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WINTER 2018 NO. 1

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W i n t er 2 018 • HOOV ERD I G E ST.O R G


Winter 2018 • H OOV ERD I G E ST.OR G

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Bolshevik (1920, Boris Mikhailovich Kusto-
diev) is among the images created amid the DENISE ELSON
Russian Revolution a century ago. A joint COLIN STEWART
exhibition by the Hoover Institution and ERYN WITCHER TILLMAN
the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for the (Bechtel Director of Public Affairs)
Visual Arts at Stanford University examines
the political, social, and cultural upheavals ASSISTANT
that transformed Russia from the toppling of DIRECTORS
the Romanov dynasty through the first years
of Soviet communism. See story, page 184. JEFFREY M. JONES

Director of Washington, DC,


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Winter 2018

9 The High Cost of Good Intentions
Must all government programs keep growing—and deepening
the national debt? Hoover fellow John F. Cogan sees hope in
the rare exceptions. By Tunku Varadarajan

16 Aye, Robot
Yes, the robots are coming, but not for our jobs. Automation
will bring new kinds of work, and new chances to create
wealth. By David R. Henderson

22 Let’s End Tax Anarchy
The tax code doesn’t need revision. It needs revolution. By
John H. Cochrane

26 The Reform Less Traveled
Want to broaden access to health care? Bring down costs—by
turning patients into smart consumers. By Scott W. Atlas

30 Single-payer Delusion Syndrome
Zealots like Bernie Sanders suffer from an acute case of
central planning. The only cure is deregulation. By Richard A.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 3
35 Rx for Rose-colored Glasses
“Medicare for all”? Please. Every country with a nationalized
health care system, even those held up as models, struggles
with serious tradeoffs. By Lanhee J. Chen and Micah

39 Land of Many Uses?
Public lands should be public—not private playgrounds. The
administration’s scrutiny of national monuments could restore
this principle. By Terry L. Anderson

43 No More Hot Air
If the climate is changing, political rhetoric won’t help. Hard
economic data can. By David R. Henderson and John H.

46 A Clean Deal on DACA
Here’s a creative way to fix the Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals program: sign it into law. By Richard A. Epstein

51 Orders in the Court
Executive orders are part of every president’s legal
toolbox. But DACA? That, says Hoover scholar Michael
W. McConnell, was the wrong tool for the job. By Sharon

4 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
54 Population Power
Ever since America began, immigration has meant strength.
By Tim Kane

58 Immigration that Pays Off
A novel idea to make immigration policy both fair and market-
driven: require entrants to post “integration bonds.” By
Michael S. Bernstam

63 No Shortage of Quagmires
Seizing the military initiative can lead to success, as history
confirms, but only if the party that seizes the initiative is fully
prepared to exploit it. Few are. By Williamson Murray

69 From Sparta to Saddam
Nations that abandon diplomacy enter a realm of violence and
confusion. By Barry Strauss

74 Lighting the Fuse
A nuclear North Korea creates pressure for a nuclear South
Korea—and Japan. By Michael R. Auslin

79 What Beijing Doesn’t Want
North Korea’s nuclear threats are shaking up Asian security.
That could put a welcome brake on China’s ambitions. By
Thomas H. Henriksen

86 The Russia Gambit
Vladimir Putin could help US interests in Korea, but only if we
play our own cards right. By Victor Davis Hanson

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 5
90 A Grand Korea Bargain
The Koreas will not reunite, nor will the North disarm. We can
still build something durable on that cracked foundation. By
Paul R. Gregory

97 Vietnam on Film: Doom and Despair
Ken Burns’s recent TV documentary paints the war as a lost
cause—while offering the usual bright, shining half-truths. By
Bing West

103 A Tale of Sound and Fury—and Amnesia
In war, it’s said, the first casualty is truth. In the Burns-Novick
film about the Vietnam War, that truth was the Cold War. By
Charles Hill

113 Toward a Clean, Well-lighted Internet
Social networks swerve in unexpected—and sometimes
dark—directions, defying utopian attempts to harness them.
Digital citizens need to master hyperconnection without being
mastered. By Niall Ferguson

127 Once More unto the Breach
Recent thefts of credit data show how little power consumers
have over their own information. This has to change. By
Herbert Lin

6 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
131 Cyber Invaders
We still don’t know how deeply Russia interfered in US
elections, but we do know how to make it harder for the
Russians to interfere next time. By Michael A. McFaul

134 Keeping the Lights On
Nuclear power has to remain part of our energy mix. By
Jeremy Carl

139 Chain Reactions
Before we jettison nuclear energy, let’s count the costs: to
the economy, to the environment, and to national security. By
James O. Ellis Jr. and George P. Shultz

145 Power to the States
Disarray in Washington has a silver lining: state and local
governments reclaiming their essential role in American
democracy. By David Davenport and Lenny Mendonca

149 California Flunks History
The Golden State’s standards for teaching history are jury-
rigged, unfactual, and biased. Oh, and they’re likely to get
worse. By Williamson M. Evers

154 I’m OK, You’re Not Learning
The California-born self-esteem movement has morphed into
“social-emotional learning.” But it still sidelines real academic
skills. By Chester E. Finn Jr.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 7
158 A Sick Hunger for Racism
Why can’t leftists let go of the whole idea of all-powerful,
permanent white bigotry? Because it empowers them. By
Shelby Steele

161 Dilbert and the Donald
Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams on managing luck, parsing
Trump, and otherwise cutting pointy-headed experts down to
size. By Peter Robinson

170 “I’m Not Running for Office”
Hoover fellow Harvey C. Mansfield, when not studying
American political parties, relishes his role at Harvard: the
politically incorrect Party of One. By Chris Sweeney

179 Statues of Limitation
How do the countries of the former Iron Curtain deal with their
inconvenient monuments? Sometimes by painting a tank pink,
or swapping a Stalin for a Steve Jobs. By Markos Kounalakis

184 The Crown under the Hammer
Pictures at a revolution. By Bertrand M. Patenaude and Jodi

8 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


The High Cost of
Good Intentions
Must all government programs keep growing—and
deepening the national debt? Hoover fellow John
F. Cogan sees hope in the rare exceptions.

By Tunku Varadarajan

onald Trump’s gleeful deal with
Key points
the Democrats—ratcheting up the
»» Presidential
debt ceiling, as well as the ire of the leadership is the first
Republican establishment—puts of three necessary
political conditions
John Cogan’s mind on 1972. Starting in Febru-
for any entitlement
ary of that year, the Democratic presidential reform.
candidates engaged in a bidding war over Social »» The public and its
Security to gain their party’s nomination. Senator elected representa-
tives must agree to
George McGovern kicked off the political auction pursue entitlement
with a call for a 20 percent increase in monthly reform.

payments. Senator Edmund Muskie followed suit, »» Any solution to the
entitlement problem
as did Representative Wilbur Mills, chairman of
must be bipartisan.
the Ways and Means Committee. Former Vice

John F. Cogan is the Leonard and Shirley Ely Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institu-
tion and a member of Hoover’s Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy, the
Working Group on Economic Policy, and the Working Group on Health Care Policy.
His latest book is The High Cost of Good Intentions: A History of US Federal
Entitlement Programs (Stanford University Press, 2017). Tunku Varadarajan
is the Virginia Hobbs Carpenter Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 9
President Hubert Humphrey, never one to be outdone, offered a succulent
25 percent.
Cogan has just written a riveting, massive book, The High Cost of Good
Intentions, on the history of entitlements in the United States, and he
describes how in 1972 the Senate “attached an across-the-board, permanent
increase of 20 percent in Social Security benefits to a must-pass bill” on
the debt ceiling. President Nixon grumbled loudly but signed it into law. In
October, a month before his re-election, “Nixon reversed course and availed
himself of an opportunity to take credit for the increase,” Cogan says. “When
checks went out to some twenty-eight million recipients, they were accompa-
nied by a letter that said that the increase was ‘signed into law by President
Richard Nixon.’ ”
The Nixon episode shows, says Cogan, that entitlements have been the
main cause of America’s rising national debt since the early 1970s. President
Trump’s pact with the Democrats is part of a pattern: “The debt ceiling has
to be raised this year because elected representatives have again failed to
take action to control entitlement spending.”
A senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a faculty member at Stan-
ford’s Public Policy Program, Cogan, seventy, is one of those old-fangled
American men who are always inclined to play down their achievements.
Good Intentions is a five-
hundred-page account of
“The Social Security disability pro-
how federal entitlement
gram was originally limited to those
programs evolved across
fifty years or older. And you had to be two centuries “and the
totally disabled—so disabled that you common forces that have
were unable to perform any job in the been at work in causing
US economy.” their expansion.”
Cogan conceived the
book about four years ago when, as part of his research into nineteenth-
century spending patterns, he “saw this remarkable phenomenon of the
growth in Civil War pensions. By the 1890s, thirty years after it had ended,
pensions from the war accounted for 40 percent of all federal govern-
ment spending.” About a million people were getting Civil War pensions,
he found, compared with eight thousand in 1873, eight years after the war.
Cogan wondered what caused that “extraordinary growth” and whether it
was unique.
When he went back to the stacks to look at pensions from the Revolution-
ary War, he saw “exactly the same pattern.” It dawned on him, he says, that

10 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
this matched “the evolutionary pattern of modern entitlements, such as
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps.”

As he explains it, entitlement programs typically begin with relatively nar-
row eligibility requirements. “For the Civil and Revolutionary War pensions,”
he says, “original eligibility was limited to soldiers who had been injured in
wartime service, or the widows of those killed in battle.” Marching and fight-
ing wasn’t enough; you
had to have lost life or
“As time went on, [Cleveland] became
limb for your country.
But these rules were more exasperated with Congress, and
incrementally relaxed, his veto messages more acerbic.”
and by thirty or forty
years after each war, virtually all veterans were covered, “regardless of
whether you were disabled or not, and regardless of whether your disability
was related to wartime service.”
We’ve seen the same phenomenon in modern entitlements. “When Social
Security started, we had about 50 percent of the workforce covered,” he says.
That was 1935. “By the 1950s, coverage was universal. The Social Security
disability program was originally limited to those fifty years or older. And
you had to be totally disabled—so disabled that you were unable to perform
any job in the US economy.” Gradually, Congress eliminated the age require-
ment. Then lawmakers allowed benefits for temporary disabilities.
“You see the exact same phenomenon in the low-income benefit entitle-
ment programs,” Cogan says. Medicaid “extends to all individuals who live
in poverty, regardless of whether or not they’re receiving cash welfare.”
ObamaCare gave federal health insurance subsidies to households with
incomes up to 400 percent of the poverty line—currently $98,400 for a
family of four.
The same forces that were at play in the nineteenth century are alive and
kicking (the economy) today. “It’s step-by-step expansion,” Cogan says. “Each
expansion tends to be permanent. And each expansion then serves as a base
upon which Congress considers the next expansions.”
But what fuels this process? Why is it so relentless? Cogan identifies a form
of moral argument as being a key factor. “After an entitlement is created,” he
says, “individuals who are just outside the eligibility line start clamoring for
assistance on the grounds that they’re no less ‘worthy’ of receiving assistance
than the group that is eligible.” In the case of Social Security disability, why

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 11
12 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
should a forty-nine-year-old who was disabled in a car accident receive any
less help than a person who’d had an accident at fifty?
“The natural human impulse to treat similarly situated individuals equally
under the law,” Cogan argues, inevitably results in “serial, repeated expan-
sions of eligibility.” Congress responded in the nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries, when there were large budget surpluses. “But it also responds
now, in the twenty-first century,” when deficits are endemic and the country
is $20 trillion in debt.

Can an entitlement expansion, once granted, ever be taken back? Cogan
refuses to say never, but says such rescindments “occur under rather
extraordinary circumstances.” He offers a remarkable example: “You might
ask, ‘Who achieved the largest reduction in any entitlement in the history
of the country?’ Well, surprisingly, it was FDR, a person whom we normally
associate with launching the modern era of entitlements.”
When Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933, “the budget was in sham-
bles, in deep deficit as a consequence of the Great Depression.” The new
president had campaigned on a promise to put Washington’s fiscal house
in order, and at the time, veterans’ pensions accounted for 25 percent of all
government spending. “Within seven days in office,” Cogan says, “FDR asked

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

H O O V ER D I G E S T • W inte r 2018 13
Congress to repeal the disability entitlements to World War I, Philippine War,
and Boxer Rebellion veterans. Congress gave him that authority, and within
a year, he’d knocked nearly four hundred thousand veterans off the pension
rolls. By the time we got to World War II, the benefit rolls were a third lower
than they were when he took office.”
Who would feature in an Entitlement Reform Hall of Fame? Cogan’s blue
eyes shine at this question, as he utters the two words he seems to love most:
Grover Cleveland. “He was the very first president to take on an entitlement.
He objected to the large
Civil War program and
“It’s step-by-step expansion. Each thought it needed to be
reformed.” Cleveland
expansion tends to be permanent.
was largely unsuccessful
And each expansion then serves as a
but was a “remarkably
base upon which Congress considers courageous president.”
the next expansions.” In his time, Congress had
started passing private
relief bills, giving out individual pensions “on a grand scale. They’d take one
hundred or two hundred of these bills on a Friday afternoon and pass them
with a single vote. Incredibly, 55 percent of all bills introduced in the Senate
in its 1885–87 session were such private pension bills.”
The irrepressible Cleveland “started vetoing these private bills right
away”—220 of them in his first term—which explains why he still holds the
presidential record for most vetoes. Cogan admires Cleveland particularly
because “each of his vetoes contains an explanation of the reason why and
the facts of the case. As time went on, he became more exasperated with
Congress, and his veto messages more acerbic.” In one veto, involving a
widow who had claimed her husband died in battle, Cleveland noted that the
man had died in 1882 and wrote: “No cause is given for the soldier’s death,
but it is not claimed that it resulted from his military service.” A newspaper
later reported the soldier had “choked to death on a piece of beef while gorg-
ing himself in a drunken spree.”
The FDR of 1933 is also one of Cogan’s Hall of Famers, as is Ronald Reagan:
“There’s no president who has undertaken entitlement reform in as compre-
hensive a way.” Reagan “fought a very good fight and he slowed the growth
of entitlements like no other president ever had.” He achieved significant
reductions in 1981 and 1982, and then “battled to preserve those changes
through the rest of his two terms. The growth of entitlements during his
time in office is the slowest of any modern administration.” Still, this striking

14 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
accomplishment “ultimately only slowed, and did not reduce, the aggregate
financial burden of entitlements.”
Cogan also gives an honorable mention to Bill Clinton for his welfare
reform plan. Clinton’s was “a fairly narrow reform compared to the broad
swath of entitlements, but history will show that it’s one of the most suc-
cessful reforms that have ever been achieved. The reform not only reduced
welfare’s burden on taxpayers, it has also benefited the recipients, whom the
old unreformed program had been harming.”
I ask Cogan how America can break the grip of ever-expanding entitle-
ments. He balks at offering a specific policy agenda, insisting that his book
is a work of economic history. But he does identify three necessary political
conditions for any entitlement reform. The first is presidential leadership,
without which “there has never been a significant reduction in an entitle-
ment.” Veterans’ benefits in the 1930s would not have been trimmed without
the “strong leadership” of FDR. The restraint on growing expenditures in
the 1980s wouldn’t have happened “without Reagan’s steadfast commitment
to spending control.” And there would have been no welfare reform in 1996
without Clinton’s push.
Cogan’s second sine qua non is “a significant agreement among the general
public and the elected representatives that there’s a problem.” In Roosevelt’s day,
the belief was widespread that the fiscal crisis had to be addressed. Both Reagan
and Clinton enjoyed public support and a workable legislative consensus.
The third condition is the most piquant, especially given the warring
nature of American politics today. Any solution to the problem of entitle-
ments, Cogan says, “has to be bipartisan.” No significant restraint, he
believes, can be imposed by one party alone: “It took a bipartisan effort on
the part of Congress and presidents to create our entitlements problem. It’ll
take bipartisanship to solve the problem.”

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

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

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 15


Aye, Robot
Yes, the robots are coming, but not for our jobs.
Automation will bring new kinds of work, and new
chances to create wealth.

By David R. Henderson

any people are concerned about
the effects of artificial intel- Key points
ligence and robots on humans. »» Fear of robots resem-
bles the recent fear of
Will humans be marginalized to automation—and is just
the point of being put out of work? Why hire a as bogus.

human when a much cheaper robot can do the »» Robots will give us
more by increasing real
job without being distracted? We can never be
output and real GDP.
sure about the future, but a look at technologi-
»» In the past century,
cal revolutions of the past should make us more technology took away
optimistic than pessimistic about the fate of millions of farm jobs,
but no jobs were de-
human labor in the age of artificial intelligence, stroyed on net. In fact,
or AI. the labor force bloomed.

In the past, the introduction of more and »» The amount of work
to be done in an econo-
more machinery made people more and more
my is unlimited.
productive. And since real incomes—wages
and salaries—are closely tied to productivity,
machinery caused people’s real incomes to increase. The same will be true of
robots, whether we define robots narrowly as human-looking machines that
move purposively on a factory floor or more broadly as machines that involve

David R. Henderson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and an emeritus
professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

16 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
artificial intelligence. The fear of robots is similar to the fear of automation
that was common only a few decades ago—and just as bogus.
In 1930, British economist John Maynard Keynes, reflecting on the prog-
ress of technology, predicted that his generation’s grandchildren would have
a fifteen-hour workweek. Assuming that a generation is thirty years, we
should have had that fifteen-hour workweek in 1990. Did we? Not even close.
Twenty-eight years after 1990, we still don’t. But why not? Where did Keynes
go wrong?
It wasn’t in his assumption about increasing productivity. Rather, Keynes
was probably assuming that people would work enough to get the same stan-
dard of living they had in 1930. If that was his assumption, then he was quite
accurate in predicting our productivity per hour. In the four score and seven
years since Keynes made his prediction, our productivity has doubled and
doubled again. We could easily have what we had then if we worked fifteen-
hour weeks now.
MIT labor economist David Autor estimated that an average US worker
in 2015 could achieve his 1915 counterpart’s real income by working about
seventeen weeks per
year. Seventeen weeks
per year at forty work Because wages and salaries are
hours per week is 680 closely tied to productivity, machin-
hours per year. Spread ery caused people’s real incomes to
over a fifty-week work increase.
year, that’s 13.6 hours per
week. And that overstates the workweek required for a 1930 standard of liv-
ing for two reasons. First, the quality of almost everything we buy that is not
produced by government has increased. Second, we can buy things that were
simply unavailable then.
Why don’t we work fourteen-hour weeks? The answer, briefly, is that we
want more. We are acquisitive people. Consider cars. Those few families that
had cars in Keynes’s day usually had only one. Even thirty years later, when
I was growing up, my father had one old Ford. And we were not poor: Dad’s
income was probably just below the median income in Canada. Now, many
families have two or three cars.
We could do without televisions and smartphones, but we don’t want to.
We could settle for being like most Brits or Americans in Keynes’s time,
never traveling more than two hundred miles from home. But we’ve heard
about places called Las Vegas, Disneyland, and Florida—and we want to
go there. Other things both desirable and useful include antibiotics and

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 17
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

similar life-saving medicines; these, too, cost money. We want more and we
will always want more.
Fortunately, there’s a way to satisfy this yearning: technology. Specifically,
far from taking away from our livelihoods, robots will actually give us more
by increasing real output and real GDP. That’s the whole point: if they didn’t
increase output, we wouldn’t value them. The key to economic growth is
increased productivity—producing more and more output with more and

18 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
more efficient means. The usual way to do that is to increase the amount of
capital per worker: more capital per worker makes workers more productive.

This is not to say that there are no downsides to increased automation.
But the downsides are likely to be small. We can get a clue about the effect
of robots on productivity, well-being, and jobs by looking at the history of
In 1760, Richard Arkwright’s cotton-spinning machinery was introduced.
At the time, England had 5,200 spinners using spinning wheels and 2,700
weavers, for a total employment of 7,900. But by 1796, after Arkwright’s
invention had been well integrated into the production process, the num-
ber of spinners and weavers was 320,000, an increase of more than 3,900
Why? High elasticity of demand. The invention crushed costs, and so
prices for textiles fell a lot. Clothing was no longer a luxury. The lower prices
caused many people to buy more clothing more often. Overall output soared.
But consider another case in which the opposite happened: farming. In
1900, farm workers made up 41 percent of the US labor force. By 2000, that
was down to 2 percent. It’s true that the US labor force had grown sub-
stantially during the century, from 27.6 million to 142.6 million. But even in
absolute terms the number of farmers fell, from 11.3 million to 2.9 million.
Virtually all the increase in the labor force was due to technology. Compare
pictures of farm machinery now to pictures of farm machinery then. The
latter were known as horses. Farming became an order of magnitude more
productive. So jobs were destroyed in farming. But were jobs destroyed on
net? No. The number of jobs rose in line with the labor force.
As I noted, people sometimes worry that robots will become too human-
like and replace us altogether. But Autor has pointed out that journalists and
even experts “tend to overstate the extent of machine substitution for human
labor.” In doing so, they “ignore the strong complementarities between auto-
mation and labor that increase productivity, raise earnings, and augment
demand for labor.” Automation, he argued credibly, raises the value of tasks
that we workers uniquely supply.
If you’re still worried that robots will be too human-like, consider what
happened to men’s jobs when women, who not only are human-like but also
are actual humans, increasingly entered the labor force. Men’s jobs didn’t
decline; they increased. In 1950, before the large entry of women into the US
labor force, 43.8 million men and 18.4 million women were employed. By 2015,

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 19
women’s employment had skyrocketed to 78 million, while men’s employ-
ment, far from shrinking, almost doubled, to 84.4 million.

The simple fact is that the amount of work to be done in the economy is
unlimited. What’s limited is the number of humans, which is why the late
population economist Julian Simon called humans, in a book by the same
name, “the ultimate resource.” There’s a story—perhaps apocryphal but no
less insightful for that—about an American engineer visiting China in the
1960s, when the Chinese government was building a dam. The American,
noting the large number of workers digging with shovels, told his Chinese
host that the digging could be done more quickly if the Chinese used steam
“Oh,” answered the host, “but then there would be fewer jobs.”
“I didn’t realize that was the goal,” answered the American, “but if your
goal is jobs, you might consider replacing the shovels with spoons.”
What this story illustrates is that although jobs are important for creating
value, if we can create the same amount of value with less input, it’s wise to
do so. Who, for example, wouldn’t want an innovation that allowed them to do
their current job and be paid just as much, while working half the time? This
is not a fantasy. Pay is closely tied to productivity. The hypothetical innova-
tion would destroy “half a job”—and we would love it. We would use that
freed-up time for leisure, or, more likely given our unlimited wants, for doing
other work that gives us pecuniary rewards. That is the story of economic
But won’t such innovations as self-driving vehicles replace a large percent
of the approximately 3.5 million truck drivers? Yes. But there are two things
to note. First, the average age of a truck driver is about forty-nine. So, with
the innovation taking at least a few years to occur and then, most likely,
occurring gradually, many
of the displaced truckers
Higher minimum wages, far from pro- would have been retir-
tecting the less-skilled, would artifi- ing anyway. Second, and
cially hasten the move to robots. much more important,
the vast majority of those
displaced truckers will find other work, just as the vast majority of displaced
farmers early last century found other work. Do we know what the work will
be? No, and we can’t know, just as we couldn’t know what jobs would go to
those who left the farms in 1900. But they got them.

20 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
As robots become more common and displace some people from their
current jobs, is there any role for government policy? Yes. The government
should not make it harder for people to find new jobs. So, for example, it
should start tearing down government barriers such as licensing laws that
make it difficult for people to enter as many as eight hundred occupations in
the United States. And the higher minimum wages that many people advo-
cate would make it even harder for less-skilled people to find new jobs and
acquire skills. Indeed, higher minimum wages would artificially hasten the
move to robots.

Non-economists have two biases that distort their understanding of econom-
ics. One is what my co-blogger, George Mason University economist Bryan
Caplan, calls the pessimism bias. It’s easier for people to be pessimistic than
optimistic, both about the future and about current affairs in the world.
Therefore, it’s reasonable to “adjust up” those pessimistic predictions. If
people are pessimistic about robots, we should be more optimistic.
Here’s the other bias. Non-economists tend to put undue weight on what the
nineteenth-century economist Frédéric Bastiat called the seen, and too little
weight on the unseen. That matters here. It’s much easier to point out jobs
that have been destroyed by robots than to the ones that have been or will be
created. If we knew what industries would be created in the future, we could
invest accordingly and become incredibly wealthy. Unfortunately, we don’t
know. What we can be highly confident of, though, is that there will be jobs.
Every time people predicted that automation and machinery would
destroy jobs overall, they were wrong. Are they really likely to be right this
time around?

Reprinted from Defining Ideas (
ideas), a Hoover Institution online journal. © 2017 The Board of Trustees
of the Leland Stanford Junior University. 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

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 21


Let’s End Tax
The tax code doesn’t need revision. It needs

By John H. Cochrane

roposals in Washington for
tax reform often focus on Key points
reductions in corporate and »» The tax code is riddled
with shelters. Taxing some-
personal rates and the elimi- thing and then offering
nation of certain deductions. True reform, complex shelters is a sure
sign of dysfunction.
however, is likely to be stymied—blocked
»» Under a value-added tax,
by the usual interests: those who see the
money from every source is
tax code primarily as a way to transfer taxed when it’s spent.
income to or from favored or disfavored »» An integrated social-
groups, and politicians who dole out insurance program would
send checks to the needy
deductions, exemptions, and subsidies to but also monitor the aid
supporters. they get from all sources.
If the political process stays its normal »» Reformers should first
straighten out tax struc-
course, don’t expect the complex and
ture—then argue about rates.
dysfunctional US tax code to change much.
But our leaders could break the political
logjam if they were to attempt fundamental reform, offering changes that
are simple, understandable, and attractive to voters. Only such fundamental

John H. Cochrane is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

22 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
reform, paired with deregulation, would have a hope of raising economic
growth to 3 percent or more.
The best way to reach this goal is to eliminate the personal and corporate
income tax, estate tax, and all other federal taxes, and implement instead a
national value-added tax (VAT), essentially a national sales tax.

Much of the current tax mess results from taxing income. Once the govern-
ment taxes income, it must tax corporate income or people would incorpo-
rate to avoid paying taxes. Yet the right corporate tax rate is zero. Every cent
of corporate tax comes from people via higher prices, lower wages, or lower
payments to shareholders. And a corporate tax produces an army of lawyers
and lobbyists demanding exemptions.
An income tax also leads to taxes on capital income. Capital-income taxes
discourage saving and investment. But the government is forced to tax
capital income because otherwise people could hide wages by getting paid in
stock options or “carried interest.”
The estate tax can take close to half a marginal dollar of wealth. This cre-
ates a strong incentive to blow the family money on a round-the-world cruise,
to spend lavishly on lawyers, or to invest inefficiently to avoid the tax.
Today’s tax code tries to limit this damage with a welter of complex shel-
ters: 401(k), 526(b), IRA, HSA, deductions for corporate investment, and
complex real estate and estate tax shelters. Taxing something and then offer-
ing complex shelters is a sure sign of pathology.
But by taxing cars, houses, and boats when people or companies buy them,
tax policy can throw out all this complexity. With a VAT, money from every
source—wages, dividends, capital gains, inheritances, stock options, and car-
ried interest—is taxed when it’s spent.
A reformed tax code should involve no deductions—not even the holy trin-
ity of mortgage interest, employer-provided health insurance, and charitable
deductions. The interest groups for each of these deductions are strong. But
if the government doesn’t tax income in the first place, these deductions van-
ish without a fight.

In these and other ways, if Congress and the president drop the income tax
in favor of a VAT or another simple consumption tax, they can break the
political logjam and achieve a dramatic pro-growth reform.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 23
It is essential that the VAT be uniform, and it is best to carve that in stone
at the outset. Trying to transfer income or subsidize people and businesses
by charging different rates for different goods or organizations will again
muck up the tax system.
And it is essential that
Every cent of corporate tax comes the VAT replace rather
from people via higher prices, lower than add to the current
wages, or lower payments to share- tax system, as it does in
What about progres-
sivity? It’s easy to make a value-added tax progressive: in place of current
exemptions, send everyone a $10,000 check. Or taxpayers could receive a
refund according to how much they spend, similar to income-tax refunds.
Taxpayers could get a full refund for the first $10,000, half for the next
$10,000, and so forth. Electronic recordkeeping makes this straightforward—
it’s just a big debit- or credit-card reward—and everyone would have an
incentive to report purchases rather than to hide income.
But the chaos in US income redistribution is as great as the anarchy in the
tax code. Tax discussions fall apart because the redistributive influence of
each change is assessed in isolation. By measuring how the tax-and-transfer
system works as a whole, politicians could get better taxes and more effec-
tive redistribution.
The United States also needs an integrated social-insurance program:
one that would send checks to needy people but also monitor the amount
they get from all government sources, including college financial aid, health
insurance, energy assistance, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unem-
ployment insurance, food stamps, farm programs, housing, and so on. Even
without reforming the programs, it is necessary at least to measure their
total effect to calibrate
accurately any tax-based
If the government doesn’t tax income redistribution.
in the first place, even cherished What about the tax
rate? Well, if the federal
deductions vanish without a fight.
government is going to
spend 20 percent of gross domestic product, the VAT will sooner or later
have to be about 20 percent. Tax reform is stymied because politicians mix
arguments over the rates with arguments over the structure of taxes. This
is a mistake. They should first agree to fix the structure of the tax code and
later argue about rates—and the spending those rates must support.

24 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
Is all this unrealistic? No. Sometimes when little steps are impossible, big
jumps are feasible. It is unrealistic to think that tweaks to the current system
will produce a meaningful change from the status quo.
If American democracy cannot fix this tax code, economic stagnation and
debt crisis or massive spending cuts await.

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

New from the Hoover Institution Press is The
Structural Foundations of Monetary Policy, edited by
Michael D. Bordo, John H. Cochrane, and Amit Seru. To
order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 25


The Reform Less
Want to broaden access to health care? Bring
down costs—by turning patients into smart

By Scott W. Atlas

epublicans have failed twice to repeal
and replace ObamaCare. Their whole Key points
»» Broaden the
focus has been wrong. The debate has
availability of
centered, like ObamaCare, on the number high-deductible
of people with health insurance; a more direct path to insurance plans
with fewer man-
broadening access would be to reduce the cost of care. dated coverage
This means creating market conditions long proven to requirements.
bring down prices while improving quality—empower- »» Make large,
liberalized health
ing consumers to seek value, increasing the supply of
savings accounts
care, and stimulating competition. available to all
First, equip consumers to consider prices. Critics Americans.

always claim this is unrealistic: are you supposed to »» Increase the
supply of medical
shop around from the back of the ambulance? But services through
emergency care represents only 6 percent of health deregulation.

expenditures. For privately insured adults under

Scott W. Atlas, MD, is the David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow at the Hoover
Institution and the author of Restoring Quality Health Care: A Six-Point
Plan for Comprehensive Reform at Lower Cost (Hoover Institution Press,

26 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
sixty-five, almost 60 percent of spending is on elective outpatient care.
Likewise, nearly 60 percent of Medicaid money goes to outpatient care. For
the top 1 percent of spenders—a group responsible for more than a quarter
of all health expenditures—a full 45 percent is outpatient. Giving consumers
an incentive to consider price when seeking such care would make a huge
ObamaCare moved in the opposite direction, shielding consumers from
having to care about prices. Its broad coverage requirements and misguided
subsidies encouraged bloated insurance policies, furthering the misguided
idea that the purpose of coverage is to minimize out-of-pocket costs. When
the insurer picks up nearly the entire tab, patients have little reason to con-
sider costs and doctors don’t need to compete on price.
Effective reform would put patients in charge of their own spending while
giving them a way to gain from paying less.
The first step is to broaden the availability of high-deductible insurance
plans with fewer mandated coverage requirements. ObamaCare went in the
wrong direction. Its regulations—including required “essential benefits”—
raised prices on these plans and limited their availability.
My analysis of data from the Employer Health Benefits Annual Survey
shows that premiums on high-deductible policies rose between two and five
times as fast as other types of coverage. It would also help to repeal Obama­
Care’s 3-to-1 age rating, the rule that insurers can charge the oldest custom-
ers only three times what they charge the youngest ones. This alone raised
premiums for young people by 19 percent to 35 percent in 2014, according to
an estimate for America’s Health Insurance Plans.
A second tool for motivating patients to consider price is large, liberalized
health savings accounts (HSAs). These tax-sheltered accounts are generally
used to pay for the noncatastrophic expenses that form the bulk of medi-
cal care. Better than tax deductions, HSAs introduce something unique: an
incentive to save.
When people have savings to protect in HSAs, the cost of care drops with-
out harmful effects on health. A study two years ago that analyzed data from
2003–7 showed that the spending of patients with HSAs and high-deductible
plans decreased by 15 percent a year. If even half of Americans with employ-
er-sponsored insurance enrolled in this kind of coverage, US health expendi-
tures would fall by an estimated $57 billion a year, according to a 2012 study
in Health Affairs.
HSAs should be available to all Americans, including seniors on Medicare.
Given that seniors use the most health care, motivating them to seek value

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 27
is crucial to driving prices lower. Life expectancy from age sixty-five has
increased by 25 percent since 1972, meaning Americans need to save for
decades of future health care. Raising maximum HSA contributions, now
$3,400 a year for an indi-
vidual, to at least match
Employees aren’t taxed on the value the limit on individual
of their health benefits—and there’s retirement accounts of
$5,500 a year is one
no limit to that exclusion. This cre-
important step. When
ates harmful, counterproductive
a person with an HSA
incentives. dies, the funds should be
allowed to roll over tax-
free to surviving family members. HSA payments should also be permitted
for the expenses of the account holder’s elderly parents.
The information that patients require to assess value must be made radi-
cally more visible. A 2014 study on magnetic resonance imaging showed
that price-transparency programs reduced costs by 18.7 percent. The most
compelling motivation for doctors and hospitals to post rates would be know-
ing that they are competing for price-conscious patients empowered with
control over their own money.
Second, work strategically to increase the supply of medical services to
stimulate competition. In large part, this means deregulation. Lawmakers
should remove outmoded scope-of-practice limits on qualified nurse prac-
titioners and physician assistants. That would enable them to staff private
clinics that would provide cheaper primary care, including vaccinations,
blood-pressure checks, and common prescriptions. In a 2011 review, 88 per-
cent of visits to retail clinics involved simple care, which was provided 30–40
percent cheaper than at a physician’s office, while keeping patients highly
Medical credentialing should be simplified, and the licensing boards should
institute reciprocal (national) licensing for doctors to help telemedicine
proliferate across state lines. Medical school graduation numbers have stag-
nated for almost forty years. Some projections suggest a shortage of 124,000
doctors by 2025, with almost two-thirds being specialists. Yet medical societ-
ies artificially restrict competition by imposing protectionist residency limits
that raise prices and harm consumers.
Archaic barriers to medical technology also impede competition and raise
prices. Although originally intended to restrain “health care facility costs,”
certificate-of-need requirements, which require health care providers to get

28 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
permission from the state to add medical technology like MRI scanners, are
an example of bureaucratic overregulation. Despite unintended consequenc-
es, they are still in place in thirty-four states, Puerto Rico, and the District of
Third, introduce the right incentives into the tax code. Today employees
aren’t taxed on the value of their health benefits—and there is no limit to that
exclusion. This creates harmful, counterproductive incentives. It encourages
higher demand for care and minimizes concerns about cost.
Similarly, ObamaCare’s premium subsidies and the tax credits proposed by
Republicans artificially prop up high insurance premiums for bloated cover-
age that minimizes out-of-pocket payments. This prevents patients from
caring about the bill, which reduces the incentives for doctors and hospitals
to compete on price. If health care deductions are maintained, the tax code
should cap them and limit eligibility to HSA contributions and catastrophic
In other countries, governments hold down costs mainly by limiting access
to care, drugs, and technology. The results are long waits and worse medical
outcomes, particularly
for the poor and middle
class, who are unable to ObamaCare shields consumers from
circumvent those single- having to care about prices.
payer systems. If Repub-
licans want to avoid going down that road, they need to educate the public on
the benefits of a different approach: leveraging incentives and deregulation
to reduce prices so that quality health care is affordable for all Americans.

