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Saint Stephen, first king of medieval
Hungary, exerts an outsize influence on that CHRISTOPHER S. DAUER
nation’s history and symbolism. Crowned in DENISE ELSON
the year 1001, the saint consolidated the mon- COLIN STEWART
archy and adopted Christianity as the state
(Bechtel Director of Public Affairs)
religion. This 1938 poster from the Hoover
Archives shows him wearing the crown that
symbolizes the authority of Hungary’s ruler DIRECTORS
and holding a distinctive double-cross staff.
That year, Hungary was both celebrating the MARY GINGELL
saint and pondering a fateful political path. JEFFREY M. JONES
See story, page 222. CHARNETTE RICHARD

Director of Washington, DC,


TWITTER @HooverInst Stay up to date on the latest
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Spring 2018

9 Unstable Majorities
Democratic and Republican lawmakers are farther removed
from each other than ever—but they’re also farther removed
from the views of most ordinary voters. Hoover fellow Morris
P. Fiorina explores this hollow political center. By James

16 Fifty Shades of Red
Conservatives have always had their differences. Uniting them
in this fractious age means reconciling two things: freedom
and tradition. By Peter Berkowitz

23 Conservatives, Populism, and the Future
The populist uproar is understandable but dangerous. It can
be harnessed. By George H. Nash

32 Rough Riders
Sometimes Americans benefit from leaders who are large and
in charge. By Victor Davis Hanson

39 Strange Bedfellows, Stranger Politics
Puritanism is once again a force in American life—at least
when it’s being used for political advantage. By Bruce S.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 3
44 Let the States Incubate
Where it’s allowed to thrive, federalism keeps American
governance nimble and innovative. By Clint Bolick

54 Red Tape All the Way Down
In redressing the excesses of the regulatory state, the
Trump administration has made a healthy start. Now the
administration needs to keep at it. By Adam J. White

62 The Labor Logjam Is Breaking Up
At last: the regulatory rollback is producing higher wages and
fresh investment. By Richard A. Epstein

67 The Genuine Wealth of Nations
An antipoverty charity closes its eyes to increasing personal
income around the world. By David R. Henderson

70 Weaponized Words
The revolution will be televised—and tweeted, and posted,
and Instagrammed. Language is today’s truly disruptive
technology. By Charles Hill

4 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
77 Unleashing the High-tech Dogs of War
Artificial intelligence will bring deadlier, smarter weapons.
And the command structures that deploy them are likely to
possess fewer scruples about harming civilians. By Herbert

82 Cybersecurity League, Assemble!
Unlike the Cold War, today’s asymmetrical “code war” makes
open nations uniquely vulnerable. The free world must form a
united front against cyberattacks. By Toomas Hendrik Ilves

85 Unscientific American
If we’re to withstand a torrent of unsound and biased
research, we need to understand—and respect—scientific
principles. By Henry I. Miller

92 The Past Isn’t Even Past
A hundred years since it began consuming lives by the
millions, the embers of communism still burn. By Stephen

100 The Strongman’s Weak Hand
To Vladimir Putin, meddling in other countries’ elections is
how you make a lapsed superpower great again. By Robert

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 5
104 The Once and Future Restoration
A hundred and fifty years ago, Japan’s Meiji restoration
launched Asia on a quest for a modern identity. That search
continues today, as Asia tries to balance autonomy with state
control, the future with the past. By Michael R. Auslin

110 To Tame Iran
The mullahs may have played their cards masterfully, but
the game isn’t over. We can still meet them and call them. By
Samuel Tadros

117 The Can’t-Do State
The Golden State may remain a land of great strengths, but
it suffers from political inertia. Who will defy the entrenched
interests? By Michael J. Boskin

126 Housing Holdup
Regulations rob California of the housing it needs. By Richard
A. Epstein

6 H O O V ER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
132 California Saving
California can wake up from its public-pension nightmare. The
key: getting rid of ruinous defined-benefit plans. By Joshua D.

137 A Degree of Disappointment
“College for all” has diluted the value of a bachelor’s degree
and diverted many young people from better paths toward the
working world. By Chester E. Finn Jr.

143 Networks and Netizens
Not too many years ago, we were still dreaming sweet
dreams of a high-tech utopia. Now computer users have been
awakened, rather rudely. Hoover fellow Niall Ferguson guides
us through the new and often menacing reality. By Peter

153 “We Are Indebted to Them Every Day”
Hoover fellow Victor Davis Hanson on his new book, The
Second World Wars. By Peter Robinson

164 Timothy Garton Ash’s Five Books
Free speech—short phrase, long history. Hoover fellow
Timothy Garton Ash offers a reading list for today’s free
speakers. By Sophie Roell

177 “The Oppression of Black People Is Over”
The recent NFL protests were more dutiful than daring.
Freedom has made the theme of victimization obsolete. By
Shelby Steele

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 7
181 This Memorial Day
What do we remember on this day of mourning and honor? By
Victor Davis Hanson

187 Hoover’s Powerful Individual
Herbert Hoover’s example and his appeal, still strong
nearly a hundred years later, for “a better, brighter, broader
individualism.” By Edwin J. Feulner Jr.

195 A Nehru Escape
During a 1955 visit to Moscow, the Indian premier
inadvertently launched a dating revolution. How Jawaharlal
Nehru caused young Russians to rejoice. By Michael S.

200 How Mozambique Learned to Vote
Less than a quarter century ago, the African country held its
first multiparty elections. Artifacts in Hoover’s collections
taught Mozambicans what it meant to live in a democracy. By
Elizabeth Banks

214 On the Cover

8 H O O V ER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8


Democratic and Republican lawmakers are farther
removed from each other than ever—but they’re
also farther removed from the views of most
ordinary voters. Hoover fellow Morris P. Fiorina
explores this hollow political center.

By James Taranto

ost observers of American politics predict 2018 will favor the
Democrats. The party has a good chance of taking control of
the House in November, and even a Senate majority is within
reach, although Democrats are defending three times as
many seats in the upper chamber as Republicans are.
Here’s a safer prediction: if the Democrats do triumph on November 6,
they and their supporters will emerge triumphalist, proclaiming their major-
ity permanent and President Trump a lame duck. Seven months in advance,
Morris P. “Mo” Fiorina has a bucket of cold water to throw on such claims.
Fiorina, a Hoover senior fellow and Stanford political scientist, is the
author of a new book, Unstable Majorities: Polarization, Party Sorting, and
Political Stalemate. As the title suggests, he believes the United States has

Morris P. Fiorina is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Wendt
Family Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. His latest book is
Unstable Majorities: Polarization, Party Sorting, and Political Stalemate
(2017, Hoover Institution Press). James Taranto is the editorial features writer
at the Wall Street Journal.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 9
entered an era in which no party can hold a majority for very long. “We can
change our pattern of government every two years,” he tells me on a recent
visit to the offices of the Wall Street Journal, “and we started doing that.”
Did we ever. The party controlling the House, Senate, or White House
changed in seven of the nine elections between 2000 and 2016—the only
exceptions being the presidential re-election years, 2004 and 2012. “I sort of
trace it back to ’92, the end of the Republican presidential era, and then ’94 is
the end of the Democratic congressional era,” Fiorina says.
Those were long eras. Republicans held the White House for twenty of the
twenty-four years after the 1968 election. The Democrats dominated Con-
gress for the better part of a lifetime: during the
sixty-two-year period after the 1932 elec-
tion, the party had a majority in the
House for fifty-eight years and the

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

10 H O O V ER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
Senate for fifty-two years. The Democrats took the House in 1954 and held it
for forty years straight.
Those old enough to remember the decades before the ’90s, then, may tend
to see permanent majorities around the corner because they expect a return
to normalcy. Fiorina, by contrast, argues that frequent shifts in political
control are now the norm because of the way the parties have changed. He
rejects the common view that American voters
are “polarized.” Instead, he says, the parties
have become polarized, in a process he calls
the “sorting” of the electorate.
“We have these two now-cohesive, different
parties,” he says. Democrats and Republi-
cans today are as ideologically distinct as
“the Social Democrats and the Christian
Democrats in Europe at the height of
their power in the twentieth century.
And the problem is, we’ve got a

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 11
much more heterogeneous country, and there’s only two of them, and they
just don’t fit the electorate.”

He arrives with a PowerPoint presentation that visualizes the data behind his
theory. A pair of bar graphs show the ideological distribution of lawmakers in
the 87th Congress (1961–63) and the 111th (2009–11). In both eras Democrats
were the liberal party and Republicans the conservative one. But the pat-
terns are markedly different: in 1961–63, both parties’ lawmakers tended to
cluster in the middle. In 2009–11, there were two clusters—Democrats to the
left, Republicans to the right. “There’s no longer any overlap at all,” Fiorina
says. “The center is empty. That hasn’t happened in the electorate.”
A line graph illustrates the electorate’s continuity. The share of Americans
identifying as politically moderate has remained fairly constant—around
40 percent, and usually a plurality—since at least 1974. In the same period,
another chart shows, independents overtook Democrats as the biggest
partisan grouping. As the parties drifted from the ideological middle, centrist
voters disaffiliated from the parties.
That creates what Fiorina calls “the ping-pong pattern” of unstable
majorities. One party manages “to win, narrowly, and then they immediately
respond to their base. So
Bush says we’re going
Frequent shifts in political control are to have personal Social
now the norm. Security accounts, and
voters—some say, ‘I didn’t
vote for that.’ Or Obama says we’re going to do government health care, and
a lot of them say, ‘I didn’t vote for that.’ ” Lawmakers from the party in power
“suffer for it in the next election, when they lose the marginal voters,” as
Republicans did in 2006 and Democrats in 2010.
That seems plausible enough, but there’s an obvious complication: most
legislation that makes it through Congress, even on a party-line vote, is not
all that extreme ideologically. Take health care. Fiorina pulls up a chart titled
“Issue Centrists Still Dominate,” based on data from the American National
Election Studies. It shows that in five issue areas, the centrist position is by
far the most popular.
“This would be single payer right here—these 12 percent,” Fiorina says,
pointing to one end of the health care distribution. At the other end, the
“leave-everything-to-the-market people” are approximately as numerous.
The peak, at 28 percent, is right in the center. “On issue after issue, it doesn’t

12 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
matter what you ask, people sort of clump up in the middle,” he says. “Goldi-
locks—they want some of both.”
But isn’t that what they got with ObamaCare? The Affordable Care Act
shifted policy leftward, but nowhere near the extreme of single payer. Its
central element, the recently repealed individual mandate, was first pro-
posed by the Heritage Foundation in 1989 as a “market based” alternative to
more-statist approaches, including outright socialization. Similarly, the tax
reform Congress enacted last year won only Republican votes, but it was
hardly an exercise in ideological extremity. Even Barack Obama had said cor-
porate rates should be lower. (As for George W. Bush’s Social Security idea,
it was never written into
Fiorina answers this In the 1980s, incumbency was good
conundrum by refer- for 10 to 12 points on average. Nowa-
ring me to the work of days, “how your president is doing”
another political scien- matters much more.
tist, Frances Lee of the
University of Maryland. She has a theory to explain why the minority party
balks. “Frances talks about how if you have two closely balanced parties that
are fighting for the majority in every election, they change their strategy, and
this all becomes position-taking and trying to embarrass the other party, and
it’s not about legislating,” he says. “They’re perfectly prepared to shift posi-
tions on a dime if it embarrasses the other party, because the payoff now is
the electoral victory and not legislative.” To judge by their book titles, Fiorina
and Lee are kindred spirits. His is Unstable Majorities, hers Insecure Majori-
ties: Congress and the Perpetual Campaign.

If unstable majorities are a problem, what might be the solution? In parlia-
mentary systems with proportional representation, a multiplicity of parties
represents a spectrum of views and those parties often govern in coalitions.
That won’t work in the United States, Fiorina says, because “the majoritar-
ian electoral system and the Electoral College” ensure that “only two parties
can really compete.”
What should a party do if it aspires to an enduring majority? “Go back to
being more sort of open—no litmus tests,” Fiorina advises. “The Democrats
are all talking about their chances of winning next time, but if you keep try-
ing to run anti-gun and pro-choice candidates in areas like West Virginia . . .
you’re committing suicide.”

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 13
This advice has one crucial shortcoming, Fiorina acknowledges: “They
can’t do it.” One reason has to do with money. “The donors are most ideologi-
cal of all,” he says. In the 1970s and ’80s, “a big majority of contributions to
congressional races came from individual contributions within your district,
and now the money is coming from outside. Texas is an ATM for Republi-
cans, California and Manhattan for Democrats.”
He adds that “thirty years ago, an Ohio Republican and an Oregon Repub-
lican would have faced very different primary electorates that run differ-
ent kinds of races. Now, you look at their campaigns—they’re going to be
the same. They’re getting their money from the same kinds of people.” The
Republican in Oregon, a
more liberal state, is likely
“There’s no longer any overlap at all.” to prove unelectable. For
this problem there is prob-
ably no remedy. “The only thing I can see mattering would be unconstitu-
tional,” Fiorina says—to wit, a law requiring that “all campaign contributions
have to come from within the jurisdiction of the race being held.”
Then again, there is Donald Trump. He won the Republican presidential
nomination against several opponents with more money and far stronger
ideological credentials. His victory demonstrates, according to Fiorina, that
partisan sorting “at the Bill Kristol level”—meaning among pundits and
intellectuals—“is way higher than the sorting at the level of even the primary
Fiorina holds out some hope that Trump will break the ping-pong pattern.
“In the book, I characterize Trump first as a de-sorter and then as sort of
a disjunctive president, and in Silicon Valley terms a disrupter,” he says. “I
thought if there’s a positive on Trump, it would be his potential to disrupt
both parties.”
So far, though, Fiorina finds the president’s policies too conventionally con-
servative. “My ideal scenario originally was that Trump would come in and
propose a big infrastructure bill, which would split the Republicans and split
the Democrats,” Fiorina says. “He didn’t do that.”
When I ask what Fiorina thinks will happen this November, he demurs:
“I could make a case for a Democratic wave, a Democratic disappoint-
ment, or anything in between, but I don’t put high probability on any of the
One of his observations, however, is suggestive of a wave. “The incumbency
advantage is all but gone,” he says. “The incumbency advantage has been
declining in House elections since the ’80s, and it was at 2 percent in the last

14 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
election. People are voting—however they vote for president, they vote for
the House as well.”
That doesn’t mean all incumbents are vulnerable. A Democratic lawmaker
in a heavily Democratic district, for example, will almost certainly win. The
diminution of the incumbent advantage simply means that, all else being
equal, a Democrat in an open-seat race would likely win by almost as wide a
margin as an incumbent. In the 1980s, Fiorina says, incumbency per se was
good for 10 to 12 points on average. Nowadays, “how your president is doing”
matters much more.
In 2017 there were special elections for five House seats vacated by Repub-
licans—in Kansas, Montana, Georgia, South Carolina, and Utah. The GOP
held all five, but all its candidates underperformed the previous incumbents’
2016 margins of victory by between 5 and 25 points. If Fiorina is right about
the diminution of the incumbent advantage, these results would seem to bode
ill in November for Republicans—incumbent or not—in marginal districts.
On the other hand, if the Republicans do get wiped out this year, there’s a
good chance they’ll stage a comeback in 2020. Or 2022 at the latest.

Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2018 Dow Jones &
Co. 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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 15


Fifty Shades of Red
Conservatives have always had their differences.
Uniting them in this fractious age means
reconciling two things: freedom and tradition.

By Peter Berkowitz

onald Trump’s disruptive
presidency has exacerbated Key points
»» Some friction is intrinsic in
a long-festering intra-con-
the American conservative
servative controversy about movement.
American conservatism’s core principles »» Edmund Burke pointed
and purposes. So big and diffuse has the out that people who will rule
themselves face a “choice of
conservative world become since the inheritance.”
1960s—when William F. Buckley’s Nation- »» American conservatism cen-
al Review set the agenda—that thought- tered itself on a mix of freedom
and virtue that could be traced
ful right-wingers themselves doubt that
back to the founding era.
anything so discrete and organized as a
»» Conservatives should
movement exists today. They suspect, spend more energy on finding
moreover, that the ambition to revive common ground and less on
exposing heretics, apostates,
one represents a distracting exercise in and infidels.
Contemporary conservatives’ dissat-
isfaction with conservatism bolsters such doubts. Trump owes his elec-
tion in no small measure to a rebellion undertaken by many working-class

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

16 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
conservative voters against an establishment—conservative as well as pro-
gressive—that they perceived to be contemptuous of their concerns about
the loss of good jobs, the influx of illegal immigrants, the waging of foolish
wars, and the spread of a haughty high culture of political correctness.
Meanwhile, many conservative intellectuals have offered bleak diagnoses
of America’s condition and proposed radical remedies. Implacably averse
to the president whom they regard as an existential threat to the republic,
leading never-Trumpers have thrown their lot in with progressives. A new
breed of “paleoconservatives” seek to restore the true conservatism. They
derive it from the Hebrew Bible and Protestant thinkers who adapted biblical
politics to early modern conditions, and contend that this true conservatism
is separate from and incompatible with classical liberalism. Proponents of
“the Benedict option” wonder whether the classical liberalism inscribed in
America’s founding has corrupted politics and debased culture to a degree
that men and women of goodwill and understanding have little choice but
to withdraw into communities apart, where they can preserve decency and
faith as the new dark age descends.
The scope and intensity of conservative complaints with the status quo
further reinforce the conclusion that it is wrongheaded to speak of a con-
servative movement or dream of reviving one. But that doesn’t mean that
the 1960s reconciliation of traditionalists and classical liberals over which
Buckley presided has ceased to be relevant.

This fractiousness is not, after all, new. The traditionalists, classical liberals,
and various intellectual rebels whom Buckley gathered inside his big tent
were often at one another’s throats and routinely indulged in apocalyptic
rhetoric. In losing in a landslide to Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 presidential
election, Arizona senator Barry Goldwater confirmed popular suspicions
about conservative zealotry when he declared at the GOP convention that
“extremism in the service of liberty is no vice.” Yet Goldwater’s ablest surro-
gate went on to win two terms in the White House, the second in the greatest
landslide in American history. Like Buckley, Ronald Reagan was an exception
among spokesmen for conservatism: he disarmingly harmonized dedication
to individual liberty and limited government with respect for traditional
morality and biblical faith.
The regular discord that has marked the American right stems in part
from the nature of conservatism in general and the distinctively modern form
of conservatism in particular. Progressives can unite around a substantive

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 17
goal: the pursuit of an increasingly egalitarian society through ever more
comprehensive government regulation and redistribution. Classical liberal-
ism also advances a recognizable doctrine: individual liberty and the limited
government, free markets, moral virtues, voluntary associations, and reli-
gious practices that secure it. In contrast, conservatism never was and never
can be a single school of political thought. It is always relative to, and intent
on preserving, a particular tradition. Since traditions—moral and religious,
national, and civilizational—differ, sometimes dramatically, there is no one
conservatism. There are only varieties of conservatism.
Not only do the vari-
eties of conservatism
Conserving freedom became the conflict with each other,
paramount political purpose of the but each also harbors
new variety of conservatism. conflicting tendencies. As
the eighteenth-century
Whig statesman Edmund Burke observed in “Reflections on the Revolution
in France,” which became the classic statement of the distinctively modern
form of conservatism, we confront a “choice of inheritance.” Every morality
and religion, every nation and civilization, contains diverse imperatives and
aspirations. Consequently, even those fervently devoted to conserving the
same tradition may well find themselves at loggerheads over the dangers it
confronts and the principles it cherishes.
The distinctively modern form of conservatism emerged in response to the
French Revolution, the first major crisis of the modern tradition of freedom.
The classical conception equated liberty with self-government but did not
specify who was entitled to it. In contrast, the modern liberal view—articu-
lated most memorably by John Locke, affirmed by the Declaration of Inde-
pendence and embodied in the American constitutional order—held that
human beings are by nature free and equal, legitimate government is based
on the consent of the governed, and government’s task is to protect individu-
al rights. Conserving freedom became the paramount political purpose of the
new variety of conservatism.
Conserving freedom is a complex undertaking. That’s because freedom,
which in the first place means choosing for yourself, is in tension with tradi-
tion, which begins with submitting to someone else’s authority. Since the
experience of freedom disinclines one to submit to any authority but one’s
own, modern conservatism faced an unending struggle between respect for
the individual’s authority and respect for tradition’s authority, including that
of the tradition of freedom.

18 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
Burke brokered a reconciliation. In the “Reflections,” he warned friends
of freedom against the “total revolution” under way in France that sought to
overthrow throne and altar, erase custom and habit, and transform humanity
by reinventing morality and politics. Waged in the name of liberty, the French
Revolution’s sweeping rejection of tradition presented a novel and grave
threat to liberty, Burke argued. Political freedom, as British history demon-
strated, was rooted in beliefs, practices, and institutions that develop over
centuries, and was sustained by morality, religion, family, community, and
sound political judgment grounded in historical study and long experience in
political affairs.

American conservatism also emerged in response to a crisis of freedom. In
the mid-twentieth century, classical liberals and traditionalists could agree
that statism at home and communism abroad threatened to crush the indi-
vidual and swamp civil society.
In the early 1960s, in the face of the frequently flaring rancor inside
Buckley’s big tent, National Review senior editor Frank Meyer restated for
his time Burke’s reconciliation of liberty and tradition. To pursue happi-
ness, Meyer maintained, individuals, families, and communities require a
limited government capable of protecting a robust civil society and a broad
private sphere where citizens are largely left alone to govern themselves
and advance their material and moral interests as they define them. At the
same time, democratic self-government and free markets rest on citizens
well-endowed with
self-restraint, industri-
ousness, perseverance,
Burke warned friends of freedom
tolerance, prudence, and against the “total revolution” under
a host of other virtues way in France that sought to over-
cultivated best by family, throw throne and altar, erase custom
faith, and community. and habit, and reinvent morality and
Meyer’s synthesis was politics.
called fusionism, but it is
more aptly named constitutional conservatism. As Meyer argued, it pre-
serves the mix of freedom and virtue that, for all their bitter differences, was
shared by “the men who created the republic, who framed the Constitution
and produced that monument of political wisdom, The Federalist Papers.”
Today, reconciling the claims of liberty and tradition is hardly foremost on
the minds of conservative politicians and conservative voters. Congressional

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 19
Republicans have made little headway in overcoming their disagreements
on immigration, trade, and America’s role abroad. Although in his first year
in office President Trump scored a major victory on tax reform; appointed
an outstanding Supreme Court justice and numerous fine appeals court
judges; substantially undid through executive orders the large regulatory
burden that President
Obama instituted through
Never-Trumpers might have dialed
executive orders; gave the
down their outrage had they appreci- military the authority and
ated that the emergence of flawed encouragement to defeat
elected officials is no disaster. In fact, the Islamic State in Iraq
the Constitution was designed to and Syria; and delivered
handle it. sober speeches in Saudi
Arabia on terrorism, in
Warsaw in defense of Western civilization, and in Washington criticizing Iran,
he has failed to articulate a compelling legislative agenda. With the presi-
dent’s job approval ratings continuing to lag and with special counsel Robert
Mueller’s far-flung investigation exacting its toll, Republicans have cause to
worry about this year’s midterm elections.
Though not a guide to devising policy and directing campaigns, the spirit
in which Meyer reconciled liberty and tradition has pragmatic implications.
A constitutional conservatism provides, to borrow Alexander Hamilton’s
suggestive phrase from Federalist No. 1, a “lesson of moderation.” It is not a
lesson, to put the matter gently, that conservatives have internalized. But if
properly attended to, the unending task of reconciling liberty and tradition—
a task to which the conservatism that descends from Burke is dedicated—
encourages the sifting out of what is false or exaggerated in clashing claims
concerning the whole range of political affairs and the weaving together of
what is true and useful in them.
This sifting and weaving is more than an intellectual virtue. It is as essential
to assembling electoral majorities and governing responsibly amid our frac-
tured politics as it was half a century ago amid the fractured politics of Buckley
and Meyer’s era that culminated in the presidency of Ronald Reagan and as it
was more than two centuries ago amid the fractured politics of America’s found-
ing era that was capped by the drafting and ratification of the Constitution.

Considered in the spirit of constitutional conservatism, the leading conserva-
tive dissatisfactions with contemporary conservatism can be seen as both

20 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
illuminating genuine challenges and distorting the political landscape by
pressing valid concerns to an extreme.
The populist champions of economic nationalism rightly expect the
advance of their interests to be of paramount concern to their elected rep-
resentatives. They reasonably demand that the federal government toughen
border security and adopt temporary and targeted measures to mitigate the
hardships that globalization has inflicted on millions of blue-collar families.
But these critical short-term steps must be formulated in a manner that
affirms the public’s long-term interest in the contribution that free markets
and free trade make to individual freedom.
Never-Trumpers rightly emphasize the importance to politics of sound
character and solid principles while contending that Trump lacks both.
But they underplayed Hillary Clinton’s glaring character defects. They also
discounted the danger to freedom stemming from the progressive prin-
ciples she embraced and from her effortless abandonment of her principles
whenever they interfered with her pursuit of power. Never-Trumpers might
have dialed down their outrage, moreover, had they appreciated better that
the emergence of ostentatiously flawed elected officials is no earth-shattering
scandal but instead is among the primary contingencies for which the Consti-
tution was designed.
Today’s paleoconservatives rightly argue that the liberalism stemming
from John Locke is implicated in perilous political tendencies. These
include reducing all political questions to matters of abstract rights and
legally justiciable claims; ignoring or denigrating the wisdom embodied
in inherited institutions; neglecting the role of family and faith in forming
moral character; supposing that one model of government fits all peoples;
and championing a universal political order at the expense of national sov-
ereignty. But the new paleoconservatives deprive themselves of an essen-
tial ally in the quest to reconcile liberty and tradition by equating Locke
and classical liberalism with the left-liberal interpretation of the Lockean
And those who contemplate the Benedict option rightly observe that from
the perspective of Christian teaching, contemporary American moral and
political culture is in many ways degraded and degrading. But they some-
times overlook that Christianity teaches that politics always falls short;
believers are never fully at home in this life; the City of God serves as an
eternal reproach to and standard for the City of Man. Those drawn to the
prospect of retreating from American society also tend to disregard how
their option to do so vindicates the American constitutional order. For the

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 21
rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness secured by the Constitution
protect the choice of a pious life in inward-focused communities.
If conservatives of various stripes devoted less energy to exposing heretics,
apostates, and infidels in their midst and more to locating common ground
on which those who both cherish freedom and respect tradition can meet,
they might find policy debates more fruitful and electoral outcomes more
The current disarray on the right may preclude the reconstruction of a
conservative movement. But the cultivation of the reconciling spirit at the
heart of modern conservatism is as urgent as ever.

Reprinted by permission of Real Clear Politics. © 2018 RealClearHoldings
LLC. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is
Varieties of Conservatism in America, edited by Peter
Berkowitz. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.

22 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8


Populism, and
the Future
The populist uproar is understandable but
dangerous. It can be harnessed.

By George H. Nash

or more than two years, the United States has been living through
the political equivalent of a volcanic eruption. The volume of volcanic
ash that it has generated—in the form of media coverage, blog posts,
and tweets—has been staggering. In these tumultuous circumstanc-
es it is hard to think afresh about our condition. Nevertheless, we must try.
First, a brief definition of terms. By “conservatives” in the essay that fol-
lows, I shall refer primarily to American conservatives who grew up in, or
are the products of, the conservative intellectual and political movement
that developed in the era of William F. Buckley Jr. and Ronald Reagan. In
other words, those conservatives who, until quite recently, saw themselves as
inhabiting the conservative mainstream. By “populism” I shall refer simply to
a recurrent phenomenon in American politics concisely defined as the revolt
of ordinary people against overbearing and self-serving elites.

George H. Nash is a historian, lecturer, and authority on the life of Herbert
Hoover. He is the author of The Conservative Intellectual Movement in
America Since 1945 (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2014).

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 23
Populistic sentiments—characterized by celebration of the virtue of
ordinary people and distrust of their so-called “betters”—are nothing new in
American history. Indeed, such impulses may be a feature of all democratic
societies, governed as they are in principle by universal suffrage and by a
division of labor between the governors and the governed. These sentiments
form a kind of backdrop to our daily political life—a muttering undercurrent
in the ongoing political conversation.
Most of the time these mutterings do not rise to the level of a roar. But
populism is something more; it is an act of rebellion. It, too, has deep roots in
American politics.
American populism has traditionally come in two forms: a left-wing variety
(think Huey Long and Bernie Sanders), which aims its fire at private-sector,
capitalist elites figuratively ensconced in Wall Street; and, more recently, a
right-wing variety (think
Ronald Reagan and the
Trumpism assails three establish- tea party), which focuses
ments simultaneously. most of its wrath on the
public-sector elite head-
quartered in Washington. In 2016 these two competing brands of populism
vied for supremacy in their respective political homes (the Democratic and
Republican parties), only to be eclipsed in the end by a new and even angrier
brand of populism: a hybrid that we now call Trumpism.

How should conservatives evaluate and respond to this unsettling phe-
nomenon? I suggest that we examine it at four levels: the grievances of the
aggrieved; the program (however vague) of the aggrieved; the character and
qualifications of the leadership of the aggrieved; and the intrinsic strengths
and weaknesses of populism itself as a form of political action.
Conservatives have now had many months to study the Trumpist “revolt of
the masses.” What is noteworthy (at least to this historian) is the degree of con-
sensus on the right about the insurgency’s character and grievances. Conser-
vative observers seem generally to agree that Trumpist populism has exposed
a profound chasm between those above and those below on the political and
socioeconomic scale. The analytic categories and labels vary from commenta-
tor to commentator. Some use the terms “populists” and “elitists” to describe
the combatants. Others depict a struggle pitting “nationalists” against “global-
ists,” the “working class” against the “ruling class,” and the “country party”
against the “court party.” But the underlying analytic thrust is the same.

24 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
To generalize quickly, in the past year or so American conservative
intellectuals have increasingly recognized and expressed sympathy for the
economic and cultural grievances of the Trumpist aggrieved. At step one of
our analytical ladder—the level of recognition and empathy—conservatives
of the Buckley-Reagan persuasion have responded adequately, if sometimes
belatedly, to the populist challenge.
Now it might seem that such empathy would quickly motivate conservative
public policy experts and their allies in Congress to devise and implement
measures to alleviate the pain that has been exposed. This leads us to our
second level of analysis—the program of the aggrieved—and to one of the
most serious challenges now besetting the American right. To put it plainly,
Trumpism (or, if you prefer, Bannonism, after its feisty apologist, Stephen
Bannon) is not merely a revolt against a leftist establishment entrenched in
the administrative state inside the Beltway. Nor is it just a rebellion against a
flaccid Republican political establishment situated nearby. It is also an ideo-
logical revolt against what it perceives to be a decrepit conservative intel-
lectual establishment formed during the Cold War era. The distinctiveness of
Trumpism is that it is assailing three establishments simultaneously.
Nowhere are these battle lines more sharply illuminated than in the debate
over domestic public policy now unfolding on Capitol Hill. Since the advent
of the Reagan administration in 1981, the dominant conservative approach to
domestic public policy
has been the tax-cutting,
pro–free trade, and pro- Populist sentiments form a kind of
immigration ideology backdrop to our daily political life—a
known as supply-side muttering undercurrent in the
economics. Call it Kemp- ongoing political conversation.
ism, after its foremost
exponent for many years, the late representative Jack Kemp. In 2016, how-
ever, along came a new ideology—Trumpism (or Bannonism)—committed to
what Bannon bluntly touted as “economic nationalism.” Its program includes
possibly higher taxes on the rich, protectionist constraints on free trade, and
massive restrictions on immigration, for economic, national security, and
cultural reasons. As Bannon told the interviewer Charlie Rose some months
ago, “Economic nationalism is what this country was built on.” It is difficult
to conceive of a more explicit repudiation of Reagan-era supply-side econom-
ics or its tireless custodian, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.
The fault line goes even deeper. At the heart of Ronald Reagan’s politi-
cal philosophy was a single value: freedom—the “right,” in Reagan’s words,

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 25
of “each individual . . . to control his own destiny” and “work out” his own
happiness without subjection to “the whims of the state.” “We are a nation,”
he preached in his first inaugural address, “that has a government—not the
other way around. And that has made us special among the nations of the
At the heart of Trumpist populism, however—and I suspect of all popu-
lism—is a different yearning: for security, especially for those who feel
forgotten and left behind. If Reaganite conservatism, at least in theory, has
been deeply skeptical of the power of government to manage free markets
and create prosperity, at the core of Trumpist populism—and maybe of all
populism—is faith in governmental power, or at least a willingness born of
desperation to use such power energetically to improve the lot of the people.
Donald Trump embod-
ies this impulse. Paint-
Can populist firebrands be converted ing a somber picture of
into statesmen? For conservatives American misery and
this is always a vexing question. corruption in his accep-
tance speech in 2016, he
proclaimed: “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone
can fix it.” It is a breathtaking divergence from the pro–free market, pro–
limited government political and economic philosophy of Friedrich Hayek,
Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, and other heroes of mainstream American

Is the policy gap between Kempism and Trumpism unbridgeable? In the next
months, presumably, we will find out. Perhaps out of all the tumult in Wash-
ington, messy but tolerable compromises may emerge. But if this is to hap-
pen, feuding conservatives and nationalist populists may need to remember
a maxim popularized by H. L. Mencken: that “in politics a man must learn to
rise above principle.” Or, to put it more elegantly, they may need to practice
what Russell Kirk called “the politics of prudence.”
Meanwhile, conservatives are likely to have their hands full at the third lev-
el of analysis I have proposed for coping with the populist challenge: namely,
the character, temperament, and leadership of the man whom the populist
upheaval has thrust upon us. Here I shall make no effort to examine in depth
our president’s personality—tempting and addictively fascinating as such
an effort might prove to be. Instead, let me offer a single, remarkable datum
that conservatives should carefully ponder: a full year into his first term in

26 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
office, Donald Trump had yet to receive the approval of a clear majority of
the American people in the opinion polls. This is without precedent in the
modern history of the presidency, and it is not a harbinger of sunny weather
There are reasons for this state of affairs, of course, notably the unremit-
ting barrage of hostility and loathing heaped upon Trump by his enemies on
the political left. But some of the explanation lies in Trump’s own tempera-
ment and in a pugilistic governing style that affronts many who have some
sympathy with his agenda.
Here one is reminded of another pugilistic populist of sorts: the crusading
anticommunist senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. In 1954, at the height
of McCarthy’s popularity, the former communist and now conservative icon
Whittaker Chambers—a man of sterling anticommunist credentials—wrote
a letter to his friend William F. Buckley Jr., who was about to publish a book
in defense of McCarthy, and who wanted Chambers to provide a blurb for the
book cover. Chambers declined. Instead he warned Buckley bluntly about
McCarthy’s flaws:

None of us are his enemies. All of us would like to be his partisans,
if only because all are engaged in the same war. As it is, most of
us make an effort to overlook certain matters or to give him the
benefit of most doubts. But, all of us, to one degree or another,
have slowly come to question his judgment and to fear acutely
that his flair for the sensational, his inaccuracies and distortions,
his tendency to sacrifice the greater objective for the momentary
effect, will lead him and us into trouble. In fact, it is no exaggera-
tion to say that we live in terror that Senator McCarthy will one
day make some irreparable blunder which will play directly into
the hands of our common enemy and discredit the whole anti-
Communist effort for a long while to come.

Reread this passage and insert the words “President Trump” and “popu-
list” for “Senator McCarthy” and “anti-Communist,” and you will understand
the uneasiness and trepidation that lurk in many conservative hearts today.
Indeed, it is not too much to say that the unfolding populist challenge
is fraught with tragic possibilities—tragic for conservatives and for those
millions of aggrieved voters who have placed their trust in this unlikely
prince. One such scenario is that in the 2018 elections, Trump’s presi-
dency—insofar as it depends on Congress for results—will be reduced
to political impotence: a blustery tale of sound and fury signifying . . .

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 27
gridlock. A second tragic possibility is that in his eagerness for “deals”
across party lines, President Trump may be maneuvered into disappoint-
ing his political base, particularly on immigration, thereby fracturing the
Republican Party and causing many disillusioned supporters to lapse into
apathy or ineffective muttering, thus opening the gates for a lurch to the
left in 2020.
I mention these scenarios not because I necessarily expect them to occur
but to underscore a sobering fact: how much the fate of the current populist
insurrection, and of American conservatism, too, now rests on the mercurial
personality of one man.
My final category
At the core of Trumpist populism— of analysis concerns
the nature of populism
and maybe all populism—is faith in
itself. The great intrinsic
governmental power, or at least a
strength of populism is
willingness born of desperation to that it gives a voice to the
use such power. hitherto voiceless, who
often have legitimate
grievances that deserve redress. But populism also suffers from three prob-
lematic features. First, populist eruptions, like volcanic eruptions in nature,
tend to be spasmodic and relatively brief. They are apt to die down when the
economic upheavals with which they are usually associated start to dissipate.
Moreover, populist mobilizations are almost invariably reactive, and those
doing the reacting are generally people for whom politics is not a daily preoc-
cupation—unlike the ruling elites against whom they rebel. For conservatives
in 2018 this raises a question: how long will it be before the current populist
eruption subsides and normal politics—elite-dominated politics—reasserts
The second problematic feature of populism is encapsulated in a remark
by the American patriot leader James Otis in 1775, at the start of the Ameri-
can Revolution: “When the pot boils, the scum will rise.” (Visitors to the
comments pages at some websites may sympathize with his sentiments.)
Populism by its nature is a creature of frustration and passion. It also tends
to be anti-institutional—that is, harshly critical of the institutions where
the elites whom it despises hold sway. Thus it should not surprise us that in
America and other nations populist movements have produced more than a
few eccentric and unpolished leaders, often drawn from outside the institu-
tions of polite society. For conservative intellectuals who believe that suc-
cessful democracies require statesmanship and civic virtue, one of the most

28 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
troubling features of populism is the frequently erratic and demagogic char-
acter of its leadership. Can populist firebrands be converted into statesmen?
For conservatives this is always a vexing question when populist uprisings
The third problematic aspect of populism is the tribalistic overtones of its
rhetoric. This, too, seems inherent in the phenomenon. If you are a populist
who believes that a self-serving, elitist cabal or faction is exploiting the virtu-
ous people, then what must you do? Why, unite the people, of course, against
their oppressors. And the key word here is “unite.”
But on what terms should populists strive to unite the people? One of
the striking trends of the past two decades has been the spread of a post-
national, even anti-national, sensibility among America’s cosmopolitan,
progressive elites and young people—a denationalizing trend linked to the
ideology of multiculturalism. Not surprising, one of the notable aspects of
Trumpism is its renationalizing tendencies, including a defiant reaffirma-
tion of popular sovereignty and of the nation-state as a political organizing
For most conservatives the populist pushback against “transnational
progressivism” and elitist “globalism” is both understandable and defensible.
If our nation is to survive, some common bonds must unite us. “Diversity” is
not enough. Moreover, conservatives argue, ours must be a government of
and by—and not merely for—the people.
But notice now what is also steadily creeping into American public dis-
course. Increasingly on the right (and the left, too), the assaultive and
apocalyptic language
of war is being used to
mobilize political legions. The fate of the current populist insur-
Provocative words like rection, and of American conserva-
“resistance,” “coup,” tism, too, now rests on the mercurial
“secession,” “civil war,” personality of one man.
and “purge” are popping
up more frequently in political disputation. Increasingly, too, analysts across
the spectrum are invoking class analysis and class war themes to depict the
clash between the populists and their foes.
Meanwhile, at the margins, the belligerent dissenters known as the alt-
right are aggressively promoting their own forms of collective solidarity
along increasingly racialist, white nationalist, and identitarian lines. How
far we have come from the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan, who appealed to his
fellow Americans not as members of antagonistic races, classes, or ethnic

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 29
groups but as individuals who should be free to pursue their own destinies
in a land of liberty.

