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FAL L 201 8 NO.4

The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace is celebrating its hundredth year at
Stanford University. Today both an active public policy research center and an internationally
recognized library and archives, the institution was established at Stanford in 1919 by Herbert
Hoover, a member of Stanford’s pioneer graduating class of 1895 and the thirty-first president
of the United States.

The Institution’s overarching goals:
» To understand the causes and consequences of economic, political, and social change
» To analyze the effects of government actions and public policy
» To use reasoned argument and intellectual rigor to generate ideas that nurture the
formation of public policy and benefit society

Herbert Hoover’s 1959 statement to the Board of Trustees of Stanford University continues to
guide and define the Institution’s mission in the twenty-first century:

“This Institution supports the Constitution of the United States, its Bill of Rights, and its
method of representative government. Both our social and economic systems are based on
private enterprise, from which springs initiative and ingenuity. . . . Ours is a system where
the Federal Government should undertake no governmental, social, or economic action, except
where local government, or the people, cannot undertake it for themselves. . . . The overall mis-
sion of this Institution is, from its records, to recall the voice of experience against the making
of war, and by the study of these records and their publication to recall man’s endeavors to
make and preserve peace, and to sustain for America the safeguards of the American way of
life. This Institution is not, and must not be, a mere library. But with these purposes as its goal,
the Institution itself must constantly and dynamically point the road to peace, to personal
freedom, and to the safeguards of the American system.”

By collecting knowledge and generating ideas, the Hoover Institution seeks to improve the hu-
man condition with ideas that promote opportunity and prosperity, limit government intrusion
into the lives of individuals, and secure and safeguard peace for all.

The Hoover Institution is supported by donations from individuals, foundations, corporations,
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Fa l l 2 018 • HOOV ER D I G E ST.O R G


Fall 2018 • HOOV ER D IG EST.OR G

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On November 11, 1918, the guns fell silent CHRISTOPHER S. DAUER
on the Western Front, bringing the Great DENISE ELSON
War to a close. This French war-bonds COLIN STEWART
poster from late in the war, with its soldier ERYN WITCHER TILLMAN
and ragged banner, hints at the conflict’s (Bechtel Director of Public Affairs)
gargantuan trail of destruction. It stands
in stark contrast to an earlier poster by the DIRECTORS
same artist, Jules-Abel Faivre (1867–1945),
which portrayed an eager soldier running SHANA FARLEY
toward the action and crying out, “We’ll get MARY GINGELL
them!” The armistice a hundred years ago
ended the war, and many illusions about
war, but not the war’s suffering. See story,
page 202.
Director of Washington, DC,


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Fall 2018

9 Timeless Values
Director Thomas W. Gilligan looks ahead to the Hoover
Institution’s anniversary and to another century of defending
America’s core values. By Bill Whalen

15 Entitlements: What We Must Do
For some seven decades, entitlement programs have grown
almost continuously—and yet, even now, it may not be too
late to bring them under control. Adapted from Hoover fellow
John F. Cogan’s Hayek Prize lecture.

24 The Original “Great Game”
Duels between hegemons are as old as history itself. The
nations wrestling over the fate of the world in our own time:
China and the United States. By Stephen Kotkin

35 Contending Populisms
Populist movements can either check political hubris or make
it worse. By Victor Davis Hanson

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 3
42 Baking Bad
Half-baked reasoning in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case
left the most important question unanswered: How far does
freedom of expression extend? By Richard A. Epstein

47 Anthony Kennedy’s Principles
The departure of the “swing justice” was significant indeed.
By Jack Goldsmith

51 Savings for All
Health savings accounts already drive down the cost of health
care. Now we should offer them to everyone. By Scott W.

54 Health Care Fables
Reform is hard but not impossible. We can start by discarding
three myths. By Charles L. Hooper and David R. Henderson

61 You Could Google It
Economic analysis makes it clear: the efforts to break up big
tech companies just don’t compute. By Richard Sousa and
Nicolas Petit

4 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
65 Searching for Higher Ground
The market, not regulations, will teach us how to manage
rising seas and temperatures. By Terry L. Anderson

69 Diesel Duplicity
In the name of climate change, European policy makers
nudged millions of drivers into diesel-powered cars, swapping
hypothetical hazards for real ones. By Paul R. Gregory

75 Turning over a New (Organic) Leaf
Bioengineered crops help farmers and feed increasing
numbers of people, but the organic industry still rejects them.
New organic labels could, and should, make room for science.
By Henry I. Miller and J. John Cohrssen

80 Guardians and Gatekeepers
Every fresh form of communication adds to propaganda’s
toolkit, but computers have unleashed profound new powers
of disinformation. Tech titans need to insist on a transparent,
open Internet. By Ralph Peters

84 The Mayor of Tech Territory
Cyberspace is often compared to the Wild West—but
eventually the West was won and the frontier tamed. It’s time
for our virtual villages to get civilized. By Markos Kounalakis

88 Teachers Need Sympathy—and Reform
Teaching can be a tough, poorly paid job. But teachers need to
recognize that respect must be earned, and that their unions
are doing them no favors. By Chester E. Finn Jr.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 5
92 A Sorry Bargain
Weak from the start, the Iran nuclear deal was a fragile
political commitment that left Congress out in the cold. By
Jack Goldsmith

95 A Deal Worse
President Trump’s scrapping of the joint nuclear deal is a
godsend to Iran’s beleaguered leaders. It will also breed more
Russian and Chinese interference. By Abbas Milani

99 Revolution Ever After?
The Iranian revolution, now nearly forty years old, defied the
West and the odds against its survival. How have the mullahs
pulled it off? By Eric Edelman and Ray Takeyh

110 Hapless in Gaza
The world continues to feed Palestinians’ delusions that
they will one day return to land that is now part of Israel—
encouraging the Palestinians to spurn peaceful solutions that
could actually be attained. By Peter Berkowitz

115 Only a Mirage
A two-state solution was always going to require Palestinians
and Israelis to trust each other. The latest Gaza violence has
rendered such trust all but impossible. By Richard A. Epstein

6 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
119 Where Is Poland Heading?
A new populist party aims to tighten its grip on institutions—
and on Polish history itself. By Norman M. Naimark

127 A Taste of Polish Anger
Political figure Ryszard Legutko explains why Poland’s ruling
party is blazing its own path. By Tunku Varadarajan

132 A Bloc Divided
Authoritarianism reappears in Eastern Europe. Will the
European Union defend its values? By Timothy Garton Ash

136 Two Roads
Why did Japan and China take such divergent paths into the
modern world? By Mark Koyama

147 Cutting Out the Middle Kingdom
Whatever comes of the Trump administration’s negotiations
with Kim Jong Un, China can no longer dominate North
Korea’s relations with the United States. By Miles Maochun

150 “We’re Accountable to You”
Defense Secretary James Mattis, a former Hoover fellow, on
running the Pentagon: “You go in, roll up your sleeves, and go
to work.” By Peter Robinson

157 The Jung and the Restless
Psychologist and author Jordan Peterson spurns the pursuit
of happiness, encourages the pursuit of Jungian archetypes,
and lays claim to the modern soul. By Russell Roberts

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 7
169 Sunny Delusion
California recently enacted a law requiring solar roofs on all
new homes. Wasteful and pointless, the measure will damage
the state’s economy while doing nothing about climate change.
By Lee E. Ohanian

175 The Invisible California
The coastal elites ignore the Central Valley—yet force it to
abide by their decisions. A portrait of California’s own flyover
country. By Bruce S. Thornton

183 Marx’s Moldering Manifesto
Karl Marx didn’t free the proletariat or anyone else. By
Russell A. Berman

189 Revolution Comes to Stanford
Remembering Alexander Kerensky: leader of the short-lived
Russian Provisional Government that ruled between the
czar and the Bolsheviks, he spent his later years at Stanford,
hoping for “the resurrection of liberty in my land.” By
Bertrand M. Patenaude

202 On the Cover

8 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


Timeless Values
Director Thomas W. Gilligan looks ahead to the
Hoover Institution’s anniversary and to another
century of defending America’s core values.

By Bill Whalen

As the Hoover Institution approaches its centennial, director Thomas W. Gilligan
reflects on the institution’s founding principles, its achievements, and its role

Bill Whalen: Since September 2015, Tom Gilligan has served as the Tad
and Dianne Taube Director at the Hoover Institution as well as a Hoover
senior fellow. We persuaded Tom to move to California from the great state
of Texas. Before becoming the Hoover Institution’s director, Tom was dean of
the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin.
This July Fourth was the 242nd anniversary of the founding of this republic,
and for a lot of people a day off from work to spend with the family. But the Fourth
is also a day for reflection, Tom, and I’m going to read you a couple of quotes from
some famous people. I want you to reflect on what freedom means to you.
First, let’s start with Thomas Jefferson, who wrote, “The cost of freedom is
eternal vigilance.”
Let’s now shift to Ronald Reagan, with whom a lot of fellows in this institu-
tion have had a personal or working relationship. Reagan said, “Freedom is
one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit.”

Thomas W. Gilligan is the Tad and Dianne Taube Director at the Hoover Insti-
tution. Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and the host of
Area 45, a Hoover podcast devoted to the policy avenues available to America’s
forty-fifth president.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 9
Then there’s someone who cast a very long shadow over this institution. It
was the late, great Milton Friedman who said, “A society that puts equality
before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality
will get a high degree of both.”

Thomas W. Gilligan: I agree with all of them. I started my adult life as a ser-
viceman in the Air Force. I was a Russian linguist. This was a time in the Sev-
enties, when the Cold War was going strong. There were two pretty evident
contrasts with America and the freedom it offered: China and Russia—the
Soviet Union at the time—and neither placed freedom very high up on its list
of priorities. The advantages of freedom were paramount, evident, and worth
fighting for. I think you really have to prioritize freedom
to get anywhere as a society.
What Jefferson said is exactly right: freedom
isn’t a naturally occurring state. It’s some-
thing that has to be worked for all the time.
Our current secretary of defense, Jim
Mattis, whom we all know from his time
here as a Hoover fellow, says this all the
time. It really is something that you have
to protect, and nurture, and guard against
erosion all the time.

Whalen: We have had a very crazy month in this
country, a lot of uncivil things—a lot of bad speech,
hateful actions. But this country allows you incredible freedom. Freedom to
do some very silly things, such as heckling people in restaurants . . .

Gilligan: Yes.

Whalen: . . . or chanting outside their homes; freedom to kick people out of
a restaurant, if you want to.

Gilligan: Right. But with freedom comes responsibility as well. Shouting
people out of a restaurant is probably taking your freedoms too far. Keeping
people from assembling peacefully to protest is going too far. The paradox
of modern America is that many people extend their freedoms much too far
and particularly as they impede other people.
The country has never been freer, if you think about it. After the civil
rights movement and all the other equality movements, the gay rights move-
ment, people are free to conduct their lives the way they want to. That is

10 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
an unqualified good thing. But I think we have kind of crossed the line into
disrespect, into not worrying about ensuring that our fellow citizens enjoy
the same freedoms that we enjoy. And by the way, I’m not calling for any kind
of governmental action to correct that.

Whalen: Right.

Gilligan: I think it’s a civic culture issue. The way to deal with it is just stand
up to it, and speak out against boorish behavior that infringes upon people’s

Whalen: The challenge to this society is whether or not we can have an adult
conversation about these basic rights.

Gilligan: I’m not confident right now that we can have adult conversations
about much.
We really are polarized, particularly at the elite level. David Brady and Mo
Fiorina have talked about that a lot in your podcast. But again, I’m not for
any legislative solutions. I’m just for trying to wait it out, and talk through
it, and work through it.
We have all come from
families where we had “What Jefferson said is exactly right:
uncomfortable din- freedom isn’t a naturally occurring state.
ners. Where we end up It has to be worked for all the time.”
mostly hollering at each
other. The point is just to show up to dinner the next night, and see if the
conversation can be more productive; and the next night and the next night.
We owe it to each other as citizens to engage with one another, even if we
disagree vehemently.

Whalen: Right. Let’s talk about freedom through the lens of the Hoover
Institution, Tom. Hoover likes to put freedom into three channels. One is
individual freedom. The second is economic freedom. The third is political

Gilligan: Well, we started as a library set up by then-citizen Herbert Hoover
in order to gather papers that explored the causes of war. What are the pred-
icates of peace? How do societies, free societies, govern themselves in ways
that avoid conflict? That remains a focus of the Hoover Institution today. We
continue to host thousands of researchers every year to uncover knowledge
about the causes of war.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 11
I think part of what “freedom” is about is just avoiding the scourge of
war—allowing people to flourish, and grow, and prosper in peace to let their
freedoms take flight. That’s a core issue.

Whalen: OK. Define economic freedom.

Gilligan: Well, after Hoover had stepped down from the presidency, America
went through this very deep and complex debate about what the role of the
government would be in assuring economic prosperity, or at least security.
Through the New Deal,
we had Social Secu-
“With freedom comes responsibility. rity and various kinds of
Shouting people out of a restaurant is government programs
probably taking your freedoms too far.” designed to address
economic need.
Former president Hoover pushed back against that. He was worried that
the broad level of economic security guaranteed by the government would
necessarily infringe upon the freedom of people to explore their economic
opportunities and options, and to start new businesses. He was concerned
about the tax burden necessary to carry a very large central government that
guaranteed economic prosperity or security. I think he also anticipated a lot
of the concern we have now about regulation in the administrative state.
The laws and regulations would limit people’s economic freedom and
prosperity. This is where Milton Friedman is a great voice: he was quick to
recognize that you don’t have many freedoms at all if you don’t have eco-
nomic freedoms.
The mission of the Hoover Institution was augmented in 1959 to have us
work on public policy research that highlighted the value of free enterprise.
The value of limited and constitutional government, government that didn’t
intrude too much in economic decisions. A government that followed the
rules as opposed to be being arbitrary and capricious. That’s a very big part
of the research we do.

Whalen: I’m hard pressed to think of a more talented bench of economists in
this country than the people in this institution.

Gilligan: Very strong. We had Milton Friedman and Gary Becker, who have
passed away. Today we have John Taylor, a clarion call on monetary policy.
Ed Lazear and Michael Boskin, former chairmen of the Council of Economic
Advisers. A young stable of economists, including John Cochrane. John Cogan,
who has a stunning new book on the history of entitlements in this country.

12 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
Whalen: The third category, political freedom?

Gilligan: We have a great group of political scientists and other people who
study liberty and democratic governance. Which political systems are best at
preserving the kind of liberty associated with human flourishing and well-
being? Another issue is trickier for the times: what role should America play
in promoting or encouraging the dissemination or diffusion of democratic
processes around the world?

Whalen: I want to read you a passage from the good book—not the Bible,
but Herbert Hoover, American Individualism. Here is what he writes: “Our
individualism differs from all others because it embraces these great ideals:
that while we build our society upon the attainment of the individual, we shall
safeguard to every individual an equality of opportunity to take that position
in the community to which his intelligence, character, ability, and ambition
entitle him; that we
keep the social solu-
tion free from frozen “This is where Milton Friedman is a
strata of classes; that great voice: he was quick to recognize
we shall stimulate that you don’t have many freedoms at all
effort of each individ- if you don’t have economic freedoms.”
ual to achievement;
that through an enlarging sense of responsibility and understanding we shall
assist him to this attainment; while he in turn must stand up to the emery
wheel of competition.”
Herbert Hoover passed away in 1964. He did not live to see what’s going on
in America today. How would Herbert Hoover make sense of what’s going on

Gilligan: I think he would obviously be distressed at the move away from
meritocracy, the growth of identity politics, and so on. I think he would still
recognize a lot that he likes in America. It’s still a place laden with opportuni-
ty. While I think he would find fault with some of the things we do, I think he
would find great comfort and satisfaction in the way America works, gener-
ally speaking.

Whalen: Next summer is the hundredth anniversary of the Hoover Institu-
tion. How do you plan to celebrate it?

Gilligan: We’re going to have a yearlong celebration of lifting up our values
to as many people as we possibly can. We’ll have a bit of a recasting of the

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 13
strategic plan of the Hoover Institution, designed to answer the questions,
“What do we want to be in the second century? What do we want to aspire
to? What we want to do?” We want to apply the values of the Hoover Institu-
tion to research that informs public policy. And to propagate it, not only to
policy makers in Washing-
ton and the states but also
“Which political systems are best at to ordinary people—to
preserving the kind of liberty asso- the public that wants to
be informed about these
ciated with human flourishing and
issues. The occasion of
our centennial celebra-
tion just affords us the opportunity to remind everybody what our values
are. How durable they are. How they can take flight in current public policy

Excerpted from Area 45, a Hoover Institution podcast. © 2018 The Board
of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University.

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

14 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


What We Must Do
For some seven decades, entitlement programs
have grown almost continuously—and yet, even
now, it may not be too late to bring them under
control. Adapted from Hoover fellow John F.
Cogan’s Hayek Prize lecture.

By John F. Cogan

ntitlements were never far from F. A. Hayek’s mind as he wrote
about the dangers of the collectivist state. While he focused in
The Road to Serfdom on the consequences of government control
over the means of production, he also presciently warned us that
“the demand for security may become a danger to liberty.” His chapters in
The Constitution of Liberty on the rise of the welfare state, Social Security,
and income redistribution reflect his growing concern about the dangers of
entitlements. Their growth over the past six decades confirms the validity of
Professor Hayek’s concerns.
The title of my book The High Cost of Good Intentions is an apt descrip-
tion of how we should see the problem created by entitlements. Entitlement
programs have been established with the best of intentions—intentions that
spring from the natural human desire to help those who are in need through

John F. Cogan is the Leonard and Shirley Ely Senior Fellow at the Hoover Insti-
tution and a member of Hoover’s Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy,
the Working Group on Economic Policy, and the Working Group on Health Care

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 15
no fault of their own. But over time they have evolved into a costly, complex
system that now transfers hundreds of billions of dollars each month from
one group in society to another, with little regard for actual human need.
They have strayed far from their well-intentioned goals. How far? Consider
the following: In 2016,

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

16 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
»» Fifty-four percent of all US households received cash or in-kind benefits
from at least one entitlement program.
»» This number includes senior citizens, virtually all of whom receive Social
Security and Medicare. So excluding elderly persons, two out of every five
US households headed by a person under age sixty-five received benefits
from at least one entitlement program.
»» Six out of every ten children are growing up in households that are on
the benefit rolls of at least one entitlement program.
»» Most entitlement assistance has little to do with alleviating poverty.
»» More than 60 percent of all households that receive entitlement benefits
have incomes above the poverty line.
»» A whopping $700 billion goes annually to households in the upper half of
the income distribution.
The cost of this system is high. Its incentives undermine the natural desire
for self-sufficiency and its enormous fiscal cost is a threat to continued eco-
nomic prosperity.

In nineteenth-century entitlement programs, we see the same forces driving
their expansion and the same pattern of steady, incremental liberalizations
that we see in modern entitlements. We also see the same excesses.
One fundamental force which has been operating continually on entitle-
ment programs throughout all of US history is called the “equally worthy
claim.” The force originates from a well-meaning impulse to treat all similarly
situated persons equally under the law.
Here’s how it works. When an entitlement law is first enacted, for policy or
fiscal reasons, it usually confines benefits to individuals deemed to be particu-
larly worthy of assistance. As time passes, groups of excluded individuals come
forth to lay claims that they are no less deserving of aid. Pressure is brought
by, or on behalf of, these excluded groups to relax eligibility rules. This ever-
present pressure is magnified during periods of budget surpluses, and since
the New Deal, during periods of economic distress, and by public officials’
imperative to be elected and re-elected. Eventually, the government acquiesces
and additional “worthy” claimants are allowed to join the benefit rolls.
But the broadening of eligibility rules just brings another group of claim-
ants closer to the eligibility boundary line, and the pressure to relax qualify-
ing rules begins all over again. The process of liberalization repeats until the
entitlement program reaches a point where its original noble goals are no
longer recognizable.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 17
The very first major entitlement program, the Revolutionary War pen-
sion program, illustrates well the operation of the equally worthy claim. The
original program limited disability pensions to members of the Continental
Army and Navy who were
injured in battle and to
widows of those killed
in battle. Starting
from this narrow
base and honorable
intentions, Congress
first extended eli-
gibility to members
of state militias and
volunteers. Eventually
benefits were granted
to virtually all soldiers
who had served in
the war, regardless of
whether or not they
were disabled.

18 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
The last of these liberalizations, the Universal Pension Law of 1832,
deserves some comment. The law was not expected to be costly. After all,
1832 was forty-nine years after the war for independence had ended. But the
law produced an astounding and unanticipated flood of claimants. Within
a year of the law’s passage, the number of persons on the pension rolls had
doubled. The surge in claims was so large that it led former president John
Quincy Adams to remark that Senator Uriah Tracy “used to say that the
soldiers of the Revolution never died—that they were immortal. Had he lived
to this time, he would have seen that they multiply with the lapse of time.”
The Revolutionary War pattern of incremental expansions was repeated
for Civil War pensions, except on a far grander scale. Like the Revolutionary
War program, Civil War pensions were initially confined to Union soldiers
and sailors who had suffered wartime injuries. In the early 1870s, when it was
thought that all soldiers who were disabled in wartime service would have
already been granted a pension, there were about 250,000 on the rolls. Then
the liberalizations began. When they ended, pensions had been extended to
virtually all Union Civil War veterans. In the 1890s, thirty years after General
Lee surrendered at Appomattox, nearly one million veterans and their sur-
vivors were receiving Civil War pensions. Pension expenditures, at the time,
accounted for 40 percent of federal spending, slightly higher than Social
Security and Medicare’s share of the federal budget today.
Congress badly underestimated the cost of Civil War pensions and how
long the program would last. Civil War pension expenditures didn’t reach
their all-time peak until fifty years after the war began.
Even more remarkable, one Civil War pension recipient is still alive today.
How, you might ask, is this even possible? After all, it’s been one hundred and
fifty-three years since the war ended. Well, her father, Mose Triplett, served
in the Union Army for a time. His Union Army service eventually allowed
him to qualify for a pension. Many years later, in 1924, Mose Triplett married
Elida Hall. He was seventy-eight, she was twenty-eight. Their daughter, Irene
Triplett, was born a few years later. Today, as a survivor of a Union soldier,
she is receiving a modest pension, around $80 per month.

The underlying forces that drove nineteenth-century veterans’ pensions are
evident as drivers of modern entitlements.
The original Social Security program was premised on old-age poverty
protection and covered only about 60 percent of the workforce. Today,
its coverage is universal and, along with its sister program, Medicare,

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 19
the two programs allow middle class seniors to enjoy a comfortable
The original Social Security disability program helped only persons fifty
and older who were permanently and totally disabled. Today, it provides
benefits regardless of age and to workers who are temporarily or partially
The original Medicaid program was a medical supplement mainly for
unmarried welfare mothers, and poor elderly and disabled persons. Today,
one in every four non-elderly persons in the United States is on the program.
The excesses of nineteenth-century entitlements were every bit as egre-
gious as today’s. A good example is the Navy disability pension program.
Until the 1840s, Navy pensions were paid from a trust fund financed by prize
money from the capture
of foreign vessels. With
The “equally worthy claim” is a major
the trust fund experienc-
cause of bloated entitlements.
ing large annual surplus-
es, Congress passed the Jarvis Bill in 1837. The law granted widows’ pensions
that were retroactive to the date of their Navy husbands’ death.
The law produced stunningly large awards. One Sarah Fletcher, the widow
of Captain Patrick Fletcher, was awarded benefits back to his untimely
death in the year 1800. In today’s dollars, the retroactive benefit would total
$628,000. Many others received retroactive awards in excess of $100,000 in
today’s money, and the Jarvis Bill soon bankrupted the Navy trust fund. After
1841, most Navy pensions were financed by general revenues.
Compare the Navy trust fund problem with twentieth-century examples:
Social Security and Medicare. As a result of benefit increases enacted during
years of trust fund surpluses, these two programs now provide the typical
married couple who reach age sixty-six with cash and health care benefits
that are worth over a million dollars over their remaining lives, after adjust-
ing for inflation. Not surprising, the trust funds that finance both programs
are heading toward bankruptcy.