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

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 29


Zealots like Bernie Sanders suffer from an
acute case of central planning. The only cure is

By Richard A. Epstein

enator Bernie Sanders seeks a government-run single-payer
health care system that would displace all existing private
health care plans. His proposal, rightly denounced as delu-
sional, purports to provide to more than 325 million Americans
coverage that would be more extensive and costly than the rich benefits
supplied to the 55 million Americans on Medicare—which itself teeters
on the edge of insolvency. In introducing his proposal last fall, Sanders
proposed to fund his new plan with a variety of heavy taxes on productive
labor and capital—without noting that his program would cut into the very
tax revenues needed to support such a system. Incentives matter, even in
la-la land.

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.

30 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
None of this matters to Sanders, for whom noble aspirations cure all tech-
nical defects. He believes that the United States, like all other modern states,
should “guarantee comprehensive health care to every person as a human
right.” In his view, the simplification of administrative costs should remove
frustration from a beleaguered citizenry constantly at war with its insurance
carriers while simultaneously slashing the expense of running a health care
system. It is fortunate that the odds of getting such a plan enacted soon are
low, notwithstanding the moving of this position into the mainstream of the
Democratic Party. Catastrophic consequences would follow its enactment.

Most fundamentally, Sanders and his many acolytes never ask hard ques-
tions about what comprehensive means. Many public health care plans, like
that of Great Britain, wrestle with this challenge, knowing that aggregate
demand for expensive medical services explodes whenever these are offered
for free. The extra services demanded cannot be supplied from existing
personnel and facilities, so finding additional resources is expensive, given
the inevitable diseconomies of scale. It is only possible to withstand the
onslaught by defining protected benefits relatively narrowly.
These systematic shortages are aggravated as the supply of medical goods
and services shrinks, with the government imposing caps on salaries, drugs,
and procedures. These shortages impose high costs as services are rationed
by queuing, not money. These queues spawn intrigue: the rich (who under the
Sanders plan would be barred from paying private providers of goods and
services) go either overseas or into the black market to obtain vital goods
and services that less-fortunate individuals cannot afford.
This grim picture is no
idle abstraction. These
incentive effects are It’s a fatal conceit to think that only
so powerful that they a central planner can decide which
will swamp any effort of the thousands of permutations of
to improve national health care services belong in one
health care by govern-
comprehensive plan.
ment fiat. It is foolish
and politically naive to assume that health care is somehow special and
therefore follows economic rules that don’t apply to other markets. Housing
experts have known for decades that rent control only aggravates shortages
by creating distortions in housing markets. In agriculture, ethanol subsidies
for gasoline have wrecked the operation of both food and energy markets. In

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 31
transportation, endless queues have formed after price controls at the pump
created systematic gasoline shortages.
The lesson is that basic economic principles apply to all goods and ser-
vices, no matter their elevated position in the social discourse.
We already have good evidence of the destructive effect of regulation on
health care markets. The individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act
(ACA) does in miniature exactly what the Sanders plan would do in the
aggregate. By mandating benefits and coverage formulas, it requires huge
public subsidies to keep the program alive, and then makes matters worse
with its system of commu-
nity rating. The combined
Demand for expensive medical ser- effect of these initiatives
vices explodes whenever these are is to severely contract
the insurance market for
offered for free.
individual health care
policies. The failure of central planning should lead people to shy away from
universal health care, which will only magnify the same set of dangers. But
instead, the constant refrain one hears today is that the public wants single-
payer to ease the frustration and complications of the current health care
system. This common position makes the disease the cure.
But there is another way: deregulation. Removing regulation can do two
things that a national health care system cannot. First, it reduces administra-
tive costs by removing the role of government in decisions insurers should
make about what goods to supply and what prices to charge. Second, it
increases the level of choice in the selection of health care coverage. There
is no reason to think that every American needs exactly the same set of ben-
efits regardless of age, health, sex, and income. Choice is generally regarded
as a virtue in markets that deal with food, transportation, housing, and other
goods. It is a fatal conceit to think that health care is so unusual that a cen-
tral planner can decide at a low cost which of the thousands of permutations
of goods and services belong in the one comprehensive nationwide health
care plan, especially after dismantling the private sector—which would take
away the essential information needed to best allocate scarce resources.
In contrast to central planning, markets tend to bring supply and demand
into balance, as higher prices draw in more suppliers in case of shortages,
while lower prices draw in more consumers in case of surpluses. Price con-
trols for health care services operate just like price controls everywhere else:
the shortages they create ripple quickly through the entire economy. Delays
in the provision of health care allow serious medical conditions to worsen

32 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
until emergency care becomes necessary, but prompt access to such treat-
ment is far from certain.
Sanders misses the point because he lives in a Pollyannaish universe
in which these fundamental structural principles somehow do not apply.
Accordingly, he finds it all too easy to pin the breakdown in the current
health care system on the villains of “the medical industrial complex.” In
so doing, he foolishly assumes that the high salaries paid to executives are
unearned and should be plowed back into better services for the population
at large. Wholly foreign to his way of thinking is that people who command
these salaries function in a competitive market in which few players prosper
for long if they do not deliver to their customers benefits in excess of what
they receive in exchange.

Unfortunately, Sanders starts from the Marxist premise that all contracts
are forms of exploitation. He thus finds it hard to fathom the essential truth
that markets work precisely because of the gains from trade that follow from
voluntary exchange.
In 2016, Pfizer, for example, offered its CEO a compensation package of
more than $17 million, which is small potatoes against its nearly $53 billion in
sales that year. On a daily basis, the CEO and his team have to make high-
stakes decisions that go straight to the bottom line. You pay top talent top
dollar because complex businesses are exceptionally hard to run, especially
in today’s regulatory
environment. Perhaps
Sanders thinks that Price controls for health care operate
every compensation just like price controls everywhere
committee in the land is else: they create shortages, and the
afflicted with some deep shortages ripple through the entire
confusion concerning the
worth of its key officers.
Perhaps he also believes that institutional shareholders, to whom this infor-
mation is disclosed in a myriad of ways, are duped just as easily.
Indeed, when Sanders writes that the United States should negotiate down
the prices of key drugs, he ignores the well-established point that a cut in
prices will necessarily lead to a decline in pharmaceutical innovation. The
large payments to drug companies would be a proper source of concern if
they resulted from some improper use of monopoly power. But under com-
petitive conditions, these prices reflect both the high cost of getting drugs to

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 33
market through the approval maze set up by the Food and Drug Administra-
tion and, once some drugs run that gantlet, the huge benefits they provide by
stabilizing chronic conditions, responding to acute illnesses, and eliminating
costly surgeries and other forms of intervention.
Much can be done to fix the American health care system. All sides agree
that it costs too much to operate and supplies too few benefits. But there is
no way that a system can control costs while catering to unlimited consumer
demand. The law of unintended consequences applies to all social activities,
health care included. This message must be hammered home in the ongoing
debate over health care reform.

Reprinted from Defining Ideas (
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
Entitlement Spending: Our Coming Fiscal Tsunami,
by David Koitz. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit

34 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


Rx for Rose-
colored Glasses
“Medicare for all”? Please. Every country with a
nationalized health care system, even those held
up as models, struggles with serious tradeoffs.

By Lanhee J. Chen and Micah Weinberg

ast fall, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced “Medicare for all”
legislation, the goal of which was to enroll all Americans into the
nation’s Medicare program within four years. Sanders argued that
his proposal would create a system that “works not just for mil-
lionaires and billionaires, but for all of us.”
Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California, and more
than a dozen of their Senate Democratic colleagues co-sponsored the legisla-
tion. Representative John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan, and state
lawmakers in California also proposed “single payer” health plans.
Though we have widely divergent views on health policy—one of us
preferring a German-style system and the other a more consumer-directed
one—we both believe that single-payer health care, including the proposal
advanced by Sanders, is the wrong choice for the country.

Lanhee J. Chen is the David and Diane Steffy Research Fellow at the Hoover
Institution, a contributor to Hoover’s Conte Initiative on Immigration Reform,
and director of domestic policy studies in the public policy program at Stanford
University. He was the William E. Simon Distinguished Visiting Professor at the
Pepperdine School of Public Policy for fall 2017. Micah Weinberg is the president
of the Economic Institute at the Bay Area Council.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 35
We recently conducted an analysis of international health systems and
concluded that single-payer advocates are substantially overstating the
prevalence and success of such systems. While many other countries have
universal health systems and feature more government control over indi-
vidual health care decisions, almost none are actually single-payer. And all of
them are wrestling with largely the same challenges Americans are, making
different but equally difficult trade-offs on cost, quality, and access.
Here are a few important observations about international systems that
lawmakers ought to consider.

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

36 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
First, a vanish-
ingly small number
of countries actually have
single-payer systems. In fact,
almost all feature some role
for private-sector insurance
companies and providers. Brit-
ain, which employs providers in its
National Health Services, has a parallel
private payment system. In countries
like Canada—the system most similar to the
one that Sanders seeks to create—private corporations provide
insurance for services that fall outside of government guarantees. And these
guaranteed benefits are substantially more limited than those in the Sanders
proposal. Canada, for example, has no national prescription drug benefit but
instead a patchwork of provincial systems.
Some of the highest-rated international systems rely on private health
insurers for most health care coverage—Germany’s, for example, is some-
thing like ObamaCare exchanges for everyone, but significantly simpler
and truly universal. The Netherlands and Switzerland have both moved
recently to add more competition and flexibility to systems that were
already built on the use of private insurers.
Second, single-payer countries have also failed to control rising health
care costs. This is important, given that Sanders’s proposal was released
without a cost estimate or financing plan. For historical reasons, many other
countries started with lower levels of health care spending than did the
United States. Several analyses have shown that this has almost nothing to
do with higher administrative costs or corporate profits in the United States
and almost everything to do with the higher cost of health care services and
the higher salaries of providers here.
Although they started at a lower base—with, for example, doctors and
nurses receiving lower salaries—countries around the world have all
struggled with rising costs. From 1990 to 2012, the United States’ rate of
health care cost growth was below that of many other countries, including
Japan and Britain. In 2015, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development warned that rising health care costs across all countries were
Third, it is simply untrue that single-payer systems produce a better
quality of care across the board. Most health policy lectures in American

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 37
universities start with a slide showing that we rank poorly on a broad num-
ber of public health measures and outcomes. Yet the United States scores
much higher on different measures, including innovation, patient centered
care, and preventive health.
Specialty care is better in many categories, although more needs to be
done to create broader access to these services. The American health system
excels, for example, in cancer care. And while we spend more on it than any
other country, we find ourselves at the top of most international rankings
in reducing the death rate of patients with preventable cancer deaths, as a
product of this spending.
In truth, all systems make trade-offs when it comes to allocating health
care resources, and they all largely get what they pay for. To the extent that
other countries achieve better public health outcomes, they do it primarily
through more generous, rather than more efficient, social spending. When
you add together health and social spending across countries, the United
States is no longer a major outlier when it comes to per capita costs spent on
factors that promote health.
American policy makers can and should look abroad for examples of
reforms that work. For example, many other countries have encouraged
smarter public and private investments into factors that promote health
and wellness, like stable housing and employment opportunities, rather than
spending more overall on health care once people are sick.
But just as trade-offs must be made to improve health care, so are other
countries struggling with balancing the cost and quality of care and universal
access. All Americans should bear one important precept in mind: if a plan
like Sanders’s sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Reprinted by permission of the New York Times. © 2017 The New York
Times Co. All rights reserved.

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

38 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


Land of Many
Public lands should be public—not private
playgrounds. The administration’s scrutiny of
national monuments could restore this principle.

By Terry L. Anderson

nterior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently submitted his report review-
ing the national monuments created over the past twenty-five years.
He had been asked by the president to decide whether monument
designations should be rescinded or reduced in size. Especially in the
crosshairs of his review were Bears Ears in southeastern Utah, created by
President Obama in 2016 at 1.35 million acres—half the size of Yellowstone—
and Grand Staircase-Escalante in southern Utah, created by President
Clinton in 1996 at 1.9 million acres.
All the monuments under review were created under the Antiquities
Act passed in 1906 to protect prehistoric Native American antiquities. At
issue in Zinke’s review is the phrase in the act limiting designations to “the
smallest area compatible” with “the protection of objects of historic and
scientific interest.”
In the case of Bears Ears, Grand Gulch contains some magnificent cliff-
dwelling antiquities definitely worth protecting. The size of the “Grand Gulch

Terry L. Anderson is the John and Jean De Nault Senior Fellow at the Hoover
Institution and a senior fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center
(PERC) in Bozeman, Montana.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 39
BIG COUNTRY: A highway winds toward the Bears Ears National Monu-
ment in southeastern Utah, with the eponymous buttes in the background.
President Obama protected the monument in 2016 under the authority of the
Antiquities Act. [Bureau of Land Management]

Primitive Area” is 37,850 acres. To be sure, there are other antiquity areas
within Bears Ears, but they don’t amount to 1.35 million acres.
From the reaction of many environmental groups to the announced reduc-
tions in size of Bears Ears and other monuments, one would think antiquities
will go unprotected. For example, a $1.4 million advertising campaign uses
the slogan “Mr. Secretary, don’t turn your back on Roosevelt now.” According
to Land Tawney, president of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA), the
organization sponsoring the ad campaign, “Our national monuments have
stood the test of time, and the present review could trigger a game of political
football, leaving some of our most cherished landscapes in limbo.”

40 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
Indeed, national monuments have become a political football, and organi-
zations like BHA are the punters. Several environmental groups and some
Indian tribes say they will sue to stop any recommended reductions, thus
punting the ball to judges, who will decide how federal lands will be managed.
Similarly, endangered-species decisions have become the domain of courts
rather than of wildlife professionals. At the end of June, Zinke’s US Fish
and Wildlife Service
determined that griz-
zly bear populations in Federal lands need management by
the greater Yellowstone local people on the ground, not judges
ecosystem had recov- in courtrooms.
ered enough to remove
grizzlies from the threatened species list and turn management over to the
states. In fact, grizzly numbers have risen from 136 in 1975 to more than 700
today, resulting in a density in the ecosystem greater than the estimated den-
sity of grizzly bears Lewis and Clark witnessed. Nonetheless, environmental
groups filed suit last August to stop the delisting.
Instead of letting professionals manage our lands and our wildlife, environ-
mental groups want to create de facto wilderness areas where backpackers
displace loggers, ranchers, and miners. They do this in the name of protect-
ing public lands, suggesting that throngs of Patagonia-clad hikers—who
demand new trails, climb rock walls with holes drilled in the rock for protec-
tion, and leave dozens of fire rings around popular lakes—do no damage.
Groups such as Backcountry Hunters and Anglers jump on this bandwag-
on, suggesting that huge national monuments are necessary for protecting
“world class hunting opportunities.” According to Tawney, the “twenty-six
monuments under review belong to all Americans and must be sustained
as well. An attack on one monument is an attack on them all.” Most of the
monuments under Zinke’s review, however, have little or nothing to do with
hunting, and where they do, the wildlife therein are managed well by state
fish and game authorities.
After the wilderness-hungry environmentalists hike into courtrooms,
Congress should go to work reforming legislation in ways that return land
management to federal and state professionals. President Teddy Roosevelt
did this when he appointed Gifford Pinchot to run the newly created US
Forest Service in 1905. Pinchot was a professional forester who knew how
to manage trees. Federal lands included in Bears Ears and other national
monuments need management by local people on the ground, not by judges
in courtrooms.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 41
A starting point would be to require approval by state congressional del-
egations of any national monument designated in their state. Let state wild-
life managers have more
say in whether grizzlies
National monuments have become a are removed from the
political football. endangered species list.
Entrust Indian tribes with
management of their antiquities as they already are with Canyon de Chelly
National Monument in Arizona.
Most of Bears Ears is under the purview of the Bureau of Land Manage-
ment. It is time to return to the BLM motto—“land of many uses”—not land
of no uses.

Special to the Hoover Digest.

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

42 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


No More Hot Air
If the climate is changing, political rhetoric won’t
help. Hard economic data can.

By David R. Henderson and John H. Cochrane

limate change is often misunderstood as a package deal: if global
warming is “real,” both sides of the debate seem to assume, the
climate lobby’s policy agenda follows inexorably.
It does not. Climate policy advocates need to do a much better
job of quantitatively analyzing economic costs and the actual, rather than
symbolic, benefits of their policies. Skeptics would also do well to focus more
attention on economic and policy analysis.
To arrive at a wise policy response, we first need to consider how much
economic damage climate change will do. Current models struggle to come
up with economic costs commensurate with apocalyptic political rhetoric.
Typical costs are well below 10 percent of gross domestic product in the year
2100 and beyond.
That’s a lot of money—but it’s a lot of years, too. Even 10 percent less GDP in a
hundred years corresponds to 0.1 percentage point less annual GDP growth. Cli-
mate change therefore does not justify policies that cost more than 0.1 percent-
age point of growth. If the goal is 10 percent more GDP in one hundred years,
pro-growth tax, regulatory, and entitlement reforms would be far more effective.
Yes, the costs are not evenly spread. Some places will do better and some
will do worse. The American South might be a worse place to grow wheat;

David R. Henderson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and an emeri-
tus professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Califor-
nia. John H. Cochrane is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 43
Southern Canada might be a better one. In a century, Miami might find itself
in approximately the same situation as the Dutch city of Rotterdam today.
But spread over a century, the costs of moving and adapting are not as impos-
ing as they seem. Rotterdam’s dikes are expensive, but not prohibitively so.
Most buildings are rebuilt about every fifty years. If we simply stopped building
in flood-prone areas and started building on higher ground, even the costs of
moving cities would be bearable. Migration is costly. But much of the world’s
population moved from farms to cities in the twentieth century. Allowing people
to move to better climates in the twenty-first will be equally possible. Such
investments in climate adaptation are small compared with the investments we
will regularly make in houses, businesses, infrastructure, and education.
And economics is the central question—unlike with other environmental prob-
lems such as chemical pollution. Carbon dioxide hurts nobody’s health. It’s good
for plants. Climate change need not endanger anyone. If it did—and you do hear
such claims—then living in hot Arizona rather than cool Maine, or living with
Louisiana’s frequent floods, would be considered a health catastrophe today.
Global warming is not
the only risk our society
If the future of civilization is really at faces. Even if science tells
stake, adaptation or geoengineering us that climate change
should not be unmentionable. is real and man-made, it
does not tell us, as former
president Obama asserted, that climate change is the greatest threat to
humanity. Really? Greater than nuclear explosions, a world war, global pan-
demics, crop failures, and civil chaos?
No. Healthy societies do not fall apart over slow, widely predicted, relative-
ly small economic adjustments of the sort painted by climate analysis. Societ-
ies do fall apart from war, disease, or chaos. Climate policy must compete
with other long-term threats for always-scarce resources.
Facing this reality, some advocate that we buy some “insurance.” Sure,
they argue, the projected economic cost seems small, but it could turn out
to be a lot worse. But the same argument applies to any possible risk. If you
buy overpriced insurance against every potential danger, you soon run out
of money. You can sensibly insure only when the premium is in line with the
risk—which brings us back to where we started, to the need for quantifying
probabilities, costs, benefits, and alternatives. And uncertainty goes both
ways. Nobody forecast fracking, or that it would make the United States the
world’s carbon-reduction leader. Strategic waiting is a rational response to a
slow-moving, uncertain peril with fast-changing technology.

44 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
Global warming is not even the obvious top environmental threat. Dirty
water, dirty air, and insect-borne diseases are a far greater problem today for
most people worldwide. Habitat loss and human predation are a far greater
problem for most animals. Elephants won’t make it to see a warmer climate.
Ask them where they
would prefer to spend $1
trillion: subsidizing high- Climate policy must compete with
speed trains or establish- other long-term threats for always-
ing a human-free park scarce resources.
the size of Montana.
Then we need to know what effect proposed policies have and at what cost.
Scientific, quantifiable, or even vaguely plausible cause-and-effect thinking
are missing from much advocacy for policies to reduce carbon emissions. The
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “scientific” recommendations,
for example, include “reduced gender inequality and marginalization in other
forms,” “provisioning of adequate housing,” “cash transfers,” and “awareness
raising and integrating into education.” Even if some of these are worthy goals,
they are not scientifically valid, cost-benefit-tested policies to cool the planet.
Climate policy advocates’ apocalyptic vision demands serious analysis, and
mushy thinking undermines their case. If carbon emissions pose the greatest
threat to humanity, it follows that the costs of nuclear power—waste disposal
and the occasional meltdown—might be bearable. It follows that the costs
of genetically modified foods and modern pesticides, which can feed us with
less land and lower carbon emissions, might be bearable. It follows that if the
future of civilization is really at stake, adaptation or geoengineering should
not be unmentionable. And it follows that symbolic, ineffective, political grab-
bag policies should be intolerable.

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

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

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 45


A Clean Deal on
Here’s a creative way to fix the Deferred Action for
Childhood Arrivals program: sign it into law.

By Richard A. Epstein

ew topics inspire more passion and
disagreement than the status of illegal Key points
immigrants (the statutory term) in the »» DACA was a case
of presidential over-
United States. That issue grew even
more heated after the Trump administration,
»» But the “Dreamers”
over furious opposition, decided to phase out the program did not create
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) open borders, nor has
it bred “corruption,
program, which protects from deportation those poverty, and human
who were brought to the United States illegally by suffering.”

their parents. »» Dreamers are closely
integrated into Ameri-
DACA was put into place with great fanfare by
can society. Forcing
President Obama in June 2012 with an executive them out risks greater
order addressing the status of the group widely peril to the economy
and social fabric than
known as “Dreamers.” Obama, frustrated with letting them stay.
congressional gridlock on immigration reform,

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.

46 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
decided unilaterally to adopt a program that, purportedly by exercise of
prosecutorial discretion, would allow young people who did not enter the
United States legally to get clearance to remain for two years. To qualify,
an applicant had to have arrived before the age of sixteen and remained in
the United States for the previous five years. In addition, the order required
that a recipient “is currently in school, has graduated from high school, has
obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorably
discharged veteran,” and not have committed any serious crimes. About
eight hundred thousand individuals have qualified during the five years of the
program’s operation. The program is not treated as a path toward citizen-
ship, but Dreamers may participate in programs such as Social Security and
obtain state driver’s licenses.
The blow-up over the DACA revocation was a typical controversy gener-
ated by the Trump administration. The president is correct on the precari-
ous legal status of the DACA program, which even Obama admitted was
a stopgap measure. But Trump is guilty of inexcusable obtuseness on the
moral and political ramifications of the controversy. We need a fix desper-
ately, and the simplest way to get one that works is to enact DACA into law,
precisely as it is.

Let’s take the legal and political points in order.
The most powerful charge against DACA’s legitimacy as an executive order
is that the president lacks authority to promulgate such a measure under our
constitutional system, which gives Congress the authority to pass laws and
puts the president into the position to see that “the laws be faithfully execut-
ed.” The exact interaction between legislation and execution is not perfectly
clear, but its broad outlines were set in the famous 1952 steel seizure case,
in which a clear majority of the Supreme Court rejected the proposition
that President Truman could, on his own motion, seize the steel mills in the
United States to head off a protracted strike that he thought might impair
the military effort in the Korean War.
The case runs closely parallel to the current immigration dispute: the
court noted the explicit unwillingness of Congress just a few years earlier
to give the president the power to interfere in domestic labor disputes, a
decisive factor in rejecting the notion that the president could move on the
strength of his own authority. Nor, the court said, could the president claim
that his inherent authority as commander in chief of the military forces gave
him carte blanche to interfere in domestic economic conflicts.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 47
In one sense, DACA is closer to the line, because presidents normally do
have some prosecutorial discretion in deciding which cases to pursue. But
that discretion extends at most to not bringing charges in individual cases—
here, against the Dreamers—given the inevitable scarcity of government
resources. It does not,
however, authorize
We need a fix desperately, and the the president to allow
simplest way to get one that works is to people to join Social
enact DACA into law, precisely as it is. Security or get driver’s
licenses. Nor, usually,
can that discretion be exercised on a class basis, at least when that “class” of
eight hundred thousand people are in highly different circumstances: claims
about overall enforcement efficiency are better directed at Congress.
For these reasons, when a challenge to DAPA—a far broader DACA-like
program that covered the illegal-immigrant parents of citizens born in the
United States, who are a much larger group—hit the courts in Texas v. United
States in 2015, Judge Jerry Smith held in a well-reasoned opinion that DAPA
exceeded executive power. In light of that decision, the status of DACA,
which was more narrowly drawn, was left somewhat unclear. But the judicial
battle is over, now that Trump has rescinded the order.
The burning question is what to do next, and it is here that Trump and
Attorney General Jeff Sessions have fallen short. Sessions was rightly
concerned with the question of whether amnesty could encourage future
waves of illegal entry. But at the same time, he was most unwise to equate
the continuation of DACA with an open borders policy, which DACA explic-
itly rejected. Nor, after five years of operation, is there the slightest indica-
tion—contrary to what Sessions said—that the continuation of the program
for existing participants
would in any way make
The law doesn’t authorize the presi- the United States a soci-
dent to allow people to join Social ety “afflicted by corrup-
Security or get driver’s licenses. tion, poverty, and human
Sadly, Trump only made matters worse with such choice remarks as:
“Make no mistake, we are going to put the interest of American citizens
first!” and “The forgotten men and women will no longer be forgotten.” It
hardly helps that he backtracked by announcing that the Dreamers “are ter-
rific,” without acknowledging the massive disruptions they would experience
if DACA were upended. To compound the debacle, he dumped the problem

48 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
back into the hands of Congress without making it clear whether he sup-
ported legislation reauthorizing the program.

Behind Trump’s unconstructive stance are his usual aversions to immigra-
tion and trade. Many of our immigration policies are riddled with protection-
ist elements, the underlying assumption of which is that the main conse-
quence of immigration is to displace Americans from jobs. The possibility
that immigrants can, do, and have contributed economically to American
society as consumers, workers, and entrepreneurs gets lost in the heat of a
political moment. But it is specious economics to fear the displacement of
American citizens by foreign workers without considering the benefits they
provide to the economy as a whole.
The United States, of course, cannot absorb millions of immigrants at one
time, but mass absorption is off the table if Congress focuses on Dream-
ers who meet DACA standards while imposing tougher restrictions on new
illegal entrants. Dream-
ers are already closely
integrated into Ameri- Even if DACA fails as an executive
can society, so that their edict, it can succeed as a political
forced departure poses compromise.
a far greater peril to the
US economy and social fabric than allowing them to remain. Ending DACA,
for example, poses a massive threat to the research and teaching programs
of major research universities, where many Dreamers study, teach, and
So, even if the Obama executive order was legally deficient, the president
and attorney general should make it clear that they strongly support continu-
ing DACA exactly as it is. Legislation to do so should not be difficult to draft
because the needed language is already available and the legal institutional
arrangements already in place. But some opponents of DACA’s removal over-
shoot the mark by calling for open borders. Such calls, if picked up by the left
nationwide, will have the unfortunate effect of impeding political progress
during the few months before the program expires.
A clean deal would have two advantages. Substantively, DACA is well
crafted as a legislative compromise. It does not advocate a path to citizen-
ship, which could easily have uncertain political ramifications. By allowing
for driver’s licenses, Social Security, and employment, it reduces the (very
small) risk that DACA recipients will burden society. By keeping the program

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 49
on a two-year cycle, it leaves the matter open for further deliberation after
greater experience with the policy, at which point some further liberalization
of the rules could be possible.
A clean deal has its best chance for bipartisan adoption on an up-or-down
vote. To improve the odds, Trump and Sessions cannot sit back and let
political forces derail any future deal. They have to lead by making it clear
that even if DACA fails as an executive edict, it succeeds as a political com-
promise. They should collaborate with former president Obama to prevent
restless Democrats from going a bridge too far on immigration reform. The
president has to take firm leadership now.

Reprinted from Defining Ideas (
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 The
Debate in the United States over Immigration, edited
by Peter J. Duignan and Lewis H. Gann. To order, call
(800) 888-4741 or visit

50 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


Orders in the
Executive orders are part of every president’s
legal toolbox. But DACA? That, says Hoover
scholar Michael W. McConnell, was the wrong
tool for the job.

By Sharon Driscoll

xecutive actions are often controversial, with members on both
sides of the political divide crying foul when Congress is circum-
vented. Former president Barack Obama’s executive actions on
immigration, executed when Congress failed to pass immigration
reform, were popular with many but have come under fire in the press and in
the courts. Last September, President Trump rescinded the Deferred Action
for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the executive action Obama issued in
2012 to allow young undocumented immigrants to remain legally in the country
to attend school and work. Here, Hoover senior fellow and Stanford law profes-
sor Michael McConnell discusses executive orders and the Constitution.

Sharon Driscoll: President Obama waited to issue an executive order on
immigration because, he said, he wanted Congress to act. When Congress
failed to act, he issued several, including what is known as DACA, the Deferred
Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Was his action constitutional?

Michael W. McConnell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Rich-
ard and Frances Mallery Professor and Director of the Constitutional Law Center
at Stanford Law School. Sharon Driscoll is the editor of Stanford Lawyer.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 51
Michael W. McConnell: President Obama waited to issue an executive order
on immigration because he understood he did not have lawful authority to
countermand an act of Congress. The decision of Congress not to enact
legislation a president wants is no excuse for acting unilaterally. I realize
DACA has a lot of support. I support the policy myself, and hope Congress
enacts it in some form. Children brought to this country by their parents,
and raised in this country, are very sympathetic candidates for admission.
But the Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power to make
and to amend the laws. If President Trump called on Congress to change the
environmental laws and
Congress refused, this
“That is one problem with unilateral
would not give Trump
executive action. What is done by one
power to dispense with
president by the stroke of a pen can enforcement of the laws
be undone by the next president.” by executive action.

Driscoll: Is there ever a constitutional justification for unilateral action by a
president on matters such as immigration?

McConnell: Certainly. The president can take unilateral action when he is
authorized by law to do so. Presidents have very broad powers under the
immigration statutes. President Trump’s moratorium on travel from certain
Muslim-majority countries was a unilateral exercise of power delegated to
the president by statute.

Driscoll: Why do we have executive orders—and when are they constitu-
tional and when are they not?

McConnell: Executive orders are written directives from the president
exercising authority he has been given by either Congress or the Con-
stitution. The fact that a presidential directive is called an “executive
order” is of no legal significance. The president has no additional power
by virtue of issuing an executive order as opposed to any other means of

Driscoll: Attorney General Sessions announced that DACA would be
rescinded in six months and asked Congress to review the issue and act as
it saw fit. But wasn’t DACA vulnerable to judicial review, as was DAPA, the
Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program?

McConnell: Yes, DACA was highly vulnerable to legal challenge. But presi-
dents have an independent responsibility to make sure the executive branch

52 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
is not overstepping its powers. The Constitution imposes a constitutional
obligation on the president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

Driscoll: Can you tell us about United States v. Texas and how it relates to

McConnell: The Texas case involved an order issued by President Obama
on behalf of a larger and different class of person unlawfully present in the
United States, but the legal arguments were essentially the same as there
are with DACA. The Court of Appeals in the Texas case concluded that the
DAPA order exceeded presidential power, and the Supreme Court affirmed
by an equally divided vote. DACA presents the same legal issue.

Driscoll: What are the potential legal actions that might be taken at this
point, if any, regarding DACA?

McConnell: Creative lawyers may come up with a challenge to President
Trump’s revocation of DACA, but it is hard to imagine what it would be based
on. That is one problem with unilateral executive action. What is done by one
president by the stroke of a pen can be undone by the next president.

Driscoll: President Obama’s lawyers defended his actions as an exercise of
prosecutorial discretion. Why was that not correct, or was it?

McConnell: The DACA and DAPA orders went well beyond the exercise of
prosecutorial discretion. They purported to give their beneficiaries a form of
lawful presence, entitling them to work permits and a variety of government
benefits. Prosecutorial discretion means the executive will not take legal
action against a lawbreaker in a particular case; it does not make the conduct
lawful. So the answer: no.

Reprinted by permission of Stanford Law School. © 2017 The Board of
Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. 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

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 53


Population Power
Ever since America began, immigration has meant

By Tim Kane

mericans are having the wrong security conversation on
immigration. We should be thinking about national security,
not border security. The border can be secured without chang-
ing the level of legal immigration, but the nation’s strength has
been (and hopefully will always be) built on millions of migrants coming to
our shores.
The idea of halving the number of legal immigrants to America would have
stunned founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Nudg-
ing out an additional eight hundred thousand youthful DACA immigrants
would have dropped their jaws. President Trump has lurched in different
directions on this issue, but we can hope that he and others who care about
national security will see that the smart bet is to favor more, not less, legal
Restricting immigration to America was a centerpiece of King George’s
plan to weaken our nascent republic, which is why the Declaration of Inde-
pendence emphasized that affront. The Declaration, you may recall, was
essentially a long list of grievances. The first six concerned laws, legislation,
and legislative authority, that “He” (King George) had overseen. But the sev-
enth was about immigration:

Tim Kane is the JP Conte Fellow in Immigration Studies at the Hoover Institu-
tion and co-chairman of Hoover’s Conte Initiative on Immigration Reform. His
new book is Total Volunteer Force: Lessons from the US Military on Lead-
ership Culture and Talent Management (Hoover Institution Press, 2017).

