has been one of the most surprising and dispiriting events of the presidential campaign. Apparently students
have not learned that historically all socialist systems—demo-

cratic and authoritarian alike—failed to satisfy public demands and were
abandoned after much suffering. Capitalism is the only economic system that
offers freedom, opportunity, and increased living standards to the greatest
numbers of people.
These students also must be unfamiliar with Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to
Serfdom, a brilliant critique of the 1945 British decision to adopt democratic
socialism. Hayek insisted that socialism could not work. If voters chose to
elect a non-socialist government, the socialist economic plan would be discarded. The alternative was an authoritarian government that would prevent
voters from rejecting the plan.
In the seventy years since the British decision, we have seen both outcomes. Britain kept its democracy. Voters eventually elected Margaret
Thatcher in 1979. She transformed the economy, sold the socialized industries, strengthened the market system, and enhanced freedom. Per capita
Allan H. Meltzer is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution,
chair of Hoover’s Regulation and the Rule of Law Initiative, and a professor of political economy at Carnegie Mellon University.
H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

27

income and productivity rose. Socialists never forgave her for achieving what
they failed to achieve. Subsequently, Labour governments returned to office,
but they did not restore socialism. Socialism failed.
Starting in the middle of the twentieth century, Argentina tried its own
version of socialism: Peronism. Despite its rich supply of raw materials and
productive agricultural sector, Argentina under Peronism suffered sluggish
growth, high inflation, and the loss of freedom. The November 2015 election ended Peronism. Unhappy voters elected a president who promised to
restore the market system, private property, and personal freedom. Socialism failed.

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

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H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

Venezuela is an oil-rich country. The socialist government there has
expropriated most industry and replaced professional managers with political friends who lack both skills and knowledge. Inflation soared and recently
rose to more than 100 percent a year. Food became scarce, and poverty
increased so much that the government stopped publishing the data. A
privately produced estimate shows that the
poverty rate is higher today than it was

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

29

when the United Socialist Party came to power seventeen years ago. Policies
designed to help the poor by redistributing income hurt both rich and poor
alike. After two decades of socialism, voters recently elected a large antisocialist majority to their congress. Socialism failed.
Socialism failed also in Cuba, in the former Soviet Union and its satellites,
and in every other place it has been tried. When the Soviet Union collapsed
in 1989, its satellites promptly abandoned socialism and joined the market
system. They understood from experience what US college students who
today cheer socialism have not learned. And they could see that the two
systems gave people different incentives. Capitalism encouraged effort and
innovation. Socialism did not.
DISTORTED INCENTIVES
It is easy to add other examples of socialist failure. Examples of success
cannot be found because no socialist country has brought both growth and
freedom. Two of the major reasons for failure are the absence of the rule of
law and constructive incentives. Instead of firmly held legal rules, socialism brings government authorities who impose arbitrary political decisions.
People adapt by learning to please politicians.
Consider China. The Chinese economy stagnated after the communist
takeover. So Deng Xiaoping looked around: Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan,
South Korea, and Japan had grown by allowing capitalist firms to compete
in world markets. Living standards rose in those capitalist countries. Deng
changed direction, inviting
foreign capitalists to come
Socialism and higher taxes impose a to China if they brought
noncooperative arrangement: taking their best technologies.
Growth soared, not by a
from some to give to others.
miracle but by the workings
of market capitalism. Vietnam later followed the path away from socialism.
The countryside has many new factories owned by capitalists from Europe
and the United States.
Proponents of socialism often point to the Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden, as successful examples of socialism. Sweden developed an
extensive welfare state but it retained two central capitalist principles:
private ownership of industry and property and a strong commitment to
the rule of law. The welfare state and income redistribution appealed to a
homogenous population that shared a common culture. Recently Sweden’s

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H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

population has become more diverse, and the welfare system, though still
extensive, has shrunk.
The facts about socialist failure and long-term capitalist success are not
secret. The problems of Argentina and Venezuela are in the news even now.
The mystery is why US college students ignore socialist failures to cheer
for socialism and Senator
Sanders. The most likely
Capitalism encourages effort and
reason is a reaction to two
innovation. Socialism doesn’t.
well-known weaknesses of
capitalism: occasional recessions and income inequality. Growth since the
2008–9 recession has been relatively slow and, for earners not in the top
income groups, incomes are stagnant.
Sanders does not call for old-time socialism—that is, government ownership of the means of production. His main proposals demand higher taxes
on the highest incomes, free college education, increased Social Security
payments, and a higher minimum wage. These are not new ideas, so we
know what their consequences are: minimum wages reduce employment;
increased Social Security payments go to people who do not work and
encourage older workers to retire, so those payments reduce growth. They
also widen the income distribution gap because they often go to the relatively
well-off older citizens.
Sanders’s promises would cost trillions of dollars. His tax proposal would
not cover the costs and would lower growth. Higher tax rates for those who
earn high incomes reduce savings and the return to investments, so investment would decline. Reducing investment especially harms the middle class
because new investment is a principal source of productivity growth, the
principal way that middle-class incomes rise. The persistent success of capitalist economies over the past two centuries in raising incomes and distributing the gains widely over all income classes mainly resulted from investment
that increased worker skills and productivity.
HOW PROSPERITY REALLY GROWS
It works like this: when a company invests in new machines or new computer
programs, it must train its workers to use the new tools and systems. Learning on the job increases workers’ skills. They are able to produce more, often
at a lower unit cost. Productivity and profits rise. Workers earn more. Further, capitalism provides the incentive to develop new ideas that raise living
standards and improve lives. It is no accident that the computer, the social
network, the increased reliability of automobiles, and much more originated

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

31

in capitalist countries. Freedom and property rights encourage innovation
and progress.
To pay higher wages, producers must increase productivity and therefore
investment must rise. The socialist program that raises tax rates on savers
and businesses is counterproductive because it reduces investment. Productivity growth benefits all classes. Owners of firms have more profit; workers
have higher wages; consumers have lower prices. Capitalism produces a
cooperative outcome from which everyone gains. Socialism and higher taxes
impose the noncooperative arrangement of taking from some to give to others. As the many examples show, everyone eventually loses.
Past administrations and Congresses have promised much more spending
than the revenue the economy will generate. Many estimates put the unfunded promises for future Social Security and health care at about $90 trillion.
Adding free college tuition and other promised benefits pushes the unfunded
promises well above $100 trillion. Unless reformed and reduced, the promises cannot be met.
Voters should demand that candidates offer a program for managing past
promises. Reforming health care should begin by turning Medicare over
to the states and lowering federal tax rates. Competition across state lines
could lead to cost savings. Competition brings new ways to improve outcomes and reduce waste.
To get better policies, we need informed voters and productive incentives.
Understanding the benefits and flaws of capitalism is a first step toward political reform. Our future depends on getting the policies and incentives right.
Reprinted from Defining Ideas (www.hoover.org/publications/definingideas), a Hoover Institution journal. © 2016 by the Board of Trustees of
the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Puzzles,
Paradoxes, Controversies, and the Global Economy,
by Charles Wolf Jr. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit
www.hooverpress.org.

32

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

TAXES

The Tax Code,
Unchained
We really could transform our nightmarish tax
system. Here’s how.

By John H. Cochrane

L

eft and right agree that the US tax code is a mess. The presidential candidates are offering reform plans, and proposals to fix
the code regularly surface in Congress. But these plans are, and
should be, political documents, designed to attract votes. To pre-

vent today’s ugly bargains from becoming tomorrow’s conventional wisdom,
we should more frequently discuss the ideal tax structure.
The first goal of taxation is to raise needed government revenue with minimum economic damage. That means lower marginal rates—the additional
tax people pay for each extra dollar earned—and a broader base of income
subject to tax. It also means a massively simpler tax code.
In my view, simplification is more important than rates. A simple code
would allow people and businesses to spend more time and resources on
productive activities and less on attorneys and accountants, or on lobbyists
seeking special deals and subsidies. And a simple code is much more clearly
fair. Americans now suspect that people with clever lawyers are avoiding
much taxation, which is corrosive to compliance and driving populist outrage
across the political spectrum.
What would a minimally damaging, simple, fair tax code look like?
John H. Cochrane is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

33

» The corporate tax should be eliminated. Every dollar of taxes that a
corporation seems to pay comes from higher prices to its customers, lower
wages to its workers, or lower dividends to its shareholders. Of these groups,
wealthy individual shareholders are the least likely to suffer. If taxes eat into
profits, investors pay lower prices for less valuable shares, and so earn the
same return as before. To the extent that taxes do reduce returns, they also
financially hurt nonprofits and your and my pension funds.
With no corporate tax, arguments disappear over investment expensing
versus depreciation, repatriation of profits, too much tax-deductible debt,
R&D deductions, and the vast array of energy deductions and credits.
» The government should tax consumption, not wages, income, or wealth.
When the government taxes savings, investment income, wealth, or inheritance, it reduces the incentive to save, invest, and build companies rather than
enjoy consumption immediately. Taxes on capital gains discourage people from
moving or reallocating capital toward their most productive uses.
Recognizing the distortion, the federal government provides a complex
web of shelters, including IRAs, Roth IRAs, 527(b), 401(k), health savings
accounts, life-insurance exemptions, and the panoply of trusts that wealthy
individuals use to shelter their wealth and escape the estate tax. If investment isn’t taxed, these costly complexities can disappear.
All the various deductions, credits, and exclusions should be eliminated—
even the holy trinity of tax breaks for mortgage interest, charitable donations, and employer-provided health insurance. The extra revenue, over a
trillion dollars annually, could finance a large reduction in marginal rates.
This step would also simplify the code and make it fairer.
Imagine that Congress proposed to send an annual check to each homeowner. People with high incomes, who buy expensive houses, borrow lots
of money, or refinance often, would get bigger checks than people with low
incomes, who buy smaller houses, save up more for down payments, or pay
down their mortgages.
There would be rioting
Political debate holds tax reform hostage.
in the streets. Yet that
is exactly what the mortgage-interest deduction accomplishes.
Similarly, suppose Congress proposed to match private charitable donations. But rich people would get a 40 percent match, middle-class people
only 10 percent, and poor people nothing. This is exactly what the charitable
deduction accomplishes.
Zeroing out deductions, credits, and corporate and investment taxes matters—for permanence, for predictability, and for simplicity. If the corporate

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H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

rate is drastically reduced, or if deductions are capped, it seems that the
economic distortions go away. But the thousands of pages of tax code are still
in place, the army of lawyers and accountants and lobbyists is still in place,
and the next administration will itch to raise the caps and the rate.
Why is tax reform
paralyzed? Because political We should also agree to separate the
debate mixes the goal of effitax code from the subsidy code.
ciently raising revenue with
so many other objectives. Some want more progressivity or more revenue.
Others defend subsidies and transfers for specific activities, groups, or businesses. They hold reform hostage.
Wise politicians often bundle dissimilar goals to attract a majority. But
when bundling leads to paralysis, progress comes by separating the issues.
Thus, we should agree to first reform the structure of the tax code, leaving
the rates blank. We will then separately debate rates, and the consequent
overall revenue and progressivity.
Consumption-based taxes can be progressive. A simplified income tax,
excluding investment income and allowing a full deduction for savings,
could tax high-income earners’ consumption at a higher rate. Low-income
people can receive transfers and credits. I think smaller government and less
progressivity are wiser. But we can agree on an efficient, simple, and fair tax,
and debate revenues and progressivity separately.
We should also agree to separate the tax code from the subsidy code. We
agree to debate subsidies for mortgage-interest payments, electric cars, and
the like—transparent and on-budget—but separately from tax reform.
Negotiating such an agreement will be hard. But the ability to achieve grand
bargains is the most important characteristic of great political leaders.
Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2015 Dow Jones &
Co. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is The Flat
Tax, updated and revised edition, by Robert E. Hall and
Alvin Rabushka. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit
www.hooverpress.org.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

35

P O L I TI CS

Stuck in the
Middle
It’s the independents, not the true believers, who
make or break a candidate. And they don’t think all
that much of Donald Trump.

By David Brady

A

terrible way to forecast the 2016 presidential contest is to gauge
whose supporters are the loudest. Elections are not decided by
partisans or ideologues.
The arithmetic is pretty simple: 41 percent of voters in the

2012 presidential election described themselves as moderates, and 29 percent as independents. Almost all Republicans (93 percent) and self-described
conservatives (82 percent) voted for Mitt Romney, but that wasn’t enough.
Even if Romney had won every Republican or conservative voter, it still
wouldn’t have been enough.
Because there are roughly 5 percent more Democrats than Republicans,
the GOP needs a solid majority of independents to win a national election. In
2012 Mitt Romney outpolled Barack Obama among independents, 50 percent
to 45 percent. But that didn’t take him across the Electoral College finish line.
It is safe to predict that the proportions that held in 2012 will be about
the same this year. About two-thirds of the voters will not be Republicans.

David Brady is the Davies Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and
the Bowen H. and Janice Arthur McCoy Professor of Political Science at Stanford
University’s Graduate School of Business.
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H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

Thus it is vital to pay early attention to how each candidate is doing among
independents. A long, drawn-out primary that forces candidates to make
strong appeals to the party’s ideological base can hurt the eventual nominee
in November.
There are two ways that we can measure how independents see the
Republican contenders. On the positive side, we can ask whether voters hold
favorable views about
a candidate. Or, on the
Almost all Republicans and selfnegative side, we can ask
whether they would rule
described conservatives voted for Mitt
out voting for a candiRomney in 2012. That wasn’t enough.
date. Those White House
hopefuls with high favorability ratings among swing voters have good prospects for winning a general election. Those whom independents and moderates say they would not even consider supporting start with a deep, probably
insurmountable, deficit.
Since May 2015 the Internet polling organization YouGov has been tracking
a sample of roughly three thousand Americans, who have been asked every
six weeks about the presidential race. Although Donald Trump was strong
among GOP voters as the primary season began, his ratings among independents remain the worst of any candidate in the field.
In three recent YouGov surveys, Trump was viewed “very unfavorably” by
an average of 43 percent of independents. How did he fare among moderate
voters? In August, only 17 percent of moderates had a “very favorable” opinion of him; 47 percent had a “very unfavorable” opinion. Those figures have
hardly budged since.
Ted Cruz didn’t do much better. Only 13 percent to 16 percent of independents had a very favorable view of him in three recent YouGov surveys;
28 percent to 32 percent
viewed him very unfavorThe problem for Trump and Cruz is
ably. Among moderates,
not unfamiliarity. Voters by now are
almost no one (6 percent to
quite aware of them.
7 percent) felt “very favorable” about Cruz; many (28
percent to 35 percent) felt “very unfavorable.”
The problem for Trump and Cruz is not that voters don’t know who they
are. Trump started out with nearly everyone being able to rate him; only
about 5 percent said they didn’t know or didn’t have an opinion. As for Cruz,
in June about a quarter of independents did not know enough about him. But

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

37

over the next six months that figure dropped to 4 percent—and most of those
voters had moved into the “unfavorable” camp. Not a good sign.
Large proportions of independents and moderates say they have already
made up their minds about the Republican field. A full 58 percent of moderates and 51 percent of independents told YouGov in December that they
“would never vote for” Trump. The figures were a little better for Cruz, but
still about half of moderates (47 percent) and almost as many independents
(41 percent) said they would never pull the lever for him.
How can anyone, under the circumstances, expect either of these two to
win a general election? For the GOP to regain the White House, it will have to
do much better, particularly given Hillary Clinton’s better ratings. In December, 48 percent of moderates said they would consider voting for Clinton—a
full 16 percentage points better than Trump and 22 points better than Cruz.
Many of the other Republicans running for the 2016
About two-thirds of voters will not be
nomination beat Clinton’s
numbers, and unlike Trump, Republicans.
none started with more than
half of swing voters unwilling to consider him. Marco Rubio was the most
competitive among independents: 37 percent said in December that they
would consider voting for him; only 32 percent ruled him out. All the other
GOP candidates were under water. Forty-seven percent of independents
said they would never vote for Jeb Bush, and 43 percent said the same about
Chris Christie.
Moderates are a little harder on the GOP contenders. Rubio again came
in first: 35 percent would consider voting for him, and 36 percent wouldn’t.
Thirty-five percent of moderates also considered voting for Bush and Christie, but their negatives were much higher: 48 percent ruled out Bush, and 44
percent Christie.
The candidate with the lowest negatives among swing voters was John
Kasich: only 30 percent of moderates and independents said they would
never vote for him. The problem for Kasich is that about a fifth of these voters said they had never heard of him.

PERSUADABLE? Candidates whom independents and moderates say they
would not even consider supporting start with a deep, probably insurmountable, deficit. [Phil McAuliffe—Polaris]

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

39

With a large field, the percentage of people who say they intend to vote for
a candidate is less relevant than the percentage who say they will not vote for
him. By this measure, the GOP candidates have done very badly. Republicans
may want to consider this if they are serious about one of their own becoming president.
Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2016 Dow Jones &
Co. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Across
the Great Divide: New Perspectives on the Financial
Crisis, edited by Martin Neil Baily and John B. Taylor. To
order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.
org.

40

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

POLI T I C S

What Trump
Knows
The GOP may not need the Donald, but it certainly
needs his supporters.

By Jeremy Carl

T

he French writer Charles Péguy once said that “one must always
say what one sees. Above all, which is more difficult, one must
always see what one sees.”
While it may seem odd to begin an analysis of Donald Trump’s

presidential candidacy with a reference to a French intellectual, it is à
propos. With respect to Trump, the greatest challenge facing Republicans is
not to say what they see, but to see what they see. And the failure of the GOP
establishment (and even of many conservatives outside it) to see what they
see—their blindness to the infuriated alienation of their middle- and working-class voters—explains a great deal about the Trump phenomenon.
Trump, despite all his vulgarity and boorishness, has, along with fellow
anti-establishment candidates such as Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, given these
voters a voice that has not recently been heard. The Beltway GOP believes
its voters are having a temper tantrum. But it would be more accurate to say
that they are responding with understandable anger to a party that has failed
over several election cycles to address their legitimate fears and concerns.

Jeremy Carl is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of
Hoover’s Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy and Arctic Security Initiative.
H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

41

This failure manifests itself not just in support for Trump. Among those
expressing a candidate preference in recent polling, 85 percent of likely
GOP-presidential-primary voters supported candidates who either had never
held office or had come to power during or after the 2010 tea party revolt.
This despite the fact that out of seventeen serious candidates who originally
began the race for the Republican nomination, eleven did not fit that favored
profile.
The failure to “see what one sees” has never been more apparent than during passage of the budget omnibus bill in December, pushed by Speaker Paul
Ryan. Its provision on H-2B visas, which allowed for the import of tens of
thousands of low-skilled foreign workers to fill jobs for which there are “labor
shortages,” was a frontal
assault on American workers, made for the

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

42

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

sake
of big
business.
The tone-deafness
of such a move in the midst
of the Trump surge was simply
breathtaking.
Ryan may be many things, but he is not primarily a
creature of K Street. In this particular moment, he is just a man who cannot
see what he sees. Perhaps he could take a cue from Rich Lowry, the editor of
National Review, who recently said, “The next time I hear a Republican strategist or a Republican politician say that there are jobs that Americans won’t

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

43

do, that person should be shot, he should be hanged, he should be wrapped in
a carpet and thrown in the Potomac River.”
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID
In many ways, the Trumpenproletariat (to use Jonah Goldberg’s felicitous
term) is the inheritor of the constituency of Ross Perot—and, more recently,
of Sarah Palin, the last person to inspire similar loathing among GOP donors
and consultants.
As for the man himself, Trump is a master showman who, beneath all the
bluster, is as calculating as any conventional politician. His effusions, even
the most offensive of them, seem designed to move the Overton window—the
range of politically acceptable discourse on any given issue—in precisely the
way that benefits him. Nonetheless, despite Trump’s continued demonstrations of staying power, most journalists and GOP strategists have clung to
the idea that he will inevitably fade. While this may be true, it is also irrelevant to the GOP’s victory strategy, for the Trump supporters are exactly
whom the GOP needs to bring into its coalition if it wants to win in 2016.
It is reasonable to argue that Trump supporters are a constituency in
demographic decline and that the way that Trump is pursuing them will hurt
the party’s brand, but the GOP cannot win in 2016 without them. That’s not
politics: that’s math.
Consider the typical Trump voter. According to a recent analysis in the
New York Times, Trump’s “very best voters are self-identified Republicans
who nonetheless are registered as Democrats.” In the least-educated constituencies, Trump takes 37 percent of the GOP vote—compared with just
25 percent of those with the highest levels of education. He also—unsurprising, given his focus on immigration—does very well with white middle- and
working-class voters whose economic insecurity derives in no small part
from competition with immigrant labor. As NBC election analyst Chuck Todd
recently noted, “Republicans don’t win general elections without Donald
Trump’s voters. . . . We used to call them Reagan Democrats.”
To illustrate the necessity of these voters to the Republican coalition, we
can look at the results of election-simulation models from RealClearPolitics (RCP) and the political-data site FiveThirtyEight. These models allow
users to plug in certain turnout and voting assumptions for various demographic groups and predict their effect on the race at the national and state
levels.
In the RCP simulator, if a GOP candidate can win white voters at Reagan’s
1984 vote-share percentage of 66 percent (that is, bringing in the Reagan

44

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

Democrats) and at George W. Bush’s 2004 turnout levels (67 percent), and
if African-American turnout returns to its pre-Obama level and partisan
breakdown, the GOP could retake the presidency without winning a single
Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, or Arab vote. It’s a staggering result.
And if, as will certainly happen, the Republican nominee wins at least some
significant number of minority votes, the party will not have to achieve Reagan percentages among whites to win. The converse is equally staggering:
assuming that white and black turnout and voting patterns stay the same
as in 2012, even if the GOP won an unthinkable 53 percent of the non-black
minority vote (“Hispanics” and “Asians and other”), the Democrats would
win the presidency.
In FiveThirtyEight’s simulation, moving the turnout of non-college-educated whites halfway between their 2012 turnout and the (higher) 2012 turnout
of college-educated whites while bumping their party preference a few points
toward the GOP—and assuming that black turnout and Democratic voting
percentages return to their historic averages—gives the GOP an electoral
landslide. Trump intuitively understands this; most of his rivals do not.
In short, while the Republican Party almost certainly cannot retake the
presidency in 2016 with Trump as its nominee, given his high negatives and
poor head-to-head poll numbers against Hillary Clinton, it also cannot win
without Trump’s supporters. Any tactic that alienates them is a sure loser,
no matter how many “emerging constituency” voters the party rallies under
its banner. This is not to deny that the GOP should aggressively try to win
all demographic groups, but simply to point out that any strategy, such as
amnesty, that does so by alienating or discouraging working- and middleclass white voters will lead to certain defeat.
Among all the other candidates, only Ted Cruz—who has gone out of his
way to avoid alienating Trump’s supporters, while declining to embrace
Trump’s toxic rhetoric—seemed to understand this. (It is no coincidence that
Cruz has by far the best data operation of any candidate in the race.) Meanwhile, many a Republican Candidate Ahab seems to be haplessly chasing the
great Hispanic whale, which, even if miraculously caught, wouldn’t do much
to improve the party’s 2016 electoral prospects.
WHO WILL ANSWER HIM?
Apart from Trump’s vulgarity, his dissents from GOP policy orthodoxy
upset not only K Street lobbyists but also sincere and thoughtful conservative policy analysts and writers. On issues such as eminent domain, trade,
and judicial appointments, to name just a few, Trump would certainly be a

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

45

disaster for conservatives. But his other dissents merit a more serious look:
Trump’s reluctance to intervene in foreign civil wars (a reluctance that Cruz
shares) has much to recommend it when compared with the overreach of
some of the GOP’s nation-building superhawks. And his refusal to frontally
assault Medicare and Social Security shows more political sense than does
the major-surgery crowd—it is a stance designed to win the “Sam’s Club
Republicans” and Reagan Democrats the GOP needs in its camp.
Strong establishments take insurgencies’ best issues and co-opt them.
Weak and stupid establishments don’t. Right now, the GOP establishment is
weak and stupid.
Rather than attempting to present a forward-looking agenda that would
appeal to a large number of Trump supporters and draw them into the
Republican coalition, the establishment is seemingly working overtime to
alienate them.
Rather than pursuing an immigration policy that would protect vulnerable
American workers and bring in skilled immigrants while disavowing Trump’s
divisive tone and his impractical and overbroad prescriptions, it is promoting
a quasi-open-borders policy that will perhaps keep maid service cheap for
GOP donors—while electing a generation of Obamas.
Rather than thinking through what a strong twenty-first-century Reaganite
American patriotism would look like, too many candidates have embraced a
hyper-militaristic nation-building strategy of which GOP voters have wearied,
and which a national electorate decisively rejected in 2008 and 2012.
For all his failings, his vulgarities, and his hypocrisy, Donald Trump is a
man who sees what he sees—and says so. For the sake of the future of the
Grand Old Party, let us hope that, with a more optimistic tone and a better
set of policy prescriptions, more of us do likewise.
Reprinted by permission of National Review. © 2016 National Review, Inc.
All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is The New
Deal and Modern American Conservatism: A Defining
Rivalry, by Gordon Lloyd and David Davenport. To order,
call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

46

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

H E A LT H CA R E

Better Ideas, Stat
Just as predicted, patients are facing higher
costs, fewer choices, and swelling bureaucracy.
ObamaCare needs urgent care.