The 220-year history of US entitlement legislation has been one of nearly
continuous, incremental liberalizations. There are, however, a few notable
efforts to rein in entitlement programs.
Grover Cleveland provides us with the first, though not so successful,
attempt. During the 1870s and 1880s, Congress adopted the rather disgrace-
ful practice of granting large numbers of Civil War pensions to specific

20 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
individuals through the enactment of private relief bills. Within months of
taking office, President Cleveland began vetoing these bills. His vetoes reveal
the extent of the program’s abuse. In one case, Congress had awarded a pen-
sion to Sallie Anne Bradley, a widow who claimed that her husband had died
in the Battle of Nash-
ville. As it turned out,
he was nowhere near Today’s entitlement system transfers
the battle. According hundreds of billions of dollars every
to a local newspaper, month from one group to another, with
many years after the little regard for actual human need.
war, he “had choked to
death on a piece of beef when gorging himself in a drunken spree.”
Cleveland became frustrated with Congress, and his veto messages increas-
ingly acerbic. They make for marvelous reading. One claim involved a widow
whose husband had drowned in 1875 and who finally got around to filing a claim
in 1885. Cleveland summarized the widow’s appeal as follows: “It is claimed that
in an effort to drive across that bay in a buggy with his young son, the buggy
was overturned and both were drowned. The application for a pension was
based upon the theory that during his military service, the deceased soldier
contracted rheumatism, which so interfered with his ability to save himself
by swimming that his death may be fairly traced to a disability incurred in the
service.” The president wasn’t buying any of it. He promptly vetoed the bill.
But controlling an entitlement program by vetoing individual pension
bills is not a winning strategy. During Cleveland’s first term, despite his 228
vetoes, the pension rolls increased 50 percent.

President Franklin Roosevelt provides a second example of presidential
action. His is the most successful effort in US history to rein in an individual
entitlement. Yes, when it came to government spending, the father of the
modern entitlement state was a very different man in 1933 from what he was
in 1935. In his first year in office, Roosevelt removed nearly four hundred
thousand veterans from the pension rolls and reduced monthly benefits
for most of those remaining on the rolls by 25 percent. For the next eight
years, until the United States entered World War II, he steadfastly resisted
attempts by Congress to overturn those reductions.
Here’s how he did it. Roosevelt’s goal upon taking office was to get the
economy back on its feet. After the banking bill, his top legislative prior-
ity was to reduce the budget deficit by cutting federal spending. Veterans’

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 21
expenditures, the majority of which were World War I pensions, accounted
for 25 percent of the budget, so they had to be on the chopping block.
Seven days after taking office, the president proposed that Congress
repeal all major veterans’ pension laws and allow him to unilaterally restrict
eligibility and cut benefits. Ten days later, Congress passed the so-called
Economy Act in accordance with his wishes. A few months later, the adminis-
tration issued regulations that by year’s end had drastically reduced pension
Enacting and maintaining these reductions in the face of a congressio-
nal backlash took all of the president’s formidable skills. He then placated
protesting veterans who had camped out in the capital by sending his wife,
Eleanor, to listen to their stories, sing songs, and sympathize with them.
Ronald Reagan provides us with another example of a president success-
fully tackling entitle-
ments. President Reagan
The typical married couple who reach followed FDR’s model,
age sixty-six are offered cash and proposing entitlement
health care benefits worth more than changes to achieve a
a million dollars (after inflation) over larger goal of putting
the economy and federal
their remaining lives.
finances on a sounder
footing. Also like FDR, Reagan backed up his actions with a strong public
policy argument for his reforms. He achieved his successes early and then
successfully battled Congress’s attempts to reverse his policies. The entitle-
ment spending restraint achieved by his administration is unmatched by any
other administration in US history.

So, what are the prospects for entitlement reform? Recent presidential
administrations and Congresses certainly give us no reason for optimism.
And many students of politics say that the advance of the entitlement state
cannot be checked, that the forces which drive entitlement liberalizations are
just too strong.
I disagree. Why?
First, the changes needed to meet the fiscal challenge posed by entitle-
ments, while politically difficult, are straightforward. We know what they are:
modestly reduce the growth in entitlement benefits and increase economic
growth. Second, history shows us that it can be done. Presidents Roosevelt
and Reagan provide the road map. They developed strong public policy

22 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
arguments for their proposals, rallied public support for them, and cajoled
Congress into acting. This formula can work again.
We should have no illu-
sions about the damage
that excessive entitle- President Reagan enacted entitle-
ment spending can ment changes to achieve a larger
cause. Throughout his- goal: putting the economy and federal
tory, rising public debt finances on a sounder footing.
eventually brings some
combination of high inflation, economic stagnation, and declining standards
of living. But I believe that we can and will act before the economic conse-
quences of excessive debt become too severe.
There’s one final reason for my optimism: our country has faced and suc-
cessfully resolved many larger challenges over the course of its history. We
fought a Civil War to correct a fundamental flaw in the Constitution. We then
bound the nation together again to propel us forward as a beacon of freedom
for the rest of the world. A century later, we fought a titanic struggle with the
Soviet Union. We emerged victorious, in a monumental triumph of freedom
over authoritarian rule.
By comparison, the fiscal challenge posed by growing entitlements seems
manageable. We have an army of public policy scholars at the Manhattan
Institute, at the Hoover Institution, and elsewhere. These intellectual leaders
have the capacity to develop policy solutions, educate political leaders, and
together move our country to action. We just have to keep devising policies,
writing, and speaking. I am pleased to be a part of that effort.

Adapted from John F. Cogan’s Hayek Lecture, presented June 7 after he
was awarded the Manhattan Institute’s 2018 Hayek Book Prize for The
High Cost of Good Intentions: A History of US Federal Entitlement Pro-
grams (Stanford University Press, 2017).

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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 23


The Original
“Great Game”
Duels between hegemons are as old as history
itself. The nations wrestling over the fate of the
world in our own time: China and the United

By Stephen Kotkin

eopolitics didn’t return; it never went away. The arc of history
bends toward delusion. Every hegemon thinks it is the last; all
ages believe they will endure forever. In reality, of course, states
rise, fall, and compete with one another along the way. And how
they do so determines the world’s fate.
Now as ever, great-power politics will drive events, and international
rivalries will be decided by the relative capacities of the competitors—their
material and human capital and their ability to govern themselves and their
foreign affairs effectively. That means the course of the coming century will
largely be determined by how China and the United States manage their
power resources and their relationship.
Just as the free-trading United Kingdom allowed its rival, imperial Ger-
many, to grow strong, so the free-trading United States has done the same
with China. It was not dangerous for the liberal hegemon to let authoritarian

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).

24 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
competitors gain ground, the logic ran, because challengers would neces-
sarily face a stark choice: remain authoritarian and stagnate or liberalize to
continue to grow. Either way, the hegemon would be fine. It didn’t end well
the first time and is looking questionable this time, too.
China will soon have an economy substantially larger than that of the Unit-
ed States. It has not democratized yet, nor will it anytime soon, because com-
munism’s institutional setup does not allow for successful democratization.
But authoritarianism has not meant stagnation, because Chinese institutions
have managed to mix meritocracy and corruption, competence and incompe-
tence, and they have somehow kept the country moving onward and upward.
It might slow down soon, and even implode from its myriad contradictions.
But analysts have been predicting exactly that for decades, and they’ve been
consistently wrong so far.
Meanwhile, as China has been powering forward largely against expecta-
tions, the United States and other advanced democracies have fallen into
domestic dysfunction, calling their future power into question. Their elites
steered generations of
globalization success-
fully enough to enable China’s institutions have managed
vast social mobility and to mix meritocracy and corruption,
human progress around competence and incompetence, and
the world, and they did somehow keep the country moving
quite well along the upward.
way. But as they gorged
themselves at the trough, they overlooked the negative economic and
social effects of all of this on citizens in their internal peripheries. That
created an opening for demagogues to exploit, which they have done with
a vengeance.
The Great Depression ended an earlier age of globalization, one that began
in the late nineteenth century. Some thought the global financial crisis of
2008 might do the same for the current wave. The system survived, but the
emergency measures implemented to save it—including bailouts for banks
but not for ordinary people—revealed and heightened its internal contradic-
tions. And in the decade following, antiestablishment movements have grown
like Topsy.

Today’s competition between China and the United States is a new twist on
an old story. Until the onset of the nineteenth century, China was by far the

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 25
world’s largest economy and most
powerful country, with an estimated
40 percent share of global GDP.
Then it entered a long decline,
ravaged from without and within—
around the same time the United
States was born and began its
long ascent to global dominance.
The United States’ rise could not
have occurred without China’s
weakness, given how important
US dominance of Asia has been
to American primacy. But nor
could China’s revival have
occurred without the United
States’ provision of security
and open markets.
So both countries have
dominated the world,
each has its own

26 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
strengths and weaknesses, and for the first time, each confronts the other as
a peer. It is too soon to tell how the innings ahead will play out. But we can be
confident that the game will continue.
To understand the world of tomorrow, look back to yesterday. In the 1970s,
the United States and its allies were rich but disordered and stagnant; the Sovi-
et Union had achieved military parity and was continuing to arm; China was
convulsed by internal turmoil and poverty; India was poorer than China; Brazil,
ruled by a military junta, had an economy barely larger than India’s; and South
Africa was divided into homelands under a regime of institutionalized racism.
Four decades later, the Soviet Union has dissolved, and its successor states
have embraced capitalism and private property. China, still politically commu-
nist, chose markets over planning and has grown to have the world’s second-
largest economy. Once-destitute India now has the sixth-largest economy.
Brazil became a democracy, experienced an economic takeoff, and now has
the eighth-largest economy. South Africa overturned apartheid and became a
multiracial democracy.
The direction of these changes was no accident. After World War II, the
United States and its allies worked hard to cre-
ate an open world with ever-freer trade
and ever-greater global integration.
Policy makers bet that if they built
it, people would come. And they
were right. Taken together,
the results have been

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 27
extraordinary. But those same policy makers and their descendants weren’t
prepared for success when it happened.
Globalization creates wealth by enticing dynamic urban centers in richer
countries to invest abroad rather than in hinterlands at home. This increases
economic efficiency and absolute returns, more or less as conventional eco-
nomic theory suggests. And it has reduced inequality at the global level by
enabling hundreds of millions of people to rise out of grinding poverty.
But at the same time, such redirected economic activity increases domes-
tic inequality of opportunity and feelings of political betrayal inside rich
countries. And for some of the losers, the injury is compounded by what feels
like cultural insult, as their societies become less familiar. Western elites
concentrated on harvesting globalization’s benefits rather than minimizing
its costs, and as a result, they turbocharged the process and exacerbated its
divisive consequences.
Too many convinced themselves that global integration was fundamentally
about economics and sameness and would roll forward inexorably. Only a
few Cassandras, such as the political scientist Samuel Huntington, pointed
out that culture was more powerful and that integration would accentuate
differences rather than dissolve them, both at home and abroad. In 2004, he
noted that in today’s America, a major gap exists
between the nation’s elites and the
general public over the
salience of nation-
al identity

28 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
compared to other identities and over the appropri-
ate role for America in the world. Substantial
elite elements are increasingly divorced from
their country, and the American public,
in turn, is increasingly disillusioned
with its government.

Soon enough, “outsider” political entrepreneurs seized the moment.
Having embraced an ideology of globalism, Western elites left themselves
vulnerable to a mass political challenge based on the majoritarian nation-
alism they had abandoned. The tribunes of the popular insurgencies may
traffic in fakery, but the sentiments of their voters are real and reflect major
problems that the supposed experts ignored or dismissed.

For all the profound changes that have occurred over the past century, the
geopolitical picture today resembles that of the 1970s, and even the 1920s,
albeit with one crucial exception. Diminished but enduring Russian power in
Eurasia? Check. Germany at the core of a strong but feckless Europe? Check.
A distracted US giant, powerful enough to lead but wavering about doing
so? Check. Brazil and South Africa dominating their regions? Check. Apart
from the stirrings of older Indian, Ottoman, and Persian power centers, the
most important difference today is the displacement of Japan by China as the
central player in the Asian balance of power.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 29
China’s industriousness has been
phenomenal, and the country has
certainly earned its new position. But
it could never have achieved what
it has over the past two generations
without the economic openness and
global security provided by the United
States as a liberal hegemon. From the
late nineteenth and into the twentieth
century, the United States—unlike
the Europeans and the Japanese—
spent relatively little effort trying to
establish direct colonial rule over
foreign territory. It chose instead
to advance its interests more
through voluntary alliances,
multilateral institutions, and
free trade. That choice was
driven largely by enlightened
self-interest rather than
altruism, and it was backed
up by global military
domination. And so the
various multinational bodies and processes of the postwar system are actu-
ally best understood not as some fundamentally new chimera called “the
liberal international order” but as mechanisms for organizing and extending
the United States’ vast new sphere of influence.
Strong countries with distinctive ideologies generally try to proselytize,
and converts generally flock to a winner. So it should hardly be surpris-
ing that democracy, the rule of law, and other American values
became globally popular during the postwar years, given the
power of the US example (even in spite of the fact that
US ideals were often more honored in the breach than
the observance). But now, as US relative power has
diminished and the US brand has run into trouble,
the fragility of a system dependent on the might,
competency, and image of the United States has
been exposed.

30 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
Will the two new superpowers find a way to manage their contest without
stumbling into war? If not, it may well be because of Taiwan. The thriving
Asian tiger is yet another tribute to the wonders of globalization, having
become rich, strong, and democratic since its unprepossessing start seven
decades ago. But Beijing has been resolute in insisting on reclaiming all
territories it regards as its historical possessions, and Chinese President Xi
Jinping has personally reaffirmed that Taiwan is Chinese territory and a
“core interest.” And the People’s Liberation Army, for its part, has gradually
amassed the capability to seize the island by force.
Such a radical move might seem crazy, given how much chaos it could pro-
voke and how deeply China’s continued internal success depends on external
stability. But opinion polls of the island’s inhabitants have recorded a decisive
trend toward a separate Taiwanese identity, the opposite of what Beijing had
expected from economic integration. (Western elites aren’t the only ones who
harbor delusions.) Will an increasingly powerful Beijing stand by and watch
its long-sought prize slip away?

Over the past decade, Russia has confounded expectations by weathering
cratering oil prices and Western sanctions. Vladimir Putin’s regime may be
a gangster kleptocracy, but it is not only that. Even corrupt authoritarian
regimes can exhibit sustained good governance in some key areas, and smart
macroeconomic policy has kept Russia afloat.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 31
China, too, has a thuggish and corrupt authoritarian regime, and it, too,
has proved far more adaptable than most observers imagined possible. Its
elites have managed the development of a continent-sized country at an
unprecedented speed and scale, to the point where many are wondering
if China will dominate the world. In 1800, one would have expected China
to dominate a century later—and instead, Chinese power collapsed and
American power skyrocketed. So straight-line projections are perilous.
But what if that early-nineteenth-century forecast was not wrong but
Authoritarianism is all-powerful yet brittle, while democracy is pathetic
but resilient. China is coming off a long run of stable success, but things
could change quickly. After all, Mao Zedong led the exact same regime and
was one of the most barbaric and self-destructive leaders in history. Just as
many people once assumed that China could never rise so far, so fast, now
some assume that its
rise must inevitably
The United States—unlike Europe and
continue—with as
Japan—chose to advance its interests little justification.
through voluntary alliances, multilateral Xi’s decision to
institutions, and free trade. centralize power has
multiple sources, but
one of them is surely an appreciation of just how formidable are the prob-
lems China faces. The natural response of authoritarian regimes to crises is
to tighten their grip at the top. This allows greater manipulation of events
in the short term, and sometimes impressive short-term results. But it has
never yet been a recipe for genuine long-term success.
Still, for now, China, backed by its massive economy, is projecting power
in all directions, from the East China and South China Seas, to the Indian
Ocean, to Central Asia, and even to Africa and Latin America. Wealth and
consistency have combined to yield an increasingly impressive soft-power
portfolio along with the hard-power one, enabling China to make inroads into
its opponent’s turf.
Australia, for example, is a rich and robust liberal democracy with a high
degree of social solidarity and a crucial pillar of the American order—and
it happens to be smack in the path of China’s expansion. Beijing’s influence
and interference there have been growing steadily over the last generation,
both as a natural consequence of economic interdependence and thanks to a
deliberate long-term campaign on the part of China to lure Australia into a
twenty-first-century version of Finlandization. Similar processes are playing

32 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
out across Asia and Europe, as China embarks on building a Grand Eurasia
centered on Beijing, perhaps even turning Europe away from the Atlantic.
Right now, the United States’ debasement is giving China a boost. But as
Adam Smith noted, there is indeed “a great deal of ruin in a nation,” and the
United States remains the strongest power in the world by far. Furthermore,
this will not be a purely
bilateral game. Yes, the
United Kingdom allowed Until the onset of the nineteenth
Germany to rise and lead century, China was by far the world’s
a hegemonic challenge largest economy and most powerful
against it—twice. But it country.
also allowed the United
States to rise, and so when those challenges came, it was possible, as Win-
ston Churchill understood, for the New World, with all its power and might,
to come to the aid of the Old.
In the same way, the United States has allowed China to rise but has also
facilitated the growth of Europe, Japan, India, Brazil, and many others. And
however much those actors might continue to chafe at aspects of American
leadership or chase Chinese investment, they would prefer the continua-
tion of the current arrangements to being forced to kowtow to the Middle
The issue of the day might seem to be whether a Chinese sphere of influ-
ence can spread without overturning the existing US-created and US-
dominated international order. But that ship has sailed: China’s sphere has
expanded prodigiously and will continue to do so. At the same time, China’s
revival has earned it the right to be a rule maker. The real questions, there-
fore, are whether China will run roughshod over other countries, because
it can—and whether
the United States will
share global leadership, Authoritarian regimes respond to
because it must. crises by tightening their grip at the
Are a hegemon’s com- top. This has never been a recipe for
mitments co-dependent, genuine long-term success.
so that giving up some
undermines the rest? Can alliances and guarantees in one place unwind
while those in another remain strong? In short, is retrenchment possible,
or does even a hint of retreat have to turn into a rout? A well-executed US
transition from hegemonic hyperactivity to more selective global engage-
ment on core interests might be welcome both at home and abroad, however

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 33
much politicians and pundits would squeal. But cases of successful peaceful
retrenchment are rare, and none has started from such an apex.
History tells us nothing about the future except that it will surprise us.
Three-dimensional printing, artificial intelligence, and the onrushing digital
and genetics revolutions
may upend global trade
Western elites concentrated on har- and destabilize the world
vesting globalization’s benefits rather radically. But in geopoli-
than minimizing its costs. tics, good outcomes are
possible, too—realism is
not a counsel of despair. For today’s gladiators to buck the odds and avoid
falling at each other’s throats like most of their predecessors did, however,
four things will be necessary. Western policy makers have to find ways to
make large majorities of their populations benefit from and embrace an
open, integrated world. Chinese policy makers have to continue their coun-
try’s rise peacefully, through compromise, rather than turning to coercion
abroad, as well. The United States needs to hew to an exactly right balance
of strong deterrence and strong reassurance vis-à-vis China and get its
house in order domestically. And finally, some sort of miracle will have to
take care of Taiwan.

Reprinted by permission of Foreign Affairs ( ©
2018 Council on Foreign Relations Inc. All rights reserved.

Available 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

34 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


Populist movements can either check political
hubris or make it worse.

By Victor Davis Hanson

opulism is seen today as both a pejorative and a positive noun.
In fact, in the present age, there are two sorts of populism. Both
strains originated in classical times and persisted in the West
until today.
One, in antiquity, was known as the base populism. It involved the unfet-
tered urban “mob,” or what the Athenians disapprovingly dubbed the ochlos
and the Romans disparagingly called the turba. Such popular movements
were spearheaded by the so-called demagogoi (“leaders of the people”) or in
Roman times the more radical popular tribunes.
These were largely urban movements. Protesters focused on the redistri-
bution of property, radical democratization, taxes on the wealthy, the cancel-
lation of debts, vast increases in public entitlements, and civic employment.
The French Revolution and European upheavals of 1848 reflect some of the
same themes. Today, Occupy Wall Street, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and

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. He is the recipient of the 2018 Edmund
Burke Award, which honors those who have made major contributions to the de-
fense of Western civilization. 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 • Fall 2018 35
the Bernie Sanders phenomenon all stand in the same current. Often, urban
intellectuals, aristocrats, and elites—from the patrician Roman Republican
street agitator Publius Clodius Pulcher and the Jacobin Maximilien Robe-
spierre, to present-day billionaires like George Soros and Tom Steyer—have
sought to assist the urban protesters. Perhaps these gentleman-agitators
thought they could offer money, prestige, or greater wisdom, thereby chan-
neling and elevating shared populist agendas.
The antithesis to such radical populism was likely thought by ancient
conservative historians to be the “good” populism of the past—and what the
contemporary media
might call the “bad”
Burke argued for a healthy consistency: populism of the pres-
“In what we improve we are never ent: the pushback of
wholly new; in what we retain we are small property owners
never wholly obsolete.” and the middle classes
against the power of
oppressive government, steep taxation, and internationalism, coupled with
unhappiness over imperialism and foreign wars and a preference for liberty
rather than mandated equality. Think of the second century BC Gracchi
brothers rather than Juvenal’s “bread and circuses” imperial Roman under-
class, the American rather than the French Revolution, or the tea party
versus Occupy Wall Street.
The mesoi, or “middle guys,” both predated and remained somewhat at
odds with contemporary radical Athenian democracy. Yet these agrar-
ian property-owning classes were also originally responsible for the Greek
city-state and thus for Western civilization itself. The Jeffersonian idea of
preserving ownership of a family plot, and passing on farms through codified
inheritance laws and property rights, were the themes of the constitutions
of the early polis. The citizen—neither a peasant nor a subject—remained
rooted to a particular plot of ground, and thereby enjoyed the tripartite
rights of citizenship: military service, voting rights in the assembly, and the
ability to be self-supporting and autonomous. The mesoi, then, lent stability
to otherwise often volatile consensual politics.

Edmund Burke is often referenced as the archetypical sober and judicious
conservative. Despite the difficulty of finding a systematic political orthodoxy
in Burke’s vast body of largely forensic speeches and pamphlets, we are told
that Burke serves as a model of modern conservatism in our own uncertain

36 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
SEEING RED: Members of the Democratic Socialists of America march dur-
ing the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York. The Occupy movement, like
the Bernie Sanders phenomenon, belonged to a historical current of urban
movements spearheaded by the demagogoi (“leaders of the people”). [David
Shankbone—Creative Commons]

age. Burke, of course, saw through the French Revolution, while earlier hav-
ing appreciated elements of the American cause. It is also understandable
that Burke can be sourced to refute the current dangerous relativism of the
radical left, while defending classical liberalism from the excesses of populist
nationalists and mindless mobs on the right.
But Burke often emphasized the stability of the property-owning middle
classes and their custodianship of custom and tradition: the “unchang-
ing constancy” that Burke argued ensures that “in what we improve we
are never wholly new; in what we retain we are never wholly obsolete.”
An ample property-owning class serves as a bulwark against confiscatory
anarchy and revolutionary nihilism, as well as the excesses of monarchial
and aristocratic insider and client autocracy. Likewise, that keen observer

H O O V E R D IG E S T • Fall 2018 37
of early-nineteenth-century Americanism, the French nobleman Alexis de
Tocqueville, in his Democracy in America, saw America’s unique strength in
the populist influence of a nation of small agrarians. Such property owners
were suspicious of both hereditary aristocracy and monarchy, and yet were
economically autonomous enough to resist radical calls for government-
enforced equality.
Yet somehow the contemporary conservative movement and the Repub-
lican Party have confused a traditionally destabilizing populism with the
ancient restorative populism, or clumsily feared both equally.
Obviously, we are no longer, as was true at our founding, a nation largely
composed of yeoman
farmers. But in modern
Many Americans confuse a tradition- terms, the ownership of
ally destabilizing populism with the a house, a business, or
ancient restorative populism. perhaps even a retire-
ment savings plan is the
equivalent of Burke’s stewardship of property and tradition. Ancient Ameri-
can ideas like the right to bear arms and an end to inheritance taxes still
reflect Tocqueville’s interest in maintaining the viability of a large middle
class suspicious of both rich and poor. But in our modern context, the trajec-
tory of contemporary Republicanism has been largely to downplay culture,
especially the effects of globalization and deindustrialization on traditional
small communities of property-owning citizens. That neglect led to startling
political repercussions in 2016.
Illegal immigration and open borders were accepted as an unpreventable—
or even an almost natural occurrence, with largely positive results for both
the left and right. In collective fashion, liberals championed the poor arriving
on their own terms from Central America and Mexico in expectation of their
permanent political support. They sought and received the changing of the
Electoral College demography of the American Southwest.
Many Republicans, foolishly, either wished for cheap labor or deluded
themselves into thinking that amnestied, impoverished illegal immigrants
would soon vote for family-values conservatives.
Neither party worried much about the insidious destruction of immigra-
tion law, much less how federal laws that were otherwise applicable to most
Americans could be arbitrarily ignored by a select few or how wages of entry-
level workers were driven down by imported labor. Few conservatives raised
the objection that mass influxes of illegal aliens, mostly non-diverse, poorly
educated, and without skills, were difficult enough to assimilate quickly

38 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
under the old culture of the melting pot, but even more so now, given the cur-
rent paradigm of the tribal salad bowl.
There was a similar consensus across party lines to embrace globalization.
It was seen not just as an inevitable result of Western cultural dominance
and technological supremacy but rather as something almost morally and
culturally enriching. Internationalism and open borders would give way to a
positive, globalized sameness—even as such homogenization left millions of
Americans between the coasts with stagnant wages, or lost jobs, or a sense of
alienation from the centers of power in bicoastal America.
Globalization without concern over its cultural effects was most un-
Burkean, given its unchallenged assumptions that unfettered trade, outsourc-
ing, and offshoring were to be welcomed as organic processes, certainly inevi-
table and thus ultimately moral for all Americans. An outsider might have
remarked that writing off large swaths of the American interior as lost was
among the most radical developments in American history. Did any bicoastal
Americans think that by deindustrializing and deprecating the value of tradi-
tional hard work there would be no cultural consequences, given the historic
roles of the middle classes as custodians of American values?