54 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for
that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners;
refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and
raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

To the founders, immigration was the key to power. More people meant
more economic growth and diversity. More people were also seen as the basis
of military strength, as the historian Robbie Totten discovered in hundreds
of historical speeches and letters from that era. In particular, state conven-
tions to ratify the US Constitution reveal an obsessive debate over ways to
increase immigration, with constant references to the size of the militias and
Navy. In a similar fashion, state leaders from South Carolina to Pennsylva-
nia competed to make their governments more accommodating to foreign
migrants during the early years of the republic. Ironically, many legislators
worried that too many of their states’ citizens would migrate even further to
the frontier territories.
Today, thanks almost entirely to the founders’ foresight, America is the
wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world. Unfortunately, too much of a
good thing makes one forgetful. So today, people forget the benefits of free
markets, free trade, low taxes, and even technological progress. And yes,
they question immigration.
What does China fear when it looks across the Pacific at the United States?
Not only the economic strength. China sees a country of more than 323
million people, third-
largest among nations,
To America’s founders, immigration
and, more important,
was the key to power.
young. Not young like
those in so many impoverished countries with high birth rates and early
deaths. America’s families are thriving, unlike those in the sclerotic nations
of Europe and also unlike the rapidly aging nations of Asia, including China
itself. Migrants are a major reason.
Last August, speaking with Senators Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, and
David Perdue, R-Georgia, President Trump explained that he wanted to
cut the annual rate of immigration from a million per year to five hundred
thousand because it would help “minority workers competing for jobs
against brand-new arrivals.” This makes sense if we think of immigration
as a zero-sum contest (citizens versus immigrants) over jobs, wages, and
welfare. But research shows that a dynamic economy simply doesn’t work
that way.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 55
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

What if the United States had cut immigration by half starting in 1776? Our
present population of over 323 million would be far smaller. Using data from
the US census starting with the year 1820 (population 9.6 million), I calcu-
lated an alternative history. Cutting immigration levels in half every year,
thereby also reducing net future births, generates a modern US population of
229,420,534. That means 32 million fewer people in 1940, 65 million fewer in
1990, and today nearly 100 million fewer Americans.

56 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
Would the United States have won World War II (on one or both fronts)
with a quarter fewer soldiers and sailors? Would it have been able to outgrow
the Soviets or afford a Marshall Plan? Would it have dared to stop the com-
munists in Korea in 1950?
To be sure, the
foreign security
situation that the America’s families are thriving, unlike
US faces in 2017 those in the sclerotic nations of Europe
is significantly dif- and also unlike the rapidly aging nations
ferent from what of Asia, including China.
it faced in 1820 or
1776. But the math is the same.
To the isolationist, the size of the US population is irrelevant to the self-
ishly guarded fruits of fortress America. An isolationist policy would have cut
immigration to zero in 1820, avoided foreign entanglements entirely, and sur-
vived to a present-day population of 137 million people, based on my calcula-
tions. With a population that size, the United States today would be smaller
than Bangladesh, larger than Germany, and about the same size as Mexico. It
would have far fewer inventions and no Navy, but a mighty fine border patrol.
To the traditionalist, America is not a fortress but rather an exceptional
beacon of universal liberty, a land where immigration is vital to building the
channels for positive change as well as increasing our military potential.
What limits do we set on the national security of our grandchildren if we
slash immigration now? It may be old school to think this way, but population
is the foundation of power. It always has been and always will be.

Reprinted by permission of Fox News ( © 2017 Fox
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H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 57


Immigration that
Pays Off
A novel idea to make immigration policy both
fair and market-driven: require entrants to post
“integration bonds.”

By Michael S. Bernstam

ilton Friedman noted that free immigration is incompatible
with the welfare state. Decades of experience in the United
States and Europe make this case. It is impossible to com-
bine free immigration, access to welfare state subsidies, and
national integration. This is an impossible trinity. Any two of the three are
possible but not all three.
Integration can accompany free immigration in the absence of welfare
state subsidies for immigrants and concomitant identity policies. Most
immigrants join the labor market, adapt to Western institutions, align their
families’ future with the new country—in sum, integrate.
Free immigration with access to welfare state subsidies renders integra-
tion impossible. Extending subsidies to immigrants preserves their alien
ways, to which the country has to adapt, and multiplies identity policies.
People segregate into ethnic and cultural enclaves and fragment the country.
The goal of integration with access to welfare state subsidies rules out free
immigration. To avoid disintegration, the government selects immigrants

Michael S. Bernstam is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

58 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
through the panoply of quotas and regulations. Those not selected hit the
proverbial wall, symbolic or physical.
Eventually, one of the three will have to give, either immigration or access to
subsidies or integration and stability. Which one depends on value judgments.
Nationalists would drop free immigration. Multiculturalists and Westophobes,
to coin a term, would abandon integration. The simplest is to close immi-
grants’ access to welfare state subsidies including cash, housing, and health
care. But this won’t be socially tolerable or technically enforceable.
The reform proposal of Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue and the
Trump administration redirects immigration from country-specific quotas
and family unification to a global skill and work recruitment. This selec-
tive immigration could contain, but not eliminate, segregation fostered by
welfare state subsidies and identity policies. It also leaves in limbo millions of
undocumented aliens already in the country.
One can replace the government selection of immigrants with the market
selection. It offers incentives to forswear welfare state subsidies and inte-
grate through the labor market and Western institutions. This would render
immigration quotas and classes unnecessary, phase out illegal immigration,
and make free immigration self-regulating.
The incentives mechanism is forthright. It can be called the integration
bond. Every aspiring immigrant, abroad or already in the country, past the
background check, can obtain an immigration permit by posting a bond in
a special account with
the government. Think
of the security deposit Immigration will again mean self-
for the lease of a house. selection of the most industrious,
The bond has two basic ingenious, and enterprising people.
features: it is refundable
to the posting party or its heirs and it is convertible into a debitable account.
Any party can post the bond for himself or the persons he sponsors. It can
be the immigrants themselves, employers, relatives and friends, charitable
organizations, the lenders if the funds for the bond are borrowed, or the
government on behalf of refugees. The balance of the bond is refundable on
demand upon departure or naturalization. The bond is not a fee, and it has
no maturity and never expires until refunded. The bond is thus a risk-free
investment. It can earn the coupon interest of the one-year Treasury bill.
The only cost to the posting party is that of raising funds, like the security
deposit. The cost is trivial compared with the filing fees by employers or
what immigrants and their families pay to smugglers or attorneys.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 59
LOYAL: Immigrants take the oath of American citizenship in 2015. Barring
state subsidies, most immigrants join the labor market, adapt to Western
institutions, and align their families’ future with their new country. [Neal Her-
bert—National Park Service]

Once the bond is posted, the immigrant receives the Social Security
number linked to the bond account. The number is automatically renewed
when the immigrant files a tax return. It is forfeited otherwise, along with
the immigration status, and the balance of the bond refunded. The number
becomes permanent upon naturalization. It is good for employment, pay-
ing taxes, renting a dwelling, purchasing health insurance, opening a bank
account, obtaining licenses and permits, and other legal uses.
The immigration bond is debitable. There is no need to ban immigrants’
access to welfare state subsidies including tax credits—they will take care of

60 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
it themselves. The balance of the bond on the account with the government
is directly debitable by federal, state, and local governments for any welfare
state subsidies, for overdue tax liabilities, and for unpaid legal fines. Immi-
grants receive a special debit card for this account. Licensed health care pro-
viders will be authorized
to charge this debit card
if the immigrant receives Replace the government selection of
health services without immigrants with a market selection.
carrying health insur-
ance and paying requisite deductibles and co-pays. The bond account can be
also drawn on by the posting party for emergencies such as disability or the
death of the breadwinner.
The balance of the immigration bond account must be maintained. If the
balance falls below the posted amount and is not replenished by the holder
or sponsors within a month or a quarter, the balance is refunded and the
immigration permit revoked. Immigrants will be interested to pay taxes due,
to abstain from welfare state subsidies, and to purchase health insurance
and pay the balances to providers. Doing otherwise will be self-defeating. All
immigrants will be self-reliant or rely on their families. They will be law-abid-
ing, as a criminal record will annul the immigration status.
The scope of immigration will be self-regulating by the market. The num-
ber of immigrants will be determined by the market demand for industry-
specific skilled and unskilled labor and by the family budgets. Most working-
age immigrants will come for employment, self-employment, or a business
activity. Immigra-
tion will again be
the self-selection The cost of an “integration bond” is trivial
of the most indus- compared with employers’ filing fees
trious, ingenious, or what immigrants and families pay to
and enterprising
smugglers or attorneys.
people. Others,
independently wealthy or retirees, will rely on their own resources. Still,
they will pay income, property, and consumption taxes. Naturalization will
depend on the work and business history and payroll tax payments, spouses
included. Nonworkers can naturalize by paying a lump sum into the old-age
security and health care system.
The value of the immigration bond should be sufficient to cover the annual
fiscal cost of welfare state subsidies for nonworking individuals. It can be
$10,000 per person, summing up the $7,000 cost of Medicaid and various

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 61
subsidies for housing, nutrition, disability, and supplemental cash, or follow
the federal poverty line of $12,000 for singles and $16,000 and $24,000 for
families of two and four, respectively. Unemployment benefits and public
education do not count. The former are financed by effective wage deduc-
tions remitted by employers into the unemployment trust fund and the latter
is paid for by property taxes, direct or imputed in the rent. This value of the
immigration bond account is also sufficient to draw on in case of emergen-
cies. The estimate is both fiscally responsible and humane.
Affordability of the immigration bond is not an issue. Since the bond is
refundable to the posting party including the lender and the balance must
be maintained, it represents an excellent collateral. A multitude of financial
institutions would extend loans. Banks and other lenders could sell covered
bonds to investors, as the refundable bond is a safe asset. Borrowing would
be easy. The interest would run to a few hundred dollars a year, less than
paying legal or illegal fees. Indeed, less than $2 a day. Just skip that pint. Any-
one who has a job or can find and hold a job can afford to post the bond. And
this is the entire point of immigration for integration by the market.

Special to the Hoover Digest.

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62 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


No Shortage of
Seizing the military initiative can lead to success,
as history confirms, but only if the party that
seizes the initiative is fully prepared to exploit it.
Few are.

By Williamson Murray

ith the troubles bubbling up on the Korean Peninsula, two
words—pre-emptive and preventive—have gained increas-
ing currency. They are similar in meaning, but context is
crucial to understand their applicability to the current
crisis. And here, as is so often the case, history is a useful tool in thinking
through the possibilities.
A pre-emptive strike usually carries the connotation of attacking or
destroying substantial enemy capabilities, in some cases with the hope that it
will so wreck the enemy’s military forces that he will not be able to use them
effectively, should war result. In the largest sense, those who execute preven-
tive strikes have usually understood that their military effort, no matter how
successful, would lead to a conflict of some indeterminate length. Thus, the
two words are directly tied together: pre-emptive strike almost inevitably
will lead to what the attacker, in most cases, regards as a preventive war.

Williamson Murray is a member of the Hoover Institution’s Working Group on
the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict and a professor emeritus of
history at the Ohio State University.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 63
We, of course, have been down this road in the recent past. In response to
9/11, the Bush administration in its National Security Strategy for 2002
boldly stated that the United States “must be prepared to stop rogue states
and their territorial clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons
of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends.”
That statement led directly to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, with the aim of
removing Saddam Hussein and his supposed weapons of mass destruction as
well as eliminating the possibility that he might eventually possess nuclear
weapons. The United States almost immediately found itself mired in an
unexpected quagmire—at least unexpected by the administration and all
too many of its military advisers. The ensuing insurgency against the United
States and its allies as well as the civil war between the Sunni and Shia reli-
gious constituencies proved to be a nightmare for American strategists and
policy makers. In retrospect, the result of the Iraq invasion seems obvious,
but it was certainly not so at the time.
In reflecting on the Bush administration’s aim of preventing future threats
to the homeland by launching a preventive war against Iraq, one inevitably
runs into Clausewitz’s ironic warning that echoes through much of history:
“No one starts a war—or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so—with-
out being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how
he intends to conduct it.” In fact, in the real world, once embarked on war,
statesmen and generals almost inevitably discover that they have underesti-
mated the enemy, or their intelligence was faulty, or they have overestimated
their own military’s effectiveness, and so on. There are cases, of course,
where a preventive war
might well have prevented
Pre-emptive means to seize the initia- a far worse conflict. The
tive. But seizing the initiative is only most obvious case was
the first step. the refusal of Britain and
France to fight in defense
of Czechoslovakia in 1938, when Nazi Germany was in a far weaker position
than it would prove to be in 1939. But that judgment arises only as the result
of knowing the terrible strategic results of and fallout from the Munich
Conference. At the time no one except Winston Churchill—and obviously the
Czechs—understood what Neville Chamberlain gave away in surrendering
Czechoslovakia to the tender mercies of Nazi Germany.
Perhaps the most useful way to think of a pre-emptive strike is that it
represents a tactical effort to change the balance of forces in favor of the

64 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
aggressor, who should understand that the initial strike is only the opening
shot that heralds the beginning of war. The dictionary definition indicates
that pre-emptive means “to seize the initiative.” But seizing the initiative is
only the first step.
We might start our examination of pre-emptive strikes with the decision
of Jefferson Davis and his Confederate cabinet to approve the bombardment
of Fort Sumter. Interestingly, internal political considerations appear to have
been the driving force behind their decision. Crucially, in April 1861, North
Carolina and Tennessee
remained on the fence,
No one except Winston Churchill—
apparently still uncer-
tain whether to join the and obviously the Czechs—under-
Confederacy or attempt stood what Chamberlain gave away
to remain in the Union. in surrendering Czechoslovakia to
Davis and his advisers Hitler’s tender mercies.
were also afraid that
federal supply ships would reach Sumter and thus prolong the crisis. As for
worries that such a pre-emptive strike might have a serious impact on North-
ern public opinion, that possibility received little consideration from the Con-
federate leadership. In retrospect, Southern leaders were still contemptuous
of the Northerners’ ability and willingness to conduct a war seriously. It
proved to be a disastrous miscalculation. What the Confederates received in
bombarding Sumter was a massive outpouring of Northern popular outrage
and a determination to fight the war to its end. That popular feeling would
motivate Union armies throughout the war.
Japanese actions in the twentieth century also make interesting read-
ing, even if the case is more ambiguous. Japan’s two major international
conflicts in that century both began with pre-emptive strikes to ensure that
Japanese military forces would have the advantage in what they under-
stood would be an upcoming struggle. The attack on Port Arthur in early
February 1904 was aimed at damaging czarist Russia’s Pacific fleet so thor-
oughly that it would not be able to play a significant role in the war that
the Japanese understood they would have to wage against the Russians
in Manchuria immediately after their attack on Port Arthur to achieve
their political aims. The Japanese would eventually win their war, but the
casualty bill was extraordinarily high and the nation was bankrupt at the
war’s conclusion. Only the facts that the czarist army suffered from gross
incompetence and that revolution broke out in European Russia in the fol-
lowing year prevented a Japanese defeat.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 65
In the second case, the Japanese pre-emptive strike on the American
Fleet at Pearl Harbor in December 1941 was not so successful. It aimed at
taking the US battle fleet off the strategic table while the main Japanese
thrust conquered the raw-material riches of Southeast Asia, in particular
oil and rubber. What exactly would happen afterward was not entirely
clear to Japanese planners, though they did believe they would have time
to build a strategic set of bases on the Pacific islands that would be impos-
sible for the Americans to break—thus forcing the United States to make
peace. What happened, of
course, is that the Pearl
What the Confederates received after
Harbor attack awakened
bombarding Fort Sumter was a mas- a sleeping giant. Within
sive outpouring of Northern popular three years the Japanese
outrage and determination to fight were confronting the US
the war to its end. Fifth and Third fleets—
depending on who was in
command, Admiral Raymond Spruance or Admiral William “Bull” Halsey—
each of which was larger than all the rest of the fleets in the world com-
bined. The smoking ruins of Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki underlined the
extent of the Japanese miscalculation in launching their pre-emptive strike
against Pearl Harbor as the kickoff to their war against the United States
and its allies in Southeast Asia.
Perhaps the most effective combination of a pre-emptive strike as the
opening gambit for a preventive war came in 1967 with the Six-Day War.
Outnumbered, at least on paper, by the massive Arab armies deploying
on their frontiers and with the rhetoric in the Arab capitals indicating an
intention to wipe Israel off the map, the Israelis struck first. In this case,
the pre-emptive strike consisted of the bulk of the Israeli air force fly-
ing deep into the Mediterranean, then swinging south to launch a series
of devastating attacks on the major Egyptian airfields. In less than half
an hour, the Israeli air force had wiped out nearly all of Egypt’s air force.
With air superiority now assured, the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) ground
troops began a preventive war that would last for six days and see the IDF
destroy the Egyptian army in Sinai, capture Jerusalem’s Old City, destroy
the Jordanian army and seize the West Bank, and knock the Syrians off the
Golan Heights.
If the Six-Day War failed to bring peace to Israel, the Jewish state has
never again been threatened to the extent that it was in June 1967. However,
the very success made it impossible for the Arab states to agree to a peace

66 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
treaty. Six years later, Israeli arrogance and underestimation of their Arab
enemies resulted in the costly and inconclusive Yom Kippur War.
Perhaps the most successful pre-emptive strike in history also was
launched by the Israelis: in June 1981, Israeli aircraft wrecked the Osirak
reactor that the French were building in Iraq for Saddam Hussein. Using
exquisite intelligence, F-16 fighter bombers, escorted by F-15 fighters,
attacked at precisely the time when Iraqi anti-aircraft crews were taking
their meals. Saddam was furious because the strike had set the Iraqi nuclear
program back for an extensive period of time. But he could make no military
answer to the Israelis; bluster and outrage at the Zionist international con-
spiracy could be his only response.

If the Japanese and Israeli cases provide a somewhat ambiguous storyline,
the grim warning of 1914 suggests that pre-emptive strike and preventive
war can have disastrous consequences.
In July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian empire and Germany determined to
risk a pre-emptive strike to take Serbia out of the game, fully conscious that
such a war might well lead to a general European war. When the Russians
mobilized in response to
Austria-Hungary’s decla-
ration of war on Serbia, The smoking ruins of Tokyo, Hiro-
the Germans responded shima, and Nagasaki underlined the
by launching a pre- extent of the Japanese miscalculation
emptive strike against in launching their pre-emptive strike
France, the infamous against Pearl Harbor.
Schlieffen Plan. The Ger-
man calculation rested on the belief that in launching the unprovoked inva-
sion of Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, the Kaiser’s forces could knock
the French out of the war and win what they clearly believed was a preven-
tive war against the Entente armies on their frontiers.
Frightened by the buildup of the czarist army that had begun shortly after
Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese War and by increasing diplomatic and
strategic isolation, Germany embarked on a preventive war. But the Schlief-
fen Plan failed. By launching the Schlieffen Plan without serious strategic
thought, the Germans immediately brought in the British with their Royal
Navy and British Expeditionary Force, which in spite of its small size would
prevent the Germans from outflanking the French army. Moreover, by invad-
ing France with so little justification, the Germans ensured that international

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 67
public opinion, particularly in the United States, would be hostile to Germa-
ny’s cause right from the start.
It seems that pre-emptive strikes may be of some utility, but only in the
case where military forces are fully prepared to take advantage of the result-
ing chaos. But there are all too many cases in history where the attacker
who launches the pre-emptive strike finds himself mired in a war that turns
out to be far more difficult than he expected. One unforgettable case is the
Wehrmacht’s pre-emptive strike into the Soviet Union in 1941, a strike that
was enormously successful—but which ultimately yoked Nazi Germany to a
conflict it lacked the resources and capabilities to win.

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68 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


From Sparta to
Nations that abandon diplomacy enter a realm of
violence and confusion.

By Barry Strauss

reventive wars and pre-emptive strikes are both risky business.
A preventive war is a military, diplomatic, and strategic endeavor,
aimed at an enemy whom one expects to grow so strong that
delay would cause defeat. A pre-emptive strike is a military
operation or series of operations to pre-empt an enemy’s ability to attack
you. In both cases, a government judges a diplomatic solution impossible. But
judgment calls are debatable and preventive wars often stir up controversy.
Pre-emptive strikes run the risk of arousing a sleeping enemy who, now
wounded, will fight harder. Yet both preventive wars and pre-emptive strikes
can succeed, under certain limited circumstances. Consider some examples.
The Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) is the granddaddy of all preventive
wars. The Peloponnesians, led by Sparta, decided to make war on Athens
less because of a series of disputes dividing the two blocs than because of the
future that they feared, one in which Athens’ growing power would break
apart Sparta’s alliance system. The Athenians wanted to decide the two
sides’ dispute via arbitration, but the Spartans refused, which cost Sparta
the moral high ground. Before Athens and Sparta could fight a proper battle,

Barry Strauss is a member of the Hoover Institution’s Working Group on the Role
of Military History in Contemporary Conflict.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 69
the war began. Sparta’s ally, Thebes, launched a pre-emptive strike on the
nearby city and Athenian ally, Plataea.
Both the pre-emptive strike and the preventive war succeeded, but at no
small cost. It took four years of hard fighting and considerable escalation
before Plataea surrendered. Sparta emerged victorious against Athens but
only after twenty-seven years of intermittent and escalatory warfare. The
price of victory was steep, leading to embroilment in war against Persia,
a falling-out with Sparta’s former allies, and ultimately, the collapse of the
Spartan regime after centuries of stability. Athens lost the Peloponnesian
War but managed to preserve and even strengthen its regime at home; it
never successfully restored its overseas power.
To turn to another ancient case, Rome frequently engaged in preventive
war. The most egregious example was the Third Punic War (149–146 BC),
when Rome declared war on Carthage. Carthage offered no serious threat
for the foreseeable future, if ever, because Rome had thoroughly defeated it
twice in the past. Yet some Romans feared the growing prosperity of their
long-time rival. The war was hard fought but led to a complete Roman vic-
tory. After a lengthy siege, Carthage was destroyed. It ceased to exist as a
polity. For a century it wasn’t even a city, but then it was refounded—as a
Roman city.

Turning to modern times, Japan fought a preventive war against Russia
in 1904–5 to stop the Russians from building up their strength in the Far
East, particularly via a railroad through Russian-occupied Manchuria. The
Japanese launched the war with a pre-emptive strike, a surprise attack on
the Russian naval base at Port Arthur. The strike weakened the Russian
fleet but did not destroy
it. Ultimately Japan was
Pre-emptive strikes run the risk of successful at sea but
arousing a sleeping enemy who, now compelled to accept a
wounded, will fight harder. stalemate on land. The
outbreak of revolution in
Russia forced the Russians to the peace table and handed Japan victory, but
although Japan bruised Russia badly it did not win the war on the battlefield.
In June 1967, Israel launched a series of pre-emptive strikes against Egyp-
tian and other Arab air forces. A devastating success, it contributed greatly
to Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War. In 1973, Egypt and Syria launched
a series of highly successful surprise attacks if not pre-emptive strikes.

70 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
UNSETTLED: Israeli paratroopers marvel at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
after seizing it during the Six-Day War in 1967. That conflict featured a suc-
cessful use of pre-emptive strikes by Israel. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War,
however, it was Egypt and Syria who succeeded with surprise attacks against
Israel. [Micha Bar-Am—Israel Defense Forces]

Although Israel bounced back by dint of effort and with American resupply-
ing, the Arab states’ military successes, along with their use of the Arab “oil
weapon,” led to victory, especially for Egypt.
None of the belligerents in 1973 had to persuade their people to fight, but
not all politicians have that luxury. In Rome before the Third Punic War, for
instance, the leading war hawk, Cato the Elder, frequently ended his speech-
es in the Senate with the statement that Carthage must be destroyed. It took
an effort to persuade the senators to fight a preventive war against a less-
than-obvious threat, but it is even more difficult to persuade modern liberal
democratic societies to do so.
Popular and successful politician though he was, US President Franklin
D. Roosevelt did not dare ask Congress for a declaration of war against Nazi
Germany or imperial Japan until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on
December 7, 1941. Yet both regimes were expansionist powers offering wide-
ly—but not unanimously—acknowledged threats to American security. Even

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 71
after Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war only
against Japan, even though the United States and Germany were engaged in
an undeclared shooting war in the Atlantic. Not until Germany declared war
on the United States on December 11, 1941, four days after Pearl Harbor, did
Congress declare war on Germany.
Most would consider
the Japanese attack on
If preventive war in Iraq was a suc- the United States in 1941 a
cess, it came at a heavy price. preventive war by Japan,
before the United States
could intervene in the Far East. The Japanese might say that American eco-
nomic strictures such as freezing Japanese assets and embargoing oil were
tantamount to acts of war. In any case, Japan launched a pre-emptive attack
on both the US Navy and air forces in Hawaii. The strike did great damage
but left the Americans with more than enough resources to rebound and win
the war. This despite Japan’s ability to inflict a second damaging pre-emptive
attack on the US air force in the Philippines, a little over nine hours after
news of the Pearl Harbor attack had arrived.

The United States fought a preventive war in Iraq in 2003 against the threat
of Saddam Hussein’s program of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Some
in the US government also hoped to turn Iraq into an ally. The invasion suc-
ceeded in defeating Iraqi conventional forces, occupying the country, and
toppling Saddam. Yet US intelligence concluded that although Saddam’s goal
was to re-create his WMD
program, that program
Roosevelt didn’t dare ask Congress to had been destroyed in
declare war against Germany or Japan 1991.
until Pearl Harbor. Yet both regimes Public support for the
were expansionist powers threaten- war in the United States
ing American security. wavered after the emer-
gence of an Iraqi insur-
gency. In spite of eventual success by a US counterinsurgency campaign, a
change of government in the United States brought a complete withdrawal
of remaining American troops from Iraq. Today Iraq has no WMD but is a
divided state, reeling from war with ISIS and in large part an ally of Iran
rather than the United States. If preventive war in Iraq was a success, it
came at a heavy price.

72 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
To sum up, preventive wars and pre-emptive strikes work only under
certain conditions. If the attacker carries out a brilliant operation, has over-
whelming military superiority, is able to mobilize political support particu-
larly at home but also abroad, and is willing to pay a heavy price and bear
a long burden in case the war drags on, then one of those two moves might
make sense. States lacking those strengths would do best to avoid such risky

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rity in light of conflicts of the past. © 2017 The Board of Trustees of the
Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

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H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 73


Lighting the Fuse
A nuclear North Korea creates pressure for a
nuclear South Korea—and Japan.

By Michael R. Auslin

n normal times, North Korea’s repeated firing of ballistic missiles
would be expected to lead to an even firmer coalition of South Korea,
Japan, and the United States opposed to its nuclear and missile
programs. Further, Kim Jong Un’s recklessness and his increasing
threat to regional stability would force China into a more serious attempt to
curb him. Yet it is just as likely that Kim’s repeated flouting of international
condemnation at little actual cost is serving to prove North Korea’s essential
immunity from outside pressure. Kim is trying to normalize the idea of North
Korea’s strategic capability.
There is no longer any doubt that Kim is far more brazen than either his
father or grandfather. What we will never know, however, is whether Kim Il
Sung or Kim Jong Il would have acted the same way had they possessed the
same technical capabilities. This is an important question, because much
official analysis of Kim’s character and motives is based on the growing
conviction that he is somehow less stable, more erratic, less restrainable, and
more dangerous than his forebears.
Yet there may be an inherent logic in North Korea’s aggressive behav-
ior. By this logic, Pyongyang is increasing the pace of missile launches and
nuclear tests not only to perfect its programs but because it must be seen

Michael R. Auslin is the Williams-Griffis Fellow in Contemporary Asia at the
Hoover Institution. He is the author of The End of the Asian Century: War,
Stagnation, and the Risks to the World’s Most Dynamic Region (Yale Uni-
versity Press, 2017).

74 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
as continually challenging the foreign opposition to its policy. This serves to
keep Washington, Seoul, Tokyo, and Beijing continually off balance in a pre-
emptive way—even before Pyongyang has fully reliable and capable strategic
weapons. If such is the
case, it may also be seen
as analogous to Kim There’s no doubt that Kim Jong Un is
Jong Il’s determined far more brazen than either his father
pursuit of a nuclear or his grandfather.
capability even while
negotiating with the Bush administration, resulting in the country’s first
nuclear detonation in 2006. The logic underlying this behavior is that North
Korea will never voluntarily surrender its nuclear weapons and ballistic mis-
sile program, regardless of inducement or coercion.
Perhaps the world is beginning to accept what this means. While the offi-
cial talk is still of some type of renewed negotiations and a settlement leading
to denuclearization of the peninsula, the sober reality is sinking in that only
compulsion will work: some type of force to change Kim’s behavior. However,
the bar remains so high against preventive war that Pyongyang believes it
is safe from an allied attack that it has not provoked. Hence, Kim’s frenetic
schedule of missile launches is calculated to work in the space between diplo-
matic engagement and armed conflict.

The foreign powers have no agreement on how to deal with North Korea.
A senior Chinese academic at a conference outside Los Angeles last fall
commented privately that even if some type of grand bargain with the
United States were possible over North Korea, “how can we be sure we can
trust you, since when you change presidents you also change policies?” The
remark revealed that at least some leading Chinese thinkers look at North
Korea in terms of years or decades, and not as the crisis of the week or
month. What the comment underscored was China’s worry that Washington
ultimately seeks regime change in Pyongyang that could result in a unified,
pro-Western Korea, which would be seen as a direct threat to Beijing’s inter-
ests in Northeast Asia.
This hesitance of China’s leadership to get serious about pressuring Kim is
why sanctions will probably never be strong enough to force him to submit
to foreign pressure. Sanctions can take years to have an effect, and then only
if they are comprehensive and targeted at vital elements of a regime’s power.
China, along with Russia, watered down last fall’s round of UN sanctions,

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 75
WHAT DO YOU SEE?: A family peers through binoculars in Paju, South Korea,
toward the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas. Concern is growing
that South Korea might retaliate in some way against the North’s provocative
missile tests. [Keizo Mori—UPI]

preventing a complete block of oil exports to North Korea. If such is the atti-
tude of Beijing and Moscow during the most critical phase so far of the North
Korean crisis, then Washington must seriously reconsider its approach.
Meanwhile, despite the apparently strained and hostile relations between
Pyongyang and Beijing, Kim can rest assured that the one foreign power that
could most strongly influence his behavior remains too wedded to the general
idea of maintaining North Korea’s existence to force a potential showdown.
The wild cards in the current scenario are South Korea and Japan. Despite
his preferred approach of negotiating with Kim, South Korean president
Moon Jae In has been pushed to an ever-firmer stance. His government
recently negotiated a removal of the limits on the size of the conventional
warheads on the South’s ballistic missiles, and in response to last fall’s mis-
sile launch, the South Korean military practiced an attack on a North Korean
launch site. Moon has also approved a so-called “decapitation unit,” designed

76 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
to threaten Kim with assassination. Driven by the pace of events, South
Korea may wind up retaliating in some way against the North’s provocations,
which could then tip the peninsula into war.
Of more concern is increased signaling from South Korean officials, politi-
cians, and opinion makers that it is time not only for the reintroduction of US
tactical nuclear weap-
ons into South Korea
(withdrawn by President The pressure to reconsider the US-
George H. W. Bush in South Korean alliance could quickly
1991) but for Seoul to become a major strategic issue.
consider building its
own indigenous nuclear capability. This, of course, would spark a nuclear
arms race in Northeast Asia, most likely drawing in the Japanese, who would
be unlikely to remain the only non-nuclear power in the region. And China
would undoubtedly feel forced to massively increase its relatively modest
nuclear arsenal if Tokyo and Seoul both went nuclear.
Yet ultimately, South Korean leaders may decide they have no choice
but to develop their own arsenal because the seeming stalemate over
denuclearization means they are almost certain to live in the shadow of
North Korea’s nuclear missiles. The United States’ extended deterrence
guarantee, pledging the use of American nuclear weapons to protect the
South, may begin to look increasingly threadbare as the North develops a
full nuclear arsenal. A more conservative South Korean leader in the future
might be more willing to pursue even more-offensive military capabilities
than Moon.

All this would present the United States with an almost impossible dilemma.
Should the entire peninsula go nuclear, there would undoubtedly be calls
at home to remove
US troops from South
Korea, since their utility China worries that Washington
in a nuclear exchange
ultimately seeks regime change in
would be zero. Moreover,
Pyongyang that could result in a uni-
in a nuclear-proliferated
Northeast Asia, it is fied, pro-Western Korea.
unclear how the United
States could play a stabilizing role, given the multipolar nuclear dynamic.
From one perspective, a nuclear South Korea (and Japan) would seem to be

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 77
able to defend itself; from another, the United States could be risking ther-
monuclear attack on the homeland by maintaining a nuclear role in a region
filled with similarly equipped states. The pressure to reconsider the US–
South Korean alliance, and possibly that with Japan, could quickly become a
major strategic issue.
It is such long-term thinking that Washington must consider, for its actions
in the short run will help set the stage for the following years. While the
Trump administration is faced with an immediate crisis, the other players
in the region are thinking about the coming decades. Above all, by maintain-
ing pressure on the foreign powers, Kim Jong Un may be stalemating them
in the short run but setting up Northeast Asia for a frighteningly unstable
nuclear future.

Reprinted by permission of the National Interest (www.nationalinterest.
org). © 2017 The National Interest. All rights reserved.

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

78 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


What Beijing
Doesn’t Want
North Korea’s nuclear threats are shaking up
Asian security. That could put a welcome brake on
China’s ambitions.