It is not my purpose to apportion blame for these developments. My point is
not to condemn populism out of hand, still less to let its elitist adversaries off
the hook, but rather to highlight the conformist and collectivizing impulses
inherent in populism—all populism—and to suggest that conservatives be
wary of these tendencies, which are also disturbingly present on the militant
How, then, should conservatives respond to the populist challenge now roil-
ing the American right? Returning to the framework of analysis presented
earlier, conservatives of the Buckley-Reagan persuasion must continue to
demonstrate sympathy for the aggrieved and their grievances, both econom-
ic and cultural, and must try to accommodate the populist program in some
measure, in the sphere of public policy. This may mean that conservatives in
Congress and the chat-
tering classes will have
Increasingly on the right (and the left, to rise at times “above
too), the assaultive and apocalyp- principle” and modify
tic language of war is being used to their strict adherence
mobilize political legions. to supply-side economic
orthodoxy. What has long
passed in conservative circles for economic wisdom (like cutting tax rates on
the wealthy) may not, in the current crisis, be political wisdom. Conversely,
proposals that may appear to Buckley-Reagan conservatives to be economi-
cally dubious (such as more governmental spending on infrastructure) may
be prudent policy options just the same: the price to be paid at this point for
healing some of the wounds in our body politic.
Second, conservatives need to address, more directly and systematically
than heretofore, the problem of refining—and not merely denouncing or
flattering—populistic leadership. How can such leadership be elevated and
steered toward statesmanship? How can America avoid descending into
what the founding fathers so much feared: rule by the mob or—even worse—
competing and adversarial mobs? For conservative intellectuals this may be
the most urgent challenge of all in the years just ahead.
We are living in a time of deepening rancor and polarization, in which
politics is becoming an increasingly harsh and unbridled contest of wills.
In this poisonous climate the temptation is strong, and the pressure great,

30 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
for partisans of the left and right (and above and below) to repair to their
respective tribal barricades, driven by the ceaseless drumbeat of the “binary
But we are not there yet, and conservative intellectuals must do their best
to avert this cul-de-sac. We know from Edmund Burke what will happen if
we fail. In 1791 he wrote: “Society cannot exist unless a controlling power
upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within,
the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of
things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge
their fetters.”

Reprinted by permission of the New Criterion. © 2018 The New Criterion
( All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is The
Crusade Years, 1933–1955: Herbert Hoover’s Lost
Memoir of the New Deal Era and Its Aftermath, edited
by George H. Nash. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 31


Rough Riders
Sometimes Americans benefit from leaders who
are large and in charge.

By Victor Davis Hanson

merica has always enjoyed two antithetical traditions in its
political and military heroes. The preferred style is the reticent,
sober, and competent executive planner as president or general,
from Herbert Hoover to Gerald Ford to Jimmy Carter. George
Marshall remains the epitome of understated and quiet competence. The
alternative and more controversial sorts are the loud, often reckless and pro-
fane, pile drivers. Think Andrew Jackson or Teddy Roosevelt. At given times
and in particular landscapes, both profiles have proven invaluable.

Both Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman were military genius-
es. Grant was quiet and reflective—at least in his public persona, which gave
scant hint that he struggled with alcohol and often displayed poor judgment
about those who surrounded him. Sherman was loud. He was often petty, and
certainly ready in a heartbeat to engage in feuds, many of them counterpro-
ductive. Sherman threatened to imprison or even hang critical journalists
and waged a bitter feud with the secretary of war, Edwin Stanton.
Too few, then or now, have appreciated that the uncouth Sherman displayed
both a prescient genius and an uncanny understanding of human nature.

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the
Hoover Institution and the chair of Hoover’s Working Group on the Role of Military
History in Contemporary Conflict. His latest book is The Second World Wars:
How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won (Basic Books, 2017).

32 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
Whereas Grant could brilliantly envision how his armies might beat the enemy
along a battle line or capture a key fortress or open a river, Sherman’s insight
encompassed whole regions and theaters, calibrating how both economics and
sociology might mesh with military strategy to crush an entire people.
For all of Grant’s purported drinking and naiveté about the scoundrels
around him, his outward professional bearing, his understated appearance of
steadiness and discretion, enhanced his well-earned reputation for masterful
control in times of crises. The volatile and loquacious nature of Sherman, in
contrast, often hid and diminished appreciation of his talents—in some ways
greater than Grant’s.

Harry Truman talked too much. He swore. He drank. He played poker. He
was petty to the point of stooping to threaten a music critic who dismissed
his daughter’s singing performance. His profanity was an open secret, as well
as his temper. His advisers constantly cautioned him to tone it down. As a
Missourian who had once gone bankrupt and recouped with a political career
though the help of the corrupt Pendergast machine, Truman carried a chip
on his shoulder through-
out his political career on
the East Coast. In some The uncouth General Sherman dis-
sense, Truman was an played both a military genius and an
accidental president—a uncanny understanding of human
workmanlike senator nature.
appointed as running
mate in the 1944 re-election campaign to the sure fourth-termer FDR—out of
justified fears that an ailing Roosevelt would soon die in office and his social-
ist vice president, Henry Wallace, become wartime president.
“Give ’em hell” Harry’s fiery and often grating personality and infamous
feud with General Douglas MacArthur helped to explain why he left office
with the then-lowest presidential ratings in modern history. His Internal
Revenue Bureau (the precursor of the IRS) was scandal-ridden and many of
his aides were buffoonish. Yet plain-speaking Truman proved a great or at
least a near-great president. By dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, he precluded either a horrific ground invasion of Japan or a
murderous escalation of General Curtis LeMay’s incendiary air war.
Truman also jettisoned the Democratic Party’s institutional naiveté about
Joseph Stalin’s postwar ambitions. Truman was mostly responsible for sav-
ing Berlin and South Korea, integrating the military, ensuring the Marshall

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 33
Plan, NATO, the birth of Israel, and the entire postwar policy of deterrence
and containment against Soviet-sponsored global communism.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was likewise a successful president, though his
foreign-policy achievements, derivative of Truman’s, were never as path-
breaking. The beloved Ike’s signature trait was competent administration.
It was honed by a professional willingness to listen and compromise, with
assurances to all parties that, while capable of temper, Ike was discreet and
would never lose his head when those around him might.
Eisenhower avoided a major war with the Soviets abroad, continued deter-
rence, and oversaw general prosperity and relative calm at home. Whereas
Truman’s bouts of uncouth candor tended to mask his landmark accomplish-
ments, Eisenhower’s sobriety only enhanced his less-monumental achieve-
ments. It is hard to envision any other comparable figure herding together all
the Anglo-American
three-star and

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

34 H O O V ER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
egos during the race across France and Holland into Germany in 1944–45. Ike
left office as popular as Truman did despised.

Omar Bradley today is still known as “the GI general” and “a soldier’s general.”
“Brad” was steady if not, on occasion, obsequious to his superiors in public and
haughty to his inferiors in private. Eisenhower relied on Brad’s predictable dis-
cretion in promoting him over his former superior, the volatile George
S. Patton. It is difficult to cite any major military decision that
Bradley made in the critical year 1944 that proved either
inspired or shrewd. The failure to close the Falaise Gap
was largely his own. Bradley appeared resentful of and
by, rather

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 35
supportive of, Patton’s wild advance of August 1944. Bradley never foresaw the
problems waiting for his subordinate, General Courtney Hodges, in the Hürt-
gen Forest. He seemed bewildered by the German thrust in the first few hours
of the Battle of the Bulge, and initially had little idea how to repel the assault.
Bradley’s general feeling of inferiority prevented him from appreciating the
genius of the cruder Patton, much less the valuable professional competence
of the egomaniacal and abrasive British general Bernard Montgomery. Again,
however, Bradley was
loyal and professional.
George Patton was a philanderer, He could be trusted
profane, mercurial, bombastic, to administer military
unsteady—and perhaps the most affairs competently and
gifted field general in US history. to explain to associates
and the public questions
of strategy and policy carefully and prudently—projecting a Gary Cooper or
Jimmy Stewart “aw shucks” simplicity and earthiness that did wonders in
cloaking his considerable strategic and tactical limitations.
Little need be said about the iconic Patton. Whereas Bradley was a faith-
ful husband, plainspoken and reserved, Patton was a philanderer, profane,
mercurial, bombastic, unsteady—and perhaps the most gifted field general
in US history. His genius for war saved thousands of lives. Patton’s instincts,
cunning, and prescience might have saved even more had he been listened to.
Eisenhower, Bradley, and Walter Bedell Smith were all prone to hector Pat-
ton on his character flaws, warning him that his mouth and unsteady com-
portment would ensure that “Georgie” was constantly in trouble of his own
making—from slapping
a sick soldier to voicing
Eisenhower’s sobriety enhanced his clairvoyant but suppos-
less-monumental achievements. edly reckless predictions
about America’s wartime
Soviet allies. Patton, with herculean efforts at censoring his thoughts and
actions, was for a time able to placate his superiors. Yet the net result of Pat-
ton’s volatility was predictable.
Even today some continue to embrace the myth that the studious, learned,
often generous, and considerate Patton was a buffoon instead of our nation’s
signature military genius. We forget that Patton enhanced his natural talents
through relentless preparation and hard work, and often displayed a magna-
nimity born from confidence completely lacking in the insecure and occasion-
ally mean-spirited Bradley.

36 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
We can think of lots of stereotypically loud and unsteady American talents—
from Samuel Adams to Curtis LeMay—and even more discreet and profes-
sional administrators of the sterling caliber of George Marshall and Chester
Nimitz. Of course, not every leader must in Manichean fashion be either
sober and judicious or profane and uncouth. Perhaps the greatest, such
as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D.
Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan, brilliantly combine both personas—adroitly
turning on the emotion and passion to rev up the public while keeping a quiet
and steady hand on the tiller in stormy weather. In his encomium on Pericles,
the historian Thucydides long ago outlined this rare dual character of a great
democratic leader: their exuberance and passion were properly married to
calmness and steadiness, each to be expressed at the appropriate time and
calibrated to the emotions of the masses.
Nonetheless, the mercurial and uncouth style enjoys an ambiguous role in
American cultural, political, and military history. It is an ancient crux perhaps
captured from Homer to John Ford as the essence of the tragic hero, whose very
excesses are precisely what both save others and doom himself. Artists remind
us of the role of irony
and paradox—that great
things can come from “Give ’em hell” Harry Truman staved
sometimes less-than-great off a bloody invasion of Japan and saw
people, that what appears Stalin’s ambitions for what they were.
dangerous is actually what
is safe, what should seem good in theory proves awful in fact, what is supposedly
proven beyond a doubt is actually evidence of the foolishness of groupthink.
Outsiders who do not fit—and perhaps should not fit—in civilization’s sta-
tus quo are sometimes the only ones who can save it from itself. They possess
uncivilized talents that are as critical in crises as they can become troubling
in calm. In March 1945, we were lucky to have a General Curtis LeMay, archi-
tect of the bombing campaign against wartime Japan. In 1968, we laughed
at him, the now-Strangelovian running mate of George Wallace, an easily
caricatured but nonetheless authentic American hero who had saved both
the B-29 program and the Strategic Air Command.
The public is confused by the loud and rambunctious style. It usually
prefers predictable competence to unpredictable singularity—at least until
realizing that the accustomed and status quo cannot continue. We constantly
lament that the loud and profane have not been more self-controlled. Had
Sherman been less outspoken, might he have been more heralded or found

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 37
high command earlier? But would a reticent Sherman have been a better
General Sherman? Would a Truman who kept his temper have been the
Truman who rightly blew up at Stalin and MacArthur? What might the
Normandy front have
looked like in June–July
It’s always hard to ascertain to what 1944 had Patton, not Ike
degree flamboyance and excess, even and Bradley, exercised
the self-destructive sorts, are integral senior command? Would
it have brought utter
to genius.
chaos across the Rhine by
October 1944? Or was Patton’s mouth not merely the price of, but essential
to, his turning up at Bastogne when others could not?
It is always hard to ascertain to what degree flamboyance and excess, even
the self-destructive sorts, are integral to genius. To what degree in extre-
mis do we need to make allowances and exemptions for the former to allow
expression of the latter? Circumstances obviously determine how far the
public is willing to take risks with the unconventional. The peacetime army of
the late 1930s would have had no place for a General George S. Patton. We too
can cringe to think what Sherman or Truman, or Winston Churchill, might
have tweeted had Twitter been at their late-night fingertips.
For all his first-year achievements, President Trump is hardly yet a Patton
or a Truman. Yet this is a good time to ponder how mellifluous appeasement
can be more dangerous than flamboyant deterrence—and how the sober and
discreet can be more adroit at warping the Constitution than are the profane
and rambunctious. We should remember that different sorts are suitable for
different occasions: there are seasons of recouping and seasons of disrupting;
times of consolidation and times of expansion; and moments of both quiet
conciliation and loud delineation.

Reprinted by permission of National Review. © 2018 National Review 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

38 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8


Stranger Politics
Puritanism is once again a force in American
life—at least when it’s being used for political

By Bruce S. Thornton

n 62 BC, the tribune Clodius Pulcher was caught sneaking into Julius
Caesar’s house during a religious ritual forbidden to men. Clodius was
allegedly attempting to seduce Caesar’s wife, Pompeia, who was host-
ing the ceremony and was rumored to welcome Clodius’s advances.
Because the scandal happened at Caesar’s house, he divorced her.
At Clodius’s trial for sacrilege, however, Caesar testified that he knew
nothing of the matter, despite the evidence and despite widespread rumors
about Pompeia and Clodius. When asked by the prosecutor why then he had
divorced his wife, Caesar responded with the now proverbial, “I thought
my wife ought not to be under suspicion.” But as Plutarch adds, Caesar’s
decision was not about upholding standards of religious purity or virtuous
behavior. Caesar had made a political calculation: the accused was a tribune

Bruce S. Thornton is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a member of
Hoover’s Working Group on the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict,
and a professor of classics and humanities at California State University, Fresno.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 39
of the people and a favorite of the masses, who were threatening the jurors
with violence. As a leader of the populares, the people, Caesar couldn’t afford
to alienate his volatile supporters by testifying against their champion.
The recent numerous accusations of sexual misconduct, harassment, or
assault by politicians and celebrities, some of which date back forty years,
have been accompanied by condemnations redolent of the “Caesar’s wife”
standard: political leaders “ought not to be under suspicion.” In Caesar’s time
as in ours, this rigorous standard of behavior reflects politics as much as a
commitment to virtue.

After eight women accused then-senator Al Franken of various forms of sex-
ual harassment, more than thirty senators, including twenty-one women, five
of them Republicans, called for him to step down. Most of the accusations
comprised unwanted physical contact and clumsy passes; one, a photograph
of Franken pretending to grope a sleeping journalist’s breasts, was clearly a
juvenile gag. Franken in
his resignation announce-
There’s nothing exceptional about ment did not apologize or
finding one’s principles to be also admit his guilt. Instead,
politically expedient, a fact of partici- he claimed that some of
patory politics since ancient Athens. the allegations were “sim-
ply untrue,” and others he
remembered “differently.” He also decried “the false impression that I was
admitting to doing things that, in fact, I haven’t done.”
The reaction to the charges against Franken to many smacked of politi-
cal expediency. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was the first Democrat to call for
Franken’s resignation, saying that “any kind of mistreatment of women in our
society isn’t acceptable.” A few weeks earlier, after Gillibrand had criticized
former president Bill Clinton for not resigning over the Monica Lewinsky
scandal, many questioned why it had taken nearly twenty years for Gillibrand
to acknowledge Clinton’s transgressions.
More telling, several Democrats accused her of hypocrisy and political
self-aggrandizement. One anonymous Democratic strategist told The Hill, “All
this reeks of is political opportunism, and that’s what defines Kirsten Gil-
librand’s career. Why wasn’t she talking about Bill Clinton when he was help-
ing her during her various races for the House and Senate? And would she be
talking about Bill Clinton today if Hillary Clinton was president? I think we
all know the answer.”

40 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
Gillibrand has for several years been rumored to be planning a run for the
2020 presidential nomination. Perhaps she was burnishing her credentials
as a defender of women by turning on one of the party’s most visible and
beloved standard-bearers, calling on a fellow Democrat to resign. Mean-
while, the renewed attention given to Bill Clinton’s checkered history of
sexual improprieties has
tarnished the Clinton
brand. It is likely that if In Julius Caesar’s time as in ours, the
Gillibrand does run her “Caesar’s wife” standard reflects poli-
public criticisms will tics as much as virtue.
help her, allowing her
to craft an image as a champion for women, a role critical for a party that
counts unmarried and college-educated women as among its most important
Roy Moore’s Senate campaign could also have worked to her advantage.
Had Moore been elected in Alabama, the contrast between Gillibrand’s party
condemning Franken and the Republican National Committee (and the
president) supporting an alleged child molester would have played favorably
to that constituency.
For many Republicans, particularly those critical of President Trump,
Moore was their own political and moral damaged goods that should have
been cast out of the party.
The accusations against Moore, like those against Franken, elicited the
“Caesar’s wife” standard from those Republicans. Several Republican sena-
tors had sworn to file ethics charges in the event of a Moore victory to eject
him from the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that if
Moore had been elected, “he would immediately have an issue with the Eth-
ics Committee.” Senator Richard Shelby told CNN that “when it got to the
fourteen-year-old’s story, that was enough for me. I said I can’t vote for Roy
Moore.” Republican senators Mike Lee of Utah and Steve Daines of Montana
withdrew their endorsements and former Massachusetts senator and Repub-
lican presidential candidate Mitt Romney tweeted, “Roy Moore in the US
Senate would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation. . . . No vote, no major-
ity is worth losing our honor, our integrity.” Pundit Bret Stephens tweeted
that the GOP has become the “GOPP. Grand Old Pedophile Party.”
The case against Moore, according to these critics, rested on allegations of
behaviors so reprehensible that the mere suspicion of them—even if not defini-
tively corroborated—created a cause for exiling him. Even if the party suffers,
the reasoning went, no electoral success is worth the sacrifice of principle.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 41
But the same political calculations compromise these stands on principle.
Mitt Romney is running for a Senate seat in Utah, where high moral standards
are particularly important for voters. Other Republicans might have decided
to put distance between themselves and a politician accused of assaulting teen-
age girls (though all but one of the accusers were at or over sixteen—the age
of consent in Alabama), perhaps calculating that given the Republican Party’s
problem with women and college-educated voters, it would be imprudent to
support Moore, also remembering the persistent sexual harassment com-
plaints against Trump that surfaced during the primaries.
For Republican strategists, Trump’s support of the disreputable Moore
could have been politically fatal if Moore had won. As columnist Jonah
Goldberg put it, “The simple fact is this guy, if elected, will be a disaster for
Trump, conservatives, and the GOP alike—even if he votes in partisan lock-
step with the Trump agenda. The mere act of him voting for good legislation
will make it harder for some senators to vote for it.”

The contrast between the Democrats’ banning of a sexual predator and the
Republicans’ acceptance of an alleged “child molester” would have been
fodder for numerous Democratic campaign ads and speeches. Other Repub-
licans have argued that Moore’s loss took that issue off the table, leaving the
sexual-assault card a political trump for Republicans, since the bulk of the
accusations have been against Democrats.
Of course, there is nothing exceptional about finding one’s principles to be
also politically expedient, a fact of participatory politics since ancient Athens.
But we live in an age of an incoherent coexistence of prudery and prurience.
There’s something hypocritical about maintaining high Victorian standards
of sexual behavior in a culture so sexually saturated since the 1960s that
sexual practices and
behaviors once hidden
American politics, already divisive, away have long been pub-
is becoming even more trivial and licly available to teenag-
contentious. ers. And given the power
of surveillance created
by smartphones and social media, any accusation, no matter how lacking in
evidence and corroboration, can get instant media distribution and credibil-
ity, and become a tool for leveraging a political advantage.
Today, however, we have raised the bar of rectitude so high that every poli-
tician or political candidate is like Caesar’s wife, and cannot be even under

42 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
suspicion. Character and virtue count, of course, but judging both requires a
familiarity with a candidate’s record of behavior that cannot be gained simply
by listening to a few speeches or observing the level of decorum and style.
Obviously, proven criminal acts of any kind should be made known and taken
into our evaluation of a
politician or candidate.
On the other hand, clum- Our age displays an incoherent coex-
sy flirting, incompetent istence of prudery and prurience.
passes, and childish gags
should not be treated as crimes, and uncorroborated accusations of felonies
long past the statute of limitations should not, without strong evidence, be
assumed to be true or false just to serve political expediency.
Rather, in deciding on a candidate, voters should use discernment when
deciding how much weight should be put on his record of public behavior,
and how much on his political acumen and coherent understanding of the
issues he is likely to face. This means we must trust in our own reasoned
judgment of each candidate’s political principles and policy prescriptions,
rather than relying on uncorroborated and sensationalized accusations that
may not be a true or fair expression of his moral character.
In a democracy with wide participation by diverse peoples, the “Caesar’s
wife” standard makes our already divisive politics even more trivial and
contentious, as the promise of political advantage makes false accusations
more tempting and consumes our time in wrangling over disputed allega-
tions rather than judging candidates by the soundness of their principles and

Reprinted by permission of FrontPage Magazine. © 2018 FrontPageMag- All rights reserved.

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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 43


Let the States
Where it’s allowed to thrive, federalism keeps
American governance nimble and innovative.

By Clint Bolick

s with any charter of government more than two centuries old,
the US Constitution has weathered serious storms. Many of
its provisions are as vibrant as the day they were born, while
others have badly faded. But one feature of our great freedom
charter is perhaps more vibrant than ever before: federalism. Long given
up for dead, federalism is experiencing quite a revival—thanks not only to
conservatives but also to liberals who have rediscovered its importance in
the Trump era.
Our country’s bitter political divisions have paralyzed national govern-
ment, rendering it incapable of addressing our nation’s most urgent prob-
lems. Fortunately, our framers envisioned that most of the decisions that
affect us most intimately as individuals and communities would be made not
at the national but at the state and local levels; and despite a steady accretion
of power in the national government, that still remains the case.
Indeed, federalism is playing an especially vital role—as a tool to allow
people of sharply divergent views to effectuate different policy goals. If

Clint Bolick is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and also serves as an
associate justice of the Supreme Court of Arizona. Previously he was the director
of the Goldwater Institute Center for Constitutional Litigation in Phoenix.

44 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
we can’t reconcile competing viewpoints at the national level, we can each
pursue policies that reflect our respective goals and values in the several
states—and in the process, to borrow a bumper-sticker phrase, to coexist.
And that was exactly what the framers intended.

Federalism is central to our constitutional system of government. When most
people think of separation of powers, they think of the executive, legislative,
and judicial branches, each balancing and limiting each other. But even more
fundamental is the vertical separation of powers, in which the states and the
national government also balance and limit one another.
In the original constitutional framework, states were intended to have the
upper hand. The Constitution created a national government of limited and
defined powers. The states retained all remaining legitimate governmental
powers. To underscore the point, the framers punctuated the Bill of Rights
with the Tenth Amendment, which provides that “the powers not delegated
to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States,
are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The framers
believed that the states and their constitutions would be reliable guardians
of individual liberty. After all, the Bill of Rights derived from existing protec-
tions in state constitutions.
But, of course, that premise proved incorrect: states did not turn out to be
reliable guardians of individual liberty. The institution of human slavery and
other deprivations of freedom necessary to sustain it were effectuated under
color of state law. So, following the Civil War, Congress enacted the Fourteenth
Amendment to nationalize the protection of civil rights where states had vio-
lated them. The result was a double security for freedom, with states and their
constitutions continuing to provide essential protection for freedom, but with
federal remedies available when states transgressed constitutional boundaries.
That framework has not always been faithfully applied, in large part
because federalism has rarely had consistent supporters. Liberals loved
federalism in the 1920s and 1930s. During that period, the US Supreme Court
routinely invalidated economic regulations at the state and local (as well as
national) levels. Justice Louis Brandeis, dissenting from one such opinion
in 1932, famously declared that “there must be power in the States . . . to
remold, through experimentation, our economic practices to meet changing
social and economic needs. . . . It is one of the happy incidents of the federal
system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 45
But the tune changed when FDR became president and
some states attempted to buck the New Deal tide. By 1940,
after liberals took control of the court, a case called US
v. Darby dismissed the Tenth Amendment as a “truism.”
Hence did the Supreme Court, not for the first time or
certainly the last, reduce one of the most vital compo-
nents of the Constitution to a mere platitude. And there
its status remained until liberals rediscovered
the relevancy of federalism

46 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
after the Warren Court ended in 1980s, and conservatives rediscovered it
during the Clinton years, and on and on the story goes.

But along the way, a mysterious and wonderful thing started to happen: the
Supreme Court began to embrace a more coherent and consistent jurispru-
dence of federalism, one that recognizes its core value: freedom. We recog-
nize the dual sovereignty of states and the national government not to glorify
one at the expense of another, but because that balance and competition of
powers, properly enforced, advances freedom.
Several cases illustrate this evolution, but two of my favorites are relatively
obscure, Gonzales v. Oregon (2006) and Bond v. United States (2011). Gonzales
involved a voter initiative adopted by Oregon voters creating the so-called
“right to die,” protecting assisted suicide in certain instances. The Bush
administration, which was pro-federalism except when it wasn’t, invoked the
federal Controlled Substances Act to invalidate the measure. The Supreme

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

H O O V E R D IG E S T • S p ring 2018 47
Court upheld the Oregon law by a 6–3 vote. The majority decided the case on
federalism grounds. Recognizing that regulation of medicine is traditionally a
matter of state concern, the court read the federal law narrowly so as not to
effect what it referred to as “a radical shift of authority from the states to the
federal government to define general standards of medical practice in every
locality.” The decision was
a victory not only for fed-
If we can’t reconcile competing view-
eralism but for the right
points at the national level, we can to medical self-determi-
pursue our goals and values in the nation that the state had
states. That’s exactly what the fram- resolved to protect.
ers intended. Five years later, the
court decided the case
of Carol Anne Bond, a jilted spouse who discovered that a close friend had
become pregnant by her husband. Devising a scheme of revenge, Bond
strategically placed poison on her former friend’s mailbox, car door handle,
and front doorknob, causing the woman to suffer a minor burn on her hand.
It was the stuff of tabloids, but not a typical candidate for Supreme Court
review—until federal prosecutors got involved and charged Bond with, of all
things, violating an international chemical weapons treaty. Bond wanted to
challenge the federal government’s prosecution as a violation of the Tenth
Amendment, on the basis that this should be a matter of state criminal law
rather than an international chemical weapons treaty. But that presented
the question that brought the case to the Supreme Court: does an individual
have standing to assert the Tenth Amendment against an unconstitutional
federal action?
The court answered that question unanimously with an emphatic yes, elo-
quently conveying the essence of federalism in the course of its opinion.
“Federalism,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, “secures the freedom of the
individual. It allows states to respond, through the enactment of positive law,
to the initiative of those who seek a voice in shaping the destiny of their own
times without having to rely solely upon the political processes that control a
remote central power.” The court emphasized that “state sovereignty is not
just an end in itself: rather, federalism secures to citizens the liberties that
derive from the diffusion of sovereign power.”
Imagine that: a Supreme Court justice referring to our nation’s capital as
a “remote central power.” And yet, that reflects the sentiment of the times,
and the court recognized federalism’s vital role in preserving a degree of

48 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
The court also has embraced in a line of cases the anti-commandeering
principle, which holds that although federal law is supreme in areas within
its authorized scope, the national government cannot force states to fund or
implement federal laws. In a 1992 decision involving waste disposal, the court
in a 6–3 decision by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor proclaimed, “States are
not mere political subdivisions of the United States. . . . Whatever the outer
limits of [their] sovereignty . . . one thing is clear: the federal government
may not compel the states to enact or administer a federal regulatory pro-
gram.” More recently, in NFIB v. Sebelius (2012), even as the majority voted to
uphold ObamaCare, seven members of the court ruled that Congress could
not financially coerce states to expand Medicaid.

Those decisions and many others illustrate both the breadth and the depth
of the pro-federalism consensus on our nation’s highest court. I don’t want
to overstate this phenomenon; to the contrary, in terms of the breathtaking
expansion of national power, we are still far removed from the vision of the
framers. But the current climate is the most favorable for federalism in a
long time.
States can control their own destinies and even influence or determine
national policy in many ways. One is through a constitutional mechanism
they have never used: amending the Constitution, not by ratifying amend-
ments approved by Congress, but by proposing their own. Article V of the
Constitution allows two-thirds of the states to call a convention to propose
amendments. Some have
raised concerns about
a runaway convention;
We recognize the dual sovereignty of
others have proposed states and the national government
mechanisms to prevent because the balance and competition
that. But the ultimate advance freedom.
safeguard is that thirty-
eight states must ratify any proposed amendment. Such an effort may never
come to fruition—but even the act of coming close could have a potent and
salutary effect on federal actions and policies.
One possible way to break the gridlock in our nation’s capital might be
to devolve seemingly intractable disputes to the states. Jeb Bush and I
proposed exactly that in our 2013 book Immigration Wars. Under the Con-
stitution, Congress has exclusive authority over immigration. Yet despite a
desperate need to dramatically overhaul an outmoded and ineffective federal

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 49
immigration policy, Congress is paralyzed. Why not delegate some por-
tion of the visa authority to the states, so that those with a need for low- or
high-skilled labor can meet the demand, while other states could elect not to
do so? Last year, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder requested fifty thousand
skill-based visas to help repopulate Detroit with enterprising immigrants.
The idea of federalism-based immigration reform is now before Congress. It
breaks the mold, breaks the logjam, and provides a template for state-based
reform that can be replicated in many other areas.
One of the most potentially robust features of federalism, and unfortunate-
ly one of the most overlooked, is state constitutionalism. We often talk about
the Constitution, in the singular, but in fact we have fifty-one constitutions.
Every state constitution is
chock full of protections
Imagine that: a Supreme Court justice of individual liberty and
referred to our nation’s capital as a constraints on govern-
“remote central power.” ment power that are
completely unknown in
the federal Constitution. And part of the beauty of federalism is that so long
as they do not violate the federal Constitution, state courts are free to inter-
pret their own constitutions differently from how the US Supreme Court
interprets the national Constitution, even where the words are identical. But
only in one direction: thanks to Supreme Court precedent, state courts may
interpret their own constitutions only to provide greater freedom than the
US Constitution, not less. I call this the freedom ratchet.
Again, this was an idea first championed by liberals, specifically Justice
William Brennan, who starting in the 1970s worried that many rights of
criminal defendants recognized by the Warren Court were being eroded
by a more conservative Supreme Court. He called upon liberal activists to
recourse to state courts and constitutions to preserve and expand those
protections. They heeded the call with gusto. Within ten years, Brennan
counted more than 250 state court decisions interpreting their constitutions
to provide greater protections for criminal defendants than the national
constitution did.
For all of their professed devotion to federalism, conservatives and liber-
tarians have been much slower to embrace state constitutionalism, despite
abundant opportunities to expand freedom. One noteworthy example is the
infamous Kelo v. City of New London (2005) case in which the US Supreme
Court upheld the decision of the city of New London, Connecticut, to use its
eminent-domain power to bulldoze a working-class neighborhood to make

50 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
way for a Pfizer plant expansion (which never materialized). The court’s
majority held that the Fifth Amendment’s limitation of eminent domain to
public use had amended itself to the much more permissive standard of public
benefit. In so doing, it removed any meaningful constraint from the power to
take property from one private owner and give it to another.
At the same time that Susette Kelo and her neighbors were losing their
homes, Mesa, Arizona, was serving eminent-domain papers to the owners
of Bailey’s Brake Service and its neighbors at the corner of Country Club
Road and Main Street to make way for a hardware store that wanted to
expand. Randy Bailey had inherited the brake business from his father and
wanted to leave it to his son, and he had no desire to move. Had Bailey filed
suit in federal court, he surely would have lost his business. But instead, my
then-colleagues at the Institute for Justice and I defended his rights under
the Arizona constitution, which our court of appeals construed as providing
greater protection for property rights than the federal Constitution. Courts
and legislatures in other states likewise acted to limit eminent domain to
public use instead of public benefit. Cases like these illustrate that federalism
is not merely some abstract constitutional proposition—federalism in action
can have profoundly positive human consequences.

States are initiating widespread policy change in another way, too, through
what I call civil disobedience federalism. These efforts involve states or local
communities taking policy actions that may directly or indirectly clash with
established federal authority.
One example is marijuana legalization. The US Supreme Court in 2005
upheld the federal government’s prohibition of marijuana even when culti-
vated and consumed within a single state. Yet today, twenty-nine states have
made marijuana use permissible in some fashion; and for now, at least, the
federal government has acquiesced. Whether you support or oppose such
laws, they represent state efforts to adopt policies that better reflect their
citizens’ policy preferences than the national government can.
But another exercise in federalism has eclipsed even the success of the
marijuana legalization effort. Our nation produces the greatest medicines
and medical technologies in the world, many of which offer tremendous
potential for millions of seriously ill people. But standing between those peo-
ple and the drugs that may save their lives is a vast bureaucracy, the FDA,
whose approval process costs $1.4 billion per drug and can take a decade.
That process includes clinical trials, but they’re strictly limited and provide

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 51
placebos to many participants. The FDA also has a so-called “compassionate
use” process for patients to access potentially lifesaving experimental drugs,
but the paperwork typically required a hundred physician-hours to complete,
making it inaccessible to all but a handful of people. Wealthy people often
can access the very same drugs in foreign countries but Americans of lesser
means cannot. For years, advocates on both sides of the ideological divide
have attempted to reform this byzantine system without success.
Only a few short years ago, my then-colleagues at the Goldwater Institute,
working with political strategists Chuck Warren and Tim Mooney, pondered
whether it might be pos-
sible to do something
We can’t have red-state federalism about this problem at
without blue-state federalism, nor the state level. We came
up with the idea of state
blue without red.
legislation that would give
terminally ill patients a right to access experimental drugs that had passed
the safety phase of FDA approval while immunizing those providing the
access against liability. We called it “Right to Try.”
The idea was enormously audacious. Federal authority over drug regula-
tion is firmly entrenched. Our litigators quickly concluded that defending
Right to Try against the inevitable FDA challenge would be, to put it mildly, a
decidedly uphill battle.
But we had not fully factored in the breadth and intensity of public sup-
port. Right to Try was not a red idea or a blue idea; it was bright purple.
Arizona voters in 2014 made Right to Try part of their constitution with
nearly 80 percent of the vote. Right to Try swept the country, and as of today,
thirty-eight states have enacted it into law.
The effect was seismic. The federal behemoth reacted, but not at all as we
expected: instead of filing a legal challenge, it reduced the amount of physi-
cian paperwork for compassionate use from one hundred hours to seven and
a half, although other obstacles remain.
Because drug manufacturers are reluctant to cross the FDA and jeop-
ardize their massive investments in the drug approval process, few drugs
have been made available through Right to Try. But the results thus far are
promising. In Texas, Ebrahim Delpassand, a nuclear medicine specialist, saw
tremendous results among his patients from a clinical trial for a radioisotope
therapy, widely available in Europe, to treat the neuroendocrine carcinoid
cancers that took Steve Jobs’s life. But once the clinical trial ended, he could
no longer make that therapy available to his patients. Using Right to Try,

52 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
he has treated dozens more, many of whom have lived beyond their original
prognosis. Other patients with fatal diseases ranging from Lou Gehrig’s
disease to pancreatic cancer eagerly await a reprieve as well. The idea has so
reverberated that last summer the US Senate voted unanimously to enact it
into federal law, and the bill awaits action in the House.
Right to Try illustrates that one possible way to break the Washington
logjam is to incubate ideas in the states, and then pass them on to Congress
to ratify as federal law. It’s not the normal way of getting things done in
Washington, but right now the normal way is to not get things done at all.
Applied in this way, federalism may be more important than even the fram-
ers imagined.
None of us likely supports all of the experiments states are pursuing, nor
do I mean at all to suggest that states have greater latitude in our federal
structure than they do. Indeed, as a justice on the Arizona Supreme Court, I
am oath-bound to honor the constitutional boundaries between federal and
state law. But we all have a personal vested stake in federalism. We cannot
have red-state federalism without blue-state federalism, nor blue without
Despite the challenges it currently faces, our Constitution is doing remark-
ably well. Federalism is especially alive and well. But federalism, like every
part of our Constitution, is not self-executing. Federalism is only what we
make of it. Opportunities to expand freedom abound in the states, and local
change can have national consequences. Whatever happens or doesn’t hap-
pen in our nation’s capital, we can and should get things done at the state

Reprinted from Defining Ideas (
ideas), a Hoover Institution online journal. © 2018 The Board of Trustees
of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Two-
Fer: Electing a President and a Supreme Court, by
Clint Bolick. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 53


Red Tape All the
Way Down
In redressing the excesses of the regulatory state,
the Trump administration has made a healthy
start. Now the administration needs to keep at it.

By Adam J. White

uring the 2016 presidential election, the New York Times alleged
that the Trump campaign had offered to make John Kasich
“the most powerful vice president in history,” through a novel
division of duties: The vice president “would be in charge of
domestic and foreign policy.” The president, meanwhile, would be in charge
of “making America great again.”
The story might be apocryphal, but a year and a half later it resembles the
Trump administration’s approach to reforming or rolling back the modern
administrative state. While President Trump’s statements and tweets have
dominated headlines, his agencies have taken important first steps toward
significantly changing the ways that federal agencies govern American life,
a process that began months ago with the president’s executive orders and
continues under the watchful eye of the White House’s Office of Information
and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and which was amplified in significant ways
by Congress’s broad use of the long-dormant Congressional Review Act.

Adam J. White is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and director of the
Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University’s
Antonin Scalia Law School.

54 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
This strong start is a signal achievement. But still greater challenges lie
ahead. If, in the words of Time, Politico, and the Washington Post, the Trump
administration has declared “war” on the regulatory state, then year two will
be the time for the administration to show that it planned not just for the
invasion but also for the long-term occupation.