Our popular culture reflected these new norms. Coastal winners were seen
on sitcoms and in psychodramatic movies as smart, cool, upwardly mobile,
and anointed, often even proudly neurotic and self-absorbed as they navi-
gated hip restaurants, on-and-off-again hookups, and office melodramas. In
contrast, the working classes in the interior seemed to be portrayed as near
opposites, as aboriginal people worthy of caricature, who still insisted that
Sarah Palin would have been a great vice president. In reality TV’s Deadliest
Catch, Ice Road Truckers, Duck Dynasty, or Ax Men, they shuffled about with
rural accents and bib overalls. Most had short tempers and were too eager to
swear and fight. Lots of broken-down and often dangerous equipment, along
with shacks and trailers, provided the film backdrops and sets.
Republicans had also come to believe in a holistic market that would
adjudicate culture and values. A community’s lost aluminum smelters
and fertilizer plants de facto proved that they should be lost, given the
gospel that globalized rules of capital and labor always favored the most
efficient—efficiency judged by lowest cost of production, without much
regard for the larger ripples of culture. What was lost to the fading middle
classes in good wages would supposedly be made up by cheaper imported
consumer goods.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 39
When, during the 2016 campaign, a crass Manhattan billionaire real estate
developer began campaigning in terms of the first-person plural pronoun—
our miners, our workers, our farmers—few emulated him. Most rivals were
convinced apparently that he would prove as irrelevant as those to whom he
appealed. Yet again, in Burkean terms, assembly-line workers, clerks, miners,
loggers, fabricators, welders, and builders had been the traditional bulwarks
of thousands of American communities. Their loss of viable livelihoods—at a
time when their products were often highly coveted—was a radical prescrip-
tion for cultural suicide.
So into this conundrum came Donald Trump, as a sort of self-described
fixer, loudmouth, nationalist populist, or perhaps even a tragic hero of sorts.
Of course, the very word
“heroic” in conjunction
Globalization without concern for its with the name Trump
cultural effects is most un-Burkean. appalls half the coun-
try, as do terms such as
“nationalist” and “populist.” Nonetheless, one way of understanding both
Trump’s personal excesses and his appeal to red-state America is that his
not being traditionally presidential may have been valuable in bringing long-
overdue changes in foreign and domestic policy—and in rediscovering the
middle-class populists hidden beneath the nose of the Republican Party.
The billionaire Trump was able to connect with red- and purple-state vot-
ers in a way past Republican candidates had not—and not just in terms of his
signature and unorthodox focus on issues such as trade, globalization, and
illegal immigration. Trump, the person, mattered just as much. Throughout
Trump’s invectives a number of messages were implicit.
One, Trump, by his manner of speaking, his temperament, and his vulgar-
ity, was not embedded in the existing establishment or Washington power
structure, and thus in theory he was not beholden to it in either the way he
spoke or acted.
Two, like Homer’s Achilles, or Sam Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch, he was a dis-
ruptive force who could end a common threat (in the mythological fashion of
“man slaughtering” Hector or General Mapache’s federales) by the use of skill
sets unavailable to, or felt to be unattractive by, his benefactors. Whether
concerning the missiles of Kim Jong Un or the overreach of the federal gov-
ernment, Trump supporters wanted someone to try something different.
Three, Trump’s own history and brand ensured he would not be able to
partake fully of, or be accepted by, the restored society he sought to salvage,
given his own distance from those he championed. Certainly, Trump’s own

40 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
randy past, excessive appetites, and high-stakes financial dealings made him
somewhat unappealing. But, ironically, his constituents thought he was nev-
ertheless a champion who at a distance could be turned loose on their behalf
against those they had grown to despise.

So Trump was a populist nemesis visited upon the hubris of the coastal
culture. When he took on “fake news,” when he tweeted over the “crooked”
media, when he railed about “globalists,” when he caricatured Washington
politicians—and ranted nonstop, shrilly and crudely—a third of the country
felt that at last they had a world-beater who wished to win ugly rather than,
as in the case of John McCain or Mitt Romney, lose nobly. As a neighbor put
it to me of Trump’s opponents, “They all have it coming.”
The targets of Trump’s ire never quite understood that the establishment’s
attacks on him, and their own entitled appeals to their greater sensitivity,
training, experience, education, morality, class, and authority, were precisely
the force multipliers that made Trumpism so appealing.
In 2016, pundits and experts had focused mostly on the populism of the
race, class, and gender brand, and its would-be champions Hillary Clinton
and Bernie Sanders, who sought to channel the new identity, youth, and femi-
nist politics for their own advantage.
All had forgotten that there was also another populist tradition, lying dor-
mant. It was a quieter but far more potent bomb just waiting to blow up—if
someone ever would be so uncouth and angry enough to detonate it.

Adapted from remarks delivered at the New Criterion gala honoring Vic-
tor Davis Hanson, recipient of the sixth Edmund Burke Award for Service
to Culture and Society.

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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 41


Baking Bad
Half-baked reasoning in the Masterpiece
Cakeshop case left the most important question
unanswered: How far does freedom of expression

By Richard A. Epstein

n Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil
Key points
Rights Commission, the US Supreme Court
»» The Supreme
issued a narrow decision that commanded the Court failed to
support of seven justices. Although the outcome grapple with the
clash between re-
of the case was welcome, its threadbare reasoning left
ligious liberty and
much to be desired. discrimination.
Jack Phillips, proprietor of Masterpiece Cakeshop, »» The shapeless
had refused to design and create a custom wedding opinion gives little
guidance as to
cake for the wedding celebration of Charlie Craig and what should hap-
David Mullins in 2012, when same-sex marriages were pen next.
not yet legal in Colorado. In the main opinion issued »» The justices
should have up-
last June, now-retired justice Anthony Kennedy—who
held a blanket ex-
in 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges held that the equal-pro- ception for sincere
tection clause protects the right of same-sex couples religious belief.

to marry—partially reversed field. The ruling allowed,
at least for the moment, Phillips’s refusal to stand.

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.

42 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
The correct way to deal with this issue, as I have argued at length
elsewhere, would have been to ask whether the antidiscrimination laws
of Colorado that prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orienta-
tion should apply to a baker who believes in good faith that it violates his
sincere religious beliefs to “design or create” a wedding cake for a same-sex
wedding. Phillips was neither careless nor inattentive in articulating his
concerns. He made it crystal clear, as Kennedy noted, that he was prepared
to provide Craig and
Mullins any goods from
his shop for any other Nothing is worse for the administra-
occasion, or indeed any tion of justice than to let a decision
standardized goods that hinge on the indeterminate mental
they needed for their state of some public official.
wedding celebration.
There is not the slightest hint here that Phillips overstated his objections
to avoid dealing with gay individuals, whose business he has actively sought
on many other occasions.
On the strength of this simple fact, the Supreme Court’s decision should
have protected Phillips’s constitutional rights of religion and speech, even if
the general prohibition of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act on matters
of sexual orientation otherwise remains in force. To see why, contrast the
situation in Masterpiece Cakeshop with that in Obergefell. The traditional
definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman imposes a
flat prohibition against the ability of any same-sex couple to marry. It is for
that reason that the libertarian approach (wholly apart from the sound-
ness of Obergefell’s equal-protection argument) rejects the proposition that
the state can block by force the union of two such willing partners. But the
antidiscrimination law imposes no such barrier on the ability of any couple
to marry, for the refusal of any individual to serve another in a competitive
marketplace means that the harm suffered by the couple is the well-nigh
trivial cost of finding one of sixty-seven nearby bakeries that advertised
their willingness to design cakes for same-sex weddings. In contrast, the
burden imposed on Phillips for the exercise of his rights of religion and
speech includes the loss of his business license, heavy fines, and mandatory
participation in various re-education programs suitable only for totalitar-
ian regimes.
Craig and Mullins sought to raise the ante when they proclaimed that
“no one should have to face the shame, embarrassment, and humilia-
tion of being told ‘we don’t serve your kind here’ that we faced.” But that

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 43
hyperbolic statement fails to acknowledge the limited nature of Phillips’s
refusal, and it wholly overlooked the shame, embarrassment, and humilia-
tion, and outright intimidation and abuse, that their vocal supporters were
willing to inflict on Phillips for the exercise of his religious and expressive
beliefs. While Craig and Mullins were blessed with multiple choices if the
antidiscrimination act does not apply, Phillips has no place to run if it

A clear ruling backing Phillips would have cleared the air. The needed excep-
tion applies to only a trivial fraction of cases covered by the antidiscrimina-
tion act, but it provides religious individuals all the protection they ask for,
given that they have no desire to mount a general campaign against same-sex
couples. But instead of reaching a principled decision in this case, Kennedy
cobbled together his seven-member majority by writing an amorphous opin-
ion that shows a lack of both intellectual clarity and moral courage.
No one can say what happens next. The final sentence of Kennedy’s
opinion limply concluded, “The judgment of the Colorado Court of Appeals
is reversed.” So does the Colorado commission have to walk away? Or can it
reopen its investigation? What happens to other actions before this commis-
sion or similar bodies?
The reason that no one can say what will happen is that Kennedy’s opin-
ion attached inordinate significance to inessential details that should have
been ignored in any
serious opinion. He thus
When the court is faced with a clear noted that this incident
question of high principle but then occurred in 2012, before
same-sex marriage was
muddles it, the nation loses out.
legal in Colorado or
protected under the equal-protection clause to the US Constitution. Are we
to infer from this tidbit that the case should come out differently now that
same-sex marriage enjoys constitutional protection everywhere? I can think
of no reason why the correct balance should be altered by this detail. Yet the
legions of enterprising state courts can now say that Masterpiece Cakeshop is
irrelevant to any complaints that have arisen since Obergefell came down.
Worse still, Kennedy’s shapeless opinion made the entire outcome of
this particular case turn on the overt hostility that the Colorado commis-
sion showed toward Phillips throughout the proceedings. That abusive
behavior is good reason to sack the commissioner who said in the course

44 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
of a public hearing, “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to
justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery,
whether it be the Holocaust.” Hitler did not kill six million Jews by refus-
ing to patronize Jewish bakers. The commissioner’s disgraceful statement
highlighted the serious danger of using specialized tribunals filled with
zealots to decide sensitive issues better left to courts of general jurisdic-
tion. But more generally, it leaves open the question of what happens next
time if a commissioner manages to tone down this virulent form of opposi-
tion but echoes the outsized and one-sided claims of “shame, embarrass-
ment, and humiliation” that can always be invoked to limit religious liberty
and freedom of speech.
There is no hint whatsoever as to what softened statements, if any, by the
next commission will trigger the hostility test, and certainly no indication of
whether, and if so, how, any commissioner can be cross-examined to learn if
he harbors latent hostility on this issue.
Nothing is worse for the administration of justice than to let any decision
hinge on the indeterminate mental state of some public official.

There was, happily, at least of whiff of displeasure in Kennedy’s opinion of
one of the late justice Antonin Scalia’s worst opinions, 1990’s Employment
Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, which stands
for the untenable proposition that all facially neutral laws do not offend
the protection of free speech,
even if they have a known and
massive disparate impact on The baker was neither careless
the exercise of religious liber- nor inattentive in articulating
ties. Smith is desperately wrong his concerns.
because it does not understand
the need to make workable accommodations between general public laws
and religious liberties. These accommodations will always fail if they are
done on hopelessly ad hoc grounds that create unneeded uncertainty.
Each of the three concurring opinions in Masterpiece Cakeshop (by Justices
Elena Kagan, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch) tried to put its own spin
on the Supreme Court’s handiwork, which only compounds the uncertainty
that is pushed off until another day. Judicial minimalism may sound nice in
theory. But when the court is faced with a clear question of high principle,
the nation loses when it is handled in a muddled and ham-handed way. The
Masterpiece Cakeshop fiasco needs to be put behind us. A decision that gives

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 45
blanket exceptions for religious liberty on grounds of sincere belief does all
that is needed to protect religion while leaving the basic structure of the
antidiscrimination act intact. Pity that this Supreme Court decision opened
yet another battle in the endless culture wars.

Reprinted by permission of SCOTUSblog ( under a
Creative Commons license. © 2018 SCOTUSblog. 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

46 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


Anthony Kennedy’s
The departure of the “swing justice” was
significant indeed.

By Jack Goldsmith

ustice Anthony M. Kennedy’s retirement from the Supreme Court
after more than thirty years of service is the most consequential
event in American jurisprudence at least since Bush v. Gore in 2000
and probably since Roe v. Wade in 1973. For three decades, he was a
guiding force on the court’s most consequential decisions, conservative and
liberal. His departure has left the future of US constitutional law entirely up
for grabs.
Kennedy made it to the highest court in the land after Ronald Reagan’s
failed selections first of Robert Bork and then of Douglas Ginsburg. When the
Reagan administration looked for a safer choice, it turned to the soft-spoken,
bookish Californian who ran his father’s law practice and taught constitutional
law before becoming a respected appellate judge on the US Court of Appeals
for the Ninth Circuit. The Senate confirmed Kennedy 97–0 on February 3, 1988.
Kennedy dominated the direction of the court in its most important deci-
sions from the beginning, and especially in recent years. One proxy for an
ideologically contested case is when the court splits 5–4. In his thirty-one

Jack Goldsmith is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and co-chairman of
Hoover’s Jean Perkins Working Group on National Security, Technology, and Law.
The Henry L. Shattuck Professor of Law at Harvard University, Goldsmith clerked
for retired Supreme Court justice Anthony M. Kennedy from 1990 to 1991.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 47
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
terms on the court, Kennedy led or tied for the most 5-4 cases in the major-
ity a remarkable twenty times, including every term but one since swing
justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired in 2006. His vote was extraordinarily
There are many reasons Kennedy was the man in the middle. He struggled
with all sides of a case and brooded more than most justices about the right
answer. And though he possessed a latent libertarianism, he lacked rigid
ideological commitments that would have placed him consistently on one
side of the court.
Kennedy will be most remembered for his famous progressive opinions—
establishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and other gay rights,
refusing to overturn the abortion right declared in Roe, extending the con-
stitutional right of habeas corpus to wartime detainees held at Guantánamo
Bay despite congressional and presidential resistance, limiting prayer in
school, and striking down the death penalty for juvenile criminals.
Despite these notable opinions on the left, Kennedy usually voted with the
right side of the court—for example, to invalidate ObamaCare, revitalize the
Second Amendment right to bear arms, disable public-sector unions, and
uphold business prerogatives. He was also the author of influential conserva-
tive rulings. He penned the progressives’ bête noire, Citizens United, which
interpreted the First Amendment to ban government restrictions on corpo-
rate and associational political expenditures. He was a defender of federal-
ism who wrote opinions limiting Congress’s power to enforce the Fourteenth
Amendment against states and its power to abrogate state immunity from
lawsuits. He also wrote many opinions that narrowed criminal defendants’
rights and an important opinion upholding restrictions on abortion.
While Kennedy lacked an overarching jurisprudential commitment, some
combination of three principles informed most of his landmark rulings.
The first and most distinctive principle is dignity—the quality of proper
worth and esteem. Kennedy’s articulation of a constitutional “dignity as free
persons” is an ineffable meld of privacy, liberty, and equality that guided his
landmark gay-rights decisions and will long reverberate in US constitutional
law. For Kennedy, dignity was not limited to individuals. The Constitution
also preserves for states “the dignity and essential attributes inhering” in
sovereignty, as he wrote in a famous opinion on states’ rights.
The second and related principle was a capacious notion of liberty from gov-
ernment interference. This principle informed his progressive social opinions
but also led him to be suspicious of burdensome regulations and to read the
First Amendment broadly. It also inclined him to push freedom downward,

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 49
so to speak, with a thumb on the scale for states over the federal government
and for individuals over both.
The third principle was a robust conception of judicial power. Kennedy
believed in his bones in the integrity of judging. He had great confidence that
the court’s intervention into contentious issues was vital to the effectiveness
of the constitutional scheme.
These principles led Kennedy to different places in different contexts.
But no matter which way he ruled, he truly sought “in each case how best
to know, interpret, and defend the Constitution and laws that must always
confirm to its mandates and promises,” as he put it so well in his retirement
letter to President Trump. And he possessed a model judicial temperament:
fair-minded, thoughtful, balanced, and deliberative.
Kennedy’s jurisprudence will be debated for generations. But those who
know him well understand that his activities off the court are just as impor-
tant to him. He is a devoted mentor to his law clerks. And he is a gentleman
who possesses an unfailing personal kindness toward everyone he meets. He
and his beloved wife, Mary, add rare grace to official Washington.
Kennedy has long been, and will surely remain, an active ambassador for
the court and the US rule of law—at home for everyone from legal experts to
schoolchildren and lay people, and abroad before foreign jurists and dignitar-
ies. He pushes himself incessantly to learn and think about US and judicial
history and traditions. And he is a mesmerizing speaker and devoted teacher.
Two years ago, my students gaped in awe for ninety minutes as the now-eighty-
two-year-old justice, without notes, brilliantly analyzed a recent opinion.
It is hard to exaggerate Kennedy’s impact on the court and the nation dur-
ing the past three decades. And because of that impact, it is hard to exagger-
ate the stakes in future Supreme Court rulings.

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

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is
Speaking the Law: The Obama Administration’s
Addresses on National Security Law, by Kenneth
Anderson and Benjamin Wittes. To order, call (800)
888-4741 or visit

50 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


Savings for All
Health savings accounts already drive down the
cost of health care. Now we should offer them to

By Scott W. Atlas

espite a failure to repeal and replace ObamaCare fully, health
care reform is progressing under President Trump. The indi-
vidual mandate is nullified. The administration has permitted
more low-cost “limited duration” insurance plans, and more
small businesses now have access to association health plans. The next step
should be to expand and improve health savings accounts.
Health savings accounts allow people to set aside money tax-free to pay for
health expenses, but their fundamental purpose is not simply to cushion the
blow of costly care. HSAs put consumers directly in charge of their health care
purchases. This drives competition, which leads to lower prices for everyone.
ObamaCare, and most of the proposals that followed, stressed making
insurance more affordable, mainly through subsidies. Subsidizing premiums
artificially props up coverage that typically minimizes out-of-pocket pay-
ments. This is counterproductive. Patients with such coverage don’t think
of themselves as paying for services. This shields medical providers from
competing on price.
Instead of subsidizing premiums, policy should focus on reducing the cost
of medical care itself by generating competition for patients. That is the

Scott W. Atlas, MD, is the David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow at the Hoover In-
stitution. He is the author of Restoring Quality Health Care: A Six-Point Plan
for Comprehensive Reform at Lower Cost (Hoover Institution Press, 2016).

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 51
most effective pathway to affordable, high quality care. The market should be
reformed to encourage patients to consider the price of the medical care they
consume and to equip them with the tools to do so.
Outpatient nonemergency care, which forms the bulk of health expendi-
tures, is amenable to price-conscious purchasing. Almost 60 percent of all
health expenditures for privately insured adults under sixty-five and almost
40 percent of the elderly’s expenses are for outpatient care, according to a
2012 report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Prices rapidly
decrease when patients pay out of pocket for procedures like Lasik correc-
tive vision surgery and MRI or CT screening. Data from MRI and outpatient
surgery confirm that prices fall almost 20 percent when patients are moti-
vated to shop around.
Because HSAs reward saving, they are particularly effective at putting
downward pressure on prices. Spending reductions averaged 15 percent
annually, according to a 2015 National Bureau of Economic Research work-
ing paper, when workers were given high-deductible plans and personal
medical accounts. When HSAs were added to high-deductible plans, savings
increased to up to double the savings that high-deductible plans alone pro-
duced. More than one-third of the savings reflected price-conscious decision
making. Corroborating prior studies, these reductions occurred without
harming patients’ health.
By increasingly choosing HSAs when given the opportunity, American
consumers are approving their value. By the end of 2017, there were at
least twenty-two million health savings accounts in the United States, up 11
percent year-over-year. This isn’t a tax benefit for the rich: median household
income for HSA holders is $57,060, and two-thirds earn less than $75,000 a
year. The challenge now is to expand HSA use and fully leverage its power to
reduce health care prices.
Congress should pass legislation making HSAs universally available. These
accounts should not be connected to specific insurance deductibles, a coun-
terproductive requirement that limits the possibility of HSAs with tailored-
or direct-payment plans. To maximize consumer power on prices, Congress
should remove restrictions on full HSA participation by seniors on Medicare.
Motivating seniors, the biggest users of health care, to seek value is crucial to
driving prices down.
Congress should raise the maximum allowable HSA contribution to match
total possible out-of-pocket spending under ObamaCare—$7,350 for individu-
als in 2018. Account holders should be allowed to use their HSA funds to pay
for the care of elderly parents. And the accounts should be fully owned by

52 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
individuals. This means abolishing more restrictive variants tied to employ-
ers and eliminating expiration or forfeiture due to arbitrary “use it or lose
it” deadlines. When account holders die, they should be allowed a tax-shel-
tered rollover of their HSA funds to all surviving family members, not only
HSAs have also been a valuable vehicle through which employers offer
effective wellness programs and medical screening. Yet ObamaCare limits
financial incentives from employers, such as deposits into employee HSAs.
Congress should abolish this rule.
Legislators can also change the tax code to encourage more people to sign
up for HSAs. Today’s unlimited income exclusion for employer-sponsored
health benefits is harmful because consumers are rewarded for spending
more on health care. This reduces concern for price and value. Beyond cap-
ping any total health expense deduction or exclusion, the tax code should also
limit eligibility to HSA contributions and catastrophic-coverage premiums.
Increasing the supply of medical care by eliminating anticompetitive bar-
riers would make HSAs even more effective, as patients need enough choices
to compare. Despite widely recognized doctor shortages, scope-of-practice
limits on nurse practitioners and physician assistants prevent competition
with doctors for simple primary care. Archaic nonreciprocal state licensing
restricts telemedicine. State certificate-of-need requirements limit competi-
tive technology. Scandalous contractual gag clauses prohibit pharmacists
from telling patients that medication may be cheaper if purchased outside
Health savings accounts are not appropriate for every patient. But they
represent a powerful tool to lower prices and improve access to quality care
for everyone. And those are goals everyone can share.

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

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is
Restoring Quality Health Care: A Six-point Plan for
Comprehensive Reform at Lower Cost, by Scott W.
Atlas. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 53


Health Care
Reform is hard but not impossible. We can start by
discarding three myths.

By Charles L. Hooper and David R. Henderson

obody knew health care could be so
complicated,” was President Trump’s Key points
now-famous pronouncement on the »» Preventive care,
it turns out, doesn’t
issue. Congressional Republicans were actually generate
struggling too. Not only did they fail to reach a legisla- true cost savings.

tive solution, but even worse, they were confused »» Expanded ac-
cess to health care
about where to even search for a solution. All told, doesn’t seem to
health care begins to look insoluble. But is it really make previously
uninsured people
that complicated? Actually, no.
any healthier.
Some progressives claim that they have an easy
»» Insurance is
solution, one that proceeds from their belief that being stretched
more government is often the answer: Medicaid or too far: it shouldn’t
care for inexpen-
Medicare for all. What solution would satisfy classi- sive and predict-
cal liberals? Addressing just the demand side, there able services.
is a surprisingly simple combination of out-of-pocket

Charles L. Hooper is the president of Objective Insights. 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.

54 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
payments, a new type of event-based health insurance, traditional care-based
health insurance for some, and perhaps judicious subsidies.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was supposed to solve many health insur-
ance and health care problems, but it appears to have exacerbated them. One
such problem is that those with pre-existing conditions are getting worse
care. Such patients are generally more expensive to treat but insurance
companies cannot charge more for them, and so health plans are designed
to dissuade these types of customers through restricted access to specialists
and expensive drugs. “Anything sick patients like, ObamaCare’s pre-existing
conditions provisions punish,” Michael F. Cannon wrote in Health Affairs.
“Anything sick patients hate, those provisions reward.” Another problem is
that insurance premiums for many people have approximately doubled in
just the four years that ObamaCare has been in force.