By Thomas H. Henriksen

he North Korean missile and nuclear provocations during the
past months are changing the geopolitical landscape of East
Asia. Much of the world’s attention has been focused on the
threats posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s
repeated missile firings and its increasing potential to deliver nuclear war-
heads with longer-range rockets. Certainly, this alarm is warranted. But a
less-appreciated transformation in regional relations is also at work. These
changes have been a boon to the United States, which the Trump administra-
tion has wittingly and perhaps unwittingly done much to shape. In short, the
dangers have presented to the Pentagon an opportunity to bolster its military
presence in the Asia-Pacific region and reverse the Obama administration’s
The East Asian nations are recalibrating their own security preparations,
defense posture, and alliances as they move closer to the United States.
A striking example is South Korea. The government of Moon Jae In came
to power in May with a predisposition toward accommodation with its
northern neighbor. Once in the Blue House, Moon, a former human rights

Thomas H. Henriksen is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 79
lawyer, halted the deployment of the first terminal high altitude area defense
(THAAD) battery of a total of five missiles. The THAAD offered a measure
of protection from medium-range ballistic missiles.
Not only did the North Korean missile firings soon persuade Moon to rein-
state the THAAD instal-
lation, but they also
persuaded him to
call upon his mili-
tary to enhance
its defense
readiness. The
South Koreans

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

80 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
participated in large-scale wargames with the US military last summer in
spite of the North’s shrill objections.
Across the Korea Strait in Japan, the government in Tokyo has leveraged
North Korea’s nuclearization to nudge the populace to abandon its resolute
pacifism, dating from the World War II Japanese defeat after decades of mili-
tarism and war. Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, had already begun his cam-
paign to make Japan a “normal nation” before North Korea’s recent spate of
missile firings. Abe lost
little time in denouncing
the North Korean missile North Korea’s bellicosity has also
flights over the northern worked to damage China’s interna-
island of Hokkaido as a tional standing.
“grave threat.”
More important, Kim Jong Un’s missile tests have buttressed Abe’s case
to increase defense spending and to purchase the US-made Aegis Ashore
antimissile system.
Japanese popular opinion is pulling back from the once-staunch backing
of the country’s war-renouncing constitution toward an acceptance of the
need for adequate armed forces. Abe succeeded two years ago in getting the
legislature to allow Japanese troops to take part in overseas combat opera-
tions, a decided change in domestic orientation. Without the North Korean–
induced anxiety, it is unlikely that Japanese anti-military sentiments would
be diminishing.
North Korea’s bellicosity has also worked to damage China’s international
standing. No country has done more to enable Pyongyang’s nuclear and
missile programs than China, a fact increasingly acknowledged worldwide.
Without Chinese banks,
technologies, industries,
and imports of North Hard-line elements within the Chi-
Korean goods (particu- nese government have found it con-
larly coal), the totalitar- venient to play the North Korean card.
ian regime in Pyongyang
would have been stopped in its tracks. Beijing has also run diplomatic inter-
ference for the renegade regime at the United Nations and in world capitals.
As a fraternal communist state, North Korea appealed to China for aid.
But China’s self-interest played a larger role than shared communist ideol-
ogy in securing assistance for North Korea’s weapons and rocketry. Hard-line
elements within the Chinese government have found it convenient to play the
North Korean card against the United States.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 81
During the Vietnam War, for example, Beijing prevailed on Pyongyang
to keep its border with South Korea tense so that the Pentagon was unable
to pull US troops from the ironically named Demilitarized Zone, which
cuts across the Korean Peninsula, for the American-led war in Southeast
In recent times, Washington’s arms sales to Taiwan, which Beijing regards
as a wayward province of the mainland, elicited payback through North
Korean threats and the consternation they caused Washington.
But playing the
North Korean card
Japan’s Shinzo Abe lost little time in is no longer such a
denouncing the North Korean missile winning tactic for
flights over Hokkaido as a “grave threat.” China. Everyone
now understands the
nuclear danger and knows China’s outsize role in creating this peril. Coun-
tries as far away as Vietnam and Taiwan have taken the measure of China’s
behavior and found it ominous.
The Obama administration began deflecting criticism for its inert “strate-
gic patience” policy by arguing that China was to blame for the problem. The
Trump administration adopted and highlighted this line to good effect.
Beijing has taken some steps to curb its economic interactions with Pyong-
yang. It recently voted for additional sanctions in the Security Council and it
has become politically defensive when criticized for furthering Pyongyang’s
atomic and missile ambitions.
North Korea’s persis-
tent recklessness will,
The nuclear crisis, if anything, has re- no doubt, reinforce the
energized America’s posture in North- current trends among its
neighbors for additional
east Asia.
defensive weapons and
closer relations with the United States, placing flesh on Washing-
ton’s skeletal Asian pivot policy.
The nuclear crisis, if anything, has re-energized
America’s posture in Northeast Asia to the imme-
diate detriment of Chinese dreams for greater
sway in the region. Should Japan and South
Korea perceive reluctance in Washington’s

82 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
willingness to protect them, however, they will be tempted to look to their
own nuclear devices.
During the 1970s, South Korea and Taiwan pursued clandestine nuclear
arms until assured of a place under
the American nuclear umbrella.
They could reactivate these
weapons programs. Japan,
which possesses abundant
nuclear materials and

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 83
technology, might also pursue atomic bombs. None of these developments
would be welcome to Beijing, which strives to dominate Northeast Asia and
to project an image of benign hegemon.
America’s Pacific re-engagement was not something expected from the
Trump White House with its campaign rhetoric of “America First.” But
Chairman Kim’s growing menace brought
about a change. Such an assessment

84 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
can only be an interim judgment because the outcome of the North Korean
nuclear crisis is unknown. Yet the current geopolitical alignment is unexpect-
edly better than anticipated early last year. The Trump administration would
do well to capitalize on the new realities of East Asia so as to offset the rise of

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

Available 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.
Henriksen. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 85


The Russia
Vladimir Putin could help US interests in Korea,
but only if we play our own cards right.

By Victor Davis Hanson

hina’s surrogate North Korea—whose nuclear arsenal is certainly
in large part a product of Chinese technology and commer-
cial ties—is by any standard of international standing a failed,
fourth-world state. North Korean population, industry, culture,
and politics would otherwise warrant very little attention. Yet North Korea
poses the chief existential threat to the United States. We fret over its daily
assertions that it is apparently eager to deploy nuclear weapons against
the US West Coast, American allies such as Japan and South Korea, or US
bases and territory abroad. Even if such offensive thermonuclear threats are
ultimately empty, they continue to eat up US resources, demand diplomatic
attention, make us spend money on deployment and military readiness, and
prompt crash antimissile programs.
Central to China’s strategy is “plausible deniability.” The ruse almost
assumes that China’s neighbor North Korea—without a modern economy or
an indigenous sophisticated economic infrastructure—suddenly found some
stray nukes, missiles, and delivery platforms in a vacant lot in Pyongyang.

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.

86 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
Thus China is willing to “help” resolve the issue it deliberately created. As
the United States obsesses over North Korea, China is in theory freed to do
even more of what it already does well: intimidate its Pacific and Asian neigh-
bors, in the passive-aggressive style of violating sovereign air, ground, and
sea space of other nations. Its tactics are accompanied by implied quid pro
quos along the lines of “if you would just join our Chinese Greater East Asia
Co-Prosperity Sphere, there would be no need for such misunderstandings.”
Beijing is following somewhat the Japanese model of imperial construc-
tion of the 1930s. Chinese aims are based on similar radical increases in naval
construction and air power; massive importation of Western military technol-
ogy; intimidation of neighbors; assumptions that the United States is a spent,
has-been power; and reliance on morally equivalent and circular arguments
that regional hegemons have a natural right to impose regional hegemonies.
China does not want a pro-US country on its borders. It does not wish reuni-
fication of the Korean Peninsula by South Korea. It does not want North Korea
to give up its nuclear arsenal. It does not want another major land war on its
border. It does not want Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan to have either a nuclear
deterrent or a missile-defense system. But it does favor the status quo, in which
North Korea every few months upsets the world order, threatens chaos, wins
concessions, and then behaves—for a while. So North Korea is an effective sur-
rogate, keeping the United States busy and distracted from China’s aggrandiz-
ing strategies while not upsetting the commercial trajectory of the Pacific.
The result is a sort of strategic stalemate in which both sides in the stand-
off try to find advantages or new breakthroughs in technology. North Korea
escalates by detonating a heretofore unknown thermonuclear weapon. South
Korea responds by taking caps off its conventional-missile-delivery weights.
The United States scrambles to beef up missile defenses while ratcheting
up diplomatic pressures. In this dangerous phase of escalating tensions,
the United States looks to enlist and consolidate allies, neutrals, or former
enemies to help balance China and North Korea.

Aside from our accustomed non-nuclear allies Japan, South Korea, Australia,
Taiwan, and the Philippines, America would like far larger international pow-
ers to check China. India and Russia, of course, come first to mind. Neither
in theory wants yet another nuclear power in its neighborhood, especially
one that is a de facto surrogate of China, or an arms race that would end up
with a nuclear Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. India is already deadlocked
with China on many common border “issues,” a euphemism for the Chinese

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 87
doctrine that anything they can get away with is redefined as both ethical
and necessary.
Unfortunately, Russia, which shares a short border with North Korea, is of
little or no help, either in applying real pressure on China and North Korea
or in the debating-style go-arounds at the United Nations. Its hostility marks
a lost opportunity.
During the past year, we have heard little but venom about Russia, with
much of the rancor coming from the erstwhile architects and advocates of
the Obama-era Russian “reset.” Have we forgotten in these times of missile
tension that in 2012 President Obama promised outgoing Russian president
Dmitry Medvedev that
after Obama’s own suc-
The key to Russia is to neither love it cessful re-election, he
nor hate it. would be flexible—that
is, cut back on US missile
programs in Eastern Europe? Such a purported concession was predicated
on Vladimir Putin’s behaving during Obama’s re-election campaign; Putin
would project an image that the Russian reset had been yet another of
Obama’s signature diplomatic triumphs and another argument for four more
years of further foreign policy coups. Obama, too, reminded the nation that
the 2016 election (that is, the inevitable Clinton win) could not be corrupted
by foreign intervention.
The left-wing about-face on Russia marks one of the stranger political turn-
abouts in recent political history. Long forgotten is the plastic-reset-button
ceremony in Geneva, or the invitation to Russia to re-enter the Middle East
after a forty-year hiatus, or the relative exemption given periodic Russian-
associated cyberattacks on US concerns. Apoplexy over Hillary Clinton’s loss
justified not only the abrupt rejection of the Obama rush to embrace Putin
but also a schizophrenic second reset, making him into Satan incarnate.

What could Russia do for the United States in the North Korean crisis? Not a
lot—but in this crisis “not a lot” matters. It could vote along with the United
States to reimpose sanctions against North Korea. It could itself stop all
trade with North Korea. It could stay neutral and out of the way of US ships
in the region. It could defect from what is now a Russia-China alliance of con-
venient mutual loathing of the United States. It could unilaterally warn North
Korea not to detonate another thermonuclear bomb just a few hundred miles
from Russian territory. Psychologically, that is quite a lot.

88 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
What would Putin wish in return for rebalancing and triangulating?
Probably an informal guarantee that the United States would not humiliate
Russia in the Middle East by seeking to bomb Syria’s Bashar al-Assad out of
power (which we are not likely to do). He might angle for an informal under-
standing not to arm Ukrainians, with an acceptance of Russian control of
eastern Ukraine and recognition that Crimea is now de facto Russian. The
Trump doctrine of avoiding optional interventions probably precluded doing
much anyway on Russia’s borders, or another campaign in the Middle East.
And the idea that we would go to war over Crimea is like Russia facing us
down over opposition to Puerto Rican independence.
In addition we could remind Putin that the nuclearization of Asia and
the Pacific on Russia’s borders—a potentially thermonuclear Japan, South
Korea, and Taiwan—is less in Russia’s interests than in our own, given that
all three nations are democratic, pro-American, and proximate to Russia.
In any case, the prior schizophrenic approach to Russia from 2009 has
been disastrous diplomatically. If it was a mistake to cozy up to Putin in 2009,
wielding the myth that a cowboyish George W. Bush had inordinately alien-
ated Russia after its Ossetian intervention, then it has been an even greater
error to go in the opposite direction and demonize Russia as some uniquely
evil state that allegedly prevented Hillary Clinton’s sure-thing victory.
The key to dictatorial Russia is to neither love it nor hate it. Rather, the
United States should win its respect—and fear—by quiet shows of strength in
protecting our interests. We have lost access to the realist avenue of balancing
nuclear powers to prevent the current de facto alliance of China and Russia,
now united in their support for the provocative agendas of North Korea. We
should seek areas—like the menace of North Korea—where our big-power
interests might merge and where we can show China that its behavior will earn
it as many worries for itself as its North Korean client now poses to others.

Reprinted by permission of National Review. © 2017 National Review 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

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 89


A Grand Korea
The Koreas will not reunite, nor will the North
disarm. We can still build something durable on
that cracked foundation.

By Paul R. Gregory

orth Korea seems to be an intractable problem for the United
States. Yet there may be a way forward in the form of a grand
bargain—one requiring fewer US concessions than expected.
In fact, the resolution of the Korean conundrum may be less
challenging than the containment of Iran. And if North Korea’s Kim Jong Un
were to reject such a deal, it would provide evidence of his irrationality and
confirm the regrettable need for nondiplomatic measures.
Any deal would require abandoning the prospect of unifying North Korea
and South Korea. In addition, South Korea, with its powerful economy and
universal conscription, should be able to defend itself. Recognition of the
North may be a bitter pill after six decades of separation, but the unification
of North and South is simply not going to happen in the foreseeable future
because of economic costs and political constraints.
Before looking at the specifics of a deal, let’s first consider why the pros-
pects for Korean reunification are remote. Sixty-five years after the Korean

Paul R. Gregory is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is the Cullen
Distinguished Professor of Economics at the University of Houston and a research
professor at the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin.

90 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
armistice, we have a prosperous South of fifty million people governed by a
vibrant democracy. Just about every family owns a car, and more than half
of families own their own home. The North is a desperately poor country of
twenty-five million with a per capita income equal to Haiti’s. It is run by a
dynastic dictatorship that survives through domestic terror and the threat of
nuclear weapons.

The historical precedent for reunification of the two Koreas is the German
Wiedervereinigung of the early 1990s. The German reunification incorporated
“new” East German states into an economy that was more than twice as pro-
ductive. Conventional wisdom suggests that German reunification worked,
albeit at a very high cost. With the Korean North far less productive than the
South, Korean reunification would constitute a task of unprecedented pro-
portions. Two-thirds of people in the South favor reunification, but as Chung
Chong Wook, the vice chair of South Korea’s reunification committee, has put
it: “Perhaps no other issue has been as divisive as the issue of reunification.”
Popular support for
German reunification
was about 80 percent Korea does not have the option of
on both sides of the Wall German-type reunification. Wage
in 1990. It all seemed equalization simply cannot happen.
rather easy: the “new”
German states would be folded into the legal and political structure of the
Federal Republic. The “new” states were poorer but, as East Germany was
the most prosperous Soviet satellite, income and productivity were not
strikingly far below (about half) the West. Differences between the “new”
and “old” German states persist, but the younger generation is no longer
divided into Ossies and Wessies. They are just young Germans. Bridging a
two-to-one gap, however, is quite different from closing a thirty-to-one gap
in the Korean case.
Beyond that, Korean scholars who have studied German reunification fear
that the cost of supporting their poor Northern cousins would overwhelm
public resources and threaten hard-fought prosperity. The following German
figures guide Korea’s reunification skeptics to this conclusion: budgetary
transfers from West to East equaled 4 percent of GDP annually for some
fifteen years, for a total of $1.5 trillion, or one-third of a full year’s production.
The major cost of German reunification was imposed by the political decision
to equalize pay in East and West, although the average Western worker was

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 91
more than twice as productive. At equal wages, the higher cost per unit of
output of Eastern workers encouraged employers to hire elsewhere. Indeed,
unemployment soared in the East, and Germany’s generous safety net was
drained. The German deficit rose embarrassingly above European Union
stabilization rules. But
Germany decided the
costs of reunification North Korea is a desperately poor
were worth it, and the country of twenty-five million with a
result is a unified Ger- per capita income equal to Haiti’s.
man state.
With respect to industry, a reunified North Korea, like its East German
counterpart, would have to privatize its industrial enterprises. As with East
Germany, North Korea’s state enterprises pay little or no attention to market
forces and market viability. In both countries, loss-making enterprises were
and are simply subsidized by the budget.
East German state enterprises were turned over to a privatization agency.
By the time the agency ended its operations in 1994, it had privatized more
than eight thousand enterprises and liquidated almost four thousand. These
figures appear impressive, but employment in privatized companies fell from
4 million to 1.5 million and privatization expenses ($175 billion) exceeded
revenues ($45 billion) by $130 billion.
North Korea’s isolation has required it to produce at home the industrial
and service products it needs, a recipe for economic disaster. A Korean
privatization agency might find buyers for some small enterprises, but most
industrial enterprises would probably have to close. Even East Germany’s
industry, among the highest rated in the Soviet bloc, proved relatively
A Korean reunification would therefore mean massive urban unemploy-
ment in a poor nation. A united Korea would have to devote huge amounts of
scarce public resources to retraining and supporting its citizens, especially
those in the cities. Korea does not have the option of German-type reunifi-
cation. Wage equalization simply cannot happen. A reunified Korea would
combine a rich South and a poor North for the foreseeable future.

SUSPICIOUS: A North Korean soldier (opposite page) stands guard in the
truce village of Panmunjom, where sentries from the North and South con-
front each other. Pyongyang has 1.2 million soldiers under arms; the South has
400,000, along with 4.5 million reservists. [Roman Harak—Creative Commons]

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 93
WATCHFUL: A South Korean soldier guards a door in Panmunjom that leads
to the North Korean zone. South Korea’s new president campaigned on a plat-
form of overtures to the North, but Kim Jong Un’s provocations have given the
government in Seoul second thoughts. [Yichuan Cao—NurPhoto/SIPA]

Then there’s the matter of migration. East Germans moved to the West but
in modest numbers. In the Korean case, the huge wage and unemployment
differentials would unleash a flood from the North. Those who favor free
emigration would clash with Korea’s unions and anti-immigration advocates.
Sympathetic media would show desperate Northerners scaling fences, being
turned back by the police, and housed in special camps. We do not know
whether Korea’s democracy could handle the strain.
The election of new US and South Korean presidents, North Korea’s rising
aggression, and growing concern in China and Japan provide the founda-
tion for a comprehensive deal. Robert Gates has offered his approach to the
Korean Peninsula—and his plan makes a lot of sense.
Under it, the United States would offer China recognition of North Korea
by signing a separate peace treaty, forswearing regime change, and approv-
ing “changes in the structure” of US military forces in South Korea. In
return, China would ensure a hard freeze of North Korea’s nuclear program
guaranteed by intrusive international inspectors that include Chinese. Under

94 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
this plan, Kim gets to keep his nuclear arsenal and China would be assured
that Korea would not be unified into a single state allied with the West. That
appears to be giving a lot and gaining little, but the Gates plan provides a
foundation for an eventual settlement.
The grand settlement would include the recognition of two Korean states.
In addition, it would withdraw all US troops from South Korea in return for a
complete dismantling (rather than freezing) of the North’s nuclear program
under intrusive inspections. If Kim Jong Un refused such a deal, all options
would be on the table, including regime change, crippling sanctions, and
nuclear weapons for South Korea and Japan.

The constellation of forces favoring a comprehensive deal include the
»» A new American president. His “America First” policy would not toler-
ate a North Korea armed with nuclear weapons that can reach the United
States. Kim Jong Un should take seriously President Trump’s claims to be
different from his “kick the can” predecessors. Kim’s refusal would signal a
lack of interest in a comprehensive settlement, despite the threat of drastic
measures against him.
»» A new South Korean president. Moon Jae In has unexpectedly begun
negotiations with the United States to build a longer-range ballistic missile
system to counter the threat from the North. Moon campaigned on a promise
of friendship overtures to the North. The North’s nuclear and missile tests
apparently caused an abrupt change in South Korean attitudes towards its
own defense. Moon and Trump seem to be on the same page with respect to
North Korea.
»» China’s desire for the recognition of North Korea. It would lessen the
chances of a collapse of the North, an event that would unleash a flood of
refugees into China. Until now, China has counted on its national security
being unaffected by Kim’s nuclear adventurism: South Korea, Japan, and
the United States are in the North’s sights, not China. But Kim’s launch of
missiles towards Japan and the United States threatens nuclear proliferation
in China’s backyard. An angry Trump could choose to speed up the delivery
of lethal defensive weapons to Taiwan, making it impenetrable to Chinese
invasion. Kim’s adventures are placing China in real danger, and China must
think twice about further enabling its client in its own self-interest.
»» A fresh look at the stationing of US troops in the South. These forces
have offered the North an excuse for belligerence. We must ask whether

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 95
American troops are still essential in South Korea, especially under the
Trump policy that sees allies providing more of their own defense. With
universal conscription, access to US weaponry, and a powerful economy,
the South’s 400,000-strong army (with 4.5 million reservists) should be able
to stand up to the North’s army of 1.2 million, which lacks a viable air force.
With a measured withdrawal of US troops, the South should be able to
defend itself.
Rather than resting
A grand settlement would include the on the excuse of intrac-
tability, the Trump
recognition of two Koreas.
administration should
take advantage of this brief window for a comprehensive settlement of the
problem on the Korean Peninsula. The costs of such a grand bargain are less
than they appear on the surface. Korean reunification is unlikely even if the
opportunity were to present itself; the Trump administration could seal its
foreign policy legacy with a grand Korea bargain that actually makes sense
for US interests.

Reprinted from Defining Ideas (
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 A
Memoir of the Missile Age: One Man’s Journey, by
Vitaly Leonidovich Katayev. To order, call (800) 888-
4741 or visit

96 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


Vietnam on Film:
Doom and Despair
Ken Burns’s recent TV documentary paints the
war as a lost cause—while offering the usual
bright, shining half-truths.

By Bing West

en Burns and Lynn Novick recently released a documentary
titled The Vietnam War. The script concluded with these words,
“The Vietnam War was a tragedy, immeasurable and irredeem-
able.” That damning hyperbole neatly summarized eighteen
hours of haunting, funereal music, doleful tales by lugubrious veterans, and
an elegiac historical narration voiced over a collage of violent images and
thunderous explosions. In this telling, the antiwar protesters in the States
are morally equivalent to the American soldiers who fought the war. Indeed,
while the grunts seem soiled by the violence, those who evaded the draft and
spat upon those who fought had the added satisfaction of seeing Soviet tanks
manned by North Vietnamese soldiers roll triumphantly into Saigon.
A veteran is quoted at the end of the film saying, “We have learned a les-
son . . . that we just can’t impose our will on others.” While that daffy apho-
rism sums up the documentary, in real life the opposite is true. Alexander
imposed his will upon the Persian empire. Rome indelibly imposed its will

Bing West is a member of the Hoover Institution’s Working Group on the Role
of Military History in Contemporary Conflict. A former assistant secretary of
defense, he is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War and the author of The

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 97
upon Carthage. After the Civil War, the federal
government imposed its will upon the Confed-
eracy. After World War II, we imposed our will
upon Nazi Germany and bushido Japan. And in
1975, the North Vietnamese Stalinist govern-
ment imposed its will upon the South
Vietnamese. Forty-three years later,
that same octogenarian, corrupt
communist regime continues to
oppress the south, while

98 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
the country as a whole has become the Cuba of East Asia, bereft of economic
The purpose of a film, however, is to stir emotions, not convey a reasoned
analysis. In emotive power, Burns and Novick succeeded. An audience with
no prior knowledge of Vietnam would come away convinced this war was a
colossal geopolitical error, a waste of lives on all sides and absolutely without
redemption. Every fact and picture is accurate, and the cumulative process
of selecting some facts and omitting others is devastating.

Burns and Novick forsook balance. I speak from experience.
My Combined Action Platoon (CAP), consisting of fifteen Marines and
thirty armed farmers, lived for 488 days in a remote village of five thousand
Vietnamese. The two Marines who didn’t fit in were dismissed from the CAP.
The rest of us slept in the houses of the villagers, ate their food, and fought
and died side by side with the farmers. Seven of fifteen Marines were killed
in the village. In 1966, the village chief, Trao, sent this letter to the parents of
our squad leader:

To Sgt. J. D. White family . . . Sgt. White and Sq. work to hard
. . . never look tired. . . . My people are very poor and when to see
a marine they are very happy. When V.C. come to people, people
come and talk to Sgt. White so Sgt. White can talk to P.F. [local
Popular Forces] and marine to fight V.C. Maybe die. . . . Jod bless
you all.

You won’t find that sentiment in the documentary. Yet altogether, there
were 118 CAPs and not one fell back to enemy control before the fall of Saigon.
In 2002, I returned to the village with Charlie Benoit, who had also fought
there. The villagers welcomed us back and asked by name after other
Marines who had lived there. Charlie’s Vietnamese was impecca-
ble; between 1967 and 1970, on repeated

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

H O O V ER D I G E S T • W inte r 2018 99
trips for the Rand Corporation, we had traveled from one end of South Viet-
nam to the other. Often we were in villages without any other Americans.
Yes, the North Vietnamese were hurling hundreds of thousands of disci-
plined soldiers into battles that were as savage and pitiless as shown in the
documentary. Over that same period, however, there was progress through-
out the farming lowlands. The rural population was not in revolt against the
US combat troops withdrew from the country in 1973. At that time, North
Vietnamese units were still positioned in the jungles of South Vietnam. They
had suffered staggering losses months earlier in a major assault that had
failed after America unleashed B-52 bombers to pound the enemy on the
battlefield and in Hanoi.
As the documentary
“We just can’t impose our will on points out, 100,000 North
others,” one veteran says in a familiar Vietnamese soldiers
lament. But isn’t that exactly what were estimated to have
North Vietnam did to the South? been killed, nearly all the
armor provided by the
Soviet Union was destroyed, and the North Vietnamese chief of staff warned
that another offensive could not be mounted for at least three years. The
North agreed to a cease-fire and a truce that included the return of Ameri-
can prisoners of war. President Nixon promised to respond with force if the
North attacked again.
Instead, legislation in mid-1973 cut off funds for combat “in or over or from
off the shores of North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia.” The
intent was to prevent Nixon from deploying troops, naval gunfire, or aerial
bombing if the North Vietnamese persisted in attacking South Vietnam.
Over the next two years, Chinese artillery and Soviet tanks poured into
Hanoi. While the United States had promised to provide aid to the South
Vietnamese, Congress instead cut US aid of $2.8 billion in fiscal year 1973
down to $1 billion in 1974, and then $300 million in 1975. When the North
Vietnamese attacked in 1975, the South Vietnamese forces ran out of bullets.
America had quit, plain and simple.
Congress and most of the press, however, joined hands in blaming the col-
lapse upon the South Vietnamese. The visceral effect of the Burns/Novick
documentary is to provide absolution for that abandonment of an ally. Its
theme is that unification under the communists was predestined and there-
fore the war was unwinnable. Of course, had a similar lack of fortitude guided
us in 1953, we would have abandoned South Korea, and the communist

100 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
dictator Kim Jong Un would now be sitting on his throne in Seoul, shaking
his nuclear fist at Japan.

Was the collapse of South Vietnam inevitable? Lieutenant General H. R.
McMaster, currently the White House national security adviser, does not
think so. In his book Dereliction of Duty he concluded that far from an inevi-
table tragedy, the loss of South Vietnam was “a uniquely human failure, the
responsibility for which was shared by President Johnson and his principal
military and civilian advisers.”
What could have been done differently? Our basic goal was to force the
North to cease attacking the South. Four steps could have been taken.
First, beginning in 1965, a blockade enforced by mining the North’s harbors
and bombing could have prevented the massive importation of Chinese and
Soviet military equipment. Without Chinese artillery and Soviet tanks and
other material, the North could not have defeated the South. Instead, the
Johnson administration chose not to strategically apply our overwhelming
naval and air superiority.
Second, we could have bombed the dikes sustaining the North’s rice pad-
dies, forcing the able-bodied men to leave the army and undertake subsis-
tence farming. In our Civil
War, Lincoln ordered Sher-
man to devastate the farms We could have fought a different kind
of the American South and of war. Our commander in chief, Lyn-
in World War II the Allies don Johnson, chose not to.
systematically bombed
German and Japanese cities. War is the act of applying violence—death and
destruction—until your enemy agrees to your terms.
Third, we could have deprived the enemy of sanctuary. We could have
encouraged our commanders to attack on the ground anywhere they had
an advantage in North Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia. Attack and withdraw,
attack and withdraw—never allow the North to mass troops and supplies at
places of its choosing.
Fourth, we could have established joint boards with the South Vietnamese
leaders to make sure they promoted competence and punished corruption.
Granted, this would have infringed upon their sovereignty. American troops,
however, should not have to die for incompetents.
So, yes, we could have fought a different kind of war. Our commander
in chief, Lyndon Johnson, chose not to do so. He bullied and berated the

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 101
generals, who to their discredit acceded to a terrible, half-baked campaign of
attrition, exchanging American for North Vietnamese lives. That “strategy”
was a moral outrage.

When South Vietnam was in dire straits in 1975, I was serving in the Penta-
gon as the special assistant to Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger.
Within the top level of the Ford administration, he received scant support in
asking Congress to authorize
bombing or military aid. So he
The rural population was not in personally invited to breakfast
revolt against the government of every member of Congress and
South Vietnam. reached out for support from
Democratic leaders like George
Meany, president of the AFL/CIO. Schlesinger knew he was jeopardizing his
own career (and eventually he was fired). He did not succeed in gaining aid,
but he did not give up. When South Vietnam did fall, he was the senior leader
to whom our military turned for understanding.
What, then, should be the peroration for this war? Should it be from the
Burns/Novick documentary: “The Vietnam War was a tragedy, immeasur-
able and irredeemable”?
Or should it be what Secretary of Defense Schlesinger wrote to our two
million troops: “Your cause was noble; your dedication was determined. You
answered your country’s call”?

Special to the Hoover Digest.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is A
Vietnam Experience: Ten Years of Reflection, by
James B. Stockdale. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or

102 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


A Tale of Sound
and Fury—and
In war, it’s said, the first casualty is the truth. In
the Burns-Novick film about the Vietnam War, that
truth was the Cold War.

By Charles Hill

istory is written by the victors” has been the wisdom of the
ages, restated jocularly but truthfully by Winston Churchill
about his story of the Second World War. Ken Burns and Lynn
Novick’s televised documentary The Vietnam War fulfilled this
dictum once again, but with a twist. As Americans, they are among the los-
ers, but their documentary exalted the winners: communist North Vietnam.
At the same time, they placed themselves on the winning side in the domestic
American contest between the anti–Vietnam War movement and those who
saw the war as necessary in the larger Cold War struggle.
The ten-part series opened with the conclusion that “Vietnam called
everything into question.” The Sixties, for which the Vietnam War was the

Charles Hill is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and co-chair of
Hoover’s Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the Interna-
tional Order. He is also the Brady-Johnson Distinguished Fellow in Grand Strat-
egy and a senior lecturer in humanities at Yale University. A career diplomat, Hill
served in the US Embassy in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 103
linchpin, changed the country politically, culturally, socially, morally, and
intellectually. Much of American history has been understood along a war-
fighting timeline from the Revolution to the Civil War to the Second World
War and then to the Vietnam War, which was a foreign war that fomented
a domestic cultural revolution. Across this entire sweep of nationhood, the
Vietnam War was a turning point. After the war, the American national char-
acter fundamentally changed.
That, anyway, is the narrative Burns and Novick adopted. To them, the
Vietnam War is profoundly significant for our twenty-first-century under-
standing of America’s history and destiny. And they may be correct.
The master narrative of the Vietnam War is established and entirely famil-
iar. The gist is that the war was the worst foreign policy disaster in American
history: pointless, immoral, filled with actions verging on war crimes, and
senselessly carried on long after the time when the United States should
have “cut and run.” All the main characters, plot lines, and images appeared
in Burns and Novick’s retelling. For fifty years, this established Vietnam
story has rarely been seriously challenged—and when it has, boiling oil has
been poured on those who dared to differ.
But there is more in Burns and Novick’s telling than a rehearsal of the
familiar images and accusations. Another plot line emerged. Burns and
Novick argued that the true victors of the Vietnam War were the American
leftists who upended countless domestic institutions in the 1960s—and that
their efforts led to a more just society. This newly developed plot line might
also be titled “The Fallacy of the Excluded Beginning, Middle, and End.”
To ensure that the audience grasped the new story behind the old history,
the producers featured a variety of individuals who testified to what happened
in Vietnam. There were grizzled American veterans who revealed themselves
as heroes-in-reverse, detailing how they began their service as proud patri-
ots until, through bitter experience, they turned against the war. There were
distinguished diplomats and foreign policy experts who pointed out the foolish
mistakes and ignorant policies imposed by uncomprehending US officials.
And there were the journalists, like the war correspondent Neil Sheehan,
whose timely interventions exposed the moral emptiness of the war.
Taken together across the ten episodes, the voice of these witnesses played
the role of the Greek chorus in a classical tragedy, warning of doleful con-
sequences ahead. The veterans, as the producers used them, declared that
American servicemen in Vietnam were scared: “I was scared of them. I hated
them. I was so scared.” This became a series-long trope, repeatedly illustrat-
ed by silent images of Americans in or near combat, each face etched in fear.

104 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
DEFENSE: Rangers of the South Vietnamese army (ARVN) defend Saigon
during the Tet offensive of 1968. Tet was a resounding defeat for the Viet Cong
and North Vietnamese forces, but it impressed upon the American public the
idea that the war could not be won. [US Department of Defense]

The diplomats and experts repeatedly denounced the ineluctable stupidity of
American leaders. And the journalists emitted expressions of “woe!”

The narrative began with the nineteenth-century French colonial rule of
Indochina, allegedly a mission civilisatrice but actually a system of resource
exploitation, racial oppression, cultural imperialism, and slave labor, all in
collaboration with sinister “mandarin” puppet emperors. Burns and Novick
pointed out how French colonial rule was displaced in World War II by impe-
rial Japan’s colonial rule, and then by the restoration of French colonialism,
which in turn was supported by the United States until, after the French
defeat in 1954, the Americans themselves became the world’s leading impe-
rial power.