By Scott W. Atlas

Y

ears after the initial rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the American
people, the health care industry, and
the courts still struggle to navigate the

law. Its heavy regulations and new tax burdens have
generated numerous consequences, many of which are
harmful to patients and families.
Although supporters point to the millions of newly
insured under the law, the truth is that as many as
90 percent of those are estimated to have enrolled
into Medicaid, second-class coverage that, according to a 2014 Merritt Hawkins report, most doctors
do not even accept. Even worse, the government’s
Department of Health and Human Services reported

Key points
» Consolidations and mergers, which have
raised the cost of
health care, are
rapidly increasing.
» New taxes and
caps on insurance prices will
cause private
insurers to fail.
» Reforms can
strengthen consumer purchasing power.

in December 2014 that 51 percent of doctors on
official Medicaid state lists are not available to new
beneficiaries.
Meanwhile, millions of other families have lost their previous private insurance directly because of ACA decrees. For new private coverage, insurance
Scott W. Atlas, MD, is the David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow at the Hoover
Institution.
H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

47

premiums have continued to skyrocket. Most alarming, the premiums of
what were low-cost, high-deductible plans are accelerating faster than any
other coverage after the passage of the ACA, directly countering the promise
of more affordability when the bill was passed.
Choice of doctors and hospitals through the government’s exchange-based
coverage has also narrowed compared with pre-ACA individual market
plans. Still unbeknownst to most consumers, though, a more insidious and
even more damaging threat to health care for Americans is afoot. Under the
ACA’s heightened regulatory environment and anticompetitive dictates, we
have witnessed a striking acceleration of consolidation within virtually all the
important sectors of health care.
Hospital mergers are on a blistering pace, continuing the striking trend of
increasing consolidation related to the start of the ACA, as reported in the
New England Journal of Medicine, when they immediately shot up by almost
50 percent from 2009. In the five years leading up to the passage of the ACA,
hospital mergers averaged about fifty-six per year. Over the five years since
ACA implementation, that number nearly doubled, according to Irving Levin
Associates research, with last year’s pace the highest in fifteen years.
MERGERS BOOST PRICES
The last period of hospital mergers in the late 1990s increased medical care
prices substantially, at times over 20 percent, according to M. Gaynor and R.
Town’s report for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. ACA regulations on
insurers and on physician practices are also driving historic merger activity
among doctor practices. This also raises prices significantly for patients.
J. Robinson and K. Miller in the Journal of the American Medical Association
reported that when hospitals owned doctor groups, per-patient expenditures
were 10 to 20 percent higher, or an extra $1,200 to $1,700 per patient per year. C.
Capps of Northwestern
University’s Institute
Efforts should center on expanding
for Policy Research in
affordable private coverage and removing 2015 found that physician prices increased
the perverse incentives of the tax code.
on average 14 percent
for medical groups acquired by hospitals; specialist-services prices increased 34
percent after such groups joined a health system.
As a result of the anticompetitive ACA edicts, including requiring uniformly bloated benefit packages, limits on deductibles, and intrusive subsidies distorting market forces, health insurers have been engaged in a merger frenzy.

48

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

Already among the nation’s five largest insurers, Aetna’s takeover of Humana
last year and then the proposed Anthem–Cigna merger would harm patients.
According to the AMA’s analysis, these two mergers would diminish competition in up to one hundred and fifty-four metropolitan areas in twenty-three
states. This consolidation not only reduces consumer choices for insurance
but inevitably leads to serious restrictions of access to medical care.
The latest alarm sounded when UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest insurer,
announced that it might entirely opt out of ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges. It forecast a $275 million loss on its exchange insurance business in 2016
and traces the loss to the ACA reforms.
But the failure of
private insurers was
The premiums of what were low-cost,
fully predictable. It
high-deductible plans are accelerating
should be no surprise
faster than any other coverage.
that younger, healthier consumers say no
to overpriced coverage that subsidizes premiums for everyone else and that
contains bloated coverage of no value to them. Indeed, it was predicted from
the start. And it was fully predictable that people would wait to buy insurance just before they incurred large medical expenses, since the law requires
guaranteed issue of insurance at any time, without consequence. Of course,
why would those individuals keep their insurance after their needed care was
received? They could just re-enroll later, if and when they needed more care.
Coupled with new taxes and caps on insurance prices, the eventual failure
of insurers on the hyper-regulated ObamaCare exchanges was inevitable.
Consolidation within each of these sectors can be explained by the shared
need to acquire sufficient size to deal with the hyper-regulatory environment of the ObamaCare era. Such significant consolidation minimizes
competition and limits the power of consumers. Prices increase and patient
choices decrease. Ultimately, a heavily consolidated industry is also an
easier target for even further government control, which could soon be felt
via the ACA’s independent payment advisory board, a group of appointed
bureaucrats assigned unprecedented power to cap prices that will assuredly
lead to rationed care.
WHAT PATIENTS WANT
As the ACA proceeds to erode the positives of US health care, expanding
government’s role as insurer while creating even worse access and higher
prices for patients, the need for a fundamentally different approach is urgent.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

49

It is clear that the Democratic solution to unfolding problems will be more
government involvement, including new caps on prices of drugs and services,
and likely a push toward a bigger role for government insurance. That would
be the wrong approach. The essence of ensuring affordable, high-quality
health care rests on restoring the appropriate incentives for consumers,
insurers, companies, and health care providers.
The effort to modernize US health care should center on expanding
affordable private coverage, especially high-deductible insurance and health
savings accounts, and removing the perverse incentives of the tax code that
have exacerbated spiraling costs and removed value-based decisions from
health care. These reforms expand the purchasing power of consumers, the
necessary basis for enhancing market competition, which will ultimately lead
to better value and more consumer choices. And voters overwhelmingly support more free-market competition over more government regulation, by 62
percent to 26 percent in a recent Rasmussen survey. An even greater majority, 85 percent to 7 percent, said individuals should have the right to choose
between two kinds of health plan: plans with higher deductibles and lower
premiums, and plans with lower deductibles and higher premiums. Government leaders have a responsibility to reform our health system to reflect
these important principles held by the American people.
Reprinted by permission of National Review. © 2015 National Review, Inc.
All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is In
Excellent Health: Setting the Record Straight on
America’s Health Care, by Scott W. Atlas. To order, call
(800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

50

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

H E A LT H CA R E

ObamaCare Gets
a Checkup
It’s neither dying nor thriving—but it does need
some bitter medicine.

By Daniel P. Kessler

M

ore than five years ago, the Affordable Care Act—what
most of us call ObamaCare—was passed into law with two
big declared goals: to reduce the number of Americans
who lack health insurance and to cut health spending that

doesn’t give good value for money. Has the law been a success? The country
is sharply divided. The most recent Gallup and Kaiser Family Foundation
tracking polls show public opinion almost evenly split, with Democrats largely supporting the law and Republicans opposing it. This partisan divide in
public opinion has changed little since 2009, when President Barack Obama
won a narrow victory in Congress for his signature domestic legislation.
What is different now is that we have a few years of direct experience of
ObamaCare. The most recent research on the law’s real consequences is
more ambiguous than either side usually lets on.
ObamaCare has indeed reduced the number of Americans without insurance. According to a recent study in the journal Health Affairs, around ten
million previously uninsured people gained coverage in 2014—when most of
the key provisions took effect—through expansions of Medicaid or the new

Daniel P. Kessler is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor at
Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and Law School.
H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

51

“marketplaces” (subsidized insurance exchanges) created under ObamaCare.
The law thus reduced the number of uninsured people in the country from
around forty-five million (or 14 percent of the population) to thirty-five million
(or 11 percent).
Was this reduction in the number of uninsured worth the cost? A recent
National Bureau of Economic Research study estimated the value of Medicaid to its recipients at between 20 cents and 40 cents per dollar of expenditure, with the majority of the value going to health care providers like
doctors and hospitals. By
comparison, the earned
What is sorely needed is an honincome tax credit—a cash
transfer program designed
est discussion of the fundamental
to enhance the incomes of
health care trade-offs we still face.
the working poor—delivers
around 90 cents of value to its recipients per dollar of expenditure. Given
that more than half of ObamaCare’s reduction in the numbers of the uninsured has been from its expansion of Medicaid, this makes the law look more
like welfare for the medical-industrial complex than support for the needy.
CHEAPER BUT NOT BETTER
The root of Medicaid’s weakness is the program’s minimal effect on health.
In 2008, the state of Oregon initiated an expansion of its Medicaid program,
drawing names from a waiting list by lottery. The lottery created a rare
opportunity to study the effects of Medicaid with the rigor of a randomized,
controlled trial. An evaluation in the New England Journal of Medicine found
that after two years, the Oregon Medicaid expansion had had no significant
effects on beneficiaries’ physical health, though it did reduce their selfreported financial strain and depression.
The other key goal of ObamaCare was to bend the cost curve downward.
From 2010 to 2012, the period right after the law’s passage, overall health
spending growth slowed significantly. Supporters attributed the slowdown
to the law, claiming it was working as intended. Other analysts attributed the
slowdown to the recession and other factors.
Who was right? It is hard to say, given the many things that were happening in health policy and the economy as a whole. But the most enthusiastic
supporters of ObamaCare seem to have jumped the gun. A recent study in
Health Affairs concluded that health care spending has started to rebound
from its recent slow rate—although not to the rates seen in the prior
decade—along with the improving economy.

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H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

Still, there are signs that an obscure aspect of ObamaCare is having
an effect. The “Cadillac tax” on high-cost plans would effectively cap the
exclusion of employer-sponsored health insurance from taxation. Health
economists agree that the exclusion has encouraged employers and workers
to choose plans with weak incentives to control low-value spending. (By giving health spending preferential tax treatment, the exclusion makes health
services seem cheaper than everything else.) Although it isn’t slated to go
into effect until 2018, the Cadillac tax has already induced some employers to
improve their plans’ incentives in anticipation.

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRIN G 2016

53

ObamaCare also may have laid a foundation for future reform. To appeal
to price-sensitive prospective enrollees, the insurance offered in the marketplaces has turned out to be significantly more cost-conscious than its
employer-sponsored cousins. With high deductibles
Giving people insurance might be the and networks of doctors and
hospitals chosen for their
right thing to do, but it isn’t budgetwillingness to offer a good
neutral and can’t be.
deal, marketplace insurance
offers a possible blueprint for a path forward.
ObamaCare, in short, is neither the triumph touted by supporters nor the
disaster trumpeted by opponents. What is needed now is an honest discussion of the fundamental trade-offs we still face: between cost and coverage,
incentives and generosity, markets and government.
IN NEED OF A VISION
Unfortunately, the way ObamaCare was promoted to the American people
has made this discussion difficult. The law was oversold in several ways.
Premiums haven’t gone down. Many people who liked their old health
plans haven’t been able to keep them. The health benefits from expanding
coverage have been elusive. And the macroeconomic consequences of the law
have been negative: according to the Congressional Budget Office, the disincentives created by ObamaCare—subsidies are phased out as beneficiaries’
incomes rise—will reduce the number of hours worked by 1.5–2 percent from
2017 to 2024.
The misleading way in which ObamaCare was promoted culminated in
the claim that it would pay for itself. Giving people insurance might be the
right thing to do, but it isn’t
budget-neutral. Although it
The law looks more like welfare for
might have been good polithe medical-industrial complex than tics, exaggerating the likely
benefits of health reform
support for the needy.
has reduced the scope for
good-faith efforts to compromise on points where reasonable people might
disagree.
We see this on both sides of the aisle. Some of the law’s opponents need
to acknowledge that for many Americans, modern health care is unaffordable without significant public assistance. Simply criticizing Medicaid is

54

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

not enough. We need to envision alternatives to conventional insurance that
deliver a basic basket of health services at a cost we can afford.
Both sides also need to recognize that the changes in incentives necessary
to bend the cost curve will be highly unwelcome to many Americans. Markets
for health care are the perfect example of the old saying that “every dollar of
waste is someone’s income.” Changes in incentives will be resisted by a broad
coalition that includes not only health care providers but also other groups
with an ideological or financial interest in the status quo, such as labor
unions.
Who will have the political courage and tenacity to confront the difficult
policy problems we still face?
Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2015 Dow Jones &
Co. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is
Entitlement Spending: Our Coming Fiscal Tsunami,
by David Koitz. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit
www.hooverpress.org.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

55

H EALTH CARE

Cadillac in the
Ditch
The tax on high-cost insurance plans was running
rough from the start. Here’s what that clunker has
taught us.

By Charles Blahous

T

he omnibus spending bill passed by Congress and signed into
law by President Obama late last year delays the onset of the
Affordable Care Act’s so-called “Cadillac-plan tax” for two years.
The law also weakens the effect of the tax (assuming it’s ever

collected) by making it deductible, as noted by my Mercatus Center colleague Brian Blase. The delay may simply be a first instance, as former Office
of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag observes, of a “rolling
permanent deferral” of the Cadillac-plan tax.
The Cadillac-plan tax is (was) a 40 percent excise tax on the amount by
which health insurance plan costs exceeded annual thresholds of $10,200
(for individuals) or $27,500 (for families), starting in 2018. These thresholds
were indexed to grow more slowly than historical health cost growth, so
that over time more and more plans would be subject to the tax, producing
escalating federal revenues necessary to help fund the ambitious health
entitlement expansion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A key policy
intent of the tax was to offset the damaging effects of the long-standing
Charles Blahous is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center.
56

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

federal tax preference for employer-sponsored insurance, one of which is to
drive excess health cost inflation.
The tax has long been on shaky political ground and the new law considerably reduces the chances of its ever taking effect. It’s worth understanding
what caused the unraveling of the tax, and what lessons can be drawn. Here
are five.
» Save before you spend. After the ACA was enacted, I expressed
concern that “the legislation employs comparatively uncertain cost-saving
measures as budgetary offsets for comparatively certain cost-increasing
provisions.” My observation was hardly original nor was the concern Policy makers ended up with a new tax
applicable only to the
that had few friends.
ACA. Legislators have a
long history of enacting laws spending certain funds right away, purportedly financed by less-certain savings to take effect later. This rarely works
as advertised.
Regardless of one’s view of whether the ACA’s particular savings measures were ever likely to pan out, my other observation from that paper
remains a broadly applicable legislative principle: “The proceeds of such
cost savings cannot safely be spent until they have verifiably accrued.” This
principle was not heeded with the ACA.
» Don’t assume a favorable future political alignment. The ACA was
passed during a rare historical moment in which Democrats held the White
House, the House of Representatives, and a wide majority in the Senate.
The long-term fate of the ACA’s individual provisions was always likely to
be a function of how a differently constituted future Congress might view
them. As Orszag has noted, even congressional Democratic support for the
tax collapsed after Congress switched hands.
This writing was on the wall for the Cadillac-plan tax as soon as it was enacted.
I noted in 2012 that “it
did not survive its initial
clash with political
Candidates should be frank with voters
pressures; the form of
about what needs to be done.
the tax enacted with
the ACA was almost simultaneously amended in accompanying reconciliation
legislation, changes that both postponed the effective date and increased the
thresholds below which the tax would not apply.” Thus, “to assume that the
tax will always be applied to the letter of current law is to assume that political

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

57

actors in the future will be far more committed to this tax than even the original
authors of ACA were.”
It’s much easier for an incoming party majority to attack a previously
enacted tax than it is to repeal benefits on which people have become dependent. In any case, no successful legislative strategy can be built upon the
assumption that a rare political majority will persist.
» Be transparent. A key policy purpose of the Cadillac-plan tax was to
“offset some of the excessive spending that economists attribute to the
long-standing tax preference for employer-provided insurance.” The most
direct and transparent way to address that problem would have been to
scale back that tax preference. But instead

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
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H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

of straightforwardly attacking the distortion and its damaging effects,
the Cadillac-plan tax was an opaque attempt at devising a countervailing
distortion.
This opacity received negative attention when videos surfaced of ACA
architect Jonathan Gruber asserting that he and other proponents engaged
in “mislabeling” to invisibly achieve the Cadillac-plan tax’s policy goals.
But apart from ethical considerations, deliberate opacity is often a tactical
mistake. A transparent debate over scaling
The fate of individual ACA proviback the tax preference
sions was always likely to depend on
for employer-sponsored insurance would
how a differently constituted future
undoubtedly have been
Congress might view them.
contentious, but those
who supported such a provision would thereafter have been publicly invested in the objective. But instead of reflecting a growing bipartisan consensus
on the necessity of attacking tax preferences, we ended up with a new tax
that had few friends. Because of this opacity, support was largely confined to
a small community of experts who had bought into the tax’s purpose, while
powerful constituencies on both sides of the aisle rose in opposition.
» Partisan victories can be short-lived. Politically difficult measures
like the Cadillac-plan tax are much easier to defend if enacted with
bipartisan support. If on the other hand legislation is passed over
the strong and unified objections of one of the two major parties,
it’s often only a matter of time before that party has an opportunity to repeal strongly disliked parts of it. Had the Cadillacplan tax (and other parts of the ACA) been bipartisan its
political staying power would likely have been greater.
Contrast the ACA dynamic with, for example, bipartisan
legislation such as the 1983 Social Security reforms. Those
reforms were extremely difficult to enact but once they
were, negotiators on opposite sides were heavily invested
and thus disinclined to revisit the legislation—even when
tough explicit measures like taxing Social Security benefits
and raising the retirement age were taking effect.
» Don’t campaign against necessary policy steps. The
ACA was enacted after presidential candidate John McCain had been
successfully attacked for his proposal for to scale back the tax preference
for employer-sponsored insurance—even though experts on both sides

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

59

understood his basic idea to be a necessary policy step. When this happens,
elected figures find themselves with a bad choice between breaking their
word and furthering large policy problems. A core reason we now lack an
effective way to constrain the drivers of excess health cost inflation is that
before the ACA took effect, policy makers failed to tell voters what such constraint might involve. While it’s inevitable that candidates will want to present their platforms in the most salable light, they would do well to campaign
in a way consistent with how they need to govern. And voters, for their part,
should be scrutinizing candidates for whether their promises can realistically
be upheld.
Reprinted by permission of e21. © 2015 Economic Policies for the 21st Century. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Pension
Wise: Confronting Employer Pension Underfunding—
And Sparing Taxpayers the Next Bailout, by Charles
Blahous. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.
hooverpress.org.

60

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

H E A LT H CA R E

Healthy Budget,
Healthy
Americans
Six ways to put consumers, and not bureaucrats,
in control.

By Lanhee J. Chen and James C. Capretta

W

hile America’s health care system has long needed reform,
President Obama unfortunately made many parts of it
worse. His Affordable Care Act is based on more federal
spending, regulation, and coercion—and Americans are

now experiencing the many unhappy consequences.
These include millions forced out of their previous insurance plans and
into new ones with higher costs and more restricted access to physicians;
premiums increasing by double digits, even for the lowest-price silver plans
offered in states using the HealthCare.gov website; and insurance companies
losing billions of dollars because many healthy, middle-class families want no
part of ObamaCare. And those not-for-profit “co-ops” established by the law?
More than half have failed.

Lanhee J. Chen is the David and Diane Steffy Research Fellow at the Hoover
Institution, a member of Hoover’s Conte Initiative on Immigration Reform, and
a lecturer in public policy at Stanford University. James C. Capretta is a senior
fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a visiting fellow at the American
Enterprise Institute.
H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

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Congress passed a bill January 6 gutting the Affordable Care Act; the president vetoed it two days later. Change will have to wait until the next president and Congress. But repealing the Affordable Care Act is not enough.
The country has been drifting toward full federal control of health care
for decades. What’s
needed is a credible
The country has been drifting toward full
plan to reorient fedfederal control of health care for decades. eral policy across the
board toward markets
and the preferences of consumers and patients, and away from one-size-fitsall bureaucratic micromanagement.
We have worked with eight colleagues to develop such a plan. It has these
important features:
» Retaining employer coverage. About 155 million Americans get health
insurance through their place of work. They should be left alone. The only
change would be a new upper limit on the tax preference for employer-paid premiums, set so that only the most expensive 25 percent of plans would exceed it.
Employers and workers alike would have an incentive to cut health spending
and keep premiums below the limit to avoid triggering exposure to taxation.
This upper limit would replace the unfair and poorly designed “Cadillac” tax of
ObamaCare that imposes a uniform 40 percent tax on high health-insurance
premiums, with no adjustment based on the wages of workers affected.
» Tax credits. Individuals without employer coverage would get an ageadjusted tax credit to help purchase health insurance. These credits would
be more flexible than ObamaCare’s premium subsidies, because there would
be no strings attached, that is, none of the current federal law’s mandated
benefits. Consumers could pick any state-approved plan that met their needs
and those of their family. Together with employer coverage, these tax credits
would ensure that all have access to secure insurance.
» Continuous coverage protection. Instead of forcing people to buy
government-approved insurance, we propose to give people a strong incentive to stay insured: as long as they remain continuously insured, they cannot
be charged higher premiums, have their benefits restricted, or be denied
enrollment in a plan based on their health status.
» Medicaid reform. This program would be split into two parts, one for
able-bodied adults and their children, the other for the disabled and elderly.
The federal government would give states fixed, per-person payments based
on historical spending patterns for these distinct populations. States could
manage the program without federal interference. Able-bodied adults and

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H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

their children could combine Medicaid with the (refundable) federal tax
credit to enroll in a private insurance option.
» Medicare reform. For new retirees, Medicare would provide a fixed level
of assistance—derived from bids submitted by competing insurance carriers and the calculated cost of staying in traditional Medicare—which seniors
would use to purchase a health plan of their choosing. Seniors could enroll in
the traditional program, which would be modernized with a uniform deductible for hospital and physician services and more discretion for administrators to make distinctions among providers based on quality. Current retirees
may choose the reformed program, or to remain in traditional Medicare with
no substantial changes in their costs.
» Expanded health savings accounts. HSAs today are used in conjunction with high-deductible insurance. They provide protection against highcost medical events without forcing people to pay premiums for plans that
cover routine care. If the owners of HSAs do not spend all of the annual
contributions, the money rolls over—so they can build capital for the future.
Under our plan, all Americans could open and make annual contributions to
an HSA, even when they are enrolled in plans with lower deductibles.
An evaluation of our plan by the nonpartisan Center for Health and Economy showed that it would cover as many people with insurance as ObamaCare
has, but without the same massive expense and high taxes. The plan would
also dramatically improve the nation’s budget outlook by putting both Medicaid and Medicare on a solid fiscal footing.
The Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010 in part because Republicans
failed to fix health care when they had the chance. They shouldn’t make that
mistake again. This election year gives them an opportunity to demonstrate
they have concrete plans to reverse ObamaCare and implement reforms
based on consumer, not government, control.
Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2016 Dow Jones &
Co. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Healthy,
Wealthy, and Wise: Five Steps to a Better Health Care
System, second edition, by John F. Cogan, R. Glenn
Hubbard, and Daniel P. Kessler. To order, call (800)
888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

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H EALTH CARE

Perils of “Consent”
What do we owe a patient whose own body has led
to medical breakthroughs? Trying to figure it out
could tie up progress, making everyone worse off.

By Richard A. Epstein

R

ecently, Rebecca Skloot, author of the bestseller The Immortal
Life of Henrietta Lacks, wrote an impassioned plea in the New
York Times, urging people to support sweeping revisions to the
Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, which is

now under active review in the Department of Health and Human Services.
These revisions are directed to the rules that now govern the collection and
use of “clinical biospecimens,” which include all the organic substances routinely removed from the human body as a consequence of surgery, childbirth,
or even normal testing. At first appearance, these materials look like waste
products best disposed of in a safe and sanitary manner. But in fact, they are
invaluable in medical research to treat cancer and a host of other genetic and
life-threatening diseases.
Without question, the most dramatic illustration of this process involves
the so-called HeLa cell line derived from the cancer cells of Henrietta Lacks,
an African-American tobacco farmer who died of cancer in 1951 at the age
of thirty-one. Skloot’s book tells her story. When Lacks was treated at Johns
Hopkins Medical Center, her cancer cells were given to the pathologist
Richard A. Epstein is the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover
Institution and a member of the steering committee for Hoover’s Working Group
on Intellectual Property, Innovation, and Prosperity. He is also the Laurence A.
Tisch Professor of Law at New York University Law School and a senior lecturer
at the University of Chicago.
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George Gey. Gey found to his amazement that unlike other cancer cells,
Lacks’s cells were immortal in that they could be cultured and reproduced
indefinitely. Within three years of her death, her cell line had helped develop
the Salk polio vaccine. In the sixty-six years since Lacks died, about twenty
tons of her cell line have been reproduced and distributed worldwide for
medical research.
But just what did Lacks and her family get out of the arrangement? At the
time, nothing. In accordance with then-standard practice, the Johns Hopkins
researchers collected and used her cells without her knowledge or consent.
In more recent years, she has received countless public honors for her contributions to medical research. But at the same time, the many researchers who
worked with her cell line collected substantial royalties from the patented
cells and the devices developed with their assistance. So should Lacks and
her family have received some fraction of that wealth?
CELLULAR TREASURES
The issue was addressed in Moore v. The Regents of the University of California
(1990), in which the California Supreme Court held that John Moore did not
have property rights to his distinctive cell line. Moore had hairy-cell leukemia, and that resulted in
the removal of his “grossly
The seeming waste products are
enlarged” and diseased
invaluable in research on cancer and
spleen, which proved to
other life-threatening diseases.
be a veritable treasure
trove for medical research.
Moore’s case did not involve the mere use of cells drawn from his body after
his death. Instead, following his initial surgery, the doctors consistently lied
to Moore about the supposed medical purposes for which they collected his
various body cells and fluids, which they then used to create a patented cell
line of immense value.
Faced with these novel facts, the California Supreme Court issued a split
decision. It held that the doctors who took various bodily materials from
Moore had not converted his body to their own use, on the odd ground that
he did not own the cells after they left his body. Why they could not assert
ownership of them before surgery was left unexplained. But, as a way to
offset that decision, the court held that the doctors did breach their duty of
informed consent to him. However, this did not allow Moore to recover any
royalties from the doctors or any other downstream parties who benefited
from using his cell line.