Three prominent, persistent myths have helped lead us down the path to
more regulation and more government intervention.
»» Preventive care is a good investment. The ACA assumed that preven-
tive care is a good investment and that people typically underinvest in it;
therefore, they must be nudged in that direction. It turns out that’s not true.
In 2010, physician Joseph W. Stubbs noted: “Experts suggest that only
about 20 percent of preventive measures, such as counseling a smoker to
quit smoking, vaccinating against influenza, and screening men for colorectal
cancer, actually generate true cost savings.”
The previous year, Douglas W. Elmendorf, then–director of the Congressio-
nal Budget Office, stated: “Although different types of preventive care have
different effects on spending, the evidence suggests that for most preventive
services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending
»» When previously uninsured people get insurance, their health will
improve. Then, according to this myth, overall health care costs will fall
because many of the newly insured will use office-based doctors instead of
expensive emergency rooms for their health care.
A fascinating 2008 experiment in Oregon punctured this double-barreled
myth. Oregon’s government conducted a lottery to enroll a limited number
of low-income adults in Medicaid. The results? According to an article in the
New England Journal of Medicine, those in the Medicaid group spent about
35 percent per person more than those in the control group. But, although
the increased spending did lead to some improvement in mental health, it

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 55
“generated no significant improvements in measured physical health out-
comes,” according to the article. If Medicaid were a new drug, the Food and
Drug Administration would reject it.
Has the Affordable Care Act improved Americans’ health? The usual way
proponents have argued for measures like the ACA is to point to higher life
expectancies in countries with more government control of health care but
lower spending per capita. That was always too crude an approach for com-
paring across disparate countries. But, interestingly, in the four years before
the ACA was passed, preferred provider organization (PPO) plan premiums
rose 15 percent; in the four years since the ACA was enacted, PPO premiums
have increased by 66 percent. It is difficult to say whether the ACA has made
Americans healthier, but in 2015 and 2016, according to the National Center
for Health Statistics, life expectancy declined by 0.2 years. It hadn’t declined
since 1993.
»» Insurance should cover all medical expenses, including inexpen-
sive and predictable goods and services. Insurance is an actuarial-based
product. People, when spending their own money, typically buy insurance
when they face a small probability of a large loss. Insurance companies pool
roughly equal risks and charge accordingly. Both parties benefit via this
arrangement: insurance
companies generate rev-
When third parties pay, patients tend enues that exceed their
to buy too much health care. Doctors costs, and consumers
and hospitals are happy to oblige. offload substantial risk.
We don’t buy insurance
for everything, though. We don’t insure our blue jeans against holes in the
knees or our cars for an oil change. Instead, we self-insure. That is, we cov-
er those small out-of-pocket costs ourselves. This makes sense. Insurance
companies must charge more for insurance than they pay out because they
need to cover all their costs. A simple rule of thumb is that your insurance
premium will be twice the expected loss. If you have a 1 percent chance of
a $100,000 loss, you have an expected loss of $1,000 (0.01 times $100,000)
and should expect to pay about $2,000 for the insurance to cover this event.
If insurance companies were not able to charge the extra amount to cover
the other costs, they would go out of business.
When we buy “insurance” for annual physical exams or to purchase our
monthly prescription for cholesterol drugs, each of which has a probabil-
ity approaching 1.0, we are effectively prepaying for a known expense; we
aren’t buying insurance. When we do that, we expose the system to multiple

56 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
administrative steps as a third-party payer must negotiate with hospitals
and drug companies, among others, and approve, pay, and monitor our
expenditures. At each step, additional organizations are involved and regula-
tory costs are incurred, resulting in, perhaps, a doubling of costs for these
predictable expenditures.
Further, when patients are spending someone else’s money, they are less
careful with their purchases and effectively cease to be the ultimate custom-
er—someone else is—and prices become opaque and widely variable, with
one person paying a small amount and another a large one. When prices,
which convey information to help buyers and sellers make decisions, become
so distorted, shopping wisely becomes difficult for consumers and investing
wisely becomes difficult for providers. We all lose.

When patients select health care goods and services but third parties pay for
them, patients tend to purchase too much health care. Doctors and hospitals
are happy to oblige. Not surprising, third-party payers impose burdensome
controls, such as formularies and prior authorization, to limit such purchas-
es. These controls impose added costs on the system and put roadblocks in
the way of doctors who are trying to provide good medical care.
A technique for good decision making is to put decisions in the hands
of those who will receive the benefits of good outcomes and pay the costs
for bad outcomes,
aligning incentives
with dominion. If Medicaid were a new drug, the Food
One solution would and Drug Administration would reject it.
be to eliminate
third-party controls by taking decisions away from third parties and putting
them in the hands of those who already have an incentive to limit low-value
purchases: the direct consumers. Small co-payments (a fixed payment) and
even co-insurance (a percentage payment) do not fully incentivize patients
to choose medical services wisely. The only way to eliminate the controls
imposed by third-party payers is to eliminate the involvement of the payers
themselves and to have consumers—in this case, patients—pay 100 percent
from their own pocket. Third-party payers would become just that: payers;
their controlling and purchasing roles would be excised.
The in-between solution, which we often saw when people paid their own
money for individual, nonsubsidized insurance, is catastrophic insurance:
customers bear high out-of-pocket costs for initial expenditures, which

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 57
causes them to make wise purchases, and insurers pay 100 percent of the
costs after a high deductible. Today, catastrophic health insurance is avail-
able only to those under thirty and those facing certain types of hardships.
Probably the best solution is insurance that covers health events. With this
type of insurance, first suggested in 1992 by health economist Susan Feigen-
baum, if you were to get appendicitis, for example, you would be paid a lump
sum, perhaps $35,000, an estimate of the median cost for treating appendici-
tis—mainly the appendectomy—in your geographic area. The money would
go to you, not a doctor, hospital, or drug company. Any insurance company
in the world that can run
numbers and set odds
Subsidies distort when they induce could provide this event-
people to make poor choices. based insurance.
With a flush bank
account, or the guarantee that the money is coming, you could decide where,
when, how, and even whether to be treated. If there were two hospitals near
you, you could compare them and choose the one with the better combina-
tion of price and quality. Does this type of insurance look familiar? It should.
This is how casualty auto insurance works. If you slide your car into a tree
and dent some sheet metal, your insurance company will pay you the esti-
mated cost of the repair. Then, you can choose to skip the repair and pocket
the money, use the money to fix the fender only, or supplement that amount
and have your whole car painted. The insurance company won’t know or
even care which path you take because its involvement is related to your col-
lision event, not your fender repair. For too long, health insurance has been
focused on the repair and not the event. It’s time to rectify that.
Appendicitis is an acute health issue and the lump-sum payment would
happen once. What if you developed a chronic condition, such as Parkinson’s
disease, diabetes, asthma, or multiple sclerosis? In this case, you would regu-
larly consult your physician, who would update your diagnosis and prognosis.
Your insurance company would then pay you an annual, quarterly, or even
monthly amount for that health event. Here’s the important point: that insur-
ance company forever “owns” your Parkinson’s disease, which first appeared
during the time it covered you, regardless of whether you later cancel that
policy or become insured by a different company.
This type of insurance completely obviates the problem of pre-existing
conditions, at least for those who buy insurance early. If you are insured
when the problem is first discovered, that insurance company forever owns
it, and therefore owes you for that health condition. If you weren’t insured,

58 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
you were self-insured, and you are responsible for any health conditions that
arise. Children could be covered under their parents’ plan.
Moving to this type of insurance system would require the well-established
practice of medical underwriting to determine the baseline risk with any
given individual, and it would expose those of us with pre-existing conditions
to a potentially difficult transition. Logically, you can’t get insurance for a
medical condition that’s already happened. For this reason, care-based insur-
ance—what we currently have—will always be necessary for some segment
of the market.
With an event-based insurance market, there will always be people who,
for whatever reason, were not insured with event-based insurance when
their condition was diagnosed, leaving them to pay for expensive treat-
ments. Care-based insurance—the type of health insurance we are familiar
with—could cover this subset of people, and a national market could be used
to find the optimal combination of coverage and price. It would be expensive,
as those without pre-existing conditions move to the cheaper event-based
insurance. So public and private organizations could selectively target these
patients with subsidies to defray their costs. Since only those with document-
ed need would be targeted, the subsidies and interventions for this limited
segment of the market could be lower, and less distortionary, than those that
preceded and are currently a part of the Affordable Care Act.
Subsidies distort when they induce people to make poor choices, such
as when customers purchase a subsidized item that they would never have
purchased without the subsidy, because the overall costs were greater than
the overall benefits.
The long-term goal should be to move everyone to an event-based health
insurance system, the benefits of which are many: lower prices, better care,
better patient control over health care choices, lower administrative expens-
es, more portability, more security, more transparency of prices, wider
access to medical professionals, wiser shoppers, a better market for insur-
ance, better health outcomes, and less financial risk.

Note that these demand-side reforms we offer would have a salutary effect
on the supply side as well. Because the reforms would cause consumers to
be much more cost-conscious, their awareness of costs would drive positive
changes in supply.
One of the best illustrations of this is the evolution in eye surgery over the
past few decades. This is a corner of the health care market largely free of

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 59
government and commercial third-party interference. The original surgical
procedure, called radial keratotomy (RK), relied on the skill of the surgeon to
make large cuts in the cornea, required a six-week recovery, and cost about
$8,000 ($18,600 in 2018 dollars). Today, Lasik has largely replaced RK for
those who are eligible. According to George Mason University economist
Alex Tabarrok, in 1998 the average price of Lasik laser eye surgery was
approximately $4,400. Just six years later, the price had fallen to $2,700, a 38
percent reduction. Adjusted for inflation, the price had fallen by over half, a
result we are used to seeing in computers but rarely in medical procedures.
For far too long, most of us, including many health economists, have
thought and written as if health care and health insurance were special. In
some ways they are. But the same principles that have made auto insurance
work so well—there is no auto repair cost explosion—can be applied to make
health insurance and health care better and more affordable.

Reprinted by permission of the Library of Economics and Liberty. © 2018
Liberty Fund Inc. All rights reserved.

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

60 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


You Could
Google It
Economic analysis makes it clear: the efforts to
break up big tech companies just don’t compute.

By Richard Sousa and Nicolas Petit

ome members of the economics profession have been busy bash-
ing big firms for their allegedly destructive effects on American
workers. Scholars from the so-called “New Chicago School” claim
that large firms increasingly act as labor market monopsonists in
the US economy, that is, the only demanders of labor in specific markets. In
this account, they suppress wages and fuel income inequality.
In the neo-Chicagoan “big is bad” philippic, the colossus FAANG (Face-
book, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) takes much of the heat. A recent
Bloomberg column by Harvard professor Cass Sunstein suggests that “big
companies (like Apple and Google) might use their market power to hurt
employees” by paying low wages.
The traditional Chicago School is largely credited—and sometimes criti-
cized—for its role in reshaping economics as an applied science. A basic
principle of applied science is that scholars back their claims with evidence.
Are the data supportive of accusations of these tech giants’ negative impact
on employment and wages?

Richard Sousa is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of the
Hoover IP 2 steering committee. Nicolas Petit is a visiting fellow at Hoover.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 61
WELCOME: A Google office in Chicago offers its workers a variety of ameni-
ties. High-tech workers are paid well above those not employed in tech, a fact
that contradicts fears that the big tech firms are able to hold down wages.
Amazon and Google employees also are among the readiest workers to change
jobs. [Antonio Perez—MCT]

If the large companies were monopolizing the labor market, one would
expect to see falling employment by the monopsonist’s competitors,
declining wages, and increasing job tenure, since there are fewer com-
peting job opportunities. Yet no such picture emerges from the avail-
able data. To the contrary, US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) studies
estimate total private high-tech sector employment at more than twelve
million; employment at FAANG plus Microsoft and Intel totals around
one million—surely a large number of employees, but by no means
Similarly, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings show that
job growth among the five tech giants has approximated job growth in the
high-tech sector over the past few years. This does not portend labor market
The BLS also recently reported that high-tech workers are paid well above
those not engaged in high tech. This percolates through all employee ranks.

62 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
Not only are engineers paid more, but sales reps, managers, and administra-
tive staff earn wage premiums of between 8 and 48 percent.
Last, but not least, data show that employees at Amazon and Google have
among the lowest job tenures of Fortune 500 companies, indicating the job
churn that characterizes
a vibrant, competitive
industry. How can a tech firm be said to enjoy a
Doubtful as a mat- monopoly on labor inputs yet be fear-
ter of economics, the ful of its employees’ job mobility?
arguments against the
FAANG monopsonists also fall flat as a matter of law. Legal developments illus-
trate that the state of nature in tech is one of intense competition for talent.
In US v. Adobe Systems Inc., et al., the Department of Justice prosecuted
several large technology firms, including Google, Apple, Intel, Pixar, Intuit,
and Adobe, and found they had unlawfully agreed to refrain from soliciting,
cold calling, recruiting, or otherwise competing for each other’s computer
engineers and scientists.
Moreover, the laws of several states, including California, dictate that
contractual restrictions on employee mobility (known as noncompetes) are
nonenforceable. Hence, the incumbent firm’s ability to prevent lateral hires
by rivals is weakened, as seen recently with Apple’s spectacular poaching of
Google’s AI chief John Giannandrea. Even if the firms can mimic noncom-
petes with financial incentives and other perks, this cuts against the claim
that monopsony power restricts wages.
Last, there is logic. How can a tech firm be said to enjoy a monopoly on
labor inputs yet be fearful of its employees’ job mobility?
Some from the New Chicago School write that the “problem boils down to
excessive merger activity, which has led to concentrated labor markets.” But
big mergers are quite
infrequent in tech. Most
mergers and acquisi- In tech, there’s intense competition
tions, instead, involve the for talent.
“acqui-hiring” of suc-
cessful startups, for example Facebook-Instagram and Apple-Shazam. Those
acquisitions represent low head counts, and their astronomical valuations
lean against the very idea of monopoly power.
Perhaps competition for jobs in the tech sector could be stronger and
wages higher. But this is an example of what economist Harold Demsetz once
called the “Nirvana fallacy,” namely, an idealized, unrealistic situation.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 63
The monopsonist naysayers have not brought proof that smaller tech firms
would improve competitiveness in labor markets. What matters is the con-
sumer welfare generated by firms, regardless of their size.
If large tech companies make our lives better by putting people to work
at good wages and by innovating and creating higher quality products, they
should be acknowledged for their role in the economic recovery and their
contributions to society’s well-being. They should not be vilified by unsup-
ported claims that the grass could be greener.

Reprinted by permission of The Hill ( © 2018 Capitol
Hill Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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

64 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


Searching for
Higher Ground
The market, not regulations, will teach us how to
manage rising seas and temperatures.

By Terry L. Anderson

espite the apocalyptic drumbeat from climate scientists, most
Americans remain skeptical that climate change is the “most
urgent threat facing our entire species,” as actor Leonardo
DiCaprio argues. According to a 2017 Yale poll, only 20 percent
of Americans were “very worried” about global warming. Moreover, a Pew
survey found that only 39 percent of Americans trust scientists “a lot” for
“full and accurate information about the causes of global climate change.”
This does not mean, however, that most Americans side with President
Trump in thinking climate change is a “hoax,” that they are climate “deniers,”
or that they favor pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord.
Instead, there is evidence that they are realists who rationally adapt to their
environment as the species has for millennia. This is evidenced by beach-
front real estate markets. Not surprising, property owners who see increased
coastal flooding due to slowly rising sea levels are moving to higher ground.
A recent paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters by three
Harvard University professors tested the hypothesis “that the rate of price

Terry L. Anderson is the John and Jean De Nault Senior Fellow at the Hoover
Institution and past president of the Property and Environment Research Center
in Bozeman, Montana.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 65
appreciation of single-family properties in MDC [Miami-Dade County] is
positively related to and correlated with incremental measures of higher
elevation.” Using the value of 107,984 properties between 1971 and 2017, they
found a positive relationship between price appreciation and elevation in 76
percent of the properties (82,068) in the sample.
A similar study by economists at the University of Colorado and Penn
State found that beachfront homes in Miami exposed to rising sea levels sell
at a 7 percent discount
compared to properties
This doesn’t spell the end of Amer- with less exposure to
ica’s breadbasket. But it does mean coastal flooding. More-
over, the discount has
farmers will have to adapt.
risen significantly over
the past decade. Comparing rental rates to selling prices of coastal homes,
they found that the discount in selling prices “does not exist in rental rates,
indicating that this discount is due to expectations of future damage, not cur-
rent property quality.”
Though not armed with large data sets and sophisticated regressions, Mas-
sachusetts real estate agents are coming to the same conclusions. According
to Jim McGue, a Quincy agent, the nor’easter that “happened here in March
certainly underscores what a hundred-year flood map is all about.” Another
broker, Maureen Celata from Revere, said a home that included a private
beach sold for 9 percent less than its list price of nearly $799,000 and took
fifty-five days to sell, which she called an “eternity.”
Wine producers in California, Bordeaux, and Tuscany: beware. A study by
Conservation International published in the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences forecasts that the amount of land suitable for high-
quality wine production in California may drop by 70 percent and in
regions along the Mediterranean by as much as 85 percent over the
next fifty years.
The silver lining is that vintners may adapt by moving their grape
production north. Some predict vineyards will even move to places such
as Michigan, Montana, and Wyoming, noted for their severe winters.
In the future you may also see more signs on fruit saying, “Country
of origin: Canada.” Canadian biologist John Pedlar sees more people in
southern Ontario “trying their hand at things like peaches a little farther north
from where they have been trying.” This is consistent with the US Department
of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which shows tolerant zones mov-
ing north.

66 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
This need not mean the end of America’s breadbasket, but it does mean
that farmers will have to adapt. Government regulators could help by allow-
ing more use of genetically modified crops such as drought-resistant grains
and corn.
There are two mes-
sages for policy makers in
Property owners have little faith that these examples of human
government can mitigate the effects adaptation. First, prop-
of climate change. erty owners have little
faith that government can
mitigate the effects of climate change. An article in Nature Climate Change
estimates that there is only a 5 percent chance of achieving the aim of the
Paris accord to keep “a global temperature rise this century well below 2
degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”
Second, government programs aimed at making us more resilient to the
threat of climate change only delay adaptation. Codes requiring building
high to withstand a hurricane storm surge or requiring fire-resistant roofs
in the urban-wildland interface may reduce the cost of bailing out victims
of nature’s wrath, but they only delay the inevitable adaptation required to
live with it.
Instead, we should get rid of subsidies to coastal developers and to hur-
ricane, flood, and crop insurance. The best thing policy makers can do is to
make sure they don’t distort market forces. If asset prices are allowed to
reflect the risks of climate change, property owners who have the most at
stake will literally move to higher ground. It is not faith in better or more
government, but faith in humanity, that will allow us to weather the climate
change storm.

Reprinted by permission of CNN. © 2018 Cable News Network. All rights

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

68 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


Diesel Duplicity
In the name of climate change, European policy
makers nudged millions of drivers into diesel-
powered cars, swapping hypothetical hazards for
real ones.

By Paul R. Gregory

he fatal conceit of government planners is to believe that they
can direct an economy as a chess master moves pieces on a
chessboard. Adam Smith, in his 1759 Theory of Moral Sentiments,
and F. A. Hayek, in his 1988 treatise on socialism, warned of this
pitfall. Such planners fail to understand that unlike chess pieces, the millions
of actual consumers and producers they wish to control act in their own self-
interest with results quite different from those anticipated by government.
The collapse of the Soviet economy proved the folly of planning an entire
economy, yet today’s advocates of industrial policy and state capitalism con-
tinue its tradition. They believe that government interventions can avoid or
correct the mistakes of “chaotic markets.” Unlike private companies preoc-
cupied with competition and survival, government planners claim to have the
foresight to pick future winners and to direct resources their way.
The European Union’s “go diesel” initiative of the mid-1990s is a perfect
example. After years of negotiation, most countries (with the exception
of the United States) signed the Kyoto protocol in 1997, which pledged the
industrialized world to binding reductions of greenhouse gases. To meet

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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 69
their pledged 20 percent reduction in emissions, EU environmental planners
pushed car manufacturers to invest heavily in fuel-saving diesel technology.
But contrary to the planners’ expectations, the diesel initiative did not lower
automobile fuel use or reduce greenhouse gases. Rather, it blanketed cities
with air pollution, destroyed the value of used diesels, set back Europe’s car
manufacturers in the international competition for a clean and fuel-efficient
car, and created a powerful pro-diesel lobby that continues to exercise influ-
ence on regulators and bureaucrats throughout the European Union.
The “go diesel” initiative shows that government planners can restructure
an entire industry simply by manipulating taxes, regulations, and subsidies.
In other words, they no longer must issue Soviet-style commands to get the
changes they want. Consider that in 1990, the share of diesels in the EU and
Japanese fleets was around 10 percent each. In the United States, diesel
vehicles were rare. By the early 2000s, however, a whopping 60 percent of
vehicles sold in the EU were diesels, while their shares of the Japanese and
American markets remained negligible. Europeans bought diesels because
the EU kept diesel fuel prices low and offered various incentives to buy die-
sels. Virtue signaling also helped: “good” Europeans bought
and drove diesels.

70 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
The diesel was winning in Europe but
failing wherever free markets prevailed.
In Europe, the pro-diesel initiative
strewed a string of unantici-
pated consequences in its
wake, to which we now
»» Where are the
national fuel savings? A
key factor behind Europe’s
decision to “go diesel”

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

H O O V E R D IG E S T • Fall 2018 71
was the technology’s apparently higher fuel efficiency. The logic was simple:
if a diesel can drive 20 to 30 percent more per liter, the rise in the diesel
share of Europe’s auto fleet would surely reduce Europe’s overall automotive
fuel consumption. But such was not the case: Europe’s per capita fuel con-
sumption has actually risen by a fourth since 1990. There could be a number
of explanations—rising income and changing driving habits, for instance—
but government planners also ignored the fact that lower diesel prices would
make road travel cheaper and hence promote more driving and greater fuel
consumption. A study by researchers at DIW Berlin, a think tank focusing on
economic policy, found that German diesel drivers averaged almost 50 per-
cent more kilometers per year than gasoline drivers. Diesel car owners used
more transport fuel than gas drivers, thanks to the state’s cut-rate diesel
prices. When something is underpriced, we use more of it. Chalk one up to
unanticipated consequence.
»» Where are the Kyoto climate gains from “go diesel”? European elites
seemed convinced that a switch from gas to diesel vehicles would also help
save the planet from overheating. The EU’s Kyoto logic was similar to its
reasoning on automotive fuel. The diesel used less fuel per kilometer. Driving
more diesels would thus reduce Europe’s carbon footprint. The engineered
switch from gasoline to diesel was clearly an integral part of the EU’s indus-
trial policy plan to meet its Kyoto targets.
Europe’s Kyoto signers apparently did not pay enough attention to major
advances in automotive carbon dioxide emissions. Toyota released its Prius
hybrid as Kyoto was being signed in 1997. With advanced catalytic converters
and other new technology, Japanese gasoline vehicles matched diesel green-
house gas emissions (per kilometer driven) by 2005. Thereafter, Japanese
gas cars had a small but distinct carbon dioxide advantage over European
diesels. Studies have also shown that diesel cars now emit more greenhouse
gases over their life cycle (from construction to scrapping) than do gasoline
Market economies spread out their bets over new technologies. Some
companies will bet on diesel engines, others on gasoline, and still others on
battery-powered vehicles. Those who make the right choice prosper, and
society gains new technologies. European planners, not market forces, tilted
the playing field of regulations, subsidies, and bonuses in favor of the diesel.
Given the growing emissions advantage of gas cars, Europe’s industrial
planners should perhaps now switch to nondiesels if they are to be consis-
tent. In fact, France’s Ségolène Royal, a former socialist presidential candi-
date, has suggested that the EU “start preparing [its] move out of diesel.” It

72 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
may, however, be too late. Europe’s diesel automakers have overinvested in
diesel technology, and they employ more than eight hundred thousand people
in Germany alone. With such employment levels and sunk investments,
Europe’s diesel lobby will fight to keep its privileges.
»» Who forgot about toxic emissions? When Europe’s planners began
their love affair with diesel, they knew that diesel autos emitted the toxic
waste of black soot and nitrogen oxides. This pits the diesel industry against
environmentalists and
mayors, whose cities are
blanketed in toxic pollu- When something is underpriced, we
tion. The public health use more of it.
damage from toxic diesel
emissions is considerable. Some estimates suggest that nitrogen oxides in
the atmosphere cause five thousand premature deaths in Europe every year,
largely through respiratory diseases. On bad days, the diesel-induced smog
in major European cities approaches urban Chinese levels. EU, national, and
municipal administrations have imposed or are imposing nitrous oxide emis-
sion limits. Smog-prone cities are debating outright bans on diesel cars from
city centers.
If anything, government planners were accomplices to the pollution. Early
on, experts underestimated the degree to which diesel fuel produces car-
cinogens that penetrate respiratory systems. Europe’s pro-diesel emission
standards allowed the diesel cars to emit twice as much nitrous oxide as
their gasoline competitors. As nitrous oxide emission standards tightened,
Germany’s largest car manufacturer, Volkswagen, was caught cheating on
emission tests. The Volkswagen scandal, which apparently was not limited
to Volkswagen alone, called into question Germany’s vaunted reputation for
quality and reliability. Sales of diesels plummeted and prices of used diesel
cars collapsed as diesels came to be regarded as damaged goods.
European manufacturers cannot walk away from the diesel industry, which
has powerful lobbying capabilities. Hence resources are pouring into direct
and hidden subsidies to prop it up. European car manufacturers are even
offering so-called environmental bonuses (up to ten thousand euros per car)
to owners who scrap their old diesel to buy a new one.