Ribbon-cutting ceremonies traditionally mark the beginning of construction.
But last December, the White House held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark
a deconstruction. A few days before Christmas, President Trump stood in
the White House’s Roosevelt Room, surrounded by administration officials
and reams of paper. A few small piles represented the federal government’s
regulations in 1960; other humongous piles represented regulations today.
Affixed to the stacks was a long piece of red tape; Trump, with his scissors,
wasn’t trying to be subtle.
“We’re here today for one single reason,” he said: “to cut the red tape of
regulation.” Citing the administration’s new policies on energy, the environ-
ment, and infrastructure, the president criticized the regulatory state that
he inherited: “an ever-growing maze of regulations, rules, [and] restrictions”
that “has cost our country trillions and trillions of dollars, millions of jobs,
countless American factories, and devastated many industries.”
“But,” he added, “all that has changed the day I took the oath of office, and
it’s changed rapidly. You’ve seen what’s happened. We’ve begun the most far-
reaching regulatory reform in American history.”
Reporters, perhaps immune to grandiose presidential pronouncements,
seemed underwhelmed by the announcement; they asked him about Marco
Rubio and about Omarosa Manigault, whose departure from the White
House staff had just been announced. But the president’s characteristically
grandiose rhetoric was rooted in reality, as evidenced by the report released
that same day by OIRA, the White House’s regulatory oversight office.
OIRA reported that in 2017 federal agencies “withdrew or delayed 1,579
planned regulatory actions.” Specifically, 635 regulatory initiatives previously
announced by agencies had been withdrawn from the “Unified Agenda,” a
semiannual White House report of the government’s pending regulatory
activities; an additional 700 initiatives were downgraded to “Long Term”
priority; and 244 regulatory initiatives were downgraded to “inactive” status.
And OIRA expected the deregulatory trend to continue. “Agencies plan to
finalize three deregulatory actions for every new regulatory action” this fis-
cal year, it noted.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 55
Not everyone was impressed. Days earlier, Bloomberg Businessweek had
mocked the Trump administration for taking credit “for killing hundreds
of regulations that were already dead,” because “hundreds of the pending
regulations had been effectively shelved before Trump took office.” Citing a
July White House report that 469 regulatory actions had been withdrawn,
Businessweek argued that “42 percent of them were as good as dead already,”
either because the Obama administration had had “no immediate plans to
impose them” or because “there had been no activity on them in years.” And
“another 15 had been halt-
ed under Obama before
“We’re here today for one single rea- Trump took office.”
son: to cut the red tape of regulation.” Some of the Business-
week specific criticisms
had merit. (If only journalists took such a skeptical view every time federal
regulators claimed to be helping the American people.) But the criticisms
were overstated. To say that an agency’s regulatory proposals had been
“effectively shelved” or were “as good as dead” is to admit that they had not
actually been shelved or that they weren’t in fact dead. A regulatory pro-
posal, no matter how long dormant, can be revived and raced through the
regulatory process. Formally removing proposed actions from the books is
an important step toward clearing the administrative state’s underbrush, an
important assurance to the public.
And the administration plans to do more. The December report was
accompanied by a letter from Neomi Rao, administrator of OIRA, an office
long nicknamed the “regulatory czar.” She characterized the administration’s
regulatory reform agenda in fundamental, constitutional terms:

This Fall 2017 Regulatory Plan reflects a fundamental shift. The
Trump administration recognizes that excessive and unnecessary
federal regulations limit individual freedom and suppress the innova-
tion and entrepreneurship that make America great. Starting with
confidence in private markets and individual choices, this adminis-
tration is reassessing existing regulatory burdens. . . . Our regulatory
philosophy and approach emphasize the connection between limited
government intervention and individual liberty. Regulatory policy
should serve the American people by staying within legal limits and
administering the law with respect for due process and fair notice.

The White House already can claim some concrete victories. As it detailed
in a list of regulatory actions completed in the administration’s first year,

56 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
agencies completed sixty-seven “deregulatory actions” and issued only three
new major rules: an Energy Department rule for walk-in coolers, an FDA
notice for skilled nursing facilities, and the EPA’s new regulation of dental
offices’ discharge of mercury into public water systems. The White House
claimed that its deregulatory actions saved the public a net $8.1 billion.
The White House wasn’t alone in this deregulatory work. In 2017 Con-
gress made unprecedented use of the Congressional Review Act to nullify
regulations that agencies had finalized in the Obama administration’s last
months. The CRA empowers Congress to strike down regulations or guid-
ance documents promulgated by agencies on a legislative fast track immune
to filibusters.
Because the law requires the president’s signature to complete Congress’s
rollback of a regulation, the CRA long was seen to be useful only during the
opening days of a new presidency, when a new Republican president could
sign Congress’s resolutions striking down his Democratic predecessor’s
regulations. (Or, theoretically, vice versa.) Thus, while the CRA was enacted
in 1996, it had been used successfully only once in its first twenty years, by
President George W. Bush in 2001.
Last year, by contrast, Congress passed fifteen joint resolutions to nul-
lify federal regulations under the CRA—ranging from the FCC’s broadband
Internet privacy rules to the Labor Department’s controversial “fiduciary
rule” governing financial advisers—and Trump signed them all. The presi-
dent and Congress even managed to nullify a regulation promulgated last
year by an agency ostensibly within Trump’s own administration: the Con-
sumer Financial Protection Bureau, an independent agency led for much of
the year by Obama’s appointee, Richard Cordray. And under the terms of the
Congressional Review Act, the agencies are permanently prohibited from
reissuing those regulations in substantially similar form without new autho-
rization by Congress.
All told, it was a very, very good start.

But before anyone declares “mission accomplished,” it is important to keep
in mind that the administration’s work is only beginning. As Trump noted in
his December remarks, the administration has “begun the most far-reaching
regulatory reform in American history.” But only so much can actually be
finished. The Brookings Institution, which tracks deregulatory actions by
the agencies, identifies just fifteen regulations previously in effect that have
actually been repealed. (Although, as Businessweek reported, Brookings

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 57
“acknowledges the list is not complete.”) The vast bulk of agency efforts to
repeal existing regulations remain a work in progress.
This process began with a series of significant executive orders intended
to kick start the deregulatory process. The president issued orders direct-
ing agencies to reconsider and reform specific regulations (such as the EPA’s
“Clean Power Plan,” a set of radical energy regulations aimed at reducing
greenhouse gas emissions) or directing agencies to reorient themselves
toward new policy priorities (such as the “Core Principles for Regulating
the United States Financial System”). The president also signed signifi-
cant orders affecting federal agencies across the board—most important,
Executive Order 13771,
“Reducing Regulation and
“Regulatory policy should serve the Controlling Regulatory
American people by staying within Costs,” which ordered
legal limits and administering the law every agency to repeal
with respect for due process and fair two regulations for each
new one it would issue
and which imposed a
“regulatory budget,” capping the costs agencies can impose on the public.
Federal agencies energetically took up this agenda. The EPA proposed to
repeal the Clean Power Plan and replace it with a set of more reasonable
regulations. The FCC has repealed the prior administration’s program for
regulating broadband Internet services. Those are just two examples of
many. As analysts at George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies
Center highlighted in an excellent year-end report, OIRA’s “Fall 2017 Agenda
includes hundreds of deregulatory activities, including eighty-three planned
deregulatory activities from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and
fifty-four from the Department of Health and Human Services.”
But hundreds of deregulatory activities will eventually be met with hun-
dreds of lawsuits. And because the regulatory process tends to take a year
or two before an action can be finalized, 2018 will mark the beginning of a
steady wave of agency decisions that will immediately be appealed to federal
courts. While many of these lawsuits will be mundane, others—especially
those challenging the FCC’s net-neutrality repeal, HHS health care reforms,
or just about anything issued by the EPA—will not. We can expect high-
profile lawsuits, which often will be filed strategically before courts staffed
disproportionately by sympathetic judges in Washington or on the West
Coast. This litigation may come to resemble the lawsuits challenging Trump’s
immigration and refugee orders: judges will scrutinize agency actions much

58 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
more aggressively than before. The traditional deference by judges to regula-
tory agencies’ decisions is unlikely to prevail, and courts will undoubtedly
invoke statements by the president or by his appointees that they see as
undermining the credibility that agencies usually are afforded. (This will be
quite a turnabout after Democrats only a year ago criticized Trump’s appoin-
tee to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, for having questioned the amount of
“deference” that courts give agencies.)
In all of this, we can expect the latest iteration of a familiar cycle: many of
those who once denounced judicial reversal of Democratic agency rules as
“politicized judicial activism” can be expected to celebrate judicial reversal of
Republican agencies as “the triumph of expertise over politics.” This makes
Trump’s public statements, and those of his agency heads, all the more
important. The administration’s critics can be expected to challenge the
agencies’ work in court; the president and his agency heads should not make
their work easier by undermining the agencies’ own credibility.
If Trump wants to succeed in actually cutting red tape and reforming the
administrative state, it
will not happen through
tweets but through an If 2018 passes without major legis-
executive order reform- lation reforming and modernizing
ing and modernizing the laws governing agencies, then
White House oversight of Republicans will have squandered a
the regulatory agencies.
rare opportunity.
He already accomplished
much of this through his 2017 orders, but the legal and regulatory commu-
nity continues to await an executive order updating the OIRA framework.
Such orders are a staple of each new administration. In his first year in office,
President Clinton issued an order that largely retained the modern OIRA
framework established by President Reagan, with a few significant recalibra-
tions. After President Bush succeeded Clinton, he waited barely more than
a year to order reforms of his own; President Obama revoked those changes
almost immediately upon his own inauguration. Trump has not yet issued a
similar order, which could conceivably extend OIRA’s oversight to the so-called
“independent agencies,” such as the SEC and FCC, which the White House has
long exempted from OIRA’s core mission of reviewing agencies’ estimates of
regulatory costs and benefits.
Of course, Congress could itself legislate reforms to the legal framework
governing the agencies, through the proposed Regulatory Accountabil-
ity Act; a version of this bill already has been approved by the House of

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 59
Representatives, and a bipartisan coalition of senators has introduced a
similar version of it. But after the legislative breakdowns of 2017, it is not
hard to imagine that Congress’s deregulatory work in 2018 will be limited
to nullifying more regulations and guidance documents with the Congres-
sional Review Act. Under the act’s plain terms, regulations and guidance
documents not submitted to Congress for a CRA vote when an agency first
promulgated them can still be submitted years after the fact, belatedly giving
Congress its statutory opportunity to repeal those regulations or guidance
documents and block the agencies from reissuing them.
Further use of the CRA would be no small feat, but if 2018 passes without
major legislation reforming and modernizing the basic laws governing agen-
cies—especially the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946—then Repub-
licans controlling the White House and both houses of Congress will have
squandered a rare opportunity to fundamentally reform our administrative
state, an opportunity Republicans may not enjoy again for a long time.
It would be disappointing and ironic: Congress’s inaction is itself one of the
main causes of our modern administrative state. By failing to legislate on the
issues of greatest national interest, Congress creates a policy vacuum that agen-
cies fill unilaterally with regulations. Lawmakers further compound this prob-
lem by failing to reform the antiquated appropriations process that no longer
ties Congress’s oversight of agencies to its constitutional “power of the purse.”

But even in the absence of reforms legislated by Congress or ordered by the
president, there is still something that individual agencies can do to improve
the regulatory process: they can unilaterally adopt reforms to promote
transparency and accountability within their own houses. Perhaps the best
examples of this so far are the efforts at the Justice Department and Educa-
tion Department to scale back their reliance on “guidance” documents, a
broad category of agency pronouncements that regulate the public but do
not undergo even the minimal procedures for public accountability otherwise
required of new regulations. If these two departments succeed in reforming
their own practices, they could come to be seen by the public (and by judges
and legislators) as the regulatory equivalent of “best practices,” raising the
bar for what we expect of other agencies.
While such changes might seem minor, their impact could long outlive the
agencies’ more prominent substantive work. The next Democratic admin-
istration could undo much of the Trump administration’s deregulatory
effort every bit as quickly as the Trump administration undid the Obama

60 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
administration’s regulatory actions. But if Trump agencies succeed in
improving their own transparency and procedural rigor, and if those agen-
cies trumpet those reforms loudly, their Democratic successors may find it
difficult to credibly undo those reforms—just as the Clinton administration
largely accepted the dramatic OIRA reforms established and entrenched by
Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
That is a lesson of an important essay in National Affairs by political sci-
entist Andrew Rudalevige. Tracing the history of OIRA’s regulatory-review
framework back to its forerunners in the Nixon, Ford, and Carter adminis-
trations, Rudalevige shows that the structural reforms usually ascribed to
Reagan succeeded not simply because Reagan ordered them but because
the Reagan administration committed itself to building upon practices that
had taken root in earlier Republican and Democratic administrations. Such
fundamental reforms, Rudalevige notes, required more than just a couple
of executive orders telling agencies to change: “Lasting reform comes only
from institutionalization, which requires the long-term investment of organi-
zational resources, ranging from staff expertise to political capital.” And, he
adds, “whether those resources will be provided depends on how much good
government a president really wants to buy.”
Years from now, we may find that some of the Trump administration’s
most important regulatory reforms in 2018 were the ones that attracted the
least attention. Executive orders and regulatory repeals announced to great
fanfare are very important; even more important are reforms changing the
culture of modern regulatory agencies, achieved through sustained effort
within those agencies, to little fanfare and no ribbon-cutting.

Reprinted by permission of the Weekly Standard (www.weeklystandard.
com/trumping-the-administrative-state/article/2011218). © 2018 The
Weekly Standard LLC. All rights reserved.

Available 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 E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 61


The Labor
Logjam Is
Breaking Up
At last: the regulatory rollback is producing higher
wages and fresh investment.

By Richard A. Epstein

or the first time in a very long time, labor markets have heated up,
and much of the credit goes to the Trump administration—specifi-
cally to Neomi Rao, the head of the Office of Information and Regu-
latory Affairs, who has taken the lead in chopping through the regu-
latory morass that for too long has strangled labor markets. But don’t take my
word for it. Even the New York Times confirms the widespread perception “that
years of increased environmental, financial, and other regulatory oversight by
the Obama administration dampened investment and job creation—and that
[Donald] Trump’s more hands-off approach has unleashed the ‘animal spirits’
of companies that had hoarded cash after the recession of 2008.”
By way of example, the Wall Street Journal has reported that pay raises were
accompanied by signing and retention bonuses in tight labor market cities

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.

62 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
such as Minneapolis, especially in key sectors like construction, information
technology, and manufacturing. Manufacturing is an especially critical indica-
tor, because it shows that job growth wage increases are possible without fol-
lowing Trump’s counterproductive infatuation with protectionist legislation.
To be sure, the Times piece dutifully downplays the good news by remind-
ing readers that “there is little historical evidence tying regulation levels
to growth.” The article even throws a bone in the direction of progressive
economists who insist that in the long run, Obama-style regulations can pro-
duce benefits, not only for the regulated parties, but for the larger economy
and the overall environment.
Yet this skepticism about the current wave of deregulation misses a critical
point. The policy shift from the Obama administration to the Trump adminis-
tration has been dramatic. The Obama administration relentlessly added new
labor market regulations, while Trump’s has pared back on the enforcement
of the labor and antidiscrimination law to an extent that has little historical
precedent. It is no wonder that wages were stagnant and that firms were
reluctant to move forward with new hiring and expansion under the prior
regulatory regime.
A year into the Trump administration, it is possible to explain the correct
relationship between regulation and growth by stressing two key points. The
first disentangles good from bad forms of regulation. The second explains
why wage increases are often a delayed response even to sensible forms of

The first point relies on the simple distinction between regulations that help
markets and regulations that strangle them. In the first class are the many
regulations that increase the security of transactions. These include rules
requiring that certain contracts (such as long-term employment contracts)
be in writing, or recorded to be binding on third parties. In addition, sen-
sible regulation of public utilities and the enforcement of antitrust to control
monopolies and cartels generally lead to improved economic growth.
But President Obama’s bundle of regulatory goodies never ameliorated
either of these two recurrent problems. Instead, at every point, his regula-
tions increased transactional uncertainty by introducing restrictive trade
practices in labor markets. Thus the vigorous enforcement of the Fair Labor
Standards Act (FLSA) and the National Labor Relations Act limited free-
dom of contract between employers and employees. Any regulation that
stifles freedom of contract in competitive markets produces losses to all

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 63
trading parties, while simultaneously reducing the economic opportunities
of third parties. These rules hold as much in labor markets as anywhere else.
Obama’s most notable initiative under FLSA was to propose doubling the
annual wage level below which minimum wage and, most critically, overtime
regulations would kick in, to around $47,000. That one blunder would have
upended huge growth in three vital areas of the economy: start-ups, gradu-
ate students and post-doc fellows, and the gig economy. By rolling back this
regulation, Trump transformed the regulatory landscape for the better.
Similarly, the Obama administration aggressively sought to hold franchi-
sors, like McDonald’s, responsible for the unfair labor practices of their
franchisees. That one sop to organized labor would have upended decades of
prior practice in another highly successful industry. Nixing this proposal, as
the Trump administration
did, was a huge change
The strongest protection for any for the better. Progressive
worker is not some balky legal regime. policy makers are correct
It’s a growing economy. insofar as they argue that
it is improper to judge
regulations solely by their short-term burdens on regulatory parties. But that
mantra continues to naively assume that these negative short-term effects
will somehow usher in long-term positive effects. With virtually all progres-
sive regulations, exactly the opposite is true. Systemically negative long-term
effects on third parties only compound the original regulatory blunders.
The second point goes to the temporal relationship between regulation and
investment. Investment decisions are made over time frames that can run
from five years to a generation. These decisions are necessarily riskier if the
regulatory environment can become more ominous between the time of the
initial expenditures to the time the project goes into operation.
Now that Trump has been in office for a year, businesspeople look less to
his erratic foreign policy tweets and more to his steadfastness of purpose on
domestic regulation. The stable regulatory environment creates intangible
but positive expectations that increase business confidence and loosen the
purse strings. These new investments, present and future, create higher
wages and increased consumption.

Progressive critics, of course, are never satisfied, because they still fear that
minorities and the poor will miss the parade, thereby aggravating already-
savage inequalities in income, wealth, and opportunity. Critics like Vanderbilt

64 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
Law School professor Ganesh Sitaraman, who in his much lauded but
profoundly misguided book, The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why
Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic, argues that this situation will lead
to wholesale class warfare or even violence. But Sitaraman only reflects the
confusion of his mentor, Senator Elizabeth Warren, who thinks that the only
way the rich get richer is for the poor to get poorer.
Race relations are, if anything, better than a year ago because we do not
have the constant acrimony over the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael
Brown that defined the final part of the Obama administration. It is not
too far-fetched to assume that the relative calm in race relations (to which
Charlottesville was the dreadful exception) stems in part from increasing
economic opportunities. As the Wall Street Journal reports, “the unemploy-
ment rate for black Americans fell to its lowest rate ever at 6.8 percent.” The
quiet news is the best news of all.
Theoretically, moreover, Sitaraman’s point is an absurdity because volun-
tary contracts in all markets—labor and finance not excepted—are positive-
sum transactions that leave both sides better off. John F. Kennedy famously
summed up the correct position by disdaining the epithet “trickle down”
economy by noting that
“a rising tide raises all
boats.” That is doubly Now that President Trump has been
true when all major in office for a year, businesspeople
federal initiatives are notice his steadfastness of purpose
moving in the same on domestic regulation.
direction. It is no coinci-
dence that the widespread economic improvement has taken hold—including
in minority communities—exactly at the time when federal enforcement of
the employment discrimination laws has fallen to a low ebb. By cutting off
market transactions, these rules were job killers for black workers from dis-
advantaged backgrounds who today are more likely to be hired by employers
who know that they will not face heavy liabilities if they are fired or demoted.
The key lesson going forward is to be aware of half measures. The evidence
for the power of deregulation will become clear only if the Trump admin-
istration continues its all-in policies. Even more important, it must firmly
reject any progressive effort to tighten employment regulation. Perhaps the
most perverse recent proposal is from Moshe Marvit and Shaun Richman,
both strong union advocates. Their legislative reform is to junk the current
employment-at-will doctrine—whose powerful efficiency features are often
overlooked—in favor of a “just cause” dismissal regime in order to counter

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 65
systemic employer hostility to union organizers, and indifference to work-
place sexual harassment. This massive system of regulation would stop job
growth in its tracks.
Remember, the strongest protection for any worker is not some balky legal
regime but a growing economy that makes the threat to quit credible. Indeed,
one of the reasons that
private sector unionism
Voluntary contracts in all markets— has dropped and covers
labor and finance not excepted—are only 6 percent of workers
positive-sum transactions that leave is that just-cause provi-
both sides better off. sions are always needed
to protect the union’s pre-
carious position as representative of workers, many of whom would happily
do without its services.
The current labor boom is no short-term bubble. Today’s improvements
rest on solid productivity gains. The same employers who fiercely resist
unionization are happy to pay higher wages to workers whose efforts
increase the profits and net worth of the firm, both in the short run and
the long.

Reprinted from Defining Ideas (
ideas), a Hoover Institution online journal. © 2018 The Board of Trustees
of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

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

66 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8


The Genuine
Wealth of Nations
An antipoverty charity closes its eyes to increasing
personal income around the world.

By David R. Henderson

he antipoverty charity Oxfam recently published a report,
“Reward Work, Not Wealth,” that advocates taxing the rich to
reduce inequality and help the poor. But the report’s conclusions
contradict its empirical findings.
Early in the document, the authors write: “Between 1990 and 2010, the
number of people living in extreme poverty (i.e., on less than $1.90 a day)
halved, and has continued to decline since then.” A few sentences later, they
add: “Unless we close the gap between rich and poor, we will miss the goal of
eliminating extreme poverty by a wide margin.” It’s a curious assertion, given
that the authors just acknowledged twenty years of enormous progress,
despite persistent inequality.
There are two ways to close the gap. The first is to concentrate on mak-
ing the poor better off. Mostly that has happened, thanks to liberalized
international trade and reduced costs for shipping goods. Just as Walmart
and Amazon have cut costs for Americans, the introduction of container
shipping crushed transportation costs for the world. The second way to
reduce inequality is to make the rich worse off. Any guess which method

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.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 67
Oxfam’s report emphasizes? “Governments should use regulation and taxa-
tion to radically reduce levels of extreme wealth,” the authors conclude.
Which taxes, specifically, should be raised? Those that “are disproportion-
ately paid by the very rich, such as wealth, property, inheritance and capital
gains taxes.” The report calls for increased taxes on high incomes, as well as
“a global wealth tax on billionaires.”
In a relatively free economy, the main way to get wealthy is to produce
something that people value. This has been a basic economic insight at least
since Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, published in 1776. But it’s missing
from the Oxfam report. The document’s title, “Reward Work, Not Wealth,” is
strange: wealth is one of the main rewards for productive work. High taxes
on wealth and the wealthy reduce the incentive to produce.
The Oxfam authors, to their credit, do criticize government-made monopo-
lies. They note that crony capitalist Carlos Slim is the world’s sixth-richest
man because the Mexican government gave him total control over the
telecommunications industry. But then the report fails to draw the obvious
conclusion: it’s a mistake to give the government enough power over econom-
ic life that it can create monopolies.
Although the report doesn’t use the phrase, what it effectively advocates
is the creation of a tax cartel. Since capital is extremely mobile and will go
where it is lightly taxed—
witness the corporate
The quickest way to reduce worldwide “inversions” of American
economic inequality: let people move companies—the report
from poor countries to richer ones. suggests “a new genera-
tion of international tax
reforms.” Negotiating tax rates would take place under the aegis of “a new
global tax body that ensures all countries participate on an equal footing.”
The report also compares the income of the poor with the wealth of the
rich. For instance: “Between 2006 and 2015, ordinary workers saw their
incomes rise by an average of just 2 percent a year, while billionaire wealth
rose by nearly 13 percent a year.” But it’s a false comparison: one person’s
paycheck versus another’s net worth.
To get the story right, you need to compare income for both groups. Two
economists, Tomas Hellebrandt and Paolo Mauro, studied this and con-
cluded, in a 2015 paper published by the Peterson Institute for International
Economics, that global income inequality declined between 2003 and 2013
due to rapid economic growth in poor nations.

68 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
This is even more impressive than it sounds, given the math involved. Say
that wages in a developing country rose by 10 percent, and in the United
States by only 1 percent. For a family in the poor country earning $2,000,
that would mean an extra $200. But for a family in the United States making
$50,000, it would equate
to $500. In other words,
income inequality would In a relatively free economy, the main
increase, even though way to get wealthy is to make some-
wages grew ten times as thing people value.
fast for the poor family.
Finally, the Oxfam report mentions nothing about what would be the quick-
est way to reduce worldwide economic inequality: let people emigrate from
poor countries to rich ones. Michael Clemens, an economist at the Center for
Global Development, has written that wealthy nations’ tight restrictions on
immigration leave “trillion-dollar bills on the sidewalk.” Allowing people to
move to jobs in which their productivity would soon multiply by fivefold or
more would make everyone better off.
Oxfam started honorably during World War II as a group of Quakers, social
activists, and academics at Oxford who wanted freer trade. Specifically,
Oxfam wanted the British government to allow food to reach the citizens
of Nazi-occupied Greece. That was a long time ago. Today Oxfam’s annual
budget exceeds $1 billion, and it gets almost half of that from governments
and the United Nations. So maybe it’s time for a new name. Oxgov has a nice
ring to it.

Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2018 Dow Jones &
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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 69


The revolution will be televised—and tweeted, and
posted, and Instagrammed. Language is today’s
truly disruptive technology.

By Charles Hill

anguage is arguably the most fun-
damental human tool. At certain Key points
points in history, when certain »» Dictators now can
technologies have enhanced or monitor and suppress
entire populations.
damaged the use of language, major changes
»» Instant popular judg-
in world order have resulted. We are witness- ments threaten to over-
ing such a phenomenon now. whelm deliberative gov-
ernment and throw the
A language revolution is under way, pro- public sphere into chaos.
pelled by an eruption of electronic commu- »» The American found-
nication technologies that, while enhancing ers insisted on being
governed by represen-
productivity, are also creating social and
tatives, with dispersed
political chaos. The e-revolution in commu- sovereignty, three equal
nication is challenging, even threatening, the branches of government,
and a variety of checks
conduct of responsible governance. Thanks to and balances.
digital technologies, marginal sociopaths are

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.

70 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
being empowered to organize and act collectively as never before; dictatorial
regimes are perfecting powerful tools to monitor and suppress entire popula-
tions; and instantaneous popular judgments on political issues are beginning
to overwhelm representative government as designed by the founders to
avoid the chaos-producing “direct” democracy of premodern societies.
The e-revolution in language is the next great revolution in human his-
tory. Through it, any
person anywhere in the
world can instantly and Thanks to digital technologies, mar-
constantly communicate ginal sociopaths are being empow-
with any other person. ered to organize and act collectively
At the same time, tech- as never before.
nology has taken com-
mand of language to both serve technology and distort linguistic standards;
one need only look at the average self-published book, blog post, or tweet for
evidence. This process disrupts and corrodes the foundations of the modern
era and shows no sign of being able to positively reconstruct from what it is
tearing down.
In three significant cases, the modern approach is now being undermined
by the disruptive powers of twenty-first-century language technology.
Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents revealed that the benefits of civi-
lized order and progress require the relegation of powerfully disruptive
behaviors and desires to the “unconscious” mind. While many assume that
societies primarily shape individuals, “Freud thought that it was the other
way around,” according to Louis Menand, “that society is just a macro form
of the individual, and takes its imprint from individual psychology.” Most
today would agree that human and societal development is a two-way street,
dependent on one another.
Today’s social media distort this relationship. Instant communication by
way of platforms such as Twitter makes it possible for individuals to imme-
diately express the slightest emotionally disruptive and damaging reaction
to events or ideas to a worldwide audience. Opinions and private outbursts
once perceived as self-harmful blunders, resolved by improving one’s repres-
sive subconscious mechanisms, are now instantly exposed to multitudes in
permanent form. Civilization depends upon the time and ability to contain
such eruptions; the “discontents” created by acts of self-control are the price
of civil society. Were every discontent expressed, the public sphere would
collapse as “all communication, all the time,” instantly, produces a surround-
ing effect. As the astute columnist Peggy Noonan wrote, we are agitating

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 71
and exciting the unstable sector of the population, a sector that increasingly
grows larger, a Pandora’s box of once-subconscious partisan venom breaking
open as no one becomes able to suppress the slightest discontent.
As the individual is “liberated” by the ability to promulgate unconstrained
feelings in every direction, the governing regimes of the world are gaining
new powers of surveillance, intrusion, and control over their populations.
The 2011 “Arab spring” uprisings were considered at first to be made possible
by the new language-
spreading technologies
Civilization depends upon the ability in every young person’s
to contain eruptions of discontent. hand; it was widely
agreed, at the time, that
such tools of expression would be beyond the abilities of dictators to control.
Such an assumption was foolhardy; the Arab spring was crushed in a few
short months as the old powers—colonels, hereditary monarchs, strong-
armed clans with puppet “parliaments”—regained control even as they were
assaulted by even more ideologically autocratic radicals claiming religious
The major one-party authoritarian regimes, too, notably Russia and the
People’s Republic of China, are perfecting their own domination of the new
languages of disruption: techniques of interception, cooperation, blockage,
elimination, falsification, and more. This reality sharply reverses earlier
assumptions that major multinational corporations would be replacing states
as the most potent international entities. Recent steps by China to assert
“cyber sovereignty” bear this out. When Apple had no choice but to accept
China’s ban on apps that could bypass the regime’s “great firewall,” the power
of the autocratic state over the private corporate entity was made clear to all.
This trend has begun to give authoritarian regimes unprecedented pow-
ers to suppress freedom of speech and to indoctrinate entire populations in
twenty-first-century versions of Orwellian “newspeak” such as China’s propa-
ganda that communism and capitalism are one and the same.
Another recent phenomenon is the deterioration of respect traditionally
given to the deliberative process. This process, once deemed essential to
the civil discourse of a polity, values balance and consensus over strident
factionalism. Individuals and associations engaged in the political process
were allowed the space, time, and confidentiality to examine and debate a
range of options, unexposed to outside criticism, before reaching their deci-
sion and putting it before the public, and the opposing party’s view. The new
language technologies, combined with crowbar-like legal methods, have made

72 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
NEW PUBLIC SQUARE: Social media took the spotlight during the Arab spring
movement, which was especially vigorous in Egypt. Ultimately the power of
the Internet in protesters’ hands was no match for the power of Egypt’s mili-
tary and police. Elsewhere, electronic tools have empowered autocratic states
to suppress free speech and indoctrinate entire populations. [Essam Sharaf—Cre-
ative Commons]

the deliberative process nearly extinct. With every individual, insider or
outsider, now in effect in possession of a recording, filming, broadcasting, and
publicizing piece of handheld equipment, any and all varieties of thoughtful
expression are so vulnerable to premature exposure that periods for careful
deliberation prior to acts of decision have become rare. Equally troubling,
even when such occasions are held, open discourse on policy is increasingly
subject to political or legal risk.
Democracy itself, in the unique form designed by the founders and
described in Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, is being disrupted by the
new techniques of instantaneous language. To the ancient world, democracy
was a tempting ideal, but understood to be dangerous, a producer of chaos
that called forth a tyrant to restore order. Thucydides’s Athens provided the
classic case in point: swift, direct (thumbs up or down), with no patience for

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 73
deliberation, and unable to prevent the deterioration of its language until
“words lost their meaning.” The result, as Alexander Hamilton wrote in
Federalist No. 6, was “that famous and fatal war, distinguished in the Grecian
annals by the name of the Peloponnesian War; which, after various vicis-
situdes, intermissions, and renewals, terminated in the ruin of the Athenian
The result was the
founders’ design for a
The Arab spring suggested—incor-
republic that would be
rectly, as it turned out—that electronic unique: buffered against
expression would be beyond the the dangers of mass
abilities of dictators to control. decisions swiftly taken;
checked and balanced,
with separated powers and layered sovereignty; all within a concept of
genius, that would enable democracy to function effectively on a continental
scale, the world’s first, and still only, such example. The United States was,
and still is, as Professor Samuel Huntington recognized, a “premodern” pol-
ity in a modern world. If the modern era is ending, the United States should
be better suited to manage such change than any other nation.
But not if the safeguards that make America an exceptional democracy are
forfeited, lost without awareness of how or why. Yet the e-revolution can do
this. The array of techniques that turn language into instantaneous power of
opinion, all in the touch of a screen or a handful of words, threatens to over-
ride the protections instituted when the republic was born.
The electronic revolution is a language revolution. Each of the revolutions
of the modern age—French, Russian, Chinese—has brought ruination. The
world is now afflicted by an Islamist revolution, begun after the collapse of
the Ottoman empire and caliphate in the years after World War I. It pro-
duced the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, has been carried on by Al-Qaeda
and the Islamic State, and is violently opposed to every element of the
established modern international state system. Like all modern revolutions,
it promulgates a concocted language as a weapon of power.
Only the American Revolution understood that language, like any tool or tech-
nology, must be used with care. The founders understood that decisions made
now, by those with power now, thinking only about now, guarantee disaster.
Understanding the inextricable centrality of language to democracy begins
with the way democracy in America was designed to overcome the flaws of
ancient democracy. Athens in the Periclean Age was archetypically demo-
cratic: recognized as potentially the best form of governance, but also as

74 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
dangerously prone to collapse. As portrayed in Thucydides’s Peloponnesian
War, Pericles spoke proudly of Athenian democracy as swift to act by the
direct decisions of the demos, the people, and unencumbered by institutions
that would delay such actions. But language broke down under political,
military, and societal pressures; the undeliberated decision to send a naval
expedition to Sicily failed because the values of patience and foresight, the
proper allocation of resources, and mature deliberation lost meaning.
The founders of the United States knew the story of Athens in the Pelopon-
nesian War well. They were determined that America would become a free
republic, not a direct democracy. It would be a government by representa-
tives, with dispersed sovereignty, three equal branches of government, and a
variety of “checks and balances.”
Other political thinkers would add vitally important concepts to democ-
racy in the modern world to overcome the problems faced in antiquity.
Kant, staying rigorously within the Enlightenment’s requirement to employ
reason alone without dependence upon outside foundational authorities, such
as religion, argued his way step by step to demonstrate that the core of politi-
cal success was trans-
parency because the
purpose of a state was American revolutionaries understood
justice, and that could that language, like any tool or technol-
only be had when the ogy, must be used with care.
people were sovereign
and could demand that their government’s actions could be open to examina-
tion and approval. Transparency could truly exist only in a republic, and a
republic’s added advantage would be that a free people would be disinclined
to go to war or would hasten to end a war if war could not be avoided.
Hegel added the centrality of history, specifically “the history of the con-
sciousness of freedom.” In other words, history had a direction, a progres-
sion, propelled by freedom.
Tocqueville supplemented this view, seeing democracy as a force of history
observable across the past several hundred years. But he knew that only if
“democracy in America” were conducted wisely could democracy continue
its modern trajectory.
Two concerns were paramount. First, democracy’s powerful pressure is for
ever-greater equality. Equality is essential, but liberty must be maintained as
well so that equality does not eradicate freedom in the drive to make all out-
comes equal. Second, there is, Tocqueville observed, a distinctively American
democratic logic chain: religion informs mores, which inform laws, which

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 75
ensure liberty, and liberty protects religion. America is unique, Tocqueville
said (we could also say “exceptional”), in that only in America are religion
and liberty compatible; elsewhere, religion tends to suppress liberty, and
liberty tends to resent and resist the demands of religion. But in America,
religion sees liberty as the protector of its observances, and liberty sees
religion as the cradle of its birth (as when the New England Puritan congre-
gation was easily transposed into the town meeting).
The e-revolution in communication is doing damage to this Tocquevillian
narrative of American exceptionalism by making every issue “presentist”
as a matter of struggles for power in current politics. If history appears in
this battle for supremacy in current events, it is ignorantly distorted in the
service of scoring power points here and now.

Excerpted from a paper delivered at a Hoover Institution conference,
“Governing in a Time of Technological Change.”

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is The
Weaver’s Lost Art, by Charles Hill. To order, call (800)
888-4741 or visit

76 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8


Unleashing the
High-tech Dogs of
Artificial intelligence will bring deadlier, smarter
weapons. And the command structures that
deploy them are likely to possess fewer scruples
about harming civilians.

By Herbert Lin

ast September, Vladimir Putin spoke with Russian students about
science in an open lesson, saying that “the future belongs to artifi-
cial intelligence” and whoever masters it first will rule the world.
“Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all
humankind,” he said. “It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats
that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will
become the ruler of the world.”
Putin also said he would not like to see any nation “monopolize” the field,
asserting that “if we become leaders in this area, we will share this know-how
with the entire world, the same way we share our nuclear technologies today.”
So Putin says he will share Russian artificial intelligence (AI) with the rest
of the world. Whether or not one believes that claim, it’s hard to imagine

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 E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 77
that any nation will have a monopoly on the technology—so, for the moment,
let’s assume roughly equal levels of AI sophistication for Russia and the
West. What would it mean for the future of armed conflict to integrate equal
levels of artificial intelligence into future military systems—not only those
of the West and of Russia, but of any nations that might face off in armed
The level of technological sophistication is only one aspect of technology’s
impact on the physical battlefield. There are two other important aspects of
that impact.
The first involves the numbers of fielded systems that engage in combat;
after all, any given system can be in only one place at a time, and more sys-
tems mean greater reach and coverage.
The second is how they are used—often captured under the rubric of the
doctrine that guides mission planning. Military commanders want to accom-
plish certain objectives, and they deploy and use the assets available to them
accordingly. They need to specify what targets are of interest, when these
targets should be attacked, what the rules of engagement should be, and so on.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the numbers of systems in a
conflict are roughly equal. Then, by assumption, the only significant differ-
ence between the two sides will be doctrinal. What would be the key differ-
ences between military doctrines of various nations regarding the use of
these AI-driven systems?

Military theorists in all major nations are now considering the impact that
AI-enabled weapon systems might have in combat. Doctrinal discussions are
being carried out within militaries around the world, and no one knows the
full shape and contours of future doctrines for any nation. But one might still
be able to make inferences.
In particular, there is a great deal of Western writing concerning the
extent to which the use of AI-enabled weapons will conform to international
humanitarian law, that is, jus in bello, or the laws of war. A typical issue cen-
ters on how these weapons will be able to make distinctions between civilian

ROUGH BEAST: The experimental “Big Dog” military robot (facing page),
designed to clamber over rough terrain, undergoes testing. Military theorists
are studying the impact of autonomous and semiautonomous systems in
battle, where the edge is likely to go to the less-scrupulous combatants. [Boston

78 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
and military entities in conflict, if they can at all. In many Western nations,
especially the United States, conformance to the laws of war has a high prior-
ity in planning for military operations, even if US forces in practice have from
time to time not fully observed the laws of war. The Defense Department
employs thousands of lawyers (some estimates run as high as ten thousand,
though that number seems excessively high to me) doing all manner of legal
work related to defense functions. Another source reports that at least a few
hundred lawyers oversee legal issues related to operational mission planning.
Neither estimate cites source data that can be verified independently, but
few observers doubt that lawyers do play an important role in operational
mission planning.
It’s easy to imagine that other nations might not have a comparable level
of concern about military operations complying with the laws of war. So
imagine a Western nation and one of these other nations, armed with similar
quantities of AI-enabled weapons of roughly comparable technical sophis-
tication, engaged in armed conflict over or in territory where civilians are
present. Is it more likely that military advantage will accrue to the side that
exhibits less caution and uses its weapons more aggressively or to the other
For me, the answer is clear from a military standpoint. Indeed, that is
the point of the two sources cited above, complaining about the number of
lawyers who participate
in planning for military
Lawyers already play a big role in US operations—they worry
mission planning. Might less-scru- that legal judgments
pulous adversaries hold the military override operational
advantage? necessities and impede
or degrade US opera-
tional effectiveness. To the extent that diligent compliance with the laws of
war translates into less-effective combat operations (and I have never seen
an argument or evidence to the contrary), battles between forces that are
equally matched qualitatively and quantitatively are likely to be won by those
who are less diligent with respect to compliance.