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65

As Skloot and others insist, there is something deeply odd about letting
doctors and hospitals profit from cell lines without paying a dime to the
patient from whose body they were obtained, and without obtaining the
patient’s permission.
But what’s the best way to correct this odd state of affairs? To people like
Skloot, the answer is that all medical researchers should be required to
obtain “informed consent” for any research done with a biospecimen, “even
if,” as the government proposal puts it, “the investigator is not being given
information that would enable him or her to identify whose biospecimen it
is.” Such consent would not need to be obtained for each specific research
use of the biospecimen, but rather could be obtained using a “broad” consent form in which a person would give permission for future unspecified
research uses. Skloot claims optimistically that these people will probably
say yes, so that research could go on largely as before—but she thinks, as a
matter of fundamental fairness, that they should be asked.
A LABYRINTH OF CONSENT
There are, however, some powerful objections against the use of the
informed-consent standard. The consent requirement would result in a vast
increase in administrative costs. At a minimum, the new standard would usher in a huge expansion in the number of forms that have to first be explained
and then filled out by every patient whose bodily materials are needed for
medical research. This means obtaining consent from many thousands of
patients, as large-scale genomic research is so common. Informed consent
would severely slow down such research.
We already have extensive experience with the nightmarish consent
requirements under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), which created a massive government apparatus for
deciding whose consent is needed, and when, for the myriad uses of routine
medical records. The privacy interest with respect to bodily fluids and
liquids, especially after death, is far weaker. Why impose an apparatus that
costs billions to implement when there is no real evidence that the current
MEDICAL IMMORTALITY: Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of
Henrietta Lacks, has spoken in support of changes to the way researchers
collect and use biospecimens. Henrietta Lacks, subject of Skloot’s bestselling book, was a cervical cancer patient whose cells have been tremendously
useful to medical research since her death in 1951. [Mark Schierbecker—Creative
Commons]

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system is broken? After all, the use of the waste products does not affect the
patient’s health, well-being, or treatment, even as it facilitates its groundbreaking research.
A larger issue arises if an individual chooses not to sign a blanket consent
form for the use of his or her biospecimens. Can the patient decide to not
sign the broad form, and limit the use of his or her biospecimens only to
some but not all purposes? If consent is originally given, can it thereafter be
revoked, perhaps on the ground that background disclosures were not sufficiently precise? Can family members intervene and claim that with minors
and unconscious people, the patient is not competent to give consent? Is a
hospital or physician entitled to refuse to treat a patient who does not acquiesce? May they impose extra charges on them to offset their research losses
from not being able to use their biospecimens?
This complex game is not worth playing. The simple answer to all of these
endless complications in the routine cases is this: each patient coming into
the hospital gets the benefit of the accumulated knowledge acquired from
previous patients whose biospecimens have been put to good medical use. It
is not too much to insist that patients in routine cases be required to continue to participate in the virtuous circle. There may not be consent, but just
compensation is supplied in-kind to all patients who benefit from the medical
advances made possible by the research using biospecimens.
At the same time, this generalized form of compensation does not work
well with the unique cases like Lacks or Moore. The magnitude of their
individual contributions should be compensated somehow. But nonetheless,
it does not follow, as Skloot insists, that individual consent for using these
biospecimens should be required. With transactions this large, it seems
highly unlikely that most patients who have been informed of the benefits
that can be derived from their biospecimens would happily sign them over
to a research hospital free of charge. Rather, they or their guardians would
be well advised to hold out for remuneration as a condition of allowing any
of their biospecimens to be used in medical research. Those patients could
receive large windfalls without bearing any of the economic and development-related risks that the research hospitals bear.
CO NS I DER PATENT LAW
Outside the medical area, the law has long been reluctant to allow any party
to exert this form of monopoly power without legal constraint. Starting with
the writings of the British jurist Sir Matthew Hale in the late seventeenth
century, the common law has held that common carriers with a monopoly

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REMEMBERED: A historical marker along a highway near Clover, Virginia,
commemorates the life of Henrietta Lacks. The woman whose cancerous
cells became the HeLa cell line has been honored posthumously for her contributions to medical research. [Emw—Creative Commons]

business were “affected with the public interest,” and thus not free to charge
whatever they choose for their services. Rather, they must restrict themselves to reasonable and nondiscriminatory rates, commonly called RAND.
The system did not require public utilities to supply their services for free,
but it allowed them a risk-adjusted competitive return on their initial investments while denying them a monopoly profit.
In modern intellectual-property law, RAND rules have been carried over
to standard-essential patents, which allow competing companies to share
information over an integrated network system. Choosing the right measure
of compensation for these patents is never easy, but it is not impossible—and
this inquiry may well be easier for biospecimens, which should be made
available for medical research for a reasonable royalty interest on the basic
research patents, perhaps fixed as a matter of law. Others may prefer to
use compulsory arbitration to resolve disagreements over royalty rates. But
H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

69

critically, both these proposals explicitly reject Skloot’s consent model, which
poses a threat to the entire medical research enterprise.
The problem becomes even more acute when, as with Moore but not
Lacks, a live patient is asked to contribute further biospecimens to medical research. Usually, the
requested intrusions in
No one should think that individual
this case are no greater
than those in which the
consent isn’t needed for ordinary
specimens are collected for
medical treatment.
normal diagnostic purposes,
so it is a close question as to whether these transactions should be done
solely on a voluntary basis, given the holdout risk. Alternatively, it is possible
to invoke the same compulsory purchase regime that works best for normal
waste products.
For the moment, it’s best to keep in place whatever regime is now used.
My fear, however, is that any movement toward demanding consent for using
biospecimens will undermine the willingness of ordinary patients to participate in medical research. Of course, everyone should be uneasy with forced
exchanges, and no one should think that individual consent is not needed
for ordinary medical treatment. But when transaction costs get high, and
monopoly power becomes a serious risk, the model of just compensation in
forced exchanges should prevail. It may seem odd to apply standard industrial organization models to biomedical research. But the parallel is precise.
The many doctors and hospitals that have vehemently resisted the new
proposals Skloot endorses may not understand the finer points of monopoly
power and rate regulation. But they are right to reject unwise proposals to
demand broad consent for the use of biospecimens in medical research.
Reprinted from Defining Ideas (www.hoover.org/publications/definingideas), a Hoover Institution journal. © 2016 by the Board of Trustees of
the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Issues
on My Mind: Strategies for the Future, by George P.
Shultz. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.
hooverpress.org.

70

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F OR E I G N POLI CY

The End of
Modernity
When it should act, America hesitates—and
around the world, hard-won freedoms slip away.

By Charles Hill

T

he era called modern inexorably began to come to its end when,
in the second decade of the twenty-first century, a concatenation
of foretold events unraveled the so-called modern world order.
As always, the foreordained collapse was generated from

internal weakness. We need to look no further than Europe to understand
why. It has become evident that the European Union, a contrivance designed
to do away with the structural elements of that international order—the
state as its basic unit and the sovereign borders of its various nations—created nothing in its place capable of coping with an economic crisis, fending
off threats to its security, or absorbing history’s Great Migration.
Long before this, however, the modern international system, which had
welcomed into its ranks Muslims in more than a score of delineated “states,”
had begun to feel the rise of believers dedicated to overthrowing the military,
monarchical, and autocratic regimes of those very state entities formed in
the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman empire and caliphate after the First
World War.

Charles Hill is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and chairman of
Hoover’s Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.
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The dynamism of this cause would, by the twenty-first century, produce
two massive Muslim powers: the Islamic Republic of Iran, which, by its 1979
revolution, won recognition as a state in the modern world order while at the
same time vowing to destroy that very system; and, a generation later, the
fearsome rise of the Islamic State, which by its title proclaimed the goal of all
the faithful: a new world order ruled by one, and only one, order. Thus eventuated the fulfillment of American speculation that the only serious challenge
to the modern international state system could come if events such as the
9/11 attacks were, in the words of Francis Fukuyama, “driven by a systematic idea of political and social justice that claims to supersede liberalism.”
Precisely so: Islam claimed to be advancing a political and social model that
rivaled and would replace Western modernity.
HOLLOWING OUT THE STATE
With this entire region of the globe, “its hour come round at last” as Yeats
put it, moving to cast out the international system, the four other world
power centers, each in its own way, headed toward a similar outcome.
Europe had disabled itself. As “the West,” its Westphalian state system
had been accepted during the five modern centuries as the world order, an
achievement owing to this system’s procedural character—until then, history’s only example of a dispensation open to all the world’s peoples. But, with
the European Union, Europe had vacated its own concept and the Muslim
world’s eruption in the Middle East poured displaced populations into that
once-dominating small peninsula in the volkerwanderung foreseen by historians as the harbinger of cultural and spiritual disaster.
China, which in the early post-Mao period assiduously had portrayed
its empire actually to be a state and had behaved as an ideal citizen of the
established system, began in the early twenty-first century to turn assertive.
China had not been present, it declared, at the creation of the Westphalian
order, which, in any event, made no sense, particularly in its bizarre doctrine
of the juridical “equality of states.” China therefore merged its heritage of
Maoist ideology as an enemy of the state system with its Confucian tradition
that all human relations properly are hierarchical, to be obeyed from the top
down. Thus Asia’s natural leader would be the People’s Republic of China
ON PATROL: An Air Force fighter jet refuels before a mission over Syria. US
Defense Secretary Ash Carter has been pursuing cooperation with other
nations to intensify the campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and
Syria. [Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf—USAF]

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and, over time, all the world would recognize this superior system and fall in
line within it.
Russia too, having failed in the post-Soviet period to install itself as a
liberal political and economic state in world affairs, undertook a redefinition
of itself in the new century as the avatar of Russian czars and commissars
who would “smash” the
state or exhaust its powers
The Islamic State proclaimed its
until it would “wither away.”
goal: a new world order ruled by one,
The new Russia would be
and only one, order.
inspired by Dostoevsky
and Orthodoxy as it carved
away lands of the state of Georgia, seized Crimea, and dismembered half
of Ukraine; breaking up NATO—the pre-eminent democratic alliance of
states—now could be possible.
Strikingly consequential has been President Putin’s military move into
Syria and personal association with Ayatollah Khamenei to support Iran’s
neo-imperialist archipelago of influence stretching from the Afghan border to the Mediterranean via Iraq, Assad’s Syria, and Hezbollah-controlled
Lebanon—and potentially an additional arc of influence from Bahrain to the
Shia Eastern Saudi province to Yemen and beyond. This welded together two
major anti–world order powers.
THE MAKING OF A DEFEAT
As other major power centers moved into opposition to the international
state system, the United States was edging away from its century-long leadership role within it, soon handing legitimacy, resources, and nuclear weapons potential to the Islamic Republic of Iran. America’s strategic withdrawal
was conducted under the cover of a presidential rhetoric of support and an
asymptotic military policy
managing always to fall just
China merged its heritage as an
short of tactics conducted
to make a lasting difference
enemy of the state system with its
on any war-fighting front.
Confucian tradition that all human
All political and analytirelations are hierarchical.
cal efforts to persuade the
American presidency to change strategic direction were rebuffed. Many
operationally specific alternatives were offered; what was not understood
was that the significant factors were psychological and matters of national
character. The United States failed to understand that:

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» Fear was the primal force in the Middle East. People would attach
themselves to whichever party possessed the momentum for victory. As
American leadership wavered, victory was predicted for the most radical
elements.
» Resolve and reliability were essential but scarce. Once the United
States revealed itself as lacking staying power, little that it said or did was
credited.
A comprehensive grasp of the scale and scope of the challenge appeared
only briefly as the new century opened and was never regained. Interconnected dimensions of the problem invariably were disaggregated into
“removing Assad” and “defeating ISIL.”
And turning points were not recognized or taken, most notably the
moment in late 2015 when the United States could have inventoried the
region to determine those states and parties in or on the side of world order
and those who would destroy and replace it so as to firmly support the former and resolutely oppose the latter.
It was not to be. The collapse of the Westphalian state system meant that
the foundations for the values they upheld—open trade, open expression,
consent of the governed, and universal human rights—crumbled as well, and
the remaining states of the core region of the world withered away.
As the historian Edward Gibbon mused when writing about the decline
and fall of the Roman empire, perhaps the time would come when the interpretation of the Quran would “be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her
pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of
the revelation of Mohammed.”
It has come to pass.
Reprinted from Defining Ideas (www.hoover.org/publications/definingideas), a Hoover Institution journal. © 2015 by the Board of Trustees of
the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Trial
of a Thousand Years: World Order and Islamism, by
Charles Hill. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.
hooverpress.org.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

75

F O R EI GN POLICY

Tear Up the Map
The borders of the Middle East are unworkable.
What if we drew them all over again?

By Michael S. Bernstam

T

he Middle East is unraveling. The artificial borders drawn by
Europeans after World War I are dissolving along ethnic, tribal,
and religious lines. The nominal states of Iraq, Syria, Yemen,
and Libya have ceased to exist in practical terms. Lebanon and

Bahrain are on the brink. The rise and prospective reunification of Kurdistan
threatens the present borders of Iran and Turkey. Nuclear proliferation lurks
in the background.
There is a comprehensive solution to this crisis that can also ameliorate
the tragedy of Middle Eastern and North African refugees pouring into
Europe. It offers an orderly and humane transition from the current bloody
descent. The solution is to redraw the antiquated, artificial map of the Middle
East, thereby creating new, homogeneous, viable nation-states.
UNSTABLE AT HEART
The underlying problem is ontological, that is, it is in the nature of things.
Multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-communal societies are inherently susceptible to instability. It is extremely difficult to maintain stability in representative democracies that face competition over resources along ethnic and
religious lines. The reason is income transfers: some communities get more
while others get less than they produce, and the clash ensues.
Stability can be maintained in a federalist democracy like Switzerland
where ethnic-linguistic freedoms foster individual rights, not intercommunal
Michael S. Bernstam is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.
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H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

income transfers, and where the income transfers that take place go to individuals, not groups for subdivision among its members.
Stability can also be maintained for a considerable period in dictatorships
where one community has total control, such as pre–civil war Syria, preinvasion Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya, or the central government rations
and balances conflicting claims as in the old Soviet Union and in post–World
War II Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Ethnic political competition can force
some countries to split up peacefully like the former Czechoslovakia and,
initially, the Soviet Union, or slide into a sequence of interethnic wars as happened in the former Yugoslavia and today’s Middle East.
LET THE DRAWING BEGIN
The proposed solution, however discomfiting to Western politicians and
scholars of pluralistic democracies, is to germinate new homogeneous
nation-states. There are four steps to this end that the West can initiate and
facilitate.
» Redraw the map of the Middle East along ethnic, religious, and
other community lines. Invite the various, largely homogeneous, ethnic
and religious groups to offer maps of their envisaged homelands. They will
quickly realize that the sum of their individual territorial claims exceeds
the total territory of the region, which makes it impossible for outsiders
to reconcile overlapping claims. Communities that want their own nationstates will have no alternative but to negotiate with their neighbors and
submit joint proposals of the maps to potential Western sponsors. (The
mechanism is described below.)
» Western countries will offer financial and logistical help. To
facilitate and accelerate the process, a Pax Westernania that includes the
United States, Britain, France, Germany, and Scandinavian countries,
among others, will offer help to settle and resettle the different populations within the new homogeneous ethnic, religious, and other communal
borders, along with returning refugees from Europe to their respective
kindred communities. The West will also guarantee and, when necessary,
enforce the new borders.
» Assist the new states with the long process of economic and political,
preferably democratic, development. The process can take decades and
might still fail. This is a nation-state setup and startup, leaving the residents
of each new political jurisdiction to chart their own course—the opposite of
top-down nation building by Western powers. “Of the people, by the people,
for the people” means their people.

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77

» Make terrorism self-defeating. If any of the new countries or residual
enclaves outside the transition process becomes a source of international
terrorism, declare such an entity hostile, blockade it, and give it a choice to
stop this activity or be invaded and dismantled. Redrawing the map would
localize the problem of international terrorism and facilitate defeating it at
the source. Then restart the setup and startup process in the failed area.
Such action helps the other new Middle Eastern and North African countries
that want to develop peacefully.

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A CORNUCOPIA OF INCENTIVES
A project of this scope and complexity cannot be implemented by force,
bribery, or coaxing. Only voluntary participation of tens of millions of Middle
Eastern and North African residents can pull it off. Success requires a
mechanism of incentives, which makes every group that cooperates in the
project a winner, and every group that does not a loser.
This mechanism is analogous to a single-class airplane mode of operation. It
is the opposite of the partnership mode prevalent in bilateral and multilateral
negotiations. The latter encourages bad-faith negotiations in which the most
recalcitrant party can hold up the deal in order to extort the most concessions and is expected to get away with cheating afterwards.
Because space (territory) is limited, the first group
that boards (submits a reasonable map) is
the first to be served (given territorial preference).
There is no

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

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BEGINNING OF THE END: Jerusalem Mayor Hussein Effendi al-Husseini,
center, and other Ottoman officials meet with British troops under a white
flag of surrender on December 9, 1917. The Ottoman defeat in World War I was
key to the partitioning of the Middle East into states that in many cases were
strife-riven and unstable. [Library of Congress]

extortion of concessions because those who come late to the process can only
get a smaller space. Those who refuse to submit a map will be bumped off
the flight (not get any consideration for their claims). Any ethnic, religious,
denominational, or other community, big and small, can submit its proposed
map to potential Western sponsors for consideration. Since outlandish proposals will be dismissed, it makes no sense to submit one.
The aspiring communities will find it mutually beneficial to negotiate,
compromise, and draw joint and collective maps. Western sponsors will
decide at which stage of border completeness they would recognize the new
nation-states, one by one or
by groups, and support their
population resettlement and Multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multiborder security.
communal societies are inherently
Recognition of partially
prone to instability.
negotiated borders is perhaps the most important incentive. Incomplete deals will be treated as complete deals. This will signal to nonparticipants, or overreaching claimants,
that it is now or never, that there is no chance to hold up the process, and it is
self-defeating to wait. The early-submitting group of neighbors gets the best
deal on their future borders. Their proposed borders between them and the
neighbors who refused to negotiate, and the territories inside those borders,
will be accepted and secured. This would motivate latecomers to rush in to
negotiate to have their say, lest they be stuck with what’s left.
MISTRUST, BUT VERIFY
Kurdistan will be an obvious local leader in this process and offer others
tangible proof that it works. The initial Kurdistan will be made up of the Iraqi
and Syrian Kurdistan parts with the potential of the Iranian part when Iran
eventually falls apart and with the assistance of a negotiated autonomy inside
Turkey. Kurdistan will grow from the inside out. Also, Iranian and Turkish
Kurds can choose, if they wish, to resettle in the new Kurdistan.
But even the most vulnerable minorities like the various rites of the Middle
Eastern Christians and the smallest minorities such as Druze, Chaldo-Assyrians, and Yazidis can find accommodation through this process. Western
sponsors will encourage the birth of small states akin to Liechtenstein,
Andorra, and San Marino situated between big states.
The negotiated new borders are sustainable in this process. If some
participants breach the contract later or reinterpret it without negotiated
alterations, they lose the resettlement subsidy and other assistance or will

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

81

meet enforcement by force. But the most effective punishment is that the
borders would be then redrawn in a contour that favors their neighbors. The
borders agreed upon by neighbors without the offender will go into effect by
default and be protected.
Another key feature is that the process does not rely on trust. Long-seated
mutual mistrust among neighbors, even mutual hatred and recent hostilities,
are not an obstacle. There is no need to trust each other in order to negotiate
and develop a joint map as
long as the Western sponIncentives will make every group
sors deliver their part. Selfthat cooperates a winner, and every
interest in the race not to
be a loser, to be on the same
group that doesn’t a loser.
timetable with neighbors in
drawing collective maps, and not to miss the best possible deal by reneging
will work surer than trust. Under this framework, self-interest makes good
neighbors out of bad neighbors, without love, trust, or cultural change.
After the invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Vice President Joe Biden called for the division of Iraq into three ethnically homogeneous communities of Shia, Sunni, and Kurd. In 2007, Stanford professor James Fearon made the same argument in Foreign Affairs magazine.
The insistence on maintaining unity inside Iraq’s artificial, colonial-drawn
borders by President George W. Bush, supported by legions of democracy
specialists in Western universities who insist on trying to transplant the
multi-cultural Western model of democracy to the Middle East, precipitated
the ever-increasing bloodletting in the region. It’s time for a new, serious
approach.
Special to the Hoover Digest. Hoover senior fellow Alvin Rabushka contributed significantly to this article.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is In This
Arab Time: The Pursuit of Deliverance, by Fouad
Ajami. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.
hooverpress.org.

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F OR E I G N POLI CY

“Easier to Make
the Speeches”
Barack Obama so wanted to end “Bush’s wars” and
close Guantánamo. It hasn’t worked out that way.

By Jack Goldsmith

N

ovember’s gruesome terrorist attacks by the Islamic State in
the heart of Paris marked yet another setback in President
Obama’s seven-year effort to end the wars and reverse the
counterterrorism policies of his predecessor. Many will claim

that the attacks were traceable to the president’s failed policies against the
Islamic State, and to his related hesitancy in managing the implosion of
Syria. The day before the attacks, the president had sanguinely told ABC’s
George Stephanopoulos that the Islamic State had been “contained.” That
claim having been repudiated in dramatic fashion, the president immediately
faced pressure to ratchet up the fight against Islamic State. “Clearly there’s
going to have to be an intensification of our efforts,” acknowledged Ben
Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser, two days later.
Barack Obama has been thinking about his legacy from the beginning
of his presidency. In the 2012 book Kill or Capture, Daniel Klaidman says
Obama’s “preoccupation with his legacy included an element of vanity—he’d
sometimes tell advisers, ‘I don’t want my name’ on a policy that might be
judged harshly in the future.” But the legacy Obama wants to leave is not

Jack Goldsmith is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of
Hoover’s Jean Perkins Working Group on National Security, Technology, and Law.
He is the Henry L. Shattuck Professor at Harvard Law School.
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83

the one he will. He so wanted to be the president who ended wars, turned
down the rhetorical temperature on Islamist terrorism, and sharply reversed
Bush-era counterterrorism rules. But time and time again the realities of
the threats, the responsibilities of his office, and the demands of domestic
politics have forced him, grudgingly, to act contrary to his impulses.
STYMIED FROM THE START
Frustrations began early in his presidency. On January 29, 2010, Obama met
with his National Security Council to discuss his administration’s collapsing
plan to prosecute 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Muhammad in a New York
civilian federal court instead of in George W. Bush’s controversial Guantánamo
Bay military commissions. The New York trial was one of many efforts to fulfill
the president’s campaign pledge to restore the rule of law to US counterterrorism policy. But Republicans had successfully portrayed this and other reforms
as soft on terrorism, and the trial plan lacked political support among key
Democrats. At the meeting White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel advised
the president that a New York trial might hurt his chances for a second term.
Displeased with the dawning reality that Muhammad would remain in
Guantánamo Bay and be tried by military commission, Obama closed the
meeting by reading a statement by federal judge William Young at the criminal sentencing of Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber who tried to blow up an airplane en route from Paris to Miami in December 2001. Young’s remarks were
a paean to American liberty that celebrated the justice that civilian courts
“fairly, individually, and
discretely” administer.
Ending war has proved to be much more
According to Klaidman, the disheartened
than a matter of definitions.
president gazed around
the room without focus after reading Young’s statement. “Why can’t I give
that speech?” he asked his senior advisers. And then without another word
he stood up and left the room.
Obama’s question symbolizes his vexed failure to reverse Bush-era policies
in other contexts. His administration continued indefinite military detention
at Guantánamo Bay, bulk surveillance, Bush-era state secrets, and limitations
on habeas corpus overseas. This White House has also dramatically expanded the drone program, targeted and killed an American citizen overseas,
used significant military force in Libya without congressional authorization,
unilaterally extended the 2001 statute authorizing war against Al-Qaeda to
the Islamic State, and cracked down unprecedentedly on leakers.

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Obama has also been unable to fulfill his vows to end wars. In a 2013
speech at the National Defense University, he proclaimed that “history
advises” and “democracy demands” that war against Islamist terrorists,
“like all wars, must end.” The president added that “unless we discipline our
thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we
don’t need to fight.”
But ending war has proved to be much more than a mental or definitional exercise. Last fall the president reversed his pledge to bring home all
American troops from Afghanistan before the end of his presidency. The
main reason: preventing Al-Qaeda or Islamic State from gaining a foothold
there. The president
withdrew all US troops
Time and time again the threats, the
from Iraq by the end
responsibilities, and the demands of
of 2011, as promised,
only to witness the
domestic politics have forced Obama to
rise of Islamic State in
act contrary to his impulses.
the resulting security
vacuum. He described Islamic State as a “jayvee team” just before it seized
Fallujah in January 2013. By the summer of 2014, the terrorist organization’s
growing menace required Obama to order bombing in and redeploy troops to
Iraq, both of which have intensified in the intervening months, and now will
intensify further.
CHASTENED BY REALITY
Obama’s aim to end “Bush’s wars” is in shambles. The more pressing legacy
question now is whether he will be seen to have contributed to, and done
too little to redress, the threats from Islamic State. The president faces a
related legacy conundrum with his desire to fulfill his early pledge to close
the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. A strict congressional ban stands in
his way. The only way Obama can succeed in his legacy quest is to exercise
presidential powers to override the ban—powers that are very much like
those the Bush administration claimed in order to disregard the torture
statute, and powers that candidate Obama harshly criticized and promised
not to replicate. Whether the president closes the detention facility or not,
his legacy will take a hit.
These grim realities and unhappy choices have thwarted Obama’s desire to
deliver speeches like Judge Young’s. Obama is of course not the first president to learn this lesson. In December 1962, a reporter asked John F. Kennedy whether his experience as president had matched his expectations before

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entering office. By this point in his presidency, Kennedy had been through
the botched Bay of Pigs invasion, a disastrous meeting with Khrushchev in
Vienna, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Berlin crisis.
Reflecting on these and other experiences, Kennedy said the problems he
faced, and “the responsibilities placed on the United States,” were “greater
than I imagined them
to be, and there are
Whether or not the president closes
greater limitations
upon our ability to
Guantánamo, his legacy will take a hit.
bring about a favorable result than I had imagined them to be.” The former senator added that
his attitude was “probably true of anyone who becomes president, because
there is such a difference between those who advise or speak or legislate, and
between the man who must select from the various alternatives proposed
and say that this shall be the policy of the United States.”
And then Kennedy answered the doleful question that Obama asked his
national security team, forty-eight years before Obama asked it: “It is much
easier to make the speeches than it is to finally make the judgments.”
Reprinted by permission of Time (www.time.com). © 2015 Time Inc. All
rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Ronald
Reagan: Decisions of Greatness, by Martin and
Annelise Anderson. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or
visit www.hooverpress.org.

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T E R R OR I SM A N D DE F E N SE

Rocketing the
Casbah
In proclaiming a state, ISIS surrendered a strategic
advantage, giving its bombs a return address.