In Europe, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation account for 2 per-
cent of the world total of such emissions. An EU Kyoto pledge of a 20 percent
reduction in carbon dioxide from European vehicles would therefore scarcely

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 73
register on the world scale. Europe’s industrial policy makers created a real
and present public danger—toxic air pollution—to address an imaginary or
intractable problem: reducing world greenhouse gas emissions of which they
account for only a tiny portion.
London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, leader of a city hit hard by diesel pollution,
explains how Europe’s planners allowed toxic emissions to get out of hand:
“The problem is that governments often fail to grasp that focusing on one
issue at a time, such as [carbon dioxide] output, inevitably leads them to
ignore others.”
The single-minded pro-
Market economies spread out their motion of diesel cars by
bets over new technologies. Those Europe’s planners was, as
who make the right choices prosper. Berlin-based writer Paul
Hockenos puts it, “a well-
intentioned response to climate change.” But shouldn’t we judge government
planners on results, not intentions?
Europe’s Dieselgate is a precautionary tale of the power of government.
Unelected bureaucrats decided that European car makers should make
diesels, and they did so not by direct orders but by taxation, regulations, and
subsidies. Government restructured the automobile industry based not on
market forces but to achieve the grandiose goal of combating climate change.
There is a lesson here: eventually market forces catch up and reveal the folly
of government intervention, but it is the private companies—led by the nose
by state planners—that end up being blamed.

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

74 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


Turning over a
New (Organic)
Bioengineered crops help farmers and feed
increasing numbers of people, but the organic
industry still rejects them. New organic labels
could, and should, make room for science.

By Henry I. Miller and John J. Cohrssen

he Department of Agriculture’s arbitrary rules about what is
permitted for the “organic” designation prohibit important
advances in agriculture and food production, while unneces-
sarily restricting consumer choice. Those problems could be
remedied by expanding what is permitted under the federal National Organic
The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 required the USDA to develop
national standards for the production of “organic foods” because of con-
sumer demand for food that was supposedly more healthful and produced
with more sustainable methods than that grown on traditional farms.
However, the standards actually adopted do not improve food safety, quality,

Henry I. Miller, MD, is the former Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy
and Public Policy at the Hoover Institution. John J. Cohrssen is an attorney
who has served in a number of government posts in the executive and legislative
branches of the federal government.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 75
or nutrition—nor were they intended to. When the final National Organic
Standards were issued in 2000, Secretary Dan Glickman said, “Let me be
clear about one thing: the organic label is a marketing tool. It is not a state-
ment about food safety, nor is ‘organic’ a value judgment about nutrition or
Another secretary of agriculture, John Block, added in 2014, “Yet USDA’s
own research shows consumers buy higher priced organic products because
they mistakenly believe them safer and more nutritious.”

Organic agriculture has burgeoned. According to the Organic Trade Asso-
ciation, sales in the United States from domestic and international sources
totaled some $47 billion in 2016, an increase of almost $3.7 billion from the
previous year. About 56 percent was for crops; the remaining 44 percent was
for livestock, poultry, and related products.
Innovation to improve safety, quality, or nutrition of organic products has
faltered. In fact, various studies have raised concerns about a lowering of
organic foods’ safety, quality, and nutrition, and about the burdens of organic
production on the environment, especially its excessive use of water and
arable land. Moreover, typically organic crop yields are lower and their retail
prices significantly higher.
Meanwhile, innovation in the organic sector has not benefited from three
decades of escalating use of precise molecular techniques for the genetic
improvement of food crops and food processing. This genetic engineering—
primarily of commodity crops but increasingly of some specialty crops—
has contributed to more efficient, sustainable food production, and also to
the introduction of
traits appealing to
The original draft of the National Organ- consumers.
ic Standards did not exclude organisms Crop plants have
improved with molecular genetic engi- been genetically
neering techniques, or “GMOs.” engineered (“geneti-
cally modified,” or
“bioengineered”) to be fortified with important vitamins and minerals and
to be resistant to drought, floods, pests, diseases, and herbicides, requiring
less spraying of insecticides and other inputs and often increasing yields.
Likewise, animals can be genetically engineered to be more nutritious and
disease-resistant, to lessen their suffering (such as by introducing the polled,
or hornless, trait), and to impose less stress on the natural environment

76 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
(for example, by producing less-toxic manure). The genetic engineering of
microorganisms has also been pivotal in advances in the production of food,
additives, and beverages. Such innovations are critical not only to meet the
global need for improved food quality and availability but also for adaptation
to the challenges of increasing population and a changing climate.
The original draft of
the National Organic
Standards proposed by Modifying the standards would
USDA did not exclude establish the United States as the
organisms improved with world’s pacesetter in the creation of
molecular genetic engi- a new, welcome category of organic
neering techniques, or bioengineered products.
“GMOs,” as long as they
met the specified organic production standards. But ultimately, in response
to public comments from organizations and individuals, including the organic
industry (which sought to prevent market share gains by the nascent plant-
biotechnology companies), and because of anti-biotechnology sentiment in
the USDA’s political leadership, the department used its discretion to exclude
genetically engineered products from the definition of organic food.
Accordingly, by definition, the National Organic Standards promulgated
in 2000 prohibit the use of the USDA Organic Label on foods derived from
organisms created with molecular genetic engineering techniques, even
when the foods are otherwise grown with complete fidelity to the require-
ments of organic production.
With the possible exception of the prohibition on using irradiation to kill
pathogens in food, the genetic engineering exclusion is perhaps the most
irrational aspect of the organic standards. Except for wild berries and wild
mushrooms, virtually all the fruits, vegetables, and grains in our diet have
been genetically improved by one technique or another, including through
wide crosses, which move genes from one species or genus to another in
ways that do not occur in nature. The newer molecular techniques are part
of a seamless continuum, more precise and predictable extensions, or refine-
ments, of earlier techniques for genetic modification.
The prohibition against “genetically engineered, organically produced”
crops denies consumers nutritionally improved foods, such as rice fortified
with the precursor of vitamin A; canola oil with enhanced levels of omega-3
fatty acids; apples that don’t turn brown when cut; and potatoes that are
bruise-resistant (and therefore, reduce waste) and have lower levels of the
precursor of acrylamide, a carcinogen produced at high temperatures.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 77
Thus, the exclusion from organic agriculture of plants made with molecu-
lar genetic engineering forfeits their potential for higher yields and lower
environmental burdens, which were explicit goals of the Organic Foods
Production Act of 1990.

A major reason for the exclusion of genetically engineered products from
the definition of organic was to make organic food acceptable to consum-
ers who objected to genetically engineered products at a time when the US
government did not require them to be specifically labeled. The FDA had
determined that the use of molecular genetic engineering techniques did not,
per se, raise nutritional or safety concerns, and so specific labeling was not
required unless safety or usage issues were raised by the characteristics of
the product.
Thus, as far as the US government was concerned, there was no compel-
ling reason—and hence, no requirement—to label genetically engineered
food products. Never-
theless, responding to
Higher yields and lower environmen- pressure from a small
tal burdens were explicit goals of the number of consumer
organic-food movement. So why shun activists and certain
genetic engineering? industries, several
states enacted laws
requiring the labeling of food from genetically engineered organisms, thus
creating disparate labeling requirements, confusing consumers, and creating
a significant logistical problem for the agriculture and food industries.
That led Congress in 2016 to pass a pre-emptive disclosure law that
required the USDA to establish rules for a uniform national label for “bioen-
gineered” food. The disclosure law does not in any way automatically alter
the current National Organic Standards, but it does provide an opening for
the secretary of agriculture to consider modifying the definition of organic
to include genetically engineered food, as originally proposed almost thirty
years ago: Section 293(f) of the disclosure law requires the USDA to “con-
sider establishing consistency between—(1) the national bioengineered food
disclosure standard established under this section; and (2) the Organic Foods
Production Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C. 6501 et seq.) and any rules or regulations
implementing that Act.”
With the new labeling requirements for bioengineered, or genetically engi-
neered, food products, arguably those products should now be eligible for the

78 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
USDA organic seal if they comply with the requirements of both the National
Organic Standards and the new bioengineered-food disclosure rules. No
longer would consumers be denied the choice of purchasing food that is both
organic and genetically engineered. As noted, genetic engineering increas-
ingly introduces traits with palpable benefits to consumers, including biofor-
tification of plants with vitamins and minerals, more healthful vegetable oils,
leaner meats, and reduced levels of allergens.
If consumers who protested the inclusion of bioengineered food within the
“organic” definition three decades ago remain opposed, they could simply
refuse to purchase organic products bearing the “bioengineered” label.
There is no reason that others should be denied the opportunity to partake of
“organic bioengineered” products.
The Trump administration should direct USDA to comply with Section
293(f) by amending the National Organic Standards to permit the inclusion
of crops, animals, and microorganisms (for example, to produce yogurt or
alcoholic beverages) modified with the most precise and predictable genetic
techniques. That would establish the United States as the world’s paceset-
ter in the creation of a new, welcome category of organic bioengineered
products. It would favor consumer choice and encourage more sustainable
agricultural practices.

Reprinted by permission of the Washington Examiner. © 2018 Washing-
ton Examiner. 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 • Fall 2018 79


Guardians and
Every fresh form of communication adds
to propaganda’s toolkit, but computers
have unleashed profound new powers of
disinformation. Tech titans need to insist on a
transparent, open Internet.

By Ralph Peters

o plague in history spread with the
speed of Internet disinformation. We Key points
live in an age of hyper-charged pro- »» Editors, the
traditional gate-
paganda, an onslaught of lies more
keepers of re-
pervasive than any that came before. Over millennia, sponsible news,
propaganda changed minds. Today, it changes govern- are overwhelmed
by tech-powered
ments and subverts institutions. And this flood has social media.
burst the dams that, for centuries, kept the foulest »» Western media
waters in check. used to puncture
Soviet lies. Then
Propaganda and its ultimate product, subversion,
the Internet ar-
are ancient. The imprinted profiles of early rulers rived.
on coins served as propaganda, while subversion »» The private sec-
efforts appear in the Old Testament. Monotheist tor must police its
own platforms.
religions always engaged in propaganda, as did ruling

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

80 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
dynasties—the faces of female saints in Milanese Renaissance portraits bear
a striking resemblance one to the other because the Visconti and Sforza
dynasties had their wives and daughters sit as models for Madonna and
Child to legitimize their rule.
But modern propaganda really got started with the Reformation and Coun-
ter-Reformation, as contests of belief collided with newly inexpensive printing
technologies. The result was twelve decades of merciless wars of religion.
Eventually, an ethical reform gathered force. Newspapers as we know them
got off to a start in the eighteenth century and swelled wildly in popular-
ity in the nineteenth, as literacy increased and technical advances enabled
mass production and distribution—and the vital gatekeepers called editors
emerged. Particularly in the English-speaking world, but also in Europe’s
other advanced societies, even the most hysterical printed diatribes had to
have some provable grounding in facts. Accuracy became an ideal (if, as with
many ideals, it has never been fully attained).
Then new media—and new dangers—emerged. As communications means
broadened, first to radio and film, then to television, propaganda enjoyed a
new heyday under authoritarian regimes and dictatorships. Even today, Leni
Riefenstahl’s images of mass Nazi rallies grip the viewer, as do the brilliant,
if obsequious, films of Sergei Eisenstein: two artists in amoral service to evil,
killers with cameras.
In contrast, the American media, even at their most partisan, needed facts
behind the spin. Those unsung heroes, responsible editors, might have bent to
the publisher’s editorial policies, but they spiked outright lies. Planted stories did
slip through: in Stalin’s 1930s heyday, the New York Times made the still-haunting
mistake of trusting a corrupt foreign correspondent who lied on a grand scale
about conditions in the Soviet Union. Generally, though, Western consumers of
mainstream news sources received a fact-based picture of the world.
Today’s pop culture celebrates a few big-name editors who broke con-
vulsive stories, but the true heroes holding the bridges and gates were
the workaday editors from Springfield to San Diego who wanted to know,
“Where’s the proof?”
Now their efforts have been overwhelmed by a hydra host of websites,
blogs, tweets, trolls and troll farms, self-radicalized fanatics, attention-seek-
ers, and skillful propagandists who suddenly can reach millions without a
filter, without the need to meet editorial standards of background knowledge
and truth. It’s a crippling threat to the democracies and republics that cham-
pion free speech and the open exchange of ideas.
And the Russians, once again, are leading the charge.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 81
Whether in its czarist, Soviet, or current klepto-nationalist incarnations,
Russia long has been an outlier, embracing shameless propaganda in the
absence of a culture of facts. The first international triumph of Russian-
spread propaganda was the czarist Okhrana’s (secret police) dissemination
and exploitation of a then-obscure pamphlet, The Protocols of the Elders of
Zion, which soon became the most notorious—and murderous—anti-Semit-
ic screed in history (the document is still accepted as truth in the Arab
world and, in recent decades, served as the frame for an Egyptian television
As for the Soviets, even their spiritual father, Karl Marx, was a far better
propagandist than economist. His Communist Manifesto begins with an ambi-
tious lie, “A specter is haunting Europe, the specter of communism.” Commu-
nism would, indeed, spook the world one day, but it was hardly on the playing
field in 1848. And Marx’s grandiosity established the template for Lenin to
seize the term “Bolsheviks,” or “those of the majority,” for his pitiful, ruthless
handful of acolytes.
Stalin then developed a propaganda machine that not only lied but told
precisely the lies the world wished to hear (ever a key to effective propagan-
da). Western dupes praised the Soviet Union through every manmade famine
and vast purge. Then, in
the post–World War II
First with radio and film, then televi- era, the Soviet Union and
sion, propaganda enjoyed a new hey- the United States waged a
day under authoritarian regimes and propaganda war for West-
dictatorships. ern Europe, focused on
influencing elections from
Greece and Italy to France (materialism, not the dialectic, won). Next came
the Soviet-sponsored “Ban the Bomb” movement, succeeded by its unruly
stepchildren, the anti-nuke protests of the 1970s and 1980s in Europe.
And let us not forget the still-circulating claim by Soviet propagandists
that AIDS was developed by the CIA to kill black Africans.
Through all these assaults, responsible Western media punctured the
Soviet lies, condemning them to the fringes of discourse. Thank editors again.
We, the people, generally recognized propaganda, and its outlets were limited.
To buy ill-printed Soviet books (as I did when studying Russian), you went to
a single bookstore on Shaftesbury Avenue in London that made no secret of
representing Moscow. The clerks were as drab and dreary as their wares.
Then the digital revolution arrived to conjure Internet anarchy. This Fifth
Horseman of the Apocalypse, the avatar of the genocidal lie, empowered

82 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
fanatics and propagandists everywhere: one man or woman with a laptop
computer could spread a destabilizing or deadly claim worldwide. Further
enabled by Silicon Valley
hubris, which discounted
editorial checks, the new Russia long has been an outlier,
apparatchiks of Vladimir embracing shameless propaganda in
Putin’s Russia suddenly
the absence of a culture of facts.
could run wild—the
bigger the lie, the warmer its reception by the ill-educated, the disaffected,
or the cravenly ambitious; by political hacks, bigots, fanatics, and madmen.
Under the false flag of free speech, the Internet subverted our democracy,
and its corporate masters grew fabulously rich through their self-adoring
Putin’s Russia swiftly leapt from propaganda to outright information
warfare. But instead of standing shoulder to shoulder against the threat to
our vital institutions, we’ve been reduced to squabbling among ourselves,
compounding the effects of Russian schemes.
We’ve entered a new age of hyper-propaganda, of post-modern warfare. If
we fail to unite and take this threat as seriously as the danger from long-
range missiles or terrorism, we’re committing suicide by the gigabyte.
Now it’s up to the titans of tech to defend the civilization that enriched
them by imposing objective editorial standards on their platforms, to develop
a new and credible system of guardians of the facts, of gatekeepers against
subversive lies. And the private sector, not the government, has to do it.
Or we can let the propagandists win.

Read Military History in the News, the weekly column from the Hoover
Institution that connects historical insights to contemporary conflicts
( © 2018 The Board
of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. 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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 83


The Mayor of
Tech Territory
Cyberspace is often compared to the Wild West—
but eventually the West was won and the frontier
tamed. It’s time for our virtual villages to get

By Markos Kounalakis

acebook is the largest community in the world. It is also one of the
least democratic institutions on earth. That’s why Facebook needs
a mayor.
In nonvirtual communities—meaning “IRL” (in real life) physi-
cal cities and states—where people interact face-to-face daily, societies have
developed self-governing structures and policing institutions to serve and
protect them. Private companies like Facebook, however, were not organized
around democratic ideas or social justice principles. Despite the often-lofty
mission statements of social media companies, they are businesses put
together for one reason: to make money. Oodles of it.
Thanks to the “network effect,” unplanned, but highly profitable, com-
munities have grown on these Internet platforms to number in the billions.
Greater in size than any nation-state. More politically powerful than any
party or person. They cross borders and span the globe.

Markos Kounalakis is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution and a senior
fellow at the Center for Media, Data, and Society at Central European University
in Budapest, Hungary. He is the author of Spin Wars and Spy Games: Global
Media and Intelligence Gathering (Hoover Institution Press, 2018).

84 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
As they have grown, so have the scale of their problems and the onus
of their responsibilities. The network effect cuts both ways. What has
not grown apace has been the capacity to deal with the downside of a
digital community’s size and scale. Systems are inadequate to manage
communities’ dark side. The bigger these diverse social networks get, the
less responsive they are to their complexity and breadth. Worse, they are
Many people reside, interact, and organize within these social net-
works more than they do in their physical, local community. How do they
participate in Facebook’s governance? Who reviews and settles their
grievances? And when did they give up their rights to safety and rep-
resentation? By clicking “I agree” to a terms of service agreement they
never read?
By sad-face emoji-ing, individuals might feel at times as if they are lodging
a meaningful political protest, but an anonymous algorithm can willy-nilly
silence a voice or mute dissent.
Whom do you call when you want to fill the propaganda potholes or arrest
violence-inciting cyberbullies? Who monitors and manages the daily self-
donations of personal, private data? Which social media platforms get to
decide twenty-first-century campaign finance laws?
To function healthily, these platforms
need representational roles for their
global communities. Mayors, sheriffs, Who owns the data of the
judges, school boards, regulatory bodies. dispossessed?
These platforms must democratically
open up to typical community representatives and roles to manage cross-
border political speech, for example, or develop bodies to hear and settle
accusations of libel. It’s time to recognize that Facebook has become a real
global commons that needs a real public governing structure.
Today, however, Facebook denizens are not Facebook citizens.
Sure, people can drop out of the community and live a Walden-like life in
the analog outback with other digitally disconnected and disaffected humans.
But all people know that even if they now choose to leave digitized society, it
is impossible to erase their past and purge the digital breadcrumbs of their
previous searches and interactions.
Surviving in a twenty-first-century society means a dependency on digital
life, whether banking, finding a job, or staying connected with friends and
family. We are neither willing nor able to make the trade-off between digital
subject or analog citizen.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 85
TRUST ME: A kiosk in Manchester, England, communicates Facebook’s
promise to be a source of trustworthy information for its hundreds of millions
of users. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made a personal commitment to
defend democracy. [Joel Goodman—ZUMA Press]

Regardless, the choice should not be binary. Why should we be subservi-
ent to a big data behemoth and “voluntarily” relinquish the rights we have
accrued since 1776? Since when is “I agree” enough to strip us of a participa-
tory role and make us subject to psychographically advanced targeting of our
preferences and person? Who’s looking out for us?
Tech leaders like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have argued they
should be entrusted with this role. Zuckerberg has made a personal com-
mitment to defend democracy. Despite his good intentions, anyone who
understands democracy’s evolutionary history should feel slightly uncom-
fortable when someone powerful says “trust me” or that he alone can fix a
Further, while digital “platforms” are entrusted to secure the data and
dreams of billions, they need to recognize they are not immune to the vaga-
ries of a market that values them on projected revenue and future growth.
Tech stocks can be volatile and markets fickle. A market’s normal function-
ing can lead to failure.

86 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
What happens if a social media company collapses under the weight of
debt, the failure of leadership, or the loss of potential growth? Who owns
the data of the dispossessed? How does that community re-form itself and
find new expression and
connection? This is not a
theoretical question. Whom do you call when you want to
The virtual world fill the propaganda potholes or arrest
is made up of tenta- violence-inciting cyberbullies?
tive topographies and
ephemeral communities. In 1994, Apple Computer (disclosure: I used to con-
sult for Apple) once hosted a social site called “eWorld,” where I established
an identity and built a community. I lost both when eWorld went bell-“e”-up
after two years. If only I could have called eWorld’s mayor to complain or
offer help.
In a future social media democracy, I would own my data, ask my represen-
tatives to shut out political advertising paid for by Russian rubles, and vote
for my teenage boys to learn less about condom-snorting and more about
civics. I bet I’m not alone.

Reprinted by permission of the Sacramento Bee. © 2018 Sacramento Bee.
All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Spin Wars
and Spy Games: Global Media and Intelligence
Gathering, by Markos Kounalakis. To order, call (800)
888-4741 or visit

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 87


Teachers Need
Teaching can be a tough, poorly paid job. But
teachers need to recognize that respect must be
earned, and that their unions are doing them no

By Chester E. Finn Jr.

t’s hard not to sympathize with
striking schoolteachers. They’re Key points
not very well paid, inflation is »» Sluggish economic growth,
not stingy politicians, is to
creeping up, a lot of classrooms blame for many lethargic
are crowded with kids and lacking in school budgets.

textbooks and supplies, and a number of »» Unions defend early tenure
and protect weak teachers—
state and local budgets for school opera-
positions that harm teachers’
tions are extremely tight and sometimes professional credibility.
declining. »» The forces that send unhap-
All that is true. It’s also true that while py teachers into the streets are
complex, and teachers have a
US kids and parents generally like and role in addressing them.
respect the teachers they know best,

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.

88 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
American schoolteachers as an occupational class don’t enjoy the status and
esteem conferred upon their peers in some other countries. It’s wholly under-
standable that a number of them are dissatisfied with their lot. They show
it in other ways besides wearing red, shutting down schools, and marching
around. Particularly in schools serving disadvantaged youngsters, the places
where we most need experienced teachers, there’s a great deal of turnover—
both departures for less-challenged schools and abandonment of the field
But several other things are also true, and they need to be kept in mind
as we watch interviews with angry or tearful teachers and wonder how to
respond when teachers walk out.
»» Maybe the money just isn’t there. Although state and local budgets
in some places are tight because tight-fisted policy makers have cut taxes
and slashed spending, in other places there’s just not as much revenue as
was expected. Blame slow recovery from the “great recession,” lower-than-
anticipated economic growth—and sometimes the exit of wealthy people
to places where taxes are lower. In a great many places, school budgets are
tight because competing obligations to pay for nondiscretionary activities are
hogging much of the available money. Medicaid is a big one (and is squeez-
ing out higher-ed funding as well), but so too are the pensions and associated
benefits of retired public employees, many of whom are former teachers.
The Pew Charitable Trusts reported recently that “even states that have
overcome the effects of the recession may face financial pressures that could
shape their budgets now and for years to come. A number of state govern-
ments face fiscal constraints today because of inherited shortfalls, such as
unfunded public pension and retiree health care liabilities that total more
than $1.5 trillion nationwide, and recurring deficits between annual state rev-
enue and expenses.” And Education Next reported in February that “pension
costs, excluding Social Security and retiree health insurance, have grown
from $520 per student in 2004 to $1,220 today—or from roughly 5 percent to
10 percent of current expenditures per student.”
»» Where is the money going? As I have previously noted, US school
systems continue to use available dollars to hire more teachers rather than
paying more generous salaries to the teachers they already have. This means
hiring more teachers rather than better teachers. Education Week reported
earlier this year that “over the past two decades, the number of the teachers
in US schools has increased by 21 percent while the number of students has
increased only 12 percent.” This is an old phenomenon but it persists even in
our era of lean budgets; the United States has 13 percent more teachers than

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 89
HARD LESSONS: Kentucky schoolteachers march last spring to press their
demands concerning pensions and budget cuts. Many state governments
face fiscal constraints because of inherited shortfalls, such as unfunded pen-
sion and retiree health care liabilities that total more than $1.5 trillion nation-
wide. [Charles Bertram—TNS]

it did four years ago but just 2 percent more pupils. That’s not true in every
single state—and it’s revealing that two of the four states where student
growth has outstripped teacher inflation are Oklahoma and Arizona, where
recent protests by aggrieved teachers have been especially forceful. Consider
the seeming paradox of classrooms overflowing (in some schools) with kids
while ever more teachers are employed. But note, too, how many schools—
mostly in other places—are half-empty and how many have been closed or
mothballed because of declining enrollments.
Chicago was down ten thousand kids this past autumn, compared with a
year earlier—and thirty-two thousand since 2013, enough to fill fifty-three
average-size schools. Though the teaching workforce often appears highly
mobile, in reality Chicago teachers—with tenure, benefits, pensions, and so
on—just aren’t very likely to move to Houston.