A review of the history of unrestricted submarine warfare is instructive in
this regard. Unrestricted submarine warfare refers to the wartime prac-
tice of submarines sinking civilian ships (such as merchant ships) without
warning; such warfare was first practiced in World War I. Article 22 of the

80 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
London Naval Treaty of 1930 forbade this practice and required submarine
commanders to provide for the safety of those on board before attacking a
merchant ship. However, given that civilian merchant ships carried substan-
tial amounts of war materiel, it was useful to the war effort to sink them.
Submarines giving
warning to civilian ships
before attacking them Submarine warfare, for instance,
would greatly degrade shows how combatants can sideline
the effectiveness of such
humanitarian concerns.
attacks, and if the civil-
ian ships were armed, such warning might even endanger the submarine.
During the Nuremberg trials after World War II, German Admiral Karl
Doenitz was found to have violated the protocols of Article 22 when he
ordered the sinking of neutral merchant vessels without warning in opera-
tional battle zones. Nevertheless, the tribunal elected to ignore these breach-
es of international law because of authoritative testimony and evidence that
the United States and Britain had also engaged in unrestricted submarine
As the history of unrestricted submarine warfare demonstrates, humani-
tarian motivations were ignored when observing that those restrictions
compromised combat effectiveness. It’s not unimaginable that a similar fate
might await the laws of war when AI-enabled weapons become ubiquitous.

Reprinted by permission of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. © 2018
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is The
Transnational Dimension of Cyber Crime and
Terrorism, edited by Abraham D. Sofaer and Seymour
E. Goodman. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 81


Unlike the Cold War, today’s asymmetrical “code
war” makes open nations uniquely vulnerable.
The free world must form a united front against

By Toomas Hendrik Ilves

s Congress investigates the impact of Russian propaganda ads
on US elections, we must understand that manipulating social
media is part of a much broader assault. The threat of these dig-
ital attacks extends to all democracies, in the West and beyond.
Furthermore, attacks on elections over the past few years are asymmetric.
Liberal democracies do not and often cannot respond in kind to cyberattacks
on their own way of governance. Democracies with free and fair elections
are vulnerable to attack, while in autocratic societies, it only matters who
is counting the votes. Authoritarian regimes do just fine manipulating their
own elections. In Russia, tweeting or sharing real news that’s embarrass-
ing to the regime can land you in prison. Imagine then the response of the
regime to fake news considered damaging to the Kremlin. If democracies

Toomas Hendrik Ilves is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institu-
tion. He served as president of Estonia, Estonian foreign minister, a member of the
European Parliament, and Estonia’s ambassador to Washington.

82 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
actively disseminated such fake news, it would only reduce us to Russia’s
level and lead to greater repression there.
Beyond elections, cyberwarfare has made traditional rules governing armed
conflict irrelevant. In recent months it has emerged that Russia has targeted
NATO soldiers’ smartphones to gain information about troop activity and to
intimidate soldiers. Questions arise: What is “deterrence” in the digital world?
What is a “proportional response” when a ship’s navigation system is hacked
or a power plant shut down? What happens when it takes months to track
down who was responsible for a debilitating attack on the financial system?
The response to these cybercrimes must be international and broad-based,
ranging from regulating social media to guarding our electrical grid and elec-
toral systems. Building a collective defense in this new code war is at least as
great a challenge as staving off the territorial or regional threats of the Cold
War, when NATO was established to respond to threats in Europe.
Today, NATO’s territorial defense remains as relevant as ever, but in addi-
tion to the security organizations we have relied on since 1949, we need a new
defensive alliance to protect all democracies—one not bound by geography. We
need a strict criteria-based organization to defend all countries that are genuine
democracies as defined by free and fair elections, rule of law, and the guarantee
of fundamental rights and freedoms. After all, Australia, Japan, Uruguay, and
Chile, all rated as “free” democracies by the watchdog organization Freedom
House, are just as vulnerable as the NATO allies of the North Atlantic.
Can the wider West establish a global “cyber NATO”? It would be diffi-
cult, but so too was the founding of NATO itself, which was called into being
only after successive communist coups in Eastern Europe. When it comes
to digital threats, the liberal democratic West has been subjected to enough
wake-up calls.
Six years ago at the Munich Security Conference, I suggested that we
consider a cyberdefense and security alliance for genuine democracies. At
the time, the threats were not considered that serious. Today, with antidemo-
cratic cyberspace attacks worldwide, awareness has skyrocketed. At the
2016 NATO summit in Warsaw, the allies agreed to name “cyber” as a fourth
domain of operations, in addition to the traditional domains of land, air, and
sea. This is a start, but it is still insufficient.
Currently, the only functioning international agreement in the digital sphere
with any relevance is the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, which deals
with computer-related crimes, including hacking, fraud, and child pornogra-
phy. Originally a Council of Europe convention, a number of countries—includ-
ing the United States, Canada, Japan, and Australia—have since acceded.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 83
Unfortunately, many of the primary sources of computer crime—including
Russia, China, Brazil, and Iran—are not signatories. Far less successful has
been the United Nations’ thirteen-year-old attempt to regulate cyberwarfare,
which collapsed after Russia, China, and Cuba objected to Western proposals
that would allow countries to retaliate in self-defense in cyberspace.
Concern, however, is growing. NATO’s own Cooperative Cyber Defense
Center of Excellence in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, which is still more of
a think tank than an operational center, is open to non-NATO democracies.
Together with the Riga-
based Strategic Commu-
NATO was called into being only nications Center of Excel-
after successive communist coups lence, another NATO
in Eastern Europe. By now, the liberal initiative, and the recently
democratic West has been subjected opened European Center
to enough wake-up calls. of Excellence for Coun-
tering Hybrid Threats
in Helsinki, the conceptual bases for international digital defense now exist.
These centers deal with all the threats—from infrastructure and hacking to
manipulations of social media—that we have encountered in recent years
across the board, often from the same list of usual suspects.
What remains is a broad recognition of the common nature of the threats
and the political will to bring interested nations together to map out how to
guarantee the defense of liberal democracies. A conference open to like-mind-
ed countries—those that Freedom House ranks as “free”—would be a good
start. Until defense of democracy in the digital era is taken up by governments
collectively, both in NATO and outside the alliance, liberal democracies will
remain vulnerable to the cyberthreats of the twenty-first century.

Reprinted by permission of the Washington Post. © 2018 Washington Post
Co. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Eyes on
Spies: Congress and the United States Intelligence
Community, by Amy B. Zegart. To order, call (800)
888-4741 or visit

84 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8


If we’re to withstand a torrent of unsound and
biased research, we need to understand—and
respect—scientific principles.

By Henry I. Miller

ew people remember the specifics of what they learned in their
high school science classes. But science has everyday impor-
tance. Let’s say you’re deciding whether to evacuate in the face
of an approaching hurricane. It would be helpful to know that
the destructive force of a storm increases as the square of the wind velocity,
because kinetic energy equals mv 2, where m is mass and v is velocity. Thus,
category five hurricanes Irma and Maria, with sustained winds originally of
185 mph, had two and a half times as much energy as a category three hurri-
cane with 115 mph winds. Knowing that—and taking the appropriate precau-
tions—could save your life.
Science has other practical advantages, such as understanding that putting
salt on ice lowers the temperature at which water freezes, which is why we put
salt on an icy highway; and that adding salt to water raises the boiling point,
making the boiling water hotter than 212 degrees Fahrenheit when it starts
to boil. It’s also critical to all manner of public policy, from deciding where to
locate nuclear power plants to approving new technologies to making vaccines.

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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 85
So, what is science? We associate it with facts and experiments. Scientists
organize facts in ways that provide insights into how the world works—
which is what we see in the periodic table of elements, for example, and in
the explanations of why the planets revolve around the sun. Scientists also
perform experiments to gain a deeper understanding of living things, such
as dissecting animals to learn about their anatomy. But above all, science is
a method to ensure that experiments and the data derived from them are
reproducible and valid. The scientific method is a set of procedures and prac-
tices, the aim of which is to provide valid data. When all goes well, science
brings us to a deeper understanding of natural phenomena.
The specifics of that method were defined in Sound Science, a short primer
published recently by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chem-
istry. It defines sound
science as “organized
“Predatory publishers” eagerly and investigations and obser-
uncritically accept virtually any sub- vations conducted by
mitted paper as long as the authors qualified personnel using
pay a fat fee. documented methods
and leading to verifi-
able results and conclusions.” In other words, it encapsulates the essence of
the scientific method: that what we know results from rigorously obtained,
empirical, and data-driven observations. If any of those characteristics is
missing, the investigations—from lab experiments to clinical and environ-
mental studies—are unlikely to be reliable or reproducible.
“Organized investigations and observations” require a readily testable
hypothesis—for example, that treatments A and B to relieve a headache are
equally effective. To test it, scientists conduct an experiment in which sub-
jects randomly receive either A or B. The results of the two treatments are
then compared, and appropriate statistical methods are applied to ascertain
whether we can disprove the hypothesis that the effects of the treatments
are the same, which would make the alternative hypothesis—that A is dif-
ferent from B—accepted. That’s the essence of the process for testing a new
drug and accumulating evidence to be submitted to regulators for approval.
Sometimes, the results of an investigation are published in a peer-reviewed
journal, where the researchers provide the details of their methods, statisti-
cal analysis, and conclusions.
That might seem straightforward. The scientific method is in theory well
understood, and experts in a given field routinely evaluate the methods,
results, and conclusions of research performed by “qualified personnel”—i.e.,

86 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
scientists—via regulatory evaluations and the process of peer review. In
practice, however, it’s anything but straightforward, especially when politics
and other special interests intrude.

According to a survey of 1,576 researchers recently conducted by the journal
Nature, more than 70 percent of researchers “have tried and failed to repro-
duce another scientist’s experiments, and more than half have failed to repro-
duce their own experiments.” There are many reasons for that result, most of
which don’t involve misconduct: reagents can differ from lab to lab, or even
batch to batch, and different labs might inadvertently use different strains of
mice, rabbits, or cultured cells. And many experiments are so complicated
that it’s easy to make honest mistakes.
Still, that figure is alarming, and the problem is likely to become worse
with the proliferation of “predatory publishers.” These publishers put out
journals like the Internal Medicine Review and Advance [sic] in Agriculture
& Biology. Anyone can read them online for free. The papers are published
without genuine peer review. These journals are less concerned with provid-
ing valid, data-driven knowledge and understanding than with generating
cash. They eagerly and uncritically accept virtually any submitted paper as
long as the authors pay a hefty fee. There are thousands of such journals,
publishing tens of thousands of papers a year.
Another equally
worrisome trend is the
increasing frequency Above all, science is a method to
of publishing flawed ensure that experiments and the data
advocacy research that derived from them are reproducible
is designed to give a and valid.
false result to support a
certain cause or position and can be cited by activists long after the findings
have been discredited. The articles describing such “experiments” are often
found in the predatory open-access journals.
A good example was a 2012 article by biologist Gilles-Éric Séralini and
colleagues, which purportedly showed that rats fed a variety of geneti-
cally engineered corn developed more tumors and died earlier than control
animals. There were numerous methodological flaws with this study that
elicited widespread condemnation from the scientific community and caused
it to be retracted by the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, in which it
was originally published. The authors then republished the paper elsewhere,

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 87
essentially unchanged. And this was only one of the many flawed publications
from lead author Séralini, an avowed opponent of the genetic engineering
of crops who boasts numerous conflicts of interest. Even after retraction or
publication in predatory journals, his articles are widely referenced by the
anti–genetic-engineering lobby and continue to show up on the Internet as
“evidence” of the risks of “GMOs.”
Adding to the confusion, nonscientists who rely on scientific findings to
promote a cause or argument frequently conflate association and causa-
tion. When a study finds an association, that means two events or findings
are merely correlated, while causation means that one event actually leads to
another. The rooster crowing and then the sun rising are two events that are
associated—but one doesn’t cause the other. A more subtle example would
be a claim that organic foods cause autism, simply because organic food sales
and the incidence of autism have increased in tandem. A similar example
is activists’ claims that a certain

88 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
class of pesticides causes negative effects on bees because the increasing use
of that pesticide occurred at the same time that bee populations allegedly
began to decline; but in the absence of careful, controlled field experiments
that subject bees to that pesticide and measure what happens to the apian
population, that claim is insupportable.
To complicate the interpretation of data still further, even if there is causa-
tion between events, it may be unclear which is the cause and which the
effect. For example, a number of studies have found an association between
longevity and having a partner or spouse, but that doesn’t prove that hav-
ing a partner or spouse confers longevity. It could be that people who are
healthier and therefore more likely to live longer are also more likely to find a
A related confounding phenomenon called data dredging or data mining
occurs when an investigator looks at a large number of variables for statisti-
cally significant associations and formulates a hypothesis after the analysis is
done. That’s how we end up with spurious headlines like this one: “Drinking

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

H O O V E R D IG E S T • S p ring 2018 89
four cups of coffee daily lowers risk of death.” Such conclusions arise when
researchers ask their subjects numerous questions about what they eat and
drink, and about their activities (exercise, smoking, occupation, hobbies, etc.)—
and then try to correlate those answers with health outcomes. If the numbers
of questions and outcomes are large enough, spurious statistical associations
are inevitable, although there is no causation. Unfortunately, as a result of
statistical jiu-jitsu, now many people believe that drinking lots of coffee will
actually boost their longevity when there’s no real evidence to suggest that.
Nonscientists are likely to be fooled or manipulated by such claims because
scientific illiteracy runs deep. A 2001 study sponsored by the National Sci-
ence Foundation found that only about half of all people surveyed understood
that the Earth circles the sun once a year, while only 45 percent could give
an “acceptable definition” of DNA and only 22 percent understood what a
molecule was. More recent research by Jon Miller, professor of integrative
studies at Michigan State University, found that 70 percent of Americans
cannot understand the science section of the New York Times.
Such widespread illiteracy has an impact on policy. In his 2005 book, The
March of Unreason, British polymath Dick Taverne warned, “in the practice of
medicine, popular approaches to farming and food, policies to reduce hunger
and disease, and many other practical issues, there is an undercurrent of
irrationality that threat-
ens science-dependent
Data mining is when an investigator progress, and even the
looks at a large number of variables civilized basis of our
and formulates a hypothesis after the democracy.” We see evi-
analysis is done. dence of such irrationality
in significant opposition
to important products and technologies such as vaccines, nuclear power, and
genetic engineering—and in the embrace of herbal dietary supplements and
organic foods.

At least a modicum of scientific literacy is important for citizens. As the
Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry’s primer observed:
“It is imperative that policy makers, the media, and the general public are
able to distinguish the facts from mere interpretations of a biased constitu-
ency. Decision makers and those who inform them must be able to judge the
quality of the science and reasoning that supports a position and must know
whether a set of scientific findings is really meaningful to a decision.”

90 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
However, even when the science is sound and the data are meaningful, poli-
ticians and government officials commonly ignore them, often in the cause of
bureaucratic empire-building, advancing some ideological goal, or capitulat-
ing to activists. When
I was an official at the
Food and Drug Admin- “There is an undercurrent of irratio-
istration, I once heard a nality that threatens science-depen-
Clinton administration dent progress, and even the civilized
undersecretary of agri- basis of our democracy.”
culture, who previously
had headed an anti-technology advocacy group, deconstruct science: “You
can have ‘your’ science or ‘my’ science or somebody else’s science. By nature,
there is going to be a difference.” Translation: “I don’t care about data or the
consensus in the scientific community. My opinions are just as valid.”
The beauty of the scientific method, when done right, is that it protects
us from ideology and bias and helps us understand what is true and what
really works. At its best, science can inform sound public policy. But when
we ignore or misinterpret science, we move backwards toward a time when
irrationality and superstition prevailed.

Reprinted from Defining Ideas (
ideas), a Hoover Institution online journal. © 2018 The Board of Trustees
of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 91


The Past Isn’t
Even Past
A hundred years since it began consuming lives by
the millions, the embers of communism still burn.

By Stephen Kotkin

century ago, communism took over the Russian empire, the
world’s largest state at the time. Leftist movements of various
sorts had been common in European politics long before the
revolution of October 25, 1917 (which became November 7 in
the reformed Russian calendar), but Vladimir Lenin and his Bolsheviks were
different. They were not merely fanatical in their convictions but flexible in
their tactics—and fortunate in their opponents.
Communism entered history as a ferocious yet idealistic condemnation of
capitalism, promising a better world. Its adherents, like others on the left,
blamed capitalism for the miserable conditions that afflicted peasants and
workers alike and for the prevalence of indentured and child labor. Com-
munists saw the slaughter of World War I as a direct result of the rapacious
competition among the great powers for overseas markets.
But a century of communism in power—with holdouts even now in Cuba,
North Korea, and China—has made clear the human cost of a political
program bent on overthrowing capitalism. Again and again, the effort to

Stephen Kotkin is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the John P. Birke-
lund ’52 Professor in History and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson
School and History Department of Princeton University. His latest book is Stalin:
Waiting for Hitler, 1929–1941 (2017, Penguin Press).

92 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
eliminate markets and private property has brought about the deaths of
an astounding number of people. Since 1917—in the Soviet Union, China,
Mongolia, Eastern Europe, Indochina, Africa, Afghanistan, and parts of Latin
America—communism has claimed at least sixty-five million lives, according
to the painstaking research of demographers.
Communism’s tools of destruction have included mass deportations, forced
labor camps, and police-state terror—a model established by Lenin and espe-
cially by his successor Josef Stalin. It has been widely imitated. Though com-
munism has killed huge
numbers of people inten-
tionally, even more of its Again and again, the effort to elimi-
victims have died from nate markets and private property
starvation as a result has brought about the deaths of an
of its cruel projects of
astounding number of people.
social engineering.
For these epic crimes, Lenin and Stalin bear personal responsibility, as
do Mao Zedong in China, Pol Pot in Cambodia, the Kim dynasty in North
Korea, and any number of lesser communist tyrants. But we must not lose
sight of the ideas that prompted these vicious men to kill on such a vast
scale, or of the nationalist context in which they embraced these ideas.
Anticapitalism was attractive to them in its own right, but it also served as
an instrument, in their minds, for backward countries to leapfrog into the
ranks of great powers.
The communist revolution may now be spent, but its centenary, as the
great anticapitalist cause, still demands a proper reckoning.

In February 1917, Czar Nicholas II abdicated under pressure from his gener-
als, who worried that bread marches and strikes in the capital of St. Peters-
burg were undermining the war effort against Germany and its allies. The
February Revolution, as these events became known, produced an unelected
provisional government, which chose to rule without the elected parliament.
Peasants began to seize the land, and soviets (or political councils) started to
form among soldiers at the front, as had already happened among political
groups in the cities.
That fall, as the war raged on, Lenin’s Bolsheviks undertook an armed insur-
rection involving probably no more than ten thousand people. They directed
their coup not against the provisional government, which had long since become
moribund, but against the main soviet in the capital, which was dominated by

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 93
other, more moderate socialists. The October Revolution began as a putsch
by the radical left against the rest of the left, whose members denounced the
Bolsheviks for violating all norms and then walked out of the soviet.
The Bolsheviks, like many of their rivals, were devotees of Karl Marx, who
saw class struggle as the great engine of history. What he called feudalism
would give way to capitalism, which would be replaced in turn by socialism and,
finally, the distant utopia of communism. Marx envisioned a new era of freedom
and plenty, and its precondition was destroying the “wage slavery” and exploita-
tion of capitalism. As he and his collaborator Friedrich Engels declared in the
“Communist Manifesto” of 1848, the theory “may be summed up in the single
sentence: aboli-
tion of private

94 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
Once in power in early 1918, the Bolsheviks renamed themselves the Com-
munist Party as they sought to force-march Russia to socialism and, eventu-
ally, to history’s final stage. Millions set about trying to live in new ways. No
one, however, knew precisely what the new society was supposed to look like.
“We cannot give a characterization of socialism,” Lenin conceded in March
1918. “What socialism will be like when it reaches its completed form we do
not know, we cannot say.”
But one thing was clear to them: socialism could not resemble capitalism.
The regime would replace private property with collective property, markets
with planning, and “bourgeois” parliaments with “people’s power.” In prac-
tice, however, scientific planning was unattainable, as even some communists
conceded at the time. As for collectivizing property, it empowered not the
people but the state.

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

H O O V E R D IG E S T • S p ring 2018 95
The process set in motion by the communists entailed the vast expansion
of a secret-police apparatus to handle the arrest, internal deportation, and
execution of “class enemies.” The dispossession of capitalists also enriched
a new class of state functionaries, who gained control over the country’s
wealth. All parties and points of view outside the official doctrine were
repressed, eliminating politics as a corrective mechanism.
The declared goals of the revolution of 1917 were abundance and social jus-
tice, but the commitment to destroy capitalism gave rise to structures that
made it impossible to attain those goals.
In urban areas, the Soviet regime was able to draw upon armed factory
workers, eager recruits to the party and secret police, and on young people
impatient to build a new world. In the countryside, however, the peasantry—
some 120 million souls—had carried out their own revolution, deposing the
gentry and establishing de facto peasant land ownership.
With the devastated
country on the verge
Collectivizing property empowered of famine, Lenin forced
not the people but the state. reluctant party cadres to
accept the separate peas-
ant revolution for the time being. In the countryside, over the objections of
communist purists, a quasi-market economy was allowed to operate.
With Lenin’s death in 1924, this concession became Stalin’s problem. No
more than 1 percent of the country’s arable land had been collectivized volun-
tarily by 1928. By then, key factories were largely owned by the state, and the
regime had committed to a five-year plan for industrialization. Revolutionar-
ies fretted that the Soviet Union now had two incompatible systems: social-
ism in the city and capitalism in the village.
Stalin didn’t temporize. He imposed coercive collectivization from the
Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, even in the face of mass peasant rebellion.
He threatened party officials, telling them that if they were not serious about
eradicating capitalism, they should be prepared to cede power to the rising
rural bourgeoisie. He incited class warfare against “kulaks” (better-off peas-
ants) and anyone who defended them, imposing quotas for mass arrests and
internal deportations.
Stalin was clear about his ideological rationale. “Could we develop agri-
culture in kulak fashion, as individual farms, along the path of large-scale
farms” as in “America and so on?” he asked. “No, we could not. We’re a Soviet
country. We want to implant a collective economy, not solely in industry, but
in agriculture.”

96 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
And he never backtracked, even when, as a result of his policies, the
country descended into yet another famine from 1931 to 1933. Forced collec-
tivization during those few years would claim five million to seven million

The Soviet Union’s awful precedent did nothing to deter other communist
revolutionaries. Mao Zedong, a hard man like Stalin, had risen to the top of
the Chinese movement and, in 1949, he and his comrades emerged as the
victors in the Chinese civil war. Mao saw the colossal loss of life in the Soviet
experiment as intrinsic to its success.
His Great Leap Forward, a violent campaign from 1958 to 1962, was an
attempt to collectivize some seven hundred million Chinese peasants and to
spread industry throughout the countryside. “Three years of hard work and
suffering, and a thousand years of prosperity,” went one prominent slogan of
the time.
Falsified reports of triumphal harvests and joyful peasants inundated the
communist ruling elite’s well-provisioned compound in Beijing. In real-
ity, Mao’s program resulted in one of history’s deadliest famines, claiming
between sixteen million and thirty-two million victims. After the catastrophe,
referred to by survivors as the “communist wind,” Mao blocked calls for a
retreat from collectivization. As he declared, “the peasants want ‘freedom’
but we want socialism.”
Nor did this exhaust the repertoire of communist brutality in the name of
overthrowing capitalism. With their conquest of Cambodia in 1975, Pol Pot
and his Khmer Rouge
drove millions from the
country’s cities into the Communist dictators are a fusion of
countryside to work on militant ideologue and unprincipled
collectives and forced- intriguer, and they possess extreme
labor projects. They
sought to remake Cam-
bodia as a classless, solely agrarian society.
The Khmer Rouge abolished money, banned commercial fishing, and perse-
cuted Buddhists, Muslims, and the country’s ethnic Vietnamese and Chinese
minorities as “infiltrators.” Pol Pot’s regime also seized children to pre-empt
ideological infection from “capitalist” parents.
All told, perhaps as many as two million Cambodians, a quarter of the
population, perished as a result of starvation, disease, and mass executions

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 97
during the four nightmarish years of Pol Pot’s rule. In some regions, skulls
could be found in every pond.

Marx’s class analysis denied legitimacy to any political opposition, not just
from “bourgeois” elements but from within communist movements them-
selves—because dissenters “objectively” served the interests of the interna-
tional capitalist order. The relentless logic of anticapitalist revolution pointed
to a single leader atop a single-party system.
From Russia and China to Cambodia, North Korea, and Cuba, communist
dictators have shared key traits. All have conformed, more or less, to the
Leninist type: a fusion of militant ideologue and unprincipled intriguer. And
all have possessed an extreme willpower—the prerequisite for attaining what
only unspeakable bloodshed could bring.
Communism was hardly
alone over the past cen-
Mao saw the colossal loss of life in tury in committing grand
the Soviet experiment as intrinsic to carnage. Nazism’s repres-
its success. sion and wars of racial
extermination killed at
least forty million people, and during the Cold War, anticommunism spurred
paroxysms of grotesque violence in Indonesia, Latin America, and elsewhere.
But as evidence of communism’s horrors emerged over the decades, it
rightly shocked liberals and leftists in the West, who shared many of the
egalitarian aims of the revolutionaries. Some repudiated the Soviet Union as
a deformation of socialism, attributing the regime’s crimes to the backward-
ness of Russia or the peculiarities of Lenin and Stalin. After all, Marx had
never advocated mass murder or gulag labor camps. Nowhere did he argue
that the secret police, deportation by cattle car, and mass death from starva-
tion should be used to establish collective farms.
But if we’ve learned one lesson from the communist century, it is this: that
to implement Marxist ideals is to betray them. Marx’s demand to “abolish
private property” was a clarion call to action—and an inexorable path to the
creation of an oppressive, unchecked state.
A few socialists began to recognize that there could be no freedom without
markets and private property. When they made their peace with the exis-
tence of capitalism, hoping to regulate rather than to abolish it, they initially
elicited denunciations as apostates. Over time, more socialists embraced the

98 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
welfare state, or the market economy with redistribution. But the siren call
to transcend capitalism persists among some on the left.
It also remains alive, though hardly in orthodox Marxist fashion, in Russia
and China, the great redoubts of the communist century. Both countries
continue to distrust what is perhaps most important about free markets and
private property: their capacity to give independence of action and thought
to ordinary people, pursuing their own interests as they see fit, in private life,
civil society, and the political sphere.
But anticapitalism also served as a program for an alternative world order,
one in which long-suppressed nationalist aims might be realized. For Stalin
and Mao, heirs to proud ancient civilizations, Europe and the United States
represented the allure and threat of a superior West. The communists set
themselves the task of matching and overtaking their capitalist rivals and
winning a central place for their own countries on the international stage.
This revolutionary struggle allowed Russia to satisfy its centuries-old sense
of a special mission in the world, while it gave China a claim to be, once again,
the Middle Kingdom.
Vladimir Putin’s resistance to the West, with his peculiar mix of Soviet
nostalgia and Russian Orthodox revival, builds on Stalin’s precedent. For
its part, of course, China remains the last communist giant, even as Beijing
promotes and tries to control a mostly market economy. Under Xi Jinping,
the country now embraces both communist ideology and traditional Chinese
culture in a drive to raise its standing as an alternative to the West.
Communism’s bloody century has come to an end, and we can only cel-
ebrate its passing. But troubling aspects of its legacy endure.

Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2018 Dow Jones &
Co. All rights reserved.

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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 99


The Strongman’s
Weak Hand
To Vladimir Putin, meddling in other countries’
elections is how you make a lapsed superpower
great again.

By Robert Service

rom the Brexit referendum to the American and French presi-
dential elections, Russia has been causing serious mischief in
the Western democracies. Hundreds of fake Twitter accounts
believed to be linked to the Kremlin had been used to influence
British politics. The pattern is too uniform and widespread to be an accident.
What’s going on?
Russian leaders have taken a cool look at the world and decided that
they have nothing to lose. In their eyes, the West has consistently sought to
humble Russia. Last June, Vladimir Putin described the economic sanctions
in place since the Crimean annexation of 2014 as merely the latest phase in
the West’s aggressive activity, going back to the Soviet decades and even to
the days of the czars. Trouble, he declared, comes in a rush whenever “Rus-
sia has begun to stand on its own feet.”
Putin is not the only one to think this way. His close associates voice still
more rancid variations on Russian victimhood. Sergei Naryshkin, director

Robert Service is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a fellow of the British
Academy, and the professor of Russian history at the University of Oxford. His lat-
est book is The Last of the Tsars: Nicholas II and the Russian Revolution
(2017, Macmillan).

100 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
of the Foreign Intelligence Service, argues that the sanctions are not only
punitive but illegal. Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev accuses
the West of taking control of Chechnya in the 1990s and having the ultimate
ambition of breaking up the Russian Federation.
These madhouse ideas are born out of resentment at Russia’s tumble down
the slopes from superpowerdom. Less unhinged are the complaints about
how the NATO countries
behaved in the years of
Putin views world politics as a zero- Russian frailty. Russian
sum contest. ministers continually
dwell on the West’s aerial
bombardment of Belgrade in 1999 and its subsequent recognition of the
breakaway state of Kosovo. Russia accepts that it is no longer a world power
but asks, if the Americans can meddle violently in European affairs, why
can’t the Russians?
Except that Putin never admits to meddling. When President Trump asked
him at last fall’s Asian summit whether his agencies had interfered in the US
presidential election, Putin sulkily denied the charge. He is like a schoolboy
moaning that all the teachers are against him. Having gone through KGB
training, Putin knows how to tell a barefaced lie, and Trump refuses to act
the grumpy headmaster.
It is doubtful that Russian authorities in 2016 genuinely banked on getting
Trump elected. But the disruption and discrediting of American politics
were definite objectives. The Russians succeeded too well for their own good.
The role they played in helping Trump’s ascent to power was so sensational
that members of both Republican and Democratic parties have found com-
mon cause in looking for signs of treachery.
Although the American campaign might have been a foray too far, the
offensives in Europe have achieved much that the Kremlin desired. In 2014
Russian finance made a friend of Viktor Orbán in Hungary with a generous
long-term loan to build a nuclear power station. Orbán stood by Putin’s side
in Moscow to celebrate the contract, and Putin could take satisfaction from
the success in weaning a European leader off the breast of EU unity.
Putin already counted Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi among his boon compan-
ions, a friendship interrupted only by the Italian premier’s fall from grace
in 2013. But prime ministers are not the Russian’s only quarries. The aim of
dissolving Europe’s already shaky concord was pursued last year by assist-
ing Marine Le Pen’s presidential bid after French banks refused to lend their
money to the Front National. Le Pen didn’t win. But her loud protests against

102 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
both the EU and its treatment of Russia would have made any financial assis-
tance by the Kremlin worthwhile.
Stories have grown in credibility that Russian funding also helped the
Brexit side in the 2016 UK referendum. Though the May government has
ignored Labour MP Ben Bradshaw’s demand for a public inquiry, Theresa
May’s speech at London’s Guildhall last fall included a general rebuke about
Russia’s persistent political meddling.
If recent Russian opinion polls are anything to go by, Putin will gain from
being censured by foreigners. There’s a directness about him that many Rus-
sians revere. What he has, he intends to hold, and that includes Crimea. What
he hasn’t got, however, is a vibrant economy. His long years in the highest
offices of state have been wasted on armaments and wars, instead of being
devoted to achieving the overdue diversification of the Russian economy.
Putin has come to view world politics as a zero-sum contest. He delights in
seeing the EU crippled by internal disagreements. He takes equal pleasure in
what he claims to be the unity of Russian public life. Rejecting international
criticism of his authoritarianism, he depicts the Russian people as content
with the benefits he has brought them.
With or without Brexit, he is probing weak spots in Europe on the basic
principle of making them weaker. He no longer makes a secret of what he is
up to. Not long ago he talked openly about the need for “creative destruction”
as his prerequisite for the building of a new world order.
Destroying the links that bind and strengthen Europe’s many nations indi-
vidually and collectively is the Kremlin’s tried-and-tested strategy. The Rus-
sian leadership seeks to do what it accuses the Americans of wanting to do in
Russia. The West has yet to show it has a plan to counteract the solvents that
the Russians have injected into its democratic processes.

Reprinted by permission. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Ltd. All
rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Russia and
Its Islamic World: From the Mongol Conquest to the
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H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 103


The Once
and Future
A hundred and fifty years ago, Japan’s Meiji
restoration launched Asia on a quest for a modern
identity. That search continues today, as Asia tries
to balance autonomy with state control, the future
with the past.

By Michael R. Auslin

sian nations have long searched for a stable balance between
modernity and tradition. Reform has battled reaction with
each adoption of the tools of the West. China under Xi Jinping
is using Western ideas, but within Chinese constraints, to help
boost China against Western competition. Japan kicked off the region’s refor-
mation in a similarly conflicted way: seeking modern power, but without the
Western values that produced it.
Young samurai warriors, frustrated by social and political immobility,
first broke the bonds of Japan’s past 150 years ago. On January 3, 1868, they
overthrew the Tokugawa samurai family, which had loosely controlled Japan

Michael R. Auslin is the Williams-Griffis Research 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
University Press, 2017).

104 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
for more than 250 years in the name of the emperors. The rebels announced
a “restoration” of ancient imperial rule, naming the new era “Meiji” (Enlight-
ened Rule).
These young idealists were as much reactionaries as reformists. They
were fired by shame at the steady encroachment on Japan by Western pow-
ers—beginning with the
American “black ships”
of Commodore Matthew The creative destruction that led to
C. Perry in the mid- Japan’s strengthening soon manifest-
1850s, which at gunpoint
ed a darker side. Those who had once
forced an isolationist
feared colonization became coloniz-
country into interna-
tional trade. Far from ers themselves.
embracing the West,
the rebels wanted to drive the foreign barbarians out of Japan’s divine land.
To do so, though, meant abolishing Japan’s two-centuries-old restrictions on
engagement with the outside world—so they could search for the sources of
Western strength.
The new government tried to find a balance between the imperial court
and the two-hundred-odd samurai domains, but it was inexorably pulled to
further centralize power. It soon issued a landmark Charter Oath, promis-
ing deliberative assemblies, socioeconomic freedom, and the seeking of
knowledge throughout the world. Within a decade, Japan’s traditional social
system was transformed, the samurai caste was abolished, and merchants
and farmers achieved de facto equality with the former warriors. In another
decade, a formal constitution was set, based on British and Prussian models.
(However, suffrage was limited to about 1 percent of the male population, and
no political parties were yet allowed.) The Meiji emperor, like generations
before him, remained largely a figurehead—only now cast in European terms
as a constitutional monarch, whose ministers governed for him.

The Meiji modernizers soon became trapped in a seemingly unsolvable
dilemma. They claimed to be returning Japan to a golden era, but the experi-
ment of learning from the West led to a much broader rethinking of eco-
nomics, gender, education, medicine, technology, politics, and war. Political
ideas from classical liberalism to socialism battled each other as politicians,
intellectuals, and activists struggled over new ways to govern and organize

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 105
NEW HORIZONS: Commodore Matthew C. Perry and his “black ships” pre-
cipitated far-reaching change for isolationist Japan in the mid-1850s. The
reaction to Western incursions led to a transformation of traditional society,
including a ferment of political ideas. [Matthew Brady]

106 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
Through it all, daily life in Japan was being transformed, most notably in
urban areas. A growing consumer class expected greater freedom and politi-
cal participation. To such observers as US President Theodore Roosevelt,
born in New York while Japan was still ruled by samurai, Meiji-era Japan
was proof positive of the
inherent superiority of
Western models. Are Western styles of representative
The creative destruc- democracy, gender equality, rule of
tion that led to Japan’s law, and free markets transplantable
strengthening soon to cultures with different historical
manifested a darker
side and spilled over the
country’s borders. Those who had once feared colonization became coloniz-
ers themselves. Empire building began in Formosa (now Taiwan) in 1874,
followed by Okinawa.
Japan’s dizzying, unpredictable experiment in remaking itself would serve
as a powerful influence for the modernization of half the world, perhaps most
significantly in China. There, defeat by Great Britain in the Opium Wars had
forced China to open trade on favorable terms to the foreigners, spurring
Chinese intellectual elites to attempt to reform the sclerotic Qing dynasty.
The Qing resisted attempts at real change even amid domestic upheaval.
Defeat by Japan—and the loss of the Korean Peninsula—in 1894–95 demon-
strated Japan’s new strength and the Qing dynasty’s weakness, and the agita-
tors began to look at the Meiji Restoration as a model. Sun Yat-sen, soon to
become the leader of China’s reform movement, made multiple trips to Japan
in the two decades before the 1911 revolution that ended China’s dynasties
and eventually led to the communist takeover of the mainland.
Still empire building, Japan ignited the Pacific theater of World War II
with attacks spanning from Hawaii to Malaysia. Its defeat ushered in a wave
of decolonization in Asia, and eventually kick-started the region’s seemingly
unstoppable economic rise.

The continent still searches for the balance between individual liberty and
state control. Are Western styles of representative democracy, gender equal-
ity, rule of law, and free markets transplantable to cultures with completely
different historical traditions? Or can they be only superficially and incom-
pletely adopted? Asian leaders ranging from China’s Deng Xiaoping (who
defined “socialism with Chinese characteristics”) to Singapore’s founding

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 107
POWER STRUGGLE: Samurai of the Satsuma clan consult a map. The Meiji
era commenced with conflict between reformists and entrenched interests.
Ultimately, Japanese modernization exerted a powerful influence over half
the world. [Felice Beato]

father, Lee Kuan Yew (author of a unifying “Asian values” imperative in the
1990s), argued that the region’s encounter with modernity would be deter-
mined as much by indigenous tradition as by Western models.
This argument has been given new life as the world attempts to interpret
China’s future. The hopes of those who envisioned a China adopting liberal
norms as it integrated into the global political and economic system are
instead witnessing a draconian crackdown on civil society at home, dimming
hopes for liberalization. Abroad, China pursues South China Sea militariza-
tion, cyberhacking, and its “One Belt, One Road” initiative to lead regional
commerce and development. The moves are all designed to supplant US
influence and Western hegemony in trade and security. At their core, how-
ever, is a challenge to the idea of the sovereignty of the individual and his or
her right to political, social, and economic self-determination.
Japan wasn’t the first Asian nation to engage Europeans or adopt some
of their ideas and technology. But it was the first to undertake a wholesale

108 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
reconstruction of its society, thereby unleashing a flood of Western influence.
Today, its once-lauded developmental model has been tarnished by a nearly
thirty-year struggle to recover economic dynamism after the popping of the
asset bubble in 1989.
Yet the Japanese have never looked back from the revolutionary break
with the past that their Meiji “restoration” really entailed. One hundred and
fifty years on, the country still serves as a model, sometimes a cautionary
one, to other nations attempting to modernize.

Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2018 Dow Jones &
Co. All rights reserved.

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888-4741 or visit

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 109


To Tame Iran
The mullahs may have played their cards
masterfully, but the game isn’t over. We can still
meet them and call them.

By Samuel Tadros

t was not supposed to end this way.
As protests erupted across the Key points
Arabic-speaking world, Iran seemed »» The nuclear agreement
has enshrined Iran’s re-
to be on the losing side. True, Iran’s gional position.
leader, Ali Khamenei, had immediately »» To confront Iran’s
called the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia regional hegemony, a US
strategy should go beyond
“an Islamic liberation movement” and
the traditional mindset of
hailed them as “reverberations of Iran’s nation-states.
1979 Islamic revolution.” But as the protests »» The United States should
spread from capital to capital and reached strengthen Shiite religious
and secular figures who
Damascus, not a few observers were confi- reject the Iranian model.
dent that Iran would emerge weaker in the »» Iran has mastered the
regional power game. propaganda game. The
United States must learn to
Such calculations were not without
undermine and counter its
foundation. In Damascus, Iran’s only message.
regional ally, Bashar al-Assad was losing
ground, forcing Iran to commit manpower

Samuel Tadros is the Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Middle East Studies at
the Hoover Institution and a member of Hoover’s Herbert and Jane Dwight Work-
ing Group on Islamism and the International Order. He is also a senior fellow at
the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and a professorial lecturer at
Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

110 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
and treasure to shore up his regime. Iran’s all-out support for Assad meant
that the Sunni-Shiite conflict became the dominant dividing line in regional
politics. This diminished Iran’s propaganda efforts at portraying itself as a
revolutionary Islamic force to Sunni Arabs, destroyed Hezbollah’s reputation
as a resistance movement among Sunnis, worsened Iran’s relations with Tur-
key, and cornered the Palestinian terror organization Hamas, which had long
been a useful tool for Iran. More important, with questions of freedom and
justice dominating the Arab-speaking world, few in Alexandria, Aleppo, or
Aden had interest in the Arab-Israeli conflict, removing the issue from Iran’s
propaganda arsenal. Even the one bright spot for the Iranian regime—the
uprising by Bahrain’s majority Shiite population—was soon crushed by Saudi
Arabia’s ground intervention.
Eight years later, Iran has managed to emerge victorious, not only by suc-
cessfully defending its turf but also by acquiring new successes across the
region. Bashar al-Assad remains in power and Western countries seem to
be all but conceding that they can do little to change the facts on the ground.
Iran’s alliance with Russia is stronger than ever and Turkey’s President Erdo-
gan was forced to reach an accommodation with the Iranians. In Lebanon, Hez-
bollah’s domination of the country is complete, with Sunnis forced to accept
its ally as president after years of deadlock. Moreover, the rise of the Islamic
State provided Iran with an opportunity to strengthen its control over Bagh-
dad, unleash militias loyal to it in the country, and even force Western powers
to accept its role in the anti–Islamic State fight, turning Iran into an ally of the
West. Utilizing fissures in Iraqi Kurdistan’s leadership, Iran was further able to
roll back Kurdish gains, gain control of oil-rich Kirkuk, and undermine Kurdish
aspirations and capabilities. In Yemen, despite historical doctrinal differences,
Iran was able to utilize Zaidi grievances to undermine Saudi security; the Gulf
dispute has only strengthened the Iranian-Qatari alliance.
Most important, however, is the nuclear agreement. Whether by design or
ignorance, the nuclear agreement has served only to enshrine Iran’s position
in the region. Leaving the scientific and compliance issues aside, and even
accepting the Obama administration’s claims regarding the agreement stop-
ping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, Iran is today in a position where
it does not even need a nuclear warhead, having achieved the results such a
weapon would deliver.

From the moment of its foundation, the Islamic Republic has had three key
objectives: the regime’s survival at home, acceptance by the international

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 111
community, and the spread of the revolution abroad. By design or
ignorance, the Obama administration delivered those three objec-
tives with the nuclear agreement, ensuring the regime that West-
ern powers would not attempt to change it,
accepting Iran as part of the international

112 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
community and a legitimate regional power with interests beyond its bor-
ders, and turning a blind eye to the spread of Iranian hegemony in the region.
Who needs a nuclear weapon, when all these three objectives have been
The Trump administration has indicated its displeasure with its prede-
cessor’s policies regarding the nuclear agreement and Obama’s welcome
of a Sunni-Shiite balance of power in the region. President Trump has
strengthened ties with America’s traditional allies in the region, Israel
and Saudi Arabia; supported Saudi war efforts in Yemen; and in
general made rolling back Iran’s regional influence a key objec-
tive. Nonetheless, the administration has so far lacked both
an overall strategy and a ground game plan to achieve
that strategy. Selling more weapons to Sunni powers
and launching a few missiles at Assad after his con-
tinued use of chemical weapons against his people
will do little to defeat Iranian designs if they are
not coupled with a political strategy.
In order to roll back Iranian hegemonic
designs in the Middle East, the United States
needs to develop a multifaceted strategy
and a ground game that together address
the sources of Iranian power, utilize its
weaknesses, and shore up its competitors’
The first area of Iranian strength is
its masterful ability to play internal fis-
sures and grievances across the region
to its advantage. Unlike American
policy makers, who remain fixated on
the nation-state, Iranian policy makers
see a map of ethnic, political, and sectar-
ian divides. With the political founda-
tion of the broader Middle East—the

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

H O O V E R D IG E S T • S p ring 2018 113
nation-state—crumbling, Iran has been able to utilize minority communities
and create replicas of Hezbollah across the region. A US strategy designed
to confront Iran’s regional hegemony should forgo the traditional mindset of
nation-states and deal with the region as it truly is, by developing intrastate
relations and not just interstate. Such a new mindset would require the
United States to develop
a Kurdistan strategy that
Iran does not even need a nuclear acknowledges the Kurdis-
warhead. It has already achieved the tan Regional Government
results such a weapon would deliver. as an important ally with
potential influence among
all Kurdish speakers, including inside the Islamic Republic. Such a mindset
would also forgo attempts at shoring up Lebanon’s Hezbollah-controlled
government and military and instead focus on building alternative competing
forces within the country.
The second source of Iranian strength has been its ability to monopolize
Shiite religious authority. The Arab Shiites’ gaze will remain on Tehran
as long as the main dividing line in the region is the Sunni-Shiite conflict
and as long as Arab Shiites feel threatened by Sunnis and fearful of Sunni
hegemony. The United States should help strengthen Arab Shiite religious
and secular actors who reject the Iranian model and who take pride in their
Arab or country-based identities. Such figures exist in Iraq among both its
religious authorities and its politicians. The United States should help them
develop an effective counterstrategy to Iranian infiltration.
Third, Iran has mastered the propaganda game in the Middle East. Iran’s
Arabic-language chan-
nel and media are highly
Iranian policy makers see a map effective in spreading
of ethnic, political, and sectarian Iranian propaganda,
divides—and they exploit it. undermining American
influence, and extending
conspiracy theories about the West and Israel. With six million followers on
Facebook, Iran’s Arabic-language TV channel, Al-Alam, is a powerful tool.
Any effective US strategy should seek to undermine and counter its message.
Fourth, despite the small Shiite populations of North Africa, Iran has cre-
ated a substantial constituency for its message across the region through the
use of scholarly visits to Tehran, book fairs, lectures, and trade deals. Across
the secular-Islamist divide in North African countries, Iran has been able
to find allies. To Islamists, Iran presents itself, not as a Shiite Islamic State,

114 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
but as the only successful Islamic state. To secularists, Iran presents itself
as their ally against Sunni Islamism. An effective US strategy to counter
Iranian influence would center on American embassies utilizing soft power
to weaken Iranian ground game strategies.

Iran is not omnipotent. The Iranian regime has fundamental weaknesses that
an effective US strategy should utilize. For millions of Arabic speakers across
the Middle East and North Africa, the Iranian model offers nothing beyond
more misery. Internal Iranian regime practices should be highlighted, espe-
cially those pertaining to ethnic and religious minorities inside the country.
More important, a key reason for Iran’s ability to expand its power in the
region has been the lack
of a threat at home. Iran
has thus been allowed to There’s a place for Iran as an impor-
play offense. An effective tant player. But that place should be
US strategy to counter reserved for a different Iran.
Iran’s hegemonic designs
in the region should force the Iranian regime to play defense by strength-
ening alternative voices inside Iran, including political opponents and the
multitude of minority communities that have been crushed by the Islamic
Such a strategy should not have the goal of destabilizing Iran to the extent
of a state collapse. But it should seek ways to weaken the regime’s control
Regardless of any efforts the United States exerts to weaken Iranian
expansion in the region, the fundamental weakness of the Arabic-speaking
world’s political order will continue to invite interference and provide
opportunities for Iranian designs. Any effective US strategy to counter
Iran cannot ignore this fundamental flaw. America should instead shore
up Iran’s competitors’ internal defenses. Policies by Sunni regimes that
discriminate against their significant Shiite minority populations will
continue to weaken them and increase Iran’s influence. The lack of plu-
ralism in the region and the attempt to homogenize different ethnic and
religious minorities is bound to create a deadly backlash—in fact, this has
already occurred. While the United States cannot, and should not, solve the
region’s internal ills, any effective US strategy should look for opportunities
to help these countries and communities develop responsive, pluralistic,
and representative institutions.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 115
For generations, Arab nationalists have rejected any non-Arab role in
regional politics. This policy is flawed and unrepresentative. The Middle
East is not solely Arab, but is instead a region of diverse ethnic and religious
communities. The framework of the Arab League was flawed from the start;
replacing it with an imagined Sunni alternative is equally misguided. There
is a place for Iran in the Middle East as an important player. But that place
should be reserved for a different Iran, an Iran that does not seek hegemony,
an Iran that accepts the regional order and does not seek to undermine its

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116 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8


The Can’t-Do State
The Golden State may remain a land of great
strengths, but it suffers from political inertia. Who
will defy the entrenched interests?

By Michael J. Boskin

alifornians long led an idyllic ver-
sion of the American dream: lots Key points
of sunshine, jobs, upward mobility, »» California needs a
less volatile revenue
home and automobile ownership,
model: a prudent tax
inviting ample space, and tremendous mobility. structure with lower
Long a harbinger of national trends and an incu- rates on a broader base.

bator of innovation, the Golden State was home »» Inefficient state
programs need to pro-
to steadily rising standards of living, outstand- duce better outcomes
ing public schools and universities, and enviable with lower spending.
Infrastructure spend-
ing should go to current
But then something went radically wrong: needs, not giant new
California’s legislators and governors built a ones.

welfare state of high tax rates, liberal entitle- »» There’s no serious at-
tempt to rein in runaway
ment benefits, and excessive regulation. That unfunded liabilities.
backfired, creating results far worse than just
a parody of a progressive utopia. Rather than
the green, European-style socioeconomic equality imagined by Califor-
nia’s coastal liberal elites, for most Californians the state has Europe’s

Michael J. Boskin is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a member of Hoover’s
Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy and Working Group on Economic
Policy, and the T. M. Friedman Professor of Economics at Stanford University.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 117
relative economic stagnation and is heading toward South America’s
For the past three decades California has experienced excessive swings
in its economy and financial fortunes. From the mid-1980s to mid-2000s
(both in the middle of economic expansions), California’s population grew
by ten million. But the number of income-tax payers rose by just 150,000.
Meanwhile, the prison population soared, and Medi-Cal (the state’s Medic-
aid program) recipients rose by seven million even before the ObamaCare
expansions. From the
mid-2000s to the middle
Most Californians see a state sinking of the current decade,
toward Europe’s economic stagnation the population grew by
and South America’s inequality. about three-and-a-half
million and the number
of Californians on assistance programs grew apace. With 12 percent of the
nation’s population, California has almost a third of America’s welfare recipi-
ents. California’s fourteen million Medi-Cal recipients by themselves would
constitute the fifth-most-populous state in the nation.
Under the Census Bureau’s most accurate measure, more than one in
five Californians live in poverty, by far the highest of any state; shockingly,
California’s rate is 41 percent higher than in Alabama, 49 percent higher than
in South Carolina, and 28 percent higher than in New York. But it is not only
a problem of the lower tail of the income distribution; middle-income Cali-
fornians are struggling, too. Surprisingly, median household income, when
adjusted for household size and cost of living, is below the national average.
More startling still, despite the remarkable technology and entertainment
wealth, real disposable income per capita—what Californians on average
have available to spend on all their family needs and save for their and their
children’s future—is tenth-poorest of any state.
Partly because of generous union wages and benefits, inflexible work rules,
and special-interest lobbying, many state programs spend too much while
achieving too little. For example, the legislative analyst puts annual spending
per each of California’s 120,000 prison inmates (8,000 housed out of state) at
$71,000, more than twice the national average and far above the income of
a middle-income family or a year of attending Harvard. Many of California’s
K–12 public schools rank poorly on standardized tests. The infrastructure has
not kept up with population growth or even needed maintenance. Unfunded
pension liabilities of workers in the state’s CalPERS system run to several
hundred billion dollars.

118 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
In 2016, voters approved a “temporary” twelve-year extension (Proposition
55) of the “temporary” seven-year tax hike approved by voters in the Novem-
ber 2012 election, enforced retroactively to the start of that year. It raised the
top marginal state income tax rate to 13.3 percent, the highest in the nation.
The original “temporary” tax hike was allegedly to help the state’s emergency
funding needs, a rationale that doesn’t apply to the new extension. As the
great economist Milton Freidman quipped, “There is nothing so permanent
as a temporary government program.”
Worse yet, recent changes in federal taxation reduce the deduction
for state income and property taxes, driving up the effective top rate on

California’s spending is financed by what my Hoover colleague John Cogan
and I have previously called “casino budgeting,” as it relies heavily on upper-
income taxpayers, especially their highly volatile stock options and capital
gains, which are taxed as ordinary income. During economic booms and bull
markets, revenue flows in at astounding rates; half of all income tax revenue
comes from the top 1 percent. This extreme progressivity feeds the welfare
state in good times but has a damaging downside.
Periods of rapidly rising revenues are followed by complete collapse, as
the capital gains and stock options of the top 1 percent plunge. For example,
in the 2009 recession, gross state product (the state equivalent of a nation’s
GDP) fell 3.7 percent,
but revenue plummeted
23 percent and the top More than one in five Californians live
1 percent income share in poverty, by far the highest of any
declined from 48 per- state.
cent to 37 percent. But
because the revenues are all spent—and often even more committed—on the
upswing, disruptive emergency cutbacks, often in services for our most vul-
nerable citizens, are inevitable on the way down. Also victimized are counties
and towns, which are asked to shoulder increased responsibilities without
accompanying resources. A court-ordered reduction in the state’s prison
population, for example, wound up shipping inmates to local jails.
The state’s progressive tax-and-spend culture episodically starves vital ser-
vices, such as courts, parks, education, and health care. The state desperate-
ly needs a less volatile revenue model, such as that suggested nine years ago
in the final report of the bipartisan Commission on the Twenty-First-Century

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 119
Economy, of which Cogan and I
were members.
The time to prepare for the next downturn
is during the boom, not after it ends. Cali-
fornia needs a less volatile, more prudent
tax structure with lower rates on a broader
base of economic activity and people
(almost half of Californians pay no income
tax). Inefficient state programs must be
reformed to produce far better outcomes
while spending less. Infrastructure spend-
ing should be directed to maintaining and
upgrading roads and ports, not to giant new
Although the water infrastructure needs
upgraded storage and transport capacity,
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest] far greater reliance on water markets to

120 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
efficiently allocate water to its most productive uses is the top priority and
would reduce the need for additional spending.

Californians have supported more education spending in the past, on the
assumption that this would improve education outcomes. Unfortunately, it
has not.
The state’s elementary and secondary school system ranks in the bot-
tom fifth in math and reading scores. Of public school students tested in
the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, only 37
percent were on track to be ready for college math after graduation; the
score for English was 48 percent. In Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest
district, the scores were even worse: 28 percent and 39 percent. For African-
American children, the scores were 18 percent and 31 percent. The high
school dropout rate has soared relative to the national average, especially for
African-Americans and Hispanics.
The best evidence, from the reforms in Newark, New Jersey, funded by
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, reveals that student performance
is best improved by letting students migrate from low-performing to
better-performing schools, and by shutting the bad schools. The June
2014 Vergara decision lent a ray of hope that California students trapped
in underperforming schools, sometimes with poor teachers, might get
relief from rigid tenure rules. But the decision was overturned in April 2016
by California’s liberal appellate court, with backing from Governor Jerry
Brown and then–attorney general (now senator) Kamala Harris, despite polls
showing a majority of Californians favored greater school choice for children
in underperforming schools.
The state also needs greater efficiency from its huge higher-education
system. Too many students take five or even six years to earn a bachelor’s
degree, if they earn one at all. Among the reasons: no room in required class-
es. So why doesn’t the state redistribute education units the way it redistrib-
utes electrical power on the grid? If a student can’t get a needed class at San
Francisco State, let her take it at San Jose State.
California also can provide better bridging from less-expensive community
colleges to the California State University or University of California system,
while showing high school and community college students how to map com-
munity college courses into specific course requirements, by major, at the
four-year schools. California can make much better use of online education
as well as improve vocational education in the community colleges, especially

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 121
in areas with lots of real job openings (rather than pushing an ever-higher
percentage of students into four-year colleges where many pile up debts and
major in subjects unlikely to lead to successful careers).

Governor Brown, nearing the end of his term, will leave a mixed legacy to
his successor. Brown’s policies are more nuanced than is typical of tax-and-
spend governors in blue states. He insists on mandating that 50 percent of
California’s electricity come from renewable resources such as solar and
wind by 2030. His zero-emission vehicle plan demands 1.5 million electric
vehicles on the road by 2025, despite the greater cost and dubious net envi-
ronmental improvements when accounting for the full cost of production,
electricity generation, and battery disposal. But so far, and unlike Governor
Andrew Cuomo of New York, Brown has refused to ban fracking in Califor-
nia, much to the dismay of local environmentalists. With a revenue boom
from the economic recovery and a bull stock market, Brown insisted on
dedicating a small portion to the state’s rainy-day fund, but it is still only
two-thirds of the targeted 10 percent of revenue, far too small to buffer the
state’s finances in a deep recession. (That fund also needs to be better pro-
tected from raids by legislators to fund pet programs.) And Brown coura-
geously vetoed a bill to codify controversial Obama-era policies on campus
sexual assault that were widely considered an abridgement of due process
for accused students.
Brown’s biggest
achievement in his second
California’s tax-and-spend culture run as California’s gov-
episodically starves vital services ernor (he also managed
such as courts, parks, education, and the state from 1975 to
health care. 1983, succeeding Ronald
Reagan) is presiding over
a budget that moved from a large cash deficit to a cash surplus. The main
engine was a surge in revenue from the economic recovery and stock boom
and the “temporary” tax hike.
To his credit, Brown has somewhat restrained a California Democratic
Party that dominates the state legislature from still higher spending. He has
also wisely avoided being overly optimistic in the economic and budget out-
look he presents every January in his proposed budget and every May in his
budget revision. Unfortunately, Brown has not proposed using the temporary
budget breathing room to push for a broader tax base, lower rates, or less

122 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
reliance on an income tax that now accounts for almost 70 percent of general
fund revenue, up from 10 percent in 1950.
Brown has nibbled around the state’s structural budget crisis. A Stan-
ford study estimates the unfunded pension liabilities in the state’s CalPERS
system are in the $800 billion range. They are increasing by $15 billion to $20
billion a year. The state’s small cash surplus is, in reality, a whopping deficit.
I can attest, based on
personal conversations,
that Brown is more than Governor Brown insisted on setting
aware of these problems. aside a rainy-day fund, but it is far too
He once quipped: “It’s
small to buffer California’s finances
not even a matter of
higher math. It’s fifth-
in a deep recession.
grade arithmetic.”
Unfortunately, Brown’s mostly sensible pension reforms are too small to
matter much, and even these are being challenged by public unions in the
courts. Almost all affect only new state employees and will have little impact
for decades. To deal with the analogous deficit in funding teacher pensions,
California’s governor shifted most of the cost to local school districts. This
will crowd out teacher hiring, school construction, and equipment purchases.
Although he only inherited them, Brown is presiding over the most rapid
expansion of unfunded liabilities in state history.
In a private business such cost pressures would lead to major attempts to
enhance efficiency, yet there is no serious Brown reform agenda. But Brown
has taken every opportunity to push forward his signature initiative: a high-
speed railroad connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco. Voters originally
approved a $9 billion state bond issue (Proposition 1A in 2008) toward a
projected total cost of $33 billion, the balance supposedly coming from
federal and private funds. The projected cost has now more than doubled to
$68 billion, with little private or federal funding on the horizon. So Brown has
raided the state’s cap-and-trade carbon pricing to permit auction revenue,
ostensibly devoted to environmental improvements, to keep alive what is
likely to become the biggest white elephant in California’s history. Delays,
cost overruns, and seismic problems in the earthquake-prone mountains
north of Los Angeles do not augur well.

California has become a one-party state: Democrats enjoy supermajorities in
the assembly and senate and hold the governorship and all other statewide

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 123
offices (Democrats control all three levers of government in only six states:
California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon, and Rhode Island).
Recent attempts to moderate this near-absolute one-party power, such as
changing the primary system so that the top two candidates advance to the
general election, were expected to elect more moderate Democrats. Thus far,
however, there have been only slight constraints on party leaders and policy.
The power in Sacramento of the public-employee unions, trial lawyers, and
extreme environmentalists is difficult to overestimate. Recently the legisla-
ture considered a bill
that would have made
The power of the public-employee it illegal for California’s
unions, trial lawyers, and extreme envi- local governments and
ronmentalists is hard to overestimate. agencies to produce
cost estimates and
financial projections during labor negotiations. Local officials should appar-
ently be expected to sign on to an agreement without knowing the financial
implications! Another bill would have made it illegal for cities, towns, and
agencies to contract with private companies to provide services. That would
have forced them to hire even more government workers, thus feeding more
dues-paying members into public-employee unions. Again, the cost to taxpay-
ers in financially strapped California towns and cities was irrelevant.
No one expects Governor Brown to use his final year in office to deal more
forcefully with the state’s huge problems. And the three Democrats vying for
the right to succeed Brown—Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, former
Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Treasurer John Chiang—have
mostly been raising money with attacks on President Trump, whose approval
ratings in the state are well below the national average.
There should be opportunities for the state to work with the Trump admin-
istration—on badly needed infrastructure, for example. California’s roads,
ports, dams, and water transport systems desperately need maintenance.
Studies show the largest return on infrastructure projects comes from main-
tenance and repairs. Routine inspections could have prevented the Oroville
Dam fiasco that caused almost two hundred thousand people to evacuate
their homes last year.
California still ranks first in technology, agriculture, entertainment, and
higher education. It has more of the world’s leading universities than any
other state and more even than any country, save perhaps Britain. But it is
near the bottom in business and tax climate and state bond ratings, on which
only Illinois and New Jersey are lower. Beyond the remarkable concentration

124 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
of technology behemoths in Silicon Valley such as Apple, Facebook, Google,
and Oracle are struggling small businesses, middle-class stagnation, a manu-
facturing exodus, and an unfulfilled dream.

No one should write off California—even in the next downturn, the financial
effects of which are likely to be worse in the Golden State than elsewhere,
given the volatile tax structure. It still has great strengths and it can turn,
and should be working on turning, some of its short-run challenges and hot-
button immigration issues into longer-term strengths in the global economy.
Continuing down the path of pumping more spending into poorly targeted,
inefficient, and ineffective programs, ever-higher taxes, added regulation,
and exploding borrowing will eventually exact a very high price on Califor-
nians. The sooner meaningful reforms in these policies are implemented, the
more modest and gradual they can be, and the more likely the state can avoid
a debilitating crisis.
Building a better California will take bolder leadership, unafraid to speak
the truth and to challenge the deeply entrenched vested interests in Sacra-
mento threatening the state’s future.

Read Eureka, the online Hoover Institution journal that probes the
policy, political, and economic issues confronting California (www.hoover.
org/publications/eureka). © 2018 The Board of Trustees of the Leland
Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 125


Housing Holdup
Regulations rob California of the housing it needs.

By Richard A. Epstein

n 2014, a real estate developer bought a
dilapidated home in Berkeley in an estate Key points
sale. But his plan to rip that structure »» Modern law gives
the government the
down to put three modern single-family
unquestioned right to
homes on the lot met with intense local resis- impose a stifling array
tance. Reporter Conor Dougherty, in an excellent of permits and restric-
account of the dispute in the New York Times,
»» The elastic notion of
recounted the neighbors’ claims that the new “externality” has been
homes would reduce street parking, block sun- abused to slow or halt
many developments.
light, and change the character of the neighbor-
»» Reforms do little to
hood for the worse. Lawsuits delayed construc-
pare down the con-
tion for several years, even though the project stricting approach that
complied with all local zoning ordinances. drives the zoning pro-
cess and limits Califor-
The Berkeley story illustrates the fatal nia’s housing supply.
pathologies that grip land-use regulation in the
United States. In the short run, such regulations
produce notable local victories. They slow the projects and raise the costs of
construction, dulling the ardor of even the hardiest developer. But these local
victories can become regional disasters, as an acute housing shortage raises

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.

126 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
the prices of existing units to unaffordable levels, leading first to long com-
mutes over clogged highways and then to outmigration by small businesses
and individuals who cannot tolerate the grind.
In response to this impasse in California, Governor Jerry Brown has
backed a set of administrative reforms designed to prod wayward local
governments to expedite issuing building permits. But it is highly unlikely
that piecemeal reforms of this nature will make even a dent in the current
housing crisis, partly because they are often packaged, as Dougherty notes,
with proposals to subsidize affordable housing and demands that construc-
tion workers be paid prevailing (i.e., union) wages.
The difficulty stems from a fundamental premise of modern Ameri-
can land-use law that has gone unexamined for decades: namely, that the
government has the unquestioned right through its planning processes
to impose a stifling array of permits and restrictions that tell the devel-
oper what, when, where, how, and how much to build on his own property.
Indeed, recent research finds that “as much as 40 percent of the slowdown
in economic growth” is attributable to the ever-expanding panoply of land-
use restrictions. Clearly, the situation has taken a turn for the worse. It is
important to understand how a wrong turn in basic legal theory undergirds
the current crisis.
The crux of the problem lies in the somewhat arcane issue of what counts
as an externality. In its broadest sense, the term signifies any situation in
which actions undertaken by one person have a negative impact on the
well-being of another. In the context of land-use regulation, the activities of
one neighbor routinely
infringe on the welfare
of another. But it cannot Land-use battles delay approved
be the case that every projects and raise the costs of con-
externality is powerful struction, dulling the ardor of even the
enough to justify limiting
hardiest developer.
the freedom of action
of everyone else. By that logic, anyone who wants to build always faces a
meritorious claim that his new building blocks the views of his neighbors or
changes the character of the neighborhood for the worse. Without some seri-
ous qualifications on this elastic notion of externality, all development could
be brought to a halt as neighbors hurry to court to save themselves from
harms attributable to the activities of others. The exclusive preoccupation
with these external harms necessarily ignores the gains for the parties that
use and develop their land. A correct social calculus must take into account

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 127
all gains and losses, and to do so it has to find that subset of externalities that
should be the source of legal claims by stopping only those activities that
produce more external harms than create internal benefits.
That class of illicit activities is usually very small. The common law dealt
with these critical trade-offs by resorting to the ordinary law of
nuisance, defined to cover the “nontrespassory” inva-
sions of dirt, filth, noises, and smells that so impact
a neighbor as to make his situation unlivable. No

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

128 H O O V ER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
system of land-use regulation has ever given a free pass to these noxious activi-
ties. But the basic prohibition against these invasions has always been tempered
by the live-and-let-live rule under which all individuals are forced to tolerate the
low-level annoyances from their neighbors in exchange for the right to engage
in similar activities of their own—where all parties benefit from the relaxation
of the basic prohibition. And these nuisance rules were further modified so that
certain noninvasive activities—such as removing support from neighboring
lands, which would otherwise cave in if one person dug out his own land right
up to the boundary line—were also prohibited. In essence, each of these adjust-
ments improves the position of all people subject to the rule.
In the end, therefore, big-ticket nuisances were subject to both damage
actions and injunctions, but virtually all other conduct, including blocked
views, was treated as a collection of noncognizable injuries ignored by the
courts. When consistently applied, this approach tended to maximize the
joint value of all property subject to that legal regime. In those few cases
where the state wishes to impose some additional unique restriction on
certain parcels, it can exercise its condemnation power by paying the owner
a sum equal to the losses imposed by regulation.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 129
All that changed in the 1926 Supreme Court decision of Euclid v. Ambler
Realty, in which a zoning scheme broke up a coherent sixty-eight-acre com-
mercial plot into adjacent smaller parcels that were arbitrarily zoned for
either single-family homes, apartment houses, or industrial uses. The result
was that the value of the parcel was reduced by over 80 percent, without
any identifiable gains of that magnitude to the neighbors. Nonetheless, the
Supreme Court upheld this exercise in value destruction in such broad terms
that today governments can impose virtually any restriction on land use.
Today, zoning works to favor the first group that builds the political clout
to secure ironclad protections against any development of nearby lands that
reduces the incumbent’s perceived land values. So in Berkeley today, the
neighbor who grows beans on his land that are worth, say, a few thousand
dollars, can successfully block or delay the construction of new homes that
are worth a hundred times as much. Instead of categorically rejecting the
outlandish claims of the bean grower, the law slips into an endless adminis-
trative process that gives that claimant a respectful hearing even though his
crops can be raised far more efficiently on agricultural lands that have little
or no value for home construction.
Nonetheless, the pattern is now deeply entrenched. The locals vote for the
city councils and zoning boards who owe no political favors to the outside
developers or future residents that want to move into the town. The losses
to insiders are real, which is why they have political salience. But those
losses are typically tiny compared to the less-visible losses that come from
the systematic deprivation of the opportunities of outsiders to move into the
neighborhood. Hence, as Dougherty reports, “low-density living is treated as
sacrosanct,” which means
that new development is
Neither state nor federal courts have directed toward dense
shown a willingness to stop the state neighborhoods that are
from taking private development likely to be oversaturated.
rights without compensation. Prices rise and housing
crunches quickly follow.
California’s new administrative reforms place only a small Band-Aid on a
gaping wound, for they do not attempt to pare down the capacious definition
of externality that drives the entire zoning process. At this point, the only
hope for relief is from courts that might give full constitutional protection
to development rights, shielding them from the warped political process
that seeks to eviscerate them. But unfortunately, takings jurisdiction is a
conceptual muddle because neither state nor federal courts have exhibited a

130 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
willingness to stop the state from taking private development rights without
providing compensation.
Today, the feeble constitutional protection afforded to property owners
rests on the dubious assumption that “mere restrictions” on land use are
largely immune from constitutional challenge. Modern judges uncritically
accept the supposed expertise of the political branches of government to
resolve land-use dis-
putes. But ever since
James Madison wrote Today, zoning favors the first group
about the dangers of with the political clout to secure iron-
faction in Federalist clad protections against any nearby
No. 10, it has been well development.
understood that we need
constitutional protections precisely because political majorities will, given
a free hand, use their power to transfer wealth, privileges, and opportuni-
ties from outsiders to themselves. When no one takes a strong stand against
these systematic excesses, the political process then tries to offset the relent-
less uptick in prices by offering subsidies to displaced individuals, thereby
creating another entitlement program that does little to control the relent-
less price increases. Committing two wrongs only creates two distortions
that never cancel each other out.
Unfortunately, the lack of appreciation of the underlying issues has led to
gridlock. California may be a lost cause. Let’s hope other states learn the dan-
gers of using an overbroad definition of externalities before it is too late.

Reprinted from Defining Ideas (
ideas), a Hoover Institution online journal. © 2018 The Board of Trustees
of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 131


California Saving
California can wake up from its public-pension
nightmare. The key: getting rid of ruinous defined-
benefit plans.

By Joshua D. Rauh

he California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Cal­PERS)
and other pension systems in the Golden State might be cel-
ebrating their recent investment returns, but don’t be fooled.
Their problems are nowhere close to solved—and those prob-
lems are taxpayers’ problems.
Unfunded pension liabilities continue to represent a colossal fiscal bur-
den for both the state government and local governments within California.
They’re the reason taxes are higher than ever, crowding out the services that
the state and cities deliver.
And it’s getting worse.
At the state level, pension contributions have grown from 2.1 percent of
the budget in 2002–3 to 6.5 percent in 2016–17. They’re set to grow even more
in the current fiscal year and into the future. Cities such as Los Angeles and
San Jose are now contributing well over 10 percent of their budgets to pen-
sions, and CalPERS is charging smaller cities amounts that are north of 15
percent of their general fund revenue.
At the same time as all these contribution hikes, the stock market has
soared. Investors that participated in the S&P 500 since the end of 2002

Joshua D. Rauh is a senior fellow and director of research at the Hoover Institu-
tion and the Ormond Family Professor of Finance at Stanford University’s Gradu-
ate School of Business.

132 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
would have started 2018 with a four-times return on their money, or around
10.5 percent per year. So of course, with all this extra contribution money and
windfalls from the stock market, the pension funds must now be in pretty
good shape, right?
Take CalPERS, for example. At the end of FY 2002 it had a (mere) $22
billion unfunded liability when assets are valued on a market basis. As of
the last full report for FY 2016, its reported unfunded liability was $139 bil-
lion. Even with the stock market’s burst upward in 2017 and early 2018, the
unfunded liability would currently be around $110 billion. More bad news:
the situation is only that “good” if CalPERS can achieve its 7 percent return
target forever, as it and other pension funds, such as the California State
Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), assume will happen with certainty
every year when they craft their budgets.
Maybe they will achieve those returns, maybe they won’t. Combining all
the pension funds in California and recalculating their liabilities based on the
principles of finance, as opposed to governmental accounting magic, I find
that the collective debts California taxpayers owe public pension funds is
$769 billion—over $60,000 per California household.
If things have gotten so bad during a time when the stock market was
rocketing forward and municipal governments were shoveling piles of cash
into pension funds at the expense of bridges, roads, and libraries, what’s
going to happen when financial markets inevitably cool off? California cities
risk insolvency, and the crisis threatens the state’s ability to deliver on key
budgetary priorities.
Governor Jerry Brown knows that pensions are a problem. In 2011, the
first year of his second turn as governor, he proposed a twelve-point pen-
sion overhaul. The state legislature passed some of these points, particularly
those that affect new hires. These new members of the workforce will face
higher retirement ages, and there will be more sharing of costs between
them and their municipal employers.
Unfortunately, the true pension costs are far higher than the costs as
reflected in current budgets, which is the part that would be shared. It’s
like my committing to share costs with you in advance of your taking me
out to dinner at a very fine restaurant—but my contribution is based on the
expected cost of a hamburger at a fast-food joint. The bulk of the true costs
shows up only later when the actual bill arrives. In the time that it takes even
those minimal savings to be realized (remember, these changes are only for
new hires), pensions will wreak considerably more havoc on the budget.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 133
Other points in Brown’s plan were passed but are currently being litigated,
such as the limitations against pension spiking—the practice under which
some public employees artificially inflate compensation in the years before
retirement to set themselves up for a higher lifetime payment on the taxpayer
dime. Believe it or not, many public employees assert that they have a right to
such practices. They contend that the body of precedent informally called the
California Rule gives public employees a right to whatever benefit was avail-
able to them on their initial day of employment, including the right to manipu-
late the compensation that determines their lifetime pension benefit.
Recent appeals court decisions have upheld employees’ right to spike, but
the California Supreme Court has taken up the issue. Brown is now staking
his reputation on what he called his “hunch” that the state supreme court
will agree with him and stop the odious practice of spiking. Furthermore, he
is hoping that this will open the floodgates to allow the governor in the next
recession to “have the option of considering pension cutbacks for the first
time.” The supreme court may or may not eliminate spiking, but wagering
that its decision will be broad enough to allow more general cutbacks—or
eliminate the California Rule entirely—is certainly optimistic.
Brown can rightly say that the legislature didn’t do everything he pro-
posed, including the introduction of a hybrid plan (for new employees) that
would mix a 401(k)-
type component with
The collective debts California tax- a defined-benefit com-
payers owe public pension funds is ponent. Indeed, this
$769 billion—over $60,000 per state approach was taken by
household. the federal government
for its workers in 1986.
And while federal pension legacy liabilities have continued to balloon, the
newer part of the program is reasonably well funded. There’s a big differ-
ence though: the federal plan uses a 5.25 percent budgeting rate—still high,
but not as insane as the 7 percent rate to which CalPERS and CalSTRS are
desperately clinging. As a result, Brown’s hybrid plan would at best have had
the effect of slightly reducing the explosive rate of growth of new unfunded
liabilities for new employees.
State and local governments simply refuse to recognize the true cost of
providing annuity benefits to workers. Giving employees pensions is akin to
promising them payments from government bonds. And while one can fund
those with risky assets and hope for the best, that strategy destabilizes pub-
lic finances. The debts keep growing as the bills come due.

134 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
What are the alternatives?
Some states and cities have considered the idea of introducing defined-
contribution 401(k) plans, as US companies have done in large number.
According to one study, 24 percent of Fortune 500 companies started bring-
ing new employees into 401(k) plans instead of traditional pensions between
1998 and 2015, and 39 percent had “hard frozen” their plans. In a hard freeze,
no earned pension benefits are taken away, but employees earn no new pen-
sion rights in the future and instead receive contributions to a 401(k). This
practice is commonplace
and perfectly legal in the
private sector; but under State and local governments simply
the California Rule, it is refuse to recognize the true cost of
a nonstarter for public annuity benefits for workers.
While such transitions may be motivated by a desire to avoid insolvency,
they’re beneficial to many types of employees as well. A study last year by
authors from a nonprofit partnership focused on changing education and
life outcomes for underserved children found that most teachers get a bad
deal on pensions because they suffer great financial losses if they change
jobs or states. The study concludes that better teachers could be attracted
with fewer very expensive traditional pensions that give the longest-tenured
teachers the jackpot, and more 401(k)s whose fruits are portable.
Efforts to introduce 401(k) plans in the public sector often fail because
public employees (or their unions) look at typical 401(k) contribution rates
in the private sector and laugh. Private sector 401(k) plans on average offer
a maximum employer contribution rate of 5 percent of pay. A public sector
defined-contribution plan pays promised income for life. Cities and states can
ask public employees to accept a much less generous benefit, but you can’t
blame those public employees for saying no.
A better approach to transitioning to 401(k)-type plans would be to entice
employees to recognize the benefits of a defined-contribution arrangement
by offering more generous contribution rates in those plans than is common
in the private sector. The reality is that the great many public employees who
are unsure whether they want to follow the lifetime civil servant model would
be much better served by a portable 401(k) plan with, say, a substantial 10
percent annual contribution rate from their employer—a level private sector
employees can only dream of.
Real pension reform would recognize that moving away from defined-bene-
fit pensions is essential to rescuing state finances, as well as benefiting many

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 135
public sector workers if structured correctly. The state and cities should
press the issue with changes that transition from traditional pension plans
toward 401(k)-like plans,
even if the contribution
Public employees would be much rates are ultimately more
better served by a portable 401(k) generous than in private
plan with a substantial annual contri- sector counterparts.
The federal Thrift Sav-
bution from their employer.
ings Plan, a 401(k)-like
defined-contribution plan with rock-bottom costs and sensible investment
options offered to federal employees, provides a sound governance model.
Even at these higher contribution rates, the introduction of well-governed
defined-contribution plans would be a vast improvement over the current
system. Indeed, such a model is the only one that can save the state of Cali-
fornia and its cities from pension disaster.