By Josef Joffe

A

word of comfort: terror, no matter how spectacular, cannot
score strategic victories against the West. ISIS cannot break
a nation-state’s will, nor render it defenseless the way Hitler’s
armies subjugated France and Poland in a matter of weeks.

That is the good news. And the bad? Modern terror embodies the most

efficient use of violence in the annals of warfare. It extracts maximal gain
from a minimal investment of people and materiel; a handful of killers with
AK-47s and suicide vests is enough to paralyze a metropolis like Paris, and
in 2001, New York. Even the mere threat of another attack has immobilized
Brussels. Since 9/11, the tally has been awesome. Hundreds of billions have
been spent on homeland security and domestic intelligence, not counting millions of working hours lost in security lines at airports round the globe. Terror is imposing an astronomic transaction tax on the world. This, to be sure,
is not a strategic victory for the terrorists, but it is a burden approaching the
costs of real war, not to speak of the toll on freedom that fear exacts.
Josef Joffe is the Marc and Anita Abramowitz Fellow in International Relations
at the Hoover Institution, a member of Hoover’s Working Group on the Role of
Military History in Contemporary Conflict, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and publisher-editor of
the German weekly Die Zeit.
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Given terror’s toll on targeted societies whose authorities are bound by
sacred constitutional procedures, the enemy must be fought and defeated on
his own territory. His advantage in asymmetric warfare is small-scale units,
anonymity, dispersal, surprise, and concealment among the civilian population. As Mao Zedong famously put it, terrorists can swim like fish in the sea.
LIVE BY THE STATE, DIE BY THE STATE
Yet by behaving as a state, ISIS has sacrificed these classic strengths on its
home turf, though not abroad. Now terror has a return address—its “capitals” are Raqqa and Mosul. ISIS has an administrative infrastructure and
an economy of sorts, such as its oil refineries. It fights in large formations
with heavy weapons that require supply trains, bases, and communication
networks. In contrast to Al-Qaeda and similar groups, it is out in the open, so
to speak. All these targets tilt the advantages of asymmetric warfare in favor
of the West. Now the West can use its best weapons: airpower, precision and
stand-off munitions, network-centric warfare, and space-based intelligence.
The bad news is that the West does not use what it has. US bombing runs
in Syria and Iraq were initially in the single-digit numbers per day. Now, with
some coalition support,
they have risen to forty to
Terror is imposing an astronomic
fifty. Yet these sorties are
dwarfed by orders of magtransaction tax on the world.
nitude when compared with
the air campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq I and II, Libya, and even tiny Serbia.
The West’s key handicap is the ordeal of coalition-building. The theory
of public goods tells us that any collective effort requires a great organizer
who recruits the group and assumes the greatest burden. In Afghanistan
and Iraq, the United States shouldered this task, as it did in the post–World
War II era with the creation of NATO and a slew of other alliances during
the Cold War. The forty-fourth president, given to “a little nation-building
at home” and averse to the use of force, has put America on the road to
retraction.
Two pernicious consequences follow. One: like nature, the international
system abhors a vacuum, and so, the revisionist and revolutionary forces—
Russia, Iran, and ISIS—have filled the void. Two: counterforces do not organize themselves in the absence of a lead nation. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and
Egypt lack both the wherewithal and the “convening power”; so does France,
though it has declared itself at war with ISIS. A single aircraft carrier, the
Charles de Gaulle, is no substitute for ten American battle groups. Nor has

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France been able to harness a European coalition (the best the Germans will
do is to dispatch recon aircraft and military instructors).
The absence of an American strategy is all too evident: it is a bit more
bombing and a few more special forces on the ground. Of course, the United
States could be more effective short of an invasion.
The bad news is that the West does
Unlike traditional terror
groups, ISIS offers a targetnot use the advantages it has.
rich environment. Raising
the number of sorties to eight hundred to twelve hundred per day, as in the
initial phases of Iraq I and II, would indeed “decimate” ISIS, to use President
Obama’s words. Bunker busters could be deployed against its tunnel networks, which, it must be conceded, would require a much higher tolerance
for collateral damage. Additional special forces could be brought in to reconnoiter and precision-target enemy positions.
TERRITORY DENIED
Such a strategy would not seek to build order where state failure is rampant.
But it would weaken and dislodge ISIS. The task is to keep the terror group
perpetually off balance. Might the self-proclaimed Islamic State retaliate
in Europe? Perhaps, especially since its sleepers are already in place. But
destroying its bases would also have a longer-term effect. Like the Taliban/
Al-Qaeda alignment fifteen years ago, ISIS depends on territorial control
that allows it to extract taxes, turn oil into cash, and train recruits.
Can it be done without ground forces? As long as the Saudis cannot fully
count on US protection (which would also deter Iran and warn Russia), a
Sunni army is pie in the sky.
Coalitions live on commitUS ground forces to confront terrorment. Why would Riyadh
ists, one must assume, are not in the
and its allies assume the
risks if Obama’s America
cards—unless the country suffers
has treated adversaries betanother 9/11.
ter than allies in the Middle
East? Yet US ground forces, one must assume, are in the cards only if the
country suffers another 9/11.
Such realism does not invalidate the general point about the endemic vulnerability of ISIS. The effort must be sustainable sine die, hence modest. The
task is to deploy the West’s best weapons to chase and chasten ISIS now, and
forever more. There will be no final victory against terror made in the Middle

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

89

East. Given the bottomless fault lines in this “civilization of clashes,” to set
Niall Ferguson against Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations,” the West
cannot repair broken states, let alone bring democracy to the region. But it
can, as Obama has vowed, “decimate” ISIS and its successors.
Subscribe to The Caravan, the online Hoover Institution journal that
explores the contemporary dilemmas of the greater Middle East (www.
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T E R R OR I SM A N D DE F E N SE

Missile Defense
Makes Sense
How outdated strategic thinking is leaving us
wide open.

By Frederick W. Kagan

A

merican thinking about missile defense
has been incoherent from the beginning.
The issue is superficially simple: the Soviet
Union threatened the American people with

nuclear missiles, so the United States should naturally
have tried to defend itself against those missiles. Missile
defense is among the most unequivocally defensive military
systems one can imagine. It cannot be used for attack. Yet
the United States signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty
with the Soviets and has refrained from serious efforts to
build and deploy large-scale missile defense ever since.
This policy never made sense and now makes even
less. The proliferation of long-range precision missiles

Key points
» Missile defense
systems cannot
be used for attack.
» Regardless of
the nuclear deal,
Iran is serious
about building
long-range missiles.
» The threat
from Russian
missiles also has
increased.

that can strike the United States and our allies with
either nuclear or conventional warheads requires that America develop and
field effective missile defense against all likely foes.
Frederick W. Kagan is a member of the Hoover Institution’s Working Group
on the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict. He is the Christopher
DeMuth Chair and director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.
H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

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Objections to missile defense have always been based on the belief that
it would be destabilizing. The United States persuaded itself that the most
effective way to prevent nuclear war with the Soviet Union was through
“mutual assured destruction” or MAD, under which stability in a nuclear
world required the nuclear states to know that all would be destroyed if
any started a war. The Soviets, interestingly, did not accept this view and
strove instead to achieve nuclear predominance. They feared that American
technological advantages would allow the United States to field an effective
defensive system, however, that would nullify their growing lead in missiles
and warheads. So they lent their propaganda resources eagerly to the fight
against the Strategic Defense Initiative pursued by Ronald Reagan, with a
large measure of success.
Whatever sense MAD might have made in the 1970s, it makes no sense
today. America would not be more secure, nor the world more stable, if our
potential adversaries such as Iran and China, to say nothing of Al-Qaeda,
knew they could destroy us utterly at the outbreak of major war. Presidents
Bush and Obama have both seemed to realize this fact and worked somewhat
tepidly to deploy and enhance systems that could defend against Iranian missiles aimed at Europe or at our forces in and around the Persian Gulf.
The nuclear agreement with Iran heightens the urgency of missile defense
because of the way the Iranians have interpreted the deal. They reject any
constraints on their ability to deploy missiles of all ranges and payload
weights, and claim that the agreement itself does not impose any such constraints upon them. They are right about that—the constraints, such as they
are, are in the UN Security Council Resolution endorsing the agreement, not
the agreement itself. They have gone beyond claiming their rights to develop
missiles, moreover, and are ostentatiously building, testing, and fielding
them. Tehran went out of its way, in fact, to test a missile that violated a UN
Security Council resolution just days before that resolution was to be canceled. Iran is serious about building a long-range missile arsenal whatever its
designs on a nuclear weapon might be.
Yet the legacy suspicion of missile defense continues to paralyze the United
States, helped, once again, by Russia. Geometry shows that missile defenses
designed to protect Europe or the United States from Iranian missiles should
be placed in Eastern Europe. It also shows that defenses located there cannot interfere with Russian missiles launched against the United States. Yet
Vladimir Putin has persuaded many people that the deployment of American
missile defense systems in Eastern Europe would be an intolerable provocation of Russia and has largely scuttled them.

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[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

Putin’s claims were nonsensical as well as unscientific when he began making them. The United States had no desire or intention of trying to defend
itself against Russian missiles, despite the fact that Russia’s nuclear arsenal is
still large enough to destroy America completely. His intrusion into the discussion of how to defend against Iranian missiles seemed to come from nowhere.
But we must now look again at the complacency with which we contemplate Russia’s arsenal. Putin has threatened to use his nuclear weapons on
numerous occasions, including in response to non-nuclear attacks. He has
upgraded Russia’s missile delivery systems and deployed them further west
as part of an effort to intimidate Europe. He has thus deprived us of the ability to protect against Iranian missiles even as he has increased the threat his
own missiles pose.
This nonsense must end. Both American and Israeli technology has been
demonstrated to be able to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles with very
high accuracy. Such systems should be expanded and deployed to protect US
bases and our allies in Europe and the Middle East from any and all potential
missile attacks. Meanwhile missile development has continued, and we now
face increasing threats from cruise missiles and hypersonic missiles, against
both of which current systems would likely prove ineffective. So another round
of missile defense research must be launched to respond to those new threats.
Missile defense is not destabilizing. It does not cause war. It saves lives.
Just ask the people of Israel living under the shadow of Iron Dome. Developing effective defense against the most dangerous weapons on the planet is a
strategic and moral imperative.
Subscribe to the online Hoover Institution journal Strategika (www.
hoover.org/publications/strategika), which analyzes issues of national
security in light of conflicts of the past. © 2015 by the Board of Trustees of
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Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Nuclear
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R USSI A

Comrade
Frumkin’s
Prophecy
Among the millions of ordinary people who ran
afoul of the Soviet police state, one predicted its
doom. Astoundingly enough, he survived.

By Mark Harrison

C

omrade Frumkin is a forgotten prophet of the twentieth century.
This got him into a lot of trouble. In 1951, his case came to the
Party Control Commission in Moscow for investigation. His story
is one of many found in the Soviet secret-police archives housed

at the Hoover Institution. Frumkin was accused of adopting “a Trotskyist
standpoint on matters of building socialism.”
Who was Frumkin? We have few details. In Russia, Frumkin would be
seen as a Jewish name. In 1951, this Frumkin should have been on his
guard. Born in Russia in 1903 into a working-class family, he was a mature
man by the time of our story. He joined the Communist Party in 1925, and
in 1935 he graduated from the Lenin Military-Political Academy in Leningrad. From there he was sent to teach in military schools in Bryansk, then
Gorky.
Mark Harrison is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a professor of economics at the University of Warwick, and an associate of Warwick’s Centre for
Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy.
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War broke out. Two years passed until Frumkin was taken into the Red
Army in 1943. He served in the political department of a rifle division,
responsible for education and morale. After demobilization he became an
administrator of training establishments in the ministry of trade, and then at
a transport ministry college. This college was located just outside Pushkino,
a small town north of Moscow. It was there that the incident took place.
By the time of the investigation Frumkin had been moved on—or down—to
work in the political department of the Moscow-Bryansk railroad. The scandal broke like this. On April 11, 1951, Frumkin gave a lecture to teachers at
the college where he worked. The title of Frumkin’s lecture was not one that
appeals naturally: “The conditions of material life of society.” In the course of
the lecture Frumkin remarked:
Transitional forms of production relations can exist not only during the transition from capitalism to socialism but also, conversely,
during the transition from socialism to capitalism.
This obscure remark caused uproar.
As the investigator noted later, Frumkin had contradicted Josef Stalin’s
teaching, which was “entirely clear.” When could “transitional production
relations” arise? According to Stalin, only in moving from a lower form of
society to a higher form. Capitalism was a lower form, and socialism was
higher. You could move only up, not down. The direction of travel from capitalism to socialism was upward: no problem. But to travel in the other direction, from higher to lower? The listeners protested. What was this “transition
from socialism to capitalism”? One commented:
Comrade Frumkin’s statement contradicts the laws of historical
development of society. . . . It would follow from this formulation that the socialist system should be replaced by the capitalist
[system].
Another asked:
Why has so much blood been spilt in the struggle for socialism, if a
return to capitalism is inevitable?
Actually, Frumkin had not said either of the things he was accused of here.
He had not said that going from socialism to capitalism was desirable nor
had he said that it was inevitable. He had implied that it was possible. But
no one cared about that. If you allowed that something was possible, you
had opened the door for the next person to debate its merits and for the

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person after that to demand it. If Frumkin was not an actual enemy, the mere
thought that a capitalist counterrevolution was possible made him instantly
into a potential enemy.
LOOSE WORDS
Already in a hole, Frumkin dug deeper. He went on to defend his error to the
audience by giving three historical examples where a transition from socialism to capitalism—from the higher to lower form of society—had actually
taken place. These were as follows (the explanations are my own):
» “The fall of the Paris Commune.” This happened in 1871. In the wake of
France’s defeat by Prussia in the war of 1870, the national government abandoned Paris. The city was taken over by armed militias and radical factions.
An elected city council (the French word is commune) enacted many progressive social and economic measures. After a few months the commune was
bloodily crushed by the French national army.
» “The crushing of the Hungarian Soviet Republic.” This happened in
1919. World War I ended in the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In
Hungary, an independent republic was proclaimed but proved unstable. In
March 1919 the communists seized power and formed a government led by
Béla Kun. At war with Romania and Czechoslovakia, the government soon
collapsed amid bloodshed. Hungary fell into a fascist dictatorship.
» “The defection of Yugoslavia to the camp of imperialism.” This happened in 1948. The communists, led by Josip Broz Tito, came to power in
Yugoslavia at the end of World War II. Owing little to Stalin or the Red Army,
Tito felt free to pursue independent policies in Southeast Europe, which
Stalin could not accept. In 1948, Stalin accused Tito of going over to the side
of the imperialists, implying that Yugoslavia could no longer be regarded as a
socialist state.
THINKING FOR HIMSELF
Sitting in the Hoover Archives as I skimmed Frumkin’s story for the first
time, I felt growing excitement. Here was a thinker—a real intellectual.
Nobody told Frumkin to think originally about these things. He did it all by
himself. When challenged, he came up with a good, solid argument.
In history, you can use evidence to validate arguments in more than one
way. The usual way is to use evidence to illustrate and exemplify. Here
was a clear case of another way, to argue by counterexample. If someone
tells you that X can’t happen or that Y can never lead to Z, all you need
to destroy that argument is to find a single case where it did happen that

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way. Frumkin had destroyed Stalin’s argument by finding not one but three
heavyweight counterexamples. But that was dangerous for everyone! No
one could admit this.
It was a moment of acute peril for Frumkin, his students, and his inquisitors. I thought to myself that the investigators would have to find a way to
disprove Frumkin’s arguments—but how? What
would they say? What could
What if the road to socialism could
they say? For Frumkin was
run backward?
right!
But my excitement was for nothing. The investigators did not try to argue
against Frumkin. They just declared that he was wrong. They announced:
“These examples are incorrect.”
When first challenged, Frumkin took half a step back. The problem, he
conceded, “was not fully worked out and was for discussion.” This was not
what the party authorities wanted to hear. Under repeated attack over the
next few weeks, Frumkin dug his heels in. During this period he was criticized at a party committee meeting in the college, and then he was reprimanded by the township party committee “for the political error that he
committed and for reluctance to correct it at the proper time.” (But at least
they were calling it an error, not a crime.)
Eventually the matter came to the Party Control Commission. As the pressure rose, Frumkin gave in. He accepted his mistake, which he now put down
to a “slip of the tongue.” Stalin himself had admitted that socialism could
be overthrown violently from the outside. Frumkin now agreed that he had
confused this with the possibility that socialism could give way to capitalism
from the inside. Now that he
accepted his mistake, and
Comrade Frumkin, wittingly or not,
had received a party rephad become a rare thing in the USSR: rimand, the party control
an actual historian.
investigator proposed no
further action.
What sort of a person was Frumkin? If we could see him today there would
be nothing, probably, to distinguish him outwardly from a million other lowlevel functionaries. Behind an ordinary pair of eyes, however, lurked a flash of
genius that led him, for a few weeks in 1951, to defend the dangerous idea that
history could go in reverse. The events he foretold came about in 1991. By
that time he would have been in his late eighties. There’s only a small chance
that comrade Frumkin lived to see his prophecy come true.

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HUNTER AND HUNTED: Josef Stalin, whose secret police would destroy so
many lives in the Soviet years, was himself the subject of police surveillance
in the czarist era, as these booking photos attest.

MISTAKES CAN BE MADE
When we see the pattern of cases such as that of Comrade Frumkin, we cannot help but notice that most people who were accused by Soviet authorities
during Stalin’s last years were now surviving. In the 1930s, Stalin’s vengeance
had been truly terrifying. It struck people down, left and right, without hesitation and without mercy. It felled them for crimes they had committed that
would not have been crimes in any other country or time. It destroyed them
and their families for crimes they had committed, or might have committed, or somebody thought they might have committed. It punished them for
crimes they had only thought of, and for crimes they had not imagined but
might one day contemplate under circumstances that had not yet arisen. It
ordered their killing in the hundreds of thousands, just in case.
A decade later, the country was the same, and its ruler was the same,
but the atmosphere had changed greatly. Blood would no longer be spilled
indiscriminately, on suspicion alone. Completely innocent people would still

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be killed on trumped-up charges—but no longer randomly: there would be
some reason of state behind it. Guilty people would still be killed on trumpedup charges that had absolutely nothing to do with their real crimes. People
would continue to live in fear. But the Soviet state was learning to be more
careful of its greatest treasure: its people. The rulers couldn’t go on shooting people for the smallest
thing. Human beings make
Events in 1991 would vindicate
mistakes. As long as you
Frumkin. Whether he lived that long, were willing to admit your
mistakes, to confess them
we don’t know.
honestly and come clean
before the party, you could begin again. You could be forgiven. Your file would
never be thrown away, but your case would be closed until you caused it to be
reopened.
A few things were still unforgiveable. Misconduct in the war was one. Cowardice, desertion, serving the enemy on occupied territory in any capacity:
these were beyond forgiveness. For other things you could be forgiven once,
and forgiveness was still conditional on confession and repentance. Concealment of past stains, repeated mistakes, and the failure to acknowledge them
would continue to put you outside the community. But if you were open with
the party and worked to correct your mistakes, the party would now give you
a second chance.
In these small ways, Soviet society was making the first steps toward a
more humane form of communism. This was a community that was learning
to care for its lost sheep, and to show that it cared by not killing them at the
first sign of potential departure from the flock.
Excerpted from One Day We Will Live Without Fear: Everyday Lives
under the Soviet Police State, by Mark Harrison (Hoover Institution
Press, 2016). Research for this book was conducted in the Hoover Institution Library and Archives. © 2016 by Mark Harrison.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is One Day We
Will Live Without Fear: Everyday Lives under the
Soviet Police State, by Mark Harrison. To order, call
(800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

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I RA N

Reading Tolstoy
in Tehran
Today, War and Peace would be set in Iran, with
its oppression, tumult, and sense that everything
must change.

By Niall Ferguson

T

here can never be too many adaptations of War and Peace, the
greatest novel ever written. I therefore welcome the BBC’s new
six-part series to the United States. For me, however, it is no
mere substitute for Downton Abbey. Its themes are far more

profound, and more urgent.
If War and Peace were written today, where would it be set—and who
would write it? I posed these questions at a dinner in Silicon Valley. The
best answer came from the Iranian historian and Hoover Institution colleague Abbas Milani.
My working hypothesis was that a War and Peace for today would be set
in the Middle East, perhaps in the Arab world. I had in mind Baghdad as St.
Petersburg, with an Iraqi Pierre caught up in the events that followed 9/11. In
my version, the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 would be analogous to
Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812.
Milani had a better idea. Iran, he argued, had much more in common with
the Russia of Tolstoy’s day than any Arab country. “Take Isaiah Berlin’s book,
Niall Ferguson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Laurence A.
Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University.
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Russian Thinkers. All you need to do is change the names and you have Iran in
our time.”
In Iran today, as in 1860s Russia, the regime is autocratic and repressive
but intellectual life is vibrant. And, as in Tolstoy’s time, there is a heated
debate in contemporary Tehran between Westernizers and the staunchly
orthodox—though in this case the orthodoxy is Shi’ite Islam, not Eastern
Christianity.
An Iranian Tolstoy, Milani argued, would start his novel in the mid-1970s—
the time when he himself returned from the United States as a freshly
minted PhD.
Just as Tolstoy’s Pierre starts out as a naive enthusiast for Napoleon, so
the young Professor Milani was a convinced Marxist. And just as the events
of 1812 gave Pierre a thorough lesson in the wickedness of Bonaparte, so the
events of 1979 revealed to Milani the limits of his imported ideology. He and
his fellow leftists foolishly believed they could make common cause with the
Islamic revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini. A spell in jail, and the executions of many of his comrades, taught him otherwise.
“If the purpose of history is the description of the flux of humanity and of
peoples,” Tolstoy wrote in his dazzling final chapter, “the first question to be
answered . . . will be: what is the power that moves nations?”
What is the power that moves nations? That same question poses itself in
our time. What was the power that caused Islam to revive as a political force
in the 1970s? Why, so soon after the overthrow of the shah, did Iraq invade
Iran, launching one of the longest and bloodiest wars of the Cold War era?
The consequences of the
eight-year Iran-Iraq War
The Western world desperately
haunt us to this day. Slowly,
gradually, we are all coming
needs an Iranian genius, able to illuto understand that the secminate his country’s experience as
tarian divide between Sunni
Tolstoy illuminated Russia’s.
and Shia—which that war
did so much to revive and deepen—could produce another great conflict in
our own time. Saudi Arabia’s execution of the Shi’ite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqr
al-Nimr on January 2 has significantly increased the tension between Riyadh
and Tehran, at a time when sectarian strife is already tearing Iraq and Syria
apart. No one knows what lies ahead in the Middle East, to say nothing of
North Africa. Few people can seriously believe that the tide of violence will
suddenly recede.

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Just as what happened in 1812 had consequences for all of Europe, and
indeed for the British and French empires around the world, so the events
that followed the Iranian Revolution have affected us all. Today, no greater
question confronts
Europeans than
As in Tolstoy’s time, there is a heated
how to contend with
debate in contemporary Tehran between
another great “flux
Westernizers and the staunchly orthoof humanity”—the
massive migration
dox—though the orthodoxy is Shi’ite
from the Muslim
Islam, not Eastern Christianity.
world triggered by the
Syrian civil war and the chronic instability, unfreedom, and poverty of other
Islamic countries. Yet we struggle to understand, much less to answer, the
question.
The Western world desperately needs an Iranian genius, able to illuminate
his country’s experience as Tolstoy illuminated Russia’s. For what Tolstoy
and his literary contemporaries achieved proved invaluable. It gave us an
understanding of the Russian people that withstood even the menace of
Stalin. Today, a great part of our difficulty—and it extends all the way to the
top—is that we do not well understand the Iranian people, much less the
people of the Sunni world.
Two scenes are immortal in War and Peace: Prince Andrei’s heroic neardeath at the Battle of Austerlitz, and the coup de foudre when Pierre first sees
Natasha. What would I not give for equivalent moments of illumination from
some unknown Persian masterpiece!
Reprinted by permission of the Washington Post. © 2016 Washington Post
Co. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is The Myth
of the Great Satan: A New Look at America’s Relations
with Iran, by Abbas Milani. To order, call (800) 8884741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

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S C I ENCE

Fishmongers
Genetically modified salmon have finally been
approved. Why did they have to spend so much
time swimming upstream?