90 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
»» How do you earn respect? While it’s true that US teachers as a work-
force don’t get the respect they would like—and which their counterparts
enjoy in, say, Finland and South Korea—this is due in no small part to the
political actions and policy preferences of their own unions. By insisting on
tenure after just a few years in the classroom, by protecting the jobs of even
the weakest instructors, and by demanding that physical education teachers
be compensated the same as physics teachers, they have fouled their own
nests when it comes to status and esteem. This also affects salaries. While
it’s easy to say that dear, hard-working Ms. Rosencrantz—who is hugely
effective with her math students—should get paid a lot more, does lazy Mr.
Guildenstern down the hall, whose pupils seems to watch a lot of movies and
do poorly on the state tests, deserve the same raise?
»» It’s not a year-round job. Finally, though teachers and their representa-
tives despise this observation and offer all manner of (unpersuasive) expla-
nations and rationalizations, it’s still true that the typical day in American
public schools lasts six or six and a half hours and there are one hundred
eighty of them in a year. That’s a lot less time than is put in by most people
with full time jobs, and that discrepancy needs to be borne in mind when
making salary comparisons.
Yes, it’s sad that many teachers must make ends meet by taking second
jobs. But it’s also sad that their school job leaves them with that extra time—
and pays them accordingly. It’s not good for the kids, either.
So yes, let’s sympathize, but let’s also be hard-nosed (not hard-hearted) in
understanding the circumstances and forces that have conspired to cause a
number of unhappy teachers to take to the streets. And let’s understand that
if we’re serious about ameliorating the conditions that aggrieve them, a great
many things need to change in very big ways.

Reprinted by permission of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. © 2018. All
rights reserved.

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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 91


A Sorry Bargain
Weak from the start, the Iran nuclear deal was a
fragile political commitment that left Congress out
in the cold.

By Jack Goldsmith

resident Obama crafted the Iran nuclear deal on his own presi-
dential authority and in the face of significant domestic opposi-
tion, neither seeking nor receiving approval from the Senate
or the House. He was able to do this, and to skirt constitutional
requirements for senatorial or congressional consent, because he made the
deal as a political commitment rather than a binding legal obligation. As Curt
Bradley and I recently explained in the Harvard Law Review, a political com-
mitment “imposes no obligation under international law,” a nation “incurs no
state responsibility for its violation,” and thus “a successor president is not
bound by a previous president’s political commitment under either domestic
or international law and can thus legally disregard it at will.”
Thus the manner in which Obama crafted the Joint Comprehensive Plan of
Action (JCPOA) paved the way for President Trump to withdraw from it.
Presidents have the clear authority to make nonbinding political commit-
ments. That is why I defended the legality of the Iran deal (as opposed to its
wisdom) at the time it was arranged. But a president who makes an agree-
ment as a political commitment rather than as a binding agreement under
international law is making a tradeoff. As I wrote three years ago, Obama’s

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

92 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
approach to the Iran deal made it “easier to make (because the president can
clearly do it on his own) and easier to break (because there is no domestic or
international legal obstacle to breaking it).” The Obama team was aware of
this tradeoff, but it knew it had no chance to secure approval from Congress.
Because the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act forced a vote, we know that
majorities in the Senate and the House opposed the deal. The House of Rep-
resentatives voted 247–186 against allowing the president to lift US sanctions
contemplated by the deal. And 58 senators (two short of necessary) voted to
break a filibuster that would have allowed a vote on a resolution to disapprove
the deal.
For Obama to join the agreement that he thought so crucial to the fate of
the world, he needed a constitutional mechanism that avoided the require-
ment that Congress approve. The only available option was to make the
agreement a fragile political commitment not binding on his successor.
After Trump announced the US withdrawal from the agreement, former
Obama administration officials complained about the harm done to the US
reputation for compliance with international agreements. “When the United
States unilaterally abrogates an international agreement in the absence of
any breach, we under-
mine international
perceptions of our reli- One of the most important purposes
ability and responsibil- of legislative consent is to ensure that
ity,” Obama’s national an international agreement actually
security adviser Susan serves the national interest.
Rice said. Obama foreign
policy adviser Ben Rhodes echoed: “Trump’s action . . . severely undermines
the credibility of the United States to uphold international agreements that
we sign which will endure after he is gone.”
We should recall Federalist No. 75, in which Alexander Hamilton explained
the wisdom of the original constitutional mechanism of Senate approval for
treaties in terms directly applicable to the Iran deal. It would be “utterly
unsafe and improper to intrust” the “entire power of making treaties” in the
president alone, he wrote, since the president alone could not be trusted to
serve the national interest:

The history of human conduct does not warrant that exalted
opinion of human virtue which would make it wise in a nation to
commit interests of so delicate and momentous a kind, as those
which concern its intercourse with the rest of the world, to the

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 93
sole disposal of a magistrate created and circumstanced as would
be a President of the United States.

Rather, he added, “the vast importance of the trust . . . plead strongly for the
participation of the whole or a portion of the legislative body in the office of
making them.”
One of the most important purposes of legislative consent for international
agreements is to ensure that the agreement actually serves the national inter-
est clearly enough to garner such consent. Agreements that have the approval
of the Senate or the House
tend to be longer-lasting
For President Obama to seal the and more durable. One
agreement, he had to avoid the need reason is that they, unlike
for Congress’s approval. the Iran deal, are binding
under international law.
A more important reason is that a later president is much less likely to back
away from an agreement made by a prior president with the support of the
nation secured by its consent through elective representatives.
The Obama administration did not secure this consent. It made the agree-
ment unilaterally, and thereby pledged the reputation of the nation, even
though it knew the Iran deal was nonbinding and lacked approval among the
nation’s elected representatives. If the United States’ reputation for uphold-
ing agreements takes a hit, the responsibility for that outcome lies squarely
with the original decision by the Obama administration to make the hugely
consequential deal on its own.
The Obama administration took a bet either that Hillary Clinton would win
the election or that the unwinding of sanctions for three years would make
any re-imposition of sanctions too painful politically. And it lost the bet.

Reprinted by permission of the Lawfare Institute. © 2018 The Lawfare
Institute. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Total
Volunteer Force: Lessons from the US Military on
Leadership Culture and Talent Management, by Tim
Kane. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.

94 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


A Deal Worse
President Trump’s scrapping of the joint nuclear
deal is a godsend to Iran’s beleaguered leaders.
It will also breed more Russian and Chinese

By Abbas Milani

he long-expected announcement by President Trump that
he would order the United States to withdraw from the Iran
nuclear deal—officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan
of Action, or JCPOA—was arguably the worst policy option for
addressing problems in what was, at the time it was signed, the least-bad
possible deal. Contrary to what candidate and then president Donald Trump
often said, it was not the worst deal in history.
There are some remarkable similarities between the slings and arrows
being launched at this agreement in the United States and in Iran. When the
deal was signed, presidents in Iran and the United States both oversold the
agreement, promising more than they could deliver. Conservatives in the
United States and in Iran were also, from the outset, ready to pounce on the
deal—sometimes based on false claims about what it did or did not do, some-
times claiming that their side had made too many concessions. Ironically,
in words that almost echo Trump’s language, Iranian conservatives called

Abbas Milani is co-director of the Hoover Institution’s Iran Democracy Project,
a member of Hoover’s Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and
the International Order, and a Hoover research fellow. He is also the Hamid and
Christina Moghadam Director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University and an
adjunct professor at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law
at the Freeman Spogli Institute.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 95
SATISFIED: Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was among
the Iranian officials opposed to rapprochement with the United States. The
scuttling of the US-Iran deal will give them leverage and divert attention from
failed policies. [AY-Collection/SIPA]

the JCPOA the most shameful one-sided deal Iran had signed in its modern
history—a veritable Treaty of Turkmenchay, the 1828 agreement forced on
a defeated and demoralized Iran by Russia, a pact synonymous with Iranian
defeat and colonial arrogance. In Washington, as in Tehran, the opponents
of the deal missed no opportunity to undermine it, demonize its negotiators,
dampen or limit its potential positive impact, and create or use an excuse to
overturn it.
The ironic structural similarities between enmities here and in Tehran
have, under the complicated contours of current realities, particularly in
Iran, taken on a new and ominous turn, with far-reaching, even historic, stra-
tegic consequences.
Much discussion of these consequences has focused on what might hap-
pen to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to regional arms races, to US
relations with allies, or to relations between the United States and North

96 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
Korea. In reality, the most important consequences must be sought in the
realities and balance of forces in Iran. There, the economy is reeling under
double-digit inflation and unemployment, a 50 percent fall in the price
of Iranian currency, a
massive flight of capital
from Iran’s fledgling Russia has been increasing its power
markets, a financial and presence in Iran.
system on the verge
of collapse, a water shortage of almost biblical proportions, and most
important, an increasingly disgruntled population more and more militat-
ing against regime corruption, incompetence, cronyism, and costly and
regional adventurism. For the first time, that population is also defiantly
finding Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, responsible for failed
In these troubled times, for Khamenei and his allies, the US scuttling of
the JCPOA will be a godsend. It will give them—as it has already done—
bragging rights, allowing them to plausibly declare that they were right in
their opposition to rapprochement with the United States. It might give
the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) the excuse to seize power
outright and establish a military government. It will certainly give the
IRGC a chance to busy giddy minds with allegations of foreign intrigues.
In other words, the US pullout from the Iran nuclear agreement will afford
the supreme leader and his allies yet another scapegoat for their own failed
policies and dogmas. Iran will not leave a US-less JCPOA, but the conser-
vatives there will milk the US pullout for all they can to isolate any opposi-
tion to their failed regime.
Yet more potentially dangerous is the effect of the US action on the
regional role and power of Russia and China. In the United States, the
media have been preoc-
cupied with covering
the apparent Russian Iranian opponents of the deal have
meddling in US politics. long craved an excuse to overturn it.
In Iran, however, Russia
has been increasing its power and presence. Russian planes now have the
right to use Iranian bases to fly missions. Iran quietly announced recently
that it will henceforth try to replace English with Russian as the primary
foreign language taught in Iranian schools. Khamenei has long quietly
favored an Iranian pivot to Russia. Talk of the US withdrawal from JCPOA
was enough for him and his allies to propose such a move more openly. An

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 97
Iranian pivot toward Russia—and away from the West—will have far-reach-
ing, perhaps historic, consequences.
No less critically, China, with investment capital on hand, waits patiently
on the horizon. A further weakened Iranian regime and economy might have
no place to turn but to China.
The imprudent policies of today, including a unilateral withdrawal or
undermining of the JCPOA, might well lead to dangerous results, long after
Trump ceases to be president.

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
Myth of the Great Satan: A New Look at America’s
Relations with Iran, by Abbas Milani. To order, call
(800) 888-4741 or visit

98 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


Revolution Ever
The Iranian revolution, now nearly forty years old,
defied the West and the odds against its survival.
How have the mullahs pulled it off?

By Eric Edelman and Ray Takeyh

t is often claimed that every revolution contains the seeds of its own
destruction. After a spasm of radical overreach, the revolutionaries
yield to the temptations of pragmatism. The need to actually run a
government and address domestic concerns eventually causes them
to come to terms with the international order. Like the French Revolution,
all subsequent regimes have their Thermidorian Reaction. No nation can live
on ideology alone, and the imperative of staying in power forces erstwhile
radicals to soften their edges. The twentieth-century Chinese experience
tends to define our view of how modern revolutionary regimes evolve. After
decades of agitating against the prevailing order, Mao Zedong’s successors
accepted its legitimacy and abandoned communism for a more workable
capitalist system. The lure of commerce proved too tempting, as the Chinese
revolutionaries soon transformed themselves into savvy businessmen. Even

Ambassador Eric Edelman is the Roger Hertog Distinguished Practitioner-
in-Residence at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins
University. Ray Takeyh is the Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle East
Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. They are the authors of Revolution
and Aftermath: Forging a New Strategy toward Iran (Hoover Institution
Press, 2018).

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 99
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

100 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
Vietnam and Cuba are mending their ways. Revolutionaries can either con-
tinue to celebrate their ideals or maintain power; they cannot do both.
Why has Iran defied this pattern? It is becoming increasingly clear that
Ayatollah Khomeini was the most successful revolutionary of the twenti-
eth century. While Vladimir Lenin, Mao, and Ho Chi Minh would no longer
recognize the polities that they attempted to transform with revolutions,
Khomeini’s ideas continue to animate the regime he left behind. Through an
ideology that he concocted, institutions that he created, and an elite that he
molded, Khomeini remains a central figure in Iran nearly three decades after
his death.
The endurance of Khomeini’s message belies the notion of him as a stern
mullah professing a retrogressive ideology. The imam, as his followers
would call him, forged his own path and articulated a distinct set
of ideas that integrated Islamic principles, populist slogans, and
Persian nationalist themes into a seamless narrative.
The Islamic Republic was to defend Iran’s national rights
and prevent the exploitation of its resources by foreigners
that had been so commonplace throughout its history.
Khomeini may have been ignorant of economics, but the
revolution was as much about coin as God. The new
regime committed
itself to providing

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 101
social services to the poor and the peasantry. At times this smacked of class
warfare, as the regime expropriated the property of the wealthy and dis-
persed it to the theocracy’s lower-class constituents. Subsidies and material
rewards would become an important pillar of the legitimacy of the regime,
much to its eventual chagrin. The government that Khomeini left behind
proved to be incapable of producing a vibrant economy and unable to relieve
itself of onerous subsidies, thereby laying the foundation of an insoluble
dilemma for its successors.
The flirtation with progressive concepts of economic redistribution ought
not to be confused with any inclination by Khomeini to accept a system of
government based on anything
but an inflexible adherence to
Ayatollah Khomeini may have his interpretation of Islam. In
been ignorant of economics, but his most influential book, The
Iran’s revolution was as much Islamic Government, Khomeini
about coin as God. radically departed from the pre-
vailing Shiite traditions of politi-
cal disengagement. His concept of velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the jurist)
called for direct assumption of power by the clergy. After all, the prophet of
Islam was not just a spiritual guide but also an administrator, a dispenser of
justice, and a political figure. Given the need to conform the social order to
religious injunctions, the clergy must rule, as they are most knowledgeable
in matters of religious law. Khomeini disdained those who urged the clergy to
retreat to the mosque and leave politics to the professionals. In Iran, the mul-
lahs dispensed with the seminaries for the more exhilarating task of creating
and administering a religious state.

In fact, it is precisely reliance on religion that sets apart Khomeini’s revolu-
tionary experiment from his twentieth-century counterparts. The Islamic
Republic is different from its radical peers, as the ideology of the state is its
religion. To be sure, this is a politicized and radicalized variation of Shiite
Islam and Khomeini’s experiment does contradict normative Shiite political
ideas that have evolved over centuries. Still, religion is the official dogma. A
dedicated core of supporters, loyal to this ideology, determined to perpetuate
it long after Khomeini himself disappeared from the scene.
Revolutionary regimes have usually collapsed when their once-ardent sup-
porters abandoned their faith. Mikhail Gorbachev and his cohort of reform-
ers ultimately had to accept that Lenin’s patrimony had failed them and that

102 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
his brainchild had to be disposed of in the dustbin of history. Mao’s loyalists
pay tribute to him at official ceremonies and then rule the state by capital-
ist precepts that he would find appalling. And the Vietnamese rulers are too
busy attracting Western tourists and hosting American presidents to create
a Marxist utopia in Southeast Asia. It is, after all, easy to be an ex-Marxist,
as this is merely a sign of intellectual maturity. But how easy is it to become
an ex-Shiite? In the former case, it is mere political defection; in the latter, it
is apostasy.
Although the Islamic Republic has become unpopular over the years, for
a small but fervent segment of the population it is still an important experi-
ment of realizing God’s will on earth. And it is this sector of society that
continues to produce leaders who are determined to return to the “roots of
the revolution” and that provides a pool of enforcers who are willing to shed
blood in the name of God.
Khomeini’s concept of Islamic government may have been for the people,
but it certainly was not meant to be democratic. The imam created a set
of institutions that not only ensured clerical political hegemony but also
protected his revolution’s values from the inevitable forces of change. The
Islamic Republic’s constitu-
tion enshrined the unprec-
edented theory of velayat-e Khomeini disdained those who
faqih, whereby a supreme urged the clergy to retreat to the
leader would oversee all mosque and leave politics to the
national affairs. The office professionals.
designated for Khomeini him-
self had virtually unlimited responsibility and was empowered to command
the armed forces and the newly created Revolutionary Guards, dismiss any
elected official, countermand parliamentary legislation, and declare war
and peace. The new office was subject to neither elections nor the scrutiny
of the larger public. Islamic law was to displace the existing legal codes,
circumscribing individual rights and prerogatives. A Guardian Council,
composed mainly of clerics, was to vet all legislation, ensuring its confor-
mity with Islamic strictures. All candidates for public office had to submit
their credentials to the Guardian Council for approval. Yet another clerical
body, the Assembly of Experts, would be responsible for choosing the next
supreme leader.
The constitutional arrangements guaranteed that Khomeini’s reinterpre-
tation of Shiism would remain the ideology of the state and that only those
devoted to his vision would command state institutions.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 103
Throughout his life, Khomeini despised democratic norms and rarely made
references to a republic. For him, Iran was not an Islamic republic but an
Islamic state. He firmly believed that laws should be derived from Quranic
sources as applied to contemporary conditions by a clerical elite. Thus, tradi-
tional democratic institutions and practices such as assemblies, the right to
vote, and referenda had no place in his political imagination. He insisted that
people had to be guided by the righteous and the public had to submit to the
authority of the clerical class. Unlike many of his younger disciples, Khomeini
saw limited utility even in the facade of republicanism. Khomeini’s concept
of proper governance was a religious autocracy that could not be reconciled
with pluralistic concepts.

Had Khomeini remained faithful to his concept of absolutist rule, his religious
state might not have endured. The genius of the Islamic Republic is that it
contains within its autocratic structure elected institutions that have little
power but still provide the public with the means for expressing its griev-
ances. In the absence of such an outlet, however superficial, the state would
have confronted even more protests than it has already. The inclusion of
provisions for electoral politics in the constitution stemmed from the nature
of the revolutionary coalition that overthrew the shah and seized power in
1979. Khomeini and his disciples may have led the revolt, but the support and
participation of many liberals and secularists were critical to its success. The
revolution called for creating a state that would be religious in its character
but democratic in its procedures. This would prove an impossible task. A
state can draw its legitimacy from either elections or religious dogma. The
Islamic Republic bears all the hallmarks of a dictatorship, but maintains a
thin veneer of collective action.
The Islamic Republic does have an elected president, a parliament, and
local councils. These offices may be subordinated to the clerical bodies, but
they are not entirely insignificant. The office of the president appoints the
heads of government ministries, administers the bureaucracy, and frequently
represents Iran at international fora. Although all of the candidates for office

NEVERTHELESS, HE PERSISTED: Iranians gather at the shrine of the founder
of the Islamic Revolution, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Khomeini
returned from exile in 1979 and spent a decade establishing his revolution,
which endures through a combination of state violence, a veneer of democ-
racy, and a self-perpetuating leadership clique. [Maryam Rahmanian—UPI]

H O O V E R D IG E S T • Fall 2018 105
must be approved by the Guardian Council, the Islamic Republic has none-
theless featured a diverse collection of presidents. During the past three
decades, the presidency has changed hands from a reformer with a genuine
desire to foster change to an unreconstructed reactionary and finally to a
cunning pragmatist. The fact that the Iranian people can have a say in who
becomes president
and which candidates
Unlike many of his younger disciples, become members of the
Khomeini saw little utility even in a parliament gives them
pretense of republicanism. His view of the ability to express
proper governance: religious autocracy. their grievances in
an orderly manner.
Members of the public can hope for a voice in national deliberations. This
hope may be a delusion, and the elections have hardly affected the essential
distribution of power, but they have fostered the impression that the citizens
are not mere bystanders in the game of clerical politics. The elected institu-
tions of Iran will not govern the theocracy, but they do provide it with an
important safety valve.
All this is not to suggest that the clerical oligarchs have mastered the
means of staying in power forever. The Islamic Republic’s tenure has been
turbulent. In its first decade, the theocracy had to battle the marginalized
remnants of the revolutionary coalition that were agitating for their share
of power. Then in the 1990s came the reform movement, with its enterpris-
ing efforts to conform religious ideals to pluralistic norms. Supreme leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his militant followers understood that such a
reform effort would not
create an Islamic democ-
A revolution usually fades when racy but would lead to the
those who were present at the cre- extinction of the Islamic
ation pass from the scene. Iran defied Republic. And then came
the titanic Green Move-
this pattern.
ment in the aftermath
of the fraudulent presidential election of 2009 that shook the foundations of
the state. The regime has never completely recovered from the convulsions
of that summer. In 2018, Iran was once more rocked by demonstrations that
began with economic grievances but quickly led to calls for the overthrow of
the theocracy. Still, Khomeini’s unusual amalgamation of clerical ruling bod-
ies coexisting with less-consequential elected institutions was an ingenious
manner of protecting his revolution. It is an enterprise that will one day

106 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
come to an end. But its sheer longevity is a tribute to his innovative approach
to founding a political regime.
Yet another facet of the Islamic Republic is its uncanny ability to renew
its constituency in the Iranian polity. A revolution usually fades when those
who were present at the creation pass from the scene and a new generation
of leaders inevitably look to different sources of authority and legitimacy to
underpin their rule. In the 1990s, Iran gave the impression that it would be
following the model of China and other revolutionary states that eventually
transcend their founding dogmas. Intellectuals, businessmen, and techno-
crats dominated the public sphere as Iran seemed to be distancing itself
from its revolutionary heritage. The clerical reformers were speaking of an
Islamic democracy while the younger generation was moving away from a
political culture that celebrated martyrdom and spiritual devotion. Beneath
the surface of reform and change, however, was another segment of society:
pious young men, many of them veterans of the extreme violence of the Iran-
Iraq War, who remained committed to Khomeini’s original vision. From this
part of society emerged men such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and diplomat
Saeed Jalili, to provide a second wave of true believers in Khomeini’s original
A strong strain of nostalgia motivates this younger generation of conser-
vatives. In their publications and declarations, they tend to romanticize the
1980s as the pristine
decade of ideological
After the Rushdie fatwa, Iran was
purity and national
solidarity. Adherents of once more globally ostracized, a
this view see it as an era development entirely acceptable—
when the entire nation even desirable—to Khomeini.
was united behind the
cause of the Islamic Republic. In this view, Khomeini and his disciples were
dedicated public servants free of corruption and crass competition for power,
traits that would hardly characterize many of their successors. Self-reliance
and self-sufficiency were cherished values of a nation that sought to mold a
new Middle East. As with all idealized recollections, the conservatives’ view
of the 1980s has a limited connection to reality. But it is an invented past—a
manufactured reality—that continues to draw a segment of the public to the
theocratic state.
It is impossible to determine what portion of the Iranian public supports
the revolution and its mission of ensuring God’s will on earth. Given all that
we know about the cultural tastes, political aspirations, and cosmopolitan

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 107
nature of Iranian society, it is likely to be a small minority. Still, it is a minor-
ity tied together by religious networks, state patronage, and a sense of being
under siege by the forces of change. The toxic mixture of radical religion
and strident nationalism continues to attract some portion of the younger
generation to Kho-
meini’s cause. These
Marxism promised its adherents rewards people find material
here on earth, but Islamism calls for benefits in his state
sacrifices to be redeemed in the afterlife. and a sense of salva-
That makes it harder to falsify. tion in his ideology.
Marxism promised
its adherents rewards here on earth, while Islamism calls for sacrifices that
will be redeemed in the afterlife. After decades of failed experimentation,
it was easy to prove that Marxism had not succeeded and that it could not
transcend the forces of history. It is harder to demonstrate conclusively that
Islamism cannot deliver on its celestial promises.