Read Eureka, the online Hoover Institution journal that probes the
policy, political, and economic issues confronting California (www.hoover.
org/publications/eureka). © 2018 The Board of Trustees of the Leland
Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

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

136 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8


A Degree of
“College for all” has diluted the value of a
bachelor’s degree and diverted many young people
from better paths toward the working world.

By Chester E. Finn Jr.

emember how the Wizard of Oz, once the curtain was drawn
back, turned out to be an insignificant little blowhard? What
if “college education” in America, especially the kind that
culminates in a bachelor’s degree, is headed toward a similar
Once upon a time, it was determined by the great and the good (as they
say in England) that almost everyone needs a college education—and that
the country needs for everyone to have a college education—and that it’s
discriminatory and evil to deny anyone such an education. Whereupon we
started slowly but surely to dilute what we mean by it.
The erosion was inevitable in part because we weren’t able to fix our K–12
system to get everyone ready for what we formerly meant by college. When
you declare that everyone—or almost everyone—should graduate from high
school and enter college, you come smack up against the reality that tons
of young Americans haven’t learned enough in twelve or thirteen years of

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.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 137
school to qualify even for what we once meant by a high school diploma,
much less college admission.
At the high school end, we tried to boost standards—and some places did a
pretty good job of it—but even much-praised Massachusetts wasn’t able to raise
its high school exit standard to equal college readiness as traditionally defined.
Lots of other places eased off or deferred their exit standards, while still others
hacked alternative paths to diplomas that circumvented their exit standards or
devised ersatz “credit recovery” schemes whereby diplomas could be “earned”
without even passing the classes dictated by the old Carnegie Unit rules.
Then there’s the college end. There, our egalitarian impulse led us to
create—starting decades ago—thousands of open-admission institutions
that have essentially no prerequisites, often not even a high-school diploma
(a GED will suffice, and maybe not even that). Then we watched selective
campuses do away with some of their own long-standing prerequisites, such
as the expectation that entering students would have studied and become
reasonably proficient in at least one foreign language.
Most colleges employed (and many still do) placement tests to determine
whether an entering student was prepared to undertake credit-bearing
courses in core subjects like math and English, with remedial classes
assigned to those who weren’t. But “remediation” was an ugly and discourag-
ing term, so a decade or two ago it was relabeled “developmental,” and one
of today’s hottest trends is to replace “developmental” with “co-requisite”
courses, whereby you can actually earn credit toward a degree by completing
a course with passing norms that may (or may not) fall somewhere between
what we used to mean by remedial and creditworthy.
Today’s other hot trend is “dual credit” or “early college,” whereby high
school kids can begin to pile up credits toward a college degree while they’re
still working on their
diplomas. In some places
Nobody dares to risk being called elit- (Texas, for example), dual
ist, much less discriminatory. credit can start as early
as ninth grade—and some
community colleges now derive close to half of their state formula dollars
from enrolling high school kids. Well-wrought early-college programs can be
fine. Yet college credit via dual credit in most places is automatic for anyone
who gets a passing grade from the instructor, who is typically an “adjunct”
assigned by the community college and not infrequently a regular high school
teacher with the appropriate master’s degree. Quality control is uneven, to
put it gently.

138 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
STEADY WORK: High school students paint a car hood during an auto-shop
class in Florida. A number of districts are launching technical high schools
that concentrate on both career and academic goals. [Octavio Jones—Tampa Bay

Nor should we forget grade inflation, in both high school and college,
whereby the kind of student work that once earned a C now gets at least a

Along the way, because there was so much oomph behind the goal of
getting everyone into college—and so much aversion to anything that
resembled “tracking”—we devalued and stigmatized what used to be called
vocational education. Now we have to reinvent it under the shiny new label
of “career and technical education” (CTE). This stigmatizing of explicit
workforce preparation had the further effect of wooing kids into college
who, even by the degraded standards applied to them, were so ill-prepared
that they were destined to falter, flunk, and drop out, often with a heavy
debt burden—because as we were wooing everyone into college we also
made it far costlier to attend, causing us to proffer easy credit to those who
otherwise couldn’t swing it. If normal economic rules applied in this case,

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 139
the student debt “bubble” would make the tech and housing bubbles look
like bubble tea.
Some kids got overmatched in the college where they found themselves,
others undermatched. But the push to get more of them into college was
Everything seemed to make sense at the time. Many high school kids were
bored, spinning their wheels during the last year or two, having completed
their diploma requirements but not yet graduated. The economy needed a
higher-skilled workforce. Many of tomorrow’s jobs appeared to demand col-
lege-level preparation. A college degree looked like the surest path to upward
mobility. Everyone saw the urgency of increasing the enrollment of black and
Latino students. And nobody, but nobody, dared take the risk of being called
elitist, much less discriminatory.
There were, to be sure, efforts to hold the line on rigor, even to beef it up.
Elementary-secondary academic standards rose—thanks mainly to the
much-maligned Common Core—and many state tests improved, too. Some
high school end-of-
course exams are pretty
Many respectable, well-paid jobs solid (which doesn’t
don’t require college degrees. And mean there aren’t paths
associate degrees and industry cer- around them). The
tifications in some fields pay better Advanced Placement
than many bachelor’s degrees. program has worked
hard to justify its gold
standard reputation, and the much smaller International Baccalaureate
program does that, too. Large-scale assessments such as NAEP, TIMSS, and
PISA have clung to their demanding norms and continue to speak the truth
about actual performance in relation to those norms.
It’s those metrics, mainly, that reveal how little progress we’ve actually
made, despite all the effort to get more kids a better education. That’s how
we know that for every effort to beef up standards, there were moves to
define “proficiency” downward, to ease back on cut scores, to create alter-
nate paths, and to confer exemptions.
Those metrics are mostly at the K–12 level because the higher education
industry has successfully stonewalled any comparable outcome measures
of student learning. Hence today our best source of evidence of what college
accomplishes is the work of analysts like Raj Chetty and Mark Schneider,
who have been able to link college degrees—and different kinds of degrees in
different fields from different kinds of colleges—to subsequent earnings.

140 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
From their analyses, and those of Anthony Carnevale and others, we’ve
recently learned many things about the value of a college degree. We’ve
learned that many respectable, well-paid jobs don’t require such degrees.
We’ve learned that associate degrees, and industry certifications in some
fields, pay better than many bachelor’s degrees. We’ve learned that some
college degrees are far more reliable tickets to upward mobility than others—
whether because of selection effects and the sorting that takes place at their
admissions offices or because of the superior educational experience they
We’ve certainly learned that aspiring to a four-year bachelor’s degree for
everybody, without regard to institution or field of study, is a costly, frustrat-
ing, and ultimately feck-
less target. It’s hard to be
sure how much of that Lots of young Americans haven’t
sober conclusion can learned enough in twelve or thirteen
be attributed to dimin- years of school to qualify even for
ished, inflated grades, what we once meant by a high school
waivers, exemptions,
and eyewinks that take
the place of true academic accomplishment. Certainly it’s no secret that the
more widespread a credential becomes, the less comparative advantage it
confers on those possessing it. But it’s also no secret that a growing number
of employers who once treated the college degree as a passport to hiring by
their organizations now demand other evidence that an individual can truly
do the job expected.

Please understand that I am not here seeking a return to some halcyon yes-
teryear when only the children of those with college degrees were expected
to get their own degrees. Access to the varied (if limited) benefits of such
degrees ought not be determined by ZIP code, parentage, or race. But—a
very important but—that doesn’t mean individuals or society benefit when
we cavalierly hand out credentials that, in the end, signify very little—cre-
dentials that, like grades, have themselves been inflated beyond their true
Higher education today gives analysts, policy makers, and critics so much
to fret about—cost, free speech, leftward lurching faculty, politically trendy
majors—that we haven’t been paying nearly enough heed to the quality and
value of the product itself. Some revisionism may be setting in as a few of

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 141
the great and the good begin to weigh multiple pathways to prosperity and
mobility. Some serious analysts and gutsy policy makers are pushing to catch
up with Singapore, Switzerland, and other places that have long featured
rigorous and respectable career preparation as well as university-style
It’s important to note, however, that while they’re pushing for other
pathways besides the traditional four-year college, they’re not paying much
attention to the degraded state of the college degree itself. Practically nobody
except the occasional cranky professor is doing that, and such critics are
typically dismissed as academic snobs on a nostalgia trip. It’s impossible to
get most policy makers beyond the smug assertion that “America has the
best higher-education system in the world, the one that people from other
countries clamor to get into.” What such claims usually refer to, of course,
are the top hundred or so US research universities—despite mounting
evidence that they’re being gained on. And often it’s the graduate programs
on those campuses, not their undergraduate colleges, that are the center of
College itself is what needs a rethink, both in its own right and as a uni-
versal destination for young Americans. No, I’m not holding my breath, for
many, many influential organizations, thinkers, and philanthropies remain
wedded to “college for all,” and it’s too easy to get called nasty names if you
cast doubt on that goal. The last thing these folks want is for anyone really
to peel back the college curtain—as A Nation at Risk did for K–12 back in
1983. But we might do well to recall that scene where Toto darts behind the
curtain in the Emerald City and finds a wimpy little non-wizard frantically
working the controls of the machines he has been using to fool people into
thinking that he’s mighty and magical.

Reprinted by permission of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. © Thomas
B. Fordham Institute. 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.

142 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8


Networks and
Not too many years ago, we were still dreaming
sweet dreams of a high-tech utopia. Now computer
users have been awakened, rather rudely. Hoover
fellow Niall Ferguson guides us through the new
and often menacing reality.

By Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson, Uncommon Knowledge: One of the co-founders of Twitter
said recently, “I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange
information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place.
I was wrong about that.” The response of our guest today: “If the Twitter co-
founder had known his history, he would not have been surprised.”
Now, to explain why your new book is called The Square and the Tower, the
reader must come with Niall to Siena. Explain that.

Niall Ferguson: Well, this is a book about networks and hierarchies, but
I wasn’t allowed to call it that because hierarchies is one of those words
publishers don’t like. So, I thought, what can I call a book that is about the

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 Contempo-
rary Conflict, and a senior fellow of the Center for European Studies at Harvard
University. His latest book is The Square and the Tower: Networks, Hierar-
chies, and the Struggle for Global Power (Allen Lane, 2017). Peter Robinson
is the editor of the Hoover Digest, the host of Uncommon Knowledge, and a
research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 143
relationship between informal social networks and hierarchical structures
of power? I suddenly remembered Siena, a beautiful town in Tuscany. The
Torre del Mangia, an extraordinary tower, casts a great shadow over the
Piazza del Campo in the center of Siena, and that’s the symbol I was look-
ing for. I’ve always thought of Siena when I’ve been trying to understand
the relationship between government, in the sense of hierarchical power
structures, and informal social networks of the sort that you find in town

Robinson: To cite a big theme in The Square and the Tower, “This book distin-
guishes the long epochs in which hierarchical structures dominated human
life from the rarer but more dynamic eras when networks had the advan-
tage.” When we think of networks, often we think of Silicon Valley. You are
taking a much longer view.

Ferguson: When I moved to be a full-time Hoover fellow at Stanford just over a
year ago, I became a next-door neighbor of Silicon Valley, and I was amazed by
how utterly indifferent to history people in that world are. In fact, in their view,
history began with the Google IPO or the founding of Facebook, and everything
before that is the Stone Age. So, part of the point of this book is to explain to the
world of Silicon Valley: you did not invent networks. Social networks go back to
the dawn of human history.
We are designed by evolu-
“Social networks go back to the dawn tion to network, but for
of human history. We are designed by most of history, informal
evolution to network.” social networks have been
subordinated to hierarchi-
cal power structures. And there’s a good reason for that. A lot of human history
has to do with conflict and, even before states, simple villages had always to be
concerned with defense. So, a great deal of early human history is essentially
about command and control. Informal networks are not very good at defense.
Somebody has to be in charge and to give the orders, and foot soldiers have to
obey. So, for most of history, the tower overshadows the square. There are just
occasional periods in history—we’re in one of them now—when technology and
other factors empower networks and weaken hierarchies.


Robinson: You’re a professional historian and you write, “This book is an
attempt to atone for sins of omission.” Explain that.

144 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
Ferguson: Well, if Silicon Valley’s ignorant of history, I’m afraid historians
are very ignorant about network science, and I plead guilty to having spent
much of my career writing about networks without understanding the first
thing about how networks function. I’ve always been drawn temperamentally
to study social networks.
I didn’t know that about
myself until recently, “Real networkers don’t believe in
but when I look back organization charts, or at least they
over twenty-five years regard them as a kind of facade
of writing, I’ve written behind which the real power struc-
relatively little about
tures lie.”
kings and queens and
governments. I’ve written a lot more about networks; for example, my books
about the network of Jewish bankers that was so important in nineteenth-
and twentieth-century history, or my book about the British empire, which is
really about social networks and globalization.

Robinson: I’m trying to draw out a clear distinction between networks and
hierarchies. So, with the British empire, the first thing that comes to my
mind is almost a great chain of being: Queen Victoria’s at the top and a lowly
sergeant major in some godforsaken village in India is at the bottom, and
people are taking orders all the way up and all the way down. You’re saying
that’s the wrong way to look at the British empire.

Ferguson: As a general statement, I think it’s true that most organizations
have a pyramidal structure, and that was true of the British empire. But in
all these cases, there is another way of graphing the organization, and that
is its network structure. Who is really talking to whom? Who is really in a
close relationship with whom? That network will look different from the
organization chart. In the British empire’s case, although officially Queen
Victoria was the empress of all she surveyed, that wasn’t really how the
empire worked. It wasn’t as if she issued orders that were then carried out
in lowly villages. Actually, the British empire was built by networks of trad-
ers, or missionaries, or Oxford-educated orientalists. It was very decentral-
ized. It’s pretty hard to control what’s happening in India from London even
To be absolutely clear, a hierarchy is a special kind of network. It’s a kind
of network where there are missing edges; the nodes are not all connected.
Most nodes can only get to the other nodes through a central node. That’s
what a hierarchy really is. Whereas the distributed network is one in which

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 145
most nodes are connected to most other nodes; there isn’t one single central
node through which all the others have to go.

Robinson: So, is it fair to say that the hierarchy is the organization chart
visible to every employee on his or her first day of work, but the network is
composed of a series of those “aha!” moments when you say, “Oh, so this is
the way it really works,” and that’s the person you really need to talk to if you
want to get something done?

Ferguson: Exactly. And the water cooler is often the place that reveals who
really calls the shots. I remember having that experience at Oxford Univer-
sity as an undergraduate, discovering that really the college porter was the
powerful person and the man who was president of Magdalen had the least
power of all.
Temperamentally, I’m a network person. One way of thinking about this is
to ask: am I a hierarchy person or a network person? Do I instinctively think
first of the chain of command, or do I more instinctively think of an informal
network of friends, acquaintances, and family? Real networkers don’t believe
in organization charts, or at least they regard them as a kind of facade behind
which the real power structures lie as networks.


Robinson: Now we come to Martin Luther, five centuries ago. He presents
his ninety-five theses to the Archbishop of Mainz, setting in train a series of
events that you argue would anticipate the rise of Silicon Valley five centuries
later. I’m quoting from your book: “Luther was as much of a utopian as the
pioneers of Silicon Valley in our own time. But the true upshot of the Refor-
mation was not harmony but polarization and conflict.”

Ferguson: If we are to understand our own time, we need to use the right
analogies, and I don’t think our own time is much like the twentieth century:
a time when very hierarchical states were in almost total control of social
networks. You need to go much further back in time to find a period when
networks really could challenge hierarchies, and that was the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries: a time when a new technology, which was very
network friendly, the printing press, allowed the message of a heretical critic
of the church to go viral. If Martin Luther had done what he did in 1417, he
would have been burned at the stake and we’d never have heard of him. But
Luther’s message in 1517 could go viral, not just in Germany, but all over
Europe, because of the printing press. There is some excellent academic

146 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
COMMAND AND CONTROL: Hoover senior fellow Niall Ferguson (right)
has a new book that explores networks and hierarches: “The water cooler is
often the place that reveals who really calls the shots. I remember having that
experience at Oxford University as an undergraduate, discovering that really
the college porter was the powerful person and the man who was president of
Magdalen had the least power of all.” [Hoover Institution—Uncommon Knowledge]

work that shows that the impact of the printing press on the cost of the print-
ed work and the volume of books produced was very like the impact of the
personal computer. In our time, the same drastic fall in the price of informa-
tion and increase in the volume of information shows the same pattern, and
it’s had similar consequences.
Luther, as you said, was a utopian. He thought that if everybody could
read a printed version of the Bible and have a direct relationship to God,
then everything would be awesome. Well, he didn’t quite put it like that. He
said there would be something like the priesthood of all believers, which is
a vision in early Christianity too. In fact, the Reformation produced polar-
ization. Some people agreed with Luther, some people wanted to go even
further than Luther (Calvin, for example), but other people said, “No, this is
completely wrong, and we need to fight this.” So, we had 130 years of reli-
gious conflict in Europe, extending into the mid-seventeenth century.
In our time, something very similar happens. A new technology, beginning
around the 1970s, hugely transformed the public sphere in ways that we’re
only still gradually beginning to understand. Then, as in the Reformation, it
was a utopian vision: everybody would be connected, and there would be a

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 147
global community. Do we have a global community today? I don’t think so.
What we have is the same phenomena: polarization and crazy stuff going
viral. In the seventeenth century, belief in witchcraft went viral as much as
Martin Luther’s sermons had in the sixteenth century. In our time, it’s not
just cat videos that get shared online, it’s fake news and extreme views.

Robinson: One component of that hopeful vision of modern technology was,
in one way or another, we’d all be equal. Everyone would have access to infor-
mation; incomes would tend to level out. To the contrary, we’ve got stagnation
of middle-class wages in this country, and vast fortunes to Mark Zuckerberg,
Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Jeff Bezos, the moguls of the networked world.

Ferguson: Well, it was a dream, wasn’t it? We were all going to be netizens and
everybody was going to be on a level playing field in a giant network. But in
fact, that’s not what network science predicted at all. As social networks grow,
they don’t grow in a kind
of equal way where new
“History is great because it’s full of nodes attach themselves
randomly to the existing
irony. Silicon Valley built the tools
nodes in the network. The
that propelled Donald Trump, a man
new nodes have a prefer-
they nearly all abhor, into the White ence to be attached to the
House.” well-connected nodes. And
so, the already well-con-
nected become even more connected. The rich get richer, the fit get fitter, the
connected get more connected. When you look at networks from the vantage
point of a physicist, you find that networks are the least egalitarian of struc-
tures. As networks grow, connectedness gets more and more concentrated in a
few hands. Those who use social networks should be distinguished clearly from
those who own them, and ownership of the giant network platforms is incred-
ibly concentrated. So, one of the most important unintended consequences of
the Internet age has been to reinforce inequality by allowing connectedness to
become an incredible source of wealth and influence.

Robinson: When Tocqueville visited the United States in the 1830s, he was
struck by the richness of churches, neighborhoods, and voluntary associa-
tions of all kinds. Reading your book, I think to myself, Tocqueville is seeing
networks. Do the richness and variety of private networks in a nation repre-
sent a useful rough index of liberty? Should it be in some way an aim of policy
to provide the kind of government that most easily permits networking?

148 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
Ferguson: Yes and yes. Tocqueville was right that civil society was what
made the United States successful as a democracy, and the lack of a vigorous
associational life was why France kept making a mess of democracy in his
time. What he was seeing in early nineteenth-century America was a net-
worked society with a lot of decentralized local decision making by citizens
without reference to central government. And Tocqueville’s constant warn-
ing was that centraliza-
tion is the enemy of
liberty, and associational “Do we have a global community
life and decentralization today? I don’t think so.”
are the friends of liberty.
This turns out to be true. Unfortunately, we didn’t really hear Tocqueville
in this country. In fact, if Tocqueville came back today, he would conclude
that the French must have taken over the United States at some point and
created a very powerful central government in Washington, DC, which
increasingly resembles the Paris that Tocqueville wrote so critically about
in the nineteenth century. So, we’ve lost that magic that made the United
States different. We’ve lost that vital associational life—that default setting
that Americans used to have when confronted with a local problem to solve it
together, rather than calling in the federal government.

Robinson: Once more from The Square and the Tower: “Candidate Donald
Trump completely dominated Hillary Clinton on both Facebook and Twitter.
If the social media platforms had not existed, Trump would have been forced
to conduct a more conventional campaign, in which case the greater financial
resources of his opponent—who outspent him by more than two to one—would
surely have been decisive.” Donald Trump is president today because his cam-
paign was networked, while the Clinton campaign was hierarchical, true?

Ferguson: That is the argument of my book and indeed something I’ve revis-
ited in recent columns. I think the decisive variable must have been the social
networks because it gave Trump tools—which were available to the Clinton
campaign but weren’t used so effectively—to target advertising at key voters
with great precision and at very low cost. It is much cheaper to do this and
more effective than old-style television commercials, which I’m afraid the
Clinton campaign was still heavily reliant on.

Robinson: All of this sounds not wrong, but odd. The Democratic Party
is the party of youth, hipness, cool. Hillary Clinton won by a large margin
among those millennials who chose to vote and you’re saying that she was

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 149
outmaneuvered by a septuagenarian real estate executive from Queens. So,
we simply have to say the association of youth and networking is superficial
at best? This is open to anybody who wants to grab it?

Ferguson: It’s even more rich in irony than you suggest because Silicon
Valley itself was completely on board with Clinton. The campaign contribu-
tions overwhelmingly went to her. Eric Schmidt of Google was one of her
campaign advisors. Only
a handful of people in
“The good news is that if you empow- Silicon Valley backed
er networks, good things happen too.” Trump. What’s amazing is
that the tools created by
liberal elites were the key to the success of the populist candidate, and tools
that were thought to be the property of youth turned out to be a very power-
ful instrument to mobilize middle-aged and aging Americans in support of
the populist candidate. This is the great irony of 2016, but we shouldn’t be so
surprised. Exactly the same thing had happened just a few months before in
June 2016 in the Brexit referendum in Britain.
I think it was Brad Parscale, Trump’s digital media director, who observed
recently that the designers of these networks never imagined that they could
be used to advance the cause of a populist, right-wing candidate. And this
brings us back full circle to your Twitter founder quotation at the beginning:
we never thought that if we connected the world, it would turn out this way.
History is great because it’s full of irony. Silicon Valley built the tools that
propelled Donald Trump, a man they nearly all abhor, into the White House.


Robinson: Where do you stand on the antitrust issue: the notion that one
way or another it would be better for America if Facebook, Google, Amazon,
Apple—the giants—were broken up or at least constrained?

Ferguson: This is an idea that’s gaining ground on the left of the Democratic
Party because they look back to the glory days of trust-busting and they want to
bring antitrust back into their political vocabulary after a period when it’s been
more or less nonexistent. I think it’s going nowhere, frankly. I don’t think the law
is going to be very helpful. Certainly, the tradition as the courts interpreted it in
recent decades has been that you have to show that consumers are worse off.
Try that with Jeff Bezos and he’ll show you that Amazon has made con-
sumers much better off. I don’t think that’s where the big tech companies are

150 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
vulnerable—they’re natural monopolies. I don’t think you can break them
up like Standard Oil. But I think they are vulnerable to increased regulation,
and I will be amazed if there is not a significant change in regulation in 2018,
because the status quo seems indefensible. Facebook is the biggest media
publishing company in American history, yet it is regulated as a network
platform with no liability for anything that appears in the platform.

Robinson: Are we old-fashioned enough to believe that investigative journal-
ism and informed commentary remain essential to democracy, and if so, is
the current situation tenable?

Ferguson: No, the current situation is not tenable, but it’s worse than you say.
Because what happens when 45 percent of Americans, at the least, get their
news from the Facebook newsfeed, which is not some random aggregation of
data? In the newsfeed, the algorithm tries to decide what news the user will
like, share, or pay attention to.

Robinson: It’s literally trying to tell you what you want to hear.

Ferguson: Exactly, because that’s how Facebook gets paid by advertisers,
by showing that people are stuck to the content they go to. So, we’ve cre-
ated filter bubbles or echo chambers—whatever you want to call them—that
completely disaggregate the old public sphere so that people have their own
personalized newsfeeds.
There no longer is a
common conversation “The rich get richer, the fit get fitter,
in America. Everybody the connected get more connected.”
is in his or her own little
bubble, and that’s the most dangerous part of it.

Robinson: And do you have a first draft at a solution?

Ferguson: I think there needs to be at least a level playing field in terms of
regulation. You can’t go on pretending that Facebook’s not publishing content
when it’s the biggest publisher of content ever. Second, I think there has to be
liability for that content. Third, that imposes a bunch of new costs on these
companies because of the volume of content appearing on these platforms.
Remember, there are more than two billion people using Facebook to post
stuff, and huge numbers of advertisers using it to sell stuff. This is beyond
editorial control, and whenever they try to reassure us that they’re going to
hire ten thousand people to look for bad content, fake news, or Russian pro-
paganda, my response is that this is a far larger problem than ten thousand

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 151
editors can possibly address. How do you curate and edit content in such
vast volumes that we have never seen anything like it before? We need to
make that their problem and not our problem as citizens.
The good news is that if you empower networks, good things happen too.
The printing press produced not only religious conflict but the Scientific
Revolution, the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, and the Industrial
Revolution. These great leaps forward in human understanding happened
because intellectuals and
innovators were able to
“If Tocqueville came back today, he exchange ideas freely,
would conclude that the French must publish them, or just cor-
have taken over the United States at respond with one another
some point and created a very power- in an enormous network
that was global at its
ful central government.”
maximum extent. And we
have something very similar today. The best thing about the Internet is that
it enables innovation and creativity to happen without any central control.
Nobody is calling the shots on how we try to solve the great problems that
face us today. So, when I’m being optimistic, I tell myself it’s all going to be
fine. There may be disruption and polarization and crazy stuff may go viral,
as happened in the seventeenth century. But remember what happened in
the eighteenth century: the greatest breakthroughs in our political under-
standing, and the foundation of the greatest republic and perhaps the great-
est polity in all of history, the United States of America.
I don’t believe China ends up owning this technology and therefore the
twenty-first century. They’re trying to, but that won’t be better than what we’ve
got here. The creativity of Facebook and Google are ultimately assets to the
United States. If these companies thought a bit more nationally and a bit less
globally, I think that would be good for them and good for us. What is good for
Facebook should be good for the United States, and vice versa. You could say
that about General Motors in the 1950s; you can’t yet say it about Silicon Valley,
and it’s high time that we did.

152 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8


“We Are Indebted
to Them Every
Hoover fellow Victor Davis Hanson on his new
book, The Second World Wars.

By Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson, Uncommon Knowledge: A classicist and historian, Victor
Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he serves as
editor of Strategika, a journal of military history and contemporary conflict.
Dr. Hanson is the author of many books, including the classic study of the
Peloponnesian War, A War Like No Other. Dr. Hanson’s newest book is The
Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.
Why is there a plural in your title, The Second World Wars?

Victor Davis Hanson: Two reasons. One is that from 1939, when Germany
divided up Poland with the Soviet Union, until April of 1941, there was a
Polish war, a Norwegian war, a Danish war, a low country war, a French war,
the Blitz, a Yugoslavian war, and a Greek war. All of those together really

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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 153
weren’t called the Second World War or World War II. They were seen as
isolated, border blitzkriegs, all of which Germany won, with the exception of
the Blitz. Then something weird happened. Germany invaded its de facto ally,
the Soviet Union, on June 22, 1941. And in early December, Japan bombed
Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore, which brought Japan
in the war, not just against us but against Britain too. Then on December 11,
Italy and Germany declared war on us. Suddenly, these border wars were
renamed the Second World War.
The other thing is that nobody had ever fought a war that was so disparate
and disconnected: fighting in the desert in armor; under 500 feet of water in
the North Atlantic; 20,000 feet above Germany in a bomber; and so on. What
did somebody fighting in Bulgaria have to do with the Japanese fighting in
China, even though nominally they were on the same Axis side? It’s not a
monolithic, easily comprehended war.

Robinson: “The Axis powers were completely ill-prepared to win the war.” If
you’ve read what I’ve read and you’re of my generation, you grew up thinking
that the Germans were a military machine to be feared. What’s your argu-
ment there?

Hanson: If you’re Japan and you’ve modernized and rearmed in the
1930s, then you’re very powerful vis-à-vis Southeast Asia or China. If
you’re Italy, maybe you have more power than Somalia. If you’re Ger-
many and you have good roads and supply sources, you can run over
your neighbors with surprise attacks. But if you want to fight a global
war, which is what their arrogance led them into in 1941, it has to be an
existential war. That’s
a fancy term for saying
“The Axis powers didn’t spend their you have to destroy the
enemy, not have an armi-
money wisely. They lived in a world of
stice like World War I,
fantasy and romance and, after 1941,
and you have to be able
it caught up to them.” to reach the enemy’s
homeland. Once the
Soviets moved most of their industry across the world, Germany had no
ability to get to them. From the very get-go, neither Japan nor Germany
could reach Detroit. If you want to start a global war, then you better
have four-engine bombers or, if you’re Germany, you better have an
aircraft carrier fleet. They had neither. What did they spend their money
on? The V-2 and the V-1, which were about thirty times more expensive

154 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
FORWARD: US troops ride a tank near the front lines on Okinawa in April
1945. US Marines and Army soldiers fought Japanese forces from April 1 to
June 22. The Battle of Okinawa was the largest amphibious assault in the
Pacific theater. [Defense Department]

than conventional bombing. The Axis powers didn’t spend their money
wisely. They lived in a world of fantasy and romance and, after 1941, it
caught up to them.

Robinson: You write about the Allies: “Why the Western World chose to tear
itself apart in 1939 is a story not so much of accidents, miscalculations, and
overreactions as of the carefully considered decisions to ignore, appease, or
collaborate with Nazi Germany by nations that had the resources and knowl-
edge to do otherwise.” Explain that.

Hanson: Britain started to rearm in 1938 and 1939 and it was so successful
that when the war started, Germany didn’t realize that they were almost

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 155
comparable in fighter production. But deterrence doesn’t do any good unless
the enemy knows your capabilities, and Germany still thought this was
Britain of 1935. In the case of the Soviet Union, Hitler said, “Had they told me
they already have two thousand T-34 tanks,” which were better than every
class of German tank, “I
wouldn’t have invaded.”
“What did somebody fighting in Had the United States
had a nonaggression pact
Bulgaria have to do with the Japa-
or even an alliance with
nese fighting in China, even though
France and delivered
nominally they were on the same soldiers there, Germany
Axis side? It’s not a monolithic, easily never would have invaded.
comprehended war.” Had Britain and France
rearmed a little bit earlier,
Germany wouldn’t have invaded. If the Soviet Union hadn’t signed a nonag-
gression pact with Germany, Germany never would have gone west. It took
Soviet collusion, American indifference or isolation, and British and French
appeasement in the 1930s to convince Germans of something they never
should have been convinced of: that they were stronger militarily in terms of
manpower and industrial capacity. Germany was not only not stronger than
the Soviet Union and the United States, it wasn’t even stronger than the two
original allies, Britain and France.
Germany looked at World War I as a tragedy that could be replayed with
different results. The myth went: “We should have won. We were on their
soil. We were stabbed in the back. We were on the offensive. No Allied soldier
ever set foot in Deutschland.” With the Allies, the feeling was, “We never
want the Somme again. We can never go back to Verdun.”

Robinson: We won, but the price was too high.

Hanson: It was just so terrible. So, Germany was bragging about its defeat,
while the Allies were ashamed of victory.

Robinson: You quote Churchill as saying: “German rearmament could have
been prevented without the loss of a single life. It was not time that was lack-
ing.” Meaning it was will that was lacking?

Hanson: It was. The Allies didn’t fully understand their own capabilities and
potential. The United States ended up building more airframes than all the
other Allied and Axis countries combined. US GDP was larger than every-
body else in the war put together. The Allies underestimated their power, and

156 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
MORTAL BLOW: The Boeing B-29 Superfortress, used for intense aerial
attacks of Japan during World War II, was the aircraft that dropped the atomic
bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. [Newscom]

the Axis always overestimated their capability. After sixty-five million people
were killed, we came to the conclusion in 1945 that the Soviet Union, the
United States, and Great Britain were much stronger than the Axis. But this
was clearly discoverable in 1939 or even 1941.


Robinson: One of the many pleasures of this book is that you provide
counterfactuals, sort of what-ifs. Let’s take a couple of those. “Could the
Axis powers have incorporated their winnings and dug in? There was no
reason why Hitler could not have reorganized Europe from the Atlantic to
Moscow to ensure greater industrial production and conscripted armies
as large as those of the Soviet Union. The Japanese-held Pacific and occu-
pied Asia offered nearly as many natural resources and recruits as were

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 157
available in North America and the British dominions.” Why didn’t they

Hanson: There were people who said just that. In Germany, there were
some on the General Staff who said, “You know what? We may not be able
to invade Britain, but Britain can’t really do us damage, and the Americans
will not intervene unless they’re attacked.” That was true. “The Soviet Union
is supplying us with all sorts of oil and wheat and precious metals, and we
won the war.” They thought they had won the war by April 1941. They had
the resources of today’s European Union. But human nature being what it is,
Hitler’s idea was, “Well,
wait a minute. I overran
“Churchill was looking at five hun- France in six weeks. In
dred years of history and saying that World War I it took us
when you destroy Germany, then you four years and we only
empower Russia.” got seventy miles. Based
on that calculation, it will
be three weeks in Russia, because Russia collapsed in two and a half years in
World War I and France never did. I cracked the hardest nut first, and now
Russia, as in 1917 and 1918, will sue for peace in six weeks.” He had this ratio
in his head.
In the case of Japan, it boggles the mind. We keep saying we provoked
Japan with an oil embargo. Nuts. They had Shell Oil in Indonesia in their
backyard, and they had all the rice of Southeast Asia. All they had to do is
look at the map. France and Holland had ceased to exist and their colonies
were there for the taking, along with their vital natural resources. All the
Japanese had to do was not touch the Philippines or Pearl Harbor, and they
would have overrun all the British, Dutch, and French colonies, and they
would have had all the necessary population base and resources they needed.
But they had one problem. Their supreme leadership, as we discussed,
lived in a world of fantasy. They thought they were invulnerable.

Robinson: These leaders—Mussolini, Hitler, Tojo—were they nuts or evil?
What was their motive?

Hanson: They were both, and their initial victories convinced them to grow
contemptuous of the resistance. They said: “if the great French army collapsed;
if the United States will watch London burn and do nothing; we have half of
China now; the British can’t even bolster Singapore; the Americans at Pearl
Harbor have only three carriers,” and so on. They logically developed contempt.

158 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
The thing about deterrence, as I mentioned earlier, is it doesn’t really
matter that the British fleet was the largest in the world and the US fleet
the second-largest, or that the United States had the capability within three
years to build a bigger fleet than all the fleets in the world combined, if you
don’t display that deterrence. The Axis powers thought, “Well, deterrence
isn’t really material; it’s spirit, and we have élan and we’ve got a new para-
digm.” We didn’t disabuse them of that.

Robinson: Another counterfactual: “Had Roosevelt been as suspicious of
Stalin’s murderous gulag and expansionary plans as he was sometimes of
Churchill’s effort to preserve Britain’s colonial possessions, the United States
might have been better prepared for the Cold War.”

Hanson: Churchill was looking at five hundred years of history and say-
ing that when you destroy Germany, then you empower Russia. Germany is
the continental buffer
between western Europe
and Russia, no matter “Today, Japan, Germany, and Italy are
what the political system three of the most humane countries
is. The Americans
in the world, and they’re strong US
thought that this was an
allies. That was a direct result of the
old game and believed:
“We’re a new people; vision of Roosevelt and Churchill. It
we’re democratic. The came at a cost.”
United Nations is the
future and we’re all going to live in peace. The Soviets, British, and us will
police the world and run it on principles of equality and fairness.” To Stalin,
that was ludicrous.

Robinson: The Allies sought not merely to end the war on useful terms but
to demand that the Axis powers submit to unconditional surrender, which
you call “a historically rare objective of most wars.”

Hanson: They were looking at the Versailles Treaty and its perceived faults.
Oratorically the victors blamed Germany for World War I, but they did not
invade or occupy it. In Germany a myth was allowed to grow that defeat
had come because the country was sold out by Jews or socialists. This time
around, the Allies decided, we’re not going to allow that.
The Allies also concluded that whenever Germany had made a peace
agreement, it retained its aggressive goals. They reasoned: “You can’t deal
with these fascist countries, and you can’t have an armistice as we did in

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 159
World War I. That was a green light to World War II. This time around, we’re
going to defeat, humiliate, and occupy, and then we’ll rebuild these countries
into consensual societies.”
We created peaceful, humane societies. I don’t think that would have been
possible with an armistice. Today, Japan, Germany, and Italy are three of
the most humane countries in the world, and they’re strong US allies. That
was a direct result of the vision of Roosevelt and Churchill. It came at a cost,
and we probably would have been able to cut a deal with Hitler and Tojo in
1943 or 1944, but we would have been at war with them in a cold peace in the
1950s. I think it would have been like the first, second, and third Punic Wars,
or what we see in the Middle East after all its modern conflicts—only a bel-
lum interruptum.


Robinson: You note that Britain and the United States dropped thirty
times as much tonnage on Germany as Germany dropped on Britain, and
with regard to Japan you write, “The March 9–10, 1945, napalm firebomb-
ing of Tokyo remains the most destructive single twenty-four-hour period
in military history.” Then, of course, we have the bombing of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki. Some argue that the Allies violated one of the most fundamental
tenets of just-war theory by targeting civilians. To which Victor Davis Han-
son answers?

Hanson: They have a point. Curtis LeMay, the architect of the firebomb-
ing raids, said that if we’d lost the war, he would have been tried and
convicted as a war criminal by the victorious Japanese. But there is also
a utilitarian foundation to the argument. By 1943, aerial bombing was in
a crisis. It had won some dividends; for instance, the bombing campaign
had forced Germany to bring back ten thousand 88mm antitank guns
from Russia to use as flak guns. Nevertheless, the campaign was in stasis.
Then Allied planners hit upon the idea to area bomb transportation hubs,
fuel depots . . .

Robinson: Go in low.