By Henry I. Miller

T

he Food and Drug Administration has approved a genetically
engineered salmon that grows faster but is otherwise indistinguishable from its wild cohorts. It will be the first “transgenic”
food animal on the market created with the molecular tech-

niques of genetic engineering, although thousands of other such animals have
been available for research purposes or as pets.
Ronald L. Stotish, the CEO of the company that crafted the fish, commented that its approval “is a game changer that brings healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally responsible manner without
damaging the ocean and other marine habitats.”
It’s a game changer, all right, but not quite in the way that he implies. The
genetic changes made to the fish—the addition to the genome of a growth
hormone gene from the chinook salmon and a regulatory DNA sequence
from the ocean pout—were minor and confer no detectable difference in its
appearance, ultimate size, taste, or nutritional value. The AquAdvantage
salmon merely grows to maturity about twice as fast, a tremendous economic advantage to those farming the fish in a closed system.
The availability of such a salmon will indeed be a boon to consumers seeking
low-fat and affordable options for sources of high-quality protein, especially in
Henry I. Miller, MD, is the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and
Public Policy at the Hoover Institution.
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the face of food price inflation and the obesity epidemic, and given that supplies
of many varieties of wild Atlantic and Pacific salmon are being depleted.
However, the length and politicization of the review of this poor fish, which
floundered in regulatory limbo for an astonishing two decades, has virtually destroyed an entire once-promising sector of biotechnology: the use of
molecular genetic engineering techniques to produce improved food animals.
This fish story illustrates much of what is wrong with federal regulation and
offers a deplorable example of the Obama administration’s inappropriate,
politics-motivated meddling.
SOMETHING’S FISHY...
It took the FDA more than a decade just to decide how it would regulate the
AquAdvantage salmon. Characteristically, the agency decided on the most
onerous pathway, treating the new construct in genetically engineered animals as though it were a veterinary drug, similar to a flea medicine or pain
reliever. After several years of deliberation, regulators concluded as early
as 2012 that the AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon has no detectable differences and that it “is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon.” And
because the fish will all be sterile females and farmed inland, there is negligible possibility of any sort of “genetic contamination” of the gene pool or other
environmental effects. (Even in a worst-case scenario, these coddled, farmed
fish would be poorly adapted to compete in the wild.)
When the FDA completed its environmental assessment in April 2012
and was ready to publish it—the last necessary hurdle before approving
the salmon for marketing—the White House mysteriously intervened. The
review process vanished from sight until December of that year, when the
FDA was finally permitted
to publish the assessment
(the unsurprising verdict:
The politicization of the review of
“no significant impact”),
this poor fish, which floundered in
which should then have
regulatory limbo for an astonishing
gone out for a brief period
two decades, has virtually destroyed
of public comment before
an entire once-promising sector of
approval.
biotechnology.
The reason the FDA
delayed publishing the
needed environmental assessment was exposed by science writer Jon Entine.
He related that the White House interference “came after discussions [in
the spring of 2012] between Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen

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TREADING WATER: Atlantic salmon similar to these have been genetically
modified, but the modified version has been biding its time in regulatory limbo for two decades. The farmed fish are designed to reach maturity quicker,
offering many advantages. Almost four years ago the FDA concluded that the
fish, all sterile females and farmed inland, posed negligible risk of any sort of
“genetic contamination” or other environmental effects and were safe to eat.
[Thomas Kitchin and Victoria Hurst—Design Pics]

Sebelius’s office and officials linked to Valerie Jarrett at the Executive Office
[of the President], who were debating the political implications of approving the [genetically modified] salmon. Genetically modified plants and
animals are controversial among the president’s political base, which was
thought critical to his re-election efforts during a low point in the president’s
popularity.”
A delay in the availability of cheaper salmon isn’t the end of the world, of
course, but the FDA has also unnecessarily and inexplicably delayed smallscale field trials of mosquitoes genetically engineered to control diseasecausing mosquitoes. The mosquitoes to be released are males (which do not
bite) engineered to contain a specially constructed gene designed to kill their
offspring, after they mate in the wild. The mosquitoes have been extensively
tested in a half-dozen other countries and are approved for commercial use in
Brazil, so the delay in the United States of even a single field trial is presumably political, reflecting the White House’s bias against genetic engineering.

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TIME IS MONEY
Regulatory incentives and disincentives are potent. The vastly inflated
development costs caused by overregulation (at not only the FDA but also
the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency)
are the primary reason
that more than 99 percent
This fish story illustrates much of
of genetically engineered
crops that are being cultiwhat is wrong with federal regulation
vated are commodity crops
and political meddling.
grown at huge scale—corn,
cotton, canola, soy, alfalfa, and sugar beets. Hawaiian papaya is one of the few
examples of significant acreage being devoted to a genetically engineered
specialty crop.
But the majority of American genetic engineering’s ingenuity remains in
laboratories and never progresses even to field trials. Unrealized innovations
in the food-animal sector include pigs and chickens that excrete less-toxic
manure and pigs with leaner muscles.
To put the length of the AquAdvantage salmon review into perspective,
Amanda Maxham listed on the blog Voices for Reason these innovations that
were introduced—essentially with no regulatory delay—around the same
time AquaBounty applied for FDA approval of the AquAdvantage salmon:
the Nokia 9000 cell phone (which weighed almost a pound and had a monochrome screen), the 28.8k dial-up modem, Amazon.com and eBay.com, Internet Explorer, the original Sony PlayStation, and the DVD.
American innovation deserves better from our regulators and their political masters.
Special to the Hoover Digest.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Game
Changers: Energy on the Move, edited by George P.
Shultz and Robert C. Armstrong. To order, call (800)
888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

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ED U CATI ON

Servants of All
Advice to would-be school reformers: argue less,
listen more, and check your halo at the door.

By Michael J. Petrilli

T

he Achilles’ heel of the West, I read not long ago, is that many
people struggle to find spiritual meaning in our secular, affluent society. How can we compete with the messianic messages
streaming from the Islamic State and other purveyors of dysto-

pian religious fundamentalism?
It made me reflect on my own life. How do I find meaning? Largely from my
role as a father, a role I cherish and for which I feel deep gratitude. But ever
since I lost faith in the Roman Catholic Church of my upbringing—not long
after I nearly succumbed to cancer at age eighteen—much of my life’s meaning has come from my view of myself as an education reformer.
I suspect that I am not alone. We are drawn as humans to heroic quests,
and those of us in education reform like to believe that we are engaged in
one. We’re not just trying to improve the institution known as the American school; we see ourselves as literally saving lives, rescuing the American
Dream, writing the next chapter of the civil rights movement.
When people speak of Arne Duncan with tears in their eyes—explaining
earnestly that he has always put kids first—it is because he epitomizes the
virtuous self-image of the education reform movement. He has been our Sir
Galahad. Now that he’s stepped down as education secretary, he will always
be revered by some as Saint Arne.
Michael J. Petrilli is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, executive editor
of Education Next, and president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
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This near-religious fervor gives the reform movement much of its energy
and its moral standing, so it should not be dismissed lightly. To the degree
that it helps us continue to strive—for better schools and better policies and
better outcomes for kids—it is worthy of celebration.
But there’s a dark side too. Like most religious legends, this one works well
only as a struggle between good and evil. So if reformers are on the side of
the angels, at least in our own minds, who gets cast as the devil? The unions,
which protect incompetent, abusive, or racist teachers? Miserly legislators,
who refuse to appropriate the necessary dollars to lift all children up? Welloff parents, who hoard educational opportunities for their own progeny?
Not surprising, these groups don’t enjoy being vilified. Nor, in most cases,
do they deserve it. They are engaged in their own struggles, see themselves
fighting for their own sacred causes, and are busy looking for meaning in
their own imperfect lives. They might not totally disagree with reformers
about the changes needed in K–12 education, but when we turn them into
Judas or Mephistopheles, opportunities for common ground evaporate.
THE KNOW LEDGE GAP
But that’s not all. What if our education challenges aren’t mostly political or
moral in nature, but fundamentally technocratic instead? What if our education system is chockablock with people who also want to do right by kids, who
also want to close opportunity gaps and rekindle upward mobility, but are
working within badly designed systems or with far-from-perfect information?
“We know what works, we just need the political will to do it”: That’s the
foundational creed of today’s reform movement. But what if the truth is
closer to “We are just beginning to learn what works to help poor kids escape
poverty, but we still don’t know how to do it at scale”?
It doesn’t make for an inspirational slogan, but it might be a better guide to
where policy and practice need to go. To his credit, Bill Gates embraced such
a humble approach in his big speech a few months ago.
In other words, what if the reform movement needs more “science” and
less “religion”? More openness to trial and error and a greater commitment
to using evidence to guide our decisions?
Consider one example. We know that many students continue to struggle
to read by the end of the third grade, and some show ever-weaker comprehension as they move through elementary school and beyond. Cognitive science indicates that the cause is a lack of content knowledge being taught in
the early grades. So why aren’t schools beefing up their instruction in social
studies and science, or inserting such content into their daily reading blocks?

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There’s no devil here as far as I can tell—nobody is against getting more science and social studies into schools. But how can we figure out what’s keeping schools from performing better, and then try to find ways to fix it?
IT’S HUMBLING
It’s been a great joy to be part of the education reform movement for the past
twenty years. It has allowed me to form bonds and friendships with many
amazing, committed, and
super-smart colleagues. I
The reform movement needs more
understand why so many
openness to trial and error.
young people today—fresh
from service in Teach for
America or still plugging away in “no excuses” charter schools—want to sign
up and join the cause. On the whole, this is a wholesome and worthy path.
But if this is really to be about “the kids” and not just our own search for
meaning, we need to be careful not to lapse into morality plays. We need
to be particularly mindful not to malign our opponents. And we need to be
humble enough to acknowledge the technical challenges in what we’re trying
to achieve.
We should also remember that millions of American educators are finding
meaning in their lives in a different way—through direct service to children.
This is at least as praiseworthy as taking up a great political cause or policy
quest, and almost certainly more so. (It certainly appears to be more in line
with Pope Francis’s calls for us to take care of the less fortunate around us.)
It’s always been a good idea for us to check our egos at the door. Let’s check
our halos there, too.
Reprinted from Education Next (www.educationnext.org), published by
the Hoover Institution. © 2015 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland
Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is What
Lies Ahead for America’s Children and Their Schools,
edited by Chester E. Finn Jr. and Richard Sousa. To
order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

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D E MO CRACY A N D F R E E DOM

Beware the
Nativist Lurch
Yes, promoting democracy can be frustrating and
dangerous. But freedom and pluralism are still the
only way to sustain effective, lasting governments.

By Larry Diamond

T

he United States has been at war
with ISIS for more than a year, and
with Islamic extremism for nearly a
decade and a half. But beyond defend-

ing the homeland against terrorism, US leaders
have not offered a compelling answer to this vital
question: what is America fighting for?
The question has taken on new urgency as
electoral politics have driven a surge of illiberal
populism, not only in the United States but in
many European democracies. America will not
defeat the grave challenge it faces by retreating
from its core principles. When societies fall out of
touch with their most elevating, unifying beliefs,

Key points
» The democratic
West must reaffirm the universal
relevance of liberal
values.
» Rapid social
change and economic insecurity leave
people feeling threatened and unmoored.
» Freedom and
pluralism confer a
long-run economic
advantage. They also
foster cohesion, flexibility, and resilience.

Larry Diamond is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a coordinator of
Hoover’s Project on Democracy in Iran. He also is a senior fellow at the Freeman
Spogli Institute for International Studies and is the Peter E. Haas Faculty CoDirector of the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University.
H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

115

they decline into cynicism and sloth. This is how states and civilizations
decay and disappear.
GRINDING TO A HALT
From the beginning, the unifying American principle has been freedom. For
almost two and a half centuries, Americans have held these truths to be selfevident: that all people “are created equal, that they are endowed by their
Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Among these were the natural
rights to institute a government “of, by, and for the people”; to think, speak,
publish, worship, assemble, and organize freely; and to have these rights
protected by an independent judiciary.
When these principles were first codified in 1776 and in 1789, in the
Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they embodied a uniquely American
creed. But they drew heavily from European Enlightenment thinkers. And
the founders advanced them as universal values. Since America’s founding,
the principles of equality,
freedom, and government
by and for the people have
Xenophobic nationalism and ethnic
been increasingly embraced
chauvinism stifle the flows of capiaround the world, particutal, talent, and ideas that are the true
larly since the mid-1970s,
foundations of prosperity.
when democracy began its
spread from being mainly
a Western phenomenon to a global one, in nearly one hundred and twenty
countries today. During this period, the number of liberal democracies—
with good protections for political and civil freedoms under a rule of law—
also steadily increased, from fifty-seven states in 1994 to seventy-nine
states in 2005 (about 40 percent of the world’s states). But that is where it
remains.
Over the past decade, democratic progress has ground to a halt and freedom has been receding, for a number of reasons. The debacle of American
intervention in Iraq, which was justified in part as an exercise to promote
democracy, soured the American and other Western publics on the goal of
trying to support the spread of democracy, even by peaceful means. The
shambles in Iraq, the rise of China, the aggression of Russia’s Vladimir Putin,
and the tentativeness of American leadership have also diminished American
prestige and influence in the world. And in poorer countries, democracy has
struggled against long odds because of weak states, massive corruption, and
low levels of education.

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You can’t beat a surging ideology with no ideology or without a higher
sense of purpose. In the face of the persistent challenge of violent Islamist
extremism and the global recession of freedom, what the world has needed is
a powerful reaffirmation of the universal relevance of liberal values. Instead,
the democratic West has been retreating into moral relativism and illiberal
impulses.
The assault on liberal values has been a defining feature of the democratic
recession. During the past decade, democracy has typically ended not with
tanks rolling in the streets or the president shutting down parliament, but
rather in suffocating increments: with a regime steadily rigging elections,
limiting opposition rights, taming independent media, and criminalizing the
work of independent organizations. This was the playbook by which Putin
took Russia from a quasi-democracy into a personal dictatorship, dependent
on xenophobic nationalism and international conflict for its legitimacy. The
script has been copied in varying degrees by Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, his
populist authoritarian soul mates in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, and
Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, among others.
With the lavish aid of financial inducements, Putin and his oil-rich fellow
autocrats in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan have been attracting support from
a growing number of European politicians. But worse than material cooptation has been the unabashed admiration for Putin’s illiberal rule from the
Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, along with many other right-wing
anti-immigrant European politicians. In elections last October, Poland’s farright Law and Justice party stormed back to power after eight years, with its
leader, President Jaroslaw Kaczynski, evincing admiration for Orbán’s chauvinistic concentration of power. It remains to be seen whether Kaczynski and
his party will erode democratic freedoms, pluralism, and the rule of law with
the zeal and skill of Orbán, but the early signs are disturbing.
WHY NOW?
Historically, authoritarian populists have thrived at the ballot box when
voters feel angry, alienated, and insecure. It’s not just physical insecurity
(terrorism, violence, and war) that inclines people toward political extremes.
Rapid social change and economic insecurity leave people feeling threatened
and unmoored—susceptible to chauvinistic, anti-immigrant slogans.
That is why, even before the current Syrian refugee crisis, right-wing
populist parties were gaining dramatically across a Europe buffeted by economic stagnation, large-scale immigration, rising inequality, and the growing distance between ordinary citizens and the institutions of the European

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Union. Recently, the anti-immigrant right-wing National Front led the first
round of French regional elections with 30 percent of the vote. Although it
lost all of the second-round races, its leader, Marine Le Pen, is now a serious
contender for the French presidency in 2017. In Switzerland last October, the
anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party became the largest party in the federal
parliament with a similar share of the vote. In Austria and Greece, resilient
far-right parties have neo-Nazi roots.
As Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab wrote some four decades ago
in The Politics of Unreason, Americans have historically flocked to far-right
movements when they felt their social status threatened. A classic analogue to Donald Trump’s tirades against Mexican immigrants—and, now
that there is a hotter button to push, Muslim immigrants—was the Know
Nothing movement of the
1850s, which stirred bigoted
Authoritarian populists thrive at the
populist fears of being overballot box when voters feel angry,
whelmed by Catholic immigration. It was one of several
alienated, and insecure.
reactionary movements
that sought to curb immigration—fortunately with little lasting effect. Eight
decades later, the tables turned when a charismatic anti-Semitic Catholic
priest, Charles Coughlin, used his radio broadcasts to promote sympathy for
Hitler and Mussolini and to blame the Jews for the Bolshevik revolution, the
spread of communism, and (paradoxically) control of international banking
as well.
These were only two of many moments when political demagogues deftly
manipulated fear to build a nativist, anti-elitist political movement against
pluralism, tolerance, and global integration. Pat Buchanan’s presidential
campaigns in the 1990s had many of these strains, but while Buchanan won
the 1996 Republican primary in New Hampshire (and little else), Donald
Trump could prove to be the most serious US presidential contender in
memory to play with this kind of fire.
Common to right-wing populist movements is the nativist instinct to stigmatize and divide, to propagate simple answers to complex policy challenges,
and to blame some “other”—a vulnerable minority, a corrupt elite, malevolent external forces, or typically some conspiracy among these—for people’s
anxieties. This is the common ground on which Vladimir Putin, Viktor
Orbán, Marine Le Pen, and Donald Trump stand. While they differ in their
implications for democracy (or in the extent to which they have so far had
the opportunity to damage it), they share striking similarities in the tone and

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content of their appeal. Most striking, the far-right populists in Europe and
the United States share a strong current of respect, or even open admiration,
for Putin.
But the nativist lurch tends to end badly for a country, and never more
so than in an era when increasing global trade and competitiveness place a
premium on openness, innovation, and cooperation. Xenophobic nationalism
and ethnic chauvinism stifle the flows of capital, talent, and ideas that are the
true foundations of prosperity. As Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, Hoover
senior fellow George Shultz, never tires of emphasizing, the common political challenge of our time is learning how to govern over diversity. That is the
most precious advantage that liberal democracies (most of all the United
States) have enjoyed over other forms of government.
ST REN GT H IN UNITY
Freedom and pluralism do more than confer a long-run economic advantage. They also generate the deeper cohesion, flexibility, and resilience that
have always enabled America to prevail over authoritarian and totalitarian
challengers. It is not just electoral choice but an abiding commitment to the
freedom and equal worth of every individual that makes the United States
and its fellow liberal democracies the envy of most of the rest of the world.
If the United States degrades freedom in the quest for security, its citizens
will wind up neither free nor secure.
There is little that the radical Islamists want more than to propel America
down this self-destructive path. In the battle against Islamist terrorism,
there is nothing that will strengthen the country more than to affirm that
Americans are all in this fight together, equally, irrespective of race, religion,
or class.
Reprinted by permission of the Atlantic. © 2015 Atlantic Monthly Group.
All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Andrei
Sakharov: The Conscience of Humanity, edited by
Sidney D. Drell and George P. Shultz. To order, call
(800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

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D EMOCRACY AN D F R E E DOM

Borders and
Barriers
Overwhelmed by migrants and terrified of
terrorists, Europe is rebuilding walls that only
recently came down.

By Timothy Garton Ash

T

he walls are going up all over Europe. In Hungary, they take the
physical form of razor- and barbed-wire fences, like much of the
old Iron Curtain. In France, Germany, Austria, and Sweden, they
are border controls temporarily reimposed within the border-

free Schengen area.
And everywhere in Europe there are the mind walls, growing higher by the
day. Their psychological mortar mixes totally understandable fears—after
massacres perpetrated in Paris by people who could skip freely to and fro
across the frontier to Belgium—with gross prejudice, stirred up by xenophobic politicians and irresponsible journalists.
What we are seeing in 2016 is Europe’s reverse 1989. Remember that
the physical demolition of the Iron Curtain started with the cutting of the
barbed-wire fence between Hungary and Austria. Now it is Hungary that has
led the way in building new fences, and its prime minister, Viktor Orbán, in

Timothy Garton Ash is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Professor of European Studies, director of the European Studies Center, and Gerd
Bucerius Senior Research Fellow in Contemporary History, all at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University.
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stoking prejudice. Europe must keep out Muslim migrants, Orbán said last
autumn, “to keep Europe Christian.”
He is joined in this chorus by such exemplary Christians as France’s
Marine le Pen, the National Front politician, and Kelvin MacKenzie of the
Sun. Brother MacKenzie used that newspaper’s grossly misleading presentation of its opinion poll among British Muslims to write a column under the headline:
The mental walls, too,
“This shocking poll means we must shut
door on young Muslim migrants.”
grow higher by the day.
As if Britain’s already 2.7 million
Muslims were not going to have any more children. As if Europe’s tiny but
deadly minority of Islamist terrorists were not here already, many of them
born, brought up, and radicalized on the back streets of Britain, Belgium, and
France.
Many Europeans are now saying their countries must re-establish border
controls, even inside the Schengen area. In polls taken since the Paris massacres, about 70 percent of those asked in the Netherlands said the country
should close its borders. Quite apart from the question of how far this actually makes people safer from terrorism, closing Europe’s internal borders
risks dismantling the thing most Europeans value most about the European
Union.
That is not just a rhetorical assertion. Asked in the latest EU-wide Eurobarometer poll “Which of the following
do you think is the most positive result of
There is an imagined
the EU?” the top answer, with 57 percent
of respondents, was “the free movement
continuum from the Polof people, goods, and services within
ish plumber to the Syrian
the EU.” For several years, this answer
suicide bomber.
has competed for top place with “peace
among member states.”
ASSASSINS WITHOUT BORDERS
Three distinct developments have led to the return of the walls. First, in Britain—and to a lesser extent in other parts of Northern Europe—is the sheer
scale of the movement of people inside the EU.
Those from Eastern Europe have come mainly since the great enlargement of 2004, represented by the symbolic figure of the Polish plumber (now
as likely to be a doctoral student or bank manager). They have been joined
by another cohort from Southern Europe, since the eurozone crisis started

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SWAMPED: Syrian and Iraqi refugees ride an overloaded boat from Turkey
to the Greek island of Lesbos last fall. Hundreds of thousands of refugees
have fled war, terrorism, and economic misery to seek haven in Europe. As of
November, a reported 3,485 had died or gone missing in the process. [Ggia—Creative Commons]

compelling Spanish, Portuguese, and Greek doctors of philosophy to become
waiters in London or Berlin. This has nothing to do with Schengen, which
Britain is not part of, but everything to do with the freedom of movement at
the heart of the EU.
Second, there is the refugee crisis. Ever more people have fled the wars,
terror, and economic misery that have replaced old-fashioned dictatorships
(also providing terror and economic misery) across much of the wider Middle East and Africa. They risk their lives in the hands of criminal smugglers
to reach Europe and the promised land at its heart: Deutschland. According
to estimates last November from the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR), 850,571 “refugees and migrants” had arrived by sea in
Europe by that point last year while 3,485 had died or gone missing at sea.
The Mediterranean has become a horizon of hope for the hopeless, and a
watery graveyard.
Just over 50 percent of Mediterranean Sea arrivals were from Syria and
20 percent from Afghanistan. Many of them—those who make it—are 100
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percent genuine refugees in the strict sense of having a “well-founded fear of
being persecuted” in their own countries. But, as the UNHCR indicates, their
number inevitably includes some fleeing the intolerable material conditions
that failed states create. Here, the thirty-year-old, twenty-six-country Schengen area is relevant, because once refugees have worked their way in, its lack
of border controls makes it easier for them to move on to Germany—which
they wanted to do even before Chancellor Angela Merkel said last summer
that they would all be welcome there.
Third, there are Islamist terrorists, recently mowing down innocent concert-goers and diners-out in Paris. Most of them are homegrown in Europe,
though some learn their murderer’s skills in Syria or Afghanistan. One of
the Paris assassins, it seems, probably slipped into the border-free Europe
of Schengen as a “refugee” with a (real or fake) Syrian passport. In any case,
thanks to Schengen they could move freely to and from Brussels, assassins
sans frontières.
CON FUS ED AND DIVIDED
And so, in the current bouillabaisse of European fear, stirred by demagogues
in politics and media, everyone gets mixed up together: the entirely legal EU
citizen-migrant, the illegal
migrant from outside, the
The refugee tide inevitably includes
half-economic-migrant-halfpolitical-refugee, the conflict some fleeing not persecution but the
refugee from Syria, the clas- intolerable material conditions cresic political refugee from
ated by failed states.
Eritrea, the Muslim, and the
terrorist. There is somehow an imagined continuum from the Polish plumber
to the Syrian suicide bomber.
Meanwhile, the Polish plumbers’ new government, being made up of especially good Christians, has joined Hungary and Slovakia in saying it won’t
take any of these Muslim migrants. No Samaritans please, we’re Christian.
Thus, beside the north-south divide opened up by the eurozone crisis, a
new east-west divide emerges. Eastern Europe refuses the solidarity that
in other respects it has so often sought from its European partners. Southeastern Europe is caught in between. Macedonian police recently fought
migrants on the frontier to Greece, with some forty people injured. That’s
just a tiny foretaste of what could happen in the Balkans if the EU’s external
border is not made less easily passable, especially by those coming through
Turkey, while Northern Europe says “No more!”

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I once heard Merkel—who knows what it’s like to live behind an iron curtain—muse that in order to show young people the value of a free and open
Europe, we should perhaps close the national borders for a day or two.
Well, we may yet get to try Merkel’s experiment—ironically enough, partly
because of her own supremely generous miscalculation in seeming to say
all refugees were welcome in Germany without first making sure that other
European countries would follow where she had led.
Whether the experiment would have the desired effect is another question.
At the moment, all we can say with certainty is that Europe used to be known
as the continent where walls come down and is now the one where they are
going up again.
Reprinted by permission. © 2015 Guardian News and Media Ltd. All
rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is The
Consequences of Syria, by Lee Smith. To order, call
(800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

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D E MO CRACY A N D F R E E DOM

Europe Stumbles
Europeans have failed to cherish, and now to
defend, the nation-state system. Americans must
pay heed.

By Peter Berkowitz

I

n his introduction to Democracy in America
(1835), Alexis de Tocqueville explained that
Europeans could learn much about their
future from the United States: the place

where equality of social relations—the defining
feature of the democratic age into which both Europeans and Americans had entered—had reached its
most advanced form. The young nation’s experience,
Tocqueville wrote, shed light on certain tendencies
inherent in democracy that could actually weaken
the passion for freedom and the institutions that
protect it. Understanding this potentially destructive drift would, he hoped, assist lovers of liberty in
both Europe and America in fashioning measures to

Key points
» Europe fails to
grasp the seriousness of the clash of
civilizations.
» Europeans have
lost sight of the roots
of their freedom:
classical liberalism.
» The re-Europeanization of Europe
has nothing to do
with race or ethnicity and everything
to do with liberty,
tolerance, and education.

safeguard freedom and thereby fortify democracy.
Today’s Americans can, in turn, learn much about
their own future from Europe’s confrontation with well-developed dangers
to freedom that, while peculiar to our historical moment, are also typical of
mature liberal democracies. As Daniel Johnson warns in his concise, dense,
Peter Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow at the Hoover
Institution and a member of Hoover’s working groups on military history and
foreign policy.
H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

125

and sweeping essay, “Does Europe Have a Future?” (Mosaic, January 4, 2016),
the continent’s failure so far to grasp the magnitude of the clash of civilizations in which it is embroiled stems from a crippling loss of self-knowledge.
That his forceful alarm is unlikely to affect those most urgently in need of it
testifies to the precariousness of the European condition.
Evidence of the clash abounds: the state system in the Arab Middle East
has fractured; religious war, pitting Sunni Islamists and Shia Islamists
against secular authorities (and each other), consumes greats swaths of an
area from North Africa to the Persian Gulf; in a little more than a year and
a half, jihadists have perpetrated brazen terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris,
Copenhagen, Paris again, and California; large numbers of Muslims resist
assimilation in the European nation-states to which they have immigrated;
and Europe has largely acquiesced in the tendency of Muslim immigrants to
remain in communities apart or, worse still, has encouraged Islamic separatism on the basis of an incoherent multiculturalism that denigrates identification with the nation-state while celebrating every other kind of partial
identity.
Evidence also abounds of Europe’s failure to comprehend the structure
and seriousness of this clash of civilizations. Especially striking is the pride
that leading European
intellectuals take in
embracing the indictThe aspiration to global government
ment of the West proaccompanies the aspiration to impose
mulgated by its enemies.
global orthodoxy and crush freedom.
In the extreme case,
intellectuals and other
public figures congratulate themselves for appreciating that the slaughter
of European civilians is provoked, if not justified, by Western sins. Establishment thinkers tout this self-enfeeblement as a mark of moral progress.
Europe has lost its way, according to Johnson, because it has turned its
back on its distinguishing achievement: the building of a civilization devoted
to individual freedom under law. Still less do the majority of Europeans
comprehend that individual freedom—in the realms of religion, speech
and press, and political and economic life—is grounded in biblical teachings about the dignity of the individual and his capacity freely to take upon
himself the obligations of God’s law; in the cultivation of the moral and
intellectual virtues, the classical accounts of which are provided by classical Greek philosophy; and in Roman examples of self-government and civic
participation.