H O O V ER D I G E S T • W inter 2018 105
This storyline is essential to the Burns-Novick argument. In their view, the
Cold War played no role in the Vietnam story. The sole international issue of
the twentieth century, they believed, was decolonization, the Third World’s
struggle to cast off the colonialist powers of the West, the latest of which
would become the United States.
Thus the Cold War, the great global contest between international com-
munism and the US-led free world, had no comfortable place in the Burns-
Novick story, where it remained a vague, evanescent apparition at best.
With the end of the Second World War, the French indeed moved to reas-
sert their colonial rule over Vietnam, but against the expressed will and
policy of the United States, which, mindful of its own national birth, made it
clear that the colonized lands of Asia should move rapidly towards indepen-
dence. As early as 1943, President Roosevelt declared that he did not want
France to return to Vietnam, but return it did.
In the early postwar years, communism was emerging as a world force
after the victory of the Soviet Union in Europe and Mao’s victorious takeover
of China. In Indochina, Ho Chi Minh, who had joined the Communist Party in
1920 and thereafter served as a Comintern operative in Russia and China—a
career unmentioned in the series—set up a coalition of nationalists, the Viet
Minh, and brought it under communist control.
Having just led the Allies through a brutal world war to defeat the Third
Reich in Europe and imperial Japan in Asia, the United States suddenly awak-
ened to the advance of communism—a violent ideology designed for world
domination—on several continents. By the early 1950s, the American hope
to “contain” the communist advance had been powerfully tested in Germany,
Korea, and China. In each
case the communists had
After Korea, China, and Germany, pushed militarily into a
Vietnam would be the next divided- nation divided between
nation challenge. No American presi- communist and American-
dent could turn away from it. backed sides, and in each
case the United States
had to act to maintain the divided line and defend the doctrine of containment.
When the Soviets moved to take full control of four-power-occupied Berlin in
1948, the United States responded with the Berlin Airlift. When the Korean
War was launched by the communist North’s invasion across the 38th parallel
in an attempt to conquer the South, a US-led coalition restored the partition of
the country. When Mao’s communist forces took mainland China, the Republic
of China, backed by the United States, took refuge on Taiwan and held it.

106 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
Vietnam would be the next divided-nation challenge—one that no Ameri-
can president could turn away from. If communism took Southeast Asia,
then Japan, which had deep economic ties to the region, would accommodate
itself to the international communist bloc. France, profoundly weakened
by the Nazi occupa-
tion and on the brink of
succumbing to “Euro- In the documentarians’ view, the Cold
communism,” was in War played no role whatsoever in the
Vietnam trying to stop Vietnam story.
the Viet Minh advance.
The United States gave the French army in Vietnam minimal support—not
to restore French colonialism, but to obstruct communist forces. After the
French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the United States used economic and
political pressure to push France out of Indochina altogether.
The Cold War was in fact World War III, a gigantic contest over which
form of world order—ideological communism or pluralistic liberalism—
would shape the future. It was “cold” in the sense that dangerous maneuvers
maintained a central strategic balance that deterred a nuclear conflagration.
But the Cold War was “hot” on the regional front. North Vietnam’s war to
conquer the South demanded American opposition. Independently and in
collusion with communist China and the Soviet Union, the North aimed to
destroy, first by subversion and insurrection and ultimately by direct inva-
sion, any future possibility of maintaining a power balance among the states
of one of the world’s most strategic regions.
The Burns-Novick version of the Vietnam War’s beginnings revived the
left-leaning interpretation that Mao’s fighters in China really were nothing
more than “agrarian reformers,” and that Ho Chi Minh’s cadres in North
Vietnam were themselves innocuously busy with land reform. No doubt giv-
ing land to the peasants was an objective of both men, but it would be done
to obliterate the class enemies of the revolution as the keystone of Marxist
ideology for international transformation.
In this televised account, the Cold War was a mirage—decolonization was
the reality, and the United States, deluded, had it all backward.

President Kennedy, whose 1960 election seemed to promise “a new day of
freedom,” was indecisive and confused by Cold War strategy. He and his
team all had served in World War II to defeat dictatorship, yet here they were
opposed to the National Liberation Front (the latest of the shifting labels

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 107
applied to the communist side) and supporting the dictatorial president
Diem of the South, allowing the war to be waged in hideous ways.
At the same time, there emerged a younger generation—most notably of
reporters led by David Halberstam, Malcolm Browne, and Neil Sheehan, who
in this account saw the truth and dared to publish it. They would reveal that
all American history up to and including the Vietnam war had been in the
service of a racist, violent, oppressive, and greedy system. This would become
the central ethos of the Sixties and displace the ethos that came before it, that
of the Greatest Generation who had served in World War II. The Sixties pro-
duced the founding generation of a wholly transformed America—and this, in
Burns and Novick’s retelling, was the truly greatest generation.
In addition to ignoring the Cold War, the Burns-Novick story said nothing
about the cultural revolutions of the time, an international phenomenon in
which America was embedded. Those revolutions may be traced to the Rebel
Without a Cause 1950s and were enshrined in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
which, on its first page, denounced marriage, home, education, occupation,
and loyalty to God, country, and society because “everything was dead.” On the
Road so thoroughly repudiated America that it was essentially a one-to-one
rebuttal to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass of a hundred years before. Other
“revolutions” rocked the Sixties: the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, the
women’s liberation movement, black power. In the middle of the decade, Mao’s
Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution summoned student “Little Red Guards”
to overthrow “the Four Olds”; old customs, old habits, old ideas, old culture—
indeed, to tear down traditional Chinese civilization itself. This inspired stu-
dents in Europe, where
unrest erupted in Paris
The Cold War was in fact World War III, in May 1968.
a gigantic contest over which form of Then into this mael-
world order—communism or pluralistic strom came the “New
liberalism—would shape the future. Left,” a European-
British student-driven
attempt to renovate Marxism after Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin; elite
American college students were captivated by its turn toward Maoism—
which added Third World peasants to the urban proletariat as the leading
proponents of the global “class struggle.”
The American anti–Vietnam War movement cannot be fully understood
outside this context. The Vietnam War, however, made only glancing refer-
ences to a few colorful manifestations of the youth movement, such as Wood-
stock and Haight-Ashbury.

108 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
The anti–Vietnam War cause became the linchpin of youthful defiance of
institutions and traditional authority. “Vietnam” was taken to demonstrate
that America is racist, genocidal, imperial, and socially oppressive. Revision-
ist historians of the time proved eager to provide arguments for America’s
entire past as a record of wrongdoing. By the late 1960s, Students for a
Democratic Society had declared the United States to be the villain of the
war, leading the movement to call for a victory by the Viet Cong and North
Here is what the series
meant by declaring that The documentary said nothing about
“Vietnam called every- the cultural revolutions of the time, an
thing into question.” The international phenomenon in which
established narrative of America was embedded.
the war, and the gloss on
it provided by Burns-Novick’s inner theme, is that the Vietnam War rep-
resented not only Hanoi’s victory over the United States but, more conse-
quentially, the victory of all of the layers of social-political-cultural-personal
revolution of the Sixties. To reaffirm the antiwar movement doctrinally is
to lock in all the vast changes in the American character brought about by
what the documentary sees as the truly greatest generation, the radicals of
the 1960s. Thus the Burns-Novick documentary was as much about America
in the twenty-first century as the years between 1954 and 1975 in Southeast
Asia, perhaps more. A political-military conflict became and is now about a
new phase of moral superiority.

The vast communist uprising that was the Tet offensive of 1968 may be briefly
summarized as a devastating defeat for the Viet Cong but a political-psycho-
logical victory for Hanoi, owing to its immediate portrayal by the American
media as proof that prior US claims of the war going well had been lies.
The documentary asserted that the war should have been ended then by
negotiations, an absurd idea in view of what actually happened during Tet
and the North’s demonstrated contempt for serious negotiations in the years
ahead. The Viet Cong were virtually obliterated by the Hanoi-ordered offen-
sive; it would take some years before the North could recast its strategy and
strike again. The North would never have negotiated under such conditions
of weakness.
At this point in the narrative, significance was given to the charge that
after the Tet offensive, then-candidate Richard Nixon signaled to President

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 109
Thieu of South Vietnam that better terms could be had if Thieu rejected
negotiations until after Nixon was elected. This calumny was not invented
until a generation later, by a professional polemicist aiming to blame Nixon
for continuing the war when it could have come to an end in the Sixties. The
film’s producers left its viewers assuming it was true.
Like American journalism in general between 1969 and 1975, the 2017 film
also studiously avoided reporting what actually happened on the South Viet-
namese battlefield in the war’s final years. That reality did not and does not fit
their preferred account.
The Viet Cong were
To enshrine the antiwar movement, devastated; Hanoi needed
as the documentary does, is to lock in time to regroup and pre-
all the vast changes in the American pare a new phase. On the
character brought about by the radi- US–South Vietnam side,
cals of the 1960s. a “one war” strategy was
put into effect militarily by
General Creighton Abrams and diplomatically by Ambassador Ellsworth Bun-
ker. The growing capabilities of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN)
went unchronicled as reporters wrote only about their desertions and corrup-
tion. The South was pacified through tactics that would later be called “clear,
hold, and build,” providing security under the protective cover of artillery and
helicopters in “firebases” that began to dot the land like leopard spots. Into
these securely defended territories, Vietnamese people came to settle, away
from the communist threat. The film covered none of this.
I arrived in Vietnam at the start of the 1970s after turning against the war
when I was a visiting fellow at Harvard’s East Asia Center in 1970. As US
planes bombed Cambodia to deny the North Vietnamese sanctuary in that
border area, I witnessed a Harvard student uprising that shut down the uni-
versity while humiliating the administration and professors.
When I arrived in Saigon on assignment to the mission coordinator’s office
as a US Foreign Service officer, I was stunned at the scenes I saw: a mailman
on his rounds, laughing schoolgirls on their way to class, shopkeepers going
about the day’s work, a population that felt protected from the communists
they wanted nothing to do with. A few weeks later, two colleagues and I drove
a civilian car from Saigon to Da Nang and back, unarmed, with no sign of
checkpoints or danger. This was nothing remotely like the pictures of horror
and devastation I had seen on Boston television evening news. Before long,
I petitioned to bring my family to Vietnam and soon my two little daughters
were going to a Saigon preschool.

110 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
The major battle of the post-Tet years would come when Hanoi launched
its multipronged invasion of the South in April 1972. It is important to under-
stand what Burns-Novick failed to tell their audience about this so-called
“Easter offensive.”
The filmmakers made the peculiar, indeed ridiculous, claim that President
Nixon’s February 1972 visit to China and contacts with the Soviet Union so
alarmed Hanoi that the North felt it had to invade the South to attract Bei-
jing’s and Moscow’s attention and continued support. The Easter offensive
had been in preparation for years. It was also of enormous military signifi-
cance: Hanoi had lost its Viet Cong insurgency strategy and as a result was
compelled to launch a full-scale conventional war to conquer the South. No
US combat troops remained in Vietnam, but there was still American air
support, and plenty of it. If An Loc fell, an entire province would be under
Hanoi’s control and the South would be done for.
The invading communist army far outpowered the ARVN. North Vietnam-
ese regulars streamed in with T-54 tanks and 130mm long-range artillery.
Fierce fighting raged for weeks. North Vietnam, General Abrams said, was
“holding nothing back.” Along the DMZ, President Thieu installed Lieuten-
ant General Ngo Quang Truong, South Vietnam’s best field commander, and
the enemy drive was stopped. In the Central Highlands, American air power
pounded the approaches to Kontum as the 23rd ARVN Division inflicted
heavy casualties on the invaders and the VNAF, South Vietnam’s air force,
was, a US air advisor said, “magnificent, absolutely magnificent.”
But on the most politically dangerous and dramatic front, An Loc, on Route
13 to Saigon, the situation seemed desperate in what was probably the single
most important battle of the war. At An Loc, the ARVN was apparently doing
nothing. Ambassador Bunker, in growing frustration, urged Thieu to take the
offensive. Thieu was calm, polite, and reassuring. Bunker found him impos-
sible to fathom on this occasion. One of Bunker’s principles of diplomacy was
“sometimes the best thing is to do nothing.” Thieu was now asking Bunker to
see the wisdom of doing nothing.
Bunker choppered to the An Loc front to see for himself and I went with
him. Thieu was right. His ARVN troops were not moving forward, but they
were not moving back either. They were the anvil, and VNAF and US air pow-
er were decimating the communist troops as they hammered them against the
anvil. Thieu had perfected a tactic not unlike that of the Roman general Fabius
Maximus Cunctator (“The Delayer”) or the boxer Muhammed Ali’s “rope-a-
dope.” Hanoi’s troops, at the end of a long logistics line, were in dire straits, and
the battle of An Loc was won. Hanoi’s all-out-conventional war had failed.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 111
Politically, though, it was too late. When the foreign minister of South
Vietnam, Tran Van Lam, went to Washington soon after the South’s Easter
offensive victory to discuss next steps, no one in Congress would see him.
And although Henry Kissinger negotiated at Paris in early 1973 an agreement
that could have solidified the military-diplomatic achievements of the post-
Tet years, the political world of Washington would have none of it. From that
point on, the outcome was fated. The ARVN ran out of ammunition. Even
so, the defeat inflicted by the South on the invading forces of the North was
so severe that the North needed three more years before it could mount the
1975 invasion that led to the fall of Saigon. That last event was covered in The
Vietnam War, but there was nothing of the “ending” years that preceded it.

The Vietnam War is a contender in what the poet Wallace Stevens called an
American search for a “supreme fiction.” The struggle between two concepts
of nationhood appears in the words of two deeply involved Americans. The
Vietnam War veteran and future senator John Kerry, then recently back
from the war, turned against it publicly, threw away his medals, and would
be famed for saying, “How do you ask a man to be the last one to die for a
mistake?” He spoke for us all, Senator J. William Fulbright said.
In Vietnam as the fighting reached its climax, it was Ambassador Ells-
worth Bunker who said, “No one who died for freedom ever died in vain.”
Kerry’s words were featured in the series; Bunker’s were not.
“There is no single truth in war” was the film’s stated motto. That is true,
but it is a principle the series did not honor.

Reprinted from Defining Ideas (
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 The
Weaver’s Lost Art, by Charles Hill. To order, call (800)
888-4741 or visit

112 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


Toward a Clean,
Social networks swerve in unexpected—and
sometimes dark—directions, defying utopian
attempts to harness them. Digital citizens need to
master hyperconnection without being mastered.

By Niall Ferguson

t is a truth universally acknowledged that the world is connected as
never before. Once upon a time, it was believed that there were six
degrees of separation between each individual and any other person
on the planet (including Kevin Bacon). For Facebook users today,
the average degree of separation is 3.57. But perhaps that is not entirely a
good thing. As Evan Williams, one of the founders of Twitter, told the New
York Times in May 2017, “I thought once everybody could speak freely and
exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a bet-
ter place. I was wrong about that.”
Speaking at Harvard’s commencement that same month, Facebook’s chair
and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, looked back on his undergraduate ambition to
“connect the whole world.”

Niall Ferguson is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, a
member of Hoover’s Working Group on the Role of Military History in Contemporary
Conflict, and a senior fellow of the Center for European Studies at Harvard University.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 113
“This idea was so clear to us,” he recalled, “that all people want to connect.
. . . My hope was never to build a company, but to make an impact.”
Zuckerberg has certainly done that, but it is doubtful that it was the impact
he dreamed of in his dorm room. In his address, Zuckerberg identified a
series of challenges facing his generation, among them: “tens of millions of
jobs replaced by automation,” inequality (“there is something wrong with our
system when I can leave here and make billions of dollars in ten years while
millions of students can’t
afford to pay off their
The vision of a single global com- loans”), and “the forces of
munity—the pot of gold at the end authoritarianism, isola-
of the arc of history—is at odds with tionism, and nationalism,”
everything we know about how social which oppose “the flow
of knowledge, trade, and
networks work.
immigration.” What he
omitted to mention was the substantial contributions that his company and
its peers in Silicon Valley had made to all three of these problems.
No businesses in the world are working harder to eliminate jobs such as
driving a truck than the technology giants of California. No individuals exem-
plify the spectacular growth of the wealth of the top 0.01 percent of earners
better than the masters of Silicon Valley. And no company did more—albeit
unintentionally—to help the populists win their political victories in the
United Kingdom and the United States in 2016 than Facebook. For without
Facebook’s treasure house of data about its users, it would surely have been
impossible for the relatively low-budget Brexit and Trump campaigns to have
succeeded. The company also unwittingly played a key role in the epidemic of
fake news stories.
Zuckerberg is by no means the only believer in one networked world: a
“global community,” in his phrase. Ever since 1996, when the Grateful Dead
lyricist turned cyber-activist John Perry Barlow released his “Declaration
of the Independence of Cyberspace,” in which he asked the “Governments of
the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel,” to “leave us alone,”
there has been a veritable parade of cheerleaders for universal connectivity.
“Current network technology . . . truly favors the citizens,” wrote Google’s
Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen in 2013. “Never before have so many people
been connected through an instantly responsive network.” This, they argued,
would have truly “game changing” implications for politics everywhere. The
early phase of the Arab Spring seemed to vindicate their optimistic analysis;
the subsequent descent of Syria and Libya into civil war, not so much.

114 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
Like John Lennon’s “Imagine,” utopian visions of a networked world are
intuitively appealing. In his Harvard speech, for example, Zuckerberg con-
tended that “the great arc of human history bends towards people coming
together in ever-greater numbers—from tribes to cities to nations—to achieve
things we couldn’t on our own.” Yet this vision, of a single global community
as the pot of gold at the end of the arc of history, is at odds with everything
we know about how social networks work. Far from being new, networks have
always been ubiquitous in the natural world and in the social life of humans.
The only thing new about today’s social networks is that they are the biggest
and fastest ever, connecting billions of people in seconds. Long before the
founding of Facebook, however, scholars had already conducted a great deal
of research into how smaller and slower social networks operate. What they
found gives little ground for optimism about how a fully networked world
would function.

Six fundamental insights can help those without expertise in network theory
think more clearly about the likely political and geopolitical impacts of giant,
high-speed social networks.
The first concerns the pattern of connections within networks. Since the
work of the eighteenth-century Swiss scholar Leonhard Euler, mathemati-
cians have conceived of networks as graphs of nodes connected together by
links or, in the parlance of network theory, “edges.” Individuals in a social net-
work are simply nodes
connected by the edges
we call “relationships.” Martin Luther envisioned “the priest-
Not all nodes or edges hood of all believers,” the sixteenth-
in a social network are century equivalent of Mark Zucker-
equal, however, because berg’s “global community.”
few social networks
resemble a simple lattice in which each node has the same number of edges
as all the rest. Typically, certain nodes and edges are more important than
others. For example, some nodes have a higher “degree,” meaning that they
have more edges, and some have higher “betweenness centrality,” meaning
that they act as the busy junctions through which a lot of network traffic has
to pass. Put differently, a few crucial edges can act as bridges, connecting
together different clusters of nodes that would otherwise not be able to com-
municate. Even so, there will nearly always be “network isolates”—individual
nodes that are not connected to the main components of the network.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 115
At the same time, birds of a feather flock
together. Because of the phenomenon
known as homophily, or attraction to
similarity, social networks tend to
form clusters of nodes with similar
properties or attitudes. The result,
as researchers found when
they studied American high
schools, can be self-segre-
gation along racial lines
or other forms of
polarization. The
recent divi-
sion of

116 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
the American public sphere into two echo chambers, each deaf to the other’s
arguments, is a perfect illustration.
A common error of much popular writing about social networks is to draw
a distinction between networks and hierarchies. This is a false dichotomy.
A hierarchy is simply a special kind of network with restricted numbers of
horizontal edges, enabling a single ruling node to maintain an exceptionally
high degree and exceptionally high betweenness centrality. The essence of
any autocracy is that nodes further down the organizational chart cannot
communicate with one another, much less organize, without going through
the central node. The correct distinction is between hierarchical networks
and distributed ones.
For most of history, hierarchical networks dominated distributed net-
works. In relatively small communities with relatively frequent conflicts,
centralized leadership enjoyed a big advantage, because warfare is generally
easier with centralized command and control. Moreover, in most agricultural

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

H O O V ER D I G E S T • W inte r 2018 117
societies, literacy was the prerogative of a small elite, so that only a few
nodes were connected by the written word. But then, more than five hundred
years ago, came the printing press. It empowered Martin Luther’s heresy
and gave birth to a new network.
Luther thought the result of his movement to reform the Roman Catholic
Church would be what came to be called “the priesthood of all believers,” the
sixteenth-century equivalent of Zuckerberg’s “global community.” In prac-
tice, the Protestant Reformation produced more than a century of bloody
religious conflict. This was because new doctrines such as Luther’s, and later
John Calvin’s, did not spread evenly through European populations. Although
Protestantism swiftly acquired the structure of a network, homophily led to
polarization, with those parts of Europe that most closely resembled urban
Germany in terms of population density and literacy embracing the new
religion and the more rural regions reacting against it, embracing the papal
Counter-Reformation. Yet it proved impossible for Catholic rulers to destroy
Protestant networks, even with mass executions, just as it proved impossible
to wholly stamp out Catholicism in states that adopted the Reformation.

The second insight is that weak ties are strong. As the Stanford sociologist
Mark Granovetter demonstrated in a seminal 1973 article, acquaintances are
the bridges between clusters of friends, and it is those weak ties that make
the world seem small. In the famous experiment with chain letters that the
psychologist Stanley Milgram published in 1967, there turned out to be just
seven degrees of separation between a widowed clerk in Omaha, Nebraska,
and a Boston stockbroker she did not know.
Like the Reformation, the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment were
network-driven phenomena, yet they spread faster and farther. This reflect-
ed the importance of acquaintances in correspondence networks such as
Voltaire’s and Benjamin Franklin’s, communities that might otherwise have
remained subdivided into national clusters. It also reflected the way that new
social organizations—notably, Freemasonry—increased the connectedness
of like-minded men, despite established divisions of social status. It is no
accident that so many key figures in the American Revolution, from George
Washington to Paul Revere, were also Freemasons.

Third, the structure of a network determines its virality. As recent work by
the social scientists Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler has shown, the

118 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
contagiousness of a disease or an idea depends as much on a social network’s
structure as on the inherent properties of the virus or meme.
The history of the late eighteenth century illustrates that point well. The
ideas that inspired both the American Revolution and the French Revolution
were essentially the same, and both were transmitted through the networks
of correspondence, publication, and sociability. But the network structures
of colonial America and
ancien régime France
Unlike hierarchies, which tend to be
were profoundly differ-
ent (for example, the paranoid about security, distributed
former lacked a large, networks are generally bad at self-
illiterate peasantry). defense.
Whereas one revolution
produced a relatively peaceful, decentralized democracy, albeit one com-
mitted to a transitional period of slavery, the other established a violent and
at times anarchic republic that soon followed the ancient Roman path to
tyranny and empire.
Hierarchical order was not easily restored after the fall of Napoleonic
France in 1814. It took the great powers that dominated the Congress of Vien-
na, which concluded the next year, to re-establish monarchical governance
in Europe and then export it to most of the world in the form of colonial
empires. What made the spread of imperialism possible was the fact that the
technologies of the industrial age—railways, steamships, and telegraphs—
favored the emergence of “superhubs,” with London as the most important
node. In other words, the structure of networks had changed, because the
new technologies lent themselves to central control in ways that had not
been true of the printing press or the postal service. The first age of global-
ization, between 1815 and 1914, was a time of train controllers and timetables.

Fourth, many networks are complex adaptive systems that are constantly
shifting shape. Such was the case even for the most hierarchical states of all
time, the totalitarian empires presided over by Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin,
and Mao Zedong. With his iron grip on the party bureaucracy and his ability
to tap the Soviet telephone system, Stalin was perhaps the supreme auto-
crat, a man so powerful that he could effectively outlaw all unofficial social
networks, even persecuting the poet Anna Akhmatova for one illicit night
of conversation with the philosopher Isaiah Berlin. In the 1950s, Christian
democratic Europe and corporate America were hierarchical, too—just

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 119
look at the midcentury organizational charts for General Motors—but not
to anything like the same extent. A network-based reform campaign such as
the civil rights movement was unthinkable in the Soviet Union. Those who
campaigned against racial segregation in the American South were harassed,
but efforts to suppress them ultimately failed.
The middle of the twentieth century lent itself to hierarchical governance.
Beginning in the 1970s, however, that began to change. It is tempting to assume
that credit goes to technology. On closer inspection, however, Silicon Valley
was a consequence, rather than a cause, of weakening central control. The
Internet was invented in the United States and not in the Soviet Union pre-
cisely because the US Defense Department, preoccupied with a disastrous war
in Vietnam, essentially let the computer scientists in California build whatever
system for computer-to-computer communication they liked. That did not hap-
pen in the Soviet case, where an analogous project, directed by the Institute of
Cybernetics in Kiev, was simply shut down by the Ministry of Finance.
The 1970s and 1980s saw two great phase transitions within the superpow-
ers that waged the Cold War, marking the dawn of the second networked age.
In the United States, the resignation of President Richard Nixon seemed to
represent a major victory for the free press and representative government
over the would-be imperial presidency. Yet the Watergate scandal, the defeat
in Vietnam, and the social and economic crises of the mid-1970s did not
escalate into a full breakdown of the system. Indeed, the presidency of Ronald
Reagan restored the prestige of the executive branch with remarkable ease.
By contrast, the collapse of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe was brought
about by networks of anticommunist dissent that had almost no technologi-
cally advanced means of communication. Indeed, even printing was denied to
them, hence the underground literature known as samizdat. The Polish case
illustrates the role of networks well: the trade union Solidarity succeeded only
because it was itself embedded in a heterogeneous web of opposition groups.

The fifth insight is that networks interact with one another, and it takes a net-
work to defeat a network. When networks link up with other networks, innova-
tion often results. But networks can also attack one another. A good example is
the way the Cambridge University intellectual society known as the Apostles
came under attack by the KGB in the 1930s. In one of the most successful
intelligence operations of the twentieth century, the Soviets managed to recruit
several spies from the Apostles’ ranks, yielding immense numbers of high-level
British and Allied documents during and after World War II.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 121
The case illustrates one of the core weakness of distributed networks. It
was not only the Cambridge intelligentsia that the Soviets penetrated; they
also hacked into the entire old-boy network that ran the British govern-
ment in the twentieth century. They were able to do so precisely because
the unspoken assumptions and unwritten rules of the British establishment
caused telltale evidence of treachery to be overlooked or explained away.
Unlike hierarchies, which tend to be paranoid about security, distributed
networks are generally bad at self-defense.
Likewise, the 9/11 attacks were carried out by one network on another
network: Al-Qaeda against the US financial and political system. Yet it was
not the immediate damage of the terrorist attacks that inflicted the real cost
on the United States so much as the unintended consequences of the national
security state’s response. Writing in the Los Angeles Times in August 2002,
before it was even clear that Iraq was to be invaded, the political scientist
John Arquilla presciently pointed out the flaws in such an approach. “In a
netwar, like the one we find ourselves in now, strategic bombing means little,
and most networks don’t rely on one—or even several—great leaders to sus-
tain and guide them,” he wrote. Faulting the George W. Bush administration
for creating the Department of Homeland Security, he argued, “A hierarchy
is a clumsy tool to use against a nimble network: it takes networks to fight
networks, much as in previous wars it has taken tanks to fight tanks.”
It took four painful years after the invasion of Iraq to learn this lesson.
Looking back at the decisive phase of the US troop surge in 2007, US Gen-
eral Stanley McChrystal summed up what had been learned. In order to take
down the terrorist network of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, McChrystal wrote, his
task force “had to replicate its dispersion, flexibility, and speed.” He continued:
“Over time, ‘It takes a network to defeat a network’ became a mantra across
the command and an eight-word summary of our core operational concept.”

The sixth insight is that networks are profoundly inegalitarian. One endur-
ing puzzle is why the 2008 financial crisis inflicted larger economic losses on
the United States and its allies than did the terrorist attacks of 2001, even
though no one plotted the financial crisis with malice aforethought. (Plausible
estimates for the losses that the financial crisis inflicted on the United States
alone range from $5.7 trillion to $13 trillion, whereas the largest estimate for
the cost of the war on terrorism stands at $4 trillion.) The explanation lies in
the dramatic alterations in the world’s financial structure that followed the
introduction of information technology to banking. The financial system had

122 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
grown so complex that it tended to amplify cyclical fluctuations. It was not just
that financial centers had become more interconnected, and with higher-speed
connections; it was that many institutions were poorly diversified and inade-
quately insured. What the US Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and other regula-
tory authorities failed to grasp when they declined to bail out Lehman Broth-
ers in 2008 was that although its chief executive, Richard Fuld, was something
of a network isolate on
Wall Street—unloved
by his peers (including Weak ties—acquaintances—make the
the treasury secretary, world seem small.
Henry Paulson, formerly
the head of Goldman Sachs)—the bank itself was a crucial node in a danger-
ously fragile international financial network. Economists untrained in network
theory woefully underestimated the impact of letting Lehman Brothers fail.
In the period after the financial crisis, everyone else caught up with the
financial world: the rest of society got networked in the ways that, ten years
ago, only bankers had been. This change was supposed to usher in a brave
new world of global community, with every citizen also a netizen, equipped
by technology to speak truth to power and hold it to account. Yet once again
the lessons of network theory had been overlooked, for giant social networks
are not in the least bit egalitarian. To be precise, they have many more nodes
with a very large number of edges and many more with very few edges than
would be the case in a randomly generated network. This is because, as social
networks expand, the nodes gain new edges in proportion to the number that
they already have.
The phenomenon is a version of what the sociologist Robert Merton called
“the Matthew effect,” after the Gospel of Matthew 25:29: “For unto every one
that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath
not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” In science, for example,
success breeds success: to the scientist who already has citations and prizes,
more shall be given. But the trend is perhaps most visible in Silicon Valley.
In 2001, the software developer Eric Raymond confidently predicted that the
open-source movement would win out within three to five years. He was to be
disappointed. The open-source dream died with the rise of monopolies and
duopolies that successfully fended off government regulation that might have
inhibited their growth. Apple and Microsoft established something close to
a software duopoly. Beginning as a bookseller, Amazon came to dominate
online retail. Google even more swiftly established a near monopoly on
search. And of course, Facebook won the race to dominate social media.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 123
At the time of this writing, Facebook has 1.17 billion active daily users. Yet
the company’s ownership is highly concentrated. Zuckerberg himself owns
just over 28 percent of the company, making him one of the ten richest people
in the world. That group also includes Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Carlos Slim,
Larry Ellison, and Michael Bloomberg, whose fortunes all derive in some way
or another from information technology. Thanks to the rich-get-richer effect,
the returns to their businesses do not diminish. Vast cash reserves allow
them to acquire any potential competitor.
At Harvard, Zuckerberg envisioned “a world where everyone has a sense of
purpose: by taking on big meaningful projects together, by redefining equal-
ity so everyone has the freedom to pursue purpose, and by building commu-
nity across the world.” Yet Zuckerberg personifies what economists call “the
economics of superstars,” whereby the top talents in a field earn much, much
more than the runners-up. And paradoxically, most of the remedies for inequal-
ity that Zuckerberg mentioned in his address—a universal basic income,
affordable childcare, better health care, and continuous education—are viable
only as national policies delivered by the twentieth-century welfare state.

The global impact of the Internet has few analogues in history better than
the impact of printing on sixteenth-century Europe. The personal com-
puter and the smartphone have empowered the individual as much as the
pamphlet and the book did in Luther’s time. Indeed, the trajectories for the
production and price of personal computers in the United States between
1977 and 2004 look remarkably similar to the trajectories for the production
and price of printed books in England from 1490 to 1630.
But there are some major differences between the current networked age and
the era that followed the advent of European printing. First, and most obvious,
today’s networking revolution is much faster and more geographically extensive
than the wave of revolutions unleashed by the German printing press.
Second, the distributional consequences of the current revolution are quite
different. Early modern Europe was not an ideal place to enforce intellectual
property rights, which in those days existed only when technologies could
be secretively monopolized by a guild. The printing press created no billion-
aires: Johannes Gutenberg was no Gates (by 1456, in fact, he was effectively
bankrupt). Moreover, only a subset of the media made possible by the print-
ing press—newspapers and magazines—sought to make money from adver-
tising, whereas all the most important network platforms made possible by
the Internet do. That is where the billions of dollars come from. More than in

124 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
the past, there are now two distinct kinds of people in the world: those who
own and run the networks and those who merely use them.
Third, the printing press had the effect of disrupting religious life in West-
ern Christendom before it disrupted anything else. By contrast, the Internet
began by disrupting commerce; only very recently did it begin to disrupt
politics, and it has truly disrupted just one religion, Islam, by empowering
the most extreme version of Sunni fundamentalism.
Nevertheless, there are some clear similarities between our time and the
period that fol-
lowed the advent “Fake news” has its antecedents: the print-
of printing. For ing press disseminated books about magic
one thing, just as as well as books about science.
the printing press
did, modern information technology is transforming not only the market—for
example, facilitating short-term rentals of apartments—but also the public
sphere. Never before have so many people been connected together in an
instantly responsive network through which memes can spread faster than
natural viruses. But the notion that taking the whole world online would
create a utopia of netizens, all equal in cyberspace, was always a fantasy—as
much a delusion as Luther’s vision of a “priesthood of all believers.” The real-
ity is that the global network has become a transmission mechanism for all
kinds of manias and panics, just as the combination of printing and literacy
temporarily increased the prevalence of millenarian sects and witch crazes.
The cruelties of the Islamic State, or ISIS, seem less idiosyncratic when
compared with those of some governments and sects in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. The contamination of the public sphere with fake news
today is less surprising when one remembers that the printing press dissemi-
nated books about magic as well as books about science.
Moreover, as in the period during and after the Reformation, the current
era is witnessing the erosion of territorial sovereignty. In the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, Europe was plunged into a series of religious wars
because the principle formulated at the 1555 Peace of Augsburg—cuius regio,
eius religio (to each realm, its ruler’s religion)—was being honored mainly
in the breach. In the twenty-first century, there is a similar phenomenon of
escalating intervention in the domestic affairs of sovereign states. Consider
the Russian attempt to influence the 2016 US presidential election. Moscow’s
hackers and trolls pose a threat to American democracy not unlike the one
that Jesuit priests once posed to the English Reformation.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 125
For the scholar Anne-Marie Slaughter, the “hyper-networked world” is,
on balance, a benign place. The United States “will gradually find the golden
mean of network power,” she wrote in 2016, if its leaders figure out how to
operate not just on the traditional “chessboard” of interstate diplomacy but
also in the new “web” of networks, exploiting the advantages of the latter
(such as transparency, adaptability, and scalability). Others are less confi-
dent. In The Seventh Sense, Joshua Cooper Ramo argues for the erection of
real and virtual “gates” to shut out the Russians, the online criminals, the
teenage Internet vandals, and other malefactors. Yet Ramo himself quotes
the three rules of computer security devised by the National Security Agency
cryptographer Robert Morris: “RULE ONE: Do not own a computer. RULE
TWO: Do not power it on. RULE THREE: Do not use it.” If everyone con-
tinues to ignore those imperatives—and especially political leaders, most
of whom have not even enabled two-factor authentication for their e-mail
accounts—even the most sophisticated gates will be useless.
Those who wish to understand the political and geopolitical implications of
today’s interconnectedness need to pay greater heed to the major insights of
network theory than they have hitherto. If they did, they would understand
that networks are not as benign as advertised. The techno-utopians who
conjure up dreams of a global community have every reason to dispense their
Kool-Aid to the users whose data they so expertly mine. The unregulated
oligopoly that runs Silicon Valley has done very well indeed from networking
the world. The rest of us—the mere users of the networks they own—should
treat their messianic visions with the skepticism they deserve.