Hanson: Yes, and the same in Japan. The B-29 bomber was vastly expensive,
more than the Manhattan Project. But General LeMay complained that it
was getting no results. It flew too high—30,000 feet—and missed the tar-
gets. LeMay said, “I’m going to take them low—5,000 feet. They’ll come in at
four hundred miles an hour and they’ll drop napalm. They won’t have to be

160 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
accurate.” The same idea had worked in Europe: burn everything to burn out
the rail yard, the fuel plant, or the aircraft factory. It worked, but it caused an
astonishing level of collateral damage.
The greatest estimate of civilians killed in Japan, Germany, and Italy
would be somewhere between one million and one and a half million. The
Allies were fighting a people who by 1945 were killing twenty thousand
people per day in Asia. Six million were killed at Auschwitz. As British air
marshal Arthur “Bomber” Harris said, quoting scripture, they have sown the
wind and they’re going
to reap the whirlwind.
The thinking was: they “If they came back and looked at our
started the war, they set
culture today, was this what it was all
up death camps, they’re
for? Is this what dying on Okinawa
killing prisoners; so, it’s a
little rich to say that we was for when you’re twenty-two,
have to pinpoint targets or getting blown up in a B-29 when
when the Soviet Union is you’re eighteen?”
losing ten thousand men
a day and pleading for a second front.
When you talk today to Chinese citizens, diplomats, people in Indonesia or
Southeast Asia, as I have, I don’t think you ever hear an argument that the
United States was cruel and inhumane for bombing Japan. It’s usually the
other way around: “I wish they had bombed earlier.”
The fire raids were much more destructive than the atomic bombs. To
LeMay, his only problem was not having enough napalm. He would have
burned down all of Japan. The atomic bombs saved not so much an invasion,
which LeMay said we wouldn’t have done, but a firestorm that I think we
would still regret today. There is an irony that Japan was not as willing in the
postwar years to come to terms with its criminal behavior in World War II as
were Germany and Italy, simply because we did not invade, and their terri-
tory was not fought over but reduced by airpower.


Robinson: You grew up on the family ranch in Selma, in the Central Valley
of California, hearing firsthand accounts of the Second World War from your
father and uncles. Tell us why you’re named Victor.

Hanson: Victor was my father’s first cousin. His mother died in child-
birth and his father was blinded in a farming accident. He grew up with

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 161
my father, and they were inseparable. They went to the University of the
Pacific and played as ends on the football team under Amos Alonzo Stagg.
They joined the Marine Corps. Family lore gets hazy here. Somebody hit
a Marine officer. They were big Swedes, and one of them had to take the
blame, and the military said you’re going to get kicked out of the Marine
Corps and we’re going to fix you, Hanson: we’re going to send you to this
new B-29 program where everybody gets killed. I think my father was the
one that hit the Marine, so Victor went with the 6th Marine Division, and
he fought in the atrocious battle on Okinawa and was killed on the last day
at Sugar Loaf Hill.
As I was researching Ripples of Battle, one of Victor’s comrades contacted
me and said, “I have his ring.” When Victor was killed, the man said, they
couldn’t bring him down and his hand had swelled, so they cut off the ring.
When the man returned from the war, he called Victor’s grandfather, who
said in broken English, “I don’t want to talk about it.” The ring is on my
mantle—he sent it to me.
The irony is that my father
“It’s a little rich to say that we went into the B-29 program,
have to pinpoint targets when the went to Tinian, and flew forty
Soviet Union is losing ten thou- missions as a fire control
officer. Of the fifteen planes in
sand men a day.”
his squadron, I think all but
two were shot down or had engine failure and crashed. The person who was
supposed to die lived, and the person who had a better chance of living died.

Robinson: So, your dad named you Victor.

Hanson: And I remember him saying to me, “You’ve got a real burden,
because he was an all-star athlete and he was killed. I don’t know if you can
live up to it, but you’ve got to try.”

Robinson: Now you’re a grandfather. How do you make them believe? How
do you make them understand that this happened?

Hanson: That’s why I tried to write the book, because I ask myself that same
thing when I go to downtown Palo Alto, or New York, or I’m on my farm and
I see the security, the prosperity, and everything we have. Or when I look at
the world and see democratic governments all over Europe and Asia. I say
to myself, “None of this would have happened if it weren’t for these people in
the United States and their counterparts in Britain, Australia, Canada, and
the Soviet Union.” I think, wow, they were willing to give up everything for

162 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
some idea. I ask myself, in bouts of melancholy, “Was it worth it? If they came
back and looked at our culture today, was this what it was all for? Is this
what dying on Okinawa was for when you’re twenty-two, or getting blown
up in a B-29 when you’re eighteen?” I hope it was. I think we have to take
a deep breath and stop looking at history as melodrama where we go back
and look at the past and use the value system of the present to pick winners
and losers. History is tragedy, and we should instead say, “Given the material
constraints put upon them and given what they knew at the time, what they
did in World War II is a miracle, and we are indebted to them every day of
our lives.”
This is why I get so depressed with these contemporary controversies,
including people who think they don’t have to honor the flag. Somebody
handed them a country and they think, “It’s not good because it’s not perfect.”
The World War II generation said, “We just have to be better than the alterna-
tive.” The alternative was Japanese Holocaust and German Holocaust. What
we did in World War II was very good, and we need to remember that.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 163


Timothy Garton
Ash’s Five Books
Free speech—short phrase, long history. Hoover
fellow Timothy Garton Ash offers a reading list for
today’s free speakers.

By Sophie Roell

Sophie Roell, Five Books: In your book, you’ve narrowed it down to ten
principles, but free speech is incredibly complicated, isn’t it?

Timothy Garton Ash: Yes. It’s even more complicated now, because it used to
be about the state you were in. There used to be the old rule of thumb, “When
in Rome, do as the Romans do.” But in the world of mass migration and the
Internet, there are people from everywhere in Rome, and what someone says
in Rome can be heard anywhere. So the forces involved are very complicated.
There are multiple states, there are international organizations, there are
what I call the private superpowers—Google, Facebook, Twitter, which, as
we’re all discovering, are effectively regulating our freedom of speech, often
globally—and then there are other players. On the other hand, you can still
have quite simple principles—liberal principles for free speech in a world
where everybody’s becoming neighbors with everybody else.

Timothy Garton Ash is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Profes-
sor of European Studies and Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St. Antony’s
College, Oxford University. His latest book is Free Speech: Ten Principles for a
Connected World (2017, Yale University Press). Sophie Roell is the editor of the
blog Five Books.

164 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
Roell: I tend to think of free speech as one of various freedoms that we enjoy
in a democracy, but you make the point that it’s of more central importance
than that: free speech is the freedom on which all the other freedoms are

Garton Ash: It is the oxygen of all other freedoms. The classic example of
this is Amartya Sen’s famous study, which shows that there’s never been a
major famine in a country which had a free press—because the news gets out
and there’s outrage. So there’s this elemental connection even with the right
to life, to have enough to eat.

Roell: Readers can have a look at all ten of your principles in your book, but
briefly, what is free speech?

Garton Ash: Beyond the basic principle that we need freedom of speech,
the next most important thing I formulate as, “we neither make threats of
violence nor accept violent intimidation.” We all know this because of the
murder of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, the fatwas, and the death threats.
All over the world, among the most important threats to free speech are
threats of violence. It’s as important to face down what I call the assassin’s
veto—as in the case of Charlie Hebdo—as it is not to make threats of violence
yourself. They’re two sides of the same coin.
Fundamentally, if we could agree on those two—the basic principle that
we need effective freedom of speech and the principle of no violence—then
we could argue about what are the legitimate limits in relation to privacy or
religion or national security, or how we talk about diversity, hate speech, and
so on.

Roell: I hadn’t appreciated the extent to which there are big differences
between countries, even in the West. On paper, America has by far the freest
speech, more so than various European countries, but they also have quite a
bit of variation between them.
In the United States, there is the First Amendment, undoubtedly the
greatest constitutionally anchored tradition of free speech in the world. But
the United States has no hate speech laws. Most European countries and
Canada have hate speech laws.

Garton Ash: The Internet was made in America. It’s more American than
motherhood and apple pie—because a few other countries do have those.
Therefore what you’re getting through Facebook and Google and Twitter is
American norms being spread worldwide. So, for example, Facebook says,

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 165
“no nudity”—but it’s more relaxed about hate speech. The French are much
more relaxed about nudity, but more restrictive of hate speech.


Roell: Let’s talk a bit more about some of these themes in the context of the
books you’ve chosen. The first on your list is On Liberty (1859). Was Mill the
first to argue for free speech?

Garton Ash: Absolutely not. You can find notions of free speech not just in
ancient Greece—where a massive amount of what we think of as free speech
and democracy comes from—but, interestingly, in ancient Chinese texts, in
ancient Indian texts, in the edicts of Emperor Ashoka. It’s really important
to say that the idea has been around forever, and not just in Western culture.
But in the modern Western world, you start in the seventeenth century with
the English Revolution, with John Milton, then with the Enlightenment—
English, French, Scottish, and American. Then you go, on the one hand,
to the First Amendment in the United States, which is obviously a classic
statement of free speech, and in England, to John Stuart Mill. Mill is one of
those mildly irritating authors like Tocqueville, who say so much so well that
it’s difficult to say it better. Actually, when I say On Liberty, I mean above all
chapter two, “Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion.”

Roell: The free speech that we enjoy today, how does it compare to Mill’s ideas?

Garton Ash: That’s a rather good question. The answer is interestingly
complicated, because, of course, a question of free speech is also a question
about power relations: who is in a position to speak freely? In that sense, we
have more, because more people have more right to speak freely—and more
ability, because so many of us have a smartphone or a computer.
On the other hand, I think Mill would be extremely worried by some of the
taboos we see today, the sense that we have to tiptoe around all sorts of really
difficult subjects. I don’t think he would have been keen at all on hate speech
laws, because one of the key things he said—and where I am very much a
Millian—is that the mark of a free society is that we restrain ourselves. The
state is not the father telling you, like a child, what you can do and what you
can’t do, and putting you in the corner. Mature, adult citizens make their own
choices, and we choose what I call robust civility.

Roell: He says we should be free to say anything, “however immoral it might
be considered.”

166 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
Garton Ash: Yes, and that the criteria should not be mere offense. But his
central statement is about seeking the truth. What he says is very original,
which is that many false statements may contain a grain of truth, and even
an utterly false statement challenges us to restate our position. It’s therefore
a way to keep the good sword of truth sharp, if you’re constantly confront-
ing it with other arguments. He talks about the “deep slumber” of a decided
opinion, of received wisdom.

Roell: And yet he doesn’t think you should be allowed to harm others with
your speech. How is that enforced, then?

Garton Ash: This is Mill’s “harm principle”—that I should be free to say or
do anything, so long as it does not do harm to others. That’s core to modern
liberalism, the basic framework. Then the argument becomes, “What harms
other people?”
So take the torrent of horrible stuff—rubbish, abuse, hate speech—flow-
ing through the Internet. The question is, what’s genuinely harmful in that?
That’s very difficult to work out because, as with so much else with free
speech, context is all. If I started ranting to you about Tutsis in Rwanda
here, sitting at a table in north Oxford, it would be stupid, but it wouldn’t
have harmful effects. In the context of Rwanda in 1994, people got killed as a
Nonetheless, it’s immensely clarifying to start with the question about
harm, and it’s harm, not mere offense. One of the diseases of our time is that
people are saying, “You shouldn’t say that!”—just because it’s merely offen-
sive to somebody. I call it the offensiveness veto.

Roell: So really horrible stuff is being said about the Tutsis in Rwanda. What
do you then do? Does the state get involved?

Garton Ash: Yes. This is a simple distinction, but I think it’s a really, really
important one to bring into the debate. At the moment, we have this caul-
dron we call “hate speech.” Within that is really, really dangerous stuff, which
ends up with people being killed or silenced, as well as just very offensive
stuff, or rubbish, or stupidity. What you have to do is take apart the ingredi-
ents of this stew and say which parts we need the state to go after. The state
should go after what I call dangerous speech—something that is intended
and likely to lead to physical violence or serious psychological harm.
Hate speech as such—hateful speech—I say we have to counter in civil
society, by calling people out on it in everyday life. But number one, in prin-
ciple it shouldn’t be the state having to organize all that, because then we’re

168 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
children back in nursery school. Number two, because there is so much more
speech as a result of the Internet—just oceans of it—the state is totally inca-
pable of policing all of that. So the state should focus on the really dangerous
The metaphor that runs through my book is a metaphor of navigation.
Michel Foucault quotes an ancient Greek philosopher, saying that we should
teach free speech like navigation. It’s a wonderful image. What we’re all try-
ing to do is to teach our children to navigate the high seas of the Internet.
These are very high and often quite rough seas. You’ve got to start with a few
basic principles of navigation—so you have your polestar in the north—and
then go into the detail.


Roell: So next on the list, you’ve got a book by the Israeli novelist Amos Oz.
Why have you chosen this?

Garton Ash: I absolutely love this book, first because it’s a beautifully written
and very funny short book, and second because I think humor is unbeliev-
ably important as a way we use free speech to live with diversity. In my book
I mention that in Senegal, which is a very diverse society, there are actually
rituals of interethnic joking. Everybody does jokes, and then, when they’re
asked “why is it that people get on so well with their neighbors?” a large
proportion of them say, “Because of these joking rituals.” What Amos Oz says
is, “I have never met a fanatic who has a sense of humor, or someone with a
sense of humor who is a fanatic.” And therefore, he says, he wants to manu-
facture humor pills and have them distributed free around the Middle East. I
think that’s just such a great insight.

Roell: He writes: “Fanaticism is unfortunately an ever-pressing component
of human nature, an evil gene if you like.”

Garton Ash: Yes, but what’s so wonderful about the book is showing how
dialogue, debate, free interaction, is one of the best ways of dealing with that.
I quote in my book this wonderful song by Nina Simone, “I Wish I Knew How
It Would Feel to Be Free,” with the key line, “I wish you could know what it
means to be me,” and that’s it.
The idea that you can manage a multicultural society, a society with peo-
ple from everywhere speaking all languages, all faiths, all belief systems, by
telling everybody to shut up seems to me profoundly superficial and illusory.
The way you manage it is by getting people to speak about their differences,

170 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
even very difficult subjects, but in a context of robust civility. And humor is a
great lubricant.


Roell: Let’s go on to book three on your list, Defending My Enemy (1979).

Garton Ash: Aryeh Neier is himself a Holocaust survivor. His family, who
were Jewish, got out of Germany pretty much at the last minute. In the late
1970s he was running the ACLU— the American Civil Liberties Union—and
decided to defend the right of a bunch of neo-Nazis to march through a town
called Skokie, where a very large number of Holocaust survivors lived. You
can imagine this was massively controversial. He got hate mail, many people
resigned from the ACLU.
What I find particularly moving is the first chapter, where he explains
why he does it, and he says—I paraphrase—“It’s not in spite of being Jew-
ish, it’s precisely because
I’m a Jewish Holocaust
“The way you manage a multicultural survivor that I know that
society is by getting people to speak free speech and the law
about their differences, even very dif- is the defense of the weak
ficult subjects.” against the strong. And
if I ask that for myself, I
have to ask it also for others, and so that’s why I’m defending my enemy.”
I remember my friend Christopher Hitchens saying to me that the Skokie
case was one of the things that made him want to move to the United States.
Those were the days when the United States really stood as a beacon for free
speech and civil liberties.

Roell: Would you have done the same as Aryeh Neier?

Garton Ash: You have to take the question in two parts. Part number one is
the kind of question I asked myself when I was writing about my Stasi file,
which is, how would I have behaved if I’d been an East German? Would I have
been a dissident or a collaborator? I don’t know the answer, how I would have
behaved. Part two is, in principle, do I think he was right? Absolutely I think
he was right. In the famous formula, we must defend the thought we hate, not
just the thoughts we like.

Roell: I’ve noticed that quite a few tweets from people I follow say: “This
media may contain sensitive material.” Why is that? Has something changed?

172 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
Garton Ash: It very much has. One characteristic of this connected world is
that we now have a global public sphere provided by a few private companies.
There’s the notion of “POPS”—privately owned public spaces. Increasingly
we’re getting our news from Facebook, not just exchanging family photos. So
they have to face up to the fact that they have some public responsibilities.

Roell: How do you set about increasing civility on the Internet? Maybe it’s
again something that needs to be taught in school. Just as you’re taught to be
polite and say, “how do you do?” when you meet someone, maybe you should
be taught that when you disagree on the Internet, you shouldn’t launch into
personal invective.

Garton Ash: Education is incredibly important here. Going back to the
navigation metaphor, we really are like people who are steering paddle boats
around the lake and suddenly we’re on the high seas. That involves knowing
about how you protect
your privacy online,
how you report really “I remember my friend Christopher
bad stuff, how to keep Hitchens saying to me that the Skokie
it away, how to find the case was one of the things that made
good stuff, how to dis- him want to move to the United States.”
tinguish fake news from
true news, but also how you engage with people.
I quote in the book a technique, which I love, called constructive contro-
versy. I saw this in action in an academy school in east Oxford. Let’s take a
controversial subject, the burka, say. What’s your position on this? Ahmed
argues for this position, and Joe argues for that position. That’s fine. Then
you say, “OK, now you have to swap and you have to make the opposite case.”
When that happens, you almost see a sort of light bulb going on in their eyes
as they see, “Yes, I can imagine what it would be like to see it from their point
of view.”


Roell: Your next book is by the South African Nobel Prize winner J. M.

Garton Ash: So much of the literature on free speech is either law or philoso-
phy or politics. Here is a writer, a very fine writer, going at it through litera-
ture, and what is literature about if not free speech? How we use language,
how we interact. He looks at the mental state of being offended, and he looks

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 173
at it with examples from Dostoevsky and Dickens and elsewhere. He says
the state of being offended is always the mark of someone who’s unsure of
their own position, it’s a mark of weakness. It’s the mark of the bully and the
buffoon, and I think that’s a very powerful insight. In saying, “I am offended,”
you’re revealing something about yourself.
If I extend that story and think about South Africa, I don’t think Nelson
Mandela ever took offense—although heaven knows he had reason to be
offended by the treatment he was receiving. He maintained his dignity. His
position was, “You’re the people who are being diminished by this; you’re
the people who are losing
your dignity, not me.” This
“The state of being offended is goes against the grain
always the mark of someone who’s of much contemporary
unsure of their own position, it’s a Western society, as one
mark of weakness. It’s the mark of the sees it in universities
bully and the buffoon.” and elsewhere, which is
almost incitement to take
offense. People are being encouraged to take offense at anything they find
slightly offensive.
Oz and Coetzee are about the same thing. How do we use this defining
human gift, which is language—no one else in the animal kingdom has it—to
negotiate our differences without coming to blows? That’s essentially what
it’s about.


Roell: Let’s move to your final pick. Why should we read this book?

Garton Ash: Tim Wu is an American “cyberlawyer”—a new category of
human being—and a rather brilliant one. He’s the guy who coined the term
“Net neutrality,” which we all use now.
The focus is on information businesses. He says that these are a new kind
of business, and that one thing we simply didn’t know twenty years ago is
that the network effects on the Internet are so powerful that within a very
short period of time we have private superpowers—these absolutely massive
information empires which have fantastic concentrations of power. If Face-
book were a country, it would be the largest country on earth, with 1.9 billion
going on to 2 billion regular monthly users.
The American constitutional tradition, including the First Amendment,
is brilliant at controlling public power. It’s very good at taking on President

174 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
Donald Trump. It’s amazing how well it’s responded to Trump. But it’s very
bad at controlling private power, and the challenge now is as much about
private power—Facebook, Google, and Twitter—as it is about public power. I
love the way he explores at the intersection of law, politics, engineering, and
business, how these information empires have developed, and then the ques-
tion is, how should you try to create checks and balances?

Roell: And how should you?

Garton Ash: There’s no simple answer to it. I think there has to be a series
of answers of which part is definitely antitrust. These are near-monopolies.
If you take Facebook’s news feed, they could swing an election. So actually,
you have to think of them as a kind of media power with some sort of media
responsibility. On the other hand, I don’t want to see that being done to
Google Search, because Google Search is exactly what it says on the tin, and
should be what it says on the tin, a place where I can find everything that’s
out there according to some criteria of relevance.

Roell: But isn’t that their criteria?

Garton Ash: We have
to take these things
apart and then say to
“Google Search is exactly what it says
ourselves, “what is it we on the tin, and should be what it says
really want to ask them?” on the tin, a place where I can find
And be careful what everything that’s out there according
you wish for, because to some criteria of relevance.”
what’s happened with
this famous European court ruling on the right to be forgotten is that now, in
effect, Google is exercising a kind of arbitrary censorship, taking down hun-
dreds of thousands, even millions, of links in ways which are not transparent,
not accountable, not appealable.
If you go back to the 1990s, it really was, “the Internet will set you free.” It
was this cyber-libertarian poppycock that you find with every new technol-
ogy, including printing. It’s hailed and, at the same time, you always have the
catastrophists who say it’ll be the end of human civilization as we know it. Of
course, the truth is that it’s neither heaven nor hell.
Wu is very interesting in his analysis about complex things. There are
serious reasons to be worried about some of the stuff they’re doing, but I
don’t think the answer is to bring in a law against everything. We’ll end up
overregulating them and destroying some of the good things they do.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 175
Roell: But antitrust involves a regulator.

Garton Ash: Antitrust is a really important place for regulation. But with
a lot of this stuff—what do we want them to do on news feeds, what do we
want them to do about hate speech, and so on—you’ll get much farther, in my
experience, with a kind of constructive engagement with these companies,
because they’re desperately trying to work out what to do. If you look at the
world from the Googleplex, or Facebook headquarters, you’re looking round
the world and you’re getting competing demands from every side. Everyone
is asking something of you, but every demand is different. Even NGOs—free
speech NGOs want you to take down less content, women’s rights and minor-
ity rights groups want you to take down more content, so what the hell are
you going to do?
Also, I think one has to distinguish between these various platforms. I love
Twitter because it’s an explicitly public platform. It’s a brilliant way of having
public debate. If someone says something really outrageous, stupid, deeply
offensive, they get called out on it straight away. Social media can actually be
used to refute fake news.

Roell: The problem with Facebook is you’re supposed to be friends. So you
might have a friend who believes that vaccinations caused her son’s life-
threatening allergies and puts up a lot of anti-vaccination stuff on her feed.
You completely disagree, but you don’t feel you can say, “This is nonsense.”

Garton Ash: You’ve got it in one. In my book I quote some really good studies
which show that there’s much more hate speech on Facebook than on Twitter
for that very simple reason: that you’re supposed to be friends. So people
don’t call each other out, even if they should.

Excerpted by permission from the blog Five Books (
best-books/free-speech-timothy-garton-ash). © 2018 Five Books. All rights

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.
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176 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8


“The Oppression
of Black People Is
The recent NFL protests were more dutiful
than daring. Freedom has made the theme of
victimization obsolete.

By Shelby Steele

he protests by black players in the National Football League
were rather sad for their fruitlessness. They may point to the
end of an era for black America, and for the country generally—
an era in which protest has been the primary means of black
advancement in American life.
There was a forced and unconvincing solemnity on the faces of these play-
ers as they refused to stand for the national anthem. They seemed more duti-
ful than passionate, as if they were mimicking the courage of earlier black
athletes who had protested: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, fists in the air
at the 1968 Olympics; Muhammad Ali, fearlessly raging against the Vietnam
War; Jackie Robinson, defiantly running the bases in the face of racist taunts.
The NFL protesters seemed to hope for a little ennoblement by association.

Shelby Steele is the Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow at the Hoover
Institution. His latest book is Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polar-
ized Our Country (Basic Books, 2015).

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 177
And protest has long been an ennobling tradition in black American life.
From the Montgomery bus boycott to the march on Selma, from lunch-coun-
ter sit-ins and Freedom Rides to the 1963 March on Washington, only protest
could open the way to freedom and the acknowledgment of full humanity.
So it was a high calling in black life. It required great sacrifice and entailed
great risk. Martin Luther King Jr., the archetypal black protester, made his
sacrifices, ennobled all of America, and was then shot dead.
For the NFL players there was no real sacrifice, no risk, and no achieve-
ment. Still, in black America there remains a great reverence for protest.
Through protest—especially in the 1950s and ’60s—we, as a people, touched
greatness. Protest, not immigration, was our way into the American Dream.
Freedom in this country had always been relative to race, and it was black
protest that made freedom an absolute.
It is not surprising, then, that these black football players would don the
mantle of protest. The surprise was that it didn’t work. They had misread the
historic moment. They were not speaking truth to power. Rather, they were
figures of pathos, mindlessly loyal to a black identity that had run its course.
What they missed is a simple truth that is both obvious and unutterable:
the oppression of black people is over with. This is politically incorrect news,
but it is true nonetheless. We blacks are, today, a free people. It is as if free-
dom sneaked up and caught us by surprise.
Of course, this does not mean there is no racism left in American life. Rac-
ism is endemic to the human condition, just as stupidity is. We will always
have to be on guard against it. But now it is recognized as a scourge, as the
crowning immorality of our age and our history.
Protest always tries to
make a point. But what
Lunch-counter sit-ins, Freedom happens when that point
Rides, the 1963 March on Washing- already has been made—
ton—protest once was a high calling when, in this case, racism
in black life. has become anathema and
freedom has expanded?
What happened was that black America was confronted with a new prob-
lem: the shock of freedom. This is what replaced racism as our primary dif-
ficulty. Blacks had survived every form of human debasement with ingenuity,
self-reliance, a deep and ironic humor, a capacity for self-reinvention, and a
heroic fortitude. But we had no experience of wide-open freedom.
Watch out that you get what you ask for, the saying goes. Freedom came to
blacks with an overlay of cruelty because it meant we had to look at ourselves

178 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
without the excuse of oppression. Four centuries of dehumanization had left
us underdeveloped in many ways, and within the world’s most highly devel-
oped society. When freedom expanded, we became more accountable for that
underdevelopment. So freedom put blacks at risk of being judged inferior, the
very libel that had always been used against us.
To hear, for example, that more than four thousand people were shot in
Chicago in 2016 embarrasses us because this level of largely black-on-black
crime cannot be blamed
simply on white racism.
We can say that past We blacks are, today, a free people.
oppression left us unpre- It is as if freedom sneaked up and
pared for freedom. This caught us by surprise.
is certainly true. But
it is no consolation. Freedom is just freedom. It is a condition, not an agent
of change. It does not develop or uplift those who win it. Freedom holds us
accountable no matter the disadvantages we inherit from the past. The trag-
edy in Chicago—rightly or wrongly—reflects on black America.
That’s why, in the face of freedom’s unsparing judgmentalism, we reflex-
ively claim that freedom is a lie. We conjure elaborate narratives that give
white racism new life in the present: “systemic” and “structural” racism,
racist “microaggressions,” “white privilege,” and so on. All these narratives
insist that blacks are still victims of racism, and that freedom’s accountability
is an injustice.
We end up giving victimization the charisma of black authenticity. Suffer-
ing, poverty, and underdevelopment become the things that make you “truly
black.” Success and achievement throw your authenticity into question.
The NFL protests were not really about injustice. Instead such protests
are usually genuflections to today’s victim-focused black identity. Protest is
the action arm of this identity. It is not seeking a new and better world; it
merely wants documentation that the old racist world still exists. It wants an
For any formerly oppressed group, there will be an expectation that the
past will somehow be an excuse for difficulties in the present. This is the
expectation behind the NFL protests and the many protests of groups like
Black Lives Matter. The near-hysteria around the deaths of Trayvon Martin,
Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and others is also a hunger for the excuse
of racial victimization, a determination to keep it alive. To a degree, black
America’s self-esteem is invested in the illusion that we live under a cloud of
continuing injustice.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 179
When you don’t know how to go forward, you never just sit there; you go
backward into what you know, into what is familiar and comfortable and,
most of all, exonerating.
You rebuild in your own
Of course racism still exists. It is mind the oppression that
endemic to the human condition, just is fading from the world.
like stupidity. But now it is recognized And you feel this abstract,
as the crowning immorality of our age fabricated oppression as
and our history. if it were your personal
truth, the truth around
which your character is formed. Watching the antics of Black Lives Matter is
like watching people literally aspiring to black victimization, longing for it as
for a consummation.
But the NFL protests may be a harbinger of change. They elicited consid-
erable resentment. There have been counterprotests. TV viewership went
down. Ticket sales dropped. What is remarkable about this response is
that it may foretell a new fearlessness in white America—a new willingness
in whites (and blacks outside the victim-focused identity) to say to blacks
what they really think and feel, to judge blacks fairly by standards that are
We blacks have lived in a bubble since the 1960s because whites have been
deferential for fear of being seen as racist. The NFL protests reveal the
fundamental obsolescence—for both blacks and whites—of a victim-focused
approach to racial inequality. It causes whites to retreat into deference and
blacks to become nothing more than victims. It makes engaging as human
beings and as citizens impermissible, a betrayal of the sacred group identity.
Black victimization is not much with us any more as a reality, but it remains
all too powerful as a hegemony.

Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2018 Dow Jones &
Co. All rights reserved.

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

180 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8


This Memorial
What do we remember on this day of mourning
and honor?

By Victor Davis Hanson

few years ago I was honored to serve briefly on the Ameri-
can Battle Monuments Commission, whose chief duty is the
custodianship of American military cemeteries abroad. More
than 125,000 American dead now rest in these serene parks,
some twenty-six in sixteen countries. An additional 94,000 of the missing are
commemorated by name only. The graves (mostly fatalities of World Wars
I and II) are as perfectly maintained all over the world, from Tunisia to the
Philippines, as those of the war dead who rest in the well-manicured acres of
the US military cemetery in Arlington.
A world away from the white marble statuary, crosses, Stars of David,
noble inscriptions, and manicured greenery of these cemeteries is the stark
246-foot wall of polished igneous rock of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
on the Mall in Washington. On its black surfaces are etched 58,307 names
of American dead in Vietnam. They are listed in the chronological order
of their deaths. The melancholy wall, birthed in bitter controversy at its
inception in 1982, emphasizes tragedy more than American confidence in its

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the
Hoover Institution and the chair of Hoover’s Working Group on the Role of Military
History in Contemporary Conflict. His latest book is The Second World Wars:
How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won (Basic Books, 2017).

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 181
transcendent values—as if to warn the nation that the agenda of Vietnam
was not quite that of 1917 and 1941.
The Vietnam War may have reopened with special starkness the question
of how to honor our fallen dead, but it is hardly a new problem in our history.
As today’s disputes over the legacy of the Civil War and the Confederacy
suggest, it has never been enough just to lament the sacrifice and carnage
of our wars, whether successful or failed. We feel the need to honor the war
dead but also to make distinctions among them, elevating those who served
noble causes while passing judgment on their foes. This is not an exclusively
American impulse. It has deep roots in the larger Western tradition of com-
memoration, and no era—certainly not our own—has managed to escape its
complexities and paradoxes.
Our own idea of Memorial Day originated as “Decoration Day,” the post–
Civil War tradition, in both the North and the South, of decorating the graves
of the war dead. That rite
grew out of the shock and
Both Pericles and Lincoln see war trauma of the Civil War. In
and its evils as tragically innate to the the conflict’s first major
human experience. battle at Shiloh (April 6-7,
1862), there were likely
more American casualties (about 24,000 dead, wounded, and missing on
both sides) than in all the nation’s prior wars combined since its founding.
The shared ordeal of the Civil War, with some 650,000 fatalities, would
eventually demand a unified national day of remembrance. Memorial Day
began as an effort to square the circle in honoring America’s dead—without
privileging the victors or their cause. The approach of the summer holidays
seemed the most appropriate moment to heal our civic wounds. The timing
suggested renewal and continuity, whereas an autumn or winter date might
add unduly to the grim lamentation of the day.
But could the distinctions so crucial to war itself really be suppressed?
Consider the themes of the two greatest speeches in the history of Western
oratory: Pericles’s long Funeral Oration for the Athenian dead of the first
year of the Peloponnesian War, delivered in 431 BC and amounting to some
3,000 words in most translations; and nearly 2,300 years later, President
Abraham Lincoln’s 272-word Gettysburg Address of 1863.
Both statesmen agree that the mere words of the present generation can-
not do justice to the sacrifice of the fallen young. Lincoln sees the talking and
the living as less authentic commemorators than the mute dead: “We can not
consecrate—we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead,

182 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or
Pericles argues that even a notable such as himself has almost no right to
assess the sacrifices of the dead: “I could have wished that the reputations of
many brave men were not to be imperiled in the mouth of a single individual,
to stand or fall according as he spoke well or ill.”
By their ultimate sacrifice—what Lincoln calls “the last full measure of
devotion”—the mute war dead argue that even heroic men are less important
than the eternal values of freedom and democracy that “shall not perish from
the earth.” Such chauvinism assumes that democracies are by nature supe-
rior to the alternatives. Thus to Pericles, Athens was the “school of Hellas”
and for Lincoln America was “a new nation, conceived in Liberty.”
For both orators, the dead are the natural link between self-sacrificing
forefathers and the present generation’s own progeny, who at some future
date may be called upon to emulate those who have died to perpetuate the
nation. In this view, we are not quite unique individuals but part of a larger
generation whose values and accomplishments are to be judged collectively
and in comparison to what came before and will follow.
Finally, both Pericles and Lincoln see war and its evils as tragically innate
to the human experience. Conflict will demand sacrifices, in varying degrees,
from each successive generation of free peoples. As the philosopher George
Santayana more pes-
simistically put it, “Only
the dead have seen the On Memorial Day we remember that
end of war.” Both orators all commemoration is underpinned
suggest that democracies by ambiguities about the causes, con-
and republics will always duct, and aims of particular wars.
be the natural targets of
aggressors who see their freedom as weakness to be exploited rather than as
magnanimity to be appreciated.
The Western tradition of commemoration also includes a unique idea of
individual moral exemption. As first articulated by Pericles, we overlook
any defects of character of the war dead, attributing to one brief moment of
ultimate sacrifice the power to wash away all prior moral faults.
A noble death serves, in the words of Pericles, as “a cloak to cover a man’s
other imperfections; since the good action has blotted out the bad, and his
merit as a citizen more than outweighed his demerits as an individual.” The
great playwright Aeschylus wanted his epitaph to read only that he was a
veteran of the Athenian victory at Marathon—a battle where his brother fell.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 183
These themes still resonate in our own habits and rites. This Memorial Day
the flags on graves in American cemeteries set the dead apart, in a special
moral category that discourages any discussion of the bothersome details of
their short lives.
Pericles and Lincoln assume that the sacrifice of the war dead is enhanced
by the nobility of their cause and the victories they have won. In the age of
the Parthenon and Sophocles, democratic Athenians considered themselves
superior to oligarchic Spartans, seeing vindication in their early successes
(Athens would go on to lose the war twenty-six years after the great speech
of Pericles). Similarly, the Union believed itself the moral better of the slave-
holding South and would march to triumph under that banner two years
after Gettysburg.
For democratic peoples, it is difficult to separate victory and nobility from
commemorations of the fallen. This is especially true when it comes to events
that directly engage our own moral imperatives. In the case of the Civil
War, we now tend to see the Confederate dead as faceless emblems of larger
causes, not as unique individuals who wrestled with their own moral para-
doxes. Yet we seem to think that future generations will not do the same to
us, applying their own—possibly quite different—standards to the collective
sacrifices of our generation.
Herodotus, the Greek historian of the Persian Wars, saw armed conflict
as a tragedy for all warring parties precisely because it was central to the
human experience and thus endless. In obscene fashion, war inverted the
natural order of peacetime by compelling fathers to bury sons. Pericles
bluntly reminded us that the tragedy is not when we the middle-aged and old
die but when the youth do, “to whom a fall, if it came, would be most tremen-
dous in its consequences.”
Railing at the loss of the nation’s youth has thus long accompanied the tra-
dition of praising noble sacrifice for a just cause. The historian Thucydides
nearly wept over the young Athenians senselessly killed—in the wrong place,
at the wrong time, on the wrong mission—by the tribes of wild Aetolia:
“These were by far the best men in the city of Athens that fell during this
war.” When Lincoln said of the dead that they “shall not have died in vain,”
he implied that the sacrifices of the aggregate Union war dead by November
1863 would be for naught if the North lost the war.
The Roman lyric poet Horace in his Odes famously praised the ultimate
contributions of Roman legionaries, declaring dulce et decorum est pro patria
mori: it is a sweet and fitting thing to die on behalf of the fatherland. Wilfred
Owen, the English poet and veteran of the trenches of World War I (killed

184 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
one week before the armistice), would have none of it. In the conclusion of his
nightmarish signature poem, he bitterly channeled Horace:

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

After the Somme and Verdun, Owen no longer saw clear moral winners
and losers, only endless carnage without hope of resolution: hence the “old
Lie.” Similarly scornful was the poet and critic Randall Jarrell’s response to
the contribution of Allied bombing to winning World War II. His poem “The
Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” ends with the verse, “When I died they
washed me out of the turret with a hose.”
Still, for all the carnage and senselessness in just and unjust wars alike,
we don’t mourn all war dead equally or find tragedy in every loss. Certainly
the SS officers who were buried at Bitburg, Germany—where President
Reagan in 1985 caused a storm by visiting on the fortieth anniversary of V-E
Day—were connected to the horrors of Auschwitz. And while there is some-
thing understandable in solemn visits of Japanese officials to the Yasukuni
Shrine in Tokyo to honor the 2,466,532 names of the dead found in the Shinto
shrine’s “Book of Souls,” many of those men left a trail of twenty million dead
throughout Asia and the Pacific from 1931 to 1945.
I grew up in a Swedish-American family in which the name Okinawa went
unmentioned. Okinawa was a campaign that was tactically unimaginative and
strategically incoherent—and yet aimed at finally stopping a murderous imperi-
al regime. My uncle and namesake, Victor Hanson, a corporal in the 6th Marine
Division, was killed in the last hours of the last day of battle for Sugar Loaf Hill.
I inherited both Vic’s college athletic equipment and a Periclean admoni-
tion from my father (who himself flew on thirty-nine missions over Japan in
a B-29) to “live up to Vic”—without much elaboration other than the implicit
advice that the only thing worse than fighting a dirty war on Okinawa would
have been to lose it.
I visit Victor Hanson’s grave each Memorial Day in the nearby small
Central Valley farming town of Kingsburg, still in astonishment that such a
mythical person, whom I never met, gave up his youth (and a long life ahead)
for what we have now collectively become. Pericles hoped that such sacrifices
would move the living of subsequent generations to a deeper appreciation of
the greatness of Athens: “feed your eyes upon her from day to day, until love
of her fills your hearts.”

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 185
On Memorial Day we should remember that all commemoration is under-
pinned by ambiguities about the causes, conduct, and aims of particular
wars. No one has captured the heartbreak of the war dead more effectively
than the Marine memorialist E. B. Sledge, who wrote With the Old Breed, a
horrific account of his nightmare on Peleliu and Okinawa.
Sledge is sometimes
simplistically described
We now tend to see the Confederate as an antiwar voice (“So
dead as faceless emblems of larger many dead. So many
causes, not as unique individuals maimed. So many bright
who wrestled with their own moral futures consigned to the
paradoxes. What will future genera- ashes of the past.”), but he
did not end his gruesome
tions think of us?
story of combat with a
universal denunciation of war. He finished instead with a solemn reminder—
somewhere between Horace and Wilfred Owen—that circumstances count.
His words are worth recalling as we cast our eyes over the endless fields
of tiny flags we will again see this Memorial Day on the graves of Americans
who gave their all for us:

Until the millennium arrives and countries cease trying to enslave
others, it will be necessary to accept one’s responsibilities and be
willing to make sacrifices for one’s country—as my comrades did.
As the troops used to say, “If the country is good enough to live in,
it’s good enough to fight for.” With privilege goes responsibility.

Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2018 Dow Jones &
Co. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is America
and the Future of War: The Past as Prologue, by
Williamson Murray. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or

186 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8


Herbert Hoover’s example and his appeal, still
strong nearly a hundred years later, for “a better,
brighter, broader individualism.”

By Edwin J. Feulner Jr.

t is one of history’s cruelest ironies that Herbert Hoover, an interna-
tionally successful mining engineer, the head of unprecedented food
relief operations that saved millions of lives in Europe during and
after World War I, our thirty-first president following a landslide vic-
tory, and an eloquent critic of the collectivism of the New Deal and modern
liberalism, is described in most of our history books as an archvillain person-
ally responsible for the Great Depression of the 1930s that put 25 percent of
America out of work and produced a thousand shantytowns of the homeless
popularly (and unfairly) known as “Hoovervilles.”
In fact, Hoover was one of the most remarkable Americans of the twen-
tieth century. Born in 1874 in West Branch, a small Iowa farming commu-
nity and orphaned at the age of nine, he worked his way through Stanford
University, graduating in its first or “pioneer” class. Newly married, he began

Edwin J. Feulner Jr. is the founder and former president of the Heritage Founda-

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 187
a series of global adventures that took him to the Boxer Rebellion in China,
a tiger’s lair in Burma, and Siberia, where he built model towns. He became
a wealthy man who employed more than a million workers in various busi-
nesses around the globe.
Along the way, he developed a political philosophy—part progressive, part
conservative—that balanced a public responsibility for the welfare of others
with a faith in free enterprise and what he called “rugged individualism.”
The “American system,” he said, was based on “ordered liberty, freedom, and
equal opportunity.” That system, he pointed out, was transformed by World
War I, which required
the centralization of large
“My friends have made the American parts of our society. After
people think of me a sort of super- the war, the country faced
man. They expect the impossible of a choice between “the
American system of rug-
ged individualism and a
European philosophy of diametrically opposed doctrines of paternalism and
state socialism.” America wisely chose the former.
Hoover believed that the national economy could be managed by cooperation
and “coordination” between the federal government and the private sector. At
the heart of his philosophy—a fusion of progressive and conservative con-
cepts—was an informal partnership between a federal government equipped
with scientific data about economic conditions and a private economy led
by enlightened business interests. In the words of biographer George Nash,
Hoover regarded the partnership as “a progressive formula for noncoercive,
nonpolitical promotion of the general welfare.” Hoover would have the opportu-
nity to test his formula when America was hit by the Great Depression.
With the outbreak of World War I, Hoover left the world of business for
public service. He led relief operations that helped to save millions of lives
by feeding civilians in occupied Belgium and then preventing famines in
postwar Europe and communist Russia. Today, many villages and cities in
Belgium have a Hoover Avenue or Hoover Boulevard. Hoover became known
as the Great Humanitarian whose global relief efforts were without parallel
in history.
After the end of the war, Hoover decided to gather original documents
and other material about World War I and deposit them at Stanford. Hoover
began his collection in June 1919 while at the Paris Peace Conference advising
President Woodrow Wilson. At his direction, archivists traveled to Russia in
1921 to obtain firsthand accounts of the Russian Revolution. The Hoover War

188 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
Library at Stanford became the largest library in the world devoted to the
Great War. It expanded its area of inquiry in succeeding years and eventu-
ally assumed its current name, the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution,
and Peace, today one of the most prestigious think tanks in America and
the world. The mission of the Hoover Institution, its founder explained, is
“to recall the voice of experience against the making of war” and “to recall
man’s endeavors to make and preserve peace and to sustain for America the
safeguards of the American way of life.”

Hoover applied the same imaginative leadership as secretary of commerce
under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge. He reformed the
Department of Commerce and initiated government relief when necessary,
as with the victims of the Mississippi River flood in 1927. When Coolidge
announced that he would not seek a second term, Hoover stepped forward,
seeking to cap his public career by serving as president. In 1928, he won an
overwhelming victory over the urban Catholic Democrat Al Smith, receiv-
ing 58 percent of the popular vote and 444 electoral votes. He provided an
uncanny prophecy in a postelection interview: “My friends have made the
American people think of me a sort of superman. They expect the impossible
of me and should there arise in the land conditions with which the political
machinery is unable to cope, I will be the one to suffer.”
Ever the activist,
President Hoover initi-
ated a long list of gener- Hoover’s political philosophy bal-
ally progressive reforms anced a public responsibility for the
from his first days in welfare of others with a faith in free
the White House. He enterprise and what he called “rugged
announced an expansion individualism.”
of civil service protec-
tion, canceled private oil leases on government lands, added 3 million acres of
national parks and 2.3 million acres in national forests, established a Federal
Farm Board to support farm prices, created the Veterans Administration,
established the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department, and advocated
federal loans for urban slum clearance. In line with the recommendation
of George Washington, he pursued a noninterventionist foreign policy. He
imposed an arms embargo in Latin America, proposed a 33 percent cut in the
world’s submarines and battleships, and sought to ban all bombers, tanks,
and chemical weapons.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 189
Hoover had expressed his concerns about rampant stock market specu-
lation as early as 1925, but presidents were not expected to regulate Wall
Street or even hint at regulation for fear of starting a panic. So Hoover lim-
ited himself to asking newspapers and magazines to publish articles warning
of the dangers of speculation. Few investors paid any attention.
On Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, in the seventh month of the Hoover
presidency, the market collapsed. In one day, sixteen million shares were
traded and $30 billion disappeared. Hoover soon summoned business leaders
to the White House and held a series of conferences with business, labor, and
farm leaders to secure a pledge to hold the line on wages. He obtained com-
mitments from utilities and railroads to spend several billion dollars on new
construction and repairs. He asked Congress to boost spending on public
buildings and dams, highways, and harbors. Hoover was widely praised for
his swift response, including by the New York Times, which editorialized, “No
one in his place could have done more.”
It seemed that Hoover’s prudent public-sector/private-sector measures
were working and that confidence on Wall Street had been restored, but a
combination of factors, some of which had been festering for years, turned an
economic downturn into a decade-long depression.
Economists and
historians are divided
“He was simply not one of their kind. as to the causes of the
His aura of impersonal efficiency, Great Depression. Hoover
dislike of political rituals, workaholic pointed to the economic
seriousness, and reliance on nonpo- dislocations after World
litical experts set him apart.” War I, banking’s weak
structure, uncontrolled
stock speculation, and Congress’s failure to pass many of his proposals. Crit-
ics charged that by approving the Smoot-Hawley tariff in the spring of 1930,
the president raised barriers around US products, weakened debtor nations,
and set off a round of retaliatory tariffs that badly damaged global trade.
Seeking to promote public confidence, Hoover prematurely proclaimed
that the “worst effects” of the stock market on unemployment had passed
and boasted that his “great economic experiment” of targeted govern-
mental action had “succeeded to a remarkable degree.” But in June 1930,
when Smoot-Hawley took effect, the market dropped dramatically, wiping
out all the gains of the preceding months. That same summer, the worst
drought in US history devastated crops in thirty states. Farm income fell 25

190 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
Commentators let loose a torrent of criticism, blaming Hoover for not
pushing Congress harder and for his seeming indifference to the plight of
millions of Americans. It was the beginning of the myth that Hoover, once
universally known as the Great Humanitarian, was indifferent to the plight of
the jobless and the homeless. Historian Nash pinpoints the reasons for this
false image:

It is easy to see why politicians in both parties distrusted him: he
was simply not one of their kind. His aura of impersonal efficiency,
dislike of political rituals, workaholic seriousness, and reliance on
nonpolitical experts set him apart from what he derided as the
“beer garden” on Capitol Hill. His unusual blend of progressivism
and antistatism pleased neither the left nor the right.

Hoover was caught in the middle of a great American tragedy. In the fall
of 1930, a growing number of substantial banks began to fail. The failure rate
increased sharply the next year in reaction to a financial crisis in Europe.
When Great Britain abandoned the gold standard, American depositors
rushed to withdraw their savings from US banks and hoard them at home.
Lacking sufficient reserves to cover the withdrawals, more than five hundred
banks collapsed in a single month. By the end of 1931, a total of 2,294 US
banks had failed just that year. The need for substantial action by the federal
government was undeniable.
In December 1931, Hoover asked Congress to end the growing “credit
paralysis” by establishing a Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) that
would lend money directly to troubled banks. Never before in peacetime had
an American president proposed such a massive intervention in the nation’s
free enterprise system. Congress quickly approved the RFC, which over the
next five months made loans to more than four thousand banks and other
troubled financial institutions.
That was not all. Congress enacted and Hoover signed into law the largest
peacetime tax increase in US history, with the president declaring that the
federal government had to balance its budget to secure financial stability.
This was the economic orthodoxy of the day. However, Hoover’s measured
efforts to fix the economy had little effect.
A suffering public wanted someone to pay for the pain and privation of the
Great Depression, and they settled on Herbert Hoover. The Great Humani-
tarian had turned into Ebenezer Scrooge. An embattled Hoover insisted that
his prudent economic reforms would work if given the chance. In his final
1932 campaign address, Hoover warned that the election was more than a

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 191
contest between two parties. It was “a contest between two philosophies of
government,” and its outcome would determine the nation’s course for “over
a century to come.” It was a telling prediction. Franklin D. Roosevelt crushed
Hoover at the polls, gaining 57.4 percent of the popular vote, the highest per-
centage of any Democratic presidential nominee to that point. Roosevelt car-
ried forty-two states and won 472 electoral votes. Democrats captured both
houses of Congress by overwhelming majorities. Hoover left office a political
pariah, defamed and condemned like no other American in modern times.

Most public figures would have sought seclusion and accepted obscurity, but
Herbert Hoover was a fighter and not interested in the conventional nonparti-
san role of an elder statesman. Concerned about the collectivism that the New
Deal would foster and convinced that his philosophy of cooperation and coor-
dination between the public and private sectors was the right philosophy for
America, Hoover spent the remaining thirty-two years of his life waging a cru-
sade against collectivism and for ordered liberty. In the process, the onetime
Wilsonian progressive became a man of the right. Through his many books,
articles, and speeches, he fashioned a critique of statism that became an
important part of the conservative lexicon. He was frequently cited in Human
Events, The Freeman, and other conservative publications. His speeches at
national political conventions and other venues received respectful attention.
When others were silent about or accepting of New Deal collectivism, Hoover
spoke out again and again. Here are some of the things he said:
“To the young men and women it is vital that their opportunity in life
shall be preserved; that the frontiers of initiative and enterprise shall not be
closed; that their future shall not be burdened by unbearable debt by our fol-
lies. . . . The first condition [for this] is orderly individual liberty and respon-
sible constitutional government as opposed to un-American regimentation
and bureaucratic domination.” (March 1935)
“In all the history of the world, mankind has found only two ways of
doing the work of feeding, clothing, housing, and providing comforts for the
people. One is the way of liberty, in which every man and woman is free to
plan his own life, choose his own calling, start his own adventures, secure
in reward of his effort and ability. That is the system of free enterprise. The
other way is the way of compulsion by which men work for slave drivers or
governments, or as dictated by governments. The dictators of Europe have
softened that rough statement by calling it ‘planned economy.’ ” (November

192 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
“Inside America we are vibrating between two poles. We are fighting to
preserve personal liberty in the world. Yet we must suspend part of it at
home, in order to win. And suspension creates grave dangers because liberty
rapidly atrophies from disuse. Vested interests and vested habits grow
around its restrictions. It would be a vain thing to fight the war and lose our
own liberties. If we would have them return we must hold furiously to these
ideals. We must fight every departure from them.” (May 1942)
“Today the American people have reached an historic stage which has
come to a few strong nations in their ability to contribute to moral leadership
in the world. Few such nations have come upon that task with so few liabili-
ties. In these thirty years of wars we alone have taken no people’s land; we
have oppressed no race of man. . . . At the end of wars, we have aided foe as
well as ally; even the children of those who would do us hurt. We have hated
war; we have loved peace. What other nation has such a record?” (June 1948)
Hoover never ceased his humanitarian endeavors. When World War II
started in 1939, he organized nongovernmental relief agencies in America to
raise money and channel assistance to the populations of war-ravaged Poland
and Finland. After the war, as millions of people in Europe and Asia faced
what Hoover called “the greatest famine in all history,” he visited thirty-
eight countries on a survey relief mission at the request of President Harry
In 1953, Congress cre-
ated a second Commis- “In these thirty years of wars we alone
sion on Organization of have taken no people’s land. . . . We
the Executive Branch
have aided foe as well as ally; even
of the Government, and
the children of those who would do
President Dwight Eisen-
hower invited Hoover to us hurt. We have hated war; we have
chair it. In 1956, at the loved peace. What other nation has
age of eighty-two, Hoover such a record?”
sponsored an organiza-
tion that helped refugees from the Hungarian uprising against Soviet occupy-
ing forces. It has been said that Herbert Hoover was responsible for saving
more lives—in the tens of millions—than any other person in history.
All the while, Hoover kept writing, publishing more than two dozen books
in his lifetime and becoming, like Winston Churchill, his own biographer,
determined to vindicate his actions as president and to erase if possible the
myth that he caused the Great Depression. He became the Grand Old Man of
the Grand Old Party, honored and applauded at every national convention.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 193
Many years earlier, Hoover had published a seventy-two-page book, Ameri-
can Individualism (1922), in which the future president said that the core
value of the American system is just that, “American individualism,” or what
we might call today “American exceptionalism.” Hoover biographer George
Nash points out that very few American presidents have ventured into the
realm of political philosophy as Hoover did. Hoover wrote that “individualism
has been the primary force of American civilization for three centuries” and
that the American pioneer is the “epic expression” of that individualism. He
called for “a better, brighter, broader individualism” that carries increasing
responsibility and service to our fellow man. This little jewel of a book still
shines forth at a time when we are surrounded by shadows.
How, then, do we sum up ninety years of extraordinary success and service
contrasted with a widely accepted view of failure? An increasing number of
historians are beginning to suggest that no one president could have prevent-
ed or should be blamed for the Great Depression and that Hoover’s efforts
to ameliorate its effects were steps in the right direction. Hoover biographer
Nash, upon whom I have depended for much of this essay, has written that
if you wish to be the model of a former president, you should live long, be
blessed with good health and abundant energy, have a legion of friends, fol-
low a philosophy of life that encourages you to build lasting institutions, and
serve your fellow man. I would add that you must be willing to challenge the
prevailing zeitgeist and propose an alternative that draws on the best of the
American tradition and spirit. Hoover, our most misunderstood president,
achieved all of this and more.

Reprinted by permission of the Heritage Foundation. © 2017 Heritage
Foundation. All rights reserved.

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

194 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8


A Nehru Escape
During a 1955 visit to Moscow, the Indian premier
inadvertently launched a dating revolution. How
Jawaharlal Nehru caused young Russians to

By Michael S. Bernstam

omething delightful happened on a day in June 1955 that changed
the lives of tens of millions of Soviet citizens: public parks, which
were a precious escape from people’s drab urban existence,
opened up free of charge.
The entrance fee had amounted to the cost of a loaf of bread, not a sum to
be sneezed at in a country that was still impoverished by the Second World
War. But that day in June, word spread rapidly over that land of eleven time
zones: thank Jawaharlal Nehru! The prime minister of India was then visit-
ing the Soviet Union, and he became an instant—and unwitting—hero for
young Soviet men and women. For many of them, now in their seventies and
eighties, he remains a sentimental memory.
The story told around the country, but never officially reported, went like
this: among the numerous showcases of socialist progress to which the Sovi-
et leaders took Nehru, the giant central park in Moscow was one. The leader
of the Soviet Union, Nikita S. Khrushchev, his second in command, Prime
Minister Nikolai A. Bulganin, and a host of lesser lights, including the mayor
of Moscow, accompanied Nehru to the grand entrance to the central park.
Nehru suddenly noticed something his hosts had never paid attention to and
had taken for granted: a long line of people queuing at the ticket boxes near

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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 195
the gates. This was the scene one would expect to see at a sports stadium on
the day of a major game, not at the entrance to a public park on an average
day. Curious, Nehru asked who those people were, and why they were queu-
ing. His hosts told him that they were purchasing tickets from cashiers to
enter the park. Nehru, it is believed, was dumbfounded. He asked again to be
sure, and received the same response.
The exact words uttered by Nehru are thought to have ranged from
astonishment to admonition. He inquired how a communist government of a
socialist country could charge its people to enter public parks, while Britain,

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

196 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
the United States, and other capitalist countries made public parks open to
the public free of charge. The Royal Parks of London had been free public
parks since 1851, a century before this Moscow encounter. Khrushchev was
profoundly embarrassed, and livid. His retinue could not understand what
had gone wrong and looked at their boss for instructions. He said something
to his minions, who ran to the ticket boxes yelling and waving hands.
The ticket boxes were closed immediately, and the crowd was told that
entrance was free. A minor stampede occurred when the people already
inside ran back to demand refunds. Overnight, telephone calls and telegrams
were fired across the Soviet
Union. In the morning,
the radio announcers
informed the Soviet
people that all public
parks were free.
In many

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 197
parks, the surrounding metal fences were removed and the gates stood open
even at night. That was a social revolution.
Why were there entrance fees in the first place? Most likely, it was a fis-
cal matter of municipal budget revenues. Soviet municipal governments,
which had to take care of
underpriced public utili-
At the time, entrance to a park cost ties and the repair of the
the equivalent of a loaf of bread—not aging housing stock, were
a trivial sum. starved for revenues.
Public park entrance fees
were handy—especially since rapid urbanization had increased the number
of paying customers. But once these fees had been exposed as unbecoming of
a socialist country, they were doomed.
A great social liberation ensued. More people could afford to use public
parks more often for recreation, family pursuits, picnics, and romantic explo-
ration. Everyone was elated and grateful to Nehru, the young and the old, the
athletes and the war invalids, the picnicking families, and the dating singles.
Especially the latter. It so happened that in the Soviet Union, public parks
doubled as open-air dance venues and dating spots, for the lack of other
options. People had had to pay twice, once for the park entrance and again—
the same amount—for the dance enclosure. Now, thanks to Nehru, the price
had halved.
This was a huge deal, especially for students, young workers, and appren-
tices. In the early and mid-1950s, urban social life was constrained. There
were very few opportunities for young people to meet and date. Restaurants
were beyond reach. A res-
taurant meal cost about
Everyone was elated and grateful to 10 percent of the monthly
Nehru, the young and the old, the ath- wage per person. People
letes and the war invalids, the dating ate at cheap factory caf-
singles. Especially the latter. eterias and municipal din-
ers, which were not quite
romantic. People lived in barracks and crammed communal flats, several per-
sons to a room, often a dozen or more per apartment. Young people gathered
in the backyards and basements of buildings—shabby, murky places. There
were, in each city, a few factory clubs and community centers where people
could dance; but it was assumed, with good reason, that the management
was watching.

198 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
After Nehru, dancing in urban parks became more affordable. Strangers
could meet more easily. The dating pool became greater and more heteroge-
neous, which facilitated matching. The effect on dating, matching, and mating
opportunities was hard to overestimate. To wit, this was Nehru’s profound
and lasting contribution to the liberation of Soviet sexual life. In economic
terms, he expanded and diversified the dating, matching, and marriage
markets in the Soviet Union. Some people, now in their late fifties and early
sixties, exist today thanks to him, possibly without ever having heard of him.
This is fitting. The greatest contributions to humankind have been anony-
mous. Think of the invention of the wheel, fire, art, the alphabet—and free
public parks.

Reprinted by permission of The Wire (
patron-saint-soviet-sexual-liberation). © 2018 The Wire. All rights

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is
Zhivago’s Secret Journey: From Typescript to Book,
by Paolo Mancosu. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 199


How Mozambique
Learned to Vote
Less than a quarter century ago, the African
country held its first multiparty elections.
Artifacts in Hoover’s collections taught
Mozambicans what it meant to live in a

By Elizabeth Banks

n my first day at Hoover I found a T-shirt in the archive. Not
lost in the reading room, nor forgotten in a locker or misplaced
somewhere around the building but in the archive: folded care-
fully to fit inside a manila file folder and placed in a box along-
side various other effects collectively named “Miscellaneous 1994–95.” Other
treasures from this same collection included badges, miniature and full-size
flags, a key ring, fabric used as a woman’s wrap-around skirt (capulana), post-
ers, newspaper supplements, a red armband stained with ink, and a plastic
carrier bag printed with the name and emblem of Frelimo, Mozambique’s
leading political party. I had found the file that told the story of how Mozam-
bique learned to vote.
Mozambique, a coastal country situated between South Africa and
Tanzania on the eastern side of southern Africa, first held multiparty elec-
tions in 1994, the same year as the historic elections of their more famous

Elizabeth Banks is a recent participant in the Hoover Institution Workshop on
Authoritarian Regimes. She is a PhD candidate in history at New York University.

200 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
IN CHARGE: Joaquim Chissano assumed power after the death in a plane
crash of Mozambique’s leader Samora Machel, with whom he had established
an authoritarian one-party state under Frelimo, the Front for the Liberation
of Mozambique. Even as the country held its first multiparty elections, Chis-
sano and his party continued to insist they were the true representatives of the
people. [Hoover Institution Archives—Mozambican Subject Collection]
neighbor. For the two previous decades, Frelimo, which stands for the
Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frente de Libertação de Moçam-
bique in Portuguese), had directed an authoritarian one-party regime
under the headship of
Samora Machel and Joa-
quim Chissano. Machel, From 1926 to 1974, Portugal did not
a former military grant political rights to its own met-
commander, declared ropolitan citizens, much less those in
his country Marxist-
its overseas possessions.
Leninist in 1977 and
oversaw a spate of nationalizations, experiments in collective agriculture,
and extreme centralization of political power. Known as the “architect of
national unity,” Machel was—still is—at the center of a cult of personality
structured around citizens’ desire and perceived affection, even while he
personally oversaw extreme state violence.
In October 1986, Mozambique’s presidential plane crashed into a hillside
near Mbuzini in South Africa, killing Machel and more than thirty others on
board. When Joaquim Chissano took over the presidency in the aftermath
of the tragedy, he dubbed himself “the continuer” of Machel’s work. In fact,
Chissano quickly moved away from the socialist economic policies imple-
mented by his predecessor: liberalizing state monopolies on trade, accepting
loans from the International Monetary Fund, and opening a path to invest-
ment in private agriculture. At Frelimo’s fifth party congress, held in 1989,
delegates avoided strident ideological statements regarding socialist con-
struction or imperialist aggression that had been typical in years past and
instead professed a milder social democratic political line.
Several of the loans granted to Chissano’s Mozambique named the gradual
introduction of multiparty elections as a condition, and even more imme-
diately, a move towards electoral democracy was required in the context
of peace negotiations that began in Rome in 1990. Frelimo forces had been
fighting a civil war against Renamo, short for the Resistência Nacional de
Moçambique (Mozambican National Resistance), an armed opposition move-
ment supported by Southern Rhodesia and then South Africa, for just shy

RESISTANCE: Renamo (facing page), or the Mozambican National Resis-
tance, had been engaged in a civil war in the run-up to the first national elec-
tions. Negotiations brought the conflict to an end in 1992, stressing the need
for the country to move toward electoral democracy. Renamo remains one of
three major parties today. [Hoover Institution Archives—Mozambican Subject Collection]

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 203
of the entire rule. In 1992 these negotiations would bring fifteen years of civil
war to a close.
Throughout all these developments—political, economic, military—Chis-
sano retained the centralized political form Machel had created, drawing
consciously on his cult and the sense of sole legitimacy he had worked to
build. Frelimo, it was declared, was still the true representative of the people,
even though many of its policies had been dramatically reversed. Such was
the changeable political environment that stood as backdrop to the introduc-
tion of multiparty elections.

Even before Frelimo, one-party rule was all Mozambique had known.
Mozambique gained independence in 1975 after Portugal, the colonial power,
adopted democratic
governance domestically.
António de Oliveira Sala- One booklet features poetry prais-
zar’s Estado Novo had ing the democratic process, repeated
endured for four decades exhortations that voting must be
before the peaceful secret, lists and photos of all the can-
Carnation Revolution didates, and detailed instructions in
of 1974 overturned this
exactly how to vote.
conservative authoritar-
ian regime. Two dictatorships, one military and one civilian, had preceded
Salazar and had together put an end to the turmoil—and political variety—of
Portugal’s First Republic (1910–26), with the result that for the bulk of the
twentieth century, from 1926 to 1974, Portugal did not grant political rights to
its own metropolitan citizens, much less those in its overseas possessions.
Unlike the emerging leaders and future citizens of territories held by
France and Britain, where colonial policies in the middle of the twentieth
century allowed limited political expression, national liberation movements
in Lusophone Africa could not draw on political experience because they
simply did not have any. Due to Mozambique’s particular post-colonial

“LET’S GO AND VOTE”: “In your vote is the future of Mozambique,” reads
the cover of a special election guide (facing page) published in 1994. The
document includes information and exhortations about the new process of
electing national leaders, ranging from poetry to cartoons to warnings against
bringing weapons to the polling place. [Hoover Institution Archives—Mozambican
Subject Collection]

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 205
experience outlined above, this lack of a democratic legacy was still as press-
ing in 1994 as it had been in 1975, and so when the first multiparty elections
came around, citizens still needed to learn how to vote.
The Hoover collection makes clear the many ways citizens were brought
into the burgeoning democratic process. As well as the variety of party
promotional materials mentioned above—the T-shirt, capulana, badges, flags,
and so on—the files include pamphlets, posters, and newspaper clippings
produced by various
Mozambican institutions
with the explicit goal of National liberation movements in
educating readers about Portuguese-speaking Africa could not
not just the parties one draw on political experience because
could vote for but the they simply did not have any.
electoral process itself.
One twenty-page booklet produced by the Mozambican National Commission
for Elections is a good example of the methods used.
The front cover shows a young woman identified as Fernanda Lúcia Jetha,
a nineteen-year-old student, with short braids, a blouse, and a traditional
wrap-around capulana skirt, placing her ballot paper in the presidential
ballot box. The text proclaims: “In your vote is the future of Mozambique.”
Inside, the citizen encountered poetry praising the democratic process,
repeated exhortations that voting must be secret, lists and photos of all the
candidates, and detailed instructions in exactly how to vote. A FAQ section
attempts to clear up any misunderstandings: “How will blind people vote?”
With the help of a trusted friend. “Can members of the armed forces bring
their weapons to the polling place?” In the interests of maintaining order, no.
If the prose was not clear—or if the holder of the bulletin was not fully
literate—the booklet contained a number of educational cartoons, too. In
one, a man valiantly explains to his reluctant friend the importance of voting
even when he has a lot of farm work to do: “Friend! Those who don’t vote
must accept the choice of others. Voting only takes place for two days every
five years. Let’s go and vote and I’ll help you out with your work afterwards.”

A GRAND PARTY: This 1994 election publication (facing page), tries to kindle
a joyful atmosphere around the voting. Other publications emphasized the
secrecy of the ballot and the importance of free choice. One of Mozambique’s
main national newspapers refused to endorse a presidential choice that
year, telling readers, “Vote for whomever you want, citizen!” [Hoover Institution
Archives—Mozambican Subject Collection]

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 207
In another, a woman persuades her mother that politics is not just for men
anymore, and that she ought to go and vote too: “I’ll wait for you, mother [to
go and vote], and not just for you—I’ll wait for all Mozambican women!”
The bulletin also includes photos of various representative groups—work-
ers, soldiers, women with children, farmers, a priest, family groups—holding
electoral bulletins or
papers resembling bal-
lots, as well as vox-pops “I’ll wait for you, mother, and not just
from a dozen voters or for you—I’ll wait for all Mozambican
so sharing their hopes women!”
and excitement for the
upcoming elections. The overall atmosphere is joyful; the pamphlet even
promises that the election will be “a great festival for the nation.” The materi-
als so consistently emphasize the importance of individual free choice and
the principle of a secret ballot that on election day one of the main national
newspapers explicitly refused to support any one candidate, exhorting read-
ers: “Vote for whomever you want, citizen!” Such an open attitude makes a
refreshing change for those of us used to a strongly partisan media.

Twelve candidates representing ten distinct political parties contested the
1994 presidential election. This variety of political choice, not seen in most
democracies, did not last. Just two of the ten original parties ran again in
1999 and one more re-emerged to take part in the 2004 vote. By 2009, this
third candidate disappeared again, and by the time the most recent presiden-
tial elections came around in 2014, those two persistent parties, Frelimo and
Renamo, which had reformed and rebranded itself as a political party after
the 1992 peace deal, had been joined by a third, Movimento Democrático de
Moçambique (Democratic Movement of Mozambique).
The memory of the ten other candidates has all but gone, but Hoover
holds the manifesto for six of them. While the promise of peace after three
decades of on-off civil war dominated the manifestos of the two largest par-
ties, several others prioritized individual dignity, social rights, and well-being.

STEP BY STEP: Printed material such as this page, titled “The steps of voting”
(facing page), coached Mozambicans on how to cast their ballots. Included
were details such as how to sign in, mark the ballots, and put them in a box.
The instructions end by noting that a voter’s finger would be marked with a
special dye. [Hoover Institution Archives—Mozambican Subject Collection]

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 209
BREAKAWAY: Unamo, the National Mozambican Union, promised voters
it would promote and defend the UN charter for Human Rights and treat all
sectors of the population equally. The party, formed from a Renamo splinter
group, failed to achieve political power. [Hoover Institution Archives—Mozambican
Subject Collection]

One candidate, Yá-Qub Salomão Sibindy, promised to defend Mozambique’s
natural resources and maintain a moral government. Unamo, the National
Mozambican Union (União Nacional Moçambicana), promised first and fore-
most to promote and defend the UN charter for Human Rights, and to treat
all sectors of the population equally. Nearly all candidates raised the question
of national unity, which had previously been a justification for one-party rule.
As the candidates redefined unity to allow for difference in political opinion,
they created space for a more pluralistic nation.
The most developed alternate vision in this respect came from the Party
for the Progress of the Mozambican People (Partido do Progresso do Povo de
Moçambique, PPPM), which drafted an alternative constitution for a feder-
ated Mozambique. PPPM proposed decentralization of all legislative power
as well as economic autonomy for the eleven national provinces, which would

210 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
be redesignated as states as signs of an entirely new Mozambique: “Yes to
National Unity, but in Federated States.” If this proposal had been successful,
present-day Mozambique would certainly be very different. Today, Mozam-
bique’s government is incredibly centralized, and those living in regions that
tend not to vote for Frelimo as well as the far north feel a long way away
from the decision makers and economic core of the country clustered around
Maputo in the far south. The debate over decentralization continues to ani-
mate parliament and populace alike.
One of the joys of archival historical practice is to see the paths not taken
and opportunities lost. Although winners do often get to write history of a
sort, real historical work can explore how it is that certain outcomes came
to be seen as inevitable or unchanging. “Victor’s history” is good at telling us
the start and the end of
a particular narrative,
but if we suspend our The candidates redefined “unity” in
expectations about how what had always been a one-party
things will end we can state. Now unity would embrace dif-
understand the stories ferences in political opinion, creating
in between on their own space for a more pluralistic nation.
terms, hopefully learn-
ing their lessons as well. The quantity and range of materials collected from
the first Mozambican election reflects a special moment of political open-
ness, experimentation, and enthusiasm that has since faded away. In the 1994
balloting, the eventual victor was then-president Joaquim Chissano, who
remained in power for two five-year terms in addition to the eight years he
had already served. Chissano’s party, Frelimo, have maintained control of the
presidency and national assembly to this day, incorporating huge shifts in
politics by flexing and adapting its national political narrative.
Present-day Frelimo leaders still call themselves “the true representatives
of the people,” and for an outsider it is easy to assume that Frelimo is and has
always been the most prominent political party. Opposition materials held in
the Hoover Archives remind us that this is not the case.
The Hoover collection is especially valuable to researchers of recent politi-
cal history because oftentimes, state archives have no reason to save these
oppositional pamphlets and manifestos; a researcher must rely on collec-
tions outside the country in question. Consider: why would a less-than-open
regime in a developing country with limited resources and a weak archival
infrastructure invest in preserving oppositional pamphlets, promotional
flags, buttons, and even T-shirts? National archivists are far more likely to

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 211
ALSO RAN: One candidate for the presidency, Yá-Qub Salomão Sibindy of
Pimo, promised to defend Mozambique’s natural resources and maintain a
moral government. Pimo, or the Independent Party of Mozambique, never
managed to attain more than a tiny percentage of the vote. [Hoover Institution
Archives—Mozambican Subject Collection]
focus on other areas. And yet, such pamphlets, posters, and ephemera are
evidence of democracy in action that offer us important insights into states’
political culture.
I was the only scholar of Africa to participate in the recent Authoritarian
Regimes workshop, perhaps because researchers tend to think of Hoover’s
strong holdings covering other regions: the USSR, China, and more recently,
Iraq. But the Hoover Archives hold masses of pamphlets and ephemera from
all over Africa; there are many treasures for those interested in this conti-
nent’s political history too.

Special to the Hoover Digest.

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 E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 213
On the Cover

aint Stephen, first king of medieval Hungary, exerts an outsize
influence on that nation’s history and symbolism. Crowned in the
year 1001, Stephen I (c. 975–1038) consolidated the monarchy and
adopted Christianity as the state religion. This 1938 poster from
the Hoover Archives shows him wearing the Crown of Saint Stephen, a price-
less artifact used in the coronations of every Hungarian king since (though
probably not by the saint himself), and holding a staff with a double cross,
suggestive of the Orb of Saint Stephen, another treasure in the royal regalia
that visitors can see in Budapest today.
Stephen’s legend looms large over the centuries. In 1938, the nine hun-
dredth anniversary of Stephen’s death, Europe was heading toward war, and
Hungary’s position was unstable. That year, the Catholic Church declared
an International Eucharistic Conference in Budapest, an event meant to
showcase Hungary as both a European and a Christian nation. Meanwhile,
Germany continued to make territorial demands on neighboring states, and
Hungary pressed its claim on lands lost to the Treaty of Trianon, imposed on
defeated Austria-Hungary in 1920.
That treaty constructed an independent kingdom of Hungary—
although Hungary never did regain a king—while the Allies redrew the
fallen empire’s borders as they saw fit, with an eye toward containing
it and staving off German influence. As a result, postwar Hungary held
only 28 percent of the territory that had constituted the prewar state.
Moreover, some 31 percent of ethnic Hungarians were left outside the
Trianon borders, principally in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Romania.
Hungary was required to pay war reparations, its army was limited, and,
since Hungary was now a landlocked country, the Austro-Hungarian navy
ceased to exist.
Miklós Horthy, an admiral in that lost navy, arose to be Hungary’s regent
in 1920 and was to remain in power until nearly the end of World War II.
His is a divisive legacy. The Trianon borders created bitterness in Hun-
gary, analogous to Germany’s reaction to the Treaty of Versailles. Hungary

214 H O O VER DIGEST • Spr i n g 201 8
became strongly irredentist in the
1930s. Horthy himself was hostile to
communist and homegrown fascist
groups alike, but in Hitler’s Germany
he found a way for Hungary to reclaim
some of what it considered its right-
ful territory. In 1938, this tense “Year
of Saint Stephen,” Germany forced
southern Slovakia and Ruthenia—
respectively 59 percent and 86 percent
Hungarian—back behind Hungary’s
In October 1944, Horthy tried to pull
Hungary out of the Axis but instead
was forced to resign. Germany impris-
oned him for the duration of the war.
Budapest surrendered to Soviet troops
in February 1945 and Horthy was first
liberated, then arrested, by the Allies.
After testifying in the Nuremberg
war-crimes trials, he lived out his life in
The Soviet era eclipsed both Horthy and his country’s patron saint, but
both came home, in a sense, after the Cold War. Two years after Soviet
soldiers left, Horthy’s body was returned to his hometown for reburial in
1993. And Saint Stephen, symbol of independence and national identity
during the Soviet era, got his crown back. Over the centuries it had had
many adventures in and out of the country. In its last trek, after the Sec-
ond World War, it had gone to Fort Knox for safekeeping. President Jimmy
Carter sent the crown home in 1978 as a goodwill gesture.
Visitors to the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest can see
Saint Stephen’s crown, the orb, and his scepter, while in his basilica rests
a curious relic known as “the Holy Dexter.” Centuries ago, the saint’s right
hand was taken from his coffin and enshrined. The church exhibits it in a
procession every August 20, his feast day, a practice that Soviet-era Hun-
gary forbade. The incorruptible hand is said to symbolize Stephen’s kind-
ness and generosity and to provide miracles—such as reviving a nation,
—Charles Lindsey

H O O V E R D IG E ST • S p ring 2018 215


Board of Overseers
Chair Arthur E. Hall
Joel C. Peterson Everett J. Hauck
W. Kurt Hauser
Vice Chairs Warner W. Henry
Paul Lewis “Lew” Davies III Kenneth A. Hersh
Mary Myers Kauppila Heather R. Higgins
Hank J. Holland
Members Allan Hoover III
Katherine H. Alden Margaret Hoover
Neil R. Anderson Philip Hudner
Barbara Barrett Gail A. Jaquish
John F. Barrett William E. Jenkins
Robert G. Barrett Charles B. Johnson
Donald R. Beall Franklin P. Johnson Jr.
Peter B. Bedford Mark Chapin Johnson
Peter S. Bing John Jordan
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Joanne Whittier Blokker Richard Kovacevich
William K. Blount Allen J. Lauer
James J. Bochnowski Howard H. Leach
Jerome V. “Jerry” Bruni Walter Loewenstern Jr.
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James W. Davidson Frank B. Mapel
Herbert M. Dwight James D. Marver
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Robert G. O’Donnell Victor S. Trione
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Jay A. Precourt Richard G. Wolford
Jeffrey S. Raikes* Marcia R. Wythes
George J. Records *Ex officio members of the Board
Christopher R. Redlich Jr.
Samuel T. Reeves Distinguished Overseers
Kathleen “Cab” Rogers Martin Anderson
Peter O. Shea Stephen D. Bechtel Jr.
Roderick W. Shepard Wendy H. Borcherdt
Robert Shipman Peyton M. Lake
Thomas M. Siebel Robert H. Malott
George W. Siguler Shirley Cox Matteson
Boyd C. Smith Bowen H. McCoy
James W. Smith, MD
William C. Steere Jr. Overseers Emeritus
David L. Steffy Frederick L. Allen
Thomas F. Stephenson 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 E R D IG E ST • S PRING 2018 217
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S P R I N G 2 0 1 8 NO. 2





The Information Age








Interviews: Niall Ferguson,
Victor Davis Hanson,
Timothy Garton Ash


History and Culture

Hoover Archives