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To this one may add that contemporary Europeans have also lost sight
of the roots of their freedom in classical liberalism. Historically, liberal and
democratic nation-states have proved to be a singularly effective vehicle
for protecting individual
rights, since the sharing of
Establishment thinkers tout their
a common language and
self-enfeeblement as a mark of
way of life makes possible the cooperation and
moral progress.
competition essential to
democratic self-government. Yet many among today’s educated Europeans
now denigrate the nation-state as a parochial and outmoded form of political organization, one they would replace with transnational rule. Here, too,
warnings are plentiful: National Socialism and communism in the twentieth
century, and Islamism in the twenty-first, should remind us that the aspiration to global government is bound up with the aspiration to impose global
orthodoxy, which cannot but eviscerate democratic legitimacy and crush
individual freedom.
The fruits of the West’s freedom are enervating its willingness to defend
itself. By amplifying bourgeois devotion to physical security, ease, and
comfort, Western affluence has heightened the risk to, precisely, the West’s
physical security, ease, and comfort. In this light, Europe’s dramatic reduction of defense spending is of a piece with its relaxed immigration policies:
both suppose that the problems of politics are in principle susceptible of tidy
administrative and judicial solutions; both nonchalantly overlook or aggressively obscure the multiplying threats for which the remedies of technocrats
and judges fall short.
No doubt, openness to other civilizations is a virtue of liberal democracies, and well-managed immigration fortifies them. No doubt, too, only a
small number of Muslim
immigrants are terrorists
The Islam that multitudes of immior potential terrorists. But
grants have brought to Europe, as a
a significant number do
seek political recognition
religion and as a way of life, has not
of Islamic law and harbor
made peace with the Western spirit.
sympathies for terrorism.
The upshot is that while the United States, by maintaining the world’s largest
military, still protects Europe’s interest in preserving a liberal international
order, Europe has been rendering itself defenseless against the internal
threat posed by unregulated, large-scale immigration.

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Europeans, Daniel Johnson declares, stand at a crossroads. Down one
path lies the Islamization of Europe. Down the other, the Europeanization of
Islam. Many Muslims have embraced individual freedom and equality under
law: all that is required to make anyone a full inheritor of the patrimony
of Western civilization. Yet the Islam that multitudes of immigrants have
brought to Europe, as a religion and as a way of life, has not made peace with
the Western spirit. Unlike Christianity and Judaism, it has not yet squarely
confronted the Enlightenment imperative to reconcile its central teachings
with recognition of the dignity of all individuals, toleration of religious difference, and respect for individual rights and the consent of the governed.
To foster the Europeanization, or enlightenment, of Islam, Johnson concludes, Europe will have to reclaim its own principles—which means that
the Europeanization of Islam depends on the re-Europeanization of Europe.
Will that happen? What could inspire or compel Europe to undertake such a
recovery? Johnson doesn’t say, but perhaps we can take a stab at it.
Crises do sometimes
change minds and summon
Liberal democracy fosters moral and spirits to action. But that
does not mean they should
intellectual habits that can actube recklessly welcomed: no
ally weaken our hold on liberty and
decent person would desire
democracy.
a catastrophic terrorist
attack or the collapse of social and political institutions under the weight of
non-assimilating minorities. Crises, moreover, are at least as likely to make
minds more reckless as they are to render them more sober, to provoke rage
and the rise of violent despotism as to restore ordered liberty.
Over the long term, there is only one secure source of moral and political
sobriety in a free society, and that is education. We may not yet know who
will educate Europe’s educators in the tradition of freedom, their precious
heritage, but we do know the principles and practices underlying and informing such an education. Indeed, the re-Europeanization of Europe on which
Johnson’s Europeanization of Islam depends has nothing to do with assertions of race or ethnicity and everything to do with those principles and
practices.
To begin with, the recovery of the West’s tradition of freedom does not
demand affirmation of an orthodoxy, religious or otherwise, but is grounded
in the moral conviction that human beings are by nature free and equal.
Neither, however, does it dictate the repudiation of religion; to the contrary, it
recognizes that human beings are religious animals who are naturally drawn

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to rival responses to the mysteries of human existence. It therefore seeks to
institutionalize toleration for alternative views about salvation and the duties
man owes God, including views that reject otherworldly goods and a supreme
being or beings. Finally, out of a vital interest in creating citizens capable of
thinking for, and taking care of, themselves, it declines to regard the formation of the next generation as either an exclusively private or a thoroughly
public matter. Rather, the recovery of the tradition of freedom in Europe
would require a basic literacy and civic education for all while encouraging
the most capable to study and learn from the competing ideas and complex
history out of which freedom emerged.
A crucial part of such study involves exploring the dangers to, and disadvantages of, freedom itself. That liberal democracy fosters moral and intellectual habits that can actually weaken our hold on liberty and democracy—
especially the deleterious habits of treating all values as equal, of shrugging
off freedom’s transcendent foundations, and of disdaining the ethical discipline that sustains it—is a core and indispensable lesson of Tocqueville’s
nearly two-century-old masterpiece about the age in which we still live.
Few lessons are more urgent today for the preservation of liberal democracy in Europe. Or for the preservation of liberal democracy in America.
Reprinted by permission of Mosaic. © 2016 Mosaic. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is
Constitutional Conservatism: Liberty, SelfGovernment, and Political Moderation, by Peter
Berkowitz. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.
hooverpress.org.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

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CALIFORNIA

Reservoirs, Yes;
Rails, No
In the latest Golden State Poll, Californians say
that providing enough water must come ahead of
building multibillion-dollar trains.

By Jenny Mayfield

T

he latest Golden State Poll conducted by the Hoover Institution finds California’s voters most concerned with the ongoing
drought and the state’s economic recovery.
“California’s electorate is, in a word, adult,” said Hoover

Institution research fellow Bill Whalen, who follows California politics and
policy. “Despite the distractions of an election year and surplus revenue
to spend in Sacramento, it expects lawmakers to act responsibly and
sensibly.”
The latest Hoover Golden State Poll, administered by the survey research
firm YouGov and designed in conjunction with Stanford University’s Bill
Lane Center for the American West, sampled 1,800 Californians (age eighteen and above) statewide from November 30 to December 13.
Among the poll’s questions, voters were asked to rank twenty-one policy
priorities facing the state. The top finishers were dealing with California’s
water problems (77 percent), strengthening the state’s economy (73 percent), improving the job situation (61 percent), and balancing the budget (59
percent).
Jenny Mayfield is the director of media relations at the Hoover Institution.
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In contrast, reforming the state prison system ranked twentieth (27 percent) and continuing the high-speed-rail project dead last (17 percent).
In addition, the survey tested three items being debated in California this
year: a mileage tax on automobiles, Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta watertunnel proposal, and whether funds from the construction of California’s
high-speed rail should be diverted to other infrastructure projects.
Highlights of the poll:
» Replacing the gasoline tax. By a 2-to-1 ratio (56 to 27 percent), voters
opposed replacing the current state gasoline tax with a mileage tax. Given
more information about privacy concerns—the government would validate
the number of miles driven—opposition grew to 65 percent.
California is exploring the so-called Mileage-Based User Fee because the
traditional tax on gasoline is failing to keep up. Since 2009, the gap between
vehicle miles traveled per capita and net taxable gasoline sales (excluding
aviation gasoline) per capita has
grown by roughly 10 percent.
Gasoline sales were once a
decent proxy for road usage,
but now rising gasoline-efficiency standards and the use
of electric and hybrid vehicles
are causing the gap to widen.
The current way of paying to
maintain and modernize California’s roadways is no longer sufficient, so the
California Transportation Commission has developed a pilot program to test
the viability of a road-usage charge. The most pressing question, though, as
the Golden State Poll indicated, isn’t whether a mileage tax is better than the
gas tax. It’s whether Californians would accept it.
» The Delta water tunnels. Voters split on Brown’s push for two new
tunnels to take water from the Sacramento River and transport it south:
33 percent supported the governor’s handling of the issue, 34 percent were
opposed, and 33 percent neither supported nor opposed. A ballot measure to
require voter approval for such large projects has qualified for the November
ballot.
» High-speed rail and water storage. Fifty-three percent of Californians
would vote for a ballot measure cutting short the high-speed-rail project and
using the unspent money on water-storage projects.
Hoover research fellow Carson Bruno said, “Whether it is continuing to
fund the high-speed rail, pushing forward with the Delta tunnels, revisiting

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131

how to reduce petroleum use, or designing a new model for funds for transportation infrastructure maintenance, Governor Brown and the legislature
will find difficulty in convincing the public that their approach is the best.”
Bruno added, “While elected officials obviously have their preferred
policy causes, they must not forget the priorities of those who sent them to
Sacramento.”
As has been the custom since the survey’s inception, the Golden State
Poll also gauged Californians’ financial and economic mindsets. Among the
findings:
» Are you better off? Asked how they had fared financially the past year,
24 percent said they were better off, 24 percent said worse off.
» Could you find a new job? Job mobility also yielded mixed results: 48
percent of respondents expressed some confidence in being able to make
a lateral job move in California within six months, 46 percent weren’t
confident.
» Right track or wrong track? Asking about the state’s overall condition
also yielded a split verdict: 27 percent said California was better off compared to a year ago, 38 percent said a little or a lot worse.

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

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The January 2016 Hoover investigators were Carson Bruno, Lanhee Chen,
Tammy Frisby, and Bill Whalen, with additional content guidance provided
by Bruce Cain, the Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Director of Stanford’s
Bill Lane Center for the American West.
Reprinted by permission of the Stanford Report. © 2016 by the Board of
Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Eric
Hoffer: The Longshoreman Philosopher, by Tom
Bethell. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.
hooverpress.org.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

133

I N TERVI EW

Plowshares into
Swords?
Hoover fellow William J. Perry worries that
disarmament has stalled—and the specter of
nuclear war has returned.

By Kenji Kato

H

oover senior fellow William J. Perry, a former US secretary
of defense, saw the devastation of war firsthand in Tokyo and
Okinawa in 1946 as a member of the American occupation
force. This and other experiences have made him keen on

promoting nuclear disarmament. The Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed Perry on
his thoughts of the war, the Japan-US relationship, and how the world is still
a dangerous place.
Kenji Kato, Yomiuri Shimbun: Tell us about your postwar experience in
Japan.
William J. Perry: I was in Tokyo for two months, in the autumn of 1946. Then I
was stationed in Okinawa for nine months. I was in the Army Corps of Engineers. We were making new, modern maps of Okinawa for the rebuilding effort.

William J. Perry is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Freeman
Spogli Institute for International Studies; he is the Michael and Barbara Berberian Professor at Stanford University and co-director of the Nuclear Risk Reduction initiative and the Preventive Defense Project. Last summer he was a panelist
at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues held in Hiroshima,
Japan. Kenji Kato is a correspondent for the Yomiuri Shimbun.
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In Tokyo, the devastation of the firebombings was still there, and that
was absolutely stunning. I had read about them, but nothing prepares you
for actually walking through the streets and seeing. It seemed to me that
every wooden building was gone. The firebombs had just destroyed everything. The people were living pretty much in poverty then. They were
starting to pull out of it, but very slowly. It was very hard. I was eighteen
years old.
I never felt the anger [of the Japanese people]. I expected it, but I never felt
it. I can’t explain why. Some Japanese I talked with in those days, the anger
was directed at their army, not at us. You would have expected some would
be directed at us, but I didn’t see it.
Kato: What about Okinawa?
Perry: We landed in the southern part of Okinawa, Naha. It was devastated
more than Tokyo. The whole island—the fighting there had been intense. The
Japanese soldiers were resisting to the death on Okinawa.
There was hardly a building left standing in Naha or in any of the towns
around there. So besides the buildings we had built and the tents that we
had put up, there was not much reconstruction that had gone on there. I was
more appalled by what I saw in Okinawa than by what I saw in Tokyo.
That was the last great battle of World War II. Of the one hundred thousand Japanese troops defending Okinawa, some very small percentage of
them survived. They either were killed in battle or committed suicide. Not
many surrendered.
Okinawa was a prototype, a sample of what we would have seen when the
invasion reached the mainland. There was no doubt that we had the military
force to prevail—our Navy had complete domination of the sea by that time,
our air forces had complete domination of the air—so we would have had a successful invasion. But once we got on the land, if the [Japanese] army persisted
and succeeded in its scorched-earth defense, it would have been ghastly.
If the emperor had not intervened, the atomic bombs might not have been
enough. We might still have had that invasion.
Kato: Let me ask you about the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki—I
believe you went to the atomic bomb museum in Hiroshima. What was your
impression at the museum?
Perry: I’ve been there several times. Mostly what the museum was showing
was the horror. For a person who didn’t visit Japan or Okinawa after the war,
this is a very good way of conveying the horror, and the message that should

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come out to anyone who visits that museum is that you should never want to
see a nuclear bomb used again. Never again.
The museum also offered a section in history leading up to the war, which I
felt was inaccurate and self-serving. It was a distorted view of history, in that
Japan seemed to have no responsibility for World War II—and yet they were
obviously the aggressor in China and the aggressor in Southeast Asia.
I don’t think the Japanese government serves the Japanese people well,
by not being more candid about what the history was. They would have
been, I think, much better
off to have acknowledged
“If the emperor had not intervened,
their responsibility for the
the atomic bombs might not have
early years, for the aggression they conducted in
been enough. We might still have
China, for the aggression
had that invasion.”
they conducted in Southeast Asia, and recognized that had something to do with what followed
that. The attack on Pearl Harbor was made because the Japanese government believed—rightly, I think—that the United States boycotting them
and cutting off their oil was a big problem. But why was it a big problem?
Because they were carrying on a war in Southeast Asia. It was not an
unnatural thing for a country to do—countries have sought empires all
throughout history, and used military might to achieve those empires. The
British, the French, and to a certain extent the Americans. But that’s what
it was—it was using military force to broaden their empire. And that was
the fundamental triggering point for the US-Japanese war. Pearl Harbor
was just a consequence of that basic problem.
Kato: Why do you think enemies during the war, Japan and the United
States, were able to overcome the hatred and become such great allies after
the war? Do you personally trust Japan?
Perry: The whole history of US-Japan relations, before the 1930s, has been
one of friendship. You just walk around the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC,
and see the cherry blossoms there, which are gifts of the Japanese government. And during the Japanese-Russian war, during the Korean intervention—the United States was intervening on the side of Japan. And it wasn’t
until the Japanese military, the army, basically took control of the government and in Manchuria and China began a program of military expansion,
empire expansion through military means, in the early 1930s. There was only
a ten-year period, roughly 1935 to 1945, where that was an issue in US-Japan

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“NEVER AGAIN”: Battered religious statues lie in the ruins of Nagasaki, Japan,
several weeks after the August 1945 atomic bombing destroyed the city. The
second atomic bombing of World War II—and, to date, the last atomic bombing—claimed 39,000–80,000 lives in the first four months, about half on the
first day. [Cpl. Lynn P. Walker Jr.—USMC]

relations. A very big issue, but the rest of the history has been friendly and
peaceful.
I have always had a very strong and positive relationship with the Japanese officials I worked with. We had mutual trust when working together. I
have great respect for all of the Japanese officials I have worked with.
THE MISSILES OF OCTOBER
Kato: Is it true you were analyzing aerial photos during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis?
Perry: I was working as an intelligence analyst, one of a team of about
eight or nine people who were doing the analysis, presenting the data to the

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director of central intelligence, who was then briefing the president. I was
not sitting in the meetings with Mr. Kennedy. I don’t want to overemphasize
my role in that.
Kato: And when you looked at the photos . . .
Perry: I thought—Oh my God! I could see these missiles there, and I knew
they were nuclear missiles. I knew them—I had been studying those missiles
when they were in the Soviet Union. We knew what their capabilities were,
having watched them being tested in Russia. Just seeing them there was
scary.
Then when President Kennedy made his speech, and imposed the quarantine, and we could see the Soviet ships still moving forward to that place—
apparently they were not going to obey the quarantine—I really thought it
was all over. I really thought we were heading toward a nuclear war. Every
day I went into that analysis center in Washington, DC, thinking it was going
to be my last day on Earth.
It was not acknowledged
as an intelligence center.
“The message that should come out
The people around where
to anyone who visits that museum
we worked had no idea what
is that you should never want to see
we were doing, or what was
going on. In this building—
a nuclear bomb used again. Never
no windows, of course—was
again.”
all the equipment you would
need to make a very sophisticated analysis of high-resolution pictures, and all
the other kinds of intelligence associated with it. The big thing we were looking at were the high-resolution pictures—not just the U-2 pictures. After the
U-2 discovered what was there, then they sent in low-flying airplanes, flying
one hundred feet over the ground. Very detailed pictures.
Kato: Did this have an impact on you to eventually propose “a world without
nuclear weapons”?
Perry: There were several factors that influenced me. The first one was my
military assignment in Okinawa and Tokyo. That was when it first struck me
that war wasn’t a glamorous thing. It was something where a lot of people
were killed. And we had developed a means where a hundred thousand
people could be killed in one night. What happened in Hiroshima had been
done by one bomber with one bomb in an instant. So that really was when
the feeling first began.

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Then with the Cuban Missile Crisis, it struck me that no matter how carefully we planned, we might blunder into a war.
And in 1978, after I had become the undersecretary of defense, I was woken
by a phone call at 3 o’clock in the morning telling me that the North American Air Defense Command
computers were showing
two hundred ICBMs on
“When President Kennedy made his
their way from the Soviet
speech, and imposed the quarantine,
Union to the United States.
and we could see the Soviet ships
That impressed in my mind
still moving forward to that place. . . .
the possibility of an accidenI really thought it was all over.”
tal war.
Cuba would have been a
war by miscalculation, but there was also the danger of an accidental war—
a false alarm. Those two dangers, no matter how careful we were, no matter
how good our deterrence was, we were always in danger of blundering into
a war.
From that moment on I was always looking for ways of avoiding that war.
But as long as the Cold War was going on, it always seemed that we would
never give up nuclear weapons. But when the Cold War was over—for God’s
sake, why do we have to put up with this any longer? Why don’t we get rid of
these weapons?
So when I was secretary of defense, I made my top priority dismantling
nuclear weapons. We dismantled almost ten thousand nuclear weapons during my term in office, half in the United States and half in the former Soviet
Union.
I thought we were going to get rid of these things, but that has really
slowed down. And in the past few years, it’s started to reverse. We’re starting
to build up again.
I’m very discouraged about the way things are going now in the nuclear
field. For a while, after President Obama first came into office, he made his
Prague speech. It looked like we were going to pick up the dismantling effort
that I had begun as secretary. But now we’re talking about building a whole
new generation of nuclear weapons. Russia is already building a new generation of nuclear weapons. We are moving backward.
Incidentally, I have proposed to President Obama that before he leaves
office, he give another speech, a bookend to his Prague speech, and that he
give it at Hiroshima. I think it would be a fitting ending. The purpose of the
speech not to emphasize what happened in Hiroshima—it’s just a symbolic

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place to hold it—but the message is nuclear weapons should never be used
again. He said it in Prague, but he could say it in Hiroshima with a different
emphasis.
THE DANGER IS STILL HIGH
Kato: Could nuclear weapons be used again?
Perry: I think so. Several ways they might be used. There are ways they
could be used by accident—our weapons and Russia’s weapons are still on
high alert, so you could still have an accident.
It could happen in a regional war—Pakistan and India being the most likely
but not the only candidates.
And now that the United States and Russia are starting to develop hostile
relations once again I’m almost concerned about getting back to a Cold War–
style danger of a war by miscalculation. If you could put numbers to it, the
probability is higher now than ten years ago.
The biggest problem is the hostility that has built up over the past decade
between the United States and Russia. It’s not the only problem, but it’s the
biggest problem. A lot of the problems began when the United States, in the
late 1990s, decided to expand NATO. That happened in the last few years
of the Clinton administration. And then in the first few years of the Bush
administration, Bush decided to install an ABM system in Eastern Europe.
Those two factors feel extremely threatening to Russia. And one of the clear
and explicit consequences of that is that Russia has embarked on a program
of building and modernizing ICBMs, bombers, and nuclear warheads and
bombs that go with them. They are well under way, and are bragging about it.
They are not trying to keep a secret of it.
Reprinted by permission of the Japan News. © 2015 Yomiuri Shimbun. All
rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is The War
that Must Never Be Fought: Dilemmas of Nuclear
Deterrence, edited by George P. Shultz and James E.
Goodby. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.
hooverpress.org.

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I N T E RVI E W

Sister Act
Ideological opposites, Kori N. Schake and her
sister, a Clinton adviser, have found that family
harmony is the best policy.

By Meghan Daum

F

or the first eight years of her life, Kristina Schake fell asleep listening to the sound of her older sister, Kori’s, voice. When the girls got
their own rooms, Kristina refused to spend nights in hers, sleeping
instead next to Kori’s bed. From there, Kori would tell Kristina

stories from Greek mythology, read her Jane Austen, or regale her with tales
of high school social intrigue. When Kori graduated and left their small town
in Sonoma County—a region then known more for its dairy farms than for its
wineries—Kristina visited her at Stanford, again sleeping on the floor in her
dormitory room, where Kori would share the lessons she’d learned in class.
“She took her job as my big sister very seriously,” says Kristina, “in a way
that I’ve never seen another big sister quite do. I really consider her my first
teacher, the first person who showed me the world, who cultivated my interest in politics.”
Today, at forty-five and fifty-three, both sisters are high-level political players. Both have worked in the White House, played key roles in presidential
campaigns, and helped shape government policy. This might be a sweet but
only semi-remarkable story of two high-achieving, like-minded siblings finding success in the same field, if not for one notable factor: Kristina is a liberal
Democrat and Kori is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican.
Kori N. Schake is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of
Hoover’s Working Group on the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict.
Meghan Daum wrote this article for Vogue.
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A research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a former West Point professor, Kori has become one of the most prominent foreign-policy experts on
the political scene and worked in the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during
the George W. Bush administration, as well as in the Pentagon during the
George H. W. Bush and
Clinton administraAt Stanford, Kori’s world was effectively
tions. Her (admirably
rocked by her professor, a political scien- specific) dream job:
becoming deputy
tist named Condoleezza Rice.
secretary of state for
management and resources. Kristina spent three years as Michelle Obama’s
communications director (she’s the one credited with “humanizing” the first
lady by, among other things, encouraging her to show off her dance moves to
Jimmy Fallon and Ellen DeGeneres) and is now serving as deputy communications director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
When Kristina called her sister last year with the news that she was interviewing with Clinton for the communications job, Kori thoroughly briefed her
on the candidate’s tenure as secretary of state (“without bias,” Kristina says)
and encouraged her to go for it. “She said, ‘This is what you were meant to
do,’ ” Kristina remembers.
“Kristina’s a bighearted liberal,” Kori tells me when I meet her crossing
the Stanford campus, carrying a Louis Vuitton Forsyth handbag and dressed
in a boldly patterned shift. She commutes to Palo Alto from rural Sonoma
County, where she lives alone in a house whose only heat source comes from
a fireplace. Her parents still live nearby, and her father visits occasionally
to split wood. Kori was married “a very long time ago” (she’d prefer to leave
it at that), and Kristina lives in New York with her boyfriend, an Albanian
journalist she met while vacationing in Rome with friends. When the couple
recently moved to Brooklyn to be closer to Clinton’s headquarters, Kori lent a
hand and hung up their pictures, mounted shelves, and unpacked—and even
arranged—Kristina’s books.
Asked what she thinks of Clinton, Kori is diplomatic, saying, “This is a candidate that clearly needs Kristina’s help.” The Paris attacks, she adds later,
“will focus voters’ attention on candidates’ suitability to be commander in
chief—the 3 a.m. phone call Hillary Clinton talked about in 2008. Candidates
have two challenges: outlining substantive policies responsive to a fast-evolving situation, and hitting a tone of judicious strength.”
On the subject of Donald Trump, she’ll offer only, “I am confident in the
eventual good judgment of the American people.”

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Weeks later I join the sisters in a Brooklyn Heights restaurant and detect
not a hint of discord between them. In fact, over glasses of prosecco, the pair
strain to remember the last serious argument they had—and finally conclude
that it was more than thirty years ago and involved Kristina’s wearing Kori’s
clothes without permission.
“I put everything back before she came home,” Kristina tells me. “But
Kori marched me around her room to see if things were folded and hung
up exactly the way she had left them. She measured the space between
hangers.”
These days, each sister idealizes the other as exactly what she believes
her political opposition ought to be. “Having a sister who’s a conservative
has sharpened my own thinking tremendously,” Kristina says. “In politics
you’re often surrounded by people who believe the same things you do. So I
will talk to her about things and I’ll say, ‘Here’s my best argument,’ and she’ll
say, ‘Here’s what’s going to come back to you. Here’s how somebody is going
to counter that.’ When I think of a Republican, I don’t think of some opponent out there I can’t possibly relate to. I think of Kori.”
In today’s often brutally polarizing political climate, to see such mutual
intelligence and sunny-but-shrewd demeanors on opposite ends of the political spectrum is a little startling. The Schake sisters are a kind of inverse of
a Carville-Matalin-style dog-and-pony show. They’re resolutely untheatrical;
a lot of people don’t even realize they’re related. While working for the first
lady, Kristina approached her supervisor sheepishly one day after Kori published an article criticizing the administration.
“I tried to make a joke out of it, like, ‘Sorry about what my sister
wrote!’ ” Kristina recalls. “And my boss was like, ‘Kori Schake is your
sister?’ ”
In some ways Kori and Kristina’s parents were a model for their own
dynamic—rarely discussing politics around the dinner table and canceling
out each other’s votes at
every election. Their father,
Wayne, is a former Pan
Kori says of Hillary Clinton, “This is
Am pilot and a Republican.
a candidate that clearly needs KrisTheir stay-at-home mother,
tina’s help.”
Cecelia, has been a ferociously civically active Democrat. (They also have an older brother, Kurt, who
is a retired Air Force officer—and a Republican.)
Growing up, neither sister seemed on course for a career in politics. Kori
was a tomboyish overachiever who won 4-H ribbons raising cattle and ran

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on the cross-country team. She was also both student-body president and a
homecoming-queen nominee in high school—“though it was a fact generally
acknowledged that I couldn’t get myself a date,” she says. But small-town life
didn’t appear to be fostering large-scale ambitions.
“You would not have
picked her out as the profes“Kris may say that gay marriage is
sor and White House staffer
the major civil rights issue of our
at that time,” says Tim Gray,
time,” Kori says. “I would say that
Kori’s longtime friend and
access to education is the major civil former high school classmate, who now runs a real
rights issue of our time.”
estate development company in Sonoma. “Obviously she’s very accomplished and very capable, but that
didn’t seem to be the direction things were going in.”
Like any self-respecting child of 1970s Northern California, Kori put in her
time as—to use her sister’s word—a “hippie,” attending rallies at Stanford for
left-wing causes and trying out various majors until she designed her own,
focusing on economic development in Latin America. But then, in the spring
of 1984, when she was obliged to fulfill a requirement by taking a seminar
on Soviet policy—“a subject about which I could not have cared less,” Kori
says—her world was effectively rocked by her professor, a political scientist
in her early thirties named Condoleezza Rice.
“It’s hard to describe just how magnificent a teacher and mentor she is,”
says Kori, who later worked as Rice’s research assistant before eventually
following her to the White House to join her staff. “I was a dreamy kind of
kid. I was interested in doing a PhD in the renaissance of the novel in Latin
American literature. And she thought that a rather impractical basis on
which to build a career. By letting me be her research assistant, she bought
me time to think my way through what I wanted to do and help set me on a
path to do it.”
Rice herself recalls Kori as “a student with a special spark in her eyes. She
was already mature and able to grasp complex issues. I knew I could count
on these skills when she worked for me at the White House and then at the
State Department.”
If Kori’s postcollegiate career led her through the corridors of old-guard
military-industrial power, Kristina found herself on a discernibly more glittery route. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University, she moved to
Los Angeles, where she became a speechwriter and press deputy for thenmayor Richard Riordan. Kristina would go on to lead the communications

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team in director Rob Reiner’s ballot initiative to support public education by
raising the cigarette tax in California. Reiner was so impressed when he first
met Kristina that he later gave her a space in his office when she started her
own firm.
“What Condi did for me may be something like what Rob Reiner did for
Kris,” Kori says.
“Who knew I had something in common with Condoleezza Rice!” Reiner
exclaims upon hearing this. “I remember that Kristina and I hit it off immediately. She’s so incredibly smart and gifted and such a terrific person. As for
Kori, she’s obviously the political opposite, but she’s also a nice person who
you can actually have a conversation with. If there were more people like
Kori in the Republican Party, maybe something would actually get done.”
The Clinton campaign headquarters, occupying the entire floor of an office
building near Brooklyn’s Borough Hall, suggests a curious hybrid of bigcity newsroom and elementary school. The cubicles are at once sparse and
messy, and the walls are festooned with a combination of colorful photographs from the campaign trail and handmade posters and collages trumpeting the candidate’s paths to victory. Among the staffers milling around,
there’s an air of cheeriness that seems a world away from the vitriolic political climate in the outside world. Sitting behind a desk in the office she shares
with communications director Jennifer Palmieri, Kristina recalls one of the
most critical and formative stages of her career: her days fighting to legalize gay marriage in California by overturning the ballot initiative known as
Proposition 8.
With her business partner, Chad Griffin, Kristina helped found the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the nonprofit that sponsored the battle all
the way to the United States Supreme Court. She makes several appearances
in the 2014 documentary about the suit, The Case Against 8, where her infectious smile and almost
preternaturally sooth“I made (Kori) watch Superbad. I made
ing presence belie her
reputation as a shrewd
her watch The Mindy Project. She sent
and often relentless
back detailed analyses of both.”
strategist.
“There is one moment in that film that captures her personality better
than any description of her I’ve ever seen,” says Griffin, who is now president
of the Human Rights Campaign. “It’s determined that one of the plaintiffs,
Jeff, is going to be the first to testify. He gets so stressed out he just breaks
down, and Kristina tells him exactly what he needs to hear in that moment.

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There’s something almost magical about her ability to calm people down in
extraordinarily tense situations.”
“Gay marriage affected the lives of so many people I was close to,” Kristina
says. “And that debate was one where Kori and I really saw things differently.
For me, it was personal. For Kori it was more of a political issue.”
Kori, when I call her later, suggests that she’s not against gay marriage as
much as she’s for other things first. “Kris may say that gay marriage is the
major civil rights issue of our time,” she says. “I would say that access to education is the major civil rights issue of our time. It’s not that I disagree that
gay marriage is important. It’s just that I would put my emphasis on thirdgrade reading rates instead.” When I ask her about the Republican Party’s
recent campaign against Planned Parenthood in Congress, she says that she
is pro-choice but that reproductive rights “wouldn’t be in the top twenty
things I vote on.”
“I’m really happy that
women’s health has been
Kori thoroughly briefed her sister on
part of this election so
Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of
far,” Kristina counters.
“But it doesn’t surprise
state (“without bias,” Kristina says)
me that it’s not in Kori’s
and encouraged her to go for the job.
top twenty. It’s just not
in the arena of things she usually thinks about.” Pop culture also falls into
that category. Kristina facilitated the interview between Clinton and Lena
Dunham that ran in Dunham’s online newsletter, Lenny—an interview that
was one of the warmest and most offhand conversations we’ve heard from
Clinton in the campaign. Asked if Kori is a Dunham fan, Kristina laughs.
“I would have to explain to her who Lena Dunham is, as I have to explain
many things!” she says. “I had to explain who Judd Apatow is. I made her
watch Superbad. I made her watch The Mindy Project. She sent back detailed
analyses of both.”
At times, the sisters’ conflict-averse dynamic seems mystifying, even a tad
disappointing. You almost want to see them lock horns for a moment or two,
if only because it would make for lively entertainment. But such a display
would feed into the notion so prevalent in politics today that disagreement
amounts to a personal attack and that liberals and conservatives therefore
need to be shielded from each other for their own protection.
Spending time with the Schakes is an object lesson in something else:
political tolerance. The two spend as much time as possible together, vacationing as a pair more than twenty times in their lives, and they’re already

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planning their next trip for after the 2016 election. Kristina has bought them
guidebooks for India, though they’re also considering Florence.
As to who will be in the White House by then, Kristina has little doubt,
though Kori has other ideas.
“I can think of at least seven Republican hopefuls I’d prefer to have running the country than Kristina’s candidate,” she writes in an e-mail—along
with a smiling emoji.
Reprinted by permission of Vogue. © 2015 Condé Nast. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Iraq after
America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance, by Joel
Rayburn. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.
hooverpress.org.

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I N TERVI EW

“There’s a Market
for Foolish
Things”
Although he insists that he has devoted much of
his long career merely to pointing out the obvious,
Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell feels certain he’ll
never be out of a job.

By Kyle Peterson

T

homas Sowell turned eighty-five last summer, which means he
has been teaching economics to Americans through his books
and articles for some four decades. So it seems natural to ask:
Have we learned anything? Has the level of economic thinking in

political debate gone up at all?
“No—in fact, I’m tempted to think it’s gone down,” Sowell says, without
much hesitation. “At one time you had a lot of people who hadn’t had any
economics saying foolish things. Now you have well-known economists saying
foolish things.”
The paradox is that serious economic discussion enjoys a wider platform
than ever before. One of the great bounties of the Internet is the trove of
Thomas Sowell is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy
at the Hoover Institution. His latest book is Wealth, Poverty, and Politics: An
International Perspective (Basic Books, 2015). Kyle Peterson is an associate
editorial features editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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archival news and debate footage that has been dumped onto YouTube and
other websites. Anyone with a modem can now watch F. A. Hayek discussing, in a soft and dignified German accent, the rule of law with Robert Bork
in 1978. Or Milton Friedman at Cornell the same year, arguing matter-offactly about colonialism with a young man in a beard, sunglasses, and floppy
sideways hat.
There is plenty of old footage of Sowell floating through the ether, too, and
if one watches a few clips—say, his appearance on William F. Buckley Jr.’s
Firing Line in 1981—two things stand out. The first is how little Sowell has
changed. The octogenarian who sits before me in an office at the Hoover
Institution, where Sowell has been a senior fellow since 1980, has a bit of gray
hair and a different set of glasses, but the self-assurance and the baritone
voice are the same.
The second thing that strikes is how little the political debate has changed.
Maybe economics isn’t merely a dismal science, but a futile one.
Take the minimum wage.
In 1981, a year in which the
federally mandated hourly
“There was never any rational reason
pay rose to $3.35 from
to believe that there would be this
$3.10 (in today’s dollars
evenness that they presuppose.”
that would be to $8.79 from
$8.14), Sowell argued on Firing Line that the minimum wage increases unemployment by pricing unskilled workers—young minorities in particular—out
of the job market. It’s the same point he makes today, as activists call for a
minimum wage of $10.10, or even $15.
“When looking back over my life, I think of the lucky things that happened
to me. And one of the luckiest ones, I just realized recently, is that when I left
home as a seventeen-year-old high-school dropout, the unemployment rate
among black seventeen-year-old males was in single digits,” Sowell says. “In
1948, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was ten years old and it hadn’t
been changed. And there was huge inflation, and so it was as if there was no
minimum wage.” He got a series of jobs—delivering Western Union telegrams, working in a machine shop—that put him on the right path.
Which is not to say that life was easy: In his 2002 memoir, A Personal Odyssey, Sowell describes how he once pawned a suit of clothes to buy food—a
knish and an orange soda at a little restaurant on the Lower East Side in
New York City. “Since then I’ve eaten at the Waldorf Astoria, I’ve eaten in
Parisian restaurants and in the White House,” he tells me. “But no meal has
ever topped that knish and orange soda.”

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Or take “disparate impact,” the idea that different outcomes among different groups—say, that there are more male CEOs than female—is ipso facto
evidence of discrimination. The Obama administration has used disparate
impact to charge racism in housing, employment, and other matters. In the
absence of discrimination, the theory goes, people naturally would be dispersed more or less at random. Nonsense, Sowell says. “In various books I’ve
given lists of all the great disparities all over the world, and I recently saw a
column by Walter Williams in which he added that men are bitten by sharks
several times as often as women.”
Differences in outcome is
a matter that Sowell takes
“When I left home as a seventeenup in his latest book, Wealth,
year-old high-school dropout, the
Poverty and Politics: An
unemployment rate among black
International Perspective. Its
theme, he says, is that “in a
seventeen-year-old males was in
sense, there was never any
single digits.”
rational reason to believe
that there would be this evenness that they presuppose.” Some continents
have more navigable rivers and deep harbors than others. Some cultures value education highly, and some don’t. Underwhelming as the conclusion might
sound to those with the urge to reorder society, many disparities arise simply
because people are different, and because they make different choices.
Another problem is that the “disparate impact” assumption misidentifies where group differences originate. He sets up an example: “If you have
people in various groups in the country, and their kids are all raised differently, they all behave differently in school, they do differently in school. And
now they’re grown up and they go to an employer, and you’re surprised to
find that they’re not distributed randomly by income.” It’s “just madness,” he
says, to assume “that because you collected the statistics there, that’s where
the unfairness originated.”
Sowell, looking back, can count the lucky breaks that contributed to his
own success. As a baby he was adopted into a household with four adults
who talked to him constantly. When he was nine years old, the family left the
South, moving from North Carolina to Harlem. A mentor there took him to
a public library for the first time and told him how to transfer out of a bad
school into a good one. Not everyone has that kind of luck.
“It is unjust—my God, it’s unjust,” Sowell says. “And yet that doesn’t mean
that you can locate somebody who has victimized somebody else.” In human
affairs, happenstance reigns.

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Why do we never seem to learn these economic lessons? “I think there’s a
market for foolish things,” Sowell says—and vested interests, too. Once an
organization such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is created to find discrimination, no one should be startled when it finds discrimination. “There’s never going to be a time when the EEOC will file a report
saying, ‘All right folks, there’s really not enough discrimination around to be
spending all this money,’ ” he says. “You’re going to have ever-more-elaborate
definitions of discrimination. So now, if you don’t want to hire an ax murderer who has somehow gotten paroled, then that’s discrimination.”
It’s a funny line—and an instance of what sets Sowell apart: candor and
independence of mind. No one can suggest that he doesn’t say what he
thinks. In 1987, while testifying in favor of Judge Robert Bork’s ill-fated nomination to the Supreme Court, he told Joe Biden, a senator at the time, that
he wouldn’t have a problem with literacy tests for voting or with $1.50 poll
taxes, so long as they were evenly and fairly applied. When I ask whether he
remembers this exchange, Sowell quips, “No, Joe Biden is forgettable.”
In our interview he maintains that the 1964 Civil Rights Act should have
stuck to desegregating buses and government services, and let market forces
take care of integrating lunch counters.
“One of the things I try to do in the book
Sowell says the precis to distinguish between what might
edent set by imposing
integration on people
be the legacy of slavery, and what’s the
like Lester Maddox, a
legacy of the welfare state.”
segregationist governor of Georgia who also owned a chicken restaurant, has opened a Pandora’s
box. “If you say that Lester Maddox has to serve his chicken to blacks, you’re
saying that the Boy Scouts have to have gay scoutmasters. You’re saying—
ultimately—that the Catholic Church has to perform same-sex marriages.”
Sowell is unsparing toward those who purport to speak for American
blacks. I ask him about the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. “People want to
believe what they want to believe, and the facts are not going to stop them,”
he says, adding that black leaders—from President Obama and former
Attorney General Eric Holder down to Al Sharpton—“do all they can to feed
that sense of grievance, victimhood, and resentment, because that’s where
the votes are.”
What about Ta-Nehisi Coates, the black writer whose new book, a raw
letter to his son about race relations in the United States, is stirring public
intellectuals? I read Sowell a line from Coates’s cover story in the Atlantic

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calling for reparations for slavery: “In America there is a strange and powerful belief that if you stab a black person ten times, the bleeding stops and the
healing begins the moment the assailant drops the knife.”
“Ah . . . yes,” Sowell sighs, as if recognizing a familiar tune. “What amazes
me is not that there are assertions like this, but that there is no interest
in checking those
assertions against
“For every year from 1994 to the present,
any evidence. One
black married couples have had a poverty
of the things I try to
rate in single digits. Those people who
do in the book is to
distinguish between
have not followed the culture—the ghetto
what might be the
culture—are doing fine.”
legacy of slavery, and
what’s the legacy of the welfare state. If you look at the first hundred years
after slavery, black communities were a lot safer. People were a lot more
decent. But then you look thirty years after the 1960s revolution, and you see
this palpable retrogression—of which I think the key one is the growth of the
single-parent family.”
Sowell says he cannot remember ever hearing a gunshot when he was
growing up in Harlem, and he used to sleep on the fire escape to beat the
summer heat. He cites changes in black enrollment at New York City’s highly
competitive Stuyvesant High School, which he attended. “In 2012, blacks
were 1.2 percent of the students at Stuyvesant,” he says. “Thirty-three years
earlier, they were 12 percent.”
Here’s the point: does anyone believe that racism and the legacy of slavery
are stronger today than in the 1970s—or for that matter in 1945, when Sowell
enrolled at Stuyvesant? “It’s not a question of the disproportion between
blacks and whites, or Asians, but the disproportion between blacks of today
and blacks of the
previous genera“You’re going to have ever-more-elaborate
tion,” he says. “And
definitions of discrimination.”
that’s what’s scary.”
He offers another
statistic: “For every year from 1994 to the present, black married couples
have had a poverty rate in single digits. Those people who have not followed
the culture—the ghetto culture—are doing fine.”
So how can the case for reform be made? Let’s say the Republican presidential nominee has a speech lined up at the historically black Howard
University. What should the candidate say?

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Sowell says he should tell the audience that “one of the worst things for
blacks is the minimum wage. The worst thing,” he says, is “the public schools
run by the teachers’ unions who will protect the most incompetent teacher
there is, who will fight tooth and nail against your being able to make a choice
and go to voucher schools.” Lay out the case, Sowell says, and “address them
as if they’re adults. You’re not going to get 50-plus percent of the black vote.
But good grief, if the Republicans got 20 percent of the black vote it would be
a revolution.”
One can only hope that if such a day comes, Sowell, who has been making
these arguments since Barack Obama was a teenager, is around to see it.
He says he doesn’t intend to retire. The fifth edition of his 2000 book Basic
Economics came out not long ago, and he is already mulling over a sequel to
his newest title. Sowell seems as sharp as ever, so I have to ask: does he feel
eighty-five years old?
Another answer with no hesitation. “Yes. Maybe ninety-five on some days,”
he says, with a deep laugh. “When I think of the things that other people my
age are going through, I really should feel so lucky.”
Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2015 Dow Jones &
Co. All rights reserved.
Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Ever
Wonder Why? And Other Controversial Essays, by
Thomas Sowell. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit
www.hooverpress.org.

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VALUES

Now Trending:
Mob Think
America’s checks and balances have always
protected us from our worst impulses. Now
they’re eroding.

By Victor Davis Hanson

T

he constitution of the Roman
republic was designed as a cor-

Key points

rective to democracy—specifically
the excesses of Athenian-style

direct democracy. About twice a month the
citizens of Athens would vote into law almost
anything they wished. Six thousand to seven
thousand citizens would squeeze into a hillside
amphitheater known as the Pnyx to be swayed
by demagogues (“people leaders”) into voting for or against the cause du jour. Our term
democracy comes from the Greek dêmos-kratos,
literally “people power.”
In furor at a rebellion, for example, Athenians
once voted to kill all the adult male subjects of

» The success of the stable Roman republican
system inspired Enlightenment thinkers—and
America’s founders.
» Popular impulses can
erupt into a herd mentality.
» Social media have destroyed most hierarchies
of popular expression.
» The remedy: strict
adherence to republican
government and the
protections of the Constitution.

the island of Lesbos—only to repent the next
Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the
Hoover Institution and the chair of Hoover’s Working Group on the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict.
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day and vote again to execute just some, hoping that their second messenger
ship rowed fast enough across the Aegean to overtake the first bearing the
original death sentence. In a fit of pique, the popular court voted to execute
the philosopher Socrates, to fine the statesman Pericles, and to ostracize the
general Aristides. Being successful, popular, rich, or controversial always
proved a career liability in a democracy like Athens.
SAFETY VALVES
The Romans knew enough about mercurial ancient Athens to appreciate that
they did not want a radical democracy. Instead, they sought to take away absolute power from the people and redistribute it within a “mixed” government.
In Rome, power was divided constitutionally between executives (two consuls),
legislators (the senate and assemblies), and judges (Roman magistrates).
The half-millennium success of the stable Roman republican system
inspired later French and British Enlightenment thinkers. Their abstract
tripartite system of constitutional government stirred the founding fathers to
concrete action. Americans
originally were terrified of
America’s founders were terrified
what 51 percent of the peoof what 51% of the people in an
ple in an unchecked democracy might do on any given
unchecked democracy might do on
day—and knew that ancient
any given day.
democracies had always
become more radical, not less, and thus more unstable. For all the squabbles
among Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison, they agreed that a republic,
not a direct democracy, was a far safer and more stable choice of governance.
The result was a potpourri of ways to curb the predictable excesses and
fits of the people. An Electoral College reserved commensurate power to
rural states rather than passing off the presidential vote into the hands of the
huge urban majorities. States could decide their own rules of voter participation—with the original understanding that owning a modicum of property
might make a citizen more rooted and engaged. Senators were appointed by
state legislatures to balance the popular election of House members.
Many of these checks on popular expression were later overturned by
plebiscites or the courts, but they reflected the original eighteenth-century
worries over a supposedly unchecked mob. We often think that a Bill of
Rights was designed to protect Americans from monarchs and dictators. It
certainly was. But the founders were just as terrified of what the majority of
elected representatives might legally do at any time to an individual citizen.

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[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

Madison’s constitutional guarantees seem to have anticipated what today’s
politically correct campus administrators wish to do to the rights of students
accused of race/class/gender thought crimes. Such transitory manias are
common in democratic society. In 1942, a furious public wanted JapaneseAmerican citizens placed in detention camps; last year, climate-change advocates begged the federal government to silence global warming “deniers” by
charging them with racketeering.
DEMAGOGUES AND SHORT MEMORIES
Our election primaries showcase how popular impulses can erupt into a herd
mentality. In 2012, slick advertising, bombastic televised debating, and the
Internet variously created and then destroyed various leading Republican
candidates such as Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick
Perry, and Rick Santorum. A good one-liner or a cool infomercial made each
of those candidates the fad or the cad of the month.
In this election cycle, Jeb Bush was supposed to be a shoo-in. Then Donald Trump blew in on a media-generated storm, his “Make America Great
Again” resonating in the same key as Barack Obama’s banal “Hope and
Change” slogan.
A year from now, we will no more remember the current fad of Black Lives
Matter than we do Occupy Wall Street, as the public lurches from one spasm
to the next. The democratic crowd fixates on political whims in the way shoppers used to rush out to buy pet rocks and lava lamps.
In 2008 and 2012, when he was running for president, Obama soberly
announced that as a devout Christian, he could not quite countenance the idea
of gay marriage. But
once free of re-election
worries in 2014, his
American law has become negotiable
administration suddenly
and subject to revolutionary justice.
flipped and went after
citizens who felt that their religious beliefs did not allow them to sanction gay
marriage in their business transactions.
All consensual governments are prone to scary wild swings of moblike
emotion—and to demagogues who can almost rein in or goad the dêmos. But
the founders sought to make American government immune to Athenianstyle craziness through a system of checks and balances that vented popular
frenzies without a great deal of damage. If an idea proved illogical or illegal,
then legislators, judges, and executives could dissipate, delay, or nullify it
before it swept away years of sober custom and time-honored practices—at

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least as long as the Constitution and its subsidiary laws were not dismantled
as impediments to “fairness” and “equality.”
A FAREWELL TO SOBER CITIZENS
In the twenty-first century, novel developments have increasingly turned
us from sober Roman republicans into mercurial Athenian democrats. The
transition is especially clear in this election year.
First, the rise of social media destroyed most hierarchies of popular expression. Anyone can put up a YouTube video and either delight or enrage millions of
Americans within seconds—without any journalistic standards, fact-checking,
or editorial oversight. The ensuing fury recalls the frenzied rumor-mongering
of ancient Athens, when bearers of bad news were often murdered or beaten by
mobs at the port of Piraeus even before their reports could be verified.
Presidential candidates soar or crash in fantastic spurts of public adulation
or abject repulsion—predicated not on their policy positions or their records
but on their television appearances and the degree to which they are trending on social media.
Second, we are an increasingly urban people who have lost the sense
of self-reliance and autonomy so needed for survival in the countryside.
Thomas Jefferson, more than two centuries ago, warned us that he did not
think democracy would work when “we get piled upon one another in large
cities.” Fad and frenzy are the wages of centrally controlled, dense populations that look to an omnipotent “you didn’t build that” government for their
sustenance, safety, and guidance, losing contact with nature and confidence
in themselves that accrues from self-reliant achievement.
Third, globalization has expanded America’s supposed responsibility
for equality and fairness to all the peoples of the world. Suddenly, it is not
enough for the government to provide jobs and opportunities to Americans
alone; we must now extend those privileges to illegal immigrants. The Internet and cable TV show us hordes of people scrambling to enter the West—as
if we had within our means the instant fixes for maladies that are the fault of
distant others. The plight of gays in the Congo, Christians in Syria, the transgendered in Russia, and the poor in Sudan have become referenda on our
morality—and our government must expand and grow, the argument goes, to
serve the global disadvantaged.
Finally, the law is seen as an impediment to such sweeping notions of social
justice. It is certainly deemed counterrevolutionary and an impediment to
the Obama administration’s idea of an equality of result. As a result, the
president at one time or another has ignored enforcement of federal laws,

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from not prosecuting the rogue behavior of federal bureaucrats at the IRS or
the EPA to suspending elements of his own Affordable Care Act.
More than three hundred cities—in antebellum, neo-Confederate fashion—
have declared themselves immune from the jurisdiction of Immigration and
Customs Enforcement. Often illegal aliens are freed by our modern bureaucratic versions of Jefferson Davis nullificationists.
Yet not all laws are ignored in the same blanket fashion. If San Francisco
claims that it does not have to turn over an illegal alien caught in violation of
federal immigration law, can Salt Lake City arbitrarily decide that a particular protected newt or fish is no longer sacrosanct under the federal Endangered Species Act? Will Fresno be allowed to cancel federal laws that forbid
instant purchases of handguns?
Actionable criminal behavior in the scandals at the IRS, the EPA, ICE, and
a host of other alphabet agencies is not treated as per se violation of the law.
Rather, such acts are judged according to whether the offender and his crime
were deemed progressive and well-intended—or reactionary and thus prosecutable. CEOs who cannot cap a leaky oil well or who sell noxious peanut
products go to jail; EPA functionaries who turn whitewater rivers into toxic
yellow mush melt back into the coils of the bureaucracy.
Ancient Athens was a wild place—as frenetic, brilliant, and dangerous as
it proved ultimately unsustainable. We are becoming more like the Athenian mob than the Roman senate. American law has become negotiable and
subject to revolutionary justice, while technology has developed the power to
inflame 300 million individuals in a nanosecond. Without strict adherence to
republican government and the protections of the Constitution, the mob will
rule—and any American will become subject to its sudden wrath.
Reprinted from Defining Ideas (www.hoover.org/publications/definingideas), a Hoover Institution journal. © 2015 by the Board of Trustees of
the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is American
Contempt for Liberty, by Walter E. Williams. To order,
call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

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H O OVER ARC HIVE S

On the Firing
Line: A Fiftieth
Anniversary
Where have you gone, William F. Buckley? A
new Hoover exhibit highlights unforgettable
exchanges with America’s most public
intellectual.

By Jean McElwee Cannon

T

his month the Hoover Institution Library and Archives unveiled
an exhibition that explores the history of one of the twentieth
century’s longest-running political talk shows, Firing Line, and
the distinguished career of the show’s host, William F. Buckley

Jr. Buckley was known for his accomplished powers in debate, his quick wit,
and notably, his use of long, arcane words that often flummoxed guests on his
show. For thirty-three years, he literally and figuratively darted his tongue at
presidential hopefuls, political activists, religious leaders, artists, and ideologists. Buckley held the unique power to dismantle his adversaries’ arguments
not by derision or emphatic disagreement but by exploiting the internal
contradictions in what his opponent had said or written—and in doing so he
used words such as periphrastic, tergiversation, and eristic.
Jean McElwee Cannon is the assistant archivist for communications and outreach at the Hoover Institution.
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Buckley’s career and reputation can
safely be said to represent the Cold War
adage that words are weapons in a war of
ideas; and he fought with a full arsenal. An
eclectic reader fluent in several languages
(Buckley had been educated in France,
England, and Mexico before graduating
from Yale with honors in 1950), Buckley
had a memory like a steel trap, capturing ten-dollar vocabulary words with the
same intensity it did the legal precedents
he used as rebuttals in debate. Though
Buckley once stated in an interview that
[Hoover Institution Archives—
he was “offended by people who suggest—
Firing Line Broadcast Records]
and some have—that I spend my evenings
with dictionaries,” materials in the Hoover
Archives reveal that the staff of Firing Line nonetheless delighted in mocking
Bill’s big words and the vexatious difficulties in episode transcriptions that
they raised (the transcriptions in the Firing Line archive are rife with strikeouts and misspellings).
For the twentieth anniversary episode of the show, titled “Bill Buckley and
Firing Line Get Roasted,” staff members generated an in-house list of “Bill
Buckley’s favorite words” which appeared on helium balloons at the party
on January 14, 1986. Of the many sesquipedalian gems on the list, nearly half,
such as synecdoche (a figure
of speech that uses a part to
Buckley would not have taken kindly
indicate a whole) or antonomasia (use of a proper name to the 140-character limitation of
to express general ideas),
Twitter.
read as if gleaned from the
glossary of a linguistics manual—not surprising, perhaps, for a man who
would pen several books on language and usage, such as Buckley: The Right
Word (1996) and The Lexicon (1998).
Taped to a clipping of an article titled “Epigones Roast Buckley with Hot
Air Balloons” is a commemorative balloon sporting the word epigone. The
article reports that at the twentieth anniversary party journalist Jeff Greenfield sportingly commented that the audience of Buckley’s “roast” should
“listen to his choice of words, which we honor tonight with these balloons—
which are, appropriately enough, filled with hot air.”

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167

WORDSMITH: The Hoover Institution holds an extensive collection of tapes,
correspondence, and other materials relating to William F. Buckley’s longrunning talk show. With 1,505 installments over thirty-three years, Firing Line
remains the longest-running public affairs show with a single host. [Hoover
Institution Archives—Firing Line Broadcast Records]

BEST MINDS: In a May 1968 broadcast, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg tries to
explain the counterculture to Buckley: “What is called the hippie movement
involves an alteration of consciousness toward some greater awareness and
greater individuality—which you might even sympathize with. Hopefully, the
future will see, like, a spread of that gentleness and consideration coming
through politically, and artistically, and maybe even on television.” Buckley
remarks, with a smile, “Not quite yet.” [Hoover Institution Archives—Firing Line Broadcast Records, episode 99, “The Avant Garde”]

HIPPIES AND “NEW JOURNALISTS”
The glib good humor of the artifacts from the twentieth anniversary party
have provided the curators of Hoover’s Firing Line exhibition with myriad
ideas for creative promotions of the archive—from Buckley big-word bingo
cards to the Buckley word-of-the-week—as well as speculation on just how
acutely Buckley would have despised the 140-character limitation of Twitter
had he lived to suffer its ubiquity.
The Archives’ rich documentation of Buckley’s reputation as an authority
on lexicon, grammar, and usage, however, also raises more pressing questions
concerning Buckley’s overall legacy as a man of letters. What was Buckley’s
relationship with other twentieth-century masters of the language, many of

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169

ON THE STAGE: Jack Kerouac, iconoclastic author of On the Road, was
another Firing Line guest who attempted to explain what young people were
up to in 1968. Kerouac, clearly inebriated, told Buckley, “I’m forty-six years
old, these kids are eighteen, but it’s the same movement, which is apparently
some kind of Dionysian movement, in late civilization, which I did not intend,
any more than, I suppose, Dionysus did, or whatever his name was. Although
I’m not Dionysus to your Euripides, I should have been.” [Hoover Institution
Archives—Firing Line Broadcast Records, episode 113, “The Hippies”]

whom appeared on Firing Line? Buckley sustained close and often contentious relationships with many of the most talented and politically active writers of his time. How did his friendships—or altercations—with writers shape
his outlook on the power of language and literature? Especially when considering that the last three decades of Buckley’s life were dominated by literary
pursuits—a fact often overlooked in the context of Buckley’s long television
and journalism career and vast political influence—the question of Buckley’s
relationship to novels, novelists, and popular culture seems not a footnote to
his legacy but a way of understanding its nuances.
Throughout his career on television, Buckley sparred with the most important—and often most liberal—political figures of his day, but his frequent
inclusion of writers and artists on the roster of guests on Firing Line speaks to
the fact that Buckley did not limit his interest to specific matters of policy but
maintained a curiosity as to the direction of American culture as a whole. On
two separate episodes, for example, he discussed the pervasive hippie counterculture with Beat writers Allen Ginsberg (who accused Firing Line of censoring his beloved “dirty words”) and a somewhat intoxicated Jack Kerouac.

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TIMES A-CHANGIN’: Buckley’s guest list showed a broad curiosity about the
direction of American culture, not just its political events. In the same episode
where he let Jack Kerouac (left) hold forth, Buckley drew opinions from sociologist Lewis Yablonsky, who took LSD to research his book The Hippie Trip
(1968), and Ed Sanders, co-founder of the band The Fugs (the band’s name
came from the bowdlerized epithet used enthusiastically in Norman Mailer’s
The Naked and the Dead). [Hoover Institution Archives—Firing Line Broadcast Records,
episode 113, “The Hippies”]

Just months after discussing the hippie culture of drugs, free love, and
bad language that Buckley found to be “radical, sort of proto-socialist, sort
of not quite right” with Ginsberg, he ventured into his most legendary—
and certainly most vituperative—public debate with a novelist. His on-air
contretemps with ultra-liberal Gore Vidal at the August 1968 presidential
conventions, which last year became the subject of the fascinating documentary Best of Enemies, turned political debate into near blood sport—devolving to the point where Vidal’s castigating Buckley as a “crypto-Nazi” caused
Buckley to retort by calling Vidal a “queer” and offering fisticuffs. Ostensibly
programmed by ABC as a discussion of presidential hopefuls by a leading
liberal and leading conservative, the heated debate transformed into a deeply
personal battle about the values of America—and must-watch TV.
While Buckley would have many amicable exchanges with novelists—
spending a genteel hour discussing “The Southern Imagination” with

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CRIMINAL MINDS: Truman Capote, author of the saga of murder and punishment In Cold Blood, feinted with Buckley about capital punishment and who
is qualified to pronounce a sentence of death. Buckley objected to Capote’s
reliance on his artistic judgment as a way of deciding who should live and who
should die. [Hoover Institution Archives—Firing Line Broadcast Records, episode 112, “Capital
Punishment”]

Eudora Welty and Walker Percy, for example, or discussing the nature
of time and memory with Jorge Luis Borges—he seemed most engaged
(though often agitated) when debating the writers who represented the
New Journalism movement of the 1960s and 1970s: namely, Truman Capote,
Norman Mailer, and Tom Wolfe. As a journalist himself, Buckley was curious—and often skeptical—of the New Journalists’ appropriation of literary
techniques for nonfiction, combining subjective perspectives with intensive
reportage. Across the years, however, one can see Buckley’s initial distrust

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of the strategies of New Journalism soften, perhaps as he began to evaluate
the composition of his own literary works, which he would begin publishing
in 1976.
Buckley was quick to recognize New Journalism as an influential force
in literature, media, and politics despite his reservation toward the New
Journalists’ emphasis on
“truth” rather than “fact.”
His on-air contretemps with ultraAfter Truman Capote’s
chilling nonfiction work In
liberal Gore Vidal at the August 1968
Cold Blood (1965), generally
presidential conventions turned
considered the pioneering
political debate into near blood sport.
work of the New Journalism movement, shocked the nation by exposing the story of unrepentant
murderers in Kansas, Buckley invited Capote to Firing Line to discuss the
novel and Capote’s opinions on capital punishment.
Buckley, knowing that Capote had been vocal in the debate about the death
penalty (Capote was at that time melding interviews he conducted with convicted murderers into the documentary film Death Row, U.S.A.), launched the
episode by questioning Capote as to whether he believed the death penalty
to be a viable deterrent to homicide. Capote waffled on the question, arguing that the death penalty as it exists in America—“a masquerade in which
people are selected very arbitrarily and occasionally executed”—does not
deter murder. When Capote opined that the hope of being released from
prison often impels inmates
toward rehabilitation, Buckley immediately questioned
Buckley once said he was “offended
who should be empowered
by people who suggest—and some
to deem an inmate a curable have—that I spend my evenings with
penitent or a compulsive,
dictionaries.”
homicidal maniac. The
underlying suggestion is that Capote, in In Cold Blood, combining research
with, as he put it “empathy and my own intuition and insight,” judged and
condemned Perry Smith, convicted of the slaughter of the Clutter family, as a
hopeless, homicidal maniac. Capote defended himself by saying that “the best
psychiatrist in the world would, by definition, have to be also an artist, you
know, to reach that level of intensity of insight into a person.”
What Buckley objects to most in this episode is not necessarily Capote’s
stance on capital punishment—which is obfuscated and difficult to parse—
but Capote’s reliance on exceptionalism (as an artist who has interviewed

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173

LITERARY LIONS: Buckley shares the stage with Norman Mailer and Kurt
Vonnegut. Buckley began to write fiction in the late 1970s, penning a series
of Blackford Oakes espionage novels. In interviews he made clear that the
novels communicated not just his political engagement but a considered
response to the writers and literary trends of the late twentieth century. He
also took pains, as he told one critic, to avoid “historical revisionism.” [Hoover
Institution Archives—Firing Line Broadcast Records, episode S0673, “What Does PEN Have to
Offer?”]

dozens of murderers) and the moralizing methodology that it threatens to
produce.
Buckley would push this line of inquiry again with Tom Wolfe in 1970,
after Wolfe’s essay “Radical Chic,” which lampooned the Black Panthers
and the New York intelligentsia with equal vitriol, drew inflammatory
remarks from critics. Like Capote, Wolfe believed that the methods of New
Journalism brought intimate insight to the subject an author researched,
but rejected overly empathetic engagement, remarking that “many writers
today approach a subject out of compassion or out of some kind of moral or
political motivation. To me it’s really beside the point.” For Wolfe, the object
of the work was not to render value judgments on the subjects but to provide
the dialogue, details, and artifacts that allow the readers to form their own
opinions of an individual or situation.
THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG
Overall, Buckley seemed most satisfied with the journalistic approach taken
in the works of Norman Mailer—particularly in The Executioner’s Song (1979).

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Like In Cold Blood, Mailer’s novel features an unrepentant killer as its subject,
tracing the life of the murderer Gary Gilmore from childhood to firing squad.
In his opening to the Firing Line episode dedicated to Mailer’s novel Buckley,
who a decade before had referred to Mailer’s literary technique as “unalloyed
narcissism,” praised the book not just for its exhaustive research but for the
fact that “this is not a book about Mailer; and not a book, were you to pick it up
not knowing the identity of the author, that would lead you to guess his identity.
You would, however, know instantly that you were in the hands of a master.”
As with Capote, Buckley starts off the episode by asking if the work was
a conscious statement for or against the death penalty; Mailer replied that
“in writing this book I put away just about every attitude and stance that I’d
developed over the thirty years of writing.” Though he had initially intended
to make the book a condemnation of capital punishment and the prison
system, his interviews yielded such complex human stories that “he knew
more and more” but “understood less and less” as he researched, making it
impossible to editorialize on the situations he sought to capture.
Nevertheless, Mailer considered The Executioner’s Song a novel (but not
an “imaginative novel”) because “in fiction, what we want to do is create life.
We want to give the readers
the feeling that they are parBuckley feared that the drama and
ticipating in the life of the
significance of the Cold War might
characters they’re reading
be lost, that the public would see it
about. And to the degree
that they’re participating in
as “a microcosmic difference, say
it, they shouldn’t necessarsome slight difference of opinion,
ily understand everything
between Alger Hiss and Whittaker
that’s going on any more
Chambers.”
than we do in life.” For Mailer, the novel of the school of New Journalism offered real history and uncertainty—and provided no definitive moral answers to complications. Buckley
understood the change of Mailer’s literary technique—his relinquishing of
editorializing his narrative—as a sign of the writer’s maturity.
THE SPYMASTER
Buckley’s favorable appraisal of Norman Mailer’s evolving literary form dovetailed with his own initial experiments in the world of fiction writing: in 1976,
Buckley launched his Blackford Oakes series, a collection of mystery thrillers that featured a protagonist who, like Buckley, had attended Yale in the
late 1940s and subsequently served in the CIA in Mexico City. Buckley’s bold

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

175

ET TU, HIPPIE? Among the voluminous Firing Line documents and other
records housed at the Hoover Archives are letters such as these. The writer of
this note, though clearly a fan, is troubled to have to rebuke Buckley for having a hair or two out of place. The viewer will be watching the next episode in
hopes that the host will “have a good clean haircut.” [Hoover Institution Archives—
Firing Line Broadcast Records]

turn toward espionage fiction at the age of fifty is one of the most unusual yet
least researched aspects of the long career of a man of letters who received
twenty-nine honorary degrees and countless awards—including the American Book Award for Best Mystery in 1980.
Though many scholars assume the Oakes novels to be the diversion
of an aging man of letters facing retirement (on par with Buckley’s two
other loves: sailing and playing the harpsichord), Buckley’s own comments
about the inspiration and construction of the novels make clear that they

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A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL, PANAMA: Buckley debates activist Phyllis
Schlafly in September 1977 over whether to transfer control over the Panama
Canal to Panama. The debate over the alleged “giveaway” of the canal helped
galvanize conservatives in the years before Ronald Reagan was elected president. [Hoover Institution Archives—Firing Line Broadcast Records, episode 295, “The New
Panama Treaty”]

communicated not just the author’s political engagement but a considered
response to the writers and literary trends of the late twentieth century.
In an interview with Sam Vaughan in the Paris Review in 1996, Buckley
explains his approach to the espionage novel in terms that echo Mailer’s
discussion of his methodology in The Executioner’s Song: “a combination of
invention and known history,” but one which does not turn into “an editorial.”
Like Mailer, Wolfe, Capote, and Don DeLillo (whom he praises highly), Buckley tackled historical figures as subjects: Fidel Castro, Lee Harvey Oswald,
John F. Kennedy, and other significant figures of twentieth-century history
make appearances in the Oakes novels. Using extensive research, Buckley
attempted to create intrigue around known historical figures and events and
tells Vaughan he tried to avoid acts of “historical revisionism” that would
frustrate readers.
Throughout the conversation with Vaughan, Buckley makes clear that his
preoccupation with the dangers of historical revisionism is inspired by two

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177

factors: the end of the Cold War and the rise of (in his view) lackluster literature that obscured the Cold War’s impact.
For Buckley, a Cold Warrior in the style of the late Hoover fellow Robert
Conquest, the titanic struggle between democracy and communism was
unequivocally “the great political drama of the twentieth century”—a set
fact that was
anchored in the
Buckley’s spy-novel hero, Blackford Oakes,
death toll of
was educated, handsome, competent, and,
Stalin’s Great
Terror. Buckley
as one might imagine—articulate.
feared that the
magnitude and significance of the Cold War might be lost in its aftermath
and lamented that often contemporary writers made the struggle “look like a
microcosmic difference, say some slight difference of opinion, between Alger
Hiss and Whittaker Chambers.”
For Buckley, the worst offender in the arena of historical revisionism was
Graham Greene, whose celebrated spy novels The Third Man (1949), The
Quiet American (1955), and Our Man in Havana (1958) had become benchmarks of the espionage genre. Greene’s spies were at best unintelligent and
ideologically ambiguous; at worst, amoral and incompetent. Conversely,
Blackford Oakes was educated, handsome, competent, and, as one might
imagine—articulate. Buckley would end the Oakes series with a blatant
provocation aimed at Greene: in Last Call for Blackford Oakes, the character
of the notorious British double agent Kim Philby is given the pseudonym
“Martins”—the name
of the traitor-protagoBuckley praised Mailer’s The Executionnist of Greene’s most
er’s Song, saying the reader would “know celebrated spy novel,
The Third Man. Unlike
instantly that you were in the hands of a
Martins and other
master.”
protagonists like him,
Oakes approaches his enemies with a clear understanding of the clashing
ideologies of the Cold War, as well as his own loyalties.
While expressing his characteristically strong—and well-worded—opinions
during the interview with Vaughan, it becomes clear that Buckley sincerely
enjoyed the challenge of transforming his historical knowledge into imaginative suspense, even if he was aware that after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union
many American readers might not care to be reminded of communism and
the Cold War.

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A man of many words—an estimated 4.5 million in his syndicated column,
and millions more in his fifty-five published books—Buckley wrote espionage
novels that establish that he deserves to be remembered not just as a political pundit and great debater but as a wordsmith of astounding range. As one
critic put it: “A writer in his own Right.”
Special to the Hoover Digest. The Hoover Institution’s exhibit celebrating
the fiftieth anniversary of Firing Line will be open April 19–August 20 at
the Herbert Hoover Memorial Exhibit Pavilion. Admission is free.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Helena
Paderewska: Memoirs, 1910–1920, edited by Maciej
Siekierski. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.
hooverpress.org.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

179

On the Cover

S

eventy years ago, the greatest war in history was over. It had begun
during the Great Depression and ended with a prosperous, secure
world in sight. The US military was undergoing its own transformation as it prepared to keep that hard-won peace. Millions of volunteers and draftees were clamoring to come home to civilian life, but at the
same time the Regular Army needed to attract more than a million of them
back into the ranks to carry out new missions: occupying defeated lands, operating distant bases, wielding advanced weapons, and confronting the Soviet
threat. These missions demanded readiness and a higher level of training.
In 1946, the year this recruitment poster was created, General Eisenhower warned Congress that “if demobilization schedules are maintained, the
United States will run out of Army.” The Army and its several branches—
one of which, the Army Air Forces, would become an independent service
the next year and wanted to be all-volunteer—launched a campaign to tout
the myriad benefits of a military career. In contrast to public appeals during the war, in this campaign “the ‘flag-waving’ or patriotic appeal should
be only of minor emphasis,” recruiting guidelines stressed. The Army was a
job—a good one, in fact, the job of the future.
These zooming aircraft appear to be composites of two early jet fighters,
the Bell P-59 Airacomet and the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. Jet aircraft
were among the technologies developed during World War II that pointed
toward rapid change in weapons. (Both of these jets, in fact, would quickly
be obsolete.) The Air Forces recruiting materials of 1946 could be positively rhapsodic:
You will be constantly moving forward in a limitless field. For
American aviation never stands still. You may become a skilled
technician in those fields of the future . . . jet propulsion, atomic
energy, “remote control” flying, radar, and television. . . . And you
will always be “in the know” of this progress for you are to be the
air pioneers of tomorrow.
A breathless 1946 magazine ad for the Army Air Forces promoted “pushbutton flying,” adding:

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H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

Thrilling things are happening all through our
peacetime Regular Army.
The young American who
joins the Army today has
the proud privilege of sharing in the world’s foremost
program of scientific
research. . . . Army men
are pushing forward new
developments that will be
of incalculable benefit to
mankind. Here is a career
that will appeal to every
keen young man with ambitions in the field of science.
The Army wanted 1.07 million
of those men under arms by
July 1947. In October 1946 the
Chicago Tribune reported progress: President Truman had suspended all conscription because of recruiters’ success. The Army had collected 992,628 volunteers over the past year,
including 298,517 coming from civilian life. About 40,000 Americans a month
would no longer face the draft. Conscription would lie dormant only until 1948,
however, and return with a vengeance in the Korean War emergency of 1950.
Underlying the 1946 recruitment pitches was the understanding that war
could erupt at any time, perhaps in a hail of atomic warheads dropped by
long-range bombers or missiles. Thus the call for alert, motivated troops.
They were also the soldiers most likely to be enticed by the Army’s education benefits, part of the enhanced enlistment package. Education would pay
dividends to the nation and also prepare the “keen young man” for complex,
well-paying jobs—like the ones soon to blossom in Silicon Valley.
“Skill in technology is important but it alone will not save us in the atomic
age,” cautioned Harold Dodds, president of Princeton University, in a recruiting booklet. Donald Tresidder, president of Stanford University, seconded
the call for learning built on liberal values. He wrote, “In this way the nation
recognizes that through education there is hope for maintaining peace.”
—Charles Lindsey

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

181

HOOVER INSTITUTION ON WAR, REVOLUTION AND PEACE

Board of Overseers
Chair
Thomas J. Tierney

Vice Chairs
Boyd C. Smith
Thomas F. Stephenson

Members
Marc L. Abramowitz
Barbara Barrett
Robert G. Barrett
Donald R. Beall
Peter B. Bedford
Bruce Benson
Peter S. Bing
Walter E. Blessey Jr.
Joanne Whittier Blokker
William K. Blount
James J. Bochnowski
William K. Bowes Jr.
Dick Boyce
Jerome V. “Jerry” Bruni
James J. Carroll III
Robert H. Castellini
Rod Cooper
Paul Lewis “Lew” Davies III
John B. De Nault
Steven A. Denning*
Herbert M. Dwight
Jeffrey A. Farber
Henry A. Fernandez
Carly Fiorina
James E. Forrest

182

Stephen B. Gaddis
Samuel L. Ginn
Michael W. Gleba
Cynthia Fry Gunn
Paul G. Haaga Jr.
Arthur E. Hall
Everett J. Hauck
W. Kurt Hauser
John L. Hennessy*
Warner W. Henry
Sarah P. “Sally” Herrick
Heather R. Higgins
Allan Hoover III
Margaret Hoover
Preston B. Hotchkis
Philip Hudner
Gail A. Jaquish
Charles B. Johnson
Franklin P. Johnson Jr.
Mark Chapin Johnson
John Jordan
Steve Kahng
Mary Myers Kauppila
Raymond V. Knowles Jr.
Richard Kovacevich
Carl V. Larson Jr.
Allen J. Lauer
Howard H. Leach
Walter Loewenstern Jr.
E. A. “Al” Maas
Hamid Mani
Frank B. Mapel
Craig O. McCaw

H O O VER DI GEST • SPR ING 201 6

Burton J. McMurtry
Mary G. Meeker
Roger S. Mertz
Harold M. “Max” Messmer Jr.
Jeremiah Milbank III
Mitchell J. Milias
David T. Morgenthaler Sr.
Charles T. Munger Jr.
George E. Myers
Robert G. O’Donnell
Robert J. Oster
Joel C. Peterson
Stan Polovets
Jay A. Precourt
George J. Records
Christopher R. Redlich Jr.
Kathleen “Cab” Rogers
James N. Russell
Peter O. Shea
Roderick W. Shepard
Thomas M. Siebel
George W. Siguler
William E. Simon Jr.
James W. Smith, MD
William C. Steere Jr.
David L. Steffy
Stephen K. Stuart
W. Clarke Swanson Jr.
Curtis Sloane Tamkin

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S PRI N G 2016

Tad Taube
Robert A. Teitsworth
L. Sherman Telleen
David T. Traitel
Victor S. Trione
Don Tykeson
Nani S. Warren
Jack R. Wheatley
Paul H. Wick
Richard G. Wolford
Marcia R. Wythes
*Ex officio members of the Board

Distinguished Overseers
Martin Anderson
Wendy H. Borcherdt
William C. Edwards
Robert H. Malott
Shirley Cox Matteson
Bowen H. McCoy

Overseers Emeritus
Frederick L. Allen
Susanne Fitger Donnelly
Joseph W. Donner
Bill Laughlin
John R. Stahr
Robert J. Swain
Dody Waugh

183

The Hoover Institution gratefully acknowledges the support of
its benefactors in establishing the communications and information
dissemination program.
Significant gifts for the support of the Hoover Digest
are acknowledged from

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The Jordan Vineyard and Winery
Joan and David Traitel
u u u

The Hoover Institution gratefully acknowledges generous support
from the Founders of the Program on
American Institutions and Economic Performance

Tad and Dianne Taube
Taube Family Foundation
Koret Foundation
and a Cornerstone Gift from

Sarah Scaife Foundation
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Professional journalists are invited to visit the Hoover Institution to share
their perspectives and engage in a dialogue with the Hoover community.
Leadership and significant gift support to reinvigorate and sustain the
William and Barbara Edwards Media Fellows Program
are acknowledged from

William K. Bowes Jr.
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Tad and Cici Williamson

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