Reprinted by permission of Foreign Affairs (
© 2017 Council on Foreign Relations Inc. All rights reserved.

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

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Once More unto
the Breach
Recent thefts of credit data show how little power
consumers have over their own information. This
has to change.

By Herbert Lin

fter credit reporting agency Equifax
was hacked last year, many people Key points
suggested that affected consumers »» The system puts
credit agencies’
use credit freezes to prevent misuse
interests ahead of
of their sensitive personal data. Equifax originally those of consumers.
tried to charge consumers for this protection, but »» Congress should
then backed down and agreed to provide the service demand stronger se-
curity for consumer
free of charge. But the credit-freeze approach, while data. This includes
smart in the short term, is not enough. In fact, it encrypting a report
so only the consum-
underscores the degree to which the system puts
er can unlock it.
the interests of credit reporting agencies above
»» Consumers must
the imperative of protecting consumers’ financial be able to choose
privacy. whether or not to
give away their
The existing arrangement, under which consum- privacy.
ers must generally pay a fee to prevent others from

Herbert Lin is the Hank J. Holland Fellow in cyber policy and security at the
Hoover Institution and a senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at
Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC).

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 127
HACKED: Richard F. Smith, former chairman and CEO of Equifax, testifies
before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs last
October. Some 145 million people saw their personal information compro-
mised in a hack of the credit reporting company’s servers. Smith announced
his retirement three weeks after the news broke. [Ron Sachs—CNP]

accessing their credit reports and an additional fee for thawing that freeze,
is exactly backward. The presumption should be that consumers’ financial
information is protected unless and until they expressly request that a party
be given access to it.
Under current law, consumers have essentially no rights regarding this
stored personal data. Consumers are not customers of the credit reporting
agencies; their data is the product being sold by those agencies to parties
that have some reason to want to know individuals’ histories of managing
money and their financial trajectories from birth until death. And these
parties—banks, credit card companies, and so on—pay the credit reporting
agencies dearly for those histories. In 2016, Equifax’s revenue was $3.1 billion.
It’s reasonable for a bank to know how you have managed money in the
past if it is going to lend you money. By providing information on financial

128 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
histories, the credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and Trans­
Union—play a vital role in enabling those of us without sufficient cash on
hand to buy cars and houses. They also help financial institutions make deci-
sions about who should get what kinds of credit cards. But they provide all
of these data at your request; by applying for a loan to buy a house or to get
a credit card, you agree to the release of your credit record to the party offer-
ing the loan or credit card. That’s fair—you give up some privacy in return
for the possibility of getting the loan or the credit card.
But many parties obtain your credit report without your explicit consent.
Most of the unsolicited credit card offers you receive in the mail are from
firms that accessed your credit report as part of a marketing campaign to
determine whom they could sign up for one credit card or another. You never
asked for the credit card offer but the soliciting party saw your credit report
anyway. In such cases, you gave up your financial privacy and received noth-
ing of value (unless you really wanted the credit card offered). What’s fair
about that?
In the wake of the Equifax breach, Congress should require stronger cyber-
security measures at credit reporting agencies as well as at any company
that stores large quantities of sensitive data about individuals, even if those
individuals are not the company’s customers. But it is also important to go
beyond proposed legislation on free freezing of credit reports to require that
individual reports be frozen by default, “thawable” only with the individual’s
Such a requirement would usually be implemented procedurally—a
company would be legally subject to penalties or damages if it released a
credit report without the express consent of the relevant individual. But
such a requirement could also be enforced technically: a credit report could
be stored in encrypted
form so that it could
be thawed only with a For security, individual credit reports
key held or managed by should be frozen by default, “thaw-
the consumer. Techni- able” only with the consumer’s consent.
cal enforcement of the
thaw-only-on-request requirement would provide a high degree of security
against a large-scale compromise, because hackers would have to obtain
individual decryption keys for each record.
In addition, consumers would never have to give away their privacy for no
received benefit. The credit reporting agencies will argue that many con-
sumers benefit from unsolicited credit card offers because they would not

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 129
otherwise learn of their availability. That problem is easily solved by enabling
consumers to choose explicitly to make their credit reports available to all
parties without requiring individual permissions.
But the real issue for
credit reporting agencies
“Freeze by default” would eliminate is that freeze-by-default
the fees credit agencies now collect eliminates the fees they
when they make reports available now collect when they
make credit reports
without our permission.
available to various par-
ties without our explicit permission. For that complaint, we should all have
relatively little sympathy: they earn billions of dollars annually from selling
our data without our permission or consent.

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

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

130 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


Cyber Invaders
We still don’t know how deeply Russia interfered
in US elections, but we do know how to make it
harder for the Russians to interfere next time.

By Michael A. McFaul

ongressional and Justice Depart-
ment investigations, as well as Key points
terrific investigative reporting »» Security must be up-
graded and better coordi-
over the past year, have revealed
nated at all levels.
the comprehensive scale of Russia’s viola-
»» Until voting is secure,
tion of our sovereignty. This was done not states should collect paper
by crossing physical borders but by invading ballots to back up elec-
tronic tallies.
multiple virtual boundaries. To influence the
»» The American public
outcome of our presidential election and stir needs to be told about
general doubt about our democratic process- Russian state propaganda
es, Russian operatives stole and published
»» Foreign purchases of ads
information, deployed state-controlled media aimed at influencing elec-
to reach American voters on the airwaves tions should be banned,
and any collusion with
and social media platforms, bought ads on
foreign actors punished.
Facebook, deployed an army of bloggers and
bots to push opinions and fake news, offered
the Trump campaign alleged incriminating information on its opponent,

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.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 131
Hillary Clinton, and even probed our computers and networks used to count
the vote. This is what we know so far; the investigations continue.
If the diagnosis about Russian interference is growing in scope and preci-
sion, the debate about policy prescriptions for protecting our sovereignty in
future elections and everyday political life has barely begun. Policy actions to
protect our vote from outside interference have been next to nil. That needs
to change now.

First, and most obvious, our cybersecurity must be stronger. We need greater
education on how to prevent cyberattacks; more coordination between lay-
ers for cybersecurity at the individual, group, and government levels; and new
government regulation mandating upgrades in cybersecurity for everyone and
everything involved in the electoral process. Deterrence also must be a compo-
nent of our response: direct, private communications to the Kremlin and other
foreign governments warning of our intended responses—in both the cyber
and real worlds—to future attacks. Until security and confidence are enhanced,
every state also must collect paper ballots to back up electronic vote counts.
Second, information about Russian state propaganda—not censorship of
these content providers—must be provided to the American people. Viewers
of RT, formerly called Russia Today, on YouTube or readers of Sputnik on
Twitter need to know that the Russian government is providing this content
to advance the Kremlin’s political objectives. This task could be achieved in
two ways. Private actors—cable companies and social media platforms—
could do the identification, as some already have started to do regarding
disinformation. Or the US government could require these foreign agents
of influence to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
(Given their missions, activities, and internal governance structures, the BBC,
Deutsche Welle, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and France 24 are
not foreign agents of influence.) If former senator Bob Dole had to register
under FARA to lobby for the pro-American democratic government of Tai-
wan, why shouldn’t RT employees register as foreign agents when advancing
the interests of the anti-American autocratic government of Russia?
With good reason, some worry that Russian president Vladimir Putin
might retaliate by requiring genuine foreign journalists to register as foreign
agents or by banning them from Russia entirely. But we cannot allow the
threat of Putin doing the wrong thing to stop us from doing the right thing.
Third, foreign purchase of advertisements aimed at influencing elec-
tions must be prohibited. Just as foreigners cannot contribute to American

132 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
candidates, they should not be able to purchase or provide in-kind support
for candidates or parties. Laws and regulations must be enhanced to compel
American companies to stop this activity, even if the use of VPNs and third-
party cutouts makes the task challenging. Regulation of this market for Ameri-
cans, however, must be avoided.
Fourth, Americans who colluded with Russian (or any foreign) actors to
influence the outcome of our elections must be punished. If existing law does
not clearly prohibit collusion criminally, then new laws should be adopted that
would deter this activity in the future.

President Trump won tens of millions of votes without any foreign help. The
unique, causal impact of Russian activities on the 2016 election outcome is dif-
ficult to isolate, because multiple factors contributed to Trump’s victory. That
Trump chose to reference WikiLeaks incessantly during the last months of the
campaign suggests that he understood the importance of this Kremlin gift. Mil-
lions of viewers watched anti-Clinton clips from RT on YouTube. Targeted Face-
book ads purchased by Russian actors closely tied to the Kremlin appear to have
reached tens of millions of people, while Russian magnification of pro-Trump,
anti-Clinton messages on social media platforms touched millions more. These
actions sought to persuade undecided voters, mobilize Trump supporters, and
demobilize wobbly Clinton backers (either not to vote or to support third parties).
Altogether, these Russian actions probably still produced only marginal
effects, but this election was won in the margins—78,000 votes in three states:
Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Even if foreign interference achieved negligible influence, such actions were
still violations of our sovereignty. Unless we adopt a comprehensive strategy to
reduce and stop cyber-interventions, they will happen again.

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

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Warriors and
Citizens: American Views of Our Military, edited by Kori
N. Schake and Jim Mattis. To order, call (800) 888-4741
or visit

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 133


Keeping the
Lights On
Nuclear power has to remain part of our energy

By Jeremy Carl

ast summer, contractors halted work on the V. C. Summer nuclear
station in South Carolina, where $9 billion had been spent on
construction. It was yet another ill omen for America’s nuclear
power industry. Along with the suspension (and possible cancel-
lation) of the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia, which is also billions of dollars
over budget and behind schedule, the setbacks represent a devastating blow
to nuclear boosters who were hoping to use these plants, the first built in the
United States in more than thirty years, to make the case for a nuclear come-
back. The troubles show an American nuclear industry in deep crisis.
It’s a crisis that my Hoover colleague David Fedor and I examine and offer
solutions for in our new book, Keeping the Lights on at America’s Nuclear Power
Plants. President Trump has called for a “complete review” of America’s
nuclear power policies to “revitalize this crucial energy resource.” If the
administration is serious about that goal, it can look at some of our proposals
as a blueprint for recovery.

Jeremy Carl is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of
Hoover’s Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy and Arctic Security
Initiative. He is the author (with Hoover research analyst David Fedor) of Keep-
ing the Lights on at America’s Nuclear Power Plants (Hoover Institution
Press, 2017).

134 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
Aside from the difficulties of constructing new nuclear power facilities in
today’s environment, existing plants face what I refer to as the four horsemen
of the energy apocalypse:
»» Depressed electricity prices fomented by cheap natural gas (good) and
excessive subsidies to other energy technologies, primarily renewables (not
so good);
»» A loss of available market in states with high renewables mandates
and/or low demand growth;
»» Challenges from increased regulatory costs (particularly acute for
smaller and older plants);
»» Politically charged antinuclear activism—in many cases funded by
supporters of other forms of energy.
As conservatives and free market enthusiasts, we are naturally tempted
to say, “So what? If nuclear energy can’t compete in the free market, then
it should go away.” But the US electricity system is not a free market—it
has never been a free market, and frankly it has no reasonably foresee-
able prospects of becoming a free market. It is, for many reasons both
good and bad, a highly regulated market that has been manipulated for
many years in ways that have profoundly damaged nuclear energy’s
Yet, despite these challenges, nuclear still provides one-fifth of all electric-
ity in the United States and creates far more emissions-free energy than any
other technology, including the solar and wind that so enrapture environ-
mentalists. And, of course, the South Carolina and Georgia debacles were
not the natural result of nuclear technology. As studies have shown, it is not
inevitable that nuclear
power plant construc-
tion costs must rise. The expertise to build truly safe reactors
America’s ability to will never be cultivated if our next gen-
maintain its nuclear eration of power plants is not developed.
technological capabili-
ty has profound effects on its national security. The failures in South Carolina
and Georgia indicate that the United States has lost control of its nuclear
destiny: without a course correction we will see the future of nuclear power
determined by China and Russia, which continue to move aggressively in this
area. China, for instance, planned to complete five new nuclear power plants
in the past year alone.
The dangers should be obvious: while nuclear power plants are in many
ways quite distinct technologically from nuclear weapons, the capabilities

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 135
LIGHT AT THE END?: A worker drives a train through a tunnel in the Yucca
Mountain disposal site in Nevada, the intended home for the nation’s nuclear
waste. The future of the repository and its five-mile-long storage tunnel
remains in limbo, sixteen years after the project was first approved. [Chuck Ken-

used in domestic enrichment for civilian nuclear power plants can also be
used to create nuclear weapons. This fact has been at the core of much
of the US conflict with Iran and North Korea over their “civilian” nuclear
programs. The United States has traditionally used its leadership in the
supply of nuclear technologies to make it very difficult for nuclear power
plant operators to cause the technology to proliferate. Will the Chinese and
Russians share our concern for nonproliferation? Look to Pyongyang and
Pakistan to find out.
Further adding to the critical role of nuclear energy in US national secu-
rity, the reactors that power our nuclear Navy—more than 140 ships ranging
from submarines to aircraft carriers—use technology virtually identical to
that powering our civilian reactors. In fact, domestic nuclear power origi-
nally grew from these naval programs. Losing the technology and operating
experience through the atrophy of our domestic nuclear power sector would
mean a profound loss of capability in our military. Whether or not we put

136 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
up a wind farm or keep a coal mine operating simply doesn’t have anywhere
near the same strategic dimension for US policy makers.
Moreover, contrary to the claims of many greens, when nuclear plants
shut down they are being replaced by fossil fuels, not renewables. This is in
large part because nuclear remains our only source of low-emission baseload
power. A recent report by Environmental Progress, an environmental group
that has advocated nuclear
power, finds that Califor-
nia’s decision to abandon Nuclear energy occupies a highly
nuclear technology has regulated market that has been
caused emissions to be manipulated in ways that profoundly
250 percent higher than damaged nuclear competitiveness.
they otherwise would have
been. This makes it incongruous, to say the least, that so many greens oppose
nuclear. One might suspect that they are more concerned with virtue-signal-
ing and ideological purity than emissions and the environment.
What can be done to save existing reactors? Some states have stepped in
with direct payments to the plants, recognizing their emissions-free capa-
bilities and security profile. Recent studies from MIT and Carnegie Mellon
have made a compelling case that even from a purely economic perspective
this is better than mothballing them. When California shut down the San
Onofre plant north of San Diego in a highly politicized environment, studies
calculated that an extra $350 million in costs was paid when other providers
raised their rates.
But we need lasting solutions. Ultimately, if we care about maintain-
ing nuclear power, there must be meaningful support—financial, policy, or
both—at the federal level. It is unfair to expect ratepayers in Ohio or Georgia
to bear the full cost of a technology that has substantial benefits, particu-
larly in the secu-
rity realm, for the
nation as a whole. China planned to complete five new nucle-
The security, ar power plants in the past year alone.
waste disposal,
and risk concerns around nuclear power are certainly real and should not
be wished away. But the expertise to build passively safe reactors—reactors
that by their design would make a serious accident almost impossible—will
not be cultivated if our next generation of power plants is not developed.
This does not argue for throwing unlimited amounts of taxpayer money
at nuclear plants. But before we decide whether or not the United States

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 137
wants to have nuclear power in its future, it is essential that policy makers
understand everything at stake. This includes knowing that even if we were to
exit the civilian nuclear business, the rest of the world would not be likely to
follow suit. The nuclear genie is out of the bottle for good. The only question is
whether the genie will obey our commands or those of Beijing and Moscow.

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

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Keeping
the Lights on at America’s Nuclear Power Plants, by
Jeremy Carl and David Fedor. To order, call (800) 888-
4741 or visit

138 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


Chain Reactions
Before we jettison nuclear energy, let’s count the
costs: to the economy, to the environment, and to
national security.

By James O. Ellis Jr. and George P. Shultz

uclear power alone will not solve our energy problems. But
we do not think they can be solved without it. This is the crux
of our concerns and the motivation for the new book Keep-
ing the Lights on at America’s Nuclear Power Plants. The book
describes the challenges nuclear power is facing today and what might be
done about them.
One of us, between other jobs, built nuclear plants for a living; between
other jobs, the other helped make them safer. In many respects, this is a
personal topic for us both. But here are some facts.
We know that our country’s dominance in civilian nuclear power has been
a key part of America’s ability to set norms and rules not just for power
plants in less stable places around the world but also for the control of
nuclear weapon proliferation. We know that it’s an important technology-
intensive export industry too: America invented the technology and the
United States today remains the world’s largest nuclear power generator,

James O. Ellis Jr. is the Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover
Institution. He is a member of Hoover’s Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy
Policy, Arctic Security Initiative, and Working Group on the Role of Military His-
tory in Contemporary Conflict. George P. Shultz is the Thomas W. and Susan
B. Ford Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution, the chair of the Shultz-
Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy, and a member of the Working Group on
Economic Policy.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 139
with nearly a quarter of global plants (more if you count the hundred power
reactors aboard our Navy ships at sea). Domestically, we know that nuclear
power gives us reliable electricity supply at scale, supplying one-fifth of all
our power production, and that nearly two-thirds of our country’s pollution-
free and carbon-dioxide-free energy comes from these facilities.
There are known risks and real costs to nuclear too, of course, but on
balance we believe that the benefits for the country come out well ahead.
Historically, much of the national nuclear enterprise has rested on the backs
of the federal government (and the military) as well as on the ratepayers of
the electric utilities who own or operate these facilities. The question today is
if—and how—those same players will be able to shoulder that responsibility
in the future.
When we first started looking into the nuclear question as part of our
energy work at the Hoover Institution a few years ago through the Shultz-
Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy, we had our eyes toward the future:
What were the prospects and roadblocks for a new generation of small,
modular nuclear reactors? How about the licensing framework for advanced,
next-generation plant designs? Could a new entrepreneurial portfolio
approach help break through the nuclear fusion barrier?
We wanted to know what it would take to “reinvent nuclear power.” Soon
enough, though, it became clear that it would not be enough to reinvent the
future of nuclear power; if we don’t want to make the commitment to finance
and run the mature and already depreciated light-water nuclear reactors of
today effectively, we won’t have the option to make that choice tomorrow.

Nothing in energy happens in isolation, so nuclear power should be viewed in
its larger context. We are, in fact, in a new energy position in America today.
First, security. New supplies of oil and gas have come on line throughout
the country. This has not only reduced our imports but also given us the flex-
ibility in our production that makes price-fixing cartels such as OPEC weak.
Prices are falling too, not just in the well-known oil and gas sectors, the
result again of American ingenuity and relentless commercialization efforts
in fracking and horizontal drilling, but in new energy technologies as well.
Research and development in areas such as wind and solar or electric vehicles
are driving down those costs faster than the scientists expected, though there
is still substantial room to go. We also have made huge strides since the 1970s
Arab oil crises in the more efficient—or thoughtful—use of energy and are in
a much better position energy-wise financially and competitively because of it.

140 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
WHAT NEXT?: Protesters link hands near a nuclear power plant in Tihange,
Belgium. Opponents of nuclear power worry about the risks of radiation
released into the environment, even though coal-fired plants have greater
such emissions. Moreover, nuclear power does not pollute the air or water.
[Olivier Gouallec—Newscom]

And consider the environment. The good news is that we’ve already made
a lot of progress. As anyone who experienced Los Angeles smog in the 1960s
and 1970s can attest, the Clean Air Act has made a huge difference in the
air we breathe. On carbon dioxide emissions, the progress is mixed, but the
influx of cheap natural gas, energy efficiency, and a growing menu of clean
energy technologies suggest promise.
Our takeaway from all of this is that for perhaps the first time in modern
history, we find ourselves with breathing room on the energy front. We are
no longer simply struggling to keep the lights on or to keep from going broke
while doing so. What will we then choose to do with that breathing room?
To put a finer point on it: America needs to ask whether it’s acceptable to
lose its nuclear power capability by the midpoint of this century. If so, then
plant by plant our current road may take us there. Some would be happy
with that result. Those who would not should understand that changing
course is likely to require deliberate actions.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 141
What would we be giving up if we forgot nuclear power?
An environmentalist might note that we would be losing a technology that
does not pollute the air or water. Radioactivity is a cultural and emotional
concern for many people, but nuclear power produces a relatively small
amount of such waste—at a predictable rate, with known characteristics, and
with $30 billion in disposal costs already paid. Perhaps surprisingly, nuclear
power production actually releases far less radiation into the surrounding
environment than does coal power. Overall, with a long track record, the rate
of human injury caused by nuclear power production is the lowest of any
power generation technology, including renewable resources.
Jobs matter, too. Nuclear power plants each employ about six hundred
people, about ten times more than an equivalent natural gas plant. Many
nuclear workers are midcareer military veterans with few other outlets
for their specialized skills—one US nuclear utility reported in 2016 that a
third of all new hires at nuclear facilities were veterans. Often intentionally
located in rural areas,
nuclear plants are major
For perhaps the first time in mod- economic inputs to sixty
ern history, we find ourselves with small towns and cities
breathing room on the energy front. across America. The
nuclear power technol-
ogy and manufacturing supply chain is a global export business for domestic
businesses—not just for multinationals but also closely held nuclear-rated
component suppliers, manufacturers, and contractors.
People concerned with security can appreciate that the fuel for nuclear
power plants can be provided entirely from friendly suppliers, with low
price volatility, and long-term supplies stored on site and not subject to
weather disruptions. Existing nuclear power plants use mature tech-
nologies with a long experience of domestic expertise in operations,
oversight, and regulation. More broadly, a well-functioning domestic civil
nuclear “ecosystem” is intertwined with our space and military nuclear
capabilities, such as the reactors that power our aircraft carriers and
Finally, we should not discount the fact that nuclear power plants are
being built at an unprecedented rate by developing countries in Asia and
the Middle East, driven by power demands for their growing industries and
increasingly wealthy populations. Those new plants are as likely to be built
and supplied by international competitors as they are by our domestic busi-
nesses and their employees.

142 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
The United States has so far held a dominant position in preserving
global safety and proliferation norms, owing to the strength of our domestic
nuclear capabilities. New nuclear power technologies are available that could
improve plants’ performance and the affordability of the power they gener-
ate. But tomorrow’s nuclear technologies directly depend on a continuation
of today’s nuclear workforce and know-how.

In today’s American energy system, our biggest challenges are now human,
not machine. Nuclear power illustrates this: while these power plants
have produced a steady stream of electricity, year by year, the country and
markets have shifted around them. As long as we continue to pursue energy
research and development—important for the long term—our country’s
universities and research labs will ensure that new technologies keep coming
as fast as we can use them. Often what holds us back is a lack of strategy
and willingness to make political and bureaucratic changes. Technology and
markets are moving faster than governments.
Nuclear power operators after Chernobyl and Three Mile Island were
famously described as being “hostages of each other.” Any mistake made by
one would reflect on all the others. In many ways, this was an opportunity
that became the basis for the American operators’ effective program of
industry self-regulation. Today that phrase about hostages may have a new
meaning: the country’s energy industry has become unfortunately politicized,
with many of the same sorts of identity- and values-based appeals that have
come to dominate our political campaigns.
Technologies or techniques are singled out for tribal attack or support,
a conflict limited by a zero-sum mindset. In truth, the energy system is not
something that can be “won.” Instead, it must be cultivated and tended.
Gas or nuclear, electric cars or oil exports, fracking or rooftop solar—in the
end, all are intertwined in markets. This is why, for example, we support a
revenue-neutral carbon tax combined with a rollback of other technology-
specific mandates, taxes, and subsidies that would go a long way toward
leveling the playing field. Ultimately, a balanced and responsive approach
that acknowledges the real trade-offs between affordability, reliability, social
impacts, environmental performance, and global objectives is the best strat-
egy for reaching—and maintaining over time—any one of those energy goals.
Our energy system has more jobs than one.
So while we find ourselves with breathing room today, we know that the
path is filled with uncertainty. The developments that have led us to this point

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 143
could once again carry us to an unexpected situation tomorrow. Renewable-
resource costs have fallen faster than expected—but can that pace be main-
tained as systems reach for widespread integration and confront problems
of intermittent generation? Natural gas has been a boon throughout the
country—can we
bet the future on its
Gas or nuclear, electric cars or oil exports, continued low cost
fracking or rooftop solar—in the end, all are and ubiquity? Coal
has always been
intertwined in markets.
available along-
side nuclear as a reliable baseload backstop—can we take for granted that it
will survive a new regulatory environment through a series of technological
miracles? Taking control of the grid through the large-scale storage of power
would revolutionize our relationship with electricity and should be relentlessly
pursued—but what if our technology cannot deliver by the time we need it?
We are optimists about our country’s energy future. We are also realists.
If one were to describe a new power-generating technology with almost
no pollution, practically limitless fuel supplies, reliable operations, scalabil-
ity, and safety far greater than existing alternatives, it would sound like a
miracle. Our energy needs would be solved. No wonder the early American
advocates of nuclear fission were so excited. Reality is always more compli-
cated, of course. We should bring to bear this country’s best minds and tech-
nologies to navigate that process responsibly. We have been through a roller
coaster on energy in this country that is not likely to stop. New challenges
will emerge, as will new opportunities.
It is far too early to take nuclear off the table.

From the foreword to Keeping the Lights on at America’s Nuclear Power
Plants, by Jeremy Carl and David Fedor (Hoover Institution Press, 2017).
©2017 The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University.
All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Energy
Efficiency: Building a Clean, Secure Economy, by
James L. Sweeney. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or

144 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


Power to the
Disarray in Washington has a silver lining: state
and local governments reclaiming their essential
role in American democracy.

By David Davenport and Lenny Mendonca

hat is the state of our republic? If you look at the dark
clouds over Washington, where both presidential and
congressional job approval ratings have been at or near
record lows, you would say “not so good.” But if you look
deeper, you may see states, cities, and individuals gathering the energy to
check and balance the power of Washington—just as the founders intended.
Under the Trump presidency, federalism is busting out all over. Federalism
incorporates the idea that the federal government is not the only player in
our constitutional republic, because state and local governments also serve
important roles. The Tenth Amendment of the Constitution specifically
reminds us that powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved
to the states or the people.
With Republicans in charge of the White House, both houses of Congress, and
arguably the Supreme Court, Democrats are rediscovering states’ rights and
local government powers, as the out-of-power party in Washington often does.
And as usual, California is leading the way in flexing state and local power.

David Davenport is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. Lenny Men-
donca is senior partner emeritus of McKinsey.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 145
The nearly twenty “sanctuary” cities and counties in California refuse to
support the enforcement of Washington’s immigration laws, charting their
own course at the risk of some federal funding. Meanwhile, Governor Jerry
Brown is leading his own charge on climate change policies after President
Trump announced a withdrawal from the Paris climate accords. In fact, Cali-
fornia has hired former attorney general Eric Holder to represent the state
against federal intrusion on its policy preferences.
Officials from many states are joining together to influence national policy
in new and effective ways.
States can be powerful players in creating policies that remake whole
industries. California, for example, has rules on auto emissions that have long
exceeded federal laws and served as a model for other states seeking to clean
the air. For all practical purposes, California determines vehicle emission
standards nationwide. School textbooks are another example of state power:
once Texas required more-conservative textbooks for its public schools, for
example, other states ended up buying them.
Governors clearly were major players in recent votes over whether to
repeal the federal Afford-
able Care Act. Senator
When in doubt, keep decisions as John McCain, R-Arizona,
close to the people as possible. tweeted that he would
remain firmly behind
Governor Doug Ducey and would support whatever health care plan Ducey
“believes is best for the people of Arizona.” Republican governors John Kasich
of Ohio, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and Brian Sandoval of Nevada all weighed
in on how the repeal of ObamaCare would affect their constituents, influenc-
ing the votes against repeal.
Attorneys general from sixteen states joined to oppose Trump’s executive
orders on immigration and travel bans. In addition, California has banned
state-paid travel to states lacking what it deems sufficient LGBT protec-
tions and seeks to use its economic power to influence the civil rights laws
of red states.
Cities, which tend to have more Democratic mayors, have taken the
initiative on increasing the minimum wage while Republicans, who control
more statehouses, have passed state laws pre-empting minimum-wage
policy by making it a matter of state, not local, law. To date, twenty-five
states have such pre-emption laws on minimum wage, with Missouri most
recently moving to pre-empt an effort to raise the minimum wage in St.
Louis. Agree or disagree, this has led to vigorous debate about both the

146 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
economic effect of raising the minimum wage and which level of govern-
ment should decide it.
Two core questions of federalism should always be asked:
Is a matter proper for government action?
If so, which level (federal, state, or local) and which branch (legislative,
executive, or judicial) should act?
When in doubt, keep decisions as close to the people as possible.
It’s worth noting how federalism 2.0 has changed and broadened. For many
years, federalism was tainted by its use to defend states’ rights against civil
rights laws. Now cam-
paigns on legalized mari-
Now it’s the Democrats’ turn to redis- juana, the minimum wage,
cover states’ rights and local govern- climate change, immi-
ment powers, as the out-of-power gration, auto emissions,
and civil rights share the
party often does.
federalism agenda. On one
issue or another, federalism is now for everyone, from conservatives to liber-
als, a spectrum represented by the authors.
All politics are local, the late House speaker Tip O’Neill liked to say,
and that may be truer today than it has been in a century or more. Once
citizens and voters see the powerful impact that a city or state policy may
have, amid growing frustration over politics in Washington, more people
are likely to become interested in exercising local and state power. Of
course, it also requires a certain tolerance for diversity and a willingness
to let the other side win occasionally, because not all states will govern in
quite the same ways.
However, we say vive la différence, and viva federalism.

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

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Unstable
Majorities: Polarization, Party Sorting, and Political
Stalemate, by Morris P. Fiorina. To order, call (800)
888-4741 or visit

148 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


California Flunks
The Golden State’s standards for teaching history
are jury-rigged, unfactual, and biased. Oh, and
they’re likely to get worse.

By Williamson M. Evers

y law, textbooks and other teaching materials in California’s
public schools are supposed to be up to date. Yet history text-
books currently in the schools are twelve years old. Why is this?
A somewhat simplified answer is that the California legislature
has avoided passing a statute that would authorize a new set of curriculum-
content standards for history and social science. Informed speculation sug-
gests there has been no statute because there is no influential constituent for
teaching history that is accurate and objective.
For example, Hollywood is a big-donor constituency in the Democratic
Party, which controls California’s legislature. Hence, we do have current
content standards for the performing arts, but historians are not seen as the
same sort of valuable constituency. Maybe, also, the legislators wanted to
avoid being drawn into curriculum wars over history content.
Lacking the necessary legislation, Tom Torlakson, California’s state super-
intendent of public instruction, got creative. He decided to create during
2015–16 a new curriculum framework and use it in place of the legally still-in-
effect 1998 content standards for history.

Williamson M. Evers is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 149
The new framework was adopted by the State Board of Education in July
2016. It doesn’t just guide teachers and publishers on supposedly effective
teaching practices, as a curriculum framework is expected to do. Instead it
goes outside the statutes for K–12 public education. It does so by also listing
what is by law supposed to be found in the state curriculum-content stan-
dards, namely, the topics to be covered in each grade. By going outside the
law, the California Depart-
ment of Education is invit-
Progressivism is portrayed only as a ing a legal challenge.
movement of compassion, love, and California law says
tender reform. state-adopted textbooks
are supposed to be
aligned with the content standards that are in effect. Instead the state-level
history-textbook adoption process that went on in late July 2017 was gov-
erned by the new curriculum framework. Publishers sought to align their
products with the framework. If the state judged that the publishers had
done so, the state adopted them. A school district that uses state-adopted
textbooks and other teaching materials is safe from being challenged about
having up-to-date textbooks.