As Khomeini approached the end of his life, he grew apprehensive about
the vitality of his revolution. Suddenly there was a risk that the vanguard
Islamic Republic would become a tempered and moderate state. Iran would,
in short, experience the same cycle of revolution and reaction that other
revolutionary regimes from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries
had experienced. China was a cautionary model as, soon after the death of
Mao, it moved in a pragmatic direction of discarding his ideological legacy. At
this point, Khomeini undertook two specific acts to ensure that his disciples
would sustain his revolutionary radicalism and resist moderation.
In 1988, shortly after the cease-fire with Iraq, he ordered one of his last acts
of bloodletting: the execution of thousands of political prisoners then lan-
guishing in Iran’s jails. The mass executions, carried out over several months,
were designed to test Khomeini’s supporters and make certain that they were
ruthlessly committed to his revolution. Those who showed hesitancy would be
seen as halfhearted and dismissed from power. And this indeed did happen to
Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who objected. Khomeini was confident that
the government he would leave behind had the courage to inflict massive and
arbitrary terror to maintain power. Even after this bloodletting, however, he
still worried about possible backsliding on relations with the West.
Khomeini, therefore, manufactured another external crisis to stoke the
revolutionary fires. The publication of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses,

108 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
which depicted the Prophet Muhammad in an unflattering light, offered a
perfect opportunity. In February 1989, Khomeini issued his infamous fatwa
offering a bounty for the deaths of Rushdie and his publishers. Numerous
bombings and acts of violence followed the issuance of the edict, including
the death of twelve people in a large anti-Rushdie riot in India. While the
world saw his act as an indication of his intolerance and militancy, Khomeini
considered domestic political calculations to be paramount. The fatwa thus
was cynically designed to radicalize the Iranian masses in support of the
regime’s ideology. Iran was once more globally ostracized, a development
entirely acceptable—even desirable—to Khomeini.
On June 3, 1989, one of the most militant and successful revolutionaries in
history died. Khomeini breathed his last, confident that his republic and his
ideology would survive. Although many external observers appeared certain
that the inevitable process of moderation would set in to tame the revolu-
tionary fervor of the Iranian regime, it was not to be. The Islamic Republic’s
commitment to the revolution has remained remarkably resilient.

Excerpted from Revolution and Aftermath: Forging a New Strategy
toward Iran, by Eric Edelman and Ray Takeyh (Hoover Institution Press,
2018). © 2018 The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior Uni-
versity. All rights reserved.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Revolution
and Aftermath: Forging a New Strategy toward Iran,
by Eric Edelman and Ray Takeyh. To order, call (800)
888-4741 or visit

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 109


Hapless in Gaza
The world continues to feed Palestinians’ delusions
that they will one day return to land that is now part
of Israel—encouraging the Palestinians to spurn
peaceful solutions that could actually be attained.

By Peter Berkowitz

ast May, freelance journalist Ahmed Abu Artema, an organizer
of “Gaza’s Great Return March,” emphasized in a New York Times
op-ed the peaceful intentions of a movement that has sparked
violence since late March and led to dozens of Palestinians killed
and thousands injured by Israel in defense of its border. In fact, the move-
ment’s very name proclaims a warlike ambition. The “great return march,” a
journey from Gaza to Palestinians’ supposedly true homes in the sovereign
state of Israel, reflects the dream of abolishing the Jewish state.
This dream is the root cause of the humanitarian disaster that blights
the lives of Gazans, and of Hamas’s new round of war—involving the use of
flaming kites on a near-daily basis to set Israeli fields ablaze and of terrorist
infiltration to commit atrocities against Israel’s civilian population.
The seed that grew into “Gaza’s Great Return March,” according to
Artema, was planted in December when President Trump announced—in
accordance with a 1995 congressional resolution—that the United States
would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem.
This, asserted Artema, deepened the wound he feels when he looks across

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.

110 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
the fence that separates Gaza from Israel and sees what he believes to be
occupied Arab land.
The international community stokes Gazans’ ruinous belief that Israel
belongs to them and fuels their delusive dream of return. On May 18, for
example, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) again improperly inter-
vened in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in favor of Hamas. By an overwhelm-
ing margin—twenty-nine countries in favor, two against (the United States
and Australia), and fourteen abstaining—the UNHRC authorized an investiga-
tion into the violence arising from the Gaza demonstrations while, in advance
of the investigation, it
said it “condemns the
The “great return march” reflects the
disproportionate and
dream of abolishing the Jewish state.
indiscriminate use of
force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians.”
Never mind that Israel, having withdrawn from the territory in 2005,
does not occupy Gaza, and resorted to force in the recent confrontations
only after issuing abundant warnings and in manifestly legitimate defense
of its territorial integrity. The council’s gratuitous and entirely foreseeable
action usurped Israel’s right and interfered with its responsibility under
international law to investigate allegations of misconduct by its military. The
one-sided resolution, moreover, airbrushed Hamas’s unlawful dispatch of
combatants dressed as civilians into the frontlines of the border-fence dem-
onstrations with the intent of breaching Israeli defenses.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
persists in encouraging Gazan and West Bank Palestinians—indeed Palestin-
ians living in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and throughout the Middle East and
around the world—to see themselves as refugees endowed with an eternal
right of return to Israel. In December 1949, the United Nations established
UNRWA to provide care for local Arabs displaced by the war five Arab
armies launched against Israel after its declaration of independence in May
1948. UNRWA, however, has deviated greatly from its original mandate. With
the international community’s blessing, it has turned itself into the only UN
organization dedicated to restoring homes and lands not to the people who
left them but to their descendants.

All refugees around the globe, apart from Palestinians, come under the
jurisdiction of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which refers to itself
as the UN Refugee Agency. The UNHCR’s overarching goal is to transform

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 111
NO PEACE: A Palestinian takes cover amid tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers.
Violence from Gaza is egged on by a belief, encouraged by the United Nations
Relief and Works Agency, that Palestinians living anywhere in the world are
endowed with an eternal right to return to Israel. [Xinhua]

refugees into citizens. First it tries to repatriate them. If that fails, it prompt-
ly turns to resettling and integrating them elsewhere.
In stark contrast to the UNHCR, UNRWA is single-mindedly dedicated to
repatriating Palestinians, most of whom by now were not born in Israel, while
neglecting for several generations Palestinian resettlement and integration
elsewhere. Unlike the UNHCR, UNRWA treats refugee status as heritable.
That’s why, despite there being no more than about 650,000 Arabs who left
their homes in 1948 and 1949 during Israel’s war of independence, UNRWA
today recognizes more than five million Palestinians as refugees.
By nurturing this dream of return, the international community perpetu-
ates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Repeatedly assured by diplomats and
intellectuals that their people are blameless, Palestinian leaders refuse half
measures. Systematically encouraged to believe that their grievances are all
Israel’s fault, Palestinians reject compromise. Relieved of accountability for
violating the laws of war, they make human shields of their noncombatants
and make military targets of Israeli noncombatants.

112 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
A solution to Gaza depends on a dramatic transformation of Palestinian
political culture, and of the political culture of the international community
that enables Palestinian belligerence and intransigence.
Israel, however, cannot pin its fate on such improbable developments. As a
matter of self-interest, it must look for ways to reduce tensions with Hamas
and ease Gaza suffering.
Gaza is a crisis waiting to explode. A narrow slice of land a little more than
twice the size of Washington, DC, it is bordered to the west by the Mediter-
ranean, to the north and east by Israel, and to the south and west by Egypt’s
Sinai Peninsula. About 45 percent of the approximately 1.8 million Gazan
Palestinians are under fifteen; about 66 percent are under twenty-five. Since
seizing control of Gaza in 2007, Hamas has established a theological des-
potism whose overrid-
ing purpose is Israel’s
destruction. Neverthe- Any solution to Gaza depends on a
less, Gaza remains
dramatic transformation of Palestin-
dependent on Israel for
ian political culture—and its interna-
water, electricity, and
other humanitarian tional enablers.
That is in part because Israel imposed a land, sea, and air blockade on
Gaza to prevent Hamas from importing rockets and other weapons. It is also
because of harsh controls instituted by the Egyptians at the Rafah border
Three times in the past ten years—the winter of 2008–9, autumn 2012, and
summer 2014—Israel undertook military operations inside Gaza to counter
Hamas mortar, rocket, and missile attacks on its civilian population. With
the advent of the Iron Dome air defense system, Israel has a gone a long
way toward neutralizing the threat from Gaza’s projectiles. So Hamas has
diverted a substantial portion of the building materials arriving in Gaza to
constructing tunnels into Israel for terrorist attacks.
Israel has countered by installing an underground anti-tunnel wall. It is
also building an underwater fence to prevent attacks from the sea. Hamas’s
response is the great march of return.

An understandable consensus has formed in Israel, stretching from beyond
the center right to beyond the center left, that there is little to do in the short
term to improve the situation. That’s probably right.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 113
But Israel should pursue the little it can do energetically. Even as it ensures
that Hamas pays the price for acts of war, Israel must maintain a flow of
basic goods to Gaza. And it must take advantage of opportunities—few and
far between though they may be—to develop commerce and industry there.
Egypt can help. As Anat Berko, a Likud member of the Knesset, told me,
Cairo should allow a much freer flow of goods and individuals through the
Rafah border crossing. Sinai’s El Arish International Airport, less than fifty
miles away, should become a Gaza hub.
The United States can help. It should bring diplomatic and financial pres-
sure to bear on the Egyptians to ease restrictions on Gaza.
And other nations can help. By ceasing to encourage vain hopes and
absurd expectations, they can help Gazans emancipate themselves from
their self-destructive dream of return and replace it with the resolve to build
prosperous lives in the present.

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

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Israel
Facing a New Middle East: In Search of a National
Security Strategy, by Itamar Rabinovich and Itai
Brun. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.

114 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


Only a Mirage
A two-state solution was always going to require
Palestinians and Israelis to trust each other. The
latest Gaza violence has rendered such trust all but

By Richard A. Epstein

ew issues produce more political and emotional discord than the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In principle, there is much to commend
a two-state solution. If achieved, it could allow the two groups to
live beside each other in peace. Unsurprisingly, the interminable
peace process hit yet another roadblock earlier this year when the US embassy
opened in Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed
before Israeli and American dignitaries, “We are in Jerusalem and we are
here to stay.” Meanwhile, thousands of angry Palestinian demonstrators were
rebuffed with deadly force as they sought to storm into Israel from Gaza. The
Palestinians timed those May confrontations to correspond with the seventieth
anniversary of the Palestinian exodus that resulted in the birth of the Israeli
state. Dozens of Gazans died and thousands were wounded as the Israelis used
live ammunition to keep protestors from storming over the barricades.
Now that the protests have subsided, Hamas seeks to capitalize on the
deaths and injuries to isolate Israel diplomatically. The United Nations
Human Rights Council in Geneva has harshly condemned the Israelis for

Richard A. Epstein is the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover
Institution and a member of the steering committee for Hoover’s Working Group
on Intellectual Property, Innovation, and Prosperity. He is also the Laurence A.
Tisch Professor of Law at New York University Law School and a senior lecturer
at the University of Chicago.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 115
a “wholly disproportionate response” to the provocations they faced. Any
fair-minded assessment can judge the Israeli response only by first looking
at Hamas’s provocation. But as with other UN tribunals, the evidence on the
ground does not matter. In this instance, Hamas was fiendishly clever by
mixing in children with violent protesters to bolster its common claim that
the Israelis fired on “unarmed individuals” who posed little or no imminent
threat to the Israelis, a claim that was quickly repeated by US congressmem-
bers Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).
Hamas’s charge was bizarre for two reasons. The first is that a mob, even of
“unarmed” individuals, is typically intent on committing acts of violence by its
sheer force of numbers. Indeed, the fiery confrontation looked like a war zone,
marked by the hurling of Molotov cocktails, rocks, grenades, and pipe bombs at
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) border guards, backed up by the use of incendiary
kites flown over Israeli territory. At multiple points along the border, Hamas
operatives used wire cutters to tear up fences to allow hordes of Palestinians
to fan out into Israeli territory. As Israeli intelligence reported, Hamas paid
women and children to go to the front in order to put them in the line of fire.
This was no peaceful protest, and it takes an uninformed view of the law of
self-defense to insist that Israeli soldiers should have held back their fire until
personally faced with “imminent danger,” at which point it would have been
too late both for them and the civilians they were there to protect. There is
no principle in the law of self-defense that requires a group to forgo self-
defense because there is some chance that the assailant, if successful, will
inflict fewer casualties by its aggression than are in fact inflicted on it. The
Israelis were right to stand their ground.

Politically, the discussion takes a more ominous turn when the protests are
set against the context of the deplorable conditions in which Palestinian
Gazans live. The Palestinian argument is that any acts of immediate aggres-
sion must be viewed within the larger context of the long-running dispute
between the Palestinians and the Israelis. That argument boils down to the
proposition that any and all force needed to reverse the so-called illegal
occupation of Palestine is justified. But that no-holds-barred attitude only
hardens the lines of division. As the recent confrontation indicates, short of
any major transformation of Palestinian demands, there is no chance of a
constructive movement away from the intolerable status quo.
Formidable obstacles lie in the path of the two-state solution. The Palestin-
ians are up in arms about the United States’ decision to locate its embassy in

116 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
Jerusalem. In their view, this action forestalls their ability to have their own cap-
ital in East Jerusalem, despite President Trump’s carefully crafted statement
on Jerusalem, which specified: “We are not taking a position of any final status
issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem,
or the resolution of contested borders.” So the only reason for linking their pro-
test to the new embassy is that the Palestinians do not concede that a compre-
hensive settlement will include Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Israel would
have to move its capital to Tel Aviv—assuming there is any Israel at all.
At no point have the Palestinians in the West Bank, let alone Gaza, allowed
for the possibility of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel while mov-
ing their own capital from Ramallah to East Jerusalem. The reason is that
they know that this simple concession contains the necessary implication
that Israel, with a capital in West Jerusalem, is entitled to retain the legiti-
mate occupation of at least some land within its current borders. Yet until
that acknowledgement is made, it sounds as if the Palestinians’ sole object in
any negotiation is driving all Israelis out of greater Palestine.
The rest of the pieces quickly fall into place. The Palestinians demand the
right of return for those (and their descendants) who were displaced from
their homes during the chaotic events of 1948. There is no easy resolution to
the question of whether the Palestinians were driven from their homes by the
Israelis, or whether they were urged by their own leaders to flee momentarily
to make it easier for the invading Arab armies to isolate and kill the Jews
who remained. But whatever one thinks about that question, the passage of
time means that a right of return for several million people and their descen-
dants cannot realistically be on the table as part of a comprehensive settle-
ment. Just exactly where would these returnees go? Would they be entitled
to displace Israelis from their current homes? Take the reins of local govern-
ment? Run the army? These issues would remain even if, by some miracle,
Palestinians were prepared to issue paper guarantees of Israeli safety. To put
this issue on the table is to end the discussion before it begins.
The remaining question is whether at this point there is any opportunity for
a two–state solution, in which Palestinians gain sovereignty over their own land
in the West Bank and Gaza. The answer is no, and will remain so unless Israel
receives more than paper guarantees that the new Palestinian state would not
raise an army of its own (by turning its police force into one, for example) or
invite its allies’ military forces (such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards) to
set up camp within its borders. Such threats would make an invasion of Israel
inevitable, for even if the current leaders were to oppose it, nothing would
prevent their successors from walking back any agreement. It would therefore

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 117
take an act of faith by the Israelis to allow the formation of a Palestinian state
without some Israeli military presence on the ground, requiring a status-of-
forces agreement, the precise terms of which would be difficult to negotiate.

The list of deal breakers does not stop here. When the Jordanians occupied the
West Bank between 1949 and 1967, they desecrated every Jewish temple and
burial site and expelled all its Jewish residents before annexing the territory in
1950. Is there any reason to doubt a repetition? It is also surely fair to ask: what
will be the status of Jews who desire to remain in the West Bank if the area is
turned over to a new Palestine? No one expects that they will be admitted in
the Palestinian army or security operations; Israeli Arabs face similar restric-
tions. But will Jews living under Palestinian rule be able to own property, vote,
obtain an education, or work in government as Israeli Arabs do in Israel today?
The question seems to answer itself. Residual hatreds burn deep. Better to flee
than to face loss of privileges, imprisonment, or even death.
In the end, the Gaza unrest pushed any feasible solution even further into
the distance. The 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza has offered a glimpse
of what a two-state solution might look like. Thirteen years of strife rule out
any comprehensive two-state solution. Ordinary people in Gaza now sense
this gloom. Listen to Abdul Rahman, age fifty-nine, a vegetable trader. His
assessment of what the protest accomplished, as reported in the pages of
the Sydney Morning Herald, was this: “Zero. Less than zero.” War does that.
The Palestinians’ only hope for peace is to renounce violence and to expand
cross-border trade within boundaries, which might lead to cooperation, inter-
dependence, and then trust. Trump is said to have a Mideast peace plan up
his sleeve. He has his work cut out for him.

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

118 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


Where Is Poland
A new populist party aims to tighten its grip on
institutions—and on Polish history itself.

By Norman M. Naimark

uring the forty-five painful years of communist rule, Poland’s
economy was overwhelmed by shortages, low productivity,
and debt. Today, the country is booming; by most measures it
represents one of the eight strongest economies in Europe and
certainly the biggest in the former Soviet bloc. Unemployment is down from
double-digit numbers to 4.1 percent; growth is steady at 4 percent a year.
The infusion of investment and aid to the country’s infrastructure from the
European Union has translated into urban and even rural prosperity. Since
the collapse of communism, GDP per capita has almost tripled from $5,510 in
1990 to $15,049 in 2016.
Not only is Poland prosperous, but for one of the few times in its long
and frequently tragic history, the country is relatively secure. It has been a
stalwart member of NATO since 1999 and of the European Union since 2004.
Poland would like greater guarantees for its security from the United States,
including the permanent stationing of US troops, for which it has offered the
funding. But in lieu of that, there have been serious joint operations between

Norman M. Naimark is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Free-
man Spogli Institute for International Studies. He is also the Robert and Florence
McDonnell Professor of East European Studies at Stanford University.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 119
NATO and Polish forces, like the June 2018 Operation Saber Strike 18, involv-
ing over eighteen thousand NATO troops in Poland and the Baltic region.
Ongoing problems with Brussels and the European Union over rule-of-law
issues should not obscure the reality of Poland’s sense of place in Europe and
its role as one of the United States’ strongest allies in the world.
Despite unprecedented prosperity and a firm grip on the country’s secu-
rity, Poland has been susceptible to the siren call of populism, as have many
other countries in Europe, both east and west. The ruling party, Law and Jus-
tice, known as PiS (pronounced “peace”), has developed its own particular
version of Polish populism that leans heavily on traditional Polish conserva-
tive Catholic thinking and shares the anti-globalization, anti-immigrant, anti-
abortion, and anti-gay rhetoric of similar parties in Europe. It also leads a
highly nationalistic government, more in the traditions of Roman Dmo­wski’s
National Democratic Party of the nineteenth and early twentieth century
than those of the interwar populists of Wincenty Witos’s Peasant Party.

PiS is inspired and led behind the scenes by Jarosław Kaczyński, who
founded the party in 1990 with his twin brother, Lech, the former president
of Poland. Lech Kaczyński died tragically in an airplane accident at Smolensk
on April 10, 2010, along with ninety-five others, including the crew and promi-
nent representatives of the Polish government, military, and society. Brother
Jarosław and many in PiS refuse to accept that the crash was a simple acci-
dent caused by pilot error, the conclusion of an independent investigation,
but insist that Russian manipulation and even the machinations of the former
government of Donald Tusk were involved.
The ruling party’s support is mostly in the countryside and in smaller cities,
especially in eastern and central Poland, where the progressive platforms of
former presidents Lech Wałęsa, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, and Donald Tusk
(president of the European Council since 2010) are denounced as “post-com-
munist,” excessively subservient to the European Union, and unworthy of the
new Poland of the new Fourth Republic that PiS seeks to construct. But it is
also the case that PiS has broad support among many young people, business-
men, and pensioners throughout the country. PiS recognizes few enemies on
the right, and instead, through its rhetoric and public stances, has empowered
Polish neo-fascists and anti-Semites to spread their ideas and take their pro-
tests against gay rights, abortion rights, and globalization to the streets.
At the same time, PiS has won considerable domestic acclaim for its social
programs, especially for the direct monthly payment of 500 zlotys (about

120 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
RULE OF LAW: A demonstration in Krakow opposes the ruling party’s moves
to control Poland’s judiciary. Both Polish protesters and the European Union
have opposed the efforts, with the EU saying they violate European core val-
ues. [Omar Marques—ZUMA Press]

$135) to Polish families for additional children. The amount may not seem
like a lot, but it provides just enough extra cash for families to allow for many
women to afford to stay at home with their children. Promises of increased
pensions and early retirement policies have also garnered PiS the kind of
popularity that made it possible for it to overwhelm its primary opponent,
Civic Platform, in the 2015 elections and control the politics of the national
assembly, the Sejm, together with several small conservative and right-wing
PiS’s assault on liberal Poland began in 2016 with a partly successful
attempt to “reform” Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, which the party
claimed was in the hands of judges appointed in the communist era. It also
sought to empower the minister of justice to replace the justices with those
friendly to the party. In these plans, the National Council of the Judiciary,
an independent body that deals with appointing justices and reviewing their
performance, would have been subordinated to the parliament and therefore
to PiS. Recently, the government took on the Supreme Court, passing a law

H O O V E R D IG E S T • Fall 2018 121
that would force nearly a third of its seventy-three judges into retirement.
Professor Małgorzata Gersdorf, the chief justice of the Supreme Court and a
special target of PiS, has so far refused to vacate her position as demanded
by the parliamentary law.
The ruling party’s attempts to transform the judiciary in its own image
have been countered by sporadic demonstrations in Warsaw and elsewhere
in the country and by
serious opposition from
Like many other European countries, European Union officials.
Poland has been attracted to the siren The EU has discussed
call of populism. PiS’s actions as a poten-
tial breach of Article 7
of the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, meant to uphold European “core values” such as
democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. The penalties for such a trans-
gression could be to suspend membership rights in EU organizations, to cut
off EU subsidies, and to deny access to the single market. Neither the Poles
nor the EU are anxious to reach the stage of this “nuclear option.” Thus,
there have been ongoing talks between EU Commission First Vice President
Frans Timmermans and the Poles about how to defuse the crisis and reach a
Similar problems regarding rule-of-law issues in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary
have frustrated EU politicians, who have problems enough with Brexit,
refugee issues, and a looming trade war with the United States. The trans-
gressions of populist politicians, of course, are not just an issue of Poland
and Hungary. The governments of Austria, Slovenia, and now Italy have
also adopted populist platforms that challenge the progressive policies of

Poland’s populist government has also made serious attempts to revise what
it characterizes as “un-Polish” views of the past, using appeals to national-
ism to unseat political opponents and Polish cultural critics. There was a
determined and ultimately successful attempt to remove the director of the
new World War II Museum in Gdansk at the beginning of 2017 and replace
him with a more politically friendly director because the museum did not
sufficiently represent the narrow Polish nationalist view of bravery and
suffering during the war. The director of the museum had made a concerted
effort to couch Polish wartime history in the larger context of the genuinely
global conflict, which the government critics condemned as anti-Polish.

122 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
The concluding film depicting the international character of the war and
the struggle for peace has now been removed from the exhibit and a Polish
patriotic film put in its place. It is unlikely that the rest of the exhibition will
be kept intact. The former director has filed suit to prevent the government
from taking such action.
More recently, in February 2018, the government passed a law that sought
to restrict how scholars and journalists talk and write about the Holocaust.
Poles are justifiably frustrated by the fact that the Nazi death camps located
in Poland during the war are sometimes referred to, especially in the West,
as “Polish death camps.” But the new law threatened those who use the term,
almost always out of ignorance, with three years in prison. (US President
Barack Obama made that same mistake in 2012 and apologized to the Polish
government as a result.)
With even worse implications for unfettered historical scholarship, the law
stated that those who suggest that “the Polish nation or Polish state” collud-
ed in the Holocaust were also subject to three years in prison. Although some
Poles did collude with the Nazis in the persecution and killing of the Jews
and others turned over Jews to the authorities or refused help to them—to
be caught protecting Jews could result in execution by the Germans—this
was not a matter of the Polish state (there was no Polish state at the time) or
of the nation as a whole. As many critics of the law pointed out, the slippage
between characterizations of individual Poles and the Polish nation could
have been used to intimidate researchers and commentators.
The law itself was poorly conceived and carried out. PiS’s attempt to gain
support from Pol-
ish nationalist circles
backfired diplomatically. Former governments are denounced
It immediately raised as “post-communist,” excessively
the ire of one of Poland’s subservient to the EU, and unworthy
closest allies, the state of the new Poland.
of Israel, which was
otherwise deeply appreciative of Poland’s support for moving Israel’s capital
to Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was particularly sharp
in his criticism: “One cannot change history, and the Holocaust cannot be
denied.” The new law also prompted protests from the US State Department,
which is itself very sensitive to Jewish issues in Poland. Perhaps most signifi-
cant, especially given the recent “détente” of sorts between the world Jewish
community and the Polish government, were critical reactions from Jewish
organizations. One video, sponsored by the Ruderman Family Foundation

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 123
(and subsequently withdrawn), melodramatically denounced what it repeat-
edly referred to as “the Polish Holocaust,” a completely inappropriate term
sure to offend the Poles.
Yet PiS might count this conflict with Jewish organizations as a domestic
political victory, since it could then pose as the defender of Polish national
honor against international Jewish circles that supposedly denounced the
country’s wartime record.
Kaczyński and the PiS
The head of a new World War II leadership have unam-
museum was ousted because it didn’t biguously denounced anti-
reflect the narrow Polish nationalist Semitism. But they have
view of bravery and suffering. played with a sensitive
issue, one in which they
have no important stake, and thus they tried to back away from it as best
they could without sacrificing the principle of historical truth they believe
they have upheld.
On June 27, the PiS backed down; the fight with the world Jewish commu-
nity, Israel, and their allies on this issue was simply not worth it. The penal-
ties that would have attended the supposed “crimes” were removed from
the law. In a joint statement, Netanyahu and Polish prime minister Mateusz
Morawiecki concluded: “Both governments vehemently condemn all forms of
anti-Semitism and express their commitment to oppose any of its manifesta-
tions. Both governments also express their rejection of anti-Polonism and
other negative national stereotypes.” Yet the statement also provoked contro-
versy when it suggested that during the war the Polish government-in-exile
and the Polish underground “created a mechanism of systematic support for
Jewish people,” which Yad Vashem, the Jewish Holocaust memorial in Israel,
condemned as historically inaccurate and one-sided.
As a result of the recent controversies, many Poles have become interested
in issues of Polish-Jewish relations again. The 2014 opening of the magnifi-
cent Polin Museum in Warsaw, dedicated to the history of the Polish Jews,
reflected what had already been a modest but notable revival of the small
Jewish community in Poland. The “noise” in the press and on television
surrounding the law prompted Polish teachers to take their classes to the
Polin Museum, a place flooded with Polish schoolchildren. It also encouraged
volunteers among both Poles and Jews to participate in informational meet-
ings and community initiatives to commemorate the Holocaust and clean up
Jewish cemeteries in Poland. Traditional Polish anti-Semitism is still “in the
air.” But the positive evolution of Polish-Jewish relations will continue.

124 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
Typical of European populist parties, PiS’s attacks on the European Union’s
refugee policies have been strident and borderline racist, even though there
has been virtually no immigration to Poland from Syria or Africa. Like the
rhetoric surrounding the issue of historical “truth” about the Second World
War, PiS’s philippics against immigration are meant to bolster its nationalist
credentials. Early on, Kaczyński warned that refugees would bring disease
and crime to Poland and were to be avoided at all costs. Poland’s Christian
purity would be threatened by an influx of Muslims, even though Poland
already has a tiny minority population of Muslim Tatars, who are generally
well integrated into the society.
Yet these injunctions about migrants do not apply to Ukrainians, who are
coming to Poland in huge numbers—between one and two million are in
Poland, depending on the construction and tourist seasons—and are filling
jobs that Poles are unwilling to take in the service and building industries.
Many Poles prefer better-paying positions, sometimes in these same indus-
tries, in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and elsewhere in Western Europe. In
fact, it is a particular paradox that Poles, who have been a nation of emi-
grants since the nineteenth century—in search of economic welfare, personal
security, and freedom—are now proving to be among the most obdurate
opponents of accepting immigrants into their fold.
The future of Polish populism is extremely difficult to predict. PiS is
involved in a balancing act. Poland needs the European Union and has
profited financially from belonging to it as have few other countries. Public
opinion polls indicate
that the Polish public is
highly supportive of the The ruling party’s complaints about
idea of the European immigration are meant to bolster its
Union. But PiS is also nationalist credentials.
determined to fight for
its values against what it sees as the more cosmopolitan and liberal policies
of Brussels and of the progressive Polish intelligentsia. The country is deeply
polarized, seemingly more so every day, with PiS capturing a substantial seg-
ment of public opinion that was deeply dissatisfied with the progressive poli-
tics and free market economics of the Polish post-communist governments.
Much of the media is now under PiS’s control, and it will be difficult to break
its increasing monopoly on information. But it is also true that Jarosław
Kaczyński is the heart and soul of the party, and his recent serious illness,
not fully reported in the press yet confirmed by party circles, has already

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 125
prompted speculation about whether PiS could survive his withdrawal from
Since the formation of Solidarity in the 1980s (and, one could argue, deep
into its historical past), the Polish opposition has developed an intimate
understanding of the role
of protest in civil society.
Poland needs the European Union PiS and its allies may be
and has profited from belonging to it getting stronger. But it
as have few other countries. would be a mistake to
underestimate the ability
of the opposition to protect Polish democracy. PiS will push as hard as it can
to reform the judiciary and seize control of the country’s cultural policies. On
the model of Viktor Orbán and his illiberal revolution in Hungary, Kaczyński
and his party may well seek to alter the Polish constitution. Whether they
will succeed in creating a Fourth Polish Republic in their nationalist image
remains to be seen.

Special to the Hoover Digest.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Andrei
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Sidney D. Drell and George P. Shultz. To order, call
(800) 888-4741 or visit

126 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


A Taste of Polish
Political figure Ryszard Legutko explains why
Poland’s ruling party is blazing its own path.

By Tunku Varadarajan

here is much talk about tensions between Europe and Don-
ald Trump’s United States. But just as the American public
is divided over Trump, Europe has its own deep fissures. The
most prominent example is Brexit, Britain’s vote, months before
Trump’s election, to leave the European Union. A close second may be the
EU’s clash with Poland, its largest Eastern European member.
One reason Poland infuriates the EU, according to Ryszard Legutko, is
Warsaw’s unswerving pro-Americanism. After Brexit, Poland will be “the
most Atlanticist country in the EU,” says Legutko, a professor of ancient
philosophy who also represents Poland’s conservative governing party in the
European Parliament.
“That’s why we have the notion of strengthening the eastern flank of NATO
with American troops,” he tells me in an interview at the Polish Consulate
in Manhattan. “I do not think that a substantial reduction of the US mili-
tary presence in Germany will happen soon, but one cannot exclude such a

Ryszard Legutko is a member of the European Parliament and a professor at the
Jagellonian University in Kraków. Tunku Varadarajan is the Virginia Hobbs
Carpenter Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, the editor of Hoover’s online
publication Defining Ideas, and a contributor to the Herbert and Jane Dwight
Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 127
possibility, once we remember how quick President Trump can be in taking
If Trump is a harsh critic of American elites, Legutko plays that role, albeit
with a less demotic style, in the European context. In his 2016 book, The
Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies, he writes: “The
European Union reflects the order and the spirit of liberal democracy in its
most degenerate version.” That, he tells me, is why the EU “doesn’t merely
have individual dissidents in its midst, but also dissident states.” The prevail-
ing EU attitude “not only toward Trump, but also toward Hungary, Poland,
Italy, and other dissident governments,” he says, is that they are “accidents,
unnatural deviations, that could and will be quickly corrected.”

In the Polish case, Brussels is attempting to apply some muscle toward that
end. Poland’s governing Law and Justice Party enacted a law imposing a
retirement age of sixty-five on the country’s Supreme Court judges. The aim
was to force out some long-sitting liberal jurists and replace them with more-
conservative ones. Brussels accuses Poland of violating the EU treaty and is
threatening to suspend the country’s voting rights in the union.
“More than 80 percent of Poles want the legal system to be reformed,”
Legutko says indignantly. “They have had a very bad experience with the
courts.” In the Polish Supreme Court—“a body of one hundred judges, so
with nothing in common with the US Supreme Court”—there are “still
members who faithfully and shamelessly served the communist regime in the
past.” After communism’s fall in 1989, he says, there were “only forty-eight
cases of judges being charged with collaborating with the communist regime
by legalizing its political repression.” In forty-two of these cases, the disci-
plinary courts refused to start legal proceedings. “In five cases, the judges
were acquitted. Only one judge was found guilty.”
The Polish government insists its actions are a necessary debridement of
the judiciary’s rotten corpus. The EU disagrees, Legutko says, because “it is
liberalism incarnate.” In his book, he writes that “Poland shook off the com-
munist yoke at a time when the Western world had already reached a phase
of considerable homogeneity and standardization.” The smart set in Brussels
finds the Poles irritating, he tells me, because they want Poland to be “indis-
tinguishable from other EU nations.” An “exotic Poland” that pursues its own
political course is unacceptable.
The EU’s elites, Legutko says, are unbending in their belief that “one has
to be liberal in order to be respectable, that whoever is not a liberal is either

128 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
TURBULENT TIMES: Ryszard Legutko, who represents Poland’s ruling party
in the European Parliament, insists Poland will be “the most Atlanticist coun-
try in the EU.” Legutko says the European Union’s attitude toward dissidents
in its midst is to consider them “accidents, unnatural deviations.” [Katarzyna
Czerwińska—Chancellery of the Polish Senate]

stupid or dangerous, or both.” Seconds later, he corrects himself: “I mean
the elites of the West, including those of the United States. Being liberal is
the litmus test of political decency. This is today’s orthodoxy. If you criticize
it, or you’re against it, you’re disqualified.” The world has “shrunk,” Legutko
laments, “and the liberal paradigm seems to be omnipresent.”

What is that paradigm? “A liberal is somebody who will come up to you and
tell you, ‘I will organize your life for you. I will tell you what kind of liberty
you will have. And then you can do whatever you like.’ ” His response—and
Poland’s as a sovereign entity—is unequivocal: “Don’t organize my liberty
for me. Do not try to create a blueprint according to which an entire society
must function.” That’s why, he says, Poland is “a dissident member of the EU,
and the primary reason why it has been attacked so much. Not because we
did something outrageous, but because of who we refuse to be.”

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 129
Hungary, under Viktor Orbán, is also an EU dissident. It was, Legutko
says, “the first to be attacked by the elites because of Prime Minister Orbán’s
rejection of liberal ways.” But he thinks Brussels sees Poland as a bigger
threat: “Hungary is a small country. Poland is not. The criticism is severe
because we are more important, in a way.” What goes down particularly
badly with the conservative government in Warsaw is the “condescension”
of France and Germany: “They say to Poland, ‘Why are you making so much
noise? Why are you doing all of this? You were part of the club before. You
received all sorts of benefits. Isn’t what you got enough?’ ”
No, Legutko answers. All these “benefits”—such as the elevation of former
Polish prime minister Donald Tusk to the presidency of the “toothless”
European Council—mask the disproportionate division of power within the
EU. Equality of member states exists only on paper: “The big players use the
European institutions to serve their own interests, and the political archi-
tecture condemns everyone else to subordinate status.” He says this could
become “unbearable” for Poland, especially after Britain’s departure.
You might think Legutko would sympathize with Brexit, but he regards it
as a nightmare. “It was very bad for Poland, and very bad for the EU, because
Britain had been a country of common sense.” He describes the response
of European leaders: “First, they started by insulting the Brits—they were
fooled, they were duped,
they were illiterate. The
“Being liberal is the litmus test of old senile Brits and the
political decency—this is today’s uneducated young were
orthodoxy.” those who voted to leave,
and those who were intel-
ligent voted to remain.” That reaction, he says, is “typical. You cannot behave
differently from us without being a fool.” For an American, the word “deplor-
able” comes to mind.
Could there someday be a Polish exit from the EU? No, Legutko says
emphatically. “We will probably be the last to leave the EU. We will switch
off the lights.” The Poles overwhelmingly favor the union but are concerned
about its direction: “Polish history has been very turbulent, as you know. We
lost our independence for a long time. So even as we join the world, we are
very watchful of our sovereignty, very sensitive about it.”
That watchfulness can shade into hypersensitivity—and into a weariness
with the West. “Under the old communist regime, the West was considered
an alternative to communism. It was a hope, a place in which one could
find refuge from an oppressive and stifling ideology.” Such refuge could be

130 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
temporary, for “a student who obtained a scholarship in France or Britain,”
or permanent, for one who defected. But for those who stayed in Poland,
“even watching American or British movies, reading books, or listening to
the radio was like a breath of fresh air.”
Legutko says that “this feeling that there is a different world, unlike the
one I live in, is disappearing because of the homogenization of Western
culture.” The results are
depressing. “Wherever
one goes, from Germany “We lost our independence for a long
to New Zealand, one time. So even as we join the world, we
finds oneself in the are very watchful of our sovereignty,
power of the same liberal very sensitive about it.”
ideology, the same jar-
gon.” Dissenters, he says, are few and marginalized. An incorrect utterance
can lead to swift, career-ending reprisals.
Paradoxically, in Legutko’s view, one now finds greater diversity and
freedom of thought in some of the former communist countries, including
Poland: “Political correctness is less oppressive, and there are influential
nonliberal ideas. The fact that the Catholic Church is strong in Poland makes
a difference, because it gives us a mental and spiritual access to ideas and
sensibilities that have evaporated in the secular West.
“We often say, half-jokingly and half-seriously, that now Poland may
become a country to which people will defect”—people “from France, the
Netherlands, or Britain.”

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

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 • Fall 2018 131


A Bloc Divided
Authoritarianism reappears in Eastern Europe.
Will the European Union defend its values?

By Timothy Garton Ash

oris Johnson should change his name and move to Hungary. “My
policy on cake,” Johnson famously says, “is pro having it and pro
eating it.” With this approach to Brexit, the British government
will end up neither having its cake nor eating it. Viktor Orbán’s
nationalist populist Hungarian government, by contrast, is triumphantly
practicing the Johnson doctrine. It receives more European Union cake per
capita than any other member state while mustering nationalist support by
biting the Brussels hand that feeds it. Boris Johnzsönhelyi would be a happy
trooper on the Danube.
Poland is also having its cake and eating it. According to European Commis-
sion figures, more than half of all public investment in Hungary and Poland in
2015–17 was funded by the EU. I recently visited one of Poland’s poorest regions;
wherever I went there was a road, a bridge, a marketplace or a train connection
being modernized with EU funds. Yet the country’s de facto leader, Jarosław
Kaczyński, has eviscerated the independence of the courts, turned public
service radio and television into propaganda organs for his Law and Justice
Party, and continues to pursue Orbánisation à la polonaise. He hasn’t got as far
as Orbán, but the consequences of east-central Europe’s largest country sliding
into Hungarian-style soft authoritarianism would be larger for the whole EU.

Timothy Garton Ash is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Professor of
European Studies at the University of Oxford, and Isaiah Berlin Research Fellow
at St. Antony’s College, Oxford.

132 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
Here is a fundamental challenge to anyone who thinks the EU should stand
for values of liberal democracy, pluralism, the rule of law, and free speech. If
it doesn’t defend these values at home, it cannot be credible advocating them
Reflecting on the Orbánisation of Hungary, the political scientist Jan-
Werner Müller asks: “Can a dictatorship be a member of the EU?” Of course,
Hungary is not yet a dictatorship, but the EU has completely failed to draw a
red line and say, “Thus far and no further.” I am confident Britain will remain
a liberal democracy even if it leaves the EU; Hungary and Poland, by con-
trast, will remain members of the EU but are ceasing to be liberal democra-
cies. In the very countries where, three decades ago, the causes of freedom
and Europe advanced so magnificently arm in arm, these causes are now
being pried apart by skillful, antiliberal populists exploiting a long-standing
disconnect between the Europe of values and the Europe of money.
This problem runs through the history of European integration, with
the values being defended by the Council of Europe, its European court of
human rights in Strasbourg, and to some extent the Organization for Secu-
rity and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—whose election monitors criticized
Hungary’s running of its recent election. The EU started life as an economic
community. For decades now, attempts have been made to reverse-engineer
the values back into the economic community. This has worked well in influ-
encing the behavior of
countries aspiring to EU
membership, but once a This is a challenge to anyone who
country like Hungary is thinks the EU stands for liberal
inside the union, it rap- democracy, pluralism, the rule of law,
idly finds it can get away and free speech.
with almost anything.
What can the EU do? It has applied to Poland an elaborate procedure
for addressing “systemic” threats to the rule of law, including proceedings
for infringement of the treaties. This has been important symbolically, but
largely ineffective. Poland’s own ombudsman, Adam Bodnar, finds that the
rule of law has already been seriously undermined, and the constitutional
court emasculated. Brussels has been playing chess against a kickboxer. The
kickboxer wins.
For the first time ever, the EU has activated Article 7 of its basic treaty,
identifying a serious and persistent breach of fundamental EU values in
Poland. Article 7 envisages sanctions, up to and including suspension of vot-
ing rights in the union’s internal decision making, so long as all other member

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 133
states agree. But they won’t, because Hungary will have Poland’s back and
Poland Hungary’s.
Increasingly, attention has turned to linking the money countries get from
Brussels to respect for the rule of law. In the recent proposal for the EU’s
2021–27 budget, the European Commission elaborated a remarkable proce-
dure: if there are “generalized deficiencies” in a member state’s legal system,
the EU can cut the flow of funds. Since such an action requires only a major-
ity in the European Council, Poland and Hungary couldn’t veto it.
In addition, the European antifraud office and the European public pros-
ecutor are to crack down on corruption in the distribution of EU funds. This
matters because a crucial part of east-central European Johnsonism is using
EU funds for political patronage, rewarding supportive media owners and
other cronies, as well as more straightforward pocket-lining. The outsize,
brand new football stadium and barely used single-gauge railway near
Orbán’s childhood
village have become
Three decades ago in these very coun- global symbols of
tries, the causes of freedom and Europe this.
advanced magnificently arm in arm. The European
Commission pro-
posals are welcome, but will not begin to bite for several years. We need
something with more immediate impact. That something is the expulsion of
Orbán’s Fidesz party from the European People’s Party (EPP) before next
year’s European elections. The EPP is the EU’s main grouping of center-right
parties. Leading figures from its member parties include German chancellor
Angela Merkel, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, European Commis-
sion president Jean-Claude Juncker, and European Council president Donald
Tusk. It emphatically holds high the values of liberal pluralist democracy.
What is more, party groupings such as this are supposed to be at the heart
of the EU’s internal democratization. Yet it keeps in its ranks a party that not
only is dismantling liberal, pluralist democracy at home, but fought its last
election on an anti-Brussels, xenophobic platform, including dog-whistle anti-
Semitism in posters plastered across the country targeting George Soros
and a fictional “Soros plan” for flooding Hungary with Muslim migrants. The
EPP does not merely tolerate Fidesz; it actively supports it. As the Fidesz
MEP József Szájer noted in an appreciative e-mail to fellow MEPs (leaked
to Politico), EPP parliamentary leader Manfred Weber came to Budapest “to
support our campaign, to stand firm beside us,” and party president Joseph
Daul “considerably helped us to score this success.”

134 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
When I make this argument to friends in these center-right parties, they
say: “Oh, but it’s still better to have Orbán inside because we can influence
him there.” And so they go on nursing the classic illusions of appeasement,
playing chess against a kickboxer.
We don’t have time for this anymore. The matter is urgent. If Poland fol-
lows the Hungarian path, much of east-central Europe will have succumbed
to creeping authoritarianism—and all of this will have happened inside the
European Union.

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

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

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 135


Two Roads
Why did Japan and China take such divergent
paths into the modern world?

By Mark Koyama

ne hundred and fifty years ago, the Meiji Restoration upturned
the traditional political order in East Asia. After 1868, Japan
rapidly build a modern and centralized state, acquired a colonial
empire, and despite catastrophic defeat in World War II became
the largest economy in East Asia (until the early twenty-first century). This
represented a dramatic reordering of the traditional Sinocentric East Asian
political order, one that has been partly reversed in recent decades with the
rise of China restoring the pre-Meiji equilibrium.
This was East Asia’s “little divergence”—a transformation that paralleled
the broad Great Divergence that opened up between Western societies and
the rest of the world after 1800. In recent work with co-authors Chiaki Mori-
guchi and Tuan-Hwee Sng (2018), I consider the factors responsible for the
little divergence in state power that occurred between China and Japan.
From an outsider’s perspective, this transformation is puzzling. After all,
China had what Francis Fukuyama deems “the first modern state” over two
thousand years ago. And under its last dynasty, the Qing, its borders reached
their greatest extent and its population and economy expanded tremendous-
ly. China had a centralized fiscal system and the largest army in the world,
and was governed by a professional bureaucracy recruited via a competitive

Mark Koyama is a W. Glenn Campbell and Rita Ricardo-Campbell National Fel-
low at the Hoover Institution. He is an associate professor of economics at George
Mason University and a senior scholar at the Mercatus Center.

136 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
examination system. Recent assessments by economic historians have pro-
duced a fairly favorable assessment of the ability of Chinese economic institu-
tions to support trade and markets.
In contrast, Japan was governed by a coalition of lords (daimyo). The sho-
gun was the most powerful lord and his government (the bakufu) controlled
foreign policy. But in many respects, Tokugawa Japan was not a modern
state. There was no central treasury or centralized system of taxation. Nor
was there a monopoly on legitimate violence. The domains retained their
own armies and administrators. Weights and measures varied across the
domains, as did the currency. Japan had a developed market economy and
a fairly high level of urbanization for preindustrial standards, but it was far
from politically unified.

What disturbed the traditional order was the rising threat of Western power.
Until the mid-nineteenth century both China and Japan had limited incur-
sions from Western traders, missionaries, or armies. Qing China had expelled
the Jesuits in 1721, and trade with China was confined to Macau. The Japa-
nese, meanwhile, pursued a policy of seclusion, limiting trade to Dutch and
Chinese merchant ships at Nagasaki.
There were several minor attempts to land vessels for refueling in Japan
in the first part of the nineteenth century, but no major developments until
the First Opium War (1839–42). In every respect, the First Opium War was
the decisive shock to the East Asian order, not only for China but also for
Japan. The Tokugawa
government was initially
convinced that the Qing Two thousand years ago, China had
empire would win an what Francis Fukuyama deems “the
easy victory against first modern state.”
Western barbarians and
disbelieved early Dutch reports of British victories. After China’s shocking
defeat, Japanese attitudes changed and policy makers both in the shogunate
and in the domains began to consider how best to defend themselves from
Western incursions.
Influenced by Otto Heinz and Charles Tilly, political scientists have long
argued that external threats played a critical role in stimulating European
state building. In Koyama, Moriguchi, and Sng (2018), we draw attention to
how comparable external threats had a differential effect on state building in
China and Japan. The two countries responded in different ways to Western

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 137
incursions. In Japan, the threat of colonization spurred centralization and
state building. In China, however, it led to decentralization and eventually
weakened the central state.
In both countries external threats prompted and coincided with internal
convulsions. After the First Opium War exposed the weakness of the Qing
state, three major rebellions erupted in China, the gravest of which, the Tai­
ping Rebellion, cost the lives of as many as twenty million people. Tokugawa
Japan had been uniquely successful at preserving the Great Peace, as the
era from 1600 was called by contemporaries, but the arrival of Commodore
Perry and his black ships in 1853 destabilized that peace. It lowered the
status of the shogunate and challenged the legitimacy of a regime that was

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

138 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
exposed as too weak to defend Japan’s borders, and encouraged the domains
opposed to the Tokugawa to begin investing in, and experimenting with,
modern weapons and tactics.

To understand this divergence, one needs to appreciate the importance of
geography. Sheer distance sharply constrained economic and political possi-
bilities before the introduction of modern transportation and communication
technologies. The success of state-building efforts of Meiji and Qing reform-
ers was a function of both external threats and the relative sizes of China and
The Qing empire ruled over fourteen million square kilometers of land. In
contrast, the total size of the Japanese home islands was less than 375,000
square kilometers. In terms of population, no other nation was comparable
to China. While the United States had a population of twenty-three million
in 1850, Jiangsu—one of the eighteen provinces in China proper—alone had
forty-four million people. Because of these vast dimen-
sions, the Qing state did not penetrate
many parts of the country. It
taxed lightly and did not

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 139
MEETING THE THREAT: A tinted portrait shows four