S UMMER 2017 NO. 3

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Sum m er 2 017 • HOOV ERD I G E ST.O R G


S ummer 2017 • HOOV ERD I G E ST.OR G

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In a year in which much attention is being
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ticians in the film “Hidden Figures,” it may
(Bechtel Director of Public Affairs)
be time to give the Wrens their due. These
pioneers of the Women’s Royal Naval Service ASSISTANT
made a notable contribution to Britain’s DIRECTORS
military efforts in both world wars. Wrens
occupied a dizzying variety of specialties,
including mechanic, radio operator, torpedo
builder, and pilot, and operated the machines
that enabled cryptographers to crack the
Germans’ secret codes. See story, page 200. Director of Washington, DC,



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Summer 2017

9 A Recipe for 3% Growth
The ingredients: boost productivity, rationalize the tax code,
and put more Americans to work (and keep them there). All
that, and add a dash of luck. By Edward Paul Lazear

14 Energy in the Executive
President Trump’s executive orders honor the founders’ view
that a president should seize the initiative. But such orders
represent only the beginning of real change. By Adam J. White

23 Trump and the “New Nationalism”
It’s not new at all. Andrew Jackson, almost two centuries
ago, also championed a populist style—and, in the end,
strengthened American democracy. By Kori N. Schake

28 A Foretaste of 2018
Hoover fellow David Brady, surveying the political landscape,
sees “knife-edge electoral instability.” By Lee Simmons

35 End of the Line for the Shame Train
White self-congratulation, disguised as penance, has informed
American liberalism for decades. Now liberalism is at last
exhausted—and that’s a very good thing. By Shelby Steele

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 3
38 Mythbusting Health Care
How health insurance should work. By Scott W. Atlas

45 Needed: A Spine Transplant for the FDA
The new chief of the Food and Drug Administration must
move fast, avoid politics, and confront overregulation. By
Henry I. Miller

51 The Drug Marketplace at Work
Competition already lowers the price of drugs—and it works
better than price fixing ever could. By Lanhee J. Chen

55 Creeping Autocracy
The greatest risk to democracy? Not the prospect of a coup
or a junta but the self-aggrandizement of “strong leaders.” By
Larry Diamond

59 Guns and Robots
We’ve paid too much attention to weapons of the future and
too little to our forces today. By Thomas Donnelly

65 Agility in the Arsenal
Technology makes for better weapons—but only until our foes
catch up. Why the Pentagon needs to move faster. By Joseph

4 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
69 Sanctuary and Sanctimony
Defying the law is defying the law—even if it’s immigration
law. By Tim Kane

73 A Tax with a Twist
A novel idea to distribute carbon dividends that’s both fair and
workable. By George P. Shultz and Ted Halstead

77 Warning: Semantic Traps Ahead
Environmental politics are littered with language that
obscures meaning and hinders good policy. By Terry L.
Anderson and Kurt R. Leube

83 Dam Politics
The drought is over, but don’t expect Sacramento to take any
meaningful action to avert the next water crisis. That well is
still bone dry. By Victor Davis Hanson

88 A More Imperfect Union
Britain’s separation from the EU: not merely a new political
and legal arrangement but a deep and permanent schism. By
Niall Ferguson

93 A Pregnant Pause
Brexit is now certain, but the terms are not. Britain still
has time to work with the EU, head off political strife, and
minimize economic pain. By Timothy Garton Ash

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 5
97 “There’s No Optimism”
Hoover fellow Michael A. McFaul, former ambassador to
Moscow, reflects on fading democratic hopes for Russia. By
Tunku Varadarajan

102 At Fukushima, Still More Heat than Light
Six years after a tsunami struck the Honshu coast, the ruins
of the nuclear power plant seethe and the Japanese still await
honest answers. By Toshio Nishi

110 Guadalcanal Revisited
The official Japanese postmortem of World War II shows how
rivalries, miscommunication, and poor leadership plagued the
imperial military machine. By Yuma Totani

120 “The Power of the Thought”
Contempt for freedom of speech reflects impoverished minds.
Colleges that reject intellectual diversity are much to blame.
By Richard A. Epstein

6 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
125 Speak Up!
Colleges and universities honor free inquiry in theory, but not
always in fact. How to keep higher education true to its values.
By Peter Berkowitz

128 March for Every Woman
Far too many feminists in the West prove reluctant to
condemn practices that harm their sisters in the developing
world. By Ayaan Hirsi Ali

132 Dare to Discipline (Again)
The previous administration held that discipline amounted
to discrimination. The new education secretary should reject
this claim—if not in the name of common sense, then in the
name of student achievement. By Chester E. Finn Jr.

137 Home Is Where the Market Is
What we should do—and stop doing—in the quest for
“affordable housing.” By Richard A. Epstein

143 “Growth Is the Problem”
Lower tax rates, broaden the base. Such simple changes are
all that we need, says Hoover fellow John H. Cochrane. By
Peter Robinson

153 Rhapsody in Blue and Red
“We don’t need less partisanship. We need better
partisanship.” Russell Muirhead shows how political parties
get things done. By Peter Robinson

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 7
164 The Future of Genocide
International law changes, but human nature doesn’t. Hoover
fellow Norman M. Naimark on the ancient and persistent
crime of genocide. By Kendra Davidson

170 Objectively Speaking, Rand Is History
The recent presidential race made it obvious: conservatives
have shrugged off Ayn Rand. By Jennifer Burns

175 When Eugenics Was Progressive
Improve society by improving human stock? A century ago,
the Progressive movement cheered that disturbing idea.
Historian Thomas Leonard, author of Illiberal Reformers,
explains. By Russell Roberts

188 Brodsky and His Muses
A new collection shows where the great émigré poet Joseph
Brodsky found friendship, love, and inspiration. By Cynthia L.

200 On the Cover

8 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


A Recipe for 3%
The ingredients: boost productivity, rationalize the
tax code, and put more Americans to work (and
keep them there). All that, and add a dash of luck.

By Edward Paul Lazear

an President Trump deliver on his economic promises? The
administration is forecasting 3.2 percent annual growth in
America’s gross domestic product over the next ten years. Most
analysts’ forecasts are far lower—in the range of 2 percent, the
rate that has prevailed since the end of the 2007–9 recession.
Generally, White House forecasts are prepared by highly capable career
professionals at the Council of Economic Advisers, the agency I led in
2006–9. How is it possible for serious forecasters to convert 2 percent growth
into the administration’s rosier picture of better than 3 percent? The answer
is threefold: productivity growth must return to its long-term average or bet-
ter; slowing labor growth caused by an aging population must be offset; and
tax cuts that favor investment must have the predicted positive effects.
First note that 3 percent growth is the long-term norm, not the exception.
The average annual growth rate in the thirty years preceding the 2007 reces-
sion was 3.1 percent. GDP growth is the sum of two components: growth in

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 Re-
form, and the Jack Steele Parker Professor of Human Resources Management and
Economics at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 9
productivity and in labor hours. Historically, productivity has grown at about
2 percent a year, and labor at about 1 percent. But in recent years productiv-
ity growth has slowed, and an aging workforce implies that hours of labor are
likely to rise more slowly in the future. That’s why the Congressional Budget
Office, the Federal Reserve, and
others are forecasting eco-
nomic growth below
2 percent.

10 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
To push that figure higher, Trump will have to tackle the productivity slow-
down. Nonfarm labor productivity rose by a total of about 7 percent between
2009 and 2016, which amounts to 1 percent a year, or half the historical aver-
age. By contrast, it rose 18 percent between 2001 and 2008, or 2.3 percent a
year. Part of this decline may be bad luck. Productivity growth jumps around,
with the average deviation between any single year’s productivity and the
thirty-year average being 1.2 percentage points. But seven years of low
growth would be bad luck of biblical proportion.
Productivity grows when technology improves and when the human
capital of the workforce increases. The Trump administration’s plans include
changes in K–12 education that may enhance human capital. But even if

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

H O O V ER D IG E S T • S u m m er 2017 11
successful, that would be a slow process, not likely to boost dramatically the
ten-year growth rate.
Technology, on the other hand, responds more quickly to investment and
improves when more resources are put into research. That gives the Trump
administration an open-
ing, since it can change
Three percent growth is the long-term investment incentives by
norm, not the exception. overhauling the tax struc-
ture. As I have argued
before, the best way to stimulate growth is to move toward a consumption
tax, starting with full expensing—allowing companies to deduct investment
expenditures from their taxes.
Expensing was part of the Trump campaign’s tax proposal. George W.
Bush’s Treasury Department estimated that this change in policy would
induce a permanent increase in GDP of 5 percent. An even larger effect of
9 percent was predicted in the American Economic Review. Spread those
estimates over ten years, and the forecast of 2 percent economic growth sud-
denly becomes 2.5 percent to 2.9 percent.
The other drag on growth is demographic change. The Social Security
Administration projects no increase in the US population age twenty to sixty-
four between 2020 and 2030. Without more labor hours, it will be difficult to
achieve overall growth above 3 percent.
But there are still policies that can encourage work. The proportion of
working-age Americans who are employed has fallen during this recession and
recovery to 59.9 percent from 63.4 percent. Most alarming is the decline of 2
percentage points among
Americans between
One way to stimulate growth is to twenty-five and fifty-four.
move toward a consumption tax and At least some of this is
let companies deduct investment driven by government
expenditures. policies that subsidize
leisure over work. One is
the Affordable Care Act. The CBO estimated that ObamaCare “will reduce the
total number of hours worked [annually], on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0
percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers
will choose to supply less labor.”
The number of Americans sixty-five and over is expected to increase
by fifteen million between 2020 and 2030. Given longer life expec-
tancies, it is important to encourage them to stay in the workforce.

12 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
Changing the structure of Social Security benefits to reward later
retirement could help.
Beyond that, the Trump administration believes that it can increase labor
demand by eliminating burdensome regulations on business. The White
House is already moving in this direction. Increasing immigration could
enhance labor hours, but that seems counter to administration policy.
A return to historical gains in productivity, coupled with policies that
completely offset slower labor growth, would bring the economy back to the
norm of 3 percent GDP growth. It’s unlikely, but possible with some luck on
the technology front and if augmented by investment-friendly tax policy.
These are big ifs. They require an active president, an active Congress, and
some good fortune. But Trump seems willing to give it his best shot.

Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2017 Dow Jones &
Co. All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Rules for
International Monetary Stability: Past, Present,
and Future, edited by Michael D. Bordo and John B.
Taylor. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 13


Energy in the
President Trump’s executive orders honor the
founders’ view that a president should seize the
initiative. But such orders represent only the
beginning of real change.

By Adam J. White

decade ago, then-senator Barack Obama campaigned against
the Bush administration’s use of executive power. But dur-
ing the eight years of his
presidency Obama wielded Key points
unilateral power energetically: through his »» An executive order has
administrative agencies and from his own many legitimate uses, includ-
ing shaping or limiting an
office—via his pen and his phone, as he
agency’s discretion.
famously put it.
»» Executive orders enhance
But the pen and the phone weren’t transparency and political
Obama’s to keep; they stay in the Oval accountability.

Office, at the Resolute Desk—where one »» Orders run the risk of
alienating bureaucracies and
now finds President Donald Trump, pen undermining judicial confi-
and phone happily in hand. dence in agencies’ work.

The president has issued a flurry of »» Executive orders may dis-
tract the president from the
executive orders. He started with EO 13765, hard work of legislation.
“Minimizing the Economic Burden of the

Adam J. White is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

14 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal,” and followed
with orders on such matters as executive-branch ethics (EO 13770), human
trafficking (EO 13773), “high priority infrastructure projects” (EO 13766), and
various regulatory-reform orders requiring agencies to review or mitigate
the burdens they place
on American people and
businesses (EO 13771 and As James Madison wrote in Federal-
13777). And, of course, ist No. 51, each branch of government,
there were execu- including the president, “should have
tive orders on “border a will of its own. . . . Ambition must be
security and immigration made to counteract ambition.”
enforcement improve-
ments” and “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United
States,” EO 13767 and 13769, which attracted a lot of attention and scrutiny.
Presidents Obama and Trump are hardly unique in their use of executive
orders, as the Congressional Research Service explains in its brief history of
the subject. “Despite the amorphous nature of the authority to issue execu-
tive orders, presidential memoranda, and proclamations, these instruments
have been employed by every president since the inception of the republic,”
the CRS writes, citing President Washington’s June 8, 1789, order to his cabi-
net departments, directing them to give him a “clear account” of their affairs.
Washington’s legal authority to issue that order is not hard to identify:
Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that the president “may
require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the execu-
tive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective
offices.” On other matters, a president’s power to issue executive orders may
lie in his constitutional powers regarding foreign affairs or management of
the executive branch, or it may lie in Congress’s statutory grants of power to
the president and executive branch.
President Trump’s early and energetic use of executive orders has been
understandable, at least to the extent that he is focused upon repealing
and replacing the executive orders of his predecessor and more broadly on
reining in the administrative machinery that flourished and expanded under
Obama’s stewardship.

In their use of executive orders, presidents reliably confirm the framers’
expectation that the executive, like the two other branches of federal govern-
ment, would tend to push the limits of its authority. As James Madison wrote

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 15
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

16 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
in Federalist No. 51, each branch of government, including the president,
“should have a will of its own.” And when Madison added that “ambition
must be made to counteract ambition,” he meant not only that the other
branches should counteract the ambitious president but also that the ambi-
tious president should counteract Congress and the courts.
And this is not entirely a bad thing, as Alexander Hamilton observed
in Federalist No. 70, on the subject of “energy in the executive.” We often
think of his argument in terms of national security or foreign affairs, but he
stressed the importance of the executive’s energy at home, too:

Energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of
good government. It is essential to the protection of the community
against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady admin-
istration of the laws . . . [and] to the security of liberty against the
enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy.

In short, energetic presidential action can and must be a useful means to
honorable ends. But presidential power also has real costs. And for both the
costs and the benefits, we must look beyond the obvious ones.
By “obvious,” I mean that we can set aside for now the president’s right-
ful power to refuse to enforce unconstitutional statutes, a nonenforcement
power that vindicates several constitutional provisions: the supremacy
clause’s guarantee that the Constitution supersedes contrary statutes;
the president’s constitutional oath to “faithfully execute the office of
president” and to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution”;
and his constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully
Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the spectrum, we can also set
aside for now a president’s misuse of executive orders to violate
otherwise lawful statutory or constitutional limits on his powers,
or to categorically refuse to enforce perfectly constitutional
statutes that the president simply dislikes on political or
policy grounds.
This would be unconstitutional and illegitimate,
a violation of the Constitution’s aforemen-
tioned provisions regarding the president’s
faithful execution of his office and the
laws, at least in the absence of national
emergency or other extenuating

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 17
But what about executive orders and presidential actions that fall between
those two extremes? That is the real challenge for us, especially at this
moment. As with so much about the new administration, the task especially
for conservatives is to think pragmatically and realistically about the benefits
and drawbacks of the modern use of executive orders. Let’s begin with the

First, a president can use executive action to repeal or reform his predeces-
sor’s own uses of executive action. If a previous president used executive
power to direct agencies, then the new president can use the same execu-
tive power to undo those directives. The pen and phone giveth; the pen and
phone taketh away.
On this point, keep in mind: a new president can use executive orders to
undo other executive orders, but he can’t use them to undo regulations that
a previous administration promulgated through the administrative agencies.
If an agency promulgated regulations through the Administrative Procedure
Act’s “notice and comment” process for rule making, then the new adminis-
tration will ultimately need to use the same notice-and-comment process to
repeal or reform those regulations.
But a president can use executive orders to start and shape this process,
and that is a second benefit of executive orders. A president can order
agencies to review old regulations, and even to kick-start a new regulatory
process to reform or repeal old regulations. And to the extent that a statute
gives an agency discretion to craft policy, the president can order the agency
to exercise that discretion in his own preferred way.
On this point, as with
the last, we must be
It all started with George Washing- very precise: a president
ton, who ordered his cabinet depart- cannot order agencies to
ments to give him a “clear account” ignore the limits or con-
siderations that Congress
of their affairs.
has written into lawful
statutes. But to the extent that Congress has left agencies with genuine
discretion, the president himself can limit and direct that discretion—and
the agencies, in turn, are free in the rule-making process to ignore comments
submitted by critics of the president’s lawful policy.
The District of Columbia Circuit recognized this a few years ago in Sherley
v. Sebelius (2012). Affirming the Obama administration’s controversial policy

18 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
on funding scientific research on embryonic stem cells, the court stressed
that Obama’s executive orders freed his agencies from their usual obligation
to respond meaningfully to substantive comments criticizing the new stem-
cell research policy. Had the agencies implementing his policy—the Depart-
ment of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health
(NIH)—come up with
this policy on their own,
the Administrative Pro- The pen and phone giveth, the pen
cedure Act would have and phone taketh away.
required the agencies
to grapple seriously with such criticism; but because the president himself
ordered this policy, and because that policy did not exceed the discretion
Congress had given to the agencies, those agencies could ignore criticism of
the president’s policy.
“NIH may not simply disregard an executive order,” the DC Circuit
explained. “To the contrary, as an agency under the direction of the execu-
tive branch, it must implement the president’s policy directives to the extent
permitted by law. . . . Bound as it is to carry out the president’s directives,
NIH thus reasonably limited the scope of its guidelines to implement the
executive order.” The court cited Federalist No. 72, where Alexander Ham-
ilton expands upon his energy-in-the-executive theme by arguing that the
cabinet departments “ought to be considered as the assistants or deputies of
the chief magistrate, and on this account, they ought to derive their offices
from his appointment, at least from his nomination, and ought to be subject
to his superintendence.”
Hamilton once again urged this in service of good government: “This view
of the subject will at once suggest to us the intimate connection between the
duration of the executive magistrate in office and the stability of the system
of administration.”
The third benefit of executive orders relates to the first two. Just as
executive orders allow a president to undo his predecessor’s orders and
to channel his agencies’ lawful discretion in his preferred ways, his use
of executive orders also promotes transparency and political account-
ability. If the president strongly believes in a new policy, and if he intends
to drive his agencies to execute that policy, then we should welcome
his doing this publicly, through executive orders, instead of behind the
scenes. By signing executive orders, the president is directly politically
accountable for his policy. He can’t blame his agency heads for what is
really his own doing.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 19
Those are some benefits of executive orders. What about the dangers? First,
there is a danger that the president and his supporters—including his sup-
porters in Congress—will confuse executive orders with actual accomplish-
ments. Signing an executive order is the beginning of a process, not the end
of one. True, the signing
of an executive order, like
By signing executive orders, the presi- the signing of legislation,
dent is directly politically account- changes the legal or prac-
able. He can’t blame his agency heads tical context in which real
for what is really his own doing. action can occur; and to
that end, the president’s
supporters should welcome his signatures. But beyond that initial table-
setting, an executive “order” is just that: the president is ordering others to
accomplish a great deal. Now begins the hard work of actual governance.
When presidential adviser Stephen Miller said, just weeks after the inau-
guration, that “we have a president who has done more in three weeks than
most presidents have done in an entire administration,” one worries that he
has lost sight of this distinction between words and deeds.
The second danger, related to the first, is that executive orders lack “buy
in” from the administrative bureaucracy. Executive orders tell agencies to do
things that the agencies otherwise might not do—indeed, that is the whole
point of executive orders, at least at our present moment. For all our com-
plaints about the administrative bureaucracy, we ultimately need the bureau-
crats to carry out the policies of Congress and the president. But executive
orders begin that process on a fundamentally adversarial basis. As Trump
and every other business executive knows, to achieve the execution of these
new policies will require
the president and the
There’s a risk of channeling too much agency heads to persuade
presidential energy into executive the bureaucracy to do the
work—to neither obstruct
nor slow-walk the process.
This is a real danger: Politico, the New York Times, Greenwire, and others have
already reported on bureaucratic resistance to Trump’s agenda and even to
the cabinet appointees to whom they are supposed to answer.
The third danger of executive orders is that they risk undermining judicial
confidence in the rules, orders, and other regulatory actions that emerge
from the agencies. Modern administrative law is marked by the tension

20 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
between two characteristics of administrative agencies: their political
accountability and their technocratic expertise. Executive orders promote
political accountability, but they risk undermining the courts’ belief in the
agencies’ expertise. And thus executive orders can spur courts to microman-
age agencies’ good-faith efforts to reform the administrative state. This is
precisely what the DC Circuit tried to do in the Nixon and Reagan years,
until the Supreme Court intervened. Today we see signs of this in the Ninth
Circuit’s strident and hasty analysis of the president’s visitor and refugee
Finally, executive orders divert the president’s energy from the hard work
of legislation. Congress has an opportunity to legislate serious reforms:
repealing and replacing ObamaCare, reforming the Dodd-Frank financial
laws, and modernizing the many other statutes that empower our modern
administrative state.
The president has an
important role in the To the extent that Congress has left
legislative process, and agencies with genuine discretion, the
not just in terms of the
president can limit and direct that
roles given to him by the
Constitution. As Gerard
Alexander and Yuval
Levin warned in a Weekly Standard article titled “Apathy in the Executive,”
the dispersed factions of Congress rely upon the president to focus their own

An active and engaged White House is uniquely positioned to set
priorities and organize this process to the extent possible. (But) if
no one plays an organizing role, policy entrepreneurs and activists
could easily dissipate their energies on the continuing scramble to
get proposals on a disorganized and ever-evolving agenda.

That is the risk of channeling too much presidential energy into executive
orders. If the president and his supporters are seduced by the seemingly
friction-free ease of signing executive orders, they may become less interest-
ed in doing the hard, slow work of engaging the legislative process. That was
ultimately the story of the Obama administration; it might become the story
of the Trump administration.
In the end, if the costs of executive orders outweigh their benefits, such
concerns should be directed not to the White House but to Congress. Again,
the framers expected each branch to push the limits of its own power. The

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 21
Madisonian answer is to make ambition counteract ambition. To the extent
that a president uses executive orders too much, or for the wrong reasons, it
falls to Congress to reassert its own power, as the Constitution’s first branch.
As Justice Robert Jackson warned in 1952, when the Supreme Court struck
down President Truman’s executive order nationalizing the nation’s steel
mills, “only Congress itself can prevent power from slipping through its

Reprinted by permission of the Weekly Standard (www.weeklystandard.
com). © 2017 The Weekly Standard LLC. All rights reserved.

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

22 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


Trump and
the “New
It’s not new at all. Andrew Jackson, almost
two centuries ago, also championed a populist
style—and, in the end, strengthened American

By Kori N. Schake

resident Trump has cultivated comparisons between himself
and Andrew Jackson by hanging a portrait of Jackson in the
White House, making a pilgrimage to Jackson’s grave, and
pointedly emphasizing that he, like Jackson, “fought to defend
forgotten men and women from the arrogant elite of his day.” It is a choice
distressing to those who associate Jackson with illiberal policies of slavery,
Indian removal, and refusing to enforce Supreme Court verdicts. It also
has fueled an avalanche of journalism about “new nationalism,” which
is thought to be somehow more virulent and dangerous than previous
This is deeply unfair to President Trump and his supporters—and a key
to the bitterness many of them feel at the political establishment, which has
tended to ignore their concerns and stigmatize their beliefs.

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.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 23
Nationalism as an idea grew out of the Enlightenment. Before that, mon-
archs held power by force. Nationalism was the belief that government could
have an attractive power. It reduced the demand for the state to enforce its
hold on people living within territory claimed by the sovereign.
The United States has always had a particularly resonant nationalism,
relying as it does on association with our creed rather than ethnicity or terri-
tory as the basis for our nationalism. This is what Mexican historian Edmun-
do O’Gorman called the “invention of America.” Abraham Lincoln described
our political values as “the electric cord in that Declaration that links the
hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together.”

The idea of a “new nationalism” precedes the conflating of nationalism
with despotism in the twentieth century; the phrase comes from Theodore
Roosevelt, who in 1910 urged an expansion of government activism to better
protect human welfare. In our current fevered political climate, however, the
new nationalism is flipped on its head, defined by what it opposes: immigra-
tion, trade, globalization, political correctness.
The Economist is more restrained than most in its pejorative caricature:
“Reagan’s America was optimistic: Mr. Trump’s is angry.” Trump is said to
represent a danger-
ous force if not new
Jackson governed erratically, brutally, in American history
and in many ways unsuccessfully. But then at least new in its
he revivified American democracy. repudiation of the post–
World War II order.
What Trump actually represents is a routine disaffection by American vot-
ers with our government, a willingness to experiment with a new direction, a
pendular correction from what exasperated voters in the previous adminis-
tration, and a high degree of trust in the constraining benefits of our political
The work of sociologists Bart Bonikowski and Paul DiMaggio shows that
the American public is divided in a fairly stable fashion over time into four
groups, with the largest—about 30 percent—exhibiting what Bonikowski
calls “ethnocultural exclusion, along with a low level of pride in the state.”
Their preferred definition of American is a Christian who speaks English
and was born in the United States. Journalists have characterized this
group as low-education and low-income white males. In fact, Bonikowski and
DiMaggio’s data suggest that 68 percent of blacks, 55 percent of Hispanics,

24 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
A BIG STICK: As president, “Old Hickory” Andrew Jackson passed the torch
from an East Coast establishment living in safety and cultural superiority to
the harder life, rougher mentality, and challenges of the frontier. Jackson’s
opponents, in response, led American democracy into greater activism. [The
White House]
and more Democrats than Republicans hold those views. They are also more
likely to be women. The new nationalism, then, is not some backlash of the
white working poor, but—as President Trump has asserted—a broad move-
ment of people fed up with the direction they perceive our country taking.

Nor does the “America first” ideology of Trump’s foreign policies represent a
new nationalism. Its main thrusts—economic protectionism, the belief that
allies are taking advantage of the United States, and concern about immigra-
tion changing the character of America—have long, bipartisan pedigrees in
American politics.
If Robert Taft had beaten Dwight Eisenhower for the Republican nomina-
tion for president in 1952, that might well have been mainstream conserva-
tive policy. At the height of the Cold War, American administrations had to
devote an enormous amount of effort to beating back legislation sponsored
by Senator Mike Mansfield that would have forced withdrawal of US forces
from Europe because allies paid too little. Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of
Louisiana was criticized in its time for admitting to citizenship Catholics
who were believed, because of their religion, to lack the independent thought
necessary in a democracy. Every wave of immigrants to America has created
concern about dilution of the country’s essence.
The American political system is particularly susceptible to nationalism
in both its positive and nasty forms—which is simply to say that our politi-
cal system is tied more
tightly in accountability
Trump represents a routine disaf- to the public than are
fection by American voters with our even most other democ-
government, a willingness to experi- racies. US allies quail at
ment, and a high degree of trust in our our routine willingness
to elect inexperienced or
political institutions.
rough-hewn presidents,
our tolerance for the risks in throwing aside inherited dogma or established
policies, and our national penchant for sounding our “barbaric yawp over the
roofs of the world” (as Walt Whitman phrased it in “Song of Myself”).
That responsiveness to the public will is, however, also the great vibrancy
of American democracy. Andrew Jackson spoke for the aspirations of
frontier communities thirsty for land and security and access to capital, for
slaveholders adamant at preserving their way of life, for a population restive
under political dominance by educated elites. Jackson governed erratically,

26 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
brutally, and in many ways unsuccessfully. But he revivified American
democracy, passing the torch from an East Coast establishment living in
safety and cultural superiority to the harder life, rougher mentality, and
challenges of the frontier. In his excesses, Jackson also activated antibodies
in opposition to his policies, mobilizing the civic powers that undergird our
democracy into greater
Donald Trump is likely Nationalism originated in the Enlight-
to give American democ- enment as the belief that government
racy another such civics could have an attractive power.
for limited government, the power of the courts and civil society to rein in
the executive, reminders of obscure but important concerns of the founders
(who knew about the emoluments clause six months ago?)—stimulated by his

Subscribe to the online Hoover Institution journal Strategika (www.
hoover.org/publications/strategika) for analysis of issues of national secu-
rity in light of conflicts of the past. © 2017 The Board of Trustees of the
Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Warriors and
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H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 27


A Foretaste of
Hoover fellow David Brady, surveying the political
landscape, sees “knife-edge electoral instability.”

By Lee Simmons

he recent presidential election was deeply divisive, leaving parts
of the country jubilant and others apprehensive. But voters on
all sides might agree that Donald Trump’s victory felt like more
than the usual swing of the pendulum from one party to the
other. We spoke to political economist and Hoover senior fellow David Brady
about the future of the American political system.

Lee Simmons, Insights: Is this a new era in American politics?

David Brady: Well, the country hasn’t changed much. If you ignored the
personalities and just looked at the voting data by state and party, you’d
say the 2016 election was amazingly like the 2012 election. Barack Obama
won the popular vote by five million votes; Hillary Clinton won it by three
million, and the breakdowns are very similar. The main difference is that
Trump won more independents than Mitt Romney, and Clinton won fewer
Democrats than Obama. But because a few Midwestern swing states flipped,
largely because Trump won less-affluent white voters by a large margin, the

David Brady is a Davies Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the
Bowen H. and Janice Arthur McCoy Professor of Political Science in the Stanford
Graduate School of Business. Lee Simmons writes for Insights by Stanford

28 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
whole thing swung to the other side. In reality, the US electorate remains
very evenly split, and our system creates this knife-edge electoral instability.
If you switch 77,000 votes in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, then
Hillary Clinton wins and the headlines say the country voted against misogy-
ny and racism.
Before the November election, a lot of Republicans and independents said
they might not vote for Trump for a variety of reasons, including his treat-
ment of women.

Simmons: But in the end, they did.

Brady: When it came down to it, those ambivalent Republicans and inde-
pendents voted for Trump even though they did not think highly of him and
thought him less qualified to be president than Hillary Clinton.

Simmons: The headlines called it “the anger election.”

Brady: Right, that’s the go-to narrative in the media. The Huffington Post
called it “the anger election.” Look, that was part of the story, but anger in
American politics is not new. We’ve been polling reasonably high levels of
anger since 2004, and it’s more a partisan thing than a class thing. The folks
who are most upset are always those whose party is out of power. In 2016, 90
percent of white male Republicans reported being angry about something
in the news at least once a day, while only 28 percent of Democrats did. Over
the next four years, it will be the Democrats who are angry.
That’s not to diminish the bitterness that’s out there. Americans today
are discontented with the economic and political systems. In 2002, one-
third of them believed the country was run for the benefit of the wealthy;
in 2016, three-quarters held that view. Over 60 percent say the government
doesn’t care about people like them. That’s a high level of discontent, and
it cuts across parties. What was unique about the 2016 election was that
Trump characterized Mexican immigrants as rapists, treated Carly Fiorina
and Megyn Kelly badly, dissed the family of a fallen soldier, and was taped
discussing groping women—and still won both the nomination and the

Simmons: Then why did so many people vote for Trump?

Brady: Many did because they preferred him to Clinton and others because
they felt like he was talking to them. He ran against the political and media
elites, and in retrospect, he couldn’t have asked for a better foil than Hillary
Clinton. You had the ultimate establishment candidate up against someone

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 29
who vowed to break things. You know, if you live in Green Bay, Wisconsin,
and you lost your job because the factory automated or moved to a lower-
cost country, you are not going to be very concerned about identity politics.
So his voters thought, yeah, maybe Trump’s a loose cannon, but at least he
seems to get my plight.
I think it’s pretty clear that the election outcome is a reaction to globaliza-
tion and all the social and economic disruption it’s wrought over the past few
decades. Globalization has created
big winners and it’s lifted a billion
people around the world out of
poverty, which is great. But
there are a lot of losers,
and they’re finding their
voice, and US politi-
cians cannot

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

30 H O O V ER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
on the benefits of globalization in China or Vietnam. That’s the real story
here. Trump won where the jobs weren’t. On the left, Bernie Sanders tapped
into that same resentment over growing inequality.

Simmons: Has the United States ever faced this kind of challenge before?

Brady: Yes, actually, it’s similar to what happened after industrialization
and a boom in world trade in the latter half of the 1800s. The first globaliza-
tion era created wealth and jobs but also created losers and social change,
and the social cost came due: traditional crafts destroyed, farm jobs lost to
automation, rural communities uprooted. It’s an instructive parallel, because
what followed was a long period of instability and civil strife, with eerily
similar populist rhetoric, anti-elites, anti-wealth, protectionism, and
anti-immigrant laws. It’s worth noting that the US political system
survived and prospered.

Simmons: Now that the GOP holds the White House and
Congress, is there a mandate for a conservative

Brady: Republicans in Congress think
so, but disagree on what issues
it applies to and how

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 31
the response should be. In my opinion it’s partially true in regard to taxes,
regulation, and the Affordable Care Act. But Trump’s not a traditional
conservative, at least on economic issues. He’s against free trade, he wants to
preserve entitlements like
Social Security and Medi-
“Anger in American politics is not care, and so on. I think
new. We’ve been polling reasonably that some party leaders
high levels of anger since 2004.” were hoping that was all
campaign demagoguery,
but he seems determined to live up to it. You have to understand, Trump’s
power base isn’t particularly ideological. In pre-election polls, only 13 percent
of his supporters described themselves as “very conservative.” Fewer than a
third were in the tea party movement.
What’s happened is that less-educated, less-affluent voters have sorted
themselves into the Republican Party because of social issues—they tend to
be further to the right on culture war stuff than affluent Republicans. But
they also want to boost the minimum wage and raise taxes on the wealthy. So
with Trump as their guy, the White House is not entirely on the same page as
the party leadership.

Simmons: Then does he govern as an outsider, or does he reshape the GOP
in his image?

Brady: I don’t think Trump will, in the long run, change the party. He’s not an
alliance builder, and his own base will over time erode, because I do not think
he can solve the issues he ran on. Pretending you’re going to stop globaliza-
tion is wrongheaded, and you can’t keep jobs in the United States by bullying
CEOs. That doesn’t change the economics.
The only way to ease the pain of globalization is to grow the economy, and
if Trump’s protectionist ideas and belligerent unilateralism are followed, it
will not create growth in the real economy. The Republicans in Congress
know that if they screw
up health care and don’t
“You had the ultimate establishment deliver on taxes and
candidate up against someone who regulations, they will not
vowed to break things.” be the majority party
for very long. They don’t
want to do anything stupid and get themselves unelected. So I think what
they’re trying to figure out is how far they need to go with him to advance
their own plans, and then he’s on his own.

32 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
That said, the Republicans in Congress are going to have a hard time
keeping all the elements of their coalition together while reforming taxes,
health care, and regulation, so don’t look for solutions or laws on these issues
anytime soon. Political turmoil is not going anywhere.

Simmons: Does that create an opening for a viable third party?

Brady: Possibly. The two major parties have become far more ideological
than the electorate. It goes back to our system of primary elections; we’re the
only country that has democracy not just between parties but within parties.
Well, the people who turn out in the primaries are the super-concerned—the
hard-liners and ideologues—and that pulls both parties away from the center.
So, yes, there are a lot of people who are disaffected. Back in 1937, just 5
percent of the electorate identified as politically independent. Now it’s 42
percent. How this group breaks is what decides elections. But most of them
are not engaged, issue-
driven people who watch
CNN every night. They “The first globalization era created
just want things to work
wealth and jobs but also created los-
and want politicians to
ers and social change, and the social
stop bickering. That’s
hard to build a move- cost came due. . . . It’s worth noting
ment around. that the US political system survived
The other thing is, and prospered.”
look how easy it was for
Trump, who was a Democrat for many years, to come in through the prima-
ries and take over the Republican Party. So why go to the trouble of building
a party when you can hijack one? That may be one of the big lessons of this

Simmons: Are there lessons for the Democrats? Do they need to rethink
their platform?

Brady: No, the party is pretty well positioned. There are more registered
Democrats than Republicans, and demographic trends are widening that
gap. They just didn’t turn out in 2016, thanks to a less-than-inspiring candi-
date. What the Democrats need is new leadership.
Now, they’re going to face pressure from the Elizabeth Warren/Bernie
Sanders wing of the party to move further left, which in my view is not a
winning position. That’s a battle they need to have. But the Republicans
also have to decide whether they stand for free markets or this Trump-style

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 33
populism, and it’s harder to sort things out while you’re running the govern-
ment because you have to govern while the other folks get to campaign.

Simmons: Got any handicapping tips on the 2018 and 2020 elections at this

Brady: I’m not sure the Democrats can regain either house of Congress in the
2018 midterms. They have an inherent disadvantage in the House, because
there are just a lot more red congressional districts. Democratic voters are all
bunched up in the cities. The Senate will be hard because of the schedule—
who’s up for re-election.
Now, if Republicans screw
“Pretending you’re going to stop glo- up health care, all bets
balization is wrongheaded, and you are off.
can’t keep jobs in the United States by But I also think the
bullying CEOs. That doesn’t change Republicans are perfectly
the economics.” positioned to read too
much into their success
and overshoot the mark. Just as George W. Bush did when he won re-election
in 2004 and tried to privatize Social Security—or as Obama did when he
oversold the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. I wouldn’t be surprised to
see the scales tilt back in 2020.

Reprinted with permission from Insights by Stanford Business (www.gsb.
stanford.edu/insights). © 2017 Stanford Graduate School of Business. All
rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Learning
from Experience, by George P. Shultz. To order, call
(800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

34 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


End of the Line
for the Shame
White self-congratulation, disguised as penance,
has informed American liberalism for decades.
Now liberalism is at last exhausted—and that’s a
very good thing.

By Shelby Steele

odern liberalism has become a politics shrouded in pathos.
Unlike the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, when
protesters wore their Sunday best and carried themselves
with heroic dignity, today’s liberal marches are marked by
incoherence and lunacy—hats designed to evoke sexual organs, poems that
scream in anger yet have no point to make, and a hysterical anti-Americanism.
All this suggests lostness, the end of something rather than the beginning.
What is ending?
America, since the 1960s, has lived through what might be called an age
of white guilt. We may still be in this age, but the election of Donald Trump
suggests an exhaustion with the idea of white guilt and with the drama of
culpability, innocence, and correctness in which it mires us.

Shelby Steele is the Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow at the Hoover
Institution and a member of Hoover’s Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on
Islamism and the International Order.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 35
White guilt is not actual guilt. Surely most whites are not assailed in the
night by feelings of responsibility for America’s historical mistreatment of
minorities. Moreover, all the actual guilt in the world would never be enough
to support the hegemonic power that the mere pretense of guilt has exer-
cised in American life for the past half century.
White guilt is not angst over injustices suffered by others; it is the terror of
being stigmatized with America’s old bigotries—racism, sexism, homophobia,
and xenophobia. To be stigmatized as a fellow traveler with any of these big-
otries is to be utterly stripped of moral authority and made into a pariah. The
terror of this, of having “no name in the street” as the Bible puts it, pressures
whites to act guiltily even when they feel no actual guilt. White guilt is a mock
guilt, a pretense of real guilt, a shallow etiquette of empathy, pity, and regret.
It is also the heart and soul of contemporary liberalism. This liberalism is
the politics given to us by white guilt, and it shares white guilt’s central cor-
ruption. It is not real liberalism, in the classic sense. It is a mock liberalism.
Freedom is not its raison d’être; moral authority is.
When America became stigmatized in the ’60s as racist, sexist, and milita-
ristic, it wanted moral authority above all else. Subsequently the American
left reconstituted itself as the keeper of America’s moral legitimacy. (Conser-
vatism, focused on freedom and wealth, had little moral clout.) From that fol-
lowed today’s markers of white guilt—political correctness, identity politics,
environmental orthodoxy, the diversity cult, and so on.
This was the circumstance in which innocence of America’s bigotries and
dissociation from the American past became a currency of hard political power.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, good liberals both, pursued power by offering
their candidacies as opportunities for Americans to document their innocence of
the nation’s past. “I had to vote for Obama,” a rock-ribbed Republican said to me.
“I couldn’t tell my grandson that I didn’t vote for the first black president.”
For this man liberalism was a moral vaccine that immunized him against
stigmatization. For Obama it was raw political power in the real world, enough to
lift him—unknown and untested—into the presidency. But for Clinton, liberalism
was not enough. The white guilt that lifted Obama did not carry her into office—
even though her opponent was soundly stigmatized as an iconic racist and sexist.
Perhaps the Obama presidency was the culmination of the age of white guilt,
so that this guiltiness has entered its denouement. There are so many public
moments now in which liberalism’s old weapon of stigmatization shoots blanks—
Elizabeth Warren in the Senate reading a thirty-year-old letter by Coretta Scott
King, hoping to stop Jeff Sessions’s appointment as attorney general. There it
was with deadly predictability: a white liberal stealing moral authority from

36 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
a black hero in order to stigmatize a white male as racist. When Warren was
finally told to sit, there was real mortification behind her glaring eyes.
This liberalism evolved within a society shamed by its past. But that shame
has weakened now. Our new conservative president rolls his eyes when he is
called a racist, and we all—liberal and conservative alike—know that he isn’t
one. The jig is up. Bigotry exists, but it is far down on the list of problems that
minorities now face. I grew up black in segregated America, where it was hard
to find an open door. It’s harder now for young blacks to find a closed one.
This is the reality that made Warren’s attack on Sessions so tiresome. And
it is what caused so many Democrats at President Trump’s address to Con-
gress to look a little mortified, defiantly proud but dark with doubt. The sight
of them was a profound moment in American political history.
Today’s liberalism is an anachronism. It has no understanding, really, of what
poverty is and how it has to be overcome. It has no grip whatever on what
American exceptionalism is and what it means at home and especially abroad.
Instead it remains defined by an America of 1965—an America newly opening
itself to its sins, an America of genuine goodwill, yet lacking in self-knowledge.
This liberalism came into being not as an ideology but as an identity. It
offered Americans moral esteem against the specter of American shame.
This made for a liberalism devoted to the idea of American shamefulness.
Without an ugly America to loathe, there is no automatic esteem to receive.
Thus liberalism’s unrelenting current of anti-Americanism.
Let’s stipulate that, given our history, this liberalism is understandable.
But American liberalism never acknowledged that it was about white esteem
rather than minority accomplishment. Four thousand shootings in Chicago
last year, and the mayor announces that his will be a sanctuary city. This is
moral esteem over reality; the self-congratulation of idealism. Liberalism is
exhausted because it has become a corruption.

Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2017 Dow Jones &
Co. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is
Democracy’s Dangers and Discontents: The Tyranny
of the Majority from the Greeks to Obama, by Bruce S.
Thornton. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 37


Health Care
How health insurance should work.

By Scott W. Atlas

Scott W. Atlas is the author of Restoring Qual-
ity Health Care: A Six-Point Plan for Com- Key points
prehensive Reform at Lower Cost. His book is »» Expand affordable pri-
vate insurance.
available for download at the Hoover Institution
»» Establish and liberalize
Press website (http://www.hoover.org/research/ universal health savings
restoring-quality-health-care) or for purchase. accounts.

In this interview, Dr. Atlas responds to questions »» Instill appropriate incen-
tives with rational tax treat-
about how health insurance should function.
ment of health spending.

Q: How should we expect insurance to func- »» Modernize Medicare for
the twenty-first century.
tion throughout our lives? What does a per-
»» Overhaul Medicaid and
son’s ideal lifetime coverage of health insur- eliminate the two-tier sys-
ance look like? tem for poor Americans.
»» Strategically enhance
Scott W. Atlas: The picture of ideal health the supply of medical care
insurance looks like this: when you’re young while ensuring innovation.

and healthy, you buy a high-deductible,
low-premium, catastrophic insurance plan
and contribute as much as possible to a health savings account (HSA).

Scott W. Atlas, MD, is the David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

38 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
That’s because when you’re young, you’re more likely to be healthy and
your HSA will grow like a retirement investment account. Over time, your
expected care will change, as will the cost and composition of your health
insurance. When you’re older and have higher health care expenses, you’ll
have a good amount of money saved up to cover your costs.
Having continual insurance means you’ll never be penalized if you develop
a chronic illness or pre-existing condition, since the law has traditionally
prohibited discriminating against those with chronic illnesses if they had
previous health insurance coverage.
Having an HSA with dedicated funds for health care expenses has positive
effects on people’s behavior. When people have an asset to protect, they take
steps to live healthier lives and engage in effective wellness programs. They
also make more efficient spending choices, contributing to lower costs for
everyone else in the system.
From a risk pool perspective and the sustainability of reasonable insurance
premiums, it’s also very important for healthier people to buy insurance. If
the only people who buy insurance are already sick, then premiums become
exorbitant, insurers go out of business, and patients ultimately suffer. My
plan includes incentives for younger, healthier people to buy insurance,
including deregulation to permit cheaper plans with good value.

Q: But low-income Americans can’t afford to contribute to HSAs and pur-
chase the kind of insurance you’re talking about.

Atlas: My plan—and many other plans out there—would give money directly
to low-income Americans so they could buy private insurance and build up
their own health savings accounts. Those new assets would provide an incen-
tive to stay healthy and to use wellness programs, which have been proven
effective in studies.
My plan would convert Medicaid into a bridge program to private insur-
ance, which may sound atypical, but would actually offer better care for
low-income Americans, with the same doctors and hospitals that other
Americans utilize. There is an assumption that if you have health insur-
ance, you have access to everything you need. But current Medicaid is sub-
standard insurance compared to private coverage enjoyed by everyone else.
Half of all doctors in major metropolitan areas don’t take it, and Medicaid
patients face much longer wait times, fewer choices of doctors, and worse
It is also important to realize that a reformed system marked by greater
patient choice, widespread use of HSAs, and more competition would result

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 39
in lower prices for all care, which would help make insurance and medical
care more affordable for everyone.

Q: Doctor visits are routine and often cost a few hundred dollars. Are you
saying we should expect people to pay for them out of pocket?

Atlas: My plan, and many other plans out there, includes several routine
visits to a doctor a year without additional out-of-pocket costs—just like
current plans. While they are routine, they have positive long-term effects on
health and ultimately lower expenses by identifying health issues before they
become expensive to treat.

Q: What if you have a chronic illness or a pre-existing condition? You won’t
be able to afford care.

Atlas: No one with a chronic condition should be left without care, and we’re
not going to move to a system where that is the case.
However, the ways we have traditionally tried to cover people with
pre-existing conditions have led to perverse incentives, with negative
consequences for everyone else. That is especially true when you require
“guaranteed issue”—the provision that if you want to buy insurance at
any time, then companies must sell it to you without any consideration
of health status. While it sounds good in principle, in practice it means
that people wait to buy insurance until they get sick and need it. Insur-
ance works only if you have a lot of healthy people in the risk pool who
partly subsidize the premiums of people who get sick. Buying insurance
only when you need it leads to what is called the “death spiral,” lead-
ing to higher and higher premiums and ultimately bankrupt insurance
The current system under ObamaCare combines guaranteed issue with
an individual mandate to buy insurance, but there are currently millions of
people who would rather pay the tax penalty than pay the high premiums
they face in the current marketplace. Forcing people to buy high-priced
insurance caused by the law’s regulations isn’t a sound approach. Instead
of paying those elevated premiums, people simply wait until they get sick to
purchase insurance because of guaranteed issue.
A fairer and more rational system would eliminate regulations that cause
high premiums and provide incentives for people to maintain insurance while
still healthy. Then, if you get sick, you don’t get punished for it.

Q: Who should have health savings accounts?

40 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
Atlas: Everyone should have health savings accounts. Right now, you’re
only allowed to contribute to them if you purchase a high-deductible health
insurance plan. Moreover, Medicare patients generally are not allowed HSAs.
If we expanded them to everyone, increased their maximum amounts, and
broadened their use, then tens of millions of people would become active
value-seekers in their health care. And we know from studies that when
people use these accounts, doctors and hospitals compete for patients and
prices come down significantly.
And, as mentioned before, my plan would have the government partly fund
HSAs for those with lower incomes, giving them a far greater degree of con-
trol over their medical care than they currently have. To fully affect prices
and competition, and considering that seniors now must save for decades of
health care, I would also add HSAs to all Medicare recipients, an important
group because the elderly use more health care than any other age cohort.

Q: Do we really expect people to shop around for health care when they’re
unconscious or have a medical emergency?

Atlas: Of course not—that’s not at all practical. But the bulk of all medical care
is routine and nonemergency. Emergency care as a percent of all care is under
10 percent, according to the Annals of Emergency Medicine. People are absolutely
capable of shopping around for the care that suits their needs—and many do.
What does that mean? Here’s an example.
Imagine you hurt your knee and you think you need an MRI. You’ll have to
pay for some of it through a co-payment or co-insurance arrangement. An
MRI performed at one hospital may be equivalent to one done at another,
although radiology expertise varies considerably. You discover that the MRI
facility used by your personal doctor charges much more than another option
within driving distance. In an effort to keep you and other cost-conscious
patients using their services, your hospital decides it is worth it to lower
their MRI price.
That’s competition, proven to occur in the MRI market as well as in many
others in current medical practice, and the result is reduced price of MRIs
for all patients—including those who are unable to shop around because of a
medical emergency or any other reason. That’s how markets work when con-
sumers have choice over how they spend their money. More people shopping
around for nonemergency care will bring down the price of emergency care.

Q: Many people worry that health care is too important to be left to the free

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 41
Atlas: The fact is, if we eliminate the market for health care by centralizing
everything and removing decision making from individuals, we’re all going
to be left with far worse access and quality of health care. We don’t have to
guess at that—we see the proof in those countries with the longest experi-
ence of government-controlled systems, including the United Kingdom and
elsewhere. In those government-centralized systems, patients have far worse
access to care, including unconscionable wait times for even the sickest
patients, less access to important medications and safer medical technology,
and worse outcomes compared to Americans. This is all thoroughly docu-
mented in the medical journals, and reviewed in my book In Excellent Health.
On the other hand, when people have a reason to shop for value—when
they have savings in health savings accounts—the cost of care comes down
and the quality of care goes up. That’s how competition works. Instead of
arbitrary prices, prices reflect what people value for their money. And that’s
why free markets work best for consumers.
Evidence from existing high-deductible plans with HSAs shows prices
actually come down when patients have a reason to care about value. They
spend less without any negative impact on their health. Beyond spending
for medical care, people with HSAs are more likely to use effective wellness
programs and live healthier lives.
A common complaint about health care in America is that prices vary
widely and aren’t visible. I predict that as HSAs become more prevalent and
patients actually have a reason to care and pay directly, prices (and indica-
tors of quality) will become much more visible. After all, in today’s typical
coverage, your insurance company pays for nearly all medical care. Why
should you see a price tag, or even demand to know, when you’re not the one

Q: Part of the problem is that insurance companies are out to make money,
and any solution needs to get money out of health care.

Atlas: We already know what happens when the government controls insur-
ance and the health care system. We look at the National Health Service
(NHS) in Britain, often cited as a model for single-payer care, where by
statute everyone is “guaranteed health care.” From the objective data, we see
that the system, now over sixty-five years old, features long waiting lists for
even the most serious care, poor access to modern technology and innovative
drugs, and worse outcomes for every serious disease, including cancer and
heart disease.

42 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
Interestingly, in many countries, single-payer systems are increasingly
turning to private health care to ease their patient burdens, using tax dollars
to pay private clinics and hospitals. In addition, citizens in those systems are
buying private health insurance above and beyond the substantial taxes they
already pay in order to get the service they can’t get through their national
health insurance. Our mostly private system has better outcomes, superior
access to care, and more choices—for all Americans.
Insurance companies, like all businesses, seek to maximize profits. This
fundamental incentive has resulted in great advances that benefit everyone
in so many goods and services, including health care. Don’t forget: America
leads the world in health care innovation, including medical devices, diag-
nostic technology, and new drugs. Government control of markets or prices
is rarely an effective model, even for life’s basic needs. Food and shelter are
essential, but we don’t rely on the government to run the market for food and
The private sector is much more responsive to people’s needs than the gov-
ernment can be. That’s because when people are empowered with their own
money and the ability to make their own choices, the free market responds
with what they need and want. The superiority of free markets to govern-
ment control has been proven time and time again.

Q: But health care is too complicated to be navigated by everyday Americans.

Atlas: That couldn’t be further from the truth. If you can shop for a com-
puter or your cell phone without knowing how it functionally operates, you
can do the same with health care. Indeed, plenty of people already do shop
for health care and insurance coverage. The growth of HSAs coupled with
high-deductible plans offers plenty of evidence that when people are allowed
more control over their choices, they pick plans and behave in a way that
maximizes their satisfaction.
A common comment people make is that health is too important to leave to
insurance. While I disagree with that, the logic actually applies here: people
have an enormous incentive to figure out the best health care that works for
them. Other advocates of free markets and I trust Americans to make their
own decisions, to spend their own money on what they value. There is no bet-
ter way to determine a fair price or to determine the appropriate amount of
availability of a good or service, especially for something as important and so
personal as health care.

Q: Any closing thoughts?

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 43
Atlas: If you want high quality and lower cost, the only way to do that is to
have a system where the providers of care have to compete with one another.
The same goes for more choice and rapid access to top specialists, technolo-
gy, and procedures. Other countries that have government centralized health
care systems are demonstrably worse than the United States when it comes
to health outcomes, choice, and the features of health care that Americans
care about.
If the government centralizes the management of health care, including
price caps and barriers to entry, in an attempt to force down prices and costs
in the short run—as other countries have tried—that comes with reduced
quality and restricted access to care, including the drugs and technology
responsible for so many of the gains in health over the past half century.
Competition, incentives, and consumer empowerment are the best ways to
improve quality, increase access, and provide the type of system that Ameri-
cans demand.

Reprinted from Educating Americans in Public Policy (www.policyed.
org), an online production of the Mary Jo and Dick Kovacevich Initiative
at the Hoover Institution. © 2017 The Board of Trustees of the Leland
Stanford Junior University. 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.

44 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


Needed: A Spine
Transplant for
the FDA
The new chief of the Food and Drug
Administration must move fast, avoid politics,
and confront overregulation.

By Henry I. Miller

eadership of the Food and Drug Administration is one of the most
important posts in the government. The FDA regulates products
worth more than $1 trillion, 25 cents of every consumer dollar.
Regulated products, which include everything from syringes and
CT scanners to drugs, vaccines, and most foods, affect every American in
innumerable ways every day. Moreover, the FDA is a gatekeeper—it must
issue affirmative approvals of many classes of products before they can be
The new commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a physician and a former deputy
FDA commissioner, is an establishment choice who has close and long-stand-
ing ties to the pharmaceutical industry. His immediate predecessor, Dr. Rob-
ert Califf, assumed the position only in February 2016 and had insufficient
time to make his mark. Califf’s predecessor, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, was in

Henry I. Miller, MD, is the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and
Public Policy at the Hoover Institution.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 45
office seven years and provides ample evidence for what we don’t want in a
new incumbent.
Hamburg was intelligent and experienced in public health before her
appointment to head the FDA, but she chose to be primarily a figurehead,
traveling extensively and gushing about her agency’s commitment to sound
science and its superior performance, although often the record told a very
different story.
Hamburg hewed to the wishes of her political masters even when they
conflicted with science and federal law, and she made inexplicable errors of
judgment and failed to crack the whip when her minions dragged their feet
on approving important medicines. Examples of injurious delays include vac-
cines for meningitis B, and pirfenidone, a drug to treat a fatal disease called
idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The delays in approving these products, which
had been widely approved abroad before the FDA sanctioned them, resulted
in a palpable and preventable body count in this country.
The FDA needs renewal. It is dysfunctional, suffering from cultural, orga-
nizational, and management problems that have been exacerbated by White
House micromanagement and congressional mandates and meddling. Too
often, FDA officials have gotten away with performing like Herman Melville’s
fictional character Bartleby, who responds repeatedly to requests from his
employers by saying, “I would prefer not to.”
As a result, drug development by major US-based drug companies is
less than robust, with R&D costs way up and regulatory approvals flat, and
there are worrisome shortages of many essential drugs. Some entire FDA-
regulated sectors, such as biopharming and research and development into
genetically engineered food animals, have virtually disappeared because of
regulatory excesses or uncertainty.
Rebooting the FDA—especially changing its highly risk-averse culture—
will be one of the toughest jobs in Washington, and Dr. Gottlieb will need to
exhibit exceptional qualities:
»» Superior management skills and experience. The FDA commissioner
should be able to direct, manage, and make the tough policy decisions for a
$5 billion, fifteen-thousand-employee organization that is constantly in the
news and under pressure from various stakeholders. Because the agency’s
scope is so sweeping—encompassing drugs, vaccines, cardiac pacemakers,
X-ray machines, condoms, home pregnancy testing kits, artificial sweeteners,
fat substitutes, and tobacco, among other products—a single person cannot
be expected to master the body of science, medicine, pharmacology, toxicol-
ogy, engineering, and law involved. Therefore, the commissioner must have

46 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
the skills to organize the agency efficiently and possess sufficient technical
understanding to discern whether the FDA’s professional staff are properly
framing the issues and options.
»» Unassailable integrity and honesty. The commissioner’s public health
decision making must meld law, science, and regulatory precedents. The
incumbent needs to earn the respect of those who have a stake in the FDA’s
policies and decisions: consumers, political leaders, industries, and public
interest groups. But in the end, science—not public opinion, politics (vide
infra), pressure from special interests, or congressional grandstanding—
must dictate policy and decision making.
Several years ago I was struck by the dissonance between a statement by
Hamburg and the FDA’s performance on the matter of getting new medicines
to patients. She said that “[p]reliminary results of reviews completed during
FY 2010 indicate that FDA has the potential to meet or exceed almost all (11 of
12) FY 2010 review performance goals.” But 2010 was the worst year for drug
approvals in a quarter century. This kind of disconnect is typical of not only
FDA but other federal agencies: they create easily met performance mile-
stones that may have little relationship to the agency’s actual mission. Invok-
ing the old medical cliché, the operation was a success but the patient died.
»» Distance from politics. Politics should be banished from the agency
head’s role insofar as that is possible, with the commissioner taking the heat
for unpopular decisions and speaking truth to power. Many commission-
ers, including notably Hamburg and David Kessler, who headed the agency
during the 1990s, have deferred to their political bosses not only on matters
of policy (which is often appropriate) but also on decisions about individual
Some of Hamburg’s political capitulations were inexcusable. They include
allowing the secretary of health and human services to overrule the FDA’s
decision to let the Plan B morning-after pill be sold over the counter to young
teenagers, and permitting the White House to hijack what should have been
a routine, scientifically uncontroversial approval of a faster-growing, geneti-
cally engineered farmed salmon. The FDA has also unnecessarily and inexpli-
cably delayed small-scale field trials of mosquitoes genetically engineered to
control disease-causing mosquitoes. (The mosquitoes have been extensively
tested in other countries and are approved for commercial use in Brazil, so
the delay in the United States is presumably political, reflecting the disdain
in the White House for genetic engineering.)
Yet another inexcusable FDA failure on Hamburg’s watch was the agency’s
unwillingness to confirm as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) the proteins

48 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
lysozyme and lactoferrin, obtained from genetically engineered rice. Clinical
research had shown that when the proteins, which occur naturally in human
tears and breast milk, are added to oral rehydration solution to treat children
with diarrhea, they both lessen the duration of symptoms and reduce the
rate of recurrence.
The availability of such a fortified oral rehydration solution for people in
the developing world would be a near-miraculous advance. By having with-
held GRAS affirmation for lysozyme and lactoferrin—again, presumably for
political reasons—Hamburg was responsible for untold numbers of prevent-
able deaths in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. She deserves no “profiles in
courage” awards.
Will Dr. Gottlieb show more spine and integrity? Will he correct these
egregious mistakes? Time will tell.
»» Commitment to regulatory reform. At a time when drug development
should have been spurred by huge increases in R&D expenditures—which
doubled to more than $51 billion between 2000 and 2013—and by the avail-
ability of numerous new, powerful technologies, drug approvals have been
essentially flat for the past fifteen years. Bringing a new drug to market
now requires on average ten to fifteen years, and costs have skyrocketed to
more than $2.5 billion—largely because FDA requirements have increased
the length and number of clinical trials per marketing application and the
number of procedures per patient. Another ominous statistic is that drug
manufacturers recoup their R&D costs for only one in five approved drugs.
Under Hamburg, the FDA extended its authority beyond statutory limits.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires, for example, that for a
drug to be marketed it must be shown to be safe and effective. But the agency
has invented new, arbitrarily applied criteria, including a demonstration of
superiority compared to other medicines. Proving that a drug is better than
existing drugs often is much more difficult and vastly more expensive than
just proving that it is safe and effective because if two medicines’ efficacy dif-
fers only marginally, the clinical trials must be very large to attain statistical
significance. Moreover, even if two drugs are both found to be effective in 40
percent of patients, they may not be effective in the same 40 percent. If this
new criterion were widely implemented, many drugs useful for some patients
would founder, reducing competition in the drug market, limiting doctors’
choices, and causing prices to rise.
The FDA needs to streamline its existing regulatory procedures and
requirements, and the agency’s senior and midlevel managers must be
made more accountable for their decisions, especially when they delay the

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 49
availability of important new drugs, vaccines, and medical devices to patients
in need of them. And as former FDA commissioner Frank Young used to
admonish his minions, rules and regulations need to be tempered with com-
mon sense.
Ironically, Gottlieb’s close ties to big pharma do not augur well for signifi-
cant reform; the drug company behemoths prefer stringent, even excessive
regulation, because it serves as a market-entry barrier to smaller companies,
such as those that comprise much of the biotechnology sector. However, I
wish him well.

Special to the Hoover Digest.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is To
America’s Health: A Proposal to Reform the Food and
Drug Administration, by Henry I. Miller. To order, call
(800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

50 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


The Drug
Marketplace at
Competition already lowers the price of drugs—
and it works better than price fixing ever could.

By Lanhee J. Chen

f all the health policy issues that have been discussed in recent
months, few have triggered as much interest as the pricing of
prescription drugs. To complicate the discussion, there are
several misconceptions surrounding the issue of how cures are
priced and, unfortunately, too little attention paid to the role that a competi-
tive marketplace plays in driving down the cost of these medicines over time.
Few Americans are familiar with the process of how prescription drugs are
priced and the role that some lesser known parts of the health care economy
play in lowering costs for consumers. For example, health plans and payers
(such as employers) generally work with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs)
to negotiate discounts from the manufacturers’ list price for drugs. Together,
they arrive at discounted pricing that is passed on to insured consumers in the
form of lower drug costs or moderated premium increases. While the work of

Lanhee J. Chen is the David and Diane Steffy Research Fellow at the Hoover Insti-
tution, a contributor to Hoover’s Conte Initiative on Immigration Reform, and direc-
tor of domestic policy studies in the public policy program at Stanford University.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 51
these entities happens behind the scenes and may not be well understood, we
know from real-world examples that the benefit of their efforts is profound.

Lower costs for beneficiaries in Medicare Part D, the program’s prescription
drug benefit, are a prominent example of this dynamic. Part D has held down the
cost of drugs to beneficiaries and maintained extraordinarily high satisfaction
rates. In fact, it may be the only program overseen by the federal government
that has come in substantially under budget from original cost projections—
current spending is roughly 45 percent lower than the initial ten-year forecast.
Market competition has played a pivotal role in producing these savings.
The average daily cost of medications used by Part D beneficiaries in the
top ten therapeutic areas is expected to decline to 47 cents per day by next
year, a two-thirds decrease since the inception of the program.
It’s important to note that competition in the prescription drug market-
place is different from, say, the marketplace for microwave ovens or televi-
sions. In those worlds, there exists competition between products that do
more or less the same thing. Consumers then make an informed choice about
what combination of price and functionality best meets their needs.
However, in pharmaceuticals, a new product may be the only product in its
class for some period. This is a feature in this marketplace, not a glitch. The
discovering company has a short period of time in which to make whatever
profits it can from the product before it faces competition or, ultimately, its
innovation becomes part of the public domain. Take the case of Sovaldi, the
Gilead Sciences medication for hepatitis C. When it was first offered, the
drug was priced at $84,000 per treatment cycle—but, within a year, thanks
to competition and negotiations conducted by PBMs and health plans, prices
plunged 50 percent. This made the drug cheaper in the United States than in
some government-run systems around the world.
Another form of competition in the pharmaceutical marketplace is
between variations of the same product. Unlike microwaves and TVs, previ-
ous versions and iterations of a product can still be quite useful. Lipitor,
Prozac, and Prilosec—some of the best-selling pharmaceutical products in
history—are now available for anyone to make and sell in generic form. Once
those drugs lose their patents, insurers and PBMs rapidly move patients
from the more expensive name-brand drug to the cheaper (but equally effec-
tive) generic. This transition is so rapid that most name-brand drugs lose
75 percent of their sales within three months after a generic drug comes to
market. This expeditious migration to generic drugs is one of the key reasons

52 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
why Part D beneficiaries are seeing the average cost of the most popular
therapies and drugs come down over time.
A final type of competition that is alive and well in the pharmaceutical
marketplace is between payers and drug makers. Drug manufacturers bring
a therapy to market and payers want to ensure that therapy is both afford-
able and directed toward those who need it.
Take the recent introduction of PCSK9 cholesterol-lowering drugs. These
are revolutionary products targeted at patients who have not responded
to other forms of therapy. Many pundits predicted that these drugs would
strain budgets in the same way that Sovaldi did when it first came on the
market. The reality has been quite different. In fact, the uptake of these
drugs has been quite slow, primarily because payers are insisting that doc-
tors demonstrate patient need for a medicine before they pay for it.

Finally, overall trends in drug expenditures are good evidence that the market-
place is working to help control costs. While the past few years have seen some
short-term spikes in drug expenditures, pharmaceutical cost growth has now
come back in line with cost growth in other parts of the health care economy.
Although there continues to be vigorous discussion of drug pricing (particularly
during the recent campaign season), the reality is that employers, PBMs, and
health plans are working to ensure a competitive marketplace and hold down
costs for consumers. At the same time, the United States continues to be a center
for pharmaceutical innovation and a foremost source of new cures that improve
human quality of life and longevity. While some are calling for additional regulato-
ry or legislative action to deal with drug costs, this only threatens innovation while
interfering with a marketplace that is already holding down costs and ensuring
broad access to the therapies and medicines that Americans need.

Reprinted by permission of Real Clear Health. © 2017 RealClearHealth.
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

54 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


The greatest risk to democracy? Not the prospect
of a coup or a junta but the self-aggrandizement of
“strong leaders.”

By Larry Diamond

emocracies are unique in the
extent to which their stability Key points
depends on legitimacy—a belief »» Sustained problems,
on the part of the public that the even in a democratic
society, raise the risk
system of government in the country has what of a power play by the
Seymour Martin Lipset called “a moral title to military, an authoritarian
movement, or a strong-
rule.” Moral assessments of political authority
are always relative. People may not love their
»» When citizens put
system of government, but it is important that short-term partisan
they see it as better than any alternative they advantage above the
fundamental rules of the
can imagine. democratic game, de-
Lipset and other social scientists have mocracy is endangered.

distinguished between “performance legiti- »» Legitimacy must be
renewed with each gen-
macy” and “intrinsic legitimacy.” The former
is superficial: people support a political system

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 Co-
Director of the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 55
because it works for the moment. But legitimacy based purely on perfor-
mance can evaporate when the performance goes bad. A democracy is only
truly “consolidated” when its citizens come to believe that the constitutional
system is the most appropriate for the country, irrespective of how well
it performs in any given period of time. A reasonable minimum threshold
for democratic consolidation is that no less than 70 percent of the public
expresses commitment to democracy as the best form of government, and
no more than 15 percent of the public expresses support for an authoritar-
ian regime option. This is a tough standard met by only a few democracies
outside the West.
Lipset argued that once democracies had functioned well over an extended
period, they would build up a reservoir of intrinsic legitimacy that they could
draw on in difficult times.
But what happens if “difficult times”—say, a protracted increase in eco-
nomic inequality, or decades of stagnant incomes, or a sense of unaddressed
threat to group identity—last a very long time? A systemic alternative is
bound to present itself: the military, an authoritarian movement, or an
authoritarian individual who claims, “I alone can fix it.”
Recent analysis by Roberto Foa and Yascha Mounk, published in the
Journal of Democracy, shows support for democracy in the United States and
Europe has declined over the past twenty years in almost every age group.
The percentage of Americans who answer that having “a strong leader who
does not have to bother with parliament and elections” increased in this
period from about 20 percent to 34 percent.
The real danger that the established democracies face is not an army take-
over, or a blatant suspension of the constitution by a would-be civilian dicta-
tor. The peril is rather the creeping path to autocracy in which a “strong”
elected leader would seek to sideline or undermine established institutions
and constraints—Congress, the courts, the media, and the political opposi-
tion. Then such a leader would not “bother” with constitutional constraints
and could simply “get things done.”
This playbook has been utilized in the past two decades by a number of
“strong leaders” who came to power in competitive elections and proceeded
to dismantle checks on their executive power—and eventually the ability of
opposition parties to challenge them on anything like a level playing field.
The early practitioners of this incremental assault on democratic constraints
were Vladimir Putin in Russia and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. In the early
2000s, Thaksin Shinawatra pursued a similar path in Thailand, but the mili-
tary overthrew him before he could consolidate power. More recently, Recep

56 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and Viktor Orban in Hungary have gradually
strangled democratic pluralism in their countries.
It is important to note that all the instances of creeping autocracy have
been accomplished in political systems that lacked the long duration, deep
historical roots, and strong countervailing institutions that characterize
the democracies of North America, Western Europe, Australia, New Zea-
land, and Japan. It would be a much greater shock if any of these democra-
cies were to succumb to the wave of (largely right-wing, nativist) populist
authoritarianism sweeping through Central and Eastern Europe and several
developing countries, and most recently the Philippines since the election of
Rodrigo Duterte last year. In long-established democracies, the institutional
underpinnings of democracy are much stronger.
But institutions in the end are rules and patterns of behavior that are
perpetuated by people and must be defended by people. If people abandon
the unconditional commitment to democracy as the best form of government,
if they come to put short-term programmatic or partisan advantage above
the most fundamental rules of the democratic game, then democracy will be
endangered. Political polarization facilitates this slide toward the autocratic
abyss, because it makes of politics a zero-sum game in which anything can
be justified in the pursuit of victory. This dynamic of polarization eroding the
rules of the democratic game and paving the way for a strongman has been a
common scenario for the failure of democracy.
If there is a lesson that stretches across history, it is that nothing should be
taken for granted. The laziest and most fatal form of intellectual arrogance is
to assume that what has been will continue to be. Legitimacy is nothing more
than a set of individual beliefs and values. If we do not work to renew those
beliefs and values with each generation, then even long-established democra-
cies could be at risk.

Reprinted by permission of the San Francisco Chronicle. © 2017 Hearst
Communications Inc. All rights reserved.

Available 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.

58 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


Guns and Robots
We’ve paid too much attention to weapons of the
future and too little to our forces today.

By Thomas Donnelly

t is an article of faith among defense elites that “we live in a relent-
lessly changing and fiercely competitive world.” Those are the words
of former defense secretary Ash Carter, once a physicist and someone
deeply imbued with the idea that technological change and competi-
tion are the elements propelling change, and that those who fail to innovate
are doomed to defeat: “Today’s era of military competition is characterized
by the additional variables of speed and agility, such that leading the race
now frequently depends on who can out-innovate faster than everyone else,
and even change the game.”
Such attitudes took root in the late Cold War, back when the Pentagon
had a director for defense research and engineering—a powerful post
separate from the actual weapons-buying bureaucracy—and invested
substantial sums in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
These jobs were dominated by engineers, practical people whose goal was
not science per se but finding ways to put new technologies into the hands
of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. But the combination of the Cold
War’s end and the endless small wars of the post-9/11 years has inverted
this traditional approach; the leaders of the Defense Department have been
driven by the immediate need to respond to today’s enemies—all of them

Thomas Donnelly is a member of the Hoover Institution’s Working Group on
the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict. He is the co-director of the
Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 59
unpredicted—alongside an extreme form of futurism, whose dreams must
inevitably go unfulfilled.
The failure to build and field in important numbers the weapons designs of
the 1990s has all but deprived US forces of the conventional-force superior-
ity that is a premise of their strategy. The failures to innovate incrementally
have added up, even though the Russians and Chinese—and, increasingly,
their Iranian partners in what Walter Russell Mead has dubbed the “Axis of
Weevils,” gnawing away at the post–Cold War order—have done little more
than attain the level of lethality and sophistication reached by US forces
during Desert Storm. And since the Weevils are, for the moment, entirely
engaged in moving into the vacuum created by American withdrawals rather
than testing their strength directly, it is hard to know what level of tactical
competence they have really derived from their belated modernization. But
the balance of military power has undoubtedly shifted. National Security
Adviser H. R. McMaster put the matter succinctly: “When we minimize our
Army, we maximize the risk to our soldiers, the risk that in a crisis they will
be forced to enter a fight too few in number and without the training and
equipment they need to win.”
In such circumstances, broad programs of military “transformation”—
whether the dream of a “third offset” or the equivalent of the creation of
stealth aircraft—are not the point. Photon torpedoes, warp drives, and cloak-
ing devices remain in the realm of the starship Enterprise. Better the urgency
of President John F. Kennedy, who vowed to put an American on the moon
“in this decade,” than the spirit of Captain James T. Kirk.

In fact, there exist fairly mature military technologies that meet the test of
restoring the tactical advantages US troops once enjoyed.
Perhaps the most tantalizing near-term technologies relate substituting
intense amounts of electrical energy for the explosive power of gunpow-
der. These efforts could have multiple applications. Fielding energy-based
weapons depends upon the ability to generate and store immense amounts of
power and then release it either as a destructive force on its own or to propel
a projectile at extremely high speeds. Stored electricity might prove to be the
gunpowder of the future.
The Defense Department and the military services have experimented
with these technologies for more than a decade. The Army and Navy have
tested a number of designs for railguns, electromagnetic launchers with
parallels set of conductors—the rails—that accelerate a sliding armature by

60 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
HOT AND HEAVY: A high-speed photo shows a successful 2008 test of an
electromagnetic railgun at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Vir-
ginia. Railguns are essentially a twenty-first-century slingshot, hurling a very
dense but inert projectile about twice as fast as a traditional cannon. [US Navy]

passing a very strong current down one rail, along the armature to the other
rail. In essence, it’s a twenty-first-century slingshot that hurls a very dense
but inert projectile about twice as fast as a traditional cannon; the kinetic
energy of these projectiles is enormous.
The science of railguns appears to have reached some level of maturity.
The main technological challenges are generating and storing enough elec-
trical power—that is, a big engine and a good set of batteries—to allow for
repeated pulses of direct current that would yield militarily relevant rates
of fire of something like six rounds per minute. Other challenges are to build
durable and practical rails, since the launch process generates extreme heat
that stresses the rail materials. Further, designing guidance mechanisms
that can withstand the heat generated by the speed of the projectile may be
difficult. But again, the railgun literature strongly indicates that these are
challenges for engineering, not basic science.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 61
On the plus side, the design of munitions ought to be simplified, as should
storage, handling, and logistics, since there is no “warhead” atop a railgun
round and explosives are not required. Moreover, the range of railguns would
far exceed that of any cannon.
The Navy is interested in railgun technology as a potential solution to
the rising challenges of surface fleet air defense and, especially, cruise and
ballistic missile defense. Ironically, the otherwise-disastrous Zumwalt-class
destroyer—which is
now a $4 billion-per-
Today’s war-fighting needs come first. copy pocket battle-
Extreme futurism only gets in the way. ship—would make
a practical platform
for a railgun-based system. The ship is huge for a destroyer; at almost fifteen
thousand tons it’s almost twice the size of the current Arleigh Burke–class
ships. It has an electric power plant that can not only drive the ship at thirty
knots but also generate huge amounts of additional electricity. The Navy
originally planned to buy thirty-two Zumwalt-class vessels, but the program
has long since run aground—because of its technological and cost problems
but also, most important, because the ship was misconceived—and halted
at just three. To redesign and revive the project would involve great further
expense and be an engineering risk, but it could also result in fielding a
game-changing technology that would go far toward solving the “anti-access”
problem posed by the growing arsenals of Chinese, Russian, and Iranian anti-
ship missiles within the next decade rather than several decades. There is no
reason to believe that designing a new class of ships would be any less expen-
sive; indeed, it is irrational to think that starting over would save money.
On a smaller scale, electromagnetic guns might become the main arma-
ments on tanks and howitzers. While all the same challenges would recur
and be compounded by the need to reduce both the source of the electricity
and the storage device to the size of a ground combat vehicle, the funda-
mental engineering challenges are the same as for ships. And the Army
already is experimenting with modifying existing howitzers to shoot the
same projectile as an electromagnetic weapon. “It turns out that powder
guns firing the same hypervelocity projectiles gets you almost as much as
you would get out of the electromagnetic railgun, but it’s something we can
do much faster,” says Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, who was
held over from the Obama administration to ensure continuity in defense
planning. “We are [saying to the next administration]: ‘Look, we believe
this is the place where you want to put your money, but we’re going to

62 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
have enough money in there for both the electromagnetic railgun and the
powder gun.’ ”

A related development, also dependent on the ability to generate and store
immense amounts of power, that is on the cusp of science fiction and real-
ity is the prospect of using directed energy itself as a weapon. Indeed, some
low-level forms of directed energy have been employed by the military for
some time: microwave systems that heat the water in skin cells, causing
irritation, have been used as a crowd-control measure; microwaves also have
been fielded to fry enemy electronic systems. Even the radar units on combat
aircraft may have limited applications in disrupting the sensors of attacking
In 2002 the Air Force began flying its “Airborne Laser”—essentially a
giant, high-energy chemical laser stuffed inside a modified Boeing 747—to
test missile defenses. In January 2010 the system passed an intercept test
and a month later destroyed two targets in a single engagement. But shortly
thereafter, amid one of the many rounds of defense budget reductions during
the Obama administration, the effort was scrapped. In many ways, the sys-
tem as designed was flawed—the laser itself needed to be more powerful and
would have required a
large, vulnerable aircraft
Stored electricity might be the gun-
to fly within range of
powder of the future.
enemy air defenses—but
the underlying concept was sound and indicated that such systems were
technologically feasible, if tactically immature. Also, it became clear that
using electricity rather than chemicals as a power source would be a better
Electromagnetic guns, hypersonic projectiles, or even directed-energy
death rays would by themselves not necessarily constitute a revolution in
warfare. But these technologies could yield a substantial increase in the
capabilities of a wide variety of legacy platforms—and, importantly, again
provide US forces with a significant battlefield edge. Most of all, such invest-
ments could get the US military back in the habit of continuous moderniza-
tion and the operational innovation that comes from fielding new capabilities.
The enthusiasts for “transformation” of the past generation have been
looking through the wrong end of the telescope: their model of innovation
was that, starved of funds, the US armed services would have to think of new
ways to fight. But, through history, the process of change in war has been

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 63
one that more frequently rewards practical tinkering—matching organiza-
tions and doctrine to technologies—over bold conceptualization. Imagining
the tank or the fighter aircraft was the basis for a revolution, but to realize
it demanded the integra-
tion of those weapons into
Fielding new weapons could get the combined-arms formation
American military back into the habit and figuring out how to
keep units supplied with
of continuous modernization.
fossil fuel.
Finally, the experience of recent decades ought to debunk the transfor-
mationists’ idea that the United States could afford a geopolitical “strategic
pause” to pursue a strategy of innovation. Nor can a global power afford an
“offset” approach. Evolution is the real solution.

Subscribe to the online Hoover Institution journal Strategika (www.
hoover.org/publications/strategika), where this essay first appeared.
© 2017 The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University.
All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is America
and the Future of War: The Past as Prologue, by
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64 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


Agility in the
Technology makes for better weapons—but only
until our foes catch up. Why the Pentagon needs to
move faster.

By Joseph Felter

range of breakthrough technologies are emerging today that
could radically change how we fight and deter threats across
all conflict domains—air, land, sea, space, and cyber. Artificial
intelligence, directed energy, robotics, and machine learning
are just a few examples. Significantly, unlike in previous decades, defense-
relevant technologies are increasingly being developed commercially rather
than in classified government R&D programs. States and nonstate actors
alike can buy, copy, or steal advanced technologies and exploit their military
applications in unprecedented ways. This proliferation of technology is dif-
fusing military power, and the United States must recalculate the strengths
and capabilities of our enemies and competitors around the world.
How should the United States respond to this leveling of the playing field and
the resultant waning of our comparative advantages? In the past, the United
States has responded to such situations with so-called “offset” strategies that
leveraged its technological edge. We innovated to offset the disadvantages we

Joseph Felter (US Army, retired) is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution,
a member of Hoover’s Working Group on the Role of Military History in Contem-
porary Conflict, and a senior research scholar at the Center for International Secu-
rity and Cooperation at Stanford University.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 65
faced. For example, when NATO in the early 1950s found itself outmatched
in conventional strength compared to Warsaw Pact nations, President Eisen-
hower responded with the “New Look” strategy that bolstered US nuclear
deterrence capabilities. By fielding an increasingly capable arsenal of nuclear
weapons both at home and in forward deployed locations, the United States
effectively offset the advantages of superior Soviet conventional forces and
arguably helped deter Soviet aggression and adventurism in Europe.
A second offset was triggered after the Soviet Union attained near-parity
in nuclear weapons with the United States in the 1970s. Moscow’s advances,
and its strength in conventional forces, led to concerns in Washington that our
capability to deter Soviet aggression was faltering. So Secretary of Defense
Harold Brown and Defense Undersecretary Bill Perry initiated investments
in stealth technology, long-range precision-guided munitions, and advances
in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems. The fruits of
these investments were made clear in the 1991 Desert Storm campaign and the
2003 invasion of Iraq, up through the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Russia’s and China’s significant investments in military modernization in
recent years, such as their increasing capabilities in anti-access and area-
denial systems, prompted then–secretary of defense Chuck Hagel to call for
a “third offset” strategy in 2014. Hagel argued that the military must exploit
advances in areas like robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, big
data, and advanced manufacturing.
The technologies developed and deployed as part of previous offset strate-
gies helped the United States achieve the intended purpose of deterring war
with a major power. The
advances being pursued as
Military prowess will depend on how part of the third and latest
fast innovation can be put to use. offset strategy promise
to help the United States
respond to emerging threats posed by China, Russia, and other “pacing com-
petitors” that may arise in the coming decades. But technological advances
alone do not constitute a strategy, and the advantages we can expect them to
provide will be short-lived when compared to previous offsets. Technology is
critical to sustaining an advantage in military strength, but it is better viewed
as a constantly evolving means to achieve strategic ends, not an end in itself.
The democratization of access to cutting-edge technology is challeng-
ing the efficacy of traditional determinants of military power. Classic real-
ist theories of international relations posit that a state’s capacity to raise
and employ a powerful military is well predicted by wealth and resources.

66 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
WATCH OUT BELOW: Boeing’s experimental X-45A autonomous aircraft
drops a guided munition in a 2004 demonstration. Private companies are rap-
idly developing and fielding advanced technology with military applications,
posing a challenge even to militaries as well-funded as that of the United
States. [Jim Ross—NASA]

In an anarchic international system where states must ultimately rely on
themselves to survive and maintain their position, they will theoretically be
driven to field the best military forces possible, given their resources. Realist
ways of predicting a state’s military capabilities were largely accurate in the
past: strong states like the United States could develop and field the very
best technology while weaker states—not to mention nonstate actors—were
denied access to the most advanced military technologies.
But conditions have changed dramatically since the Cold War. Those
earlier struggles for technological dominance played out in secretive national
labs and in other classified government-sponsored domains where the
nation’s best scientists and technicians worked. Today, by contrast, state-of-
the-art technology with military applications is being developed in the com-
mercial sector more rapidly and at lower cost by experts working for private

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 67
companies rather than the military or government. States with far fewer
resources and nonstate groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and others can purchase
or otherwise appropriate many of these technologies. Thus, the advantages
the United States maintained throughout the Cold War because of its vastly
superior wealth and resources are now being diminished.
We cannot predict the disruptive military technologies of the future. But we
should expect that these technologies will be developed faster and more itera-
tively, and will be more widely available than ever before. Given this, military
capability in this century will turn less on developing a particular game-
changing technology
that provides long-term
State and nonstate actors alike can buy, comparative advan-
copy, or steal advanced technologies. tages—as stealth and
precision munitions did
in the past—and more on the speed with which states and nonstate groups
can adapt and change to leverage emerging technological breakthroughs.
The US military will find it challenging to innovate and change at this
speed. Our current defense acquisition processes, for example, work well
when we can anticipate the desired outcomes years in advance. Examples
would include incremental improvements in submarines, aircraft carriers,
and main battle tanks. But these acquisition processes break down when the
solutions we need are not visible years ahead of time. We must adapt and
augment our acquisition processes to reflect the critical need for speed and
agility in procuring and fielding the latest advances. And last, we must find
new and creative ways to harness the potential of our brightest minds and
bring them back to the table in support of our national security.

Subscribe to the online Hoover Institution journal Strategika (www.
hoover.org/publications/strategika), where this essay first appeared.
© 2017 The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University.
All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Eyes,
Ears, and Daggers: Special Operations Forces
and the Central Intelligence Agency in America’s
Evolving Struggle against Terrorism, by Thomas H.
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68 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


Sanctuary and
Defying the law is defying the law—even if it’s
immigration law.

By Tim Kane

onald Trump’s immigration policies were widely mischaracter-
ized during last year’s election campaign. Time and again media
critics described Trump as a racist who opposes immigration.
The reality is that as a candidate, Trump embraced legal
immigration as part of America’s heritage and a pillar of the economy. He
even said that the majority of the eleven million undocumented immigrants
who are not convicted criminals would be allowed to stay, focusing his ire on
“criminal illegal aliens.”
This is hardly an extreme stance, but facts don’t matter to partisan pun-
dits. Who would object to deporting convicted criminals with no right to be
in the country in the first place?
Unfortunately, three hundred cities and other jurisdictions object. Indeed,
at least thirty-seven city leaders nationwide have reaffirmed their rebellious
policies; others, such as Boulder and Pittsburgh, are joining the movement.
Ironically, the “sanctuary cities” have been in open rebellion for many years,
not against Trump but against former president Barack Obama over the federal
authority to track down killers and other criminals. A sanctuary-city policy

Tim Kane is the JP Conte Fellow in Immigration Studies at the Hoover Institu-
tion and co-chair of Hoover’s Conte Initiative on Immigration Reform.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 69
DEFIANT: Protesters last winter demand that officials halt deportation raids
and officially establish Los Angeles as a sanctuary city. The Trump admin-
istration has threatened to take away federal funding from jurisdictions that
shield illegal immigrants from arrest or deportation. [Ronen Tivony—ZUMA Press]

calls for noncompliance with federal officials, which amounts to the release of
thousands of criminal aliens into the general public, including individuals whom
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are trying to deport.
Although Democrats blamed everyone from Kremlin hackers to deplorable
Michiganders for the surprising loss of Hillary Clinton, the individual most
responsible just might be Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the previously
deported illegal alien who shot and killed Kate Steinle on a public pier in San
Francisco during the early summer of 2015. That story vindicated Trump’s
rallying cry against criminal immigrants in a speech just days earlier. Lopez-
Sanchez had been convicted of felonies seven times and deported from the
United States five times. Yet the San Francisco sheriff released him from
custody in April 2015 rather than alert and cooperate with federal agents.

The idea of giving sanctuary has an ancient heritage. The modern incarna-
tion harks back to the Underground Railroad active before the Civil War. The

70 H O O V ER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 required officials in free Northern states to comply
with Southern slaveholders and, worse, created large financial rewards for
each fugitive returned. States from Vermont to Wisconsin responded with
sanctuary laws that forbade local judges to comply, a stance echoed by mod-
ern sanctuary cities.
Conflating slavery with criminal immigration, however, is a poor analogy.
Both involve a sojourn of labor, but there is more to the story. Nullification of
federal primacy was the justification behind the Confederate South’s seces-
sion in 1860, too. It was Southern states in 1861, like sanctuary cities now, that
believed their sovereign authority was whatever they wanted it to be.
To believe this, however, is also to believe that West Virginia has the right
to nullify mining regulations, Idaho has the right to nullify free speech, and
North Dakota can build pipelines wherever it darn well pleases. How, for
example, would you feel if the San Francisco sheriff decided that drug dealers
would henceforth be executed on the spot with no jury trial or limits on cruel
and unusual punishment? What if Cincinnati put abortion providers in jail?
Clearly there must be some balance between federalist diversity and con-
stitutional rights. Just as clearly, sanctuary for criminal illegal immigrants
upsets that balance.
Even those who favor immigration broadly—and favor the idea of huddled
masses yearning to be free in America—can oppose sanctuary policies. Hillary
Clinton was; at least she said so in August 2015. Barack Obama said he was, too.
The sanctuary policies are headed for a clash with the Trump administra-
tion, but the question is, what can he do that Obama couldn’t (or wouldn’t)?
There is precedent for Congress to restrict funds from states and cities like
those in California that don’t abide by the law. In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled
that federal funds for highways could be restricted from states that did not raise
the drinking age to twenty-one, using the logic that this issue was “germane”
to the funds. That approach has been endorsed by Trump after congressional
Republicans, notably Texas member of Congress John Culberson, highlighted
the fact that existing law provides a vehicle to restrict law enforcement grants
to jurisdictions that refuse to comply with federal immigration authorities. “If
you want federal money, follow federal law,” Culberson has said. “It’s simple.
This is Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s choice. This is Bill de Blasio’s choice.”
There are even bigger sticks—and carrots—the feds could use. Congress
is likely to mandate the use of E-Verify, a system that verifies the citizen-
ship and legal work status of all job applicants. Jurisdictions that refuse to
comply with E-Verify would put at risk not only law enforcement funds but
labor funds as well. Billions of dollars for everything from unemployment

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 71
insurance, pensions, and re-employment training programs are suddenly ger-
mane to immigration law. For example, the federal government extended the
normal twenty-six-week period of eligibility for unemployment compensation
to ninety-nine weeks during the 2009 recession. What if future extensions
were permitted only in states in compliance with ICE? Think about it: why
should the people of Ohio pay foreigners who are unemployed in Arizona?

A far less coercive, and perfectly appropriate, compromise is likely to emerge
if and when House Speaker Paul Ryan passes legislation that grants legal sta-
tus to law-abiding undocumented immigrants. One piece of legislation under
consideration would
grant visa authority to
Sanctuary cities have been in open the states. For example,
rebellion for years—not against Virginia might be allotted
Trump, but against Obama. 300,000 work visas, Texas
might get 850,000, and
Ohio might get 230,000, each proportional to the estimated migrants who
register for the program during its first phase. The condition should be that
any jurisdiction that refuses to comply with ICE agents will get zero visas.
Those portions would be doled out among the compliant states. To be clear,
undocumented immigrants in Los Angeles who register would qualify for
work visas in other states, just not in Los Angeles (if it retains its anti-ICE
regulations). Criminal migrants, of course, would not qualify.
In the end President Trump will be offering sanctuary to the immigrants
who deserve it; sanctuary cities will be holdouts for convicted criminals.

Subscribe to Eureka, the online Hoover Institution journal that probes
the policy, political, and economic issues confronting California (www.
hoover.org/publications/eureka). © 2017 The Board of Trustees of the
Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is The
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72 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


A Tax with a
A novel idea to distribute carbon dividends that’s
both fair and workable.

By George P. Shultz and Ted Halstead

ne test of the power of an idea is the debate it sparks. With that
in mind, we could not be more pleased to see a group of fellow
conservatives take aim at our much-publicized carbon-dividends
proposal in a published letter to Gary Cohn, the director of the
National Economic Council, with whom we previously met. Their concerns
are misplaced, yet we welcome the contest of ideas.
By way of background, the Climate Leadership Council released “The
Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends” on February 8, which we co-wrote
with James Baker, Martin Feldstein, Gregory Mankiw, Henry Paulson, Tom
Stephenson, and Rob Walton, a group that includes three former Republican
treasury secretaries, two former Republican secretaries of state, two former
Republican chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers, and the former
chairman of the world’s largest private employer. In the opposite camp are
Thomas Pyle, Grover Norquist, Michael Needham, Myron Ebell, and Adam
Brandon, who released their letter to Cohn on February 15.

George P. Shultz is the Thomas W. and Susan B. Ford Distinguished Fellow at
the Hoover Institution, the chair of Hoover’s Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on
Energy Policy, and a member of Hoover’s Working Group on Economic Policy. Ted
Halstead is the founder, president, and CEO of the Climate Leadership Council.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 73
The cornerstone of our opponents’ argument is that our plan would
be regressive and place “undue economic burdens on American fami-
lies,” especially those who are among our “nation’s economically disad-
vantaged.” This feels a little like we had unveiled a new sports car only
to have a reviewer publish a critique of a horse-drawn buggy. Alone, a
carbon tax (the buggy) might well be regressive, but that is hardly what
we are proposing. Our four-part program centers on a carbon tax whose
proceeds are returned equally to the American people in the form of
monthly dividends.
Under our plan, which would begin with a carbon tax rate of $40 per ton,
a family of four would receive approximately $2,000 in the first year. Accord-
ing to the Treasury Department and several independent studies, the bottom
70 percent of Americans would come
out ahead if our plan were enacted,
The beauty of border car- meaning that they would receive more
bon adjustments is that in dividends than they would pay
under most circumstances, in increased energy costs. In other
they would make American words, we could help alleviate climate
manufacturers more com- change while benefiting 223 million
Americans economically.
If our critics have reason to worry,
it is because our program might be so popular with working-class Americans
that it would lead them to support continued increases in the carbon tax to
increase their dividends, in addition to promoting the clean-energy alterna-
tives that the vast majority of voters, including Republicans, clearly favor.
The letter writers also charge that our program “would destroy American
jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector.” Once again, that might be
true of a stand-alone carbon tax, but it is not true of our plan. In misreading
our proposal, our critics ignore the clear inclusion of border carbon adjust-
ments in our report:

Border adjustments for the carbon content of both imports and
exports would protect American competitiveness and punish free
riding by other nations, encouraging them to adopt carbon pricing
of their own. Exports to countries without comparable carbon
pricing systems would receive rebates for carbon taxes paid, while
imports from such countries would face fees on the carbon con-
tent of their products. Proceeds from such fees would benefit the
American people in the form of larger carbon dividends.

74 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
These border carbon adjustments would end today’s implicit subsidy for
dirty producers overseas, which puts American firms at a disadvantage. And
they would further favor domestic production by factoring in the environ-
mental costs of transportation, thereby making it more economical to manu-
facture at home.
Indeed, the beauty of border carbon adjustments is that under most
circumstances, they would make American manufacturers more competi-
tive. Our trade with China provides a case in point: goods produced in the
United States are much less carbon intensive than those produced in China.
As such, under our plan Chinese exports would be penalized at the American
border if Beijing failed to implement comparable carbon pricing, thereby
benefiting American manufacturers and creating American jobs.
The fourth and final pillar of our program is the elimination of regulations,
including the Clean Power Plan, which would no longer be necessary upon
enactment of a rising carbon tax whose longevity is secured by the popular-
ity of dividends. The result would be less government and less pollution. This
would free the economy from excessive regulation and steer America toward
more durable economic growth. It would also send a powerful signal to the
market, encouraging technological innovation and large-scale substitution
of existing energy and transportation infrastructures, which in turn would
stimulate new investment
and job creation.
The final argument put Regardless of one’s belief in climate
forth by our critics is that science, the risks of inaction have
Republicans would be grown large enough that the only
foolish to trade a carbon prudent course is to take out an insur-
dividends plan for regula- ance policy.
tory relief, as the party is
now in a position to roll back all Obama-era climate measures without giving
anything up in exchange. Here, our critics display irresponsible, short-term
political thinking that doesn’t serve the GOP’s long-term interests. Just as it
would be unwise and unpopular for Republicans to repeal ObamaCare with-
out offering a better alternative, so it would be misguided to undo the Obama
climate policies without replacing them. Regardless of one’s belief in climate
science, the risks of inaction have grown large enough that the only prudent
course is to take out an insurance policy.
A repeal-only climate policy would be shortsighted in other important
ways, too. For one thing, it would deprive the GOP of a prime opportunity to
exercise leadership and showcase the full power of the conservative canon.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 75
For another, it would betray a lack of confidence in the ability of free markets
and limited government to solve a critical challenge of our era, which would
then leave open the door to greater government intervention should Demo-
crats retake power in the future.
Our critics are so blinded by their reflexive opposition to carbon taxes and
their straw-man arguments against our plan that they fail to see the forest
for the trees. What we are
offering the GOP is a way
This program centers on a carbon tax to advance all of President
whose proceeds are returned equally Trump’s stated objec-
to the American people as dividends. tives at once: our plan is
pro-growth, pro-jobs, and
pro-competitiveness. It would deregulate the economy and rebalance trade,
all while helping the working-class Americans who elected Trump. You would
be hard-pressed to find an alternative policy framework that ticks all of those
boxes while significantly expanding the GOP’s base.

Reprinted by permission of National Review. © 2017 National Review Inc.
All rights reserved.

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Shultz and Robert C. Armstrong. To order, call (800)
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76 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


Semantic Traps
Environmental politics are littered with language
that obscures meaning and hinders good policy.

By Terry L. Anderson and Kurt R. Leube

eorge Orwell pointed out many years ago that political rhetoric
is “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable,
and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” He further
noted that this “is true of all political parties, from Conserva-
tives to Anarchists.”
There has been perhaps no better modern example of an Orwellian seman-
tic trap than the shift in the climate debate at the political level from global
warming to climate change. Scientists distinguish clearly between the two,
referring to the former as a long-term trend in global temperatures that can
be measured and the latter as more general changes such as precipitation,
humidity, and droughts that are difficult to aggregate. This distinction, how-
ever, loses its relevance in political debates where semantics trumps science.

Terry L. Anderson is the John and Jean De Nault Senior Fellow at the Hoover
Institution and executive director of the Property and Environment Research Cen-
ter (PERC) in Bozeman, Montana. Kurt R. Leube is a former visiting fellow at
the Hoover Institution.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 77
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

Supporting Orwell’s point that semantics does not follow political lines, the
shift in rhetoric from warming to change did not result from an environmen-
tal conspiracy, as some have alleged, but came from a Republican strategist
and pollster, Frank Luntz, who, in a 2002 memo to President George W. Bush,
proposed dropping global warming in favor of climate change. Fearing the
scientific debate was “closing” against skeptics, Luntz told Bush: “Should the
public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about
global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to
make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.” Refer-
ring to global warming as climate change was Luntz’s way of having Bush
emphasize the scientific uncertainty in the climate debate. Hence, he created
a semantic trap giving “an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

78 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
Environmental politics are particularly riddled with semantic traps that
have taken on an almost religious tone. Terms such as state of nature or
balance of nature suggest that the environment is equivalent to the Garden
of Eden—if only humans would leave it alone. As far back as 1865, George
Perkins Marsh, one of America’s first environmentalists, wrote that “without
man, lower animal and spontaneous vegetable life would have been constant
in type, distribution, and proportion, and the physical geography of the earth
would have remained undisturbed for indefinite periods.”
But science writer Emma Marris, who titled her book The Rambunctious
Garden, points out that “every ecosystem, from the deepest heart of the larg-
est national park to the weeds growing behind the local big-box store, has
been touched by humans. In short, there is not a state of nature or balance
of nature.” She, along with other ecologists such as Daniel Botkin, emphasize
that nature is “not constant in form, structure, or proportion, but changes at
every scale of time and space.”
Basing environmental policy on the idea that there is a balance of nature
creates a semantic trap, with rhetoric that glosses over the reality that
nature is always changing as a result of physical conditions in the universe
and of human influences.

The list of semantic traps in environmental debates is long. Endangered
species are not just those on the verge of extinction, but include small popu-
lations in specific geographic locations, such as wolves in Isle Royale or in
Yellowstone National Park. By that definition, many species in Central Park
are extinct—though, of course, they’re not extinct from the planet. In the
same way, biodiversity has become a trump card in policy debates used to
justify resource man-
agement policies on
the grounds that the Today, being “liberal” means being
goal is to optimize or “progressive.” This implies that a taste
maximize the diversity for individual liberty is regressive.
of species. The notion
of biodiversity is so nebulous, however, that biologist R. A. Lautenschlager, in
the prestigious journal Wildlife Society Bulletin, said the term “is so all-inclu-
sive that it has become meaningless.”
Sustainability is another word that dominates environmental discus-
sions. In this context, the word emanates from biological stock-flow models
from which it is possible to define a sustained yield given parameters for

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 79
reproduction and harvest rates. Hence, there can be a sustained yield of
lumber or fish, even a maximum sustained yield.
Taking sustainable out of the biological stock-flow context, however, leaves
the term with little meaning. Consider the meaning of sustainable agriculture
or sustainable levels of carbon in the atmosphere. How much agricultural
production can be sustained varies with the amount of land, labor, capital,
fertilizer, and pesticides devoted to it. Regarding carbon, there may be a
trade-off between carbon levels and global temperatures, but there is no way
to say what the optimal trade-off is or to specify a sustainable level of carbon
in the atmosphere.
Trying to add credibility to their actions, environmental groups, govern-
ment agencies, and even corporations label everything from coffee cups to
their buildings as sustainable. For this reason the Centre for Policy Studies’
2009 guide to political and corporate newspeak called the term “a vacuous

80 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
buzzword thrown as an algae-covered bone to the green lobby to drape an
aura of public good around economic change. Hence the need to disguise and
drape the new as old, to present risk as certainty, experiment as surety, and
an unknowable future as ‘sustainable.’ ”
Semantic traps are not at all limited to environmental issues. As Orwell
suggested, they are typical in political rhetoric, where many of our habitu-
ally used terms have
assumed different mean-
ings. A classic case of “State of nature” and “balance of
this, according to Joseph nature” suggest that the environment
A. Schumpeter, was the is equivalent to the Garden of Eden—
hijacking of the term
if only humans would leave it alone.
liberal. In Latin, liberal
meant “being free,” and after the Enlightenment the term was expanded to
imply individual freedom and responsibility, free markets, and a rule of law
supporting private property. Especially in the United States, however, it
has metamorphosed into meaning almost the opposite, meaning something
closer to socialism with an ever-growing, invasive central government. Today,
being liberal means being progressive, suggesting that favoring individual
liberty is regressive.
Countless other words have been subjected to a blatant change of mean-
ing. The market economy is increasingly portrayed as not much more than
a failing system of crony capitalism where the 1 percent dominate the rest.
Another is the transformation of the word social into a phrase that simply
means good or that bears some sort of anti-capitalistic sentiments, as in
social justice.
In The Fatal Conceit, F. A. Hayek gives other examples. He explains how we
came to substitute society for government to make collective action seem soft-
er and less self-interested. He lists more than a hundred terms before which
we put the ambiguous word social, ranging from social accounting to social
property to social
waste, thereby trans-
forming them into The notion of biodiversity is so all-
“weasel” phrases. inclusive that it’s become meaningless.
In the context of
allegations of police brutality, urban crowds call for justice after juries acquit
police charged with violence. Justice for the crowds means nothing other
than guilty, thus creating a semantic trap that circumvents true justice.
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, justice is “the system of laws

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 81
in the country that judges and punishes people,” not a specific verdict that
conforms to the wisdom of the crowd. The dictionary definition of justice
leads to a fairness defined as equal treatment under the law. Thinking of
justice as a result, rather than a process, corrupts our language and the way
we think about justice.

One might infer from this litany of semantic traps that the best way to
combat or avoid them is to use better semantics. Indeed, that is what Luntz
suggested to President Bush, but in truth he was creating a semantic trap
because measuring climate change is very difficult. The way to avoid seman-
tic traps is to use words
that have precise mean-
The way to avoid semantic traps is to ings that can be tested
use words that have precise mean- against data. Scientists
ings that can be tested against data. might debate the best way
to measure global temper-
ature, but once the measurement technique is specified, we can gather data
to say whether the globe is warming.
Semantic traps subvert the rational discourse necessary to guide the
ways in which people interact in a civil society. Orwell put it succinctly in
1984: “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
Semantic traps embody such corruption.

Reprinted from Defining Ideas (www.hoover.org/publications/defining-
ideas), a Hoover Institution online journal. © 2017 The Board of Trustees
of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Greener
than Thou: Are You Really an Environmentalist? by
Terry L. Anderson and Laura E. Huggins. To order, call
(800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

82 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


Dam Politics
The drought is over, but don’t expect Sacramento
to take any meaningful action to avert the next
water crisis. That well is still bone dry.

By Victor Davis Hanson

roville Dam, the tallest in the nation, gave California a bad scare
last winter. Thousands of people downstream from its desperate
releases of water fled their homes as if in a disaster movie. Such
a premodern, apocalyptic scene was not supposed to happen in
the postmodern California of Google, Hollywood, and Napa Valley wineries.
California’s politicians and pundits swore in recent years that the state was
entering a cycle of permanent drought—and thus saw no need to start build-
ing even a single dam to store the rain and snowmelt that supposedly would
never return. Instead, they invoked the “settled science” of climate change
and the need for permanent conservation and restrictions—even as near-
record storms pushed California’s snow and rain levels in many places to
over 200 percent of normal, well beyond the ability of our now-ossified water
projects to store the deluge.
Oroville, along with Shasta Dam, anchors California’s vast water trans-
fer system, the largest and most ingeniously designed in the world. But
Oroville’s half-century-old and now damaged spillways were in dire need of
maintenance, especially given that auxiliary dams in the region envisioned to
alleviate the pressure on Oroville were long ago canceled. Indeed, the entire

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 Mili-
tary History in Contemporary Conflict.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 83
California Water Project and federal Central Valley Project were left unfin-
ished, even as California’s population more than doubled.
After the early 1980s, the state’s politicians and courts decided that dams,
as one critic put it, were “a relic of the Industrial Age, a brute-force solution
to water scarcity.” They forgot that dams had been a staple of civilization
since the Mycenaean Greeks built them to ward off flood and drought.

Californians also forgot that our forefathers saw in the state’s northern and
mountain dams and their subsidiary aqueducts and canals a brilliant solution
to the California paradox: that two-thirds of the population wishes to work and
live where one-third of the state’s annual rain and snow falls. After all, Face-
book has no desire to move to Marysville. The hipsters of San Francisco do
not prefer the weather in Redding. Malibu stars are not likely to transfer their
beach residences to the Humboldt County coast, where rainfall is abundant.
Dam supporters today are written off by cool greens as hopelessly anach-
ronistic “water buffalos.” Yet a wiser California public has consistently voted
for more dam construction, only to be stymied by byzantine, politicized
bureaucracies and a flood of lawsuits.
Working people appreciate in dams and reservoirs a brilliant symbiosis that
today’s elites miss entirely. California’s system of dams, even if incomplete, all
but ended the annual winter and spring nightmares of flooding, which once
took thousands of lives in Northern and mountainous California and made flood
basins unlivable—until a prescient generation starting in the late nineteenth
century built what would become a vast network of some 1,300 reservoirs.
No wonder the hoi polloi favored dam construction. Those without money
to vacation at California’s touristy coast escaped the heat of the Central Val-
ley by driving up to fish, swim in, and camp out by the clean mountain water
of hundreds of often alpine and picturesque man-made lakes.
California’s dams also turned millions of desert acres of the Central Valley
into a verdant belt of the most productive farmland in the world. Hydroelec-
tric projects—which likewise were largely ended when dam construction was

FILL ’ER UP: A historic postcard (opposite page) shows the Hollywood Reser-
voir, created in 1924 after the construction of the Mulholland Dam in the Santa
Monica Mountains near the famous Hollywood sign. Designed by the Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power, the reservoir was part of the intense
efforts in the twentieth century to collect California’s water for both present
needs and future growth.

84 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
canceled—once made California’s energy the cleanest and among the most
affordable in the country.
But the best barometer of the dams’ importance was that for all the
threats of tearing them down, even the greenest of California politicians
quietly accepted that without an Oroville, Shasta, or Hetch Hetchy there
would be no Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Stanford, or Caltech—all situated in
a Mediterranean climate and landscape to which millions of people flocked
only after water was imported to sustain them. In crude reductionist terms,
the teeming San Fernando Valley and Santa Barbara want the water that
rural Oroville wants to get rid of.
But if our generation could not quite tear dams down, environmentalists
managed to stop their spread, ensuring that the third phase of the state’s
water projects was never built. This robbed California of millions of acre-feet
of storage which, in a wet year like 2017, would have conserved the resources
to ride out the next drought. It was a state of fifteen million people that built
the water projects, and a contemporary California of forty million that swore
it would build no more—even as it was silently grateful for its inheritance
from its farsighted forefathers.
On occasion, environmentalists have rightly urged more maintenance of
dam spillways. But those calls were largely aimed at ensuring that reservoir
waters could be safely and efficiently drawn down and emptied when law-
suits forced releases for fish restoration, Bay Area freshwater infusions, and
wild river runs to the ocean.
These were new
agendas never envi-
In California, two-thirds of the popu- sioned by the architects
lation wishes to work and live where of the system, who saw
one-third of the state’s annual rain human needs solved by
and snow falls. flood relief, irrigation,
recreation, and power
generation first, and salmon swimming from the sea to the Sierra second.
The dams were a tough tradeoff between progress and nature: this arid state
that would grow to forty million people would have artificial but beautiful
reservoirs—but not whitewater rapids of a once pristine, scarcely populated
nineteenth-century paradise.

How does our generation stack up to the dam builders and “water buffalos”?
Contemporary California has among the country’s highest basket of fuel,

86 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
income, and sales taxes, and yet is facing another billion-dollar-plus annual
budget deficit. Its schools and roads are rated near last in the nation. Its
coveted high-speed rail project has not laid a foot of track as costs balloon to
an envisioned $100 billion. Never have so many incompetents of the present
been so critical of so few
geniuses of the past.
It is a symptom of the Even the greenest California politi-
present generation’s cians quietly accept that without an
hubris and histori- Oroville, Shasta, or Hetch Hetchy
cal ignorance that it there would be no Silicon Valley.
ridicules the logic of an
older generation’s infrastructure that it gladly inherited and uses but will not
maintain well and expand—even as its own legacy is that of an increasingly
pyramidal state home to the greatest number of the nation’s poor and rich,
and increasingly few in between. Californians have become squatters of sorts
on an infrastructure that others built.
Pie-in-the-sky calls for a network of coastal desalination plants miss the
ancient logic of dams and reservoirs. Desalination demands energy to make
modest amounts of fresh water; gravity powered mountain runoff behind
dams creates vast amounts of stored water that produces rather than con-
sumes electrical power. A desalination plant is ugly; a Huntington Lake is
stunning. Lakes and canals are cool; seawater conversion plants generate
heat. Pumping water into the ground makes sense, but it works best when
most runoff is first banked and stored for later release rather than simply let
out to flood to the ocean.
The damaged spillway of Oroville Dam reminds us that we have abused
what we inherited. We might do better to listen to the wisdom of the past
rather than to parrot the ignorance of the present.

Reprinted by permission of The Hill (www.thehill.com). © 2017 Capitol
Hill Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is The
California Electricity Crisis, by James L. Sweeney. To
order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 87


A More Imperfect
Britain’s separation from the EU: not merely a new
political and legal arrangement but a deep and
permanent schism.

By Niall Ferguson

hank God. Never again will those impossible people on the other
side of the English Channel be able to interfere with our affairs.
Now we can take back control and sit back and watch their
union fall apart.
Those, of course, were the sentiments of European leaders in March as
they opened the envelope containing Theresa May’s notification of Britain’s
intention to withdraw from the European Union.
Up until then, nearly all the debate on Brexit had focused on what it
would mean for the United Kingdom. But the real significance of Brexit
may be what it means for the EU. “This is my first divorce,” European
Council President Donald Tusk said, “and hopefully the last one.” I drew
that same analogy in June 2016, but I think it has outlived its usefulness.
Last spring, May said she would “prefer not to use the term of divorce from
the EU because very often when people get divorced they don’t have a very
good relationship afterwards.”

Niall Ferguson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of
Hoover’s Working Group on the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict.

88 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
I take a different view. We should stop talking about divorce because
Brexit will be much more protracted and expensive than the worst imagin-
able divorce.
Schism is in fact le mot juste for Brexit, recalling as it does the great
division between Western and Eastern Christianity in 1054, as well as the
period between 1378 and 1417 when there were rival popes in Rome and
Avignon. The defining characteristic of schisms is that they are drawn-
out and bitter—and the more arcane the points at issue (for example,
when exactly Easter should be celebrated, the precise wording of the
Nicene Creed), the deeper the schism becomes. By comparison with
a schism, even the most acrimonious divorce is amicable, because the
points at issue are ultimately quite simple: custody of kids, shares of

As Rome was to past schisms, so Brussels is to this one. It has the upper
hand, because it made the rules. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty was drafted
deliberately not merely to deter countries from leaving the EU but to make
sure that if any country tried to do so, the effect would be to discourage oth-
ers. Observe how this works.
Contrary to last year’s theory that Brexit would be the first of many domi-
noes to fall out of the EU,
the precise opposite is
happening. Contemplat- The split between Roman Catholi-
ing Britain’s predica- cism and Orthodoxy persists to this
ment, Continental voters day. Schisms are like that.
are backing away from
full-blown secession from Europe. I predict there will be no Nexit, Frexit,
Grexit, or any other form of exit. Quite the opposite. For the EU is now
freed from what has long been the principal obstacle to further integration:
It is easy to forget that the UK was more or less unceasingly a thorn in the
side of the European federalists, most obviously during the Maastricht nego-
tiations. But now Britain is leaving—and that means not only that the brake
on federalism is removed but also that the EU-27 can unite in giving the UK a
hard time.
On the latter issue, I fear, the Brexiteers have always been overoptimistic.
May’s letter proposed that talks about Brexit proceed simultaneously with
talks about the new “deep and special partnership” she would like Britain to

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 89
have with the EU. But the draft European Council guidelines ruled this out.
Meanwhile, the “rEU”—a rather silly acronym for the remaining twenty-sev-
en members of the EU—resumes the march to “ever closer union,” at least
for the members of the eurozone.

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

90 H O O V ER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
Will the federalist project ultimately fail, as British Euroskeptics have
long predicted? Maybe. But it is hard to believe that a more federal euro-
zone will work worse than the halfway house of monetary union without
fiscal union.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 91
What would further Continental integration mean for Britain? The opti-
mists envision an economic version of 1940, with a global Britain striking
new free trade deals with the rest of the world. If those trade deals do not
materialize, however, I have a nasty feeling that the real domino effect
will be in the UK, beginning with a battle within the Conservative Party
over the arcane details of the great schism, and culminating in a narrow
Scottish vote to dissolve the Union and a return of the Troubles in North-
ern Ireland.
Readers of a certain age will remember Tammy Wynette’s country-western
classic, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” which was a hit five years before Britain joined
Europe. Those who
argued for Brexit
It’s easy to forget that the UK was more promised that S-C-
or less unceasingly a thorn in the side of H-I-S-M from the
EU would lead to
European federalists.
H-E-A-V-E-N rather
than “H-E-double-L.” Having argued against Brexit before the referendum,
I said back in December that I now understood why so many British voters
had voted for it. The EU had performed so dismally in recent years that “Get
me out of here” was a legitimate response. But, even as I recanted, I said I
still expected the process of Brexit to be drawn-out and bitter. Nothing that
has happened since has changed my mind about that.
It took thirty-nine years to resolve the split between Rome and Avignon.
The split between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy persists to this day.
Schisms are like that. We have now begun the process of exiting the EU. But
who knows when we shall exit the schismatic process that is Brexit itself?

Reprinted by permission of the Boston Globe. © 2017 Boston Globe Media
Partners LLC. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is NAFTA
at 20: The North American Free Trade Agreement’s
Achievements and Challenges, edited by Michael J.
Boskin. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.

92 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


A Pregnant Pause
Brexit is now certain, but the terms are not. Britain
still has time to work with the EU, head off political
strife, and minimize economic pain.

By Timothy Garton Ash

pring witnessed the opening of Act III of a five-act drama called
Brexit. The play will take at least five years, more likely ten, and
only Act V will reveal whether it is a tragedy, a farce, or some very
British theater of muddling-through. The many millions of us in
Britain who identify ourselves as Europeans must not give up now, as if the
show were over. It’s not, and we’re not just the audience. We are actors in this
play and our main task is to persuade our fellow actors.
Act I was the referendum, Act II the run-up to triggering Article 50. Act
III is the two-year negotiation that, according to the Lisbon Treaty, must
conclude in spring 2019. Obviously that’s an important moment, but not
drama’s end.
Theresa May said in her letter to Donald Tusk, president of the European
Council, that she wants the free trade agreement between Britain and the
EU to be “of greater scope and ambition than any such agreement before it.”
It is most unlikely that such an ambitious, comprehensive agreement can be
negotiated in two years, even if that negotiation were to start in earnest at
the same time as the exit one, which the remaining twenty-seven EU mem-
bers are saying must come first.

Timothy Garton Ash is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Profes-
sor of European Studies and Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s Col-
lege, Oxford University.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 93
There is therefore almost certain to be Act IV, in which Britain has a tran-
sitional arrangement with the EU, while what Article 50 vaguely describes
as the “framework for its future relationship with the union” is turned into a
full-blown, comprehensive agreement. All precedent on free trade negotiations,
especially those with this multinational union, suggests that this will take years,
probably stretching to 2021 or beyond. Only then will we enter Act V, in which
the consequences of that final deal gradually emerge, well into the 2020s.
Even this timetable understates the uncertainties. Divorce between man
and wife is complicated enough, but this one is between two complex unions,
each of which is going through an existential crisis: the British union, mainly
because of Brexit; and the European Union, for which Brexit is only one of
many crises.

Most European leaders are now focused on saving the EU and addressing
their own pressing political problems, not on helping Britain. Since they all
have to agree to the deal (although ultimately it can be approved by qualified
majority voting) and there is a hard two-year deadline, Britain is in a very
weak negotiating position.
On the British side, the big “known unknowns” include Scotland, Ireland,
and the economic impact on Britain of the shape of Brexit, as it is seen to be
emerging during Act III. This will depend on market sentiment, but also on
how millions of Britons view their own position. This is where we, the other
half of British society, and just as much “the people” as those who voted for
Brexit, come into the picture.
“In democratic nations,” Brexit secretary David Davis said in a speech
about Britain’s relationship with Europe a few years ago, “we hold regular
meaningful elections
where voters can
Nationalist narratives often trump stick with what they
evidence-based, reasoned argument. It have or wipe the
takes time to burst the populist bubble. slate clean. Crucial
to this principle of
people power is the rule that a government cannot bind its successors.” And,
he added wisely: “If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a
democracy.” Exactly so.
But for that, some of the people who elect the politicians have to change
their minds. This is unlikely to happen soon. It’s human nature to be reluc-
tant to acknowledge that you were wrong.

94 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
Although market sentiment can change rapidly, the negative economic
consequences of Brexit seem unlikely to become undeniably apparent to ordi-
nary voters in the next year or two. And we face a Eurosceptic press that,
having led the charge
for Brexit, is pumping
out an extraordinary Divorce is tricky enough, but this split
propaganda of success. is between two complex unions, each
“Freedom!” trumpeted going through an existential crisis.
the Daily Mail on the
day May triggered Article 50, following up with “Cheers to a Great British
future!” “EU owes Britain billions,” the front page of the Daily Express misin-
formed its readers.
Our experience of contemporary populism suggests that such simplistic,
emotionally appealing, nationalist narratives often trump evidence-based,
reasoned argument. Or more optimistically, that it takes time to burst the
populist bubble.

Here is where the five-act timetable comes in. The parliamentary vote on
the interim result of the negotiation in autumn 2018 will be an important
moment, but it currently seems unlikely that public opinion will have swung
so decisively that a parliamentary majority, including Labour MPs with
heavily pro-Brexit constituencies, would actually vote to send May back to
Brussels with a flea in her ear, buzzing at her to get a better deal. It’s even
more unlikely that it would vote for the second referendum proposed by the
Liberal Democrats.
But if I’m right, and there will be Act IV, then it’s a different story. In those
crucial years, the economic consequences will become clearer. There will
probably be a second Scottish referendum on independence (likely compro-
mise date: autumn 2019); the pain caused by drawing an EU external frontier
across the island of Ireland may become apparent; and above all, there must
be a general election in 2020.
With a better leader of the Labour Party, and the Lib Dems and other
smaller parties pushing in a similar direction, a different popular mandate
could emerge for a new government negotiating the final terms of Brexit.
And, as David Davis rightly observed, the essence of British parliamentary
democracy is that no government can bind its successor.
I don’t say this scenario is likely, but it’s possible. To get there, we British
Europeans have to work out ways of reaching some of those Brexit voters,

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 95
recognizing that they are in no mood to be lectured by metropolitan liberals.
We need to penetrate the echo chambers of populism with plain facts and
good British common sense.
Instead of going on about “stopping Brexit,” which allows us to be quite
effectively pilloried as whingeing remoaners, we should state the new goal
Of course I still want
Britain to remain a mem-
Instead of going on about “stopping ber of the EU, just as a
Brexit,” which allows us to be pil- Brexiteer would still have
loried as whingeing remoaners, we wanted Britain to leave
should state the new goal positively. it if the referendum had
gone the other way—and
we should never say never. But as I wrote just after the referendum, our stra-
tegic goal should be “to keep as much as possible of our disunited kingdom as
fully engaged as possible in the affairs of our continent.”
Theresa May talks of a “deep and special partnership” with the EU: let’s
make that very deep and very special. And who knows what opportunities
the next years might bring? We are only at the opening of Act III, and there is
still much to play for.

Reprinted from the Guardian (UK). © 2017 Timothy Garton Ash.

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.

96 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


“There’s No
Hoover fellow Michael A. McFaul, former
ambassador to Moscow, reflects on fading
democratic hopes for Russia.

By Tunku Varadarajan

wish him well,” tweeted Michael McFaul, on the day Jon Huntsman
was offered the delicate job of ambassador to Russia from the United
It’s the job McFaul held from January 2012 to February 2014, when
he resigned after twenty-four months of the most unrelenting workplace
stress. It’s unlikely that Moscow will treat Huntsman—Donald Trump’s
man—as inhospitably as it treated McFaul, whose outspokenness on democ-
racy so riled the Kremlin that he became the object of its crudest ire.
McFaul retreated from bare-knuckle Moscow to the calm of Stanford
University, where he had taught before he left for the Obama State Depart-
ment in 2009—and where the only threats to a man’s well-being are students
on bicycles. He’s now director of Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for
International Studies and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, and he’s
agreed to meet me at his modest office for a chat between TV appearances.

Michael A. McFaul is the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover
Institution, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at
Stanford University, and a professor of political science at Stanford. He recently
served as US ambassador to Russia. Tunku Varadarajan is the Virginia Hobbs
Carpenter Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 97
The Russia-US story, McFaul says, “has never been more important in the
last twenty-five years than it is now.” But unlike the time when the Soviet
Union was collapsing, “there’s no optimism.” America was buoyant back then,
about the idea that Russia “could build democratic institutions and capitalism
at home and would integrate with the West. For a quarter of a century, Demo-
crats and Republicans in the White House were committed to that objective.”
There were “hiccups along the way,” McFaul concedes, “but people were
still committed to the cause. Today, for me, that project is over.”
Vladimir Putin has snuffed out all hope.

Putin looms large in McFaul’s own story, and there are times when his connec-
tion to the Russian leader seems deeply personal. McFaul, I suggest, was the
Unquiet American in his time in Moscow, an almost undiplomatic ambassador.
He demurs. “I think most people think of me as being a public figure and
on Twitter—and that was part of my job. But another part was marching
over to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs every day and doing the business of
our diplomacy . . . mostly damage control, because we were already in a con-
frontational period before I arrived in Moscow.”
Putin was running for re-election when McFaul landed in Moscow, and
there had been massive demonstrations against him. “Hundreds of thou-
sands of people were protesting, the first time since the Soviet Union col-
lapsed. And that’s when I arrived.”
A very senior Kremlin official who had known McFaul for decades told
him, “ ‘Mike, your arrival right at this moment is like manna from heaven for
our campaign.’ I’d written about democratization, and advocated for it, so
I was the perfect poster
child for their anti-Ameri-
“At the top of the list of the liberal can rhetoric. I’d been sent
international order is, ‘Thou shalt not by Obama, they said, to
annex territory of thy neighbor.’ ” foment revolution against
How did it feel, I ask, to help Putin win the election—to have been co-opted
as part of Putin’s winning strategy? “I don’t think I won it,” he responds. “But
they certainly thought that their anti-American campaign added significant
percentage points to his vote tally in March [2012].”
McFaul accepts that he pushed the limits, in Moscow, of what diplomats do.
“About democracy, yes, I did,” he says, and adds that he was instructed to do

98 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
WELCOME: Then-ambassador Michael A. McFaul greets visitors at the
American Corner, a cultural center, in Vladivostok, Russia, in September 2012.
Describing the Russian government’s pressure campaign against him, McFaul
says, “I’d written about democratization, and advocated for it, so I was the
perfect poster child for their anti-American rhetoric.” [US Consulate, Vladivostok]

so by the administration. “As somebody who’s never served as a diplomat, am
I going to parachute into Moscow and start my own rogue operation? I’m not
that stupid. I played firmly within the parameters of our policy.”
“Now let’s be clear,” he continues. “I’m also one of the guys that set up the
policy back in 2009, and a firm part of it was that we should engage with the
state and society.
“What changed? Our policy didn’t. What changed, of course, were the dem-
onstrations and the anxiety in the Kremlin about the stability of their regime.
And I couldn’t do anything about that.”

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 99
McFaul couldn’t, also, do anything about the constant hounding that followed
his very public engagement with Russian civil society. “They had an aggres-
sive campaign to rattle me, to harass me, to follow me and my family around,”
he says. “I endured two years of this. The spike in harassment during my
period there was dramatic.
“Old hands in the embassy would say, ‘This is new. This is way beyond
anything from the Soviet times.’ The people working there are heroes serving
their country, because they’re dealing with a level of harassment that nobody
should have to.”
I mention an incident from March 2012, one that marked him out as an
enemy in nationalist Russian eyes. McFaul was going to see a civil society
leader, and details of the meeting didn’t stay private for long. “Every phone
call I made was being recorded,” McFaul recalls, “and a circus was waiting for
me, TV crews, Cossacks with hats and swords, right-wing youth.” He was sur-
rounded, and they got under his skin—on camera. “I regret that,” he says.
Although McFaul speaks Russian, and speaks it well enough to have com-
plex conversations with people, he doesn’t—by his own confession—get every
nuance right. “That day, what I wanted to say to the mob was: ‘This is crazy.
This is uncouth behavior.’ But what I said instead was, ‘This is a wild country.’
And they’ve never let me forget it.”

Is Ukraine lost to the West? Are Donbass and Crimea gone forever?
The question animates him. “I think Ukraine has a bright future as a coun-
try. I’m actually quite optimistic about Ukraine. I don’t want to predict what
happens in the east. I’m
not sure I’d agree that it’s
“They had an aggressive campaign to gone, but I’m not optimis-
rattle me, to harass me, to follow me tic that there’s a resolu-
tion there.
and my family around.”
“The unintended posi-
tive consequence of that horrible annexation and intervention is that it’s been
the birth of Ukrainian society, and of a Ukrainian nation and identity.”
Despite troubles at the top—where there are people from the old system
still in charge—McFaul sees a vibrant civil society, and an affinity with

100 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
Europe now that was ambiguous before. “It’s been the birth of a nation,” he
says. “Putin did that inadvertently.”
What is the worst thing Trump could possibly do in the Russia sphere? “In
my mind,” says McFaul, “that would be to recognize Crimea as part of Rus-
sia. That would under-
mine everything that we
built after World War II. “Every phone call I made was being
At the top of the list of recorded, and a circus was waiting
the liberal international for me, TV crews, Cossacks with hats
order is, ‘Thou shalt not and swords, right-wing youth.”
annex territory of thy
neighbor.’ That scares me.”
He is “cautiously optimistic” that Trump is moving away from such a step,
and adds that the president’s Russia policy “is beginning to look a lot like
“For all the promises during the presidential campaign, if you look at what
has been said about NATO, about Crimea, and the sanctions, it’s not looking
so different, really,” he says.
How does the Putin era end? “When Putin is no longer in power,” responds
McFaul. “And I think he’ll stay in power for as long as he can.”
A natural end to Putin’s presidency is unlikely, he says, “given the kind of
system he’s built around himself, that really relies on one charismatic indi-
vidual at its core.”
The Russians don’t have anything like the Chinese Communist Party, and
they “most certainly don’t have a set of ideas that are somehow independent
of Putin that could be easily taken up by somebody in his ideological camp.”
So Putin’s never going to cede power and retire quietly to his dacha?
“I would not guess so,” says McFaul.

Reprinted by permission of Politico (www.politico.com). © 2017 Politico
LLC. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is The
Troubled Birth of Russian Democracy: Parties,
Personalities, and Programs, by Michael A. McFaul
and Sergei Markov. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or
visit www.hooverpress.org.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 101


At Fukushima,
Still More Heat
than Light
Six years after a tsunami struck the Honshu coast,
the ruins of the nuclear power plant seethe and the
Japanese still await honest answers.

By Toshio Nishi

n February 9, 2017, the Japanese government and its bedfel-
low nuclear energy company, Tokyo Electric, announced to the
shock of the Japanese people that one of three melted-through
reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant registered an
extraordinary level of radioactivity: 650 sieverts per hour, the highest record-
ing of its kind in history.
To put into perspective what exposure to 650 sieverts will do to a human
body: 1 sievert will cause infertility, fetus deformation, hair loss, and eye
damage, among other conditions. An exposure of 5 sieverts has a 50 percent
kill ratio. At 650 sieverts, the radiation would kill a healthy human within one
How is it that Tokyo Electric just managed to discover this horrific read-
ing from the decay of cesium, plutonium, and strontium, six years after the

Toshio Nishi is the Tadahiro Ogawa Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

102 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
Japan is one of the world leaders in the robotics industry. Tokyo Electric
had sent a sophisticated robot to perform this particular Mission Impos-
sible. The robot ventured into the inhospitable molten core chamber of
Reactor 2 to take photographs and measure sievert levels of cesium and
other deadly radioactive isotopes. (Two more melted-though reactors sit
nearby, yet to be scouted.)
The remote-controlled robot was expected to labor for nine consecutive
hours in the dungeon. Ninety minutes later, however, its treads stopped and
its two camera lenses became cloudy and unable to photograph. The best
lens Japan could manufacture warped in the face of the intense radiation
heat. Nobody with Tokyo Electric had expected such a high concentration of
The Fukushima reactors are located on the Pacific coast, 179 miles north
of Tokyo. I live in Kashiwa, 141 miles south of the melted reactors. Japanese,
of course, are deeply
aware that Japan is
the world hot spot for The Japanese population, not the
mega-earthquakes responsible parties, is being held finan-
and that it hosts fifty- cially responsible for the meltdown.
four reactors in a land
mass smaller than California. More than six years ago, on March 11, 2011,
Japan’s biggest earthquake and tsunami in recent memory destroyed the
Fukushima reactors, killing twenty thousand people. The government con-
tinues to calculate the costs of the cleanup. It is not easy to estimate, because
the broken reactors have never ceased vomiting contaminated air and water.
Some two hundred thousand residents around Fukushima were evacuated.
Many could never return to their former towns and villages, which are cur-
rently being scrubbed. Young families with children swore never to return.
Remaining in remote temporary housing that the government provides are
senior citizens on pensions, those not wealthy enough to move out. Many of
their grandchildren will not visit them out of fear of contamination. These
seniors, isolated from their familiar environs, see no hope, and many choose
to commit suicide.

Recently a glaring example of the hubris shared by the government and Tokyo
Electric came to light. The same day the quake and waves shattered Fuku-
shima, a bright, conscientious scientist inside the damaged reactor building
told an interviewer, “A meltdown is imminent.” Hearing the news, then–prime

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 103
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

minister Naoto Kan went into a rage and fired him. Why? Because the lowly
scientist had the audacity to voice his terrifying but accurate assessment
without first consulting the prime minister for approval. The priorities were
clear: image over truth, private interests over public safety.
If the government and Tokyo Electric had not colluded in hiding this criti-
cal fact, and had the residents of Fukushima been evacuated immediately, the
damage to their health would have been greatly reduced. Instead, Fukushima
residents were kept in the dark, where they remained for over two months,
while the government in Tokyo reassured them that the reactors—which
were visibly spewing lethal steam every second—posed “no immediate health
issues.” A health minister declared with a smile, “Nobody has died by radio-
active debris.” Did either the government or Tokyo Electric ever think to test
the drinking water from wells at Fukushima?
Compared with the vast land contamination following the 1986 Chernobyl
disaster, Fukushima seemed to have suffered less. However, what was spared
in land was paid for in water. Eighty percent of Fukushima’s radioactive
waste leaked into the Pacific. Fishing off the Fukushima coast, one of the
world’s best commercial fishing regions, remains prohibited even now.
The phenomenal scale of the Chernobyl contamination should be a
forewarning to Fukushima. In Norway, one thousand miles from the ruined
power plant in Ukraine, the indigenous Sami people’s reindeer meat now
shows high contamination levels of cesium. The reindeer feed on grayish
moss, upon which the Chernobyl particles have been raining for thirty years.

104 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
It is distressing to ponder the multiple billions of dollars the government
estimates will need to be budgeted for Fukushima-related expenditures,
which range from cleaning up the land to paying money to those forced to
relocate. Since Tokyo
Electric either refuses
to provide the money or Young families with children swore
cannot come up with it, never to return.
the government wrote
new tax laws to pay for cleaning up the Fukushima mess. The Japanese
population, not the responsible parties, is thus being held financially respon-
sible for the meltdown.
We see nothing hopeful. Even though Tokyo Electric promises that Fuku-
shima “will be completely cleaned up by 2020,” coincidentally the year of the
Tokyo Summer Olympics, some scientists speculate that it might take one
hundred years for the farmers and fishermen to be able to return. I suspect
that the government will choose mothballing the Fukushima reactor, as was
done with the Chernobyl concrete dome—that is, covering up the unsightly
and unusable facility and calling it “decommissioned.” The first concrete-
and-steel dome over the Chernobyl plant corroded under the heat of the
melted reactor, and Ukraine is completing a new, bigger tomb over it to seal
in the deadly radiation for a century.

Massive amounts of debris from the Fukushima tsunami and quake have
been cleared away. But the 12.5-mile exclusion zone remains silent. With no
humans, the area has become a wild kingdom for once-domesticated ani-
mals and birds. Cows and horses, pigs and goats, and dogs and cats have
grown feral and are multiplying. They are not fearful of humans; in fact, they
threaten humans.
They are yet another
unaddressed problem The robot was expected to labor in radio-
of the meltdown’s active heat for nine consecutive hours.
Ninety minutes later, it broke down.
One fact regard-
ing the contaminated water plaguing Fukushima should be mentioned, for it
is almost surreal in its horror. The reactors need to be cooled every second
by circulating water. The used water is highly contaminated, so it has been
stored in huge tanks. In six years, the amount of nonrecyclable water has
reached one million tons. Every day, eight hundred tons of used water is

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 105
stored. The space for the large tanks, now numbering twelve thousand, has
filled up. Moreover, although this is not admitted publicly, it is an open secret
that three hundred tons of dirty water have been leaking into the sea every
The water in the tanks is supposedly cleaned of radioactive contaminants
but is still dangerous. The government and Tokyo Electric, in escalating
desperation, insist that Japan had to release the stored water into the Pacific
because it is no longer dangerous enough to warrant storing it away. Is it
really, as they say, like a tiny drop of red ink in a full bathtub, where in a few
minutes we will see no trace? Many in the Pacific Rim nations are shocked.
Water creates another problem at the Fukushima disaster site, one not
even related to cooling the reactors. From the nearby mountains a constant
torrent of clean, clear underground water runs below the ruined plant and
becomes contaminated. Scientists working for Tokyo Electric tried to stem
this flow with a plan to freeze the underground current: it would construct a
great wall of ice, one mile long, to stop water flowing into the reactor build-
ings. The plan involved driving 1,550 ice-making poles 98 feet deep into the
ground. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved the project and allocated $400
million for it.
Tokyo Electric constructed its ice wall in three years and switched it on.
Japan held its breath. The ice wall failed: the poles did manage to freeze
the soil, but the underground river simply snaked around them or tunneled
below, continuing its natural way to the sea.

Abe has a vested interest in maintaining a good image of nuclear power. He
encourages constructing more reactors in Japan as well as restarting those
halted after the Fukushima fiasco. He even wants to export the “superior Japa-
nese nuclear power plants” to developing countries such as Turkey. Abe and
Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan struck such a deal in 2013.
It is important to note that Turkey is in one of the world’s worst earth-
quake zones. In addition, should Turkey build nuclear reactors, they could
become the target of terrorists in the already unstable region.
If the deal goes through, and the superior Japanese reactor breaks down
and spews death and disaster in Turkey, what would Abe do? He reassured
Turkey that “Japan would take care of such an event.” Would we Japanese
pay for the damage? It is surprising that the prime minister does not show
the same benevolence toward Japanese, who continue paying an extra tax for
the Fukushima “recovery.”

106 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
FLOWERS FOR FUKUSHIMA: A photo taken by a drone shows cherry trees in
bloom in a contaminated part of Tomioka, a town about four miles from the
Fukushima No. 1 power plant, in April. Only a few hundred yards of Tomioka’s
famous row of cherry trees was accessible for seasonal viewing parties; view-
ing the rest of the trees in the deserted zone required protective gear. [Motoya
Taguchi—Jiji Press]

Decommissioning Fukushima poses a mind-bending difficulty because
no sufficient technologies are yet available, and because of the potential
compounding damage inherent in waiting a hundred years for the area to
be accessible. Meanwhile, Tokyo Electric, with the help of our tax money,
keeps buying expensive machines from France to clean the radioactive water.
These machines arrive with great fanfare, but either do not work well or
break down within a few
days. France accuses
Tokyo Electric of mis- The “great wall of ice,” an expensive
handling the machines, and complicated solution, failed to
but Japan buys more to stem the flow of radioactive water.
replace the failed ones.
Another roadblock for decommissioning is that Abe, who recently cul-
tivated a friendly rapport with President Trump, remains an enthusiastic
advocate of nuclear energy. He wants to restart as soon as possible all the

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 107
FAULTLINES: Plaintiffs’ attorneys hold banners outside a Tokyo court in
March after judges ruled that negligence by the central government and Tokyo
Electric contributed to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster. It
was the first time a Japanese court had determined the government and the
plant operator could have prevented the meltdown. [Kyodo]

reactors throughout Japan that are undamaged but have been shut down
for six years. He believes nuclear power is a dream energy, cheap and clean.
Japanese citizens abandoned that dream six years ago.
One sure candidate for decommissioning is Japan’s most dangerous and
most expensive plutonium reactor, called Monju (goddess of wisdom). Monju
sits on the beautiful shore of the Sea of Japan, north of Kyoto and near a fault
line. It cost $5 billion to build and began operating in 1994. Within a few days
of starting up, something went wrong. That something was human error.
These human errors mounted, as if the reactor were cursed. For twenty-
three years the plant produced no power, and the government finally had to

108 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
admit that Monju, into which it had sunk more than $8.5 billion, was a failure
beyond repair. Decommissioning it will take many years and consume many
more billions.
Natural gas for power generation is much safer and less expensive. Imag-
ine how much natural gas Japan could have purchased for those billions of
dollars wasted on Monju. Cleanup at Fukushima will cost another $14 billion
in a few years, a cost sure to rise each year.
Consider now this practical question: is decommissioning Fukushima
technically possible at all? Could the Japanese public endure an endless
process of mothballing
the three irreparable
reactor buildings? Would Eighty percent of Fukushima’s radio-
Japanese be willing to active waste leaked into the Pacific.
continue paying indefi-
nitely their ever-increasing electricity tax while living with the never-ending
fear of cancer and the next mega-earthquake?
Six years have passed. An insane amount of money has been spent. Chil-
dren born in 2017 will still be paying for Fukushima when they are a hundred
years old. Who is responsible for failing to repair the broken machine, and
who should be held accountable for future costs?
The enthusiasm for the supposedly easy money in nuclear power is dwin-
dling in Japan. The beautiful Japanese archipelago, famed for cherry blos-
soms, volcanic activity, frequent large earthquakes, and tsunamis, hosts fifty-
four nuclear reactors from its cold northern island of Hokkaido to its warm
southern island of Kyushu. The coastline is dotted with reactors. Perhaps it is
time for Japanese to begin praying for a miracle that no life-altering earth-
quake or tsunami strikes the island nation for the next ten thousand years.

Special to the Hoover Digest.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is
Unconditional Democracy: Education and Politics
in Occupied Japan, 1945–1952, by Toshio Nishi. To
order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 109


The official Japanese postmortem of World War II
shows how rivalries, miscommunication, and poor
leadership plagued the imperial military machine.

By Yuma Totani

enshi sōsho (“The war history
series”) is a 102-volume history Key points
of World War II in Asia and »» The exhaustive postwar
chronicle known as Senshi
the Pacific as told from the sōsho was compiled by former
Japanese perspective. Published between military officers, many of
whom had held key positions.
1966 and 1980, this series is of great inter-
Japan produced similar histo-
est to historians because it not only offers ries after past wars to educate
the most authoritative account of Japa- and train military cadets.

nese grand strategy, war planning, and »» Interservice rivalry was
among the crucial problems in
military operations but also delves deeply Japanese strategy.
into problems of political leadership and »» The Senshi sōsho authors
of military command and control. The went beyond combat accounts
or documenting meritorious
compilers of Senshi sōsho generally regard
deeds. They aimed to show the
the primary cause of Japan’s plunge into disastrous consequences of
the self-destructive war in 1931–45 to be failures of leadership.

a catastrophic failure of leadership. They

Yuma Totani is the Robert Eckles Swain National Fellow at the Hoover Institu-
tion and a professor of history at the University of Hawaii.

110 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
have duly spent a significant portion of more than fifty thousand printed
pages on documenting what went wrong.
One of the core problems that Senshi sōsho brings to light is the interser-
vice rivalry between the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) and the Imperial
Japanese Navy (IJN). The two services had had a strained relationship since
their inception in the last decades of the nineteenth century. They developed
mutually incompatible long-range strategic visions about the defense of the
Japanese empire and they frequently engaged in fierce competition over the
allocation of finite resources in pursuit of their contrasting strategic visions.
The two visions were colloquially known as the “Advance North” and
“Advance South” theses. The army generally advocated the former, regarding
the Russians in the Far East as its hypothetical enemy number one. The navy,
for its part, promoted the latter by identifying the American naval forces in
the Pacific region as its main threats.
These tendencies in interservice rivalry worsened as Japan entered a
broader war in the 1930s. Senshi sōsho reveals that in the face of new mili-
tary challenges, the IJA and IJN did not seek to reconcile their interservice
differences but rather intensified them. Seventy-five years ago the Battle of
Guadalcanal (August 1942 to February 1943) would offer a stark example of
how the interservice rivalry culminated in disaster in military operations.
A minority of high- and mid-ranking officers within the army and navy
expressed concern over these troubling trends before and during the Pacific
war. Some also repeated-
ly warned that Japan had
limited resources and To this day, Japanese war literature
productive capacities remembers Guadalcanal as the
and could not support a “island of starvation.”
large-scale war, let alone
a multifront war against China, the Soviet Union, and the Western powers in
the Pacific. However, Senshi sōsho indicates that many army and navy men in
the 1930s and in the early 1940s had become vested in promoting the parti-
san interests of their service organizations, even if that meant putting the
interests of the Japanese nation as a whole at great risk.
Interservice rivalry, of course, is hardly unique to the Japanese military. It
is no secret, for instance, that the wartime US Army and Navy had heated
disputes over matters of command as well as plans on counteroffensives
against Japan. However, the US armed forces were far better than their Jap-
anese counterparts at resolving problems arising from interservice rivalry,
thanks to command authority exercised at the higher levels: the Joint Chiefs

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 111
INVASION FOILED: During the Battle of Midway in June 1942, a Japanese
heavy cruiser smolders after an attack by US carrier-based aircraft. The Impe-
rial Japanese Navy covered up its serious losses at Midway, both from the
Japanese public and from the army. As a result, the Imperial Japanese Army
failed to appreciate the gravity of the conflict in the South Pacific. [Hoover Insti-
tution Library & Archives—Benedict Stoll Goldberg Papers]

of Staff, the Combined Chiefs of Staff, and the president of the United States.
In the case of imperial Japan, the IJA and IJN were subordinated separately
to the emperor, and were accountable only to him.
On the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, the Japanese army and
navy agreed to cooperate in the forthcoming “Southern Operation” in
the Pacific theater (i.e., the Pacific war). However, this agreement was
premised upon the understanding that each would retain a significant
degree of latitude in pursuing their respective strategic visions and that
they would prosecute the forthcoming war accordingly. The results: in
some areas of operations, the two services carried out joint campaigns

112 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
STRIKING BACK: In this official military photo, US Marines clean up after the
Battle of the Tenaru River (August 20–21, 1942), scene of vicious fighting
between Japanese and American forces. A Japanese army detachment origi-
nally meant to invade Midway Island was instead dispatched to Guadalcanal,
in the southern Solomon Islands, where it was wiped out. [Hoover Institution
Library & Archives—Benedict Stoll Goldberg Papers]

seamlessly and in a well-coordinated manner. In some other areas, they
utterly failed.

The original plan of the Southern Operation had been to secure natural
resources in the Netherlands East Indies. For that purpose, the IJA and
IJN cooperated fully to carry out complex, tightly scheduled, multifront
air, ground, and naval invasion operations against American, British, and
Dutch territories in the Pacific theater. The South Pacific, meanwhile, had
no immediate strategic significance in the original war plan. By a series

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 113
AIR POWER: Steel sheets applied to the captured Guadalcanal airfield
enabled its use by US heavy bombers like this B-17. Originally built by the Jap-
anese, the airfield became the linchpin of severe fighting. But not until Octo-
ber 1942, two months after the Allied invasion, did Japanese army command-
ers conclude that Guadalcanal was a “decisive battle” between the opposing
forces. [Hoover Institution Library & Archives—Benedict Stoll Goldberg Papers]

of agreements that the IJA and IJN reached in the first two months of the
Southern Operation, the navy, in pursuit of its own war plans, retained
a measure of freedom in carrying out invasion operations against the
Allied strategic points in the South Pacific. The army was to provide some
ground troops, but its help would be limited to lending one or two infantry
The navy accordingly carried out solo operations in parts of the South
Pacific, which included securing Tulagi and Guadalcanal in the southern
Solomon Islands in May–June 1942. Two navy construction parties were
sent to Guadalcanal to build an airfield, which was completed August 5. The

114 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
American landing operations against Tulagi and Guadalcanal commenced
shortly afterward, on August 7.
Senshi sōsho reveals that the navy was stunned by the news of the Ameri-
can landing. To be sure, the Allied powers, at the start of the month, had
intensified aerial attacks against the Japanese positions. But the navy leaders
had subscribed to an optimistic yet ill-founded estimate that the Allies would
not commence counteroffensives until mid-1943.
Reactions from the army side were more of perplexity than surprise. Most
army leaders had no idea that the navy had gone as far as Guadalcanal or
was building an airfield there. Many did not even know where Guadalcanal
was. This interservice miscommunication presumably resulted from the
general notion that the South Pacific was a “navy area” where the army had
no operational responsibility aside from directing the lent-out army ground
It did not take long for the navy to appreciate the gravity of the situation.
Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku immediately canceled a forthcoming Indian
Ocean operation. He then ordered, at two a.m. on August 8, that the main air
and naval forces of the Combined Fleet be concentrated in the South Pacific
to “destroy this enemy and secure this area.” He also requested that the
army provide reinforcement.
But Yamamoto’s resolve to counterattack the enemy in full force met with
a cool reception from the army. The army had little interest in the South
Pacific as a theater of operation to begin with. Moreover, the army barely
knew how serious were the navy’s losses at the Battle of Midway (June 4–7)
because the navy had engaged in thorough and ongoing cover-up efforts, even
among its own personnel. Under such circumstances, the army naturally
resisted being drawn
into a war that it did not
seek and that it generally The army and the navy developed
regarded as the navy’s mutually incompatible long-range
problem. strategic visions about the defense of
Nevertheless, the army the empire.
agreed that it would
commit the Ichiki Detachment to retake Guadalcanal. This detachment was
an army unit originally meant for the invasion of Midway, which became
unnecessary after the navy’s defeat in that battle. The first echelon of the
Ichiki Detachment—916 men—was deployed to Guadalcanal but was wiped
out within days of its landing (August 20–21, 1942, in a clash known as the
Battle of the Tenaru River). The second echelon of the Ichiki Detachment

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 115
and an infantry brigade, the Kawaguchi Detachment, were dispatched at the
start of September and they, too, failed to retake the airfield.
The Army Department of the Imperial General Headquarters at Tokyo
progressively expanded the army’s role in the Guadalcanal campaign there-
after. Two more divisions—the 2nd Division and the 38th Division—were
committed in October. The 17th Army headquarters, which oversaw army
ground operations in this theater, too, moved to Guadalcanal the same month
to establish its field headquarters. On November 26, the 8th Area Army was
established at Rabaul, New Britain, the main forward operating base in this
theater, to improve the army command and military operations. The 17th
Army was placed under its command.
The formation of the 8th Area Army came with further army reinforce-
ments, which included the deployment of the Army Air Force in this theater
for the first time. When the 12th Air Brigade of the army arrived at Rabaul on
December 18, the battered Navy Air Force welcomed it with open arms. Vice
Admiral Kusaka Jin’ichi, commander of the 11th Air Fleet, was so pleased
that he came out to the airfield to welcome the army air crew.

Army Chief General Sugiyama Hajime at Tokyo, meanwhile, concluded that
the Battle of Guadalcanal had transformed into the “decisive battle between
Japan and the United States [Nichi-Bei kessen].” Sugiyama used this specific
term for the first time in one of his position reports to Emperor Hirohito, in
late October 1942. It took more than two months, then, for the army chief to
come to share the navy view that the unfolding military crises at Guadalcanal
were indeed grave.

DEFEATED: A captured Japanese military document (opposite page) is
among the evacuation orders presumably distributed widely to surviving
Japanese troops on Guadalcanal. It reads: “NOTICE. The soldiers of the 38th
Anti-Aircraft Battalion, proceed to Esperance immediately.” Survivors of that
battalion were evacuated from Cape Esperance, the northernmost point on
the island, on February 4, 1943. In addition to special collections where docu-
ments such as these are housed, the Hoover Institution Library & Archives
spent more than a half century after World War II building a large collection of
Japanese-language books, periodicals, and newspapers that covered the his-
tory and social sciences of modern Japan. These general library materials are
now housed at the East Asia Library and the Stanford Auxiliary Library. [Hoover
Institution Library & Archives—Frederick P. Munson Papers]

H O O V ER D IG E S T • S u m m er 2017 117
Members of the 17th Army Headquarters and its subordinate army units
had also reached the same conclusion, although much earlier than Sugi-
yama did. The Frederick
P. Munson Papers at
The Japanese navy was stunned by the Hoover Institution
the news of the American landings at Library & Archives
Tulagi and Guadalcanal on August 7. contain Japanese mili-
It had not expected such actions until tary records captured
at Guadalcanal. They
include an operations
instruction, dated October 1, 1942, and issued by the commander of the 2nd
Division, Lieutenant General Maruyama Masao. It reads, “The present inva-
sion operation against Guadalcanal Island, which is under close scrutiny of
the entire world, constitutes the decisive battle between Japan and the United
States, on which the rise or fall of the Empire of Japan is at stake” (emphasis
added). Maruyama instructed his men not to return alive without success-
fully recapturing Guadalcanal.
The army’s realization that Guadalcanal had morphed into a scene of
decisive battles came too late, however. The formidable Allied air and naval
forces prevented the Japanese navy from securing safe passage for the trans-
port convoys. The Army Air Force, however encouraging its participation
may have been, was of little use given the ever-increasing Allied air power.
Even when transport ships managed to deliver reinforcement troops to Gua-
dalcanal, supplies failed to reach them. Many Japanese died from starvation
and disease. (Military leaders customarily referred to Guadalcanal as Ga-tō,
an abbreviation of Gadarukanaru-tō. The hunger suffered by Japanese ser-
vicemen led them to refer to the island by a homonym, Ga-tō, which means
“island of starvation.”
Japanese war literature
It took more than two months for
remembers the Battle of
the Japanese army chief to grasp the Guadalcanal by the latter
navy’s view that the military crisis at term to this day.)
Guadalcanal was grave. The army and navy
chiefs at last convened
the Conference of the Imperial General Headquarters in the presence of the
emperor on December 31, 1942. The emperor sanctioned their joint recom-
mendation that the remaining Japanese troops be withdrawn. The evacua-
tion operations took place on February 1, 4, and 7, 1943. Cape Esperance, at
the northernmost end of Guadalcanal, served as the point of departure for

118 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
the broken and starving soldiers. The total number of army men deployed to
Guadalcanal was 31,358; the number of evacuees was 10,665, including 848
navy servicemen. The total number of army servicemen who failed to return
alive was 21,138.
The Battle of Guadalcanal as documented in Senshi sōsho brings to light
a vital historical lesson that the Senshi sōsho authors draw from their broad
inquiry into World War II in Asia and the Pacific, and which they try to con-
vey to their readers: leadership matters. Or, to borrow the words of Colonel
Horiba Kazuo (the author of Shina jihen sensō shidōshi [The history of the
directing of the war during the China Incident], 1962, which some Senshi
sōsho authors regard as a model), it is “the individuals that dictate the affairs
of state [kokuji wa hito ni ari],” and not some abstract, impersonal historical
force of inevitability. This is the lesson that I, too, take away from my own
inquiry into the history of World War II in Asia and the Pacific.

Special to the Hoover Digest.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Freedom
Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s Secret History of the
Second World War and Its Aftermath, edited by
George H. Nash. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 119


“The Power of the
Contempt for freedom of speech reflects
impoverished minds. Colleges that reject
intellectual diversity are much to blame.

By Richard A. Epstein

here are sharp divisions of opinion over a wide range of issues,
from health care and climate change to education and labor law.
Ideally, a civil debate undertaken with mutual respect could ease
tension and advance knowledge. Politics, however, often takes a
very different turn.
One of the landmark decisions of the US Supreme Court, New York Times v.
Sullivan, was decided in 1964 at the height of the civil rights movement. Writ-
ing for the majority, Justice William Brennan insisted that the First Amend-
ment’s guarantee of freedom of speech rested on “a profound national com-
mitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited,
robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and
sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”
He then concluded that the First Amendment offered extensive protection to
the media from defamation suits brought by private individuals—a principle

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.

120 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
later extended to public figures as well. Defamation suits, in his view, could
chill public debate.
There is an obvious tension between the efforts to secure deliberative
democracy and those to provide extensive constitutional protection of caustic
speech. That tension came to a head in recent free speech incidents on univer-
sity campuses. At the University of California, Berkeley, an organized group
of armed protesters overwhelmed local police officers and turned what was
a peaceful protest by many Berkeley students against the provocateur Milo
Yiannopoulos into a violent attack against persons and property. A similar
incident happened a month later at Middlebury College, where student pro-
testers violently silenced the thoughtful conservative social scientist Charles
Murray, who had been invited to speak before a Republican student group.
Of course, the scope
of the constitutional
protection for freedom of Criminal trespass and violence don’t
speech can be debated. become protected just because pro-
But in these two cases, testers dislike a speaker’s views.
it’s clear that the First
Amendment does not protect these disruptive protesters. There was one criti-
cal difference between the two cases: one took place outside the forum, the
other within it. The Berkeley student protesters on the street did not disrupt
Yiannopoulos’s lecture when they waved posters and sang chants in opposi-
tion to his beliefs. But the moment the songs and signs turned to threats and
violence, any claim for constitutional protection of their speech necessarily
vanished. Whenever speech inspires violence, it should be shut down. The law
is clear on that point. Abstract advocacy is allowed, because there is ample
opportunity to intervene before incendiary words lead to incendiary actions.
Speaking more generally, the term freedom of speech is not some constitu-
tional absolute, for it is subject to the same limitations that are imposed on
all other forms of human behavior. People have freedom of location, but they
cannot engage in criminal trespasses. People have a freedom of contract, but
not to enter contracts to disrupt by force the activities of other individuals.
People have freedom of religion, but they cannot kill or steal in service of
their faith. All forms of freedoms, verbal and nonverbal, carry with them cor-
relative duties to respect the rights of others.
Yiannopoulos did not violate the legal rights of others when he spoke to peo-
ple who chose to listen to him. But the outside mob surely did. If the use of force
is illegal, then the threat to use that force, whether by words or actions, is illegal
as well, and indeed just as insidious because it allows the protesters to gain their

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 121
unlawful objective without having to risk their own lives and property. Criminal
trespass and violence to person and property don’t gain protection just because
protesters wish to express their intense dislike of a speaker’s views.

The situation at Middlebury was different, insofar as organized throngs of
students shouted out in unison a prepared statement that made it impossible
for Murray (who conducted himself with patient dignity) to speak. Here, the
shouts and protests that might be permissible outside the hall cannot be
allowed inside, where the rules of engagement are quite different. Whenever
a private institution like a university offers someone a forum to speak, it is
entitled to impose rules of engagement on all participants to that discus-
sion—as Middlebury’s rules did. The whole point of those rules is to protect
the speaker from any “vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp
attacks,” so that he may get his message across. The constitutional norms for
public protest can be altered and supplemented by other institutional rules
that are intended to promote civil discourse among those who disagree.
Thus, the moment the students started clapping and shouting, they were
in violation of the same norms that protect their own speech there, warrant-
ing their removal by public force. Their offense may even be prosecutable
under the criminal law. Once some protesters resorted to force and violence
as Murray and his local host, Middlebury political science professor Allison
Stanger, sought to leave,
the criminal law kicked in.
The central mission of universities is It is unclear whether
to discover and promote knowledge Middlebury, which
across all areas of human life. imposed the rules, will dis-
cipline the students inter-
nally, or let the entire matter slide. Middlebury’s president vowed accountabil-
ity for those involved, but only after a long investigation with the police.
Violence on private property, as at Middlebury, is as much a danger to the
fabric of social order as it is everywhere else, and it is the first business of
any government, no matter how limited its functions, to protect its citizens,
and others within its territory, from it. It is a somewhat different question of
whether a private university must open itself up to all forms of speech in the
first place. If it is treated as a matter of positive law, clearly a university can
refuse to allow anyone it chooses on its campus: the right to exclude is an
essential feature of property rights. The First Amendment prohibition does not
allow one person to commandeer the property of another for his own purposes.

122 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
But in terms of their roles in society, there is a critical difference between a
university and a private business: the central mission of universities is the dis-
covery and promotion of knowledge across all the different areas of human life.
As Justice Holmes said in his 1919 dissent in Abrams v. United States, “The
best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the com-
petition of the market.” He penned those words in defense of a raucous public
protest against World War I. In the university context, that same principle
counsels against creat-
ing a privileged sanctu-
ary for some points of “The best test of truth is the power of
view to the exclusion of the thought to get itself accepted in
others. The discovery the competition of the market.”
of truth is an ongoing
process that often leads to the modification and rejection of the basic tenets
of another age. It is in this spirit that the guidelines announced and defended
by the University of Chicago represent the sensible private response to the
free speech question that goes far beyond the scope of the law. The principle
of competition means that no point of view is privileged over anyone else’s,
especially on the hot-button issues of our times. The university rightly casts
itself into the position of a common carrier that takes all customers so long
as they obey the standard rules against disruptive behavior.
In addition, one should be wary of “trigger warnings” given to students
about matters that might offend them. At a university, no position is out of
bounds—which is the only trigger warning a student should receive upon
arriving on campus. In dealing with the issue of emotional distress, professor
and judge Calvert Magruder said long ago that the best remedy is a certain
toughening of the mental hide. The modern law dealing with intentional
infliction of emotional distress speaks of extreme and outrageous conduct.
So-called microaggressions do not meet that standard, nor do they justify the
kind of senseless violence that occurred at Berkeley and Middlebury.
A related key principle: no level of personal offense gives rise to any claim to
silence speech, however abhorrent that speech may be. Otherwise, the most
vocal aggrieved individuals will get additional benefits over those who take more
moderate positions. A culture of microaggressions creates an incentive for
people to magnify their grievances, which in turn increases social polarization.

A huge advantage of private universities like Middlebury is that they can con-
sider a wide range of options that might work to facilitate internal debate and

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 123
independent inquiry. It is, however, unclear whether a public university like
Berkeley has the same degree of freedom, given that the First Amendment
normally binds state institutions. Still, in seeking to regulate its internal
affairs it necessarily needs some discretion in deciding what forms of speech
are permissible within the institution.
It remains worrisome to think that any university, especially any public
university, could deny the routine privileges of membership—the use of
rooms and bulletin boards, for example—to students who fail to toe some
collective line on race and religious issues. That issue arose when the US
Supreme Court held in
2010 that Hastings Col-
At a university, no position is out of lege of the Law could deny
bounds. This is the only trigger warn- certain privileges to the
ing a student should receive upon Christian Legal Society
arriving on campus. so long as the Christian
group was not prepared
to open its membership to all comers. It is also troubling how many univer-
sities have a stunning uniformity of views—which makes it ever harder for
more-conservative academics to gain positions in these institutions, at great
cost to those universities’ institutional diversity.
One good consequence of the Middlebury imbroglio was that an impressive
number of its faculty members signed a letter in support of the proposition that
“learning is possible only where free, reasoned, and civil speech is respected.”
How tragic that this statement was necessary at all. Let us hope that there
will be no repetition of these violent incidents, and further, that universities
and colleges come to understand that intellectual diversity within their own
ranks offers the greatest protection for this vital principle of free speech.

Reprinted from Defining Ideas (www.hoover.org/publications/defining-
ideas), a Hoover Institution online journal. © 2017 The Board of Trustees
of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Free
Markets under Siege: Cartels, Politics, and Social
Welfare, by Richard A. Epstein. To order, call (800)
888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

124 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


Speak Up!
Colleges and universities honor free inquiry in
theory, but not always in fact. How to keep higher
education true to its values.

By Peter Berkowitz

omething is wrong with American
higher education. Colleges and uni- Key points
versities offer encomiums to free »» Model legislation
can encourage trust-
speech and inquiry, which the First ees and legislatures to
Amendment protects, at least in theory, at public oversee campus free-
dom more effectively.
institutions. But the unmistakable trend in higher
»» Public universities
education is to police speech and thought.
should abolish speech
Colleges and universities promulgate speech codes and discipline
codes. Administrators, professors, and students students who infringe
on others’ rights.
encourage “trigger warnings” and demand pun-
»» Those whose free-
ishment for “microaggressions”—a pretentious speech rights have
word for inadvertent slights—and insist on “safe been violated should
be empowered to re-
spaces” from which troubling opinions and ideas
cover reasonable court
are banished. Campus authorities disinvite con- costs and attorney fees.
troversial speakers and look the other way when
students shout down dissenters who somehow
slipped through. The transparent goal is to prevent any deviation from the
reigning orthodoxy.

Peter Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow at the Hoover Insti-
tution and a member of Hoover’s Working Group on the Role of Military History in
Contemporary Conflict.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 125
Freedom of speech in higher education has been beleaguered before. In
the 1960s many students—and some faculty—invoked freedom of speech to
protect their denunciations of the establishment. But they were quick to pull
up the drawbridge behind them, disrupting lecturers who deviated from their
party’s line or denying them a campus forum. Now they and their progeny
are the establishment laying siege to freedom of speech.
The yawning gap between universities’ role as citadels of free inquiry and
the ugly reality of campus censorship is often the fault of administrators who
share the progressive belief that universities must restrict speech to protect
the sensitivities of minorities and women. Even those who aren’t ideologically
committed can be wary of bad publicity. They often capitulate to the loudest
and angriest demonstrators to get controversies off the front page.
The democratic process can change this balance of incentives. Earlier this
year, the Heritage Foundation and the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute,
in collaboration with Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center,
unveiled “model state-
level legislation designed
Students and faculty should have to safeguard freedom of
the freedom to defend their views, air speech at America’s pub-
lic university systems.”
their disagreements, explore compet-
The proposal is aimed at
ing perspectives, seek knowledge,
state universities because
and passionately pursue the truth. they are subject to the
First Amendment and
depend for their mandate and their revenues on state governments. But the
key provisions are inspired by three exemplary private-university reports that
expound the principles of free speech in higher education: the University of
Chicago’s Kalven Committee Report on the University’s Role in Political and
Social Action (1967), the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at
Yale (1974), and the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression (2015),
also from the University of Chicago.
The model legislation would encourage boards of trustees, which hire and
fire, and legislatures, which hold the power of the purse, to exercise oversight
more effectively and thereby alter the balance of incentives for administra-
tors. Specifically, it would do the following:
»» Require each public university to abolish existing speech codes and
publish a formal statement affirming that the institution’s primary function
is “the discovery, improvement, transmission, and dissemination of knowl-
edge by means of research, teaching, discussion, and debate,” and that it

126 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
will “strive to ensure the fullest degree of intellectual freedom and free
»» Require public universities to impose disciplinary sanctions on those on
campus who infringe the rights of others to free expression, while affording
due-process rights to the accused.
»» Instruct universities to feature programs in freshman orientation that
present the principles of free expression and set forth the campus policies
that safeguard it, particularly the disciplinary sanctions for those who violate
the rights of others.
»» Call upon university trustees to create a committee responsible for issu-
ing an annual public report describing the condition of freedom of expression
on campus.
»» Establish causes of action under state law for those on campus whose
free-speech rights have been infringed and allow them to recover reasonable
court costs and attorney fees if they prevail.
»» Oblige each public university to “strive to remain neutral, as an institu-
tion, on the public policy controversies of the day” and bar universities from
taking actions that “require students or faculty to publicly express a given
view of social policy.”
By enacting bills based on the proposal, state legislatures would enable col-
leges and universities to create an educational community in which students
and faculty can enjoy the freedom to defend their views, air their disagree-
ments, explore competing perspectives, seek knowledge, and passionately
pursue the truth.
That would advance the cause of public higher education. It would also
serve as an inspiration and prod to private colleges and universities—where
freedom of speech today is no less imperiled—to renew their worthiest tradi-

Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2017 Dow Jones &
Co. All rights reserved.

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

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 127


March for Every
Far too many feminists in the West prove reluctant
to condemn practices that harm their sisters in the
developing world.

By Ayaan Hirsi Ali

n International Women’s Day last spring, the organizers of
the Women’s March on Washington held another protest.
They called it “A Day Without a Woman,” in solidarity with
those women who have lower wages and experience greater
The organizers encouraged women to take the day off work, avoid shop-
ping other than in small women- and minority-owned stores, and wear red.
The problems being protested against—inequality, vulnerability to dis-
crimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity—are all too real for many
disadvantaged women, but in the United States the legal protections for
them are in place. Women who are unfairly treated at work or discriminated
against can stand up, speak out, protest in the streets, and take legal action.
Not so for many women in other parts of the world for whom the hashtag
#daywithoutawoman was all too apt.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and founder of the
AHA Foundation. She is the author of The Challenge of Dawa: Political Islam
as Ideology and Movement and How to Counter It (Hoover Institution Press,

128 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
“COURAGEOUS”: Ayaan Hirsi Ali (right) accepts the Lantos Human Rights
Prize in 2015 alongside fellow honorees Rebiya Kadeer and Irshad Manji. The
Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice described the women, all
of Muslim heritage, as “fearless leaders, reformers and rebels who have been
willing to defy social and cultural norms to speak out against human rights
abuses.” [Ron Sachs—CNP]

Around the world women are subjected to “honor violence” and lack legal
protections and access to health and social services. According to Amnesty
International’s recent annual report, throughout the Middle East and North
Africa, women and girls are denied equal status with men in law and are
subject to gender-based violence, including sexual violence and killings per-
petrated in the name of honor.
The relationship between the sexes in Muslim-majority countries is
inspired and often governed by a mix of tribal, traditional practices and
Islamic law. Algerian author Kamel Daoud recently referred to this system
as entailing “sexual misery” for both men and women throughout the Islamic
world. Daoud favors the full emancipation of Muslim women, yet many com-
mentators criticized him as being guilty of “Islamophobia,” a term increas-
ingly used to silence meaningful debate.
International Women’s Day should be a day to raise our voices on behalf
of women with no recourse to protect their rights. Yet no doubt protest-
ers refrained from waving signs condemning the religious and cultural

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 129
framework for women’s oppression under sharia law. As a moral and legal
code, sharia is demeaning and degrading to women. It requires them to be
placed under the care of male guardians; it views a woman’s testimony in
court as worth half that of a man’s; and it permits a husband to beat his wife.
It’s not only women’s legal and sexual freedoms that are curtailed under
sharia but their economic freedoms as well. Women generally inherit half
the amount that men inherit, and their male guardian must consent to their
choosing education, work, or travel.
In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, and parts of Nigeria, where sharia law under-
pins the judicial system, women’s rights suffer greatly.
There is a growing trend among some feminists to make excuses for sharia
and claim it is nothing more than a personal moral guide, therefore consis-
tent with American constitutional liberties. Yet the rules that such “sharia-
lite feminists” voluntarily choose to follow are also invoked to oppress
women—to marry them off, to constrain their economic and human rights,
and to limit their freedom of expression—who have not consented to them.
The moral conflict between sharia and universal human rights should not be
dismissed as a misunderstanding, but openly discussed.
Many Western feminists struggle to embrace universal women’s rights.
Decades ago, Germaine Greer argued that attempts to outlaw female genital
mutilation amounted to “an attack on cultural identity.” That type of defer-
ence to traditional practices, in the name of cultural sensitivity, hurts vulner-
able women. These days, relativism remains strong. Too many feminists
in the West are reluctant to condemn cultural practices that clearly harm
women—female genital mutilation, polygamy, child marriage, marital rape,
and honor violence, particularly in non-Western societies. Women’s rights are
universal, and such practices cannot be accepted.
The revival of part of the women’s movement, catalyzed by the election
of Donald Trump, has deeper roots than can be seen on the surface. A large
part of Western feminism
has been captured by
A robust defense of universal wom- political ideologues and
en’s rights should welcome support postmodern apologists.
from both left and right. Rather than protecting
women’s rights, many
feminists are focused on signaling opposition to “right wing” politics.
One of the organizers of the Women’s March movement tweeted: “If the
right wing is defending or agreeing with you, you are probably on the wrong
side. Re-evaluate your positions.”

130 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
I’m all for dissent, but that “us versus them” mentality has caused politi-
cal gridlock, even on humanitarian issues where the left and right should
work together. Hostil-
ity to and intolerance
of others’ views have The moral conflict between sharia
made rational discus- and universal human rights should
sion on important issues not be dismissed as a mere misunder-
taboo. A robust defense standing.
of universal women’s
rights should welcome support from both the left and the right, overcoming
domestic partisan divisions to help women abroad attain their full rights.
On International Women’s Day we should protest the oppression of women
who have no access to legal protections. We should support those Muslim
reformers, such as Asra Nomani, Zuhdi Jasser, and Irshad Manji, who seek
to reform Islam in line with full legal equality between men and women. And
we should strive to overcome domestic political divisions to defend the uni-
versality of women’s rights.

Reprinted by permission of the Daily Beast. © 2017 The Daily Beast Com-
pany LLC. All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is The
Challenge of Dawa: Political Islam as Ideology and
Movement and How to Counter It, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
To download a copy, visit www.hooverpress.org.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 131


Dare to Discipline
The previous administration held that discipline
amounted to discrimination. The new education
secretary should reject this claim—if not in the
name of common sense, then in the name of
student achievement.

By Chester E. Finn Jr.

s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff
Sessions and their teams work down the list of Obama-era mis-
chief that needs reversing, let’s hope that their agencies’ joint
2014 “guidance” regarding school discipline is near the top.
This wasn’t a formal rule that can be undone only by engaging in an
elaborate new regulatory process. No, it was more insidious than that—but
also more easily correctable. It was a menacing, twenty-plus-page “Dear Col-
league” letter, co-signed by senior civil rights enforcers in the Education and
Justice Departments, and sent around the land to state and local education
Because it was “guidance” rather than “regulation,” it wasn’t—and isn’t—
something that must be obeyed. But it was plenty chilling. Aimed arrow-like
at “zero tolerance”–style school discipline as well as racial discrepancies, it

Chester E. Finn Jr. is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, former chair
of Hoover’s Koret Task Force on K–12 Education, and president emeritus of the
Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

132 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
said, in effect, that if anyone even hints that your discipline policy shows any
of the (numerous) warning signs that suggest to us that discrimination might
be occurring—these are itemized at length—our agencies will investigate.
And if we find that you’re doing anything wrong, we have another long list at
the ready, this time consisting of painful remedies we can apply to you.
As legal scholar Richard Epstein noted in a thorough and scathing Educa-
tion Next review of the Dear Colleague letter, the guidance

offers no safe harbor for conducting routine discipline, free of con-
stant federal oversight. Under the Dear Colleague letter, ED has
virtually unlimited discretion in deciding, for example, whether
“selective enforcement of a facially neutral policy against students
of one race is also prohibited intentional discrimination.” Schools
will be reluctant to take these cases to court for they always face
the risk that ED and DoJ will claim that the observed differences
in behavior were themselves caused by racially insensitive or inap-
propriate district policies.

The single most troubling feature of this Orwellian guidance was the bald
statement that “discrimination” in the application of school discipline does
not necessarily mean that any individual was discriminated against. Rather,
the two agencies applied the deeply controversial concept—beloved of civil
rights activists—known as disparate impact. Which means this: should we
learn that you discipline students from group A more often than those in
group B, regardless of cause, provocation, or circumstance, and no mat-
ter how evenhandedly you may have treated them all, we will nonetheless
conclude that your discipline policy as practiced is discriminatory and we
will take action to force you to mend your ways. (In this context, groups are
distinguished by the usual suspect categories such as race, religion, gender,
disability, sexual orientation, and so on.)
As political scientist Josh Dunn wrote when the letter emerged,

the consequences for schools and particularly for minority stu-
dents will be nothing short of disastrous if actually implemented.
The only conclusion that can be drawn from these guidelines is
that the Obama administration does not care about actual student
behavior and only wants to focus on disembodied percentages
regardless of their destructive educational consequences.

We have no way of knowing how many federal investigations of this
sort may in fact have been undertaken in the three years since the Dear

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 133
Colleague letter was sent (though that would be an excellent question for
the secretary’s office to pose to the Office of Civil Rights). But in a sense it
doesn’t matter, for the purpose of the letter wasn’t to pave the way for lots of
enforcement activity. It was to scare the bejesus out of US educators when it
comes to disciplining minority students so that there would be little cause for
actual investigations.

It certainly succeeded in raising consciousness around the country about
school discipline, particularly the practice of suspending youthful miscre-
ants—and it has also played into the hands of those who, for very different
reasons, are striving to
put charter schools into a
Will schools be allowed to make their regulatory box that curbs
own choices about culture, values, their autonomy and will
ambience, and the steps they take to gradually erode their
foster seriousness, character, behav- appeal.
ior, and safety? The extent to which
Uncle Sam should intrude
himself into school discipline practices—and the extent to which “disparate
impact” should intrude itself into federal civil rights policies—are hugely
important issues, with or without charter schools. It seems to me unargu-
able that classroom behavior—and the consequences of misbehavior—is the
proper purview of individual schools, districts, and states, which must strike
a workable balance between fairness and due process for those who misbe-
have and the rights of a far larger number of students to calm, orderly, and
unthreatening environments in which to learn. It seems to me just as unargu-
able that federal civil rights enforcement is warranted when actual acts of
invidious discrimination take place, not when bean counters calculate that
members of one group are being hauled to the principal’s office more often
than members of another group.
What if—just imagine—there are more incidents of misbehavior on the
part of group A than group B? Why does an evenhanded, dispassionate
response by the school to every such incident constitute discrimination?
If DeVos and Sessions need any additional reason to rescind or counter-
mand that letter, however, they should consider the negative impact that
its view of discipline has on schools of choice. This goes beyond matters of
race and asks whether such schools will retain the right and authority to
be different from other schools, to be worth attending—worth seeking out,

134 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
even—because their culture, values, ambience, and the steps they take to
foster seriousness, character, behavior, and safety are up to them.
Observe the recent dust-up over school suspension policies in two of the
most successful charter networks in the nation’s capital. Seems they—KIPP
and DC Prep—operate with broadly phrased policies that empower school
leaders to suspend students whose behavior is “detrimental to” or “not in
the best interests of” their schools. Any right-thinking school leader would
want—and arguably needs—that kind of flexibility so that suspensions (and
other forms of discipline) can be tailored and customized to take into account
an array of factors regarding individual circumstances and histories, class-
room conditions, and the larger school culture. But such flexibility is anath-
ema to bean counters, activists, and overeager politicians.
Should it trigger—as one District of Columbia council member seeks—new
regulations that impose fixed external norms regarding which kinds of pupil
offenses and misbehaviors—if any—warrant suspension or other disciplinary
action? Whose interests are being looked after here: those of troublemakers
or serious learners, of government bureaucrats or effective school leaders, of
parents seeking safe learning environments for their children or, just maybe,
of those who want to besmirch and ultimately diminish DC’s burgeoning char-
ter sector? (What could be better, if the last is one’s intent, than to tear into
some of the schools with the strongest reputations and longest waiting lists?)

Before you answer, please consider two more factors:
First, the uproar in Washington over school suspension rates was fueled
by a new Government Accountability Office report. If you look only at the
report’s title, or at the headlines of articles reporting its findings, you would
think the suspension problem, such as it is, is confined to charter schools. Yet
as my colleague Brandon
Wright recently pointed
out, both DC charter “Disparate impact” means that even-
schools and DC district handed treatment is no defense.
schools had 2013–14
suspension rates that were about double the national rates. (That’s often the
case in urban settings.) But the charters’ suspension rate (13.4 percent) was
only slightly higher than the district rate (12.6 percent). And the charter rate
was headed downward (3 percentage points lower than in 2011–12) while the
district rate was level, even up a bit. Moreover, the suspension rates for black
students (and youngsters with disabilities) were slightly higher in the district

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 135
sector (17 percent and 25 percent respectively) than in DC charters (16 per-
cent and 22 percent).
Second, check out the evidence—albeit anecdotal—that when schools ease
up on swift, forceful disciplinary practices and instead put a premium on
“restorative practices” and “conflict resolution,” they find themselves with
declining student achievement.
It seems to me that an administration that cares about choice, about
achievement, about state and local control of education, and about restoring
the proper role of the federal govern-
ment with regard to civil rights now
Whose interests are being has ample reason—maybe even urgent
looked after? reason—to make known its views and
take corrective action. Such action
should both undo the direct damage that the Obama team did in these realms
and—insofar as possible—also quench the spreading flames that threaten to
consume far too much of what’s working in American K–12 education.

Reprinted from Education Next (www.educationnext.org), a publication
of the Hoover Institution. © 2017 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.

136 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


Home Is Where
the Market Is
What we should do—and stop doing—in the quest
for “affordable housing.”

By Richard A. Epstein

ousing policy has become yet another flashpoint in these highly
polarized times. Much of the controversy swirls around Presi-
dent Trump’s choice of Ben Carson, a distinguished neurosur-
geon, to head Housing and Urban Development. HUD operates
a wide range of subsidized federal housing programs that impassioned critics
are sure Carson will dismember. His chief vice in their eyes is his lack of
direct experience working in the housing area. This is a mixed blessing. On
the one hand, these programs must be managed—and, ideally, by someone
competent and somewhat knowledgeable in the field. On the other, Carson’s
greatest strength is that from an outside perspective he understands that
many of these programs must be cut back or shut down. There is much truth
to the claim that many of HUD’s programs have seriously worsened housing
difficulties around the country, especially for the most vulnerable groups.
The challenge is to choose the correct path for reform. Many of Carson’s crit-
ics think the proper line is to require new developments to save a proportion of

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.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 137
units for low-income residents, which will ensure, they claim, “that economically
diverse neighborhoods and housing affordability will be preserved for genera-
tions to come.” The implicit assumption behind this position is that government
agents have enough information to organize complex social institutions, when
in fact they are slow to respond to changes in market conditions and are often
blissfully unaware of the many different strategies needed in different market
settings. No one wants to say that governments should not lay out street grids
and organize infrastructure. But they operate at a huge comparative disadvan-
tage when it comes to real estate development on that public grid.

Far superior is an alternative view that I have long championed. First,
abandon the assumption that there is a systematic market failure requiring
government intervention. Second, remove all barriers to entry in the housing
markets so that supply can increase and prices can fall. These barriers are
numerous and include an endless array of fees, taxes, and permits that grant
vast discretionary authority to local officials. Removing these burdens would
let us harness the private knowledge of developers who will seek to work in
the parts of the market that hold the greatest profit opportunities.
Critics often fear that developers will look to build only mansions and
high-rise towers to satisfy the endless desires of the millionaire class. But that
hyperbole ignores every relevant feature of an unregulated housing market.
Most critically, as costs of housing construction and maintenance go down,
developers are able to offer lower-priced units to people of more limited
means. Prices are kept low by new entry across the full spectrum. Some
developers will move quickly into the luxury market but others, knowing of
the potential glut, will move into other market niches in different neighbor-
hoods where they can secure the highest rate of return. And once that is done,
the expanded supply will provide more opportunities to lower-income tenants.
Yet as matters stand, there is good reason why developers gravitate to the
higher end of today’s highly regulated market: they cannot absorb the high
fixed costs of planning, permitting, and construction for smaller projects. As
demand surges in highly desirable supply contracts, the result is always the
same. Equilibrium prices march steadily upward, leading local activists to
cry for a new round of subsidies, restrictions, and reforms, all of which start
the cycle over again.
A good illustration of this dysfunction is Measure S, which last spring was
defeated in Los Angeles. As the Los Angeles Times—a fierce opponent of the
ballot initiative—noted, “Measure S would impose a two-year moratorium on

138 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
all real estate projects that require a General Plan amendment, zone change,
or increase in allowable height.” One project that would have been forced to
stop is intended to house homeless veterans and other low-income folks. Nor
should that consequence come as a surprise. The reference to amendments
and zoning changes cuts far more deeply than it appears because under mod-
ern land use law, modifications of existing ordinances, often called “contract
zoning,” are routinely necessary to get a deal through. The initial zoning laws
are set in a highly restrictive fashion. The developer then has to come for-
ward with a package of benefits for the community as a way to secure a more
favorable zoning classification.
By blocking renegotiations, Measure S would have frozen everything,
virtually ensuring a mass developer exit from the market. The existing pro-
cess already is a huge deterrent to development, which started its relentless
decline after the 1950s with the onset of strict zoning regulations.

The bad ideas for housing regulation do not end with blanket moratoria.
Indeed, the most popular approach nationwide does not directly limit the
amount of new housing that can be built. Instead, it embraces “inclusive zon-
ing” in which the developer is forced to set aside some fraction of the total
number of units as designated affordable-housing units. As one might expect,
the worse the underlying situation, the more stringent the matching require-
ments. Thus, this past December, Portland, Oregon, unanimously approved
its “Historic Inclusionary Housing Program,” which requires all develop-
ments of twenty or
more units to desig-
Many HUD programs have seriously nate 20 percent of
worsened housing difficulties around the these units as afford-
country, especially for vulnerable groups. able. Look for a lot of
nineteen-unit projects.
Earlier last year, San Francisco, whose zany housing policies have no
known limitations, raised the ante when its voters approved Proposition C.
Before its adoption, developers had three options: set aside 12 percent of
units for affordable housing; build some units off-site; or contribute to an “in
lieu” fund to enable the city to take on new projects. Proposition C raised the
ante by insisting that the projects have 25 percent on-site housing; 33 percent
off-site housing; or that their developers pay a commensurately higher fee.
This program is reasonable insofar as it imposes less stiff requirements for
the on-site units than the off-site ones. These are usually more expensive to

140 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
construct. And, ironically, they are less desirable to low-income tenants who
cannot afford to live in high-price areas. It is just for that reason that a recent
op-ed in the New York Times by financial journalist Eric Uhlfelder called for a
“new fix” for affordable
housing that requires the
imposition of an annual Housing prices are kept low by new
luxury tax “on new high- entries across the full spectrum.
end condos and rentals.”
As Uhlfelder noted, this proposal essentially eliminates the difficulties of
in-kind contributions. But it is hard to see why it should make a dent in the
underlying supply problem.
It would be critical to know which new construction projects would be cov-
ered by the luxury tax. The entire scheme still could fail for want of takers,
sending a city’s program back to square one.
One way to avoid this difficulty, now under active consideration in Los Ange-
les, is for developers to pay a so-called “linkage fee” on all new commercial and
residential housing. The fee can then be used to remedy the chronic undersup-
ply of affordable housing. The program could, however, paralyze development.
One clear improvement over both the Uhlfelder and Los Angeles proposals
would be to sever the link between new affordable-housing programs and any
special tax on new real estate development by funding all local affordable-
housing programs out of general revenues. That switch in emphasis would
mean that a specific tax would be less likely to wreck a specific segment of
the housing industry. It would also provide a modest political check on the
willingness of local governments to dedicate funds to affordable-housing
programs, given popular resistance to overall tax increases. That just might
switch the political balance in favor of the liberalization of the notorious zon-
ing codes that have stifled construction in the first place.
But even these are really stopgap measures. All taxes deter development.
Market liberalization increases it. People like Uhlfelder explicitly say that
they are resorting to these schemes because they expect a Trump admin-
istration to cut back on federal subsidies—cuts that I regard as a welcome
counterforce to unsound HUD programs.

So it is back again to Ben Carson, whose real comparative advantage is that
he has no historical connection with the dysfunctional public housing world.
But Carson does grasp the dangers of “mandated social-engineering schemes,”
and appreciates the risks of unintended consequences of various social

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 141
interventions. We hope he brought a broom to sweep away much of the policy
As Carson noted, one of his first targets will be the multiple Obama pro-
grams that grant HUD funds to affordable housing built in wealthier neigh-
borhoods. Apart from the endless paperwork these “fair housing” programs
require, they also depart from Uhlfelder’s observation that most local housing
activists would prefer to use government grants to fix housing in areas where
low- and moderate-income people actually choose to live. Any decision by
Carson to scrap the rule would be a vast improvement for housing markets, as
lower administrative costs would lead to higher levels of local development.
The so-called housing experts all sign on to HUD’s general mission to deal
with the various ills of housing shortages, but none has the slightest inter-
est in market solutions that could improve the overall situation. To be clear,
market solutions do not include letting developers steamroll small property
owners through eminent domain abuse or allowing communities to pass
restrictive zoning and permitting requirements intended to block low-income
housing. Instead, the right approach is to stop eminent domain abuse, peel
away layers of regulation, and cut out the extensive network of government
grants that impose strings on how housing can be built.
Perhaps Carson does not know much about the current programs. But
if he puts the necessary reforms in place, he will have no need to master
the details of endless federal, state, and local regulations that created the
affordable-housing crisis in the first place.

Reprinted from Defining Ideas (www.hoover.org/publications/defining-
ideas), a Hoover Institution online journal. © 2017 The Board of Trustees
of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved. Read more
of Richard A. Epstein’s explanations of the housing market at PolicyEd
(www.policyed.org/scholars/richard-epstein), an online production of the
Hoover Institution.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is The
Case against the Employee Free Choice Act, by
Richard A. Epstein. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or
visit www.hooverpress.org.

142 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


“Growth Is the
Lower tax rates, broaden the base. Such simple
changes are all that we need, says Hoover fellow
John H. Cochrane.

By Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson, Uncommon Knowledge: What’s wrong with the Ameri-
can economy? Here’s a man who actually knows. John Cochrane earned his
bachelor’s degree in physics from MIT and a doctorate in economics from
the University of California, Berkeley. He has served on the faculties of the
University of Chicago and UCLA. Now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institu-
tion, Cochrane publishes often in the Wall Street Journal and blogs as The
Grumpy Economist.
There’s nothing grumpy about you. Why do you call your blog The Grumpy

John H. Cochrane: My kids gave me that name after one more diatribe over
morning coffee over the latest outrage in the newspaper.

Robinson: Recently you wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “From 1950 to 2000,
the US economy grew at an average rate of 3.5 percent annually. Since 2000,
it has grown at half that rate: 1.76 percent. America’s foremost economic

Peter Robinson is the editor of the Hoover Digest, the host of Uncommon
Knowledge, and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. John H. Cochrane
is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 143
problem is sclerotic growth.” The foremost problem is not the distribution of
wealth; it’s growth. Why is that?

Cochrane: What we care about is the well-being of the average American,
and when you compound growth for a couple of decades—or if you don’t—
nothing adds up to
the effects of long-run
growth. Many people
look back on the 1950s
with nostalgia, but as
a matter of fact the
average American is at
least three times better
off now than back then.
There are all sorts of problems in the American economy, but none of them
add up to doubling or halving the welfare of the average American over the
next generation. Yes, growth is the problem.

Robinson: That’s the difference between the growth we’re experiencing now
and the growth we used to experience. In one generation, you can double the
standard of living, roughly?

Cochrane: Exactly, or not. That compounds all the other problems that you
think of. For example, how are we going to pay for the national debt? If the
economy doubles in size, it’ll be easy. If it doesn’t, it’ll be much, much harder.

Robinson: Why has the economy slowed down? What happened in 2000?

Cochrane: Not just in
2000. I think the con-
“Growth isn’t just about more stuff. It’s sensus of economists
about quality of life, length of life. We is that this has been a
gradual thing over the
are much healthier than our grandpar-
last few decades. I have
ents and great-grandparents.” to be honest: there are
different views. One
view is that we’ve run out of ideas. There’s just nothing new to do anymore.
Growth in the end comes from productivity: new ideas, new companies, new
processes, each worker producing more per hour. Those new ideas have to
get embodied in new companies. They have to become reality, not just sit in
patent offices.

144 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
That’s the process that slowed down, and there are three stories as to why:
we ran out of new ideas; we don’t have enough demand, we need more stimu-
lus, the government needs to borrow more money (and admittedly just wasted
is fine so long as that money gets back); or, my favorite, that we have become
middle-aged, overweight, and out of shape. The regulatory apparatus in this
country, the legal apparatus, makes it harder and harder to get anything done,
which is why companies are not investing, and why new companies aren’t
coming in to make the kind of disruptive change that leads to growth.

Robinson: The notion that we ran out of ideas—is that not pretty close to
absurd? Here we live in Silicon Valley. Computing power is continuing to
increase and get cheaper, and this is working its way out into the economy in
all kinds of different ways—doesn’t that suggest that the notion that we’ve
run out of ideas is just kind of silly?

Cochrane: No. An economist at Northwestern, Bob Gordon, whom I hold in
very high regard, is one of the guys who have written a book recently about
this. It’s a serious
idea. As I think the
“The ideal tax code raises a lot of money
joke version of it goes,
they promised us jet- but doesn’t distort too much, so that if I
packs and all we got earn an extra dollar, I get to keep it. Our
was Twitter. The idea tax code kind of does the opposite.”
is that the big growth
innovations—the washing machine, the harnessing of fossil fuels—were a
onetime event and all this other stuff is minor. I don’t think it’s right because
as you look around Silicon Valley, yes, the computers are getting better and
better. These things can cause, if they’re allowed to, great disruptive changes
in all our lives. The driverless car and truck—think of what that does for
Also, growth isn’t just about more stuff. It’s about quality of life, length of life.
We are much healthier than our grandparents and great-grandparents. Inven-
tions in medicine, medical technology. We’re learning about the microbiome.
All this stuff I see as poised to make us much better off if we let it happen.


Robinson: You recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “[Political] parties
argue over tax rates, but what’s really needed is deep tax reform.” Explain

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 145
JOHN H. COCHRANE: “We’ve gotten stuck on more taxes versus less taxes:
‘you want tax cuts for the rich’ or ‘you want to destroy the economy.’ Both sides
are just repeating their own talking points, and we’re not getting anywhere. . . .
We need to think outside the box.” [Hoover Institution—Uncommon Knowledge]

Cochrane: Let me back up a little. I think our national conversation has got-
ten stuck, sort of like a married couple that’s squabbling. She says, “You leave
your socks around all the time.” He says, “Well, you cluttered up the medicine

Robinson: They both have a point, but it’s not getting anywhere.

Cochrane: We’ve gotten stuck on more taxes versus less taxes: “you want tax
cuts for the rich” or “you want to destroy the economy.” Both sides are just
repeating their own talking points, and we’re not getting anywhere. I think there
is both an economic case (we’re focusing on the wrong things), and a political
marriage-therapy conversational case that we need to think outside the box.
I think the fundamental economic problem is not the level of taxes but the
distortions of the tax code. Not how much do I pay overall, but if I earn an

146 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
extra dollar, how much of that do I get to keep? The ideal tax code raises a
lot of money but doesn’t distort too much, so that if I earn an extra dollar, I
get to keep it. Our tax code kind of does the opposite. We don’t raise all that
much money, but if you earn an extra dollar . . .

Robinson: We’ll take it.

Cochrane: That’s especially true in the United States of poor people. If they
earn an extra dollar, they lose $1.10 in benefits, and they get the message fast.
The deeper problem with our tax code is its structure and unbelievable com-
plexity. The lobbyists go to Washington, DC, every year to get their special
breaks and exclusions. Even if the rates were quite high, if we could have a
simple and nondistorting tax code, it would help the economy tremendously. I
would also like the rates to be low, but I think we can make a lot of bipartisan
or nonpartisan progress on cleaning up the massive and useless complexity:
the cronyism, the deductions, the whole business.

Robinson: John, may I tell you a story of a younger me and then ask you
what it means? I’m working in the White House and Reagan enacts the 1986
tax reform, which represented quite a simplification at the time. Milton
Friedman wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal saying: fine, but Congress
will immediately start poking holes in it. He said this is actually almost
cyclical. Congress has
to go back to resets and
simplify the tax code so “Every bipartisan commission says:
that it can in effect start lower the rates, broaden the base.
selling favors to special- That will simplify the code.”
interest groups all over
again. I thought to myself, “Milton, you’re a great man, but what a cynical
view. This is so transparently in the national interest that someone will come
along in a few years and simplify it further so that this tax code’s going to get
flatter and flatter.”
Of course, he wasn’t cynical; I was naive. We go from 1986 to the current
Swiss-cheese, unbelievably complex tax code. Are we just due for simplifica-
tion? Is Congress going to figure out it has got to reset the whole thing?

Cochrane: First of all, at least if we could restart the cycle, it would be good.
Politics is as you said. Each lobbyist meets with his or her congressman
or senator and says, “They’re getting theirs, so make sure I get mine.” True
political leadership creates a different constituency, where you make clear
to everyone, “You’re losing yours and you’re losing yours. We’re all going to

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 147
make it up on the volume because we’re all going to end up better off. Fur-
thermore, I want to turn you from demanding your special privilege from me
to your demanding, if I’m losing mine, I’m going to make darn sure he loses
his as well.”

Robinson: To strip the system of favors.

Cochrane: Because every bipartisan commission says: lower the rates,
broaden the base. That will simplify the code.

Robinson: That’s not a controversial position.

Cochrane: It’s not a controversial position, but the politicians have got to do
it. Now, how do you do it? Let me give you an example. If you take a hundred
economists and put them in a room and say, “Stop campaigning for a job with
the next administra-
tion. Tell me what
“We’re doing four things at once: the the best tax code
structure of the tax code, the level of is to raise revenue
government spending in taxes, subsidies, for the government
and redistribution. Let’s separate those.” and do the minimum
damage,” they would
probably say, zero corporate tax and fairly flat consumption tax.
With the corporate tax rate, there’s a big difference between zero and 2 per-
cent. Zero doesn’t come back. If you just reduce the rates, then you’re saying this
is all up for renegotiation next year. If you truly simplify the code and set things
to zero and eliminate them from the tax code, then I think that’s a commitment
that we’re not going back to where we were. Let’s start with the simple stuff.
The other answer to your question—let’s play marriage therapist. How do
you solve the problem of our squabbling couple? You say, “Let’s stop talking
about everything at once.” We’re doing four things at once: the structure of
the tax code, the level of government spending in taxes, subsidies, and redis-
tribution. Let’s separate those.
First, let’s have one commission talk about the right structure for the tax
code and leave the rates blank. We’re going to tax this and that, but we don’t
get to fill in what the rates are going to be.
Second, we talk about what the rates are going to be, but don’t get to play
with the structure of the tax code. We don’t get to say, “We’re going to sneak
lower rates in by giving deductions to people with purple ties.”
Third, you have a subsidy code, which is separate from the tax code. You
and I may not like subsidies, but we’ll have an honest discussion. We’ll put it

148 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
on budget and we’ll discuss electric cars, the mortgage-interest deduction,
and all the other stuff.
Fourth, redistribution. That’s an important thing our government wants to
do. We will have a separate redistribution code.
I think in politics sometimes you want to put things together so that you
can get a constituency to get it passed. Sometimes you put too much together
and just sit there yelling at each other. We’re at the point where we’ve put too
much together. By separating those four items, we could all agree on those
four items, or at least agree to keep talking about one without dragging the
other one into it. We could say, “higher tax rates” or “lower tax rates,” and
not screw up the structure of the tax code at the same time.


Robinson: If the right policies were set in place, how quickly could we see an
economic rebound? In the second half of the 1970s, the economy got ill. Rea-
gan came in and things
turned around pretty
quickly. One explana- “It was kind of OK when there was a
tion is things would have factory job you could send poor peo-
turned around anyway ple off to, but now the fact that they
because the economy
can’t get an education really hurts.”
is fundamentally self-
correcting and he just got lucky. The other explanation, of course, is he cut
taxes and rolled back regulations. Paul Volcker in the Fed stated that it was
the result of good policy. That’s what interests me, because if one believes
it was the result of good policy, the economy began to recover quite quickly,
in just a couple of years. Then we got growth in place that continued, with a
few setbacks, for almost a quarter century. In other words, that’s the hope-
ful explanation: get things right and the economy can turn around pretty

Cochrane: My answer to your question was going to be, I’m not sure if it’s
twenty-four hours or forty-eight hours.

Robinson: Really? Policy is that important?

Cochrane: Number one, the economy is not self-correcting. Recessions,
business cycles, financial crises—those are supposed to be self-correcting.
Long-run growth problems, if regulations come in and keep people out of a
business, that’s bad for life. Countries that aren’t working well around the

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 149
Third World, they have corrupt governments and a regulatory nightmare,
and that’s permanent. Nobody’s building a Silicon Valley in . . .

Robinson: Uganda.

Cochrane: I don’t want to name a country to insult, but that’s just not
happening. On the other hand, modern economics thinks very much about
people’s expectations of the future. Right now, just in a macro sense, the
proximate cause of low growth is not that Americans don’t want to spend,
it’s that businesses aren’t investing. They’re not investing in plant equip-
ment, new technology, new people. There aren’t new businesses coming in

Robinson: Even though the banking system is trying hard, or at least the Fed
is trying to shove money in their direction? They still are not investing?

Cochrane: The regulatory half of the Fed doesn’t want them to lend money
to anyone who might need it, and companies are not investing because even
if you can borrow it at minuscule interest rates, why do so if you can’t get the
permits for the plant or the FDA won’t approve the new device you have?

Robinson: Policy’s seriously schizophrenic. They’re trying to shove money
out, and at the same time the regulatory overhang is so enormous that
nobody wants to
touch it anyway. Is
“If everybody makes the same amount that right?
of money, then there’s no reason to take
Cochrane: That’s
a college major in painful computer pro-
the heart of Ameri-
gramming versus pleasant art history. A can policy. We subsi-
little bit of inequality is vastly important dize gas to keep the
as a signal to people: here’s where you’re price down, but then
needed in our economy.” we regulate that
you have to have
high-mileage cars to try to make you not use it. Seriously, I think if you had a
president and a Congress working together who said, “Here’s the policy plan,
here’s how we are going to fix things, here’s how you’re not going to have to
come begging for approval for something and then we’ll maybe tell you or
not, but here’s how we’re going to have a rule of law. You don’t have to give
campaign contributions to the right person. Your permits will come.” If we
even say, “Here’s our plan for fixing that stuff,” companies will start investing
the next day.

150 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
Robinson: OK, you can get economic growth quite quickly. Underlying pro-
ductivity growth is a separate problem. Is that correct?

Cochrane: No. Productivity is the underlying engine of economic growth.
Nothing else matters.

Robinson: That can change quite quickly as well?

Cochrane: No, but the investments needed to make higher productivity in
the future need to happen right away: the research and development that
lead to new ideas that result in new productivity. The minute you say, “Oh,
we’re going to be able to make money on it,” the economy will start humming
and producing the new higher-productivity things, and then productivity
rises and you get long-run growth. You get both the stimulus, if you will, in
the short run—let’s all get to work on those productivity-raising ideas—then
productivity goes up and you get the long run as well.

Robinson: Final question. Many Americans seem to be nervous about too
much growth and too much productivity—that the next big thing is going to
be robots, and it’s going to throw enormous sectors of people out of work and
we’re going to create a huge new underclass of Americans. This is very scary.
Growth and productivity have reached the point at which they’re scary, not

Cochrane: It’s a shame that 75 percent of Americans work on the farm and
the tractor just got invented, so they’re all going to be out of work. Sorry, that
was my great-grandfather speaking. We’ve seen this before. The car has just
been invented, and all of those people who shoe horses, stable horses, take
care of horses, shovel up what comes after horses, they’re all going to be out
of a job. Oops, no, they learned how to fix cars, drive taxis, and so forth. This
has happened many, many times. This worry has been with us since the dawn
of the Industrial Age. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. This is not a
surprise. Self-driving cars and trucks . . .

Robinson: Yeah, let’s take that example because that seems to be upon us.
It’s coming quickly.

Cochrane: It’s going to be wonderful. It’s going to come in ways you don’t
really imagine, and it’s going to mean the job of truck driver will vanish.
This is not a surprise. This transition is going to take ten to twenty years,
so people who are driving trucks now are not going to be suddenly and
unexpectedly out of a job. No one who’s twenty years old now and has a brain

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 151
in his or her head thinks about going into the truck driving industry, as, when
the car was invented, nobody said, “Oh boy, I’m going to take up horse wran-
gling” or whatever. It’s a generational transition where people do other things
rather than go into these businesses. It’s not as bad.
There are going to be people who made a nice living as truck drivers and
are going to lose that nice living. All economic growth has winners and los-
ers. A safety net, I think, is an important part of a compassionate society. I
don’t think it necessarily should be directed at specific industries, because
then they go to Washington saying, “Safety net for me,” but the hard nut of
economics is we need to respond to incentive.
With the younger generation, clearly what’s going to happen is that new jobs
are going to be in services and they’re going to require skill. The fact that our
public school systems have been taken over by teachers’ unions and keep low-
income Americans stuck in a horrible place, that is going to be more and more
painful. It was kind of OK when there was a factory job you could send poor
people off to, but now the fact that they can’t get an education really hurts.
Impediments in the way of people getting the skills they need to move into
the new economy—we’re going to have to let people get those things. The
hard thing is, prices are the signals in our economy. If everybody makes the
same amount of money, then there’s no reason to take a college major in pain-
ful computer programming versus pleasant art history. A little bit of inequal-
ity is vastly important as a signal to people: here’s where you’re needed in
our economy. For the moment, we’re creating way too many barriers. Getting
rid of the existing barriers will do a lot there. Software engineers make a lot
of money. That’s a big cause of inequality. If we let in immigrant software
engineers, that drives down wages and helps inequality. We don’t let these
things happen. The big problem is getting in the way of letting these transi-
tions happen rather than needing more push to have them happen.

Robinson: John Cochrane, who blogs as The Grumpy Economist, has just
proven that he’s actually a very optimistic economist. Thank you.

Cochrane: Thank you very much.

152 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


Rhapsody in Blue
and Red
“We don’t need less partisanship. We need better
partisanship.” Russell Muirhead shows how
political parties get things done.

By Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson, Uncommon Knowledge: The election of 1800 was ugly too,
but the candidates then were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Professor
Russell Muirhead’s latest book, The Promise of Party in a Polarized Age, has
this quote, which, by the way, is astonishing after the campaign we’ve just
been through: “What politics needs is not less partisanship, but better parti-
sanship.” Explain that.

Russell Muirhead: Better partisanship is partisanship that connects the
desire to win office with principles and ideas, especially principles that make
that desire something noble. Low partisanship is just the desire to win, the
desire to rule, the desire to have power. High partisanship is much more
motivated by the desire to do something good, where good is defined by
some kind of principle or set of principles. Better partisanship is principled

Peter Robinson is the editor of the Hoover Digest, the host of Uncommon
Knowledge, and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. Russell Muirhead
is the Robert Clements Professor of Democracy and Politics at Dartmouth College
and the author of The Promise of Party in a Polarized Age (Harvard Univer-
sity Press, 2014).

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 153
Robinson: The Constitution makes no provision for political parties, and
yet by the election of 1800, we had political parties. They were more loosely
formed than they are now, but they existed. We had two political parties,
and we’ve had two political parties ever since. They shifted around—we’ll
get to that—but how did we get stuck with parties in the first place?
How’d they form up so quickly when they’re not mentioned in the founding

Muirhead: I think that parties answer a profound defect in the Constitu-
tion, a kind of vulnerability in the state that the Constitution created. The
people who opposed the Constitution in the ratification period, known as the
anti-federalists, said that the problem with this new state is that it would be
too disconnected from ordinary people. It’d be run by an elite, by people who
were smarter, more
capable, more wealthy,
more established than
ordinary people. That
elite wouldn’t be able
to appeal to the senti-
ments and the attach-
ments, the loyalties,
the cares of ordinary
people. As a result,
there’d be kind of a trust
deficit. Ordinary people
wouldn’t trust this govern-
ment. The problem with
that is that a government
that’s not trusted can only
impose its laws through coer-
cion and threat and force. The
anti-federalists said, “This thing is
not going to work. It won’t have the
confidence of the people.”
I think they were right. It
didn’t, and often it still
doesn’t, have the con-
fidence of the people.
Parties are what
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

154 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
marry the sentiments, the passions, the cares of ordinary people, people on
the street, with that distant government in Washington, DC.

Robinson: The government is a million miles away in the agrarian period—
well, today for that matter. . . . We live here in California; if you’re a Democrat
you feel you have your fellow Democrats in Washington, there’s a fellow feel-
ing that it creates. You have your guys fighting your corner in Washington,
even though you may never visit it and it’s on the other side of the continent.
That’s the notion?

Muirhead: That’s the idea. That arose in the 1790s as soon as the govern-
ment got going, but it really was developed by Martin Van Buren. The 1820s
to 1830s. By the way, I think this is a defect not just in the United States’
Constitution. What the anti-federalists diagnosed was a defect
that afflicts the modern state. All modern states sort of rule
over tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of people.
They’re run by an elite of sorts, and they have difficulty
eliciting the trust and the confidence of ordinary
people. Something we see all over the world in the
era of modern democracy.
The federalists, Alexander Hamilton in par-
ticular, had an answer. The federalists said, “You
know what will make this new government
work? Good administration.” He says this in
Federalist No. 27 most directly: “Yeah, you’re
right. This government’s not going to be run
by ordinary people; it’s not going to be run by
people like you. It’s not going to be like those
state governments. That’s why you’re going
to appreciate it more. This government is
going to keep the peace and pass policies that
conduce to national prosperity more effectively
than your state governments do. When you’re
enjoying peace and prosperity, you still won’t
like those elites,
you won’t feel like
them, you won’t
feel a bond with
them, but you’ll
appreciate their

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 155
good administration.” That’s what Hamilton thought would make the federal
government work.

Robinson: The first technocrat, in a sense.

Muirhead: In a sense, yes. I don’t think that argument is entirely wrong, but
it didn’t prove to be as right as Hamilton hoped. That’s why the Constitution
needs parties. It needs parties to address the defect that created.


Robinson: The so-called golden age of bipartisanship, which you write about
in your book, lasted from roughly the New Deal in 1932 to the 1964 Civil
Rights Act signed into law by Lyndon Johnson, passed with Republican sup-
port in the Senate. There’s a certain
nostalgia for it, particularly among
political scientists, because in
those days the Democrats
and the Republicans could
reach across the aisle
and do deals together.
You argue any nostal-
gia for that period
is badly misplaced.

Muirhead: Well,
let’s be fair.
You’re right, I
think we can
exaggerate the
beauty of that
era. That era
is responsible
for some great
The chief

156 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
problem with it, the price that we paid with it, was that we had to keep race
and civil rights off the national political agenda. That was the price we paid
for mid-twentieth-century bipartisanship, because . . .

Robinson: Because
those Southern
Democrats were “There’s more to be said for this polariza-
segregationists, the tion than is generally said in its favor. I
great bulls of the appreciate it; I think it’s clarifying.”

Muirhead: Yes, Southern Democrats were Democrats because Lincoln
fought the war. The founder of the Republican Party fought the Civil War.
They were Democrats by habit, and the Southern Democratic party was a
segregationist party, as the Democratic Party had been prior to the Civil War.
Lyndon Johnson destroyed this great coalition, the New Deal coalition of
Southern Democrats and Northern liberal Democrats, Northern laborers. He
destroyed it by pass-
ing the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, and
then the Voting
Rights Act of
1965. He knew
he was doing it.
He used all the
capital accrued
over the years of
this coalition, and
he spent it all at
once on civil rights.

Robinson: All right,
what’s happened
since is that we get
a great sorting out.
Conservatives are
now Republicans,

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 157
and there are very few liberal Republicans left. The Republican Party is a
conservative party. The Democratic Party is now a liberal party. Now, accord-
ing to the political theory that I dimly recall from my undergraduate days,
that should be a good thing, because one of the purposes of the political par-
ties is to signal commonality to vote. It tidies things up. That’s a good thing?

Muirhead: What you say you dimly remember from political theory is the
argument that I make. There’s more to be said for this polarization than is
generally said in its favor. I appreciate it; I think it’s clarifying. It ought to
clarify important and even inescapable public questions. In the moment
when I came of age politically, it was still the case that there were both
liberals and conservatives in the Democratic Party, and there were liberals
and conservatives in the Republican Party. Each party kind of
covered almost every inch of ideological space. Most
important legislation was passed by a whop-
ping bipartisan majority, so you could
elect a Republican, you could elect
a Democrat, it wouldn’t make
that much difference to the
way the regime actually
functioned, the kind
of laws you might get.
Which meant it was
impossible to change

Robinson: Right.

Muirhead: It was
very difficult to contest
anything. When I was an
undergraduate, the main
argument with the two-party
system in America is that it gave
voters no choice. Everyone said:
“We need a third party. We need
more parties. We need a multiparty
system so that voters can make a real
choice and are offered real alternatives.” Now
we have that, and it’s not entirely bad.

158 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
Robinson: A last question about the current state of the parties. From The
Promise of Party: “Party loyalty at its best expresses itself as a kind of remem-
brance.” What did you mean by that?

Muirhead: What it means to be a partisan is that you remember the achieve-
ments that your party’s responsible for in the past, and you try to protect and
extend those achievements. To do anything in politics, in democratic politics,
requires a party. Barack Obama has learned that perhaps for the first time.
The great achievement of his presidency is the Affordable Care Act. That
great achievement might be dismantled in the following months because he
did not build a party that could take over and protect that achievement after
his second term ended. His failure as a partisan is going to be his failure as a

Robinson: All right. From parties to the Constitution. Hendrik
Hertzberg, writing in the New Yorker, asked, “Is the American
Constitution obsolete?” Terry Moe, a colleague of mine
here at the Hoover Institution, has just published a
book titled, Relic: How Our Constitution Under-
mines Effective Government. A modern
industrial nation of 330 million
people is governed according
to a document more than
two centuries old
that was drafted for
a premodern agrar-
ian nation of a few
million clinging to the
Eastern Seaboard. The
idea is absurd on the face of
it, is it not?

Muirhead: Thomas Jefferson
wanted every constitution
to come with an expiration
date. I think he calcu-
lated 19.7 years so that
each generation could
write its own new
fundamental law. In

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 159
some theoretical sense, that’s very appealing. Practically, I think it would be
a wholesale catastrophe to have a new constitutional convention. I can just
barely contemplate
the way special
“Parties are what marry the sentiments, interests would
the passions, the cares of ordinary people, come to dominate
people on the street, with that distant gov- that convention
ernment in Washington.” and try to tweak
every little phrase
of the Constitution to their own benefit. Even if it’s true in theory that the
wisest and most public-spirited among us could design a better Constitution
for 2016 than the one we’ve inherited, I would still counsel us to stick with the
one we’ve inherited.


Robinson: All right. Do you feel any impulse to rise to the defense of the Elec-
toral College? Donald Trump lost the popular vote by what now looks like
about two million, and yet his victory in the Electoral College was 306 votes
to Hillary Clinton’s 232. How stout of a defense of the Constitution are you
willing to mount here?

Muirhead: The Electoral College is part of the most fundamental idea in the
Constitution. It answers the most basic question of politics: who should rule?
The Constitution’s answer is that the constitutional majority should rule.
Well, what’s that? The Constitution says it’s not just a bare majority of the
citizens, as Gallup might register in a poll tomorrow or next week; it’s a more
enduring and geographically dispersed majority than what Gallup picks up
on. It’s a majority that’s widely enough dispersed that it can elect a majority
of seats to Congress. You have to hold your majority together for four years,
because only a third of the
Senate is up for re-elec-
“Each party kind of covered almost tion at any one moment.
every inch of ideological space. The constitutional
Which meant it was impossible to majority is larger in space
change anything.” and more enduring in
time than any ordinary
majority would be. The idea of the founders was that a larger, more endur-
ing majority would more likely be thoughtful, reflective, and right, and would
design policies that are effective and just, policies that are really fair, even to

160 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
RUSSELL MUIRHEAD: “Better partisanship is partisanship that connects the
desire to win office with principles and ideas, especially principles that make
that desire something noble. Low partisanship is just the desire to win, the
desire to rule, the desire to have power.” [Hoover Institution—Uncommon Knowledge]

minorities. That’s the idea. Now, you could get an unjust and a stupid consti-
tutional majority, or an erroneous constitutional majority, it’s happened, but
. . . there are no guarantees in democracy. Ultimately, without a virtuous citi-
zenry, you’re not going to get good government. That virtue makes it harder
for the people to do things that they subsequently regret.

Robinson: This is what Barack Obama failed to grasp: that he needed a
temporally durable and geographically dispersed majority. You don’t engage
in policy departures as radical and sweeping as the Affordable Care Act
without a single Republican vote.

Muirhead: The great dilemma of American politics since Ronald Reagan is that
neither party has been able to grasp this. Neither party has been able to form a
durable governing majority. We blame all sorts of things for that, and the causes
are manifold, but underlying it all I would say neither party has really tried to.

H O O V ER D IG E S T • S u m m e r 2017 161
They’ve satisfied themselves with one moment of victory, thinking that’s going
to secure them rule for as far as they can see. Right now, the Republicans have
the House, the Senate, and
the presidency, and they’re
“The Constitution is meant to bring feeling very happy about
out the best from the people, inserting it. Make this last for thirty
some space between our passions, years and you’ll rule. The
our reactions, and even our interests Democrats had unified
party control, both houses
and loyalties, and the authoritative
of Congress, and the presi-
force of law.”
dency in 2008; they kept it
for two years. This is the great goal that the Constitution offers. It says, “If you
can form a constitutional majority, you can rule.”

Robinson: You must carry the country with you.

Muirhead: You need a very diverse coalition. You need to govern the way
that holds that coalition together over time. Each party has pursued an agen-
da that’s actually more extreme than what the people have wanted. I would
counsel the House Republicans, the Senate Republicans, the Trump admin-
istration, the leaders of the party, that you should keep your eye on the big
prize, the constitutional prize, and try to form a durable, diverse, dispersed,
lasting majority that can rule. If you do that, you won’t be complaining about
the Electoral College.


Robinson: Let’s return to the question of virtue. George Washington, in his
Farewell Address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political
prosperity, religion and
morality are indispens-
“The constitutional majority should able supports.” Fewer
rule. Not just a bare majority of the and fewer Americans
citizens, as Gallup might register in a attend religious services,
poll tomorrow or next week.” divorce rate close to 50
percent, out-of-wedlock
rate 40 percent, coarseness and vulgarity everywhere in the popular
culture, pornography in everybody’s home by way of the Internet. George
Washington copied out the rules of stability and decent behavior as a
young man to get it firmly into his mind. It would be difficult to suppose

162 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
that Donald Trump has done any such similar exercise. Is the coarseness
of American culture, the lack of virtue, as George Washington would have
understood it . . . is American democracy at threat because the people
aren’t good enough?

Muirhead: I think the game being played right now can be summarized as
Trump versus Madison, and we don’t know which one’s going to win. Along
with this idea that the constitutional majority rules is the idea that the people
need to be virtuous to be deserving of rule. The Constitution is meant to
bring out the best from the people, the most deliberate, the most reflective,
the most judicious understanding of the interests of the country by inserting
some space between our passions, our reactions, and even our interests and
loyalties, and the authoritative force of law. The majority is all riled up, and
all of us are maybe aghast at some recent attack or recent horrible event, or
all of us are very enthusiastic and inspired. Whatever the passion, it takes a
while to translate that
passion into law. You
have to elect a major- “Neither party has been able to form a
ity in the House and the durable governing majority. We blame
Senate, and all of these all sorts of things for that, but under-
people get lots of veto lying it all I would say neither party
has really tried to.”
I think Trump stands
for authenticity. He communicates to people that he says what’s on his mind,
nobody’s bought him, nobody’s influencing his judgment, and he will trans-
late their frustrations, their grievances, their resentments and—although
he doesn’t speak the language of hope—we could also say their hopes into
government more effectively than anyone else. I hope that the dignity of his
office calls out the best in him and that he behaves in a more formal and
more restrained way. Therefore, Madison wins. I hope that Donald Trump’s
penchant, you could say, for the informal doesn’t defeat Madison’s constitu-
tional design and remove some of the dignity from the presidential office and
also remove some of the distance between popular passions and laws.

Robinson: You are reposing your hope in the Constitution of the United
States. You are hoping that this document more than two centuries old will
call forth a certain kind of behavior that will calm, and channel, and make
productive the passions of the present hour. Is that fair?

Muirhead: I would give you an A.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 163


The Future of
International law changes, but human nature
doesn’t. Hoover fellow Norman M. Naimark on the
ancient and persistent crime of genocide.

By Kendra Davidson

n December 9, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly unan-
imously adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Pun-
ishment of the Crime of Genocide. The convention was among
the first UN conventions to address humanitarian issues, and
made genocide a crime under international law. Sixty-nine years later, acts of
genocide still occur, despite international efforts to prevent them. Stanford
history professor and former Stanford Global Studies director Norman Nai-
mark, author of the recently published Genocide: A World History, examines
the record from ancient times to the present.

Kendra Davidson, Stanford Global Studies: The Convention on Genocide
defined the term as a variety of “acts against committed with the intent to
destroy, in whole or in part a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as

Norman M. Naimark is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Free-
man Spogli Institute for International Studies. He is also the Robert and Florence
McDonnell Professor of East European Studies at Stanford University, where he
is the Fisher Family Director of the Global Studies Division. He is the author of
Genocide: A World History (Oxford University Press, 2016). Kendra David-
son is the communications manager of Stanford Global Studies.

164 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
such.” Can you take us back to this moment in history—what was the context
surrounding the convention and the origin of the term?

Norman M. Naimark: On the one hand, the convention reflected the intense
lobbying, fervent commitment, and long-time interest of the Polish-Jewish
international legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term genocide in
1944 after having escaped the Nazi takeover of Poland. On the other, it spoke
to the needs of “international society” to outlaw the kinds of crimes commit-
ted by the Nazi regime against national and ethnic groups. In many ways, the
convention was a backward-looking document. It took a very long time for it
to be ratified by the UN member nations (the United States ratified it only
in 1988) and to become a part of international law in the way we think about
it today. In fact, the convention was mostly forgotten and shelved until the
1990s, which saw the war in Bosnia and the Rwandan genocide.

Davidson: What sparked your interest in this topic and inspired you to write
this book?

Naimark: I first began thinking seriously about questions related to genocide
during the Balkan Wars of the early and mid-1990s. The murderous events in
Bosnia in particular really shook me up, since I had spent quite a bit of time
in the region as a graduate student and did not expect in the least the severe
ethnic tensions that fueled war and genocide.
I tried to think comparatively about the historical phenomenon of geno-
cide, and that led to a series of books about genocide in the twentieth
century: Fires of Hatred, Stalin’s Genocides, and A Question of Genocide (on the
Armenian genocide). After engaging the questions of students and scholarly
audiences, I realized that genocide did not belong just to the twentieth cen-
tury or just to Europe, but rather was the product of the enduring character
of human societies. As a result, I started teaching a freshman seminar, “The
World History of Genocide,” which, in turn, became the basis for this new
This book is really driven by student questions, discussions, and papers
from that class. I dedicated the book to my students, many of whom have
gone on to study human rights and international affairs at Stanford and
beyond. The students really dug into the material and helped me understand
how relevant it was to their own lives and their future.

Davidson: In the book, you explore different cases of genocide throughout
history. How has genocide changed over time? In what ways has it stayed the

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 165
HATREDS: The national identity card of a young woman is displayed at the
location of her death: the Ntarama Catholic church in Bugesera, Rwanda,
which is now the Ntarama Genocide Memorial. She was killed along with five
thousand other Tutsis on April 15, 1994. Today, Rwandan identity cards no
longer report ethnic information. [Ric Francis—ZUMA]

Naimark: From the beginning of human history, genocide has involved a
political entity targeting a specifically designated group of people, sometimes
within one’s territory, sometimes in conquered territory, and seeking their
physical elimination. The motives for killing off a group, in the UN defini-
tion “in whole or in part,” are, according to the convention, less important in
determining genocide than the crucial question of intent.
There are several important moments in the history of genocide. One
might be considered the Spanish conquest of the Americas in the sixteenth
century, where the beginnings of “racial” thinking influenced the conquista-
dores’ massacres and oppression of indigenous peoples; another might be
considered the development of the modern state following the French Revo-
lution. The state, even in its democratic forms, can give rise to genocide.
The ideologies of communism and fascism in the twentieth century played
crucial roles in the development of genocide, and the interconnected complex

166 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
of colonialism and postcolonialism also were important to the development of
modern genocide. What scholars classify as “settler genocide”—when think-
ing about North America, the Antipodes, and Africa—was intimately linked
to colonialism.

Davidson: What are some of the challenges you’ve observed of reconciliation
and forgiveness in societies that have experienced genocide?

Naimark: Some scholars suggest that the history of genocide is best forgot-
ten, as a way to help societies rebuild from the fierce bloodletting that geno-
cide always involves. Revenge for past genocides sometimes provokes new
conflicts. This was certainly the case in Rwanda or the Democratic Republic
of the Congo. Most observers believe, however, that truth telling of one form
or another—in courts, in local institutions, in cultural expression, and in his-
torical and public discourse—is the best way to allow societies to recover.
Denial is almost always an integral part of genocide and its memory, which
in turn makes reconciliation and forgiveness extraordinarily difficult. The
involvement of international courts in convicting perpetrators of genocide
has been, on balance, a positive development during the past quarter cen-
tury. But the courts are frequently accused by the perpetrator populations of
reflecting “victors’ justice” and political one-sidedness, which also impedes

Davidson: Does your research shed any light on why such horrific events
continue to take place, despite efforts to prevent them? Any silver linings or
hope for the future?

Naimark: There has been some empirical work on the incidence of violence
and genocide over human history that demonstrates an overall downward
trend in the percentage
of people who die from
violence and mass killing. “The murderous events in Bosnia in
The argument is that particular really shook me up, since
changing international I had spent quite a bit of time in the
norms about genocide region as a graduate student.”
and the development of
the modern state system have served to impede political leaders from turn-
ing to mass murder as a weapon of dealing with subject groups.
There are warning signs for genocide that range from increasing racism
and xenophobia among societies and their political leaders to the ever-pres-
ent threat of authoritarianism and the construction of police states, which

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 167
make carrying out mass killing easier than in decentralized and democratic
The bottom line is that international institutions, laws, and norms do
help impede the eruption of genocidal situations, but there are few guar-
antees and the interna-
tional system works very
“I realized that genocide did not slowly—think about the
belong just to the twentieth century mass murder of the Yazidi
Kurds or the bombard-
or just to Europe, but rather was the
ment of Aleppo—when
product of the enduring character of
there is little agreement
human societies.” about how to intercede.

Davidson: What additional questions did your research raise?

Naimark: There is a deep gender component to genocide that needs to be
explored. Perpetrators do not treat women and men the same. There are
important issues of rape and sexual exploitation involved in genocide, and,
especially in the early history of genocide, women are more often than not
captured and enslaved, rather than eliminated. The perpetrators them-
selves are almost always men—though there are frequently also women
There are other dynamics of genocide that need to be studied more
carefully. For example, genocide is a process, usually unleashed by war, not
a distinct “event” with a beginning and an end. It tends to accelerate and
then slow down. It frequently spreads from one targeted people or group to
another, with methods
that evolve and change
“Denial is almost always a part of over time. The perpetra-
genocide and its memory, which in tors “learn” in the process
turn makes reconciliation and for- of genocide, which ends
giveness extraordinarily difficult.” up causing much more
damage to societies than
might be anticipated. These are all very good reasons for interdiction, that is,
stopping genocide before it accelerates and spreads. There have been a num-
ber of very important suggestive new studies on the economic motivations
behind genocide. This is important in explaining both the actions of indi-
vidual perpetrators and their helpmates, and the involvement of local govern-
ments, states, and their bureaucracies that seek revenues and property from
the victimized groups.

168 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
Davidson: How do you hope this book will inform discourse or perceptions
about the subject?

Naimark: I define genocide rather more broadly than most scholars, includ-
ing social and political groups into a concept of genocide. This was initially
Raphael Lemkin’s idea of genocide, but was deleted, primarily for political
reasons, from the 1948 Genocide Convention itself. This broader concept
allows us to look at communist genocides (in the Soviet Union, China, and
Cambodia) as well as
anticommunist ones
(in Indonesia, East “Genocide is a process, usually
Timor, and Guatemala). unleashed by war, not a distinct
Approaching genocide
‘event’ with a beginning and an end.”
in this way also helps
us think about genocide as a historical and potential threat to groups within
societies that are frequently subjected to stereotypes, dehumanization, and
“othering,” and sometimes to state discrimination and even mass killing, as in
the case of homosexuals and the disabled during Nazi Germany.
In the end, I believe that improving our understanding of these processes
can help identify warning signs of genocide and deter, if not always prevent,
attacks on minority populations of various origins.

Reprinted by permission of Stanford Global Studies. © 2017 The Board of
Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Hammer,
Sickle, and Soil: The Soviet Drive to Collectivize
Agriculture, by Jonathan Daly. To order, call (800)
888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.org.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 169


Speaking, Rand
Is History
The recent presidential race made it obvious:
conservatives have shrugged off Ayn Rand.

By Jennifer Burns

yn Rand is dead. It’s been thirty-five years since hundreds of
mourners filed by her coffin (fittingly accompanied by a dollar-
sign-shaped flower arrangement), but it has been only eight
months since she truly died as a force in American politics. Yes,
there was a flurry of articles identifying Rand lovers in the Trump administra-
tion, including Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo; yes, Ivanka Trump tweeted an
inaccurate Rand quote in mid-February. But the effort to fix a recognizable right-
wing ideology on President Trump only obscures the more significant long-term
trends that the election of 2016 laid bare. However much Trump seems like the
Rand hero par excellence—a wealthy man with a fiery belief in, well, himself—his
victory signals the exhaustion of the Republican Party’s romance with Rand.
In electing Trump, the Republican base rejected laissez-faire economics in
favor of economic nationalism. Full-fledged objectivism, the philosophy Rand

Jennifer Burns is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and an associate
professor of history at Stanford University. She is author of Goddess of the Mar-
ket: Ayn Rand and the American Right (Oxford University Press, 2011).

170 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
invented, is an atheistic creed that calls for pure capitalism and a bare-bones
government with no social spending on entitlement programs such as Social
Security or Medicare. It’s never appeared on the national political scene
without significant dilution. But there was plenty of diluted Rand on offer
throughout the primary season: Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, and
Ted Cruz all espoused traditional Republican views about reducing the role
of government to unleash American prosperity.
Yet none of this could match Trump’s full-throated roar to build a wall or his
protectionist plans for American trade. In the general election, Trump sought
out new voters and independents using arguments traditionally associated
with Democrats: deploying the power of the state to protect workers and
guarantee their livelihoods, even at the cost of trade agreements and long-
standing international alliances. Trump’s economic promises electrified rural
working-class voters the same way Bernie Sanders excited urban socialists.
Where Rand’s influence has stood for years on the right for a hands-off
approach to the economy, Trump’s “America first” platform contradicts this
premise by assuming that government policies can and should deliberately
shape economic growth, up to and including punishing specific corporations.
Likewise, his promise to craft trade policy in support of the American worker
is the exact opposite of Rand’s proclamation that “the essence of capitalism’s
foreign policy is free trade.”
And there’s little hope that Trump’s closest confidants will reverse his
decidedly anti-Randian course. The conservative Republicans who came
to power with Trump in an almost accidental process may find they have
to exchange certain ideals to stay close to him. True, Paul Ryan and Mike
Pence have been able to breathe new life into Republican economic and
social orthodoxies. For instance, in a nod to Pence’s religious conservatism,
Trump shows signs of reversing his earlier friendliness to gay rights. And his
opposition to ObamaCare dovetails with Ryan’s long-held ambitions to shrink
federal spending. Even so, there is little evidence that either Pence or Ryan
would have survived a Republican primary battle against Trump or fared
well in a national election; their fortunes are dependent on Trump’s. And the
president won by showing that the Republican base and swing voters have
moved on from the traditional conservatism of Reagan and Rand.

What is rising on the right is not Randian fear of government but something
far darker. It used to be that bright young things like Stephen Miller, Trump’s
controversial White House aide, came up on Rand. In the 1960s, she inspired

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 171
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
a rump movement of young conservatives determined to subvert the GOP
establishment, drawing in future bigwigs such as Alan Greenspan. Her
admirers were powerfully attracted to the insurgent presidential campaign
of Barry Goldwater, whom Rand publicly supported. They swooned when she
talked about the ethics of capitalism, delegitimizing programs like Medi-
care and Medicaid as immoral. They thrilled to her attack on the draft. At
national conferences, they asked each other, “Who is John Galt?” (a reference
to her novel Atlas Shrugged) and waved the black flag of anarchism, modified
with a gold dollar sign.
Over time, most conservatives who stayed in politics outgrew these juvenile
provocations or disavowed them. For example, Ryan moved swiftly to replace
Rand with Thomas Aquinas when he was nominated in 2012 for vice presi-
dent, claiming that the
Catholic thinker was
his primary inspiration The conservative Republicans who
(although it was copies came to power with Donald Trump
of Atlas Shrugged, not may have to exchange certain ideals
Summa Theologica, that to stay close to him.
he handed out to staffers).
But former Randites retained her fiery hatred of government and planted it
within the mainstream GOP. And it was Rand who had kindled their passions in
the first place, making her the starting point for a generation of conservatives.
Now Rand is on the shelf, gathering dust with F. A. Hayek, Edmund Burke,
and other once-prominent conservative luminaries. It’s no longer possible to
provoke the elders by going on about John Galt. Indeed, many of the elders
have by now used Randian references to name their yachts, investment com-
panies, and foundations.
Instead, young insurgent conservatives talk about “race realism,” argue
that manipulated crime statistics mask growing social disorder, and cast
feminism as a plot against men. Instead of reading Rand, they take the “red
pill,” indulging in an emergent Internet counterculture that presents the
principles of liberalism—rights, equality, tolerance—as dangerous myths.
Beyond Breitbart.com, ideological energy on the right now courses through
tiny blogs and websites of the Dark Enlightenment, the latter-day equivalent
of Rand’s Objectivist Newsletter and the many libertarian zines she inspired.

Once upon a time, professors tut-tutted when Rand spoke to overflow crowds
on college campuses, where she lambasted left and right alike and claimed,

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 173
improbably, that big business was America’s persecuted minority. She
delighted in skewering liberal audience members and occasionally turned
her scorn on questioners.
But this was soft stuff
It’s no longer possible to provoke the compared with the insults
elders by going on about John Galt. handed out by Milo Yian-
nopoulos and the uproar
that has greeted his appearances. Rand may have accused liberals of having
a “lust for power,” but she never would have called Holocaust humor a harm-
less search for “lulz,” as Yiannopoulos gleefully does.
Indeed, the new ideas on the right have moved away from classical liberal-
ism altogether. American conservatives have always had a mixed reaction
to the Western philosophical tradition that emphasizes the sanctity of the
individual. Religious con-
servatives, in particular,
Liberals have always loved to hate often struggle with Rand
Rand, but over the next four years because her extreme
they may come to miss her defense of embrace of individualism
leaves little room for God,
individual autonomy and liberty.
country, duty, or faith. But
Trump represents a victory for a form of conservatism that is willing to junk
entirely the traditional rhetoric of individualism and free markets.
Mixed in with Rand’s vituperative attacks on government was a defense of
the individual’s rights in the face of a powerful state. This single-minded focus
could yield surprising alignments, such as Rand’s opposition to drug laws and
her support of legal abortion. And although liberals have always loved to hate
her, over the next four years, they may come to miss her defense of individual
autonomy and liberty. Ayn Rand is dead. Long live Ayn Rand!

Reprinted by permission of the Washington Post. © 2017 Washington Post
Co. All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Rugged
Individualism: Dead or Alive? by David Davenport
and Gordon Lloyd. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or
visit www.hooverpress.org.

174 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7


When Eugenics
Was Progressive
Improve society by improving human stock? A
century ago, the Progressive movement cheered
that disturbing idea. Historian Thomas Leonard,
author of Illiberal Reformers, explains.

By Russell Roberts
Key points

»» The early Progressives
ere the first profes- enlarged the administrative
sional economists state, regulating economic
life in what they considered
racist? Hoover fellow a scientific way.
Russell Roberts inter- »» Progressives dismissed
views Thomas Leonard, the author of Illiberal individual liberties as
roadblocks to their project
Reformers, about the ideas that drove the Pro-
of making the United States
gressive movement at the end of the nineteenth healthier and improving
century and the beginning of the twentieth. welfare and morals.
»» Many Progressive econo-
Russell Roberts: Your book is fascinating, a mists and their reform allies
little bit alarming, and way too educational: saw eugenics as among the
most fundamental reforms
I learned a little bit too much about the that the state could carry out.
roots of economists’ attitudes in the early

Russell Roberts is the John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow at the Hoover In-
stitution. Thomas Leonard, a research scholar in the Council of the Humanities
at Princeton University and a lecturer in Princeton’s Department of Economics, is
the author of Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics
in the Progressive Era (Princeton University Press, 2016).

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 175
part of the twentieth century and the late part of the nineteenth. But let’s
start with the Progressive Era itself. How would you define the Progressive
movement and the Progressive Era?

Thomas Leonard: Well, one way to think about it is a rather motley set of politi-
cal and social reform movements that are responding to profoundly changed
economic and social conditions at the end of the nineteenth century. Particularly
the 1890s, which were—it’s hard to recall in historical retrospect—a profoundly
depressing and difficult
era. There was a double-
“It’s not just the hateful views they dip depression, triggered,
had of immigrants, those they called as is so often the case, by a
‘defectives,’ and African-Americans, financial crisis. There was
but the scope of their racism and big- profoundly rapid economic
otry. Almost no group, including even growth going on at the
same time. It sounds like
white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant men,
a paradox, but despite the
was immune from being character-
rather amazing ups and
ized as hereditary inferiors.” downs of the economy, the
US economy quintupled in
size from 1870 to the turn of the century. And that brought some amazing social
changes: lots of immigration; hopes to work in factories, shops, and mines;
urbanization and the rise of the American city. And along with all of that is the
rise of the United States as a single nation rather than a collection of states, and
also eventually as a global power. So it’s a time of enormous change. And we can
think about the Progressive Era as a collection of reform movements trying to
address and remedy those many and profound changes.

Roberts: And part of it involved an increased role for the government, and
a concept that we still use today: the administrative state. So, talk about the
role that played, as well as the role of expertise, which to me is an important
piece of this story.

Leonard: Right. The Progressive period—roughly the first couple of decades
of the twentieth century—is a moment when the state, particularly the federal
government, takes a much larger role in economic life. But it’s not merely the
case, as it’s sometimes represented, that the Progressives “brought in the state.”
They certainly enlarged the state, at all levels, particularly with respect to
economic relations. But they also changed the nature of the state. We sometimes
read in popular accounts the idea of big government versus limited government.

176 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
“NATURE VERSUS NURTURE’: The polymath Francis Galton, shown in this
portrait by Charles Wellington Furse (1868–1904), pioneered eugenics, coin-
ing the term himself in 1883. Inspired by his cousin Charles Darwin’s work, he
delved into a study of human populations and variations. Among his influen-
tial ideas was that the fittest people should reproduce and the unfit should not.
[National Portrait Gallery—PD-Art]

But what the Progressives advocated and ultimately succeeded in obtaining,
through their activism and their intellectual persuasion, was what they called the
administrative state, or the regulatory state, which was a new beast in Ameri-
can economic and political life. The administrative state surveils economic life.
It investigates economic life, gathering data. It regulates economic life. And it
performs all the functions, the Progressives argued, in a kind of scientific way.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 177
MANY BRANCHES: This is the logo of the Second International Congress of
Eugenics, held September 25–27, 1921, at the American Museum of Natural
History in New York. Alexander Graham Bell was the honorary president and
Leonard Darwin, a son of Charles Darwin, the major guest speaker. The confer-
ence pledged to address “the bearings of genetics on sociology, economics,
and the fate of nations.” [Center for the History of Medicine, Harvard University]

It’s well to remember that a big part of the Progressive movement was of
course about political reform as well as about economic reform. American
politics in the Gilded Age were notoriously venal and corrupt and dominated by
parties. So, the Progressives not only wanted to expand government, they want-
ed to change government altogether. The administrative state serves a very
interesting and crucial role in the evolution of government-economy relations.

Roberts: That all sounds well-intentioned and what we would call today “lib-
eral.” Why do you call these reformers “illiberal”—meaning not liberal? What
was illiberal about their views and agenda?

Leonard: There are two ways to think about this. First, the term liberal is an
old word in English but a relatively new word in the political lexicon. So, after
the American Civil War, say in the 1870s, if you described a person as liberal,

178 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
what that meant is the person would be committed to individual freedom
and to those institutions and laws that were thought necessary for maintain-
ing individual rights against the state; for example, a relatively free-market
economy. Today we use
the term “classical liber-
al” to describe that view “The administrative state surveils
because the Progressives economic life. It investigates eco-
gave the term, at least nomic life, gathering data.”
in the United States, an
entirely different meaning. The Progressives viewed this nineteenth-century
classical liberalism as inefficient, wasteful, and corrupt. So they certainly
were reformers, but they weren’t liberals. And in fact what they were trying
to do was to dismantle nineteenth-century classical liberalism in the name of
health, welfare, and mores. They basically saw individual liberties as archaic
impediments to their reform project of making the United States healthier,
and improving welfare and morals too. So that’s the first sense in which they
were illiberal: there’s not a lot of respect for individual rights, particularly in
the economic context.
The second sense in which I’d say the Progressives were illiberal is that—
in contrast to the original sense of liberal before it became a political term—a
shockingly high percentage of the Progressives were closed-minded, intoler-
ant, and bigoted.

Roberts: I’m a fairly cynical person from time to time, and even I was
shocked by the attitudes of the economists of the day, of Woodrow Wilson (a
famous Progressive), and of Eugene Debs (a famous Socialist).

Leonard: It is shocking. I was working many years ago on a history of
minimum wages, and I saw these absolutely appalling, hateful discussions
of workers from Asia, immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe,
African-Americans, and the disabled. I filed that away, thinking, “Hmm,
there may be a story here.” And it turns out there is a story. It’s not just
the hateful views they
had of immigrants,
those they called “defec- “They basically saw individual liber-
tives,” and African- ties as archaic impediments.”
Americans, but the
scope of their racism and bigotry. Almost no group, including even white,
Anglo-Saxon Protestant men, was immune from being characterized as
hereditary inferiors.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 179
Roberts: And part of this is what is known as eugenics. So, talk about what
eugenics are, how it got tangled up with Darwinism, and then, filtered
through those lenses, got into public policy and among economists.

Leonard: Sure. We have to be a little careful, because eugenics is today a dirty
word because of the horrors in Central Europe in the middle of the twentieth
century. But the Progres-
sive Era is roughly a
“The state must intervene to ensure generation before that,
that the hereditary inferiors not be and it had a very differ-
permitted to perpetuate their kind, or ent meaning then than
at least not be able to outbreed their it does now. Eugenics, at
biological betters.” the time, was the social
control of human hered-
ity. And many Progressive economists and their reform allies saw eugenics
as among the most fundamental of reforms that the state could carry out. In
some sense, what’s more important than what we would today call the human
genome? So, in their view, eugenics, which comes in two flavors—negative
eugenics, which is preventing children from the unfit; and positive eugen-
ics, which is promoting more children from the fit—was at the core of any
sensible social and economic policy.
Its relation to Darwinism is very complicated. A Darwinian is someone
who looks at outcomes, and, in the jargon of social Darwinism, says that
those who survive are fittest in some sense. The eugenicist is making the
opposite claim. The eugenicist is worried that those who are surviving, who
are outbreeding their hereditary betters, need to be controlled. So, in some
sense, though they both are species of evolutionary thought applied to social
and economic problems, eugenics starts with a very different premise: the
fittest are not surviving. Eugenics judges the races that are fitter ex ante, and
therefore the state must intervene to ensure that the hereditary inferiors
(immigrants, Catholics, Jews from Southern and Eastern Europe, Asians,
African-Americans, the disabled) not be permitted to perpetuate their kind,
or at least not be able to outbreed their biological betters.


Roberts: I’m going to defend Progressives now, which is not easy for me,
but I’m going to make a go. So, there is this disillusionment or a little bit
of soul-searching after World War I, because Germany was blamed, cor-
rectly or not, for the conflict. And of course it’s important to remember that

180 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
Germany—this militaristic, authoritarian state—was the first state to have
serious welfare activity such as social security, and other things. So, Progres-
sives realized: oops, we’ve got to concede that part of this was tainted. Then,
of course, World War II and the Holocaust ended any use of eugenics and
race-based thinking among liberals for the next seventy-five years. But can’t
one argue: “OK, so progressivism has these hideous racist origins. They had
an intolerant and horrible set of attitudes toward women, certain nationali-
ties, Jews, certain races; but they also had their good stuff. So, they had some
bad ideas; get rid of those and now they just have the good part.” What do
you say to that? And, more important, why should we care? Modern progres-
sives have bad ancestors—is that a big deal?

Leonard: I’m always skeptical of the argument, “This time it’s different.” One
of the main arguments in support of minimum wages early in the twentieth
century—a campaign led by Progressive activists and economists—was that
if you fixed what we today call a binding minimum wage, you would dis-
employ idle, inferior workers. The idea was that productivity was connected
with some metric of bio-
logical inferiority. So, if
you set a minimum wage “Progressivism’s core faith: if smart,
high enough, you’d make
well-intended people are put in
sure that the Jews and
charge, the best and the brightest,
Catholics and Orthodox
Christians from South- then economic and social progress
ern and Eastern Europe will inevitably follow. That funda-
were kept out; that the mental faith remains.”
Asians, who were vilified
as coolies, were kept out; and those parasites already in the labor force who
couldn’t be productive enough to justify a properly-set minimum wage would
be idled and could be dealt with appropriately. That’s an example of the way
that Progressives harnessed eugenic thinking in defense of something as
anodyne as a minimum wage. The idea is that it was not merely raising wages
but also performing this incredibly important and valuable eugenic social

Roberts: But no one puts forward a minimum wage now as racist. They are
just trying to help poor people.

Leonard: Well, that’s certainly how the rhetoric goes. There are two parts to
this. If we were giving the textbook version, we’d talk about the scientific or

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 181
positive claims; and then the normative claims. What’s interesting in retrospect
is that the original Progressives, unlike their namesakes today, saw potential job
loss as a feature, not as a bug. Whereas today it’s the other way around: folks
who are honest about, say, a $15 minimum will acknowledge that at least at that
level we start to lose jobs and/or hours. And the irony, of course, is that we see
this, if we see it correctly today, as a cost of the minimum wage being set too
high rather than as a benefit, which is how the original Progressives saw it.
I’m very sympathetic to your position as you sketched it: it’s entirely pos-
sible to be a proponent of the minimum wage in the twenty-first century
without subscribing to the hateful views of progressivism’s ancestors. That’s
quite right. But I think what we need to do is to step back from the sensational
aspects of eugenics and racism and look at the very idea of an administrative
state and expertise in the first place. So, I quite agree that twenty-first-cen-
tury progressives do not share the views of their intellectual namesakes. And
that’s all for the good. But I do think, though, that a couple of notions—and
we’re not talking here about racism or eugenics—have carried over from a
century ago. One we’ve touched on, and that’s this idea that if you really sat
down over a glass of wine with a thoughtful progressive, you’d find that they
still hold to progressivism’s core faith: if smart, well-intended people are put
in charge, the best and the brightest, then economic and social progress will
inevitably follow. I think that attitude is not nearly as arrogant or heroic nec-
essarily as a century ago, but that fundamental faith remains. And the second
thing I think that remains connecting twenty-first-century progressives to
their namesakes of a century ago is this idea that free markets are intrinsical-
ly unjust and wasteful—not in practice, but in their very design, their nature.
And that means, so goes the argument, that free markets require the visible
hand of a vigorous, activist state that’s empowered to investigate and regulate.


Roberts: This idea that certain races, nationalities, etc. would drag down the
wages of native-born Americans is tragically still in our discourse today. But

BARREN FIELD: The Eugenics Education Society, founded in 1907 and later
renamed the Eugenics Society, was one of many groups around the world to
promote the idea of selective human breeding. Today’s Galton Institute in
London, the society’s heir, renounces the theory and practice of eugenics,
singling out “the atrocities of the Nazi regime in Germany and of other
govern-ments, institutions, and individuals worldwide.”[Eugenics Society Archive/
Wellcome Library/Creative Commons (Noncommercial)]

182 H O O VER DI GE ST • Summer 201 7
in its day, in the Progressive Era, this idea that somehow a Chinese worker,
because of his desire for rice, would be willing to work for a lower wage than
a meat-eating Anglo-Saxon—I can’t tell you how disturbing that idea is to
me. And again, I’m not naive. As you said, we understand that people of that
era didn’t have the same attitudes we have. But to use that as a justification
for keeping them out of the workforce is so sad.

Leonard: Yes, viewed from today, it’s pretty ugly stuff.
It turns out that the Chinese play a key role in the American anti-immi-
gration movement. The Chinese were the first race—using the terminology
of the day—to be legally excluded from the United States on racial grounds.
The Chinese Exclusion Act dates to 1882, and it follows a decade or more
of white mob violence against Chinese immigrants and Chinese workers in
California. And if you think about it, it’s ugly of course, but it’s also a little bit
odd. Because the Chinese workers they were vilifying as coolies—that’s a very
important and particular usage—were basically being accused of being hard-
working, law-abiding, frugal, and resourceful. And these are quintessentially
American virtues, at least in the republican tradition. So, if you’re going to try
to demonize someone as a threat—hereditary, political, and of course econom-
ic—to Anglo-Saxon American workers, you have to come up with something
else. So, what they came up with—the Progressives, activists, economists, and
some of the labor unions—was that the Chinese had this sort of supernatu-
ral ability to subsist on
nothing, and that was in
“The Chinese were basically being fact linked to their race.
accused of being hard-working, law- Today we might give it a
abiding, frugal, and resourceful. And cultural explanation, but
these are quintessentially American at the time it was deemed
an innate quality. And
furthermore, that living
standard, this ability to live at subsistence, was not only determined by race
but it also somehow led them to accept unusually substandard low wages. Of
course, that doesn’t follow at all if you think about it. Just because you live fru-
gally doesn’t mean that you are willing to accept low wages. If there’s any com-
petition in the market, you won’t. It just means you are saving your money so
that maybe you can bring some more of your family to safety, or maybe start a
small business. So, the actual economics of it are a little bit puzzling.
This model of demonizing the Chinese as under-living—that’s what made
them a threat—was later adapted and applied to immigrants from Southern

184 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
and Eastern Europe and to so-called defectives (people with physical and
mental disabilities). And ultimately it was applied to women, using the same
sort of argument.

Roberts: Just the parallel where today people say, “We need a minimum
wage because people can’t live on the wages they’re earning”—that phrase
always strikes me as bizarre. I mean, everybody would like to earn more.
And certainly many of us would like to see poorer people earn more. But the
idea that they are
not living somehow
because they fool- “It never occurred to me that these
ishly accepted these ugly sentiments would again become
wages and we should an important part of our national
effectively stop this
political discourse.”
legal transaction,
make it illegal, by a minimum wage. And then, when you ask people, “What if
there are people who are going to be put out of work?” they argue, “Well, they
probably won’t be. But if they are, that’s why we need, say, universal basic
income, or an expanded welfare state.” And there’s this notion that there’s no
possibility of people climbing the ladder, no possibility of people getting work
experience to improve themselves, no recognition of the importance of work
for human well-being and a sense of pride and dignity. Again, I feel like a lot
of what we hear today in the debate is the same argument as a century ago,
just not quite as racist.

Leonard: I think that’s exactly right. And I should say that this notion that
these various inferior peoples, races, and genders and the disabled are
wrongfully usurping the jobs that rightly belong to white, male, Anglo-Saxon
workers, has a second component. And this is where eugenics adds meat to
the argument—it’s not just “it’s unfair economic competition”; the idea is that
the American working man will not lower his standard to the coolie level, and
will instead have fewer children. And because of that the hereditary inferiors
will outbreed their biological betters. That’s what the term “race suicide”
means. And race suicide is what Theodore Roosevelt called the greatest
problem of civilization. It’s not just a bunch of academics discoursing on
theories of wage determination. This was viewed by Roosevelt and many
other Progressives as a profoundly important economic problem.
The original Progressives were deeply ambivalent about the poor. It’s real-
ly, as I say in the book, the great contradiction at the heart of the Progressive
Era reform movement. I think they felt genuine compassion for “the people,”

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 185
which is to say those groups they judged worthy of American citizenship and
employment. And the deserving poor were offered the helping hand of state
uplift. But simultaneously, they scorned millions of ordinary people who hap-
pened to be disabled or belonged to an “inferior race,” or were female. Those
people were offered the closed hand of exclusion.
And I think that’s what connects to today’s discourse. There’s still a view at
large that certain classes—indeed, entire races—are not worthy of American
citizenship, much less employment.

Roberts: I’m glad you mentioned that, because I wanted to make it clear that
although I’ve been critical of progressive views toward the minimum wage
or other issues, it’s now the case that the right in America has taken up a big
chunk of the kind of argument Progressives were making, about the need
to keep America pure. It’s an implicit form of eugenic thinking without the
worst pieces of it, but not really that much different in its intellectual roots.

Leonard: That’s quite right. The kind of right-wing populism you are hear-
ing now is eerily similar to the arguments that were sketched in my book
of a period a hundred years ago. When I set out to write this book, it never
occurred to me that these ugly sentiments would again become an important
part of our national political discourse. But here they are again.

Roberts: Yeah. The race suicide idea is really rampant among the American
right today: this idea that America needs to be white or pure, or that some-
how our national destiny
is going to be contami-
“These people were not cranks or
nated by immigrants of
proto-fascists or any such thing. They certain kinds because
were the leading lights—intellectually they are not capable
and politically—of their time, and they of becoming part of a
thought they had it right.” democracy, part of the
workforce, or whatever.
And again, those attitudes are all over your book, which were common in the
1880s, 1890s, and early twentieth century about immigrants, whether they
were from Eastern Europe as Jews, the Chinese, Italians, Irish, or African-
Americans. It’s very depressing.

Leonard: And I would also say that, looking backward a century, we want
to make sure we don’t make the tempting mistake of condemning eugen-
ics and race science as pseudoscience. That would be our view of it today.
But at the time, it was nothing of the sort; it was the best science of the day.

186 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
And Progressivism is nothing if not scientific in the way it conceives of the
relationship of the expert to the administrative state, and the relationship
of the administrative state to the economy. It’s really hard to appreciate in
retrospect, but these people were not cranks or proto-fascists or any such
thing. They were the leading lights—intellectually and politically—of their
time, and they thought they had it right. They thought that they were simply
taking the best science of the day and applying it to important economic and
social problems. I think, if nothing else, it should counsel humility for econo-
mists and others who do policy today.

Excerpted by permission from Russell Roberts’s podcast EconTalk (www.
econtalk.org), a production of the Library of Economics and Liberty.
© 2017 Liberty Fund, Inc. All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Milton
Friedman on Freedom: Selections from The Collected
Works of Milton Friedman, edited by Robert Leeson
and Charles G. Palm. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or
visit www.hooverpress.org.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 187


Brodsky and His
A new collection shows where the great émigré
poet Joseph Brodsky found friendship, love, and

By Cynthia L. Haven

he Nobel poet Joseph Brodsky was something of an enfant ter-
rible in his native Leningrad. He began his career in America on
much the same footing.
A few months after his expulsion from the Soviet Union in
1972, a policeman stopped a car that had been racing down a Michigan high-
way. At the wheel, the young Russian poet whose English was barely compre-
hensible. Beside him, the University of Michigan professor and publisher Carl
Proffer, who had brought the redheaded writer to Ann Arbor and was now
teaching him to drive.
“We were supposed to get a $10 fine, but after looking at my papers, they
let us off,” Brodsky wrote to a Russian friend on the other side of the Atlantic.
“He said I was doing everything properly but not to drive on the highway at
such a high speed. ‘Sorry, Mr. Brodsky.’ ” It was one of many lucky breaks.
The tale is one of many told in the Joseph Brodsky Papers, newly acquired
by the Hoover Institution Library & Archives. Along with photos, drafts,

Cynthia L. Haven is the editor of Joseph Brodsky: Conversations (University
Press of Mississippi, 2003) and the author of a forthcoming book on the poet. She
was a Voegelin Fellow at the Hoover Institution and writes a literary blog, The
Book Haven (bookhaven.stanford.edu).

188 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
holograph poems, manuscripts, drawings, and doodles, the four archival
boxes also hold seventy letters from Brodsky, as well as correspondence to
him from such figures as Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Swedish trans-
lator and author Bengt Jangfeldt, Australian poet Les Murray, and others.
Also in the boxes: twenty-five pages of notes and drafts; five self-portraits, a
landscape, and a still life, all in black chalk; occasional cards he created and
illustrated; a transcript of his 1964 Soviet trial for “parasitism”; and other
“The Hoover Archives was keenly interested in adding the Joseph Brodsky
papers collected by his friend Diana Myers to its vast archives on Russia,”
said Eric Wakin, the Robert H. Malott Director of the Hoover Library &
“With Hoover’s significant holdings on the poet in its Irwin T. and Shirley
Holtzman Collection, and the recently acquired Joseph Brodsky papers from
the Katilius Family Archive at the Green Library, Stanford has become a
notable center for Brodsky studies in the United States.”
One of the most important aspects of the collection for Brodsky scholars
will be the holograph poems that document the slow progression from an
idea to a finished poem, with notations, corrections, and amendments.
“You can see how it
worked, you can see the
holograph collection on Brodsky illustrated almost everything
typescript to the final he wrote, often with self-portraits in
version. It’s something the margin, or cats.
that gives insight into
his work,” said archivist Lora Soroka, whose dedication was vital in
bringing the collection to Stanford. “This is definitely one of our star
collections—not big, but stellar.”
The collection also shows Brodsky’s profound capacity for friendship—in
this case, with Diana Myers, his lifelong correspondent and confidante from
his Leningrad days. She married the English writer and translator Alan
Myers and emigrated to England, all the while keeping everything his pen
had touched over the years of their association. Brodsky and Diana Myers
were old hands at the communist-era ways of preserving a legacy.
The world of censorship, suppression, and samizdat in Soviet Russia meant
that everything was collected and duplicated to ensure it survived, copied
either by hand or with carbon paper. Brodsky never lost that mindset—and
neither did his friends, who squirreled away his manuscripts, letters, draw-
ings, notes, and cards.

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 189
“A lot of people cared about Brodsky’s work, and he made them aware of
what he was doing on a real-time basis,” said John Wronoski of Lame Duck
Books. “He was afraid it would be lost if it wasn’t out there. That was espe-
cially true during his early period of exile.” For that reason, said Wronoski,
an expert on modern European literature who has appraised many Brodsky
archives, he made sure that his work was in the hands of the people who
cared about it. He found Hoover’s Brodsky Papers “totally exciting”—the
letters alone would be
“jewels in any collection.”
What archivists and In Brodsky’s Russia, everything was
collectors consider collected and duplicated to ensure
“original” is relative and that it survived. He never lost that
flexible. For example, outlook.
Wronoski said he had
seen the same manuscript poem in five Brodsky collections. However, one of
the indisputably unique aspects of the collection is the number and qual-
ity of Brodsky’s self-portraits, chalk drawings, ink drawings, and handmade
occasional cards for friends. They show that the poet also had an eye for
art—an interest that reaches back to the Leningrad days. Brodsky illustrated
almost everything he wrote, often with self-portraits in the margin, or cats,
which Yuri Leving of Dalhousie University, in an unpublished manuscript,
Joseph Brodsky the Artist, called “acts as a metonymic self-representation of
the exiled writer, easing the pathos of the message and translating it into a
comic register.”
Brodsky’s artistic proclivities bring us to another muse who joined hands
with Euterpe. As so often happened, it was a woman.

In 1962, the high-voltage poet met a dark-haired artist, a woman of silences.
He was almost twenty-two, she was nearly two years older. The rest was
destiny. Their love, suffering, and final separation forged a poetic identity
for the young poet, who would go on to face trial, internal exile, forced labor,
psychiatric prisons, and eventually exile.

STRONG LINES: Brodsky drew this self-portrait (opposite page) in black
chalk. The new Hoover acquisitions include this art and four other self-
portraits, along with a landscape and a still life. [Hoover Institution Library &
Archives—Joseph Brodsky Collection]

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 191
For decades after the liaison ended, Brodsky immortalized Marina Bas-
manova in a series of poems eventually published as New Stanzas to Augusta.
And what did she give him? A son. But surely a less-observed aspect of the
liaison is this: she fostered the poet as artist.
Basmanova lit the fire, but the kindling had been prepared by others.
His father was a photographer, and Brodsky learned early how to compose
an image in a viewfinder, to develop a “camera eye.” His own photographs
show the influence of
the father on the son.
Moreover, the classical Handwritten poems document the
architectural lines of his slow progression from an idea to the
hometown, the former
finished work.
and future Petersburg,
imprinted themselves on his aesthetics almost from birth and found expres-
sion in almost everything he wrote.
Brodsky certainly would have known of Pushkin’s similar habit of illustrat-
ing what he wrote. His parents particularly prized the drawings of Pushkin,
and pored over Pushkin albums—which also must have made an impression
on the future poet who had been compared to Pushkin for his restless dae-
mon and poetic equilibristics.
Brodsky remarked in a 1993 interview with Bozhena Shallcross that Push-
kin was a “wonderful artist,” adding: “I think that in filling up a page with
drawings the poet was expressing his attitude towards the form, or rather,
the adoption of freedom and an open form. This is like what Czeslaw Milosz
says in the first line of ‘Ars Poetica?’ where he yearns for a ‘more capacious
form.’ While I admire Milosz’s principle, I do not strive for a more open form.
I am not capable of writing a poem without rhyme.”
Basmanova and Brodsky visited the Hermitage and other museums togeth-
er. Both her parents were artists, and when Brodsky visited her family home
while her parents were out, she would show him their artwork and discuss it
with him. However, she told a mutual friend that Brodsky had a tremendous
sense of color well before he met her. “He needed an art education—and

WHIMSY: In this wedding card (opposite page) that Brodsky made for his
friend Diana Myers, he imagines an England he has not yet seen: a cathedral,
a Union Jack, even a Beatles record. While still in the Soviet Union, Brodsky
asked Myers to place a bouquet in honor of John Donne in St. Paul’s Cathedral,
where the English poet is buried. [Hoover Institution Library & Archives—Joseph Brod-
sky Collection]

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 193
through her and her parents he received it, particularly in the Russian mod-
erns,” said the friend, a leading Brodsky scholar, Valentina Polukhina.
The great poet Anna Akhmatova took note of her protégé’s drawings in a
1965 letter: “When I see them, I always think of Picasso’s illustrations to the
Metamorphoses,” she wrote, recalling the Spanish artist’s deft black lines and
the classical motifs that intrigued both Brodsky and Picasso. Other Brodsky
drawings have been compared with the work of the French Fauvist painter
Raoul Dufy, another painter he admired.
In America years later, in 1981, Brodsky acknowledged his debt of gratitude
to the great love of his early years:

I was practically blind.
You, appearing, then hiding,
gave me my sight and heightened
it. (“Seven Strophes”)

There was another, lesser-known woman to whom Brodsky was indebted,
through her lifelong friendship and gift for hospitality.

In 1967, when the newlywed Diana Myers arrived in England from the Soviet
Union, she was carrying an armful of flowers. She had a mission: Brodsky
had asked her to lay them at the feet of John Donne’s effigy in St. Paul’s
Cathedral. It was her first stop in her new homeland.
It was not her last service for Brodsky, however. When he was expelled
from the Soviet Union, the London home Myers shared with her husband
would become Brodsky’s English pied-à-terre. She would remain one of
Brodsky’s confidantes for the rest of his life. The Joseph Brodsky Papers
document his long love affair with English culture and language, long before
his emigration to the United States.
“I am a patriot, but I must say that English poetry is the richest in
the world,” he told an American student visiting him in Leningrad in

NEST: Brodsky drew this sketch (opposite page) of his parents, Aleksandr
Brodsky, a photographer, and Maria Volpert Brodsky, an interpreter. The St.
Petersburg apartment house the young man once shared with his parents is
now a museum. He wrote an essay, “In a Room and a Half,” about those years.
The poet muses how in the life of every grown-up child, “one day, when the
new reality is mastered, when his own terms are met, he suddenly learns that
his old nest is gone, that those who gave him life are dead.” [Hoover Institution
Library & Archives—Joseph Brodsky Collection]

H O O V ER D IG E S T • S u m m e r 2017 195
1970—strong words for one of the pre-eminent Russian poets of the past
Brodsky began translating and writing English poetry during his inter-
nal exile in Norenskaya, near the Arctic Circle. He was fascinated by John
Donne, and more generally the Metaphysical poets of the seventeenth
century—a group characterized by an exploration of philosophical themes in
poetry and elaborate conceits. His 1963 poem “Elegy to John Donne” brought
him the attention of the international literary world. In it, he was already
beginning to dream of the country he had never seen:

John Donne has sunk in sleep, with him the sea.
Chalk cliffs now tower in sleep above the sands.
This island sleeps, embraced by lonely dreams,
and every garden now is triple-barred.
Pines, maples, birches, firs, and spruce—all sleep.

One letter written to Alan Myers a few months before his exile almost begs
for more information about the Metaphysical poets: he wanted him to discuss
George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, and Henry Vaughan, and he sought better
editions of Ben Jonson, Henry King, Walter Raleigh, John Wilmot.
On another page in the collection, he scribbles a few quotes from Shake-
speare with his own illustrations: “Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins
remembered” and, on the reverse side of the same sheet, “Let me not to the
marriage of true minds admit impediments.” One undated and unpublished
poem in the papers seems almost an homage to George Herbert.

Diana Myers was one of the lesser-known figures in Brodsky’s life; few of his
associates seem to know much about her. The friendship from his Leningrad
days was both intimate and intellectual. He told her everything, from per-
sonal gossip to his loftiest
Brodsky learned early how to com- She was born Diana
pose an image in a viewfinder, to Abaeva, ethnically an
develop a “camera eye.” Ossetian, whose promi-
nent father had been
politically purged and shot under Stalin’s regime in the 1930s. She grew up
in Moscow and Tiflis, in the Caucasus Mountains—Brodsky once traveled
to Tiflis to visit when he was impatient for her return to Leningrad. Friends
recalled that she was small and slight, with dark straight hair, a slightly

196 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
hooked nose, and a wonderful smile, darkened slightly by nicotine stains, for
she smoked almost as ferociously as Brodsky did.
Like Brodsky, she said she lived for literature and was impractical, even
unworldly. She had a slightly languid Eastern air—on one scrap of paper in
the collection Brodsky calls her “queen of the couch.” At other times, she was
“Your Highness.”
She was “very intelligent and thoughtful and idiosyncratic,” recalled Faith
Wigzell of the University College London, who had been a close friend of
Brodsky’s as well as a
colleague of Myers, who
was on the academic “I am a patriot, but I must say that
staff at London’s School English poetry is the richest in the
of Slavonic and East world.”
European Studies, later
merged with the University College London. Wigzell had been the depart-
ment chair.
Wigzell recalls some of Myers’s more naive decisions: for example, she
arrived in England with a tiger skin to sell for ready cash—but even Wigzell’s
inexpert eye could see she’d been hoodwinked. It was a painted sheepskin.
Instead, Myers’s great gift was for hospitality: “She was the most relaxed
and welcoming hostess. Her home was an international hall of residence.
People came to just sit around. She was an excellent cook,” said Wigzell.
She recalled long dinners offered Russian-style, not a presentation of
distinct courses, but a more casual, sprawling affair with a new dish occa-
sionally brought to the table, as conversations and drink went on for hours
and hours.
For Brodsky, his Russian friend was a means to extend the literary and
cultural conversations that had started in Leningrad. In exile, he would
continue to consult her, phoning from around the world to read his latest
poem. He said she told him things that he never heard from anyone else.
And he apparently returned the favor, in letters that are frank, intimate, and
occasionally touch the stars. In one passage, shortly after his arrival in the
United States, he compares the clarity and precision of the Acmeist poets,
such as Akhmatova and Osip Mandelstam, with the Symbolist poets they
had reacted against. He urges a deeper consideration of Mandelstam’s state-
ment about “a longing for world culture.”
This longing, which was not exclusively Russian (though Russia was
always foremost in his mind), represented an aspiration towards a higher
level of human values than the ones accessible to them already. “Culture and

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 197
civilization were fundamental, the very essence of their existence, and every-
day life in this world was for them a sort of assault, a perversion.”
The limits of Symbolist haziness could not bear such a longing. The only
answer, he continued, was being a realist in the highest sense. “And it is this
realism about life, this sense of its reality, or more accurately, the sense of
its higher reality—determined their use of nouns rather than adjectives;
and even when they used adjectives they chose noun-based ones over verb-
based ones.”
Alan Myers became an important early translator for Brodsky’s poetry and
prose, publishing in the New York Review of Books, the New Yorker, and the
Times Literary Supplement. In one letter included in the collection, Brodsky
told Myers that he would be paid “substantially, I think” for his New Yorker
work, and reminded him that he was looking after his interests.
Brodsky’s “In England” cycle is dedicated to the couple, and both make an
appearance in it in their home in East Finchley, outside London. In addition,
the sections “York: In Memoriam W. H. Auden” and “Stone Villages” recall
trips the three took, in 1974, to Auden’s birthplace in the northern city of
York, an ancient Roman stronghold—for Auden, as Brodsky’s mentor, cham-
pion, and friend, was another powerful link to England:

. . . The towns give off a smell of striped
cloth, long-wrapped and musty; dahlias die of thirst.
And your voice—“I have known three great poets. Each
one a prize son of a bitch”—sounds in my ears
with disturbing clarity . . .

“Joseph found our sleepy residence very relaxing,” Alan Myers recalled in an
interview from 2003–4. He recalled him as “a radiant source of wit, generos-
ity of soul, and exaltation.” He added, “No one who knew him well thought it
other than a privilege to share the planet with him.”

Special to the Hoover Digest.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Women
of the Gulag: Portraits of Five Remarkable Lives, by
Paul R. Gregory. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit

198 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
PROFILE: Brodsky was recalled by his friend Alan Myers as “a radiant source
of wit, generosity of soul, and exaltation.” . [Photograph by Irving Penn for Vogue, May
1, 1980 © Conde Nast]

H O O V ER D IG E S T • S u m m er 2017 199
On the Cover

n a year in which much attention is being paid to unsung women, such
as the mathematicians who helped the American space program in
the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures,” it may be time to give the
Wrens their due.
The members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS), popularly and
officially known as Wrens, made a notable contribution to Britain’s military
efforts in both world wars. The organization first operated in 1917–19, putting
5,500 women—500 of them officers—in uniform. But it was during World
War II that the Wrens really came into their own, with 75,000 serving by
1944. “Join the Wrens and free a man for the fleet,” recruiting posters urged.
Just as in “Hidden Figures,” some Wrens worked in highly skilled areas.
The women in this wartime poster from the Hoover Institution Archives are
using semaphore flags to communicate from ship to shore, a fairly low-tech if
important occupation. But the signalers division had many other tasks, some
secret. Wrens worked in Bletchley Park, Britain’s top-secret code-breaking
center, alongside figures such as Alan Turing. They were part of the intense,
industrial-scale effort to crack messages transmitted by Germany’s Enigma
machine. Turing invented a device, dubbed the “bombe,” to decode those
messages en masse, and it was Wrens who operated the bombes, even if they
were not allowed to drop the bombs.
Even visual signalers, like the women in this poster, had to take a sixteen-
week course that taught them to use flags, signal lamps, and of course Morse
code. Signalers guided ships through channels and teeming wartime harbors.
Just like their civilian counterparts, who were finding jobs and learning
new skills in all the wartime nations, Wrens were deployed in a dizzying
range of specialties, some dangerous. They were not just cooks and clerks.
Wrens were aircraft engine mechanics, weapons mechanics, and landing
craft mechanics. They were “Torpedo Wrens,” an actual rating, who outfit-
ted bombs, torpedoes, and depth charges. They were boat crew members,
meteorologists, radio operators, parachute packers, test pilots, mail officers,
personnel officers, censors, ciphers, and photograph interpreters. Wrens

200 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7
occupied about eighty catego-
ries in all.
In an indirect way, they also
fought. HMS Wren was an
antisubmarine vessel that saw
action in the Atlantic, attack-
ing U-boats (sinking five) and
supporting Allied convoys.
It was named in honor of the
Wrens and partly financed by
them, too. A German sub had
torpedoed the civilian liner
SS Aguila in August 1941 as
the ship headed for Gibraltar
in a transport convoy. Aboard
that ship were 86 Royal Navy
personnel, including 21 Wrens
(radio and cipher operators)
and a nurse. All the women
perished. Wrens contributed a
day’s pay to a memorial fund, raising more than £4,000, which went toward
constructing their namesake warship. The fund was administered by two
men who had lost daughters in the Aguila sinking.
Donations also fitted out a rescue vessel, RNLB Aguila Wren, which was
launched in 1952 and continued saving lives and aiding mariners until 1972.
Dame Vera Laughton Mathews, a Wren in 1918–19 and then the service’s
director from 1939 to 1946, said at the lifeboat’s dedication: “It would be
impossible to picture a finer company—we sent our best. . . . These were the
pioneers. And I think their death brought home to many for the first time
the realization that these young women were not joining up to wear a smart
uniform or to have a good time, that they accepted willingly a share in the
hardship, the responsibility, and the perils of service life.”
The WRNS was absorbed into the Royal Navy in 1993, when women at
last gained equal status on Her Majesty’s ships. In the National Memorial
Arboretum in Staffordshire, Britain’s center of remembrance for military and
civilian alike, stands a memorial to the Wrens lost on the Aguila. The memo-
rial is a large wooden bird perched on a pedestal.
—Charles Lindsey

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 201


Board of Overseers
Chair Paul G. Haaga Jr.
Joel C. Peterson Arthur E. Hall
Everett J. Hauck
Vice Chairs W. Kurt Hauser
Paul Lewis “Lew” Davies III Warner W. Henry
Mary Myers Kauppila Sarah P. “Sally” Herrick
Heather R. Higgins
Members Allan Hoover III
Neil R. Anderson Margaret Hoover
Barbara Barrett Preston B. Hotchkis
John F. Barrett Philip Hudner
Robert G. Barrett Gail A. Jaquish
Donald R. Beall Charles B. Johnson
Peter B. Bedford Franklin P. Johnson Jr.
Peter S. Bing Mark Chapin Johnson
Walter E. Blessey Jr. John Jordan
Joanne Whittier Blokker Steve Kahng
William K. Blount Richard Kovacevich
James J. Bochnowski Carl V. Larson Jr.
Jerome V. “Jerry” Bruni Allen J. Lauer
James J. Carroll III Howard H. Leach
Robert H. Castellini Walter Loewenstern Jr.
Rodney A. Cooper Hamid Mani
James W. Davidson Frank B. Mapel
Herbert M. Dwight James D. Marver
Jeffrey A. Farber Craig O. McCaw
Henry A. Fernandez David McDonald
Carly Fiorina Harold “Terry” McGraw III
James E. Forrest Burton J. McMurtry
Stephen B. Gaddis Mary G. Meeker
Samuel L. Ginn Roger S. Mertz
Michael W. Gleba Harold M. “Max” Messmer Jr.
Cynthia Fry Gunn Jeremiah Milbank III

202 H O O VER DI GEST • Summer 201 7

Mitchell J. Milias Marc Tessier-Lavigne*
Charles T. Munger Jr. Thomas J. Tierney
K. Rupert Murdoch David T. Traitel
George E. Myers Victor S. Trione
Robert G. O’Donnell Don Tykeson
Robert J. Oster Paul H. Wick
Stan Polovets Richard G. Wolford
Jay A. Precourt Marcia R. Wythes
Jeffrey S. Raikes* *Ex officio members of the Board
George J. Records
Christopher R. Redlich Jr. Distinguished Overseers
Kathleen “Cab” Rogers Martin Anderson
James N. Russell Stephen D. Bechtel Jr.
Peter O. Shea Wendy H. Borcherdt
Roderick W. Shepard Peyton M. Lake
Thomas M. Siebel Robert H. Malott
George W. Siguler Shirley Cox Matteson
Boyd C. Smith Bowen H. McCoy
James W. Smith, MD
William C. Steere Jr. Overseers Emeritus
David L. Steffy Frederick L. Allen
Thomas F. Stephenson Susanne Fitger Donnelly
Stephen K. Stuart Joseph W. Donner
W. Clarke Swanson Jr. John R. Stahr
Curtis Sloane Tamkin Robert J. Swain
Robert A. Teitsworth Dody Waugh

H O O V ER D IG E ST • S u m m e r 2017 203
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dissemination program.

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The Jordan Vineyard and Winery
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u u u
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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
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u u u
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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.
William C. Edwards
Charles B. Johnson
Tad and Cici Williamson
SUMMER 2017 NO. 3

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