The 2016 framework contains egregious errors and gaps in coverage and is
filled with trendy ideological propaganda. “Curriculum frameworks are sup-
posed to be aligned with the content standards,” says Janet Nicholas, who
was a member of the State Board of Education when the 1998 curriculum-
content standards for history were adopted. “This new history framework
strays far from the letter and the spirit of the standards. Furthermore, it is
burdened with political correctness, identity politics, and unscientific eco-
nomics that do a disservice to both students and teachers.”
Was Thomas Hobbes a “civic reformer”? No, the authoritarian political
thinker and tutor for Britain’s absolute monarch Charles II was anything but.
Hobbes is famous for telling us we must surrender almost all our rights to
the ruler to prevent “a war of all against all.” Yet California’s 2016 framework
tells teachers and textbook writers that Hobbes was a mere civic reformer.
Another supposed mere reformer, according to the framework, was Jean-
Jacques Rousseau, who in actuality inspired the Jacobin totalitarianism of
the French Revolution.
Let’s look at supposed facts. Why is Olaudah Equiano listed in the frame-
work as the author of an exemplary slavery narrative when research has

150 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
shown that Equiano was born in America, not Africa, and that much of his
narrative is false?
The history curriculum framework describes the Russian Revolution of
1917 as if the Communists overthrew the czar and came to power immediate-
ly afterward. But, in fact, after the czar’s abdication, there was a provisional
government—led by classical-liberal, social-democratic, and peasant parties.
It was this body that the Communists overthrew.
What about the gaps? Why—when much of the turmoil in the Middle East
today is aligned along the Sunni-Shia split—is there no explanation of that
The framework is filled with present-minded paraphrases of the uplifting
rhetoric of the Progressives of early twentieth-century America, but where
are the Progressives’ devotion to eugenics and their opposition to African-
Americans’ getting an academic education?
Likewise, the history curriculum framework leaves out the white suprema-
cist views of Thomas Watson and other Southern populists.
Why is Progressivism portrayed only as compassion, love, and tender
reform? Where are the
centralization, the impe-
rial presidency, the cult The history framework contains not
of efficiency, and the rule just tendentious ideological propa-
of experts that are inte- ganda but indigestible jargon.
gral to Progressivism?
Why is the only explanation given of economic crises the Keynesian one,
which was discredited by the stagflation of the 1970s? Where is the Chicago
School explanation (monetary contraction) that was espoused by Nobel lau-
reate and Hoover Institution fellow Milton Friedman? Where is the Austrian
School explanation (overinvestment induced by banking rules) espoused by
Nobel laureate F. A. Hayek?
Alexis de Tocqueville is mentioned, but where are his insights into the
importance to American civilization of voluntary associations and local
The New Deal’s federal spending during the Great Depression also is
mentioned, but where is the fact that such spending was concentrated not
on areas of greatest recent economic decline but rather on areas where the
New Deal political coalition was in trouble? Also unmentioned is that the
New Deal programs of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA)
and National Recovery Administration (NRA) were intended to create
government-sponsored monopoly schemes for whole industries: they were

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 151
monopoly arrangements designed to suppress competition, cut production,
and fix prices. Moreover, the NRA and AAA were consciously influenced by
“corporativism,” the industrial policy involving official governmental spon-
sorship of industry cartels and labor unions found in fascist Italy.
The internment of Japanese-Americans in the 1940s appears in the
framework, without analysis, and with no mention of the endorsement of that
internment by Earl Warren (at the time, California’s attorney general), first
lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and a host of bien-pensant intellectuals and policy

How about ideological propaganda? The history curriculum framework por-
trays the great religions in a cynical way, analyzing them in the main in terms
of how they help the rulers dominate their subjects and control society.
Why does the framework give credence to baseless ideological claims of
Hindu nationalists that ancient Indo-European was an indigenous language
of India, instead of saying only—as scholars have concluded—that Indo-
European speakers came south into India from the outside?
The history curriculum framework incorrectly tells us that the American
founders and those political thinkers who influenced them believed we should
cede our inalienable
rights to the government
Passages about the economy are all (if so, then our natural
Keynes, no Friedman, no Hayek. rights aren’t inalienable).
Indeed, the history cur-
riculum framework teaches a view of human rights that is based not in the
Declaration of Independence or the Constitution’s Bill of Rights but instead
on socioeconomic welfare rights.
Social Darwinism was a cause of imperialism, the history curriculum says.
To the contrary: the leading social Darwinists Herbert Spencer and William
Graham Sumner opposed imperialism. The framework also inaccurately
describes capitalism as inherently imperialist and colonialist.
Indeed, the framework also teaches that “a purer form of communism”
could also be “a less repressive form of communism.” Why are students
to be taught as fact the Marxist theory of “informal empire,” which says
that free trade without conquest is basically the same as empire based on
conquest? Why do whole sections of the framework read as if they are pam-
phlets written by antiglobalization street protesters carrying giant papier-
mâché heads?

152 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
At times, the framework gives privileged status to globalization critics,
with all their talk of class conflict, exploitation, the power of multinational
corporations, “proliferating slums,” “McDonaldization” of the world, creating
homogenized cultural experiences, promoting “an Americanizing consumer
culture,” and “displacing local cultures with a single homogenizing global
fashion.” This is not just tendentious ideological propaganda but indigestible
jargon as well.
“California’s history and social science curriculum framework is danger-
ously one-sided, biased, and incomplete,” says Lance Izumi, a fellow at the
Pacific Research Institute and past president of the state’s community-
college board. “Crucial facts such as the massive death toll of communism in
the twentieth century are omitted, while a left-leaning narrative is evident
throughout. Under this curriculum framework, California’s students will
be misinformed and underinformed and will not be adequately prepared to
make knowledgeable judgments in our complex world.”
After textbooks are adopted by the State Board of Education, the ideo-
logical lobbyists who have gotten their way usually relax. Any public outcry
about textbooks generally doesn’t surface until months later, when students
bring them home and parents see them. By then the publishers have col-
lected hundreds of millions of dollars from textbook sales and the ideological
lobbyists are secure in the knowledge that they are shaping the minds of the
upcoming generation.
Student achievement in California remains abysmally low (the lowest in
the country for low-income children), but progressive legislators and interest
groups always find time for political interference in the curriculum.

Subscribe to Eureka, the online Hoover Institution journal that probes
the policy, political, and economic issues confronting California (www. © 2017 The Board of Trustees of the
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H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 153


I’m OK, You’re
Not Learning
The California-born self-esteem movement has
morphed into “social-emotional learning.” But it
still sidelines real academic skills.

By Chester E. Finn Jr.

ongtime Democratic lawmaker John Vasconcellos died in 2014,
but the educational disaster he laid on California in the 1980s
lives on. Indeed, its likeness thrives today across a broad swath of
America’s K–12 schooling, supported by foundation grants, federal
funding, and both nonprofit and for-profit advocacy groups. Only its name
has changed—from self-esteem to social-emotional learning.
If only the trend had stayed in the Golden State.
Younger readers may not remember Vasconcellos, the assemblyman and
state senator whom one obituary described as a “titan of the human-poten-
tial movement.” In 1986, Vasconcellos managed to persuade California’s con-
servative Republican governor, George Deukmejian, to support a blue-ribbon
task force to promote self-esteem and personal and social responsibility. The
ensuing hoopla loosed a tsunami of enthusiasm for building self-esteem as a
solution for almost everything that ails an individual, including low achieve-
ment in school.

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.

154 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
The task force’s final report, in 1990, ascribed (as I wrote at the time)
“near-magical powers to self-esteem, characterizing it as ‘something that
empowers us to live responsibly and that inoculates us against the lures of
crime, violence, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, child abuse, chronic wel-
fare dependency, and educational failure.’ ”
Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau and others made fun of the trend
but the self-esteem movement had legs, and not just in California (where,
reportedly, more than 80 percent of local school systems launched programs
to promote it after the report’s release). New York state’s education commis-
sioner and board of regents picked up on the trend and tucked self-esteem
into the mandate and recommendations of their own task force on inclusion.
Endorsements of the task force’s report came from such eminences as Bill
Clinton, then the governor of Arkansas; first lady Barbara Bush; and retired
Army general Colin Powell.

What gave strength to those legs was the assertion that a panel of prominent
scientists at the University of California, having examined all relevant stud-
ies on the relationship between self-esteem and major social concerns, had
validated the task force’s findings and recommendations. A quarter century
later, an investigation
published by the Guard-
ian newspaper claims Dig into social-emotional learning’s five
that none of this was core competencies and you’ll spot just
true. According to one feeble mention of ethics—and none
journalist Will Storr, the
whatsoever of morality.
determined Vasconcel-
los had first browbeaten the university to engage a platoon of scholars by
suggesting the damage he could do to its budget, over which he had control,
and then—even more astonishing—radically reframed a key quote to bolster
the scientific credibility of his cause.
The professors found that the correlation between self-esteem and its
expected consequences—though positive in a few areas, such as academic
achievement—was fundamentally “mixed” or “absent.” To hide this truth
under the rug, one task force member told Storr, a more positive report was
published first. The task force member termed it a lie.
Today, few people talk explicitly about self-esteem or other kooky cur-
ricular enthusiasms of the past, but the worldview and faux psychology that
impelled them have never gone away. Lately they’ve reappeared—and gained

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 155
remarkable traction—under the banner of social-emotional learning, which
claims to build the ways by which children learn and apply skills necessary
to understand and manage their emotions, make decisions effectively, sustain
positive relationships, and practice empathy.
The notion has attracted much buzz, thanks in part to its very own advo-
cacy organization—the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional
Learning, or CASEL—which is backed by many high-status funders across
the country. The National
Education Association
An initial benchmark study found climbed aboard as well.
that the correlation between self- Social-emotional learning
also enjoys a high-profile
esteem and its expected consequenc-
national commission
es was “mixed” or “absent.”
under the aegis of the
Aspen Institute.
Adding fuel to the social-emotional-learning bonfire is its recent associa-
tion with hot-button issues, such as reforming school discipline into restor-
ative justice. Another major push comes from the federal Every Student
Succeeds Act’s encouragement of states to include school quality in their
rating systems, with school climate as a key metric in many jurisdictions.
Another current education enthusiasm, known as twenty-first-century skills,
also contributes to social-emotional learning’s popularity.

There’s nothing exactly wrong with many of these ideas, some of which par-
take of legitimate performance-character traits such as impulse control and
self-discipline. But social-emotional learning also smacks of the self-esteem
mindset, with entries such as “self-confidence” and “self-efficacy.” Dig into
social-emotional learning’s five core competencies, as laid out by CASEL, and
you’ll spot—among twenty-five skills students are supposed to learn—just
one feeble mention of ethics and none whatsoever of morality. You won’t even
find such old-fashioned virtues as integrity, courage, or honesty, and certainly
nothing as edgy as patriotism.
Though its partisans will contest the point, social-emotional learning does
not seem intended to build character in any traditional sense, nor is it aimed
at citizenship. It’s awash in the self, steeped in the ability to understand one’s
own emotions, thoughts, values, strengths, and limitations.
All good things, up to a point, but note how far they are from the tradition-
al obligation of schools to impart academic skills and knowledge. Think how

156 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
many other vehicles American society has for advancing social-emotional
concepts—the Girl Scouts, religious youth groups, Little League, swim
team—while we have essentially no others that will teach children to read,
write, or compute.
Like Vasconcellos’s self-esteem edifice, social-emotional learning will
almost surely turn out to have no real scientific foundation—just a lot of
much-hyped “qualitative” and “anecdotal” studies that nobody could rep-
licate via gold-standard research. Indeed, those who are still sentient a
quarter-century later may well read an exposé of social-emotional learning
by a journalist, perhaps containing another telling quote that one isn’t sup-
posed to utter in front of one’s students.

Reprinted from Education Week ( © 2017 Edito-
rial Projects in Education. 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.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 157


A Sick Hunger for
Why can’t leftists let go of the whole idea of all-
powerful, permanent white bigotry? Because it
empowers them.

By Shelby Steele

s America racist? It used to be that racism meant the actual enforce-
ment of bigotry—the routine implementation of racial inequality
everywhere in public and private life. Racism was a tyranny and an
oppression that dehumanized—animalized—the “other.” It was a
social malignancy yet it carried the authority of natural law, as if God himself
had dispassionately ordained it.
Today Americans know that active racism is no longer the greatest barrier
to black and minority advancement. Since the 1960s other pathologies, even if
originally generated by racism, have supplanted it. White racism did not shoot
more than four thousand people last year in Chicago. To the contrary, America
for decades now—with much genuine remorse—has been recoiling from the
practice of racism and has gained a firm intolerance for what it once indulged.
But Americans don’t really trust the truth of this. It sounds too self-exon-
erating. Talk of “structural” and “systemic” racism conditions people to think
of it as inexorable, predestined. So even if bigotry and discrimination have

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.

158 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
lost much of their menace, Americans nevertheless yearn to know whether
or not we are a racist people.
A staple on cable news these days is the “racial incident,” which stands as a
referendum on this question. One day there is Charlottesville. In previous days
there were the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and
others. Don’t they reveal an irrepressible racism in American life? At the news
conferences surrounding these events there are always the Al Sharpton clones,
if not the man himself, ready to spin the tale of black tragedy and white bigotry.
Such people—and the American left generally—have a hunger for racism
that is almost craven. The writer Walker Percy once wrote of the “sweetness
at the horrid core of bad news.” It’s hard to witness the media’s oddly exhila-
rated reaction to, say, the death of Trayvon Martin without applying Percy’s
insight. A black boy is dead. But not all is lost. It looks like racism.
What makes racism so sweet? Today it empowers. Racism was once just
racism, a terrible bigotry that people nevertheless learned to live with, if not
as a necessary evil then as an inevitable one. But the civil rights movement,
along with independence movements around the world, changed that. The
’60s recast racism in the national consciousness as an incontrovertible sin,
the very worst of all social evils.
Suddenly America was in moral trouble. The open acknowledgment of the
nation’s racist past had destroyed its moral authority, and affirming demo-
cratic principles and the rule of law was not a sufficient response. Only a
strict moral accounting could restore legitimacy.
Thus, redemption—paying off the nation’s sins—became the moral impera-
tive of a new political and cultural liberalism. President Lyndon Johnson
turned redemption into a kind of activism: the Great Society, the War on Pov-
erty, school busing, liberalized welfare policies, affirmative action, and so on.
This liberalism always projects moral idealisms (integration, social justice,
diversity, inclusion, etc.) that have the ring of redemption. What is politi-
cal correctness, if not essentially redemptive speech? Soon liberalism had
become a cultural identity that offered Americans a way to think of them-
selves as decent people. To be liberal was to be good.
Here we see redemptive liberalism’s great ingenuity: it seized propri-
etorship over innocence itself. It took on the power to grant or deny moral
legitimacy across society. Liberals were free of the past while conservatives
longed to resurrect it, bigotry and all. What else could “Make America Great
Again” mean? In this way redemptive liberalism reshaped the moral culture
of the entire Western world with sweeping idealisms like “diversity,” which
are as common today in Europe as in America.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 159
So today there is sweetness at the news of racism because it sets off the
hunt for innocence and power. Racism and bigotry generally are the great
driving engines of modern American liberalism. Even a remote hint of racism
can trigger a kind of moral entrepreneurism.
The “safe spaces” for minority students on university campuses are actu-
ally redemptive spaces for white students and administrators looking for
innocence and empower-
ment. As minorities in
What is political correctness, if not these spaces languish in
essentially redemptive speech? precious self-absorption,
their white classmates,
high on the idea of their own wonderful “tolerance,” whistle past the very
segregated areas they are barred from.
America’s moral fall in the ’60s made innocence of the past an obsession.
Thus liberalism invited people to internalize innocence, to become synony-
mous with it—even to fight for it as they would for an ideology. But to be
innocent there must be an evil from which to be free. The liberal identity
must have racism, lest it lose innocence and the power it conveys.
The great problem for conservatives is that they lack the moral glibness
to compete with liberalism’s “innocence.” But today there are signs of what I
have called race fatigue. People are becoming openly cynical toward the left’s
moral muscling with racism. Add to this liberalism’s monumental failure to
come even close to realizing any of its beautiful idealisms, and the makings
of a new conservative mandate become clearer. As idealism was the left’s
political edge, shouldn’t realism now be the right’s? Reality as the informing
vision—and no more wrestling with innocence.

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

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Andrei
Sakharov: The Conscience of Humanity, edited by
Sidney D. Drell and George P. Shultz. To order, call
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160 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


Dilbert and the
Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams on managing luck,
parsing Trump, and otherwise cutting pointy-
headed experts down to size.

By Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson, Uncommon Knowledge: The Dilbert Principle: leadership
is nature’s way of removing morons from the productive flow. With us today,
the man behind the Dilbert Principle, for that matter, the man behind Dilbert
itself: cartoonist, author, and it turns out, political philosopher, Scott Adams.
Raised in a small town in upstate New York, Adams graduated from
Hartwick College in 1979. He worked for a number of years for the Crocker
National Bank in San Francisco, earned an MBA at the University of Califor-
nia, Berkeley, and then went to work for another number of years at Pacific
Bell, a period during which he began getting up early each morning to draw
cartoon strips. By the mid-1990s, Adams had at last become a full-time car-
toonist, and the name of that cartoon strip is Dilbert. Today Dilbert appears
in thousands of newspapers in more than fifty countries and in more than a
dozen languages. Adams is the author of the best-selling book The Dilbert Prin-
ciple, of many collections of his cartoons, and recently of How to Fail at Almost
Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. Recently, Adams has

Cartoonist Scott Adams’s latest book is Win Bigly (Portfolio, 2017). Peter Rob-
inson is the editor of the Hoover Digest, the host of Uncommon Knowledge,
and the Murdoch Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 161
also attracted attention for his blog, where he has been offering advice to
his fellow Americans on how to think about President Trump, and advice to
President Trump on how to think about America. Scott Adams, welcome.

Scott Adams: Thank you for having me.

Robinson: Let’s get this out of the way right away, you and Donald Trump.
President Trump’s approval ratings are the lowest on record, and among
academics and journalists and for sure professional people here in Northern
California, he is almost universally derided. Here’s you on your blog: “Trump
doesn’t have one talent that is best-in-the-world, but he does have one of the
best talent stacks I have ever seen.” OK, so what’s a talent stack? Then tell us
about Donald Trump.

Adams: Well, first of all, let me clarify that when I talk about Trump, I’m
talking about him through a persuasion filter. I’ve studied persuasion in all of
its forms as part of what I do as a writer and cartoonist. I noticed in can-
didate Trump a type of persuasive skill that you just don’t see. He brought
the full package of persuasion. If you’re not a student of it, you would miss it
entirely. In other words, if you didn’t know anything about the techniques he
was using, you would say, “Who’s this crazy random chaotic clown who keeps
doing things? Hey, he won again. He won the primary. Well, that was luck. But
he’ll never win the . . . uh
oh, what just happened?”
I predicted all of this, I
think, a year and a half
before Election Day. I pre-
dicted that he would win
by a lot. Now, you could
argue whether the Elec-
toral College victory was a lot and you could argue about the popular vote.
The fact is, he played a game that had a set of rules, and he won by a lot on the
game he was playing, which was the Electoral College. When I talk about his
talent stack, that’s a bit of thinking from my book that you just mentioned.

Robinson: Let’s sell a few copies. It’s a wonderful book.

Adams: Thank you. There are two basic ways to really make a difference in
this world and succeed. Here, success is not just financial, but success in life.
One way is to be insanely good at one thing, let’s say Tiger Woods. But you have
to be one of the best in the world, depending on the thing you’re doing, to really

162 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
make a dent. The other way you can do it is the way that I’ve done it, which is,
I’ve compiled a set of complementary skills, and I’m not really the best in the
world at anything. If you were to go into any crowded room, you could find a
better artist than me. It would be easy, because I just don’t have much artistic
skill. I’ve never taken a writing course, but I know how to make short pithy
sentences, so I’m good at
that. I have a lot of busi-
ness experience, because “I noticed in candidate Trump a type
for sixteen years I worked of persuasive skill that you just don’t
in the corporate world, so see. He brought the full package of
I had something to draw persuasion.”
upon, which is the fodder
for the strip. Those things all just work together really well, but I’m not great
at any of them. I’m not Warren Buffett in my business skills, but I have enough
to do this thing. They just work together well.

Robinson: That’s a lovely image: you stack talent upon talent upon talent,
and you end up with something that’s pretty impressive.

Adams: Right. Then the trick is that they have to be complementary skills.
Now, back to Donald Trump. If you look at the things he can do better than
most people, he can definitely give a speech better than most people. But the
experts will say . . .

Robinson: He’s no John Kennedy. He’s no Ronald Reagan.

Adams: Yeah, “He’s no John Kennedy. Where’s his soaring rhetoric?” and all
that. Well, he doesn’t have that, but the crowd loves him. He’s funny, right?
It’s hard to be funny, and being funny really helps your popularity and helps
your persuasion. Again, he’s not standup-comedian funny, but if you put him
in a room, he would be in the top 20 percent.
He’s smart. He’s not the physicist who’s going to solve the next great prob-
lem in physics, but he’s clearly smarter than most people. He knows enough
about government and how it works from the other side, because he dealt
with it a lot. He’s no expert in government, but he knew more than somebody
who wasn’t involved in any way.
He knew about being a boss. He knew about leadership. He knew about
entering a field that he’d never entered before, because he’d done it a number
of times. Which, by the way, is usually a tell for what I call a master persuad-
er: someone who knows persuasion and also has built a talent stack that can
take them in a lot of different directions.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 163
Robinson: He goes from Queens to Manhattan. He goes from building to
casinos. He goes from casinos to branding various items, and then he goes
to becoming a television personality. Those are really quite distinct career

Adams: Then president of the United States, and before that, candidate, a
whole different job.

Robinson: This guy’s done a lot.

Adams: Not only did he do those things, but he almost entered at the top. He
was so strong going in, that he had the whole package. Now, the other thing he
has, which is a big deal, is that he brought the whole Donald Trump persona.
That allowed him, for example, to be largely immune from scandals that would
pop up, because you knew that at some point during the election, somebody
would say, “What about that thing you did with this or that woman?” And sure
enough, the tapes that we all heard showed that. He was somewhat immune
from that, because he’d said from the beginning, “I’m no angel.”

Robinson: And his divorce from Ivana was on the front page of the New York
Post day after day for weeks in the ’90s. Nobody thought of him as a choirboy.

Adams: He was smart enough never to make a big deal about being a family
role model. He never sold himself that way, so he was never vulnerable to
those attacks in the way that regular people would be. The other thing he
has, and I think this comes with learning persuasion, is that he has the thick-
est skin. You know, he’s accused of being exactly the opposite, because he
always attacks back, but imagine the amount of abuse that he clearly knew
was going to come his way just by running. And then by winning, it gets that
much worse. He signed up for that. You don’t do that unless you’ve got a thick
skin. Look at the stuff he’s brushed off so far. It’s really impressive.

Robinson: Now, there you are during the presidential campaign, and you
start blogging. I have to say, it gets my attention. Why would a guy who’s a
cartoonist have such fresh insight? OK, so I’m looking at it. You’re putting a
distance—often quite a wry distance—between yourself and Donald Trump.
You said his policies weren’t necessarily your policies. You were quite cagey
about it all the time.

Adams: Let me interrupt you there.

Robinson: Go ahead, because I want to know where you stand, and you may
not let me ask that. But go ahead.

164 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
THE GREAT GAME: “I predicted all of this, I think, a year and a half before
Election Day,” Scott Adams says of Donald Trump’s victory. “I predicted
that he would win by a lot.” Adams focuses on what he calls Trump’s “tal-
ent stack,” a set of complementary skills greater than the sum of their parts.
[Uncommon Knowledge—Hoover Institution]

Adams: No, I’m going to volunteer that. Socially, I call myself an ultra-liberal,
meaning that I’m more liberal than liberals. You couldn’t get further from the
Republican stand than I am.

Robinson: I found this quotation from your blog, because I thought to myself,
“I’ve got him.” Let’s see if I have got you. “Trump’s value proposition is that
he will ‘Make America Great.’ That concept sounds appealing to me. The
nation needs good brand management.” Whatever else is going on, issue by
issue, you look at this guy and say, “You know, he’s my guy.”

Adams: Well, I’m not saying I’d say, “my guy.” I say that he has a set of skills
that are extraordinary, and the thing I was most interested in was that
the country could see it clearly without the filter put on it by the opposi-
tion because they’re both painting each other terribly. In Hillary Clinton’s

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 165
situation, people know what a standard politician is. They could see through
the attacks on the other side. We knew what we were getting, but with
Trump, people didn’t know what they were getting. At least half the country
thought he was crazy Hitler. I had actually predicted, I guess before he was
inaugurated, that you would see the following story arc develop, because it
just was obvious if you’re trained in persuasion that it was going to go this
way. It would start with, “Oh my God, we’ve accidentally elected Hitler, how
did this happen? How did half the country not know that we’ve elected a
monster?” I figured after a few months of not doing Hitler stuff, it’s just going
to dissipate, and it has. By summer, I said the Hitler thing will dissipate, and
it did, but it would be replaced with “But he’s incompetent.” Sure enough,
that was the big word of the summer. I didn’t see the Russia thing coming,
because that’s hard to predict, but I predicted that after the “incompetent”
phase would come: “Well, he did get a lot done, but we don’t all like that. He
was awfully effective and he did do the things he said he was going to do, but
we don’t like those things.” You’re going to see that by year end, and in fact
you’re already seeing the turn.


Robinson: Let me ask you to give some advice to people who could use it.
Here’s a category: Republicans and conservatives who are having trouble
with President Trump. Here’s Bill Kristol: “The problem isn’t Trump’s Twit-
ter. The problem is Trump’s character.” Here’s George Will: Trump suffers
from “intellectual sloth and an untrained mind bereft of information and
married to stratospheric self-confidence.” These are people who are on his
side to the extent that he lines up ideologically, who just are beside them-
selves. What’s your advice?

Adams: Well, keep in mind that this is an arena in which people take sides,
and once they join their team there isn’t much that can get them off the team.
You can get them to talk less, I suppose, and success would do that. There’s
no substitute for winning. If President Trump does well, if things go well,
the economy does well, ISIS stays beaten back as they are, if we find some
reasonable solution with North Korea, which would be hard, people are going
to forget all that. They’re just going to reinterpret their impression of what
they saw in the past.

Robinson: Democrats are not only uniform in denouncing President Trump
but seem completely fixated on removing him from office, and it seems to me

166 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
that there’s not much policy work being done. There’s just nothing happen-
ing in the Democratic Party except denunciations of President Trump. Your
advice for Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters?

Adams: It seems to be true that whichever party is out of power is the ridic-
ulous one, but there’s a perfectly logical reason for that. When Obama was
in power, it seemed like the right was ridiculous. It’s like, “What about your
birth certificate? Are you a secret Muslim?” It looked crazy. The people out
of power, the last thing they want to do is put forward a positive proposal,
because first of all it’s not going to happen because they’re not in power. The
other side isn’t going to
say, “Yeah, that’s a good
idea. We’re just going to “You’re missing the other way you
use your plan.” It would win the presidency. You don’t have
be a waste of time, but to outrun the bear, you have to only
also it gives targets to outrun your camping buddy.”
the other side. If they
want to criticize what’s happening with the administration they don’t want
to have their own target sitting there. I think the state of politics is that the
party out of power is going to look crazy, and confirmation bias and cogni-
tive dissonance and all that stuff is going to be swirling around whichever
side is out of power.

Robinson: OK. The press. Here’s journalist Carl Bernstein of Watergate
fame: “We are in the midst of a malignant presidency. It calls on our journal-
ists to do a different kind of reporting.” You get a lot of that. In the main-
stream media this guy is so bad. This is such uncharted territory for Ameri-
cans that we have to be advocacy journalism. We have to let Americans know
what a catastrophe it is. Your advice to the press?

Adams: Keep in mind that the advocates are just advocates, and therefore
there’s nothing that they say that can be taken with any form of credibility. In
other words, they don’t even necessarily believe what they’re saying. Some of
them probably do. I think as soon as you say, “I’m on this team and I’m going
to fight to the death,” there’s no sense of credibility with any of those folks.


Robinson: Now, your advice for Donald J. Trump himself. He’s got an impres-
sive talent stack. You’ve convinced me of that, but he’s also stuck at 40 per-
cent or so in the polls. Would you keep him from tweeting if you could?

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 167
Adams: No way. Tweeting won him the presidency. It connects him to the
people. It makes the people who love him, love him more. He’s entertaining. He
has made all of us learn more about politics, the law, and how the world works.
We have learned so much, and a lot of it is his direct contact with the people
unfiltered, the warts and all. I would take you back a couple years during the
campaign when people said, “The one thing we know for sure about Trump
is that with his low
popularity, he can never
“If President Trump does well, if things
win the presidency.” I
go well, the economy does well, ISIS said, “No, you’re missing
stays beaten back as they are, if we the other way you win
find some reasonable solution with the presidency. You don’t
North Korea, which would be hard, have to outrun the bear,
people are going to forget all that.” you have to only outrun
your camping buddy. If
he can make Hillary Clinton look worse than he looks, it doesn’t matter how
low his number is. He can be a ten if she’s a five.” What happened? He made
her look worse, because he is the best brander, best influencer, best persuader
I’ve ever seen. “Lyin’ Ted,” “Low Energy Jeb,” “Crooked Hillary”—these are
not random insults.

Robinson: “Low Energy Jeb” ended Jeb Bush’s campaign.

Adams: Which I predicted the day I heard it. I said that publicly it’s the end
of him when nobody was saying that. The reason is that Trump’s linguistic
kill shots, as I call them, are not random. He first of all picks something
that fits their physicality. In other words, there’s a visual element to it. The
visual is the most persuasive of all. It’s the one sense that just overrides all
the other stuff. Before I heard that, my impression of Jeb Bush was: “This is
a cool, calm executive. This guy is going to be the perfect guy if there’s war.
He’s not going to get too out of control.” The moment I heard “low energy,” I
couldn’t see him any other way. Then every time I saw him, the contrast with
Trump’s high energy just made it all the more damning. By the way, contrast
is an enormous thing in persuasion. It’s not enough to say, “I’m high energy.”
You’ve got to say, “and I’m competing against Low Energy Jeb.” That’s just
deadly. Bush was done on that day.

Robinson: President Trump in Warsaw in July: “The fundamental question
of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confi-
dence in our values to defend them? Do we have the desire and the courage to
preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy

168 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
it?” You and I grew up a couple of counties apart in upstate New York. We’re
within a couple of months of the same age. What I know about that is it
means you can remember the ’80s. You can remember the Reagan years. The
economy revived. The country recovered its morale. People of our age can
actually remember what that felt like. The West won the Cold War. Will the
Trump years represent something like that, some kind of national renewal?

Adams: As I predicted that he would win when nobody thought he would, I
also predict that he has at least a very high potential to do things in his term
the likes of which we haven’t seen. For example, I don’t think anybody else
could solve North Korea. I think he can. Now, I’m going to stop short of say-
ing he can do it, because it’s so monstrously difficult, but I think he has the
skill set. You saw the way he was dealing with China, because China has to
be a part of this. He said, “Hey, China is great. This is your problem in your
own backyard. See if you can take care of it. Well, you tried.” Look at the level
of persuasion that is. People thought, “Oh, that’s just a cute tweet. He’s just
being folksy and stuff.” But the way he paints this picture, it makes China
kind of need to step up to the plate. What he said is that you’re sort of not the
superpower you want to be. He basically has challenged them to be the coun-
try that they want to be. That’s the key. That’s how persuasion works. Don’t
tell somebody to be the way you want them to be. Say, “Look, if you want to
be the way you want to be, here’s how to get there.”

Robinson: You have a new book?

Adams: Yes, Win Bigly.

Robinson: We’ll do a show on Win Bigly?

Adams: I’d love to.

Robinson: Excellent. Thank you.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 169


“I’m Not Running
for Office”
Hoover fellow Harvey C. Mansfield, when not
studying American political parties, relishes his
role at Harvard: the politically incorrect Party of

By Chris Sweeney

uch has changed since Harvey Mansfield arrived at
Harvard in 1949. The university went coed and campus
politics have drifted left. Yet Mansfield, the famously
outspoken conservative professor who is hard at work on
a book about political parties, remains unchanged—blasting the university
for grade inflation and dismissing “so-called rape culture.” He’s taught a
generation of political pundits, from Andrew Sullivan to Bill Kristol, but
on today’s campus, is Mansfield’s conservatism an antiquated relic, or an
invaluable source of ideological diversity? “I’m not running for office,”
Mansfield says. “I can afford to take a dispassionate view that doesn’t bow
to fashionable opinion.”

Chris Sweeney, Boston: Let’s put politics aside for the moment. You arrived
at Harvard in 1949 as a student. How has the school changed since then?

Harvey C. Mansfield is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the William
R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard University. Chris Sweeney is a
senior editor at Boston magazine.

170 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
Harvey Mansfield: Perhaps altogether there’s more continuity than change.
It was number one then. It is still, by less of a margin, number one today. It
still gets the best undergraduate students in America. It’s grown in size but
not substantially, or not yet. But then, of course, there have been some big
changes. Coeducation is perhaps the greatest.

Sweeney: How so?

Mansfield: Coeducation, living with and eating with women, has a calming
effect or a taming effect on the male. Today’s Harvard men are premature
husbands. Men, especially young men, are afraid of making fools of them-
selves in front of women. So the presence of a woman diminishes their
spiritedness. Still, on the other hand, there are great advantages to having
women around. Association with them is less formal, less reserved, less arti-
ficial than it was in my time. In my time, you had to import a woman [laughs].
Either you went to Radcliffe, which was for weekdays, or you imported some-
body from Wellesley, or even farther—perhaps you even put a woman up at a
hotel to be your date for that weekend.

Sweeney: What is a premature husband?

Mansfield: A premature husband is someone who is always looking at a
woman to make sure he is not going to incur grave criticism. It is a guy who
has his eye on feminine criticism and worries about that. Some people feel it
more than others, of course.

Sweeney: Did you identify as a conservative when you were on campus as an

Mansfield: I was a liberal through college. My father was a New Deal Demo-
crat who went to Washington during World War II—he was also a political
scientist. So both my father and mother were New Dealers. But they watched
me turn conservative in the ’50s, mostly over the communist issue. I thought
liberals were soft on communism and that was my main objection to them.

Sweeney: Looking back, do you still think liberals were too soft on

Mansfield: I am afraid I do.

Sweeney: Were you vocal on campus about your politics?

Mansfield: No, I wasn’t vocal about it. Only in the dining halls and in fun
arguments. It was not testy or heated or nasty. But that all changed in

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 171
the late 1960s. Going back to what has changed at Harvard—that’s what

Sweeney: What specifically changed?

Mansfield: It was the arrival of the New Left—a position close to Marxism
with a mixture of Nietzsche. The guru of it was Herbert Marcuse, a man
whose writings combined Marx and Freud. There was economics to it, but
even more than economics there was a psychology of liberation. So the late
’60s was, above all, I think, a movement of liberation, especially sexual libera-
tion, but also liberation from duties in general. From thinking of yourself
as a citizen, to say nothing of a patriot. And it was directed mainly against

Sweeney: How so?

Mansfield: At that time, conservatism was not a great intellectual force
and not a great presence on the campuses. But people who were in charge
were what today would be called Cold War liberals. It was directed against
Lyndon Johnson, it was not directed against Nixon or Eisenhower. And it was
directed not incidentally against the university. Universities were complicit
in this—they were just as bad as the policy makers because they influenced
and justified the policy makers. And all of this was directed at something
called “the establishment.” It was in the late ’60s that the phrase was first
formulated and used, and that phrase has come again to haunt us today.

Sweeney: Do you see parallels between the campuses of the ’60s and the
campuses of today?

Mansfield: There is a parallel. It is much less vigorous or violent than it
was in the ’60s—violence both of deed and speech. Today we’re seeing a
kind of resurrection of thoughts and actions of the late ’60s without the
depth of passion and anger. When I tell students today about the late ’60s
they can hardly believe what was done. And the ’60s had a lasting impres-
sion. Though Marxism disappeared and devotion to Nietzsche and violence
for its own sake can no longer be found, sexual liberation is still with us and
so is the greater authority of youth and students. Grade inflation is a great
sign of this.

Sweeney: It is?

Mansfield: Harvard students expect to get the same grades they got in high
school. You have to get all A’s in high school to get into Harvard. In my time,

172 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
COUNTERPOINT: Hoover senior fellow Harvey C. Mansfield, longtime Har-
vard professor, speaks three years ago at Middlebury, Vermont. On today’s
college campuses “we’re seeing a kind of resurrection of thoughts and actions
of the late ’60s without the depth of passion and anger,” he says. [Middlebury]

what happened was in your freshman year at Harvard you started getting C’s
and B-minuses in a way you had never seen before, and it was because you
were in competition with people who were also getting all A’s in high school.
Today, getting a B is like a stab to the gut. There are essentially three grades at
Harvard: B-plus, A-minus, and A. And the most frequently given grade at Har-
vard is a straight A. And the median grade is A-minus and that’s because you
can’t go higher than A. By no means is it just Harvard doing this. It is typical.
But Harvard is the top of typical. For a while we were giving 91 percent honors
at graduation. It wasn’t an honor to get honors; it was just a dishonor not to.

Sweeney: But do you think grade inflation is actually leading to a lower cali-
ber of student?

Mansfield: It’s leading to lower academic standards—affirmative action is
part of this, too. Harvard says that its black students could get in regardless

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 173
of color and race. That may be true. Harvard has a considerable fraction of
black students in America who get over 700 or 800 on SATs. So we have
been quite successful in that regard, but all that does is leave fewer for the
other schools. But I think—and this is something I get attacked for—the com-
ing of black students in great numbers was a factor in the arrival of grade
inflation. It happened around the same time, the early ’70s. When black
students arrived, they benefited from great goodwill, which is the passion
behind affirmative action. Everyone is pulling for them. So a professor wasn’t
going to give a black stu-
dent a C, so if he wasn’t
“The late ’60s was, above all, I think,
going to give a black stu-
a movement of liberation, especially dent a C, he couldn’t give
sexual liberation, but also liberation them to white students
from duties in general. From thinking either. So that’s how I
of yourself as a citizen, to say nothing think the C’s disappeared.
of a patriot.” Another factor, of course,
was in those days you
could be drafted if you were in the lower half of your class.

Sweeney: What should a parent know today before sending their kid to Harvard?

Mansfield: They need to know that the curriculum is a mess. If you look at a
typical Harvard transcript, you see courses all over the place. Often on small
subjects or policy questions, instead of meat and potatoes: history, econom-
ics, philosophy. In my day, there were a few “gut” courses, which meant easy
courses for athletes and prep school kids. People who were not, how should
I say, academically ambitious. But now there are a whole lot of such courses
and it’s easy to waste your money on something that isn’t worth it.
So the curriculum is a mess and the sexual scene is a mess. The sexual scene
is one in which “sexual adventure,” if I can put it that way, is expected, even
though it doesn’t always materialize. And when it does materialize, it can often
be misadventure. I think the so-called rape culture that people talk about now
is a consequence of sexual liberation. Plus, it is the inevitable effect of sexual
misadventure. Loveless sex is not as great as it’s cracked up to be. Especially not
for women, as it seems in women’s sexuality that they find it much more difficult
to walk away from an encounter than a man does without being upset.

Sweeney: What do you mean by that?

Mansfield: The meaning of rape is much expanded in accordance with the
feminist author Catharine MacKinnon. Any kind of male advance or initiative

174 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
is regarded as violating or a violation. The whole idea of safe space, was, I
think, invented by her. I think it’s just an inherent contradiction of feminism.
It wants to be for sexual liberation, because sexual liberation means equal-
ity with the male sex, at long last. But that equality, it turns out, doesn’t
work or they’re not so pleased with it. Sexual liberation is really much for
the advantage of males. And women think that they’ve been liberated when
they’re actually playing a man’s game and losing. So that is what I think rape
culture amounts to. There’s a lot of pushy men. It’s harder and harder to say
no because if you say no, you’re a prude. There’s no backing from the faculty,
from the mores, from the churches, from reality, to a woman’s ability to say
no. It much more depends on her courage and her good sense than used to be
the case.

Sweeney: Do you ever use trigger warnings in the classroom?

Mansfield: I’ve never used them. I mean, if I’m going to use a four-letter
word, I usually apologize before doing it. Or a dirty joke, which I occasionally
tell, but only when there’s a good political point to be found in it. But that one
should use a trigger warning as a way of respecting students’ unwillingness to
take up certain questions—that I think is very bad. They want a warning that
if you come into this course, the doctrine of sexual liberation may be ques-
tioned. You may hear
something you disagree
with. That kind of trigger “Often on the first day of the course,
warning I totally oppose. you can give students a warning,
But if it’s something
which is meant to be actually an
that is against common
attraction. I warn you that some of
morality, then yes. Often
on the first day of the your most cherished beliefs will be
course, you can give stu- questioned! That’s meant to make it
dents a warning, which is sound good.”
meant to be actually an
attraction. I warn you that some of your most cherished beliefs will be ques-
tioned! That’s meant to make it sound good.

Sweeney: You once said that on the campus, “Balance is what conservatives
give and diversity is what liberals supply.” What do you mean by that?

Mansfield: I once had an offer from the University of Chicago. My Harvard
chair came to me and said, “Harvey, you mustn’t go. You are our balance.” So
a conservative supplies balance, while a liberal supplies diversity. When they

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 175
say “diversity appointment” or “we need more diversity,” that always means
more liberals of different colors or wearing skirts.

Sweeney: Do you take offense at being identified as the balance?

Mansfield: No. If I took offense to things like that, I wouldn’t have any
friends. I’m not embattled. Everybody at Harvard is good to me. The reason
everybody is good to me is they think that my existence proves that every-
thing I say is wrong.

Sweeney: Is the tenure system flawed?

Mansfield: It is flawed, but it is also an asset. I’m not opposed to it the way
some conservatives are, and that’s because I’ve lived with it. I use my tenure
by saying unpopular things. Most professors will say unpopular things
against other scholars in the classroom. But on public issues, they tend to
be retired and reserved. And that’s what one would expect of a scholar; not
a passionate person, but a person who’s careful, makes judgments slowly, is
able to revise them, and doesn’t get out on the street and shout. All of that is
what changed in the late ’60s. That’s part of what is meant by the politiciza-
tion of the university. Professors are much more openly political, but they
are openly political when there are not great risks for them. It doesn’t take
courage to denounce President Trump at Harvard [laughs].

Sweeney: You were recently on sabbatical, working on a book about political
parties. What’s the focus?

Mansfield: It’s about our two parties, and I’m interested in the tempera-
ments and the attitudes that make up these parties. This is quite different
from political science;
most political science
“The sexual scene is one in which looks at what is behind
‘sexual adventure,’ if I can put it that the ideas, and what inter-
way, is expected, even though it ests you have that cause
doesn’t always materialize. And when you to vote the way that
you do. So they’re inter-
it does materialize, it can often be
ested in making these
causal judgments through
surveys, which are supposed to be careful, nonpartisan, and scientific. But
they don’t really tell you that the two parties, for example, argue with each
other. It isn’t just that they are in conflict—they argue. Everything that each
party says is directed against something that the other party says. When we

176 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
were listening to President Obama’s last State of the Union address, every
paragraph was against the Republicans or the Bush administration that
preceded his. And it’s the same thing with the Republicans now. It’s constant
reference to the enemy.

Sweeney: Would you say that Trump sort of mastered tapping into voters’

Mansfield: He appealed to people whom he identified, I think correctly, as
forgotten or overlooked. People who were standing in line, waiting for good
things to happen, waiting to share in the American dream, and they kept
watching one group after another step ahead of them.

Sweeney: What does Trump’s rise mean for conservatism?

Mansfield: Trump’s election was, I think, among other things, a rebellion
of the lower half of the IQ against the higher half. The uneducated against
the educated. It makes
things very difficult
“Everybody at Harvard is good to me.
for conservative policy
makers and for conser- The reason everybody is good to me
vatives. Conservatives is they think that my existence proves
take pride in being the that everything I say is wrong.”
party of ideas. They’ve
exchanged places with liberals, who are now pretty much the party of the
status quo. And it’s Republicans and conservatives who want reform and
change. And here comes [Trump], this guy who cares nothing about prin-
ciples, and his policies seem to be improvised and impulsive. And he hijacks
the Republican Party. So it’s a terrible defeat for them.

Sweeney: Did you expect Trump to win?

Mansfield: No. I didn’t see him coming. I kept thinking he would lose. I was
always wrong, as my wife likes to remind me.

Sweeney: What do you make of Trump calling everything he doesn’t like
“fake news” and taking to Twitter constantly?

Mansfield: He wants a direct connection to the people, so he has big rallies
and tweets, and makes sensational remarks and does things that attract
attention. And that impresses people, so they think that because he’s say-
ing bold things nobody else says that he’s telling it how it is. His attack on
the press is part of his disdain for the Constitution and established forms of

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 177
American democracy. And the question of his presidency is what will win: his
impulsiveness or the steadiness and principles of the establishment?

Sweeney: Let’s talk about Harvard presidents. You’ve seen quite a few come
and go. How do you assess President Drew Gilpin Faust’s time at the helm?

Mansfield: She has been less of a feminist than I feared she would be, so she
is above what I expected. As presidents go, she has been successful—good
at fundraising and she made all of the university pleased with her. But she
hasn’t done anything to reform Harvard, to make it offer a more demanding
education, and she has participated in this slow decline from “Veritas” to
change. Our motto is “Truth,” but we now interpret that as adjusting to the
changes of society. That is an essentially passive goal, which is conformist.

Sweeney: At eighty-five years old, do you ever wonder if you’ve spent too
much time at Harvard? Do you ever wonder what it would have been like if
you had gone to Chicago or pursued something else?

Mansfield: I really only had that one opportunity with Chicago [laughs]. I
would have perhaps thought of running for office but I don’t think I’d be very
good at that. I would have liked to spend a year or two in Washington just to
get wrapped up in the game of politics. But nobody in Washington wants a
political philosopher. You have to have some type of specialty—policy exper-
tise. So no, I never regret not leaving Harvard. It’s good here. The students
are great, the faculty is OK, and the administration is about average.

Sweeney: How will you know when it’s time to walk away?

Mansfield: I’ll call it quits when I have too many senior moments, or when I
see I’m not interesting or attractive to students. And I try to be careful and
watch for that. It’s easy to make excuses for yourself.

Reprinted by permission of Boston magazine. © 2017 Metro Corp. 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

178 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8


Statues of
How do the countries of the former Iron Curtain
deal with their inconvenient monuments?
Sometimes by painting a tank pink, or swapping a
Stalin for a Steve Jobs.

By Markos Kounalakis

udapest’s Freedom Square hosts a prominent and controversial
Soviet war memorial. Hungarians regularly argue for its remov-
al, but it remains unmoved and guarded. It is an exception.
The bulk of Soviet-era statues in Budapest and in countries
formerly behind the Iron Curtain have been removed, relocated, and rein-
terpreted. The idea is not to erase history but to contextualize it. As recent
events rekindle the debates surrounding Confederate statues and monu-
ments, America should look to other countries’ tortured histories and con-
troversial memorials to get a grip on how to handle its own.
In Hungary, Freedom Square’s remaining Soviet monument is a fenced-off,
sometimes-vandalized reminder of a World War II liberating army. Notably
located, the Soviet obelisk stands next to the US Embassy, just below the
ambassador’s window. Unlike other Soviet monuments in Budapest, this one
is guaranteed a place and preservation under a treaty.

Markos Kounalakis is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution and a senior fel-
low at the Center for Media, Data, and Society at Central European University in
Budapest, Hungary.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 179
Other communist monuments, however, have been removed and relegated
to a final resting place just outside town in Memento Park. The park boasts
“the biggest statues of the Cold War” and is a lesson in how to reinterpret a
nation’s painful past. Supersized statues of communist-era commissars stand
quietly in the elements, without interpretation. Nearby, however, a museum
barracks full of educational material puts the era and the objects into com-
plete, nuanced context. School groups and tourists visit regularly.
Memento Park’s creation was hailed at the time by Hungary’s President
Árpád Göncz for its measured approach. Göncz said it “utilizes politically

180 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
neutral means of art to emphasize the dignity of democracy and the respon-
sibility of historical thinking.” America could use its own Memento Park for
Confederate monuments to present and interpret these symbols and statues
of a defeated past. Care and context could create an understanding of the
past without fostering a reinvigorated living history.
Hungary is not the only country to move its monuments from their previ-
ous pedestals to less threatening presentations and detoxified destinations.
Tallinn, Estonia, has a field of bronze and stone sculptures strewn about
in an outdoor exhibition at the Maarjamäe Palace. There is something

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 181
disarming about a larger-than-life Stalin lying on his back or seeing Lenin’s
brutal bust resting its chin on overgrown lawns.
In Prague, a Soviet IS-2m heavy tank on a massive stone block was erected
to honor the Soviet tank crews who fought Nazi forces and helped free
Czechoslovakia at the end
of World War II. Soviet
Supersize statues of communist-era tanks, however, also
commissars stand quietly in the ele- reminded Czechoslovaks
ments. Nearby, a museum puts the of a pernicious recent
era and the objects into complete, past: they were used to
nuanced context. put down the 1968 Prague
Spring uprising. After the
1989 Velvet Revolution, a group of Czechoslovak artists took buckets of paint
and visually disarmed the formerly ominous Soviet Tank Square memorial.
It is now known as the Pink Tank.
Occupied and captive Eastern European nations may have had an easier
time removing the symbols and statues of their Soviet occupiers and oppres-
sors, but even the Russians put many of their Soviet-era monuments to
pasture. Shortly after the 1991 Moscow coup that tried to overthrow Presi-
dent Mikhail Gorbachev and helped end the Soviet empire, statues of former
heroes, ruthless functionaries, and self-aggrandizing leaders were taken
down. Soviet sculptural detritus was moved to Gorky Park’s “Graveyard to
Fallen Monuments.” In its stillness, the Fallen Monuments park still arouses
dread—infamous figures such as “Iron Felix” Dzerzhinsky, the Soviet secret
police founder, stir strong emotions.
Despite Eastern
Europe’s and Russia’s
There is something disarming about rapid monument removal
a larger-than-life Stalin lying on his after the upheavals at the
end of the last century,
back or seeing Lenin’s brutal bust
there are now movements
resting its chin on overgrown lawns.
to resurrect the past,
rehabilitate the rotten,
and relitigate history. In Russia, some of the Sovietica is being salvaged and
Stalin is being painted positively by Vladimir Putin.
Budapest, too, is a perfect example of how expediency and opportunism
drive politicians and parties to leverage symbols of the past to score popular
points today. While a national consensus continues to revile its Soviet past,
there is also a movement to use symbolism and a redacted past to rewrite the

182 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
national narrative. Freedom Square is now home to a controversial memo-
rial that seemingly absolves Hungary for its Holocaust role, portraying the
entire country as victim. In the history game, it is always easier for countries
to blame others for their fate, but harder for a nation to face its own past
The good news? Freedom
Square also hosts a strid- In Russia there are now movements
ing, sunny Ronald Reagan to resurrect the past, rehabilitate the
statue moving confidently rotten, and relitigate history.
toward the still-standing
Soviet obelisk. A nearby Budapest tech park privately put up a statue of
computer visionary and Apple founder Steve Jobs. In Hungary, enlightened
modern history seems in a race to outweigh and out-monument the past.
The United States may be in a similar race. A new, out-of-the-way museum
of Confederate statues would be a good start. Finding an appropriate place
and context to install removed monuments is the challenge. “Memento Park
Guam” sounds about right.

Reprinted by permission. © 2017 McClatchy Co. All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Russia and
Its Islamic World: From the Mongol Conquest to the
Syrian Military Intervention, by Robert Service. To
order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.hooverpress.

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 183


The Crown under
the Hammer
Pictures at a revolution.

By Bertrand M. Patenaude and Jodi Roberts

A first-of-its-kind joint exhibition by the Hoover Institution and Stanford’s Cantor
Arts Center examines the political, social, and cultural upheavals that trans-
formed Russia from the toppling of the Romanov dynasty through the first years
of Soviet communism. The Crown under the Hammer: Russia, Romanovs,
Revolution ( runs
through March 4, with exhibits at both venues. Public lectures and other events
will accompany the exhibition. Admission is free.

he cultural impact of the Russian Revolution of 1917 is difficult
to overstate. Marking the centenary of that seminal event, The
Crown under the Hammer examines the Great Divide of 1917
through a wide lens that takes in the upheavals of the final
decades of imperial Russia and the first years of Soviet communism—that
is, events and developments under the last tsars and the first commissars.
Drawn almost exclusively from the holdings of the Hoover Institution Library
& Archives and other Stanford University libraries and archival collections,

Bertrand M. Patenaude is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a lec-
turer in history and international relations at Stanford University. His most recent
book is Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary (HarperCollins, 2009). Jodi
Roberts is the Robert M. and Ruth L. Halperin Curator for Modern & Contempo-
rary Art at the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford.

184 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
MAY DAY: This poster by Nikolai Mikhailovich Kochergin (1897–1974)
celebrates May Day of 1920, the year the Bolsheviks declared victory in the
Russian Civil War and turned toward building their new society. “Through
the ruins of capitalism to the universal brotherhood of workers!” it says as
an iconic triumvirate—a peasant with a scythe, a worker with a hammer, and
a resolute peasant woman—lead the way. Despite the spirit of collaboration
implied in the poster, the peasantry was never intended to be more than the
junior partner in the Bolsheviks’ revolutionary enterprise. [Hoover Institution
Archives—Poster Collection]
this joint exhibition shines a light on the dramatic shift in aesthetic tastes
and artistic sensibilities that occurred in Russia during this period. The exhi-
bition evokes the lost world of Russia’s royalty and elites and contrasts it with
the “brave new world” forged on the ruins of the old regime by Russia’s new
Soviet masters acting in
the name of workers and
peasants. The exhibition is visual evidence of a
Telling this story of tectonic cultural shift. It gives expres-
radical political and sion to the wars, revolutions, and
cultural change involves famine of the period.
examining works in a
wide variety of artistic styles and media: Russian Orthodox icons, eighteenth-
and nineteenth-century paintings by Russian (and European) masters, sculp-
ture, furniture, posters and other Soviet graphic arts, “eyewitness” paintings
depicting the revolutionary turmoil, books from Russian imperial libraries,
manuscripts, letters and diaries, photographs, and motion picture film. In
their material construction and stylistic form, these objects shed light on the
aesthetic, cultural, and political aims of their respective makers and owners.
Singular, costly easel paintings, for example, embody the rarefied cultural
appetites and financial resources of the Russian elite and its respect for tra-
dition. Mass-produced posters, pamphlets, and books, by contrast, exemplify
the Soviet regime’s pedagogical objectives and forward-looking ethos.
Together, the works in the exhibition serve as visual evidence of a tec-
tonic cultural shift while also giving expression to the wars, revolutions,
and famine that crowd the historical narrative of this period. The exhibition
showcases how the old and new regimes wished to depict themselves and
their favored symbols: most recognizably, the crown and the two-headed
eagle for imperial Russia, and the hammer and sickle and broken chains for
the Soviets. Treasures like the drafts of Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication state-
ment of March 1917 take their place alongside newly accessible rarities, such

END OF THE LINE: Tutors of the tsar’s son, Alexei, kept this diary (oppo-
site page) for him in January and February of 1917, critical months in which
Nicholas II, facing an increased breakdown in his authority and public order,
was deciding whether to abdicate. The tsar’s advisers wanted him to choose
Alexei, twelve years old and in frail health, as his heir—but instead Nicholas
chose his brother, Mikhail, who declined the throne and brought the reign of
the Romanovs to an end. Like his brother, Grand Duke Mikhail was murdered
in captivity. [Hoover Institution Archives—Kseniia Aleksandrovna, Grand Duchess of Russia

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 187
as hand-tinted photographs of street scenes in nineteenth-century Moscow.
Exquisite handcrafted furniture and decorative objects sit in dialogue with
Soviet-era film re-enactments of the October Revolution. Meticulously
painted portraits of members of the royal family and court reside alongside
documentary photographs of urban Russians taking to the streets in mass
This richly diverse
material is drawn from The Bolsheviks, a small but deter-
the Hoover Institution
mined Marxist party, were poised to
Library & Archives as
well as three other Stan-
capitalize on the mounting chaos.
ford collections—the
Stanford University Libraries’ Special Collections, the Ute and Bill Bowes
Art & Architecture Library, and the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for
Visual Arts. A model of cross-campus cooperation and collaborative scholar-
ship, this project spotlights the university as one of the richest repositories
outside Russia of documentation relating to politics, society, and culture in
late imperial and early Soviet Russia.

In March 1917 the Romanov dynasty collapsed unexpectedly and with little
bloodshed—an event known as the February Revolution because, according
to the Russian calendar at the time (thirteen days behind that of the West),
it fell in that month. The February Revolution began with workers’ protests
against food shortages in the Russian capital, Petrograd, which evolved into
industrial strikes and escalated into mass political demonstrations against
Russia’s ongoing involvement in World War I and the autocracy. The refusal
of the Petrograd garrison to fire on crowds of protesters signaled the end
of imperial authority. Returning to Petrograd from his command of Rus-
sia’s crumbling military effort against the Central Powers, Tsar Nicholas II

TURBULENT SEAS: Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, and their son, Alexei, are
shown aboard the royal yacht around 1908–9 (opposite page). Nicholas faced
increasing political upheaval not long after he was crowned in 1896. Rebel-
lion against the autocracy broke out in 1905, soon after Russia’s defeat in the
Russo-Japanese War. Constitutional reforms failed to quell the unrest, which
swelled after Russia suffered severe casualties and loss of territory during the
early part of the First World War. [Hoover Institution Archives—Alexandre Georgievich
Tarsaidze Papers]

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 189
(1868–1918; reigned 1894–1917) was pressed to abdicate in favor of his son and
heir, Alexei; instead, Nicholas abdicated in favor of his brother, the Grand
Duke Mikhail (1878–1918), who refused the throne. Quite suddenly, Russia
was no longer an absolute monarchy.
The Provisional Government that succeeded the autocracy was supposed
to hold power until a constituent assembly of nationally and democratically
elected delegates could meet and draft a constitution. Comprised at first
of conservative and
liberal figures of the old
regime—many of whom The Bolsheviks, in Lenin’s phrase,
had been members of the “found power lying in the streets and
imperial Russian parlia- simply picked it up.”
ment, the Duma—the
Provisional Government proved unable to establish its authority. Isolated in
Petrograd, it failed to organize local branches of power as Russia’s political
and social structures simply broke down. The Provisional Government was
challenged from the start by a rival body, the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’
Deputies in Petrograd. The Petrograd Soviet was made up of members of
social-democratic and radical parties and groups representing the workers
and the soldiers’ garrisons of the capital. They refused to take power for
themselves, preferring instead to act as a watchdog over the activities of
the Provisional Government. The resulting standoff, known as “dual power,”
lasted eight tense months. Soon other soviets sprang up across the country—
soviets of workers, of soldiers, and later of peasants.
The Provisional Government steadily squandered its legitimacy as it
formed a series of increasingly leftward-leaning cabinets, each in turn
undermined by its failure to reverse the Russian army’s fortunes at the front
and to manage the economic distress related to the prosecution of the war,
especially a deepening food crisis. Workers and soldiers became increasingly
radicalized as Russian politics as a whole slid to the left. In the countryside,
meanwhile, peasants took matters into their own hands, dividing up among

THE HOUSE OF ROMANOV: A commemorative book (opposite page) printed
in 1913 celebrates three hundred years of Romanov rule, traced back to the
crowning of Tsar Mikhail I in 1613. Nicholas II struggled to maintain a dynasty
that faced the pressures of modernization and keeping pace with Europe’s
other great powers. The Romanov tricentennial in 1913 was the occasion of
much celebrating in Moscow and St. Petersburg, even as social divisions
worsened. [Hoover Institution Library]

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 191
ON THE MARCH: A lithograph reprints Bolshevik (1920), a widely reproduced
painting by Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev (1878–1927). Such posters were an
inexpensive and efficient way of communicating ideological instruction to
the masses and were distributed in the millions: 3,000–4,000 such images
were created between 1918 and 1921. [Hoover Institution Archives—Poster Collection]

themselves gentry estates and church lands, a process catalyzed by the
return of peasant soldiers deserting the front to take part in what rumor
claimed was the mythical “black repartition” of the land—the ultimate prize
for the land-starved Russian peasantry.
The Bolsheviks, a small but determined Marxist party led by Vladimir
Lenin (1870–1924), were the radicals on the scene poised to capitalize on the
mounting chaos. The Bolsheviks’ promise of “Land, Bread, and Peace” helped
win them increasing support among workers and soldiers. Lenin called
for “All Power to the Soviets,” meaning the overthrow of the Provisional
Government. In September the party captured a majority in the Petrograd
Soviet, and it continued to gain strength in other city soviets. On the night of
November 6–7 (OS October 25–26), the Bolsheviks seized power in the name
of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets convening in the capital. The October

192 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
IN THE STREETS: Vladimir Lenin speaks in Red Square, circa 1919. Lenin
(1870–1924), leader of the Bolsheviks, by then had led his Marxist party to
victory, establishing what they called the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”
Shortly after the October 1917 revolution, the new Soviet government pulled
the country out of World War I and into a civil war against former imperial
forces. In the meantime, Tsar Nicholas II and his family were murdered by
their guards in July 1918, an act widely believed to have been authorized by the
Kremlin. [Hoover Institution Archives—Hugh Anderson Moran Papers]

Revolution—another designation determined by the old calendar—met with
little resistance in Petrograd, where the Bolsheviks, in Lenin’s phrase, “found
power lying in the streets and simply picked it up.” The mythical “storming”
of the Winter Palace, immortalized in later films by Sergei Eisenstein and
Esfir Shub, was, in fact, a decidedly undramatic event. The Bolshevik Revolu-
tion succeeded in other cities with greater difficulty and in Moscow with
considerable violence and the loss of several hundred lives. Lenin proclaimed
the formation of the first workers’ state—the “dictatorship of the prole-
tariat”—and called upon workers everywhere to unite and throw off their
capitalist oppressors. “Workers of the world, unite!”—a slogan from Marx

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inte r 2018 193
“DAY OF ENLIGHTENMENT”: “Knowledge is a great strength!” reads this
poster by Mikhail Sergeevich Kalmanson. “Comrades and citizens, make your
contribution to enlightenment!” During March 7–9, the dates on the poster,
the Bolsheviks’ seventh party congress decided to change the organization’s
name to the Russian Communist Party to distinguish it from its socialist
rivals. [Hoover Institution Archives—Poster Collection]

and Engels’s 1848 Communist Manifesto—would become a ubiquitous motif of
Soviet propaganda posters.
In the gathering storm, former emperor Nicholas II, together with former
empress Alexandra and their five children, met a violent end. They were
exiled to western Siberia, ultimately to the city of Ekaterinburg, in the Ural
Mountains. It was there, on July 17, 1918, that they, along with their servants,
were murdered by their Bolshevik guards, shot in the basement of the house
where they were being held—an act widely believed to have been secretly
authorized by the Kremlin. The road back was now sealed off.
The new Soviet government pulled Russia out of the world war, signing a
separate peace with Germany, the punitive Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of March
1918. But peace did not prevail inside Russia, where a civil war of Red (Soviet)

194 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
CLASS ENEMIES: A 1920 poster by Dmitry Stakhievich Moor (1883–1946)
continues the drumbeat of condemnation against the perceived enemies of
the socialist state. In this image a grinning deserter colludes with a rich indus-
trialist. “Give me your hand, deserter,” it says. “You are the destroyer of the
worker-peasant state just like me, the capitalist! You’re my only hope now.”
[Hoover Institution Archives—Poster Collection]

versus White (former imperial) forces began in the summer of 1918, a savage
struggle that lasted nearly two years. The most intense fighting took place
from mid-1918 to the end of 1919. The Red Army was hastily assembled under
the leadership of Leon Trotsky (1879–1940). At the onset few would have given
this improvised army a fighting chance, but the White forces were never as
formidable as they appeared, with three separate armies in the field vying for
political supremacy and each more or less hampered in the rear by the inter-
mittent resistance of peasants who had no desire to see the return of their
landlords. Trotsky, as people’s commissar of war, made the most of White
disunity and Soviet mastery over a consolidated territory with Moscow at its
center. The White tide was turned back in autumn 1919, and final victory was
won by the end of the year, although sporadic fighting continued into 1920.

H O O V ER D I G E S T • W inte r 2018 195
Meanwhile, a class war unfolded inside Soviet Russia, resulting in the des-
titution of the former privileged classes: aristocrats, bourgeois, clergy, and
the so-called intelligentsia, an elastic term used for Soviet society’s educated
classes in general, as opposed to the narrower sense of “intellectuals,” as
in professors, writers, artists, and the like. Many fled the country, perhaps
as many as three million in the years after the Revolution. Whether they
emigrated or stayed in Russia, formerly well-to-do Russians faced a radi-
cally impoverished
existence under
the new regime, Soviet propaganda posters continued,
and not only eco- against all evidence, to hold out the prom-
nomically—thus ise of a glorious socialist future.
the aptness of
the term used for them at the time: “former people.” As a matter of policy,
the Bolshevik state seized valuable property, including works of art, books,
furniture, and other personal items, and frequently sold it to finance the new
From the outset, Soviet propaganda portrayed the Revolution’s social
base as a worker-peasant alliance. The reality was utterly different. Marx-
ist ideology instructed that the proletariat was the chosen class; the back-
ward peasantry was viewed with suspicion and hostility. Despite the spirit
of collaboration implied in the emblematic Soviet hammer and sickle, the
peasantry was never intended to be more than the junior partner in the
revolutionary enterprise. During the Civil War years (1918–20) the govern-
ment requisitioned food by force, which led peasants to hide their grain
and reduce their planting and at times provoked them to violent resis-
tance. These policies, on top of the dislocations of seven years of war and
revolution, left the peasants with little or no reserve of food to fall back on.
And so, when a severe drought led to a crop failure in 1920, the result was
mass starvation.
The Great Famine of 1921–22 extended to more than half the regions of
the old empire, home to about sixty-five million inhabitants, of whom about
thirty million were affected by conditions of starvation. The famine, which

STRIDES: A 1920 poster (opposite page) highlights “what the October Revo-
lution gave the woman worker and the peasant woman.” The benefits are said
to include “land to the peasants and factories to the workers.” [Hoover Institution
Archives—Poster Collection]

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 197
RED EARTH: A farmer plows under the remains of tsarist Russia, in an image
calling for Russians to cultivate their new society amid “the wreckage of the
evil gentry.” [Hoover Institution Archives—Poster Collection]

would claim some six million lives, mostly in the countryside, served as the
occasion for the Bolsheviks’ full-frontal assault on the Russian Orthodox
Church, the last independent organization in the country. On March 19,
1922, Lenin addressed a secret letter to the Politburo, the executive arm of
the party’s Central Committee, ordering that the political police, the Cheka,
be instructed to exploit the famine in order to crush Russian Orthodoxy
once and for all, using the confiscation of its assets as the opening wedge.
“It is precisely now and only now, when in the starving regions people are
eating human flesh, and hundreds if not thousands of corpses are littering
the roads, that we can (and therefore must) carry out the confiscation of
church valuables with the most savage and merciless energy,” he wrote.
The requisition campaign aroused popular resistance, which in turn led
to the arrest of the church’s patriarch and to the trials and executions of

198 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8
The Hoover Institution holdings featured in The Crown under the Hammer
provide a close-up view of the fall of the Romanovs and Russia’s tumultuous
transformation into a communist state. Drafts of the tsar’s abdication state-
ment in the papers of Russian diplomat Nicolas de Basily reveal the desper-
ate efforts undertaken to save the dynasty and, by extension, the empire.
Photographs and personal correspondence in the Romanov collections bring
to life the royal family’s harrowing final months in exile and imprisonment.
Throughout these years of civil war, political repression, and starvation,
Soviet propaganda posters continued, against all evidence, to hold out the
promise of a glorious socialist future in an industrialized land of equality and
These and other primary documents and firsthand accounts imbue the
story of the Russian Revolution and its turbulent aftermath with a sense of
immediacy and poignancy that secondary accounts cannot convey.

Special to the Hoover Digest.

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

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 199


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 Kenneth A. Hersh
Heather R. Higgins
Members Hank J. Holland
Katherine H. Alden Allan Hoover III
Neil R. Anderson Margaret Hoover
Barbara Barrett Philip Hudner
John F. Barrett Gail A. Jaquish
Robert G. Barrett William E. Jenkins
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 Allen J. Lauer
Jerome V. “Jerry” Bruni Howard H. Leach
James J. Carroll III Walter Loewenstern Jr.
Robert H. Castellini Howard W. Lutnick
James W. Davidson Hamid Mani
Herbert M. Dwight Frank B. Mapel
Jeffrey A. Farber James D. Marver
Henry A. Fernandez Craig O. McCaw
Carly Fiorina David McDonald
James E. Forrest Harold “Terry” McGraw III
Stephen B. Gaddis Burton J. McMurtry
Samuel L. Ginn Mary G. Meeker
Michael W. Gleba Roger S. Mertz
Cynthia Fry Gunn Harold M. “Max” Messmer Jr.

200 H O O VER DIGEST • Wi n ter 201 8

Jeremiah Milbank III Robert A. Teitsworth
Mitchell J. Milias Marc Tessier-Lavigne*
Scott Minerd Thomas J. Tierney
K. Rupert Murdoch David T. Traitel
George E. Myers Victor S. Trione
Robert G. O’Donnell Paul H. Wick
Robert J. Oster Diane B. “Dede” Wilsey
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
Samuel T. Reeves Martin Anderson
Kathleen “Cab” Rogers Stephen D. Bechtel Jr.
Peter O. Shea Wendy H. Borcherdt
Roderick W. Shepard Peyton M. Lake
Robert Shipman Robert H. Malott
Thomas M. Siebel Shirley Cox Matteson
George W. Siguler Bowen H. McCoy
Boyd C. Smith
James W. Smith, MD Overseers Emeritus
William C. Steere Jr. Frederick L. Allen
David L. Steffy Susanne Fitger Donnelly
Thomas F. Stephenson Joseph W. Donner
Stephen K. Stuart John R. Stahr
W. Clarke Swanson Jr. Robert J. Swain
Curtis Sloane Tamkin Dody Waugh

H O O V ER D I G E ST • W inter 2018 201
The Hoover Institution gratefully acknowledges the support of
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WINTER 2018 NO. 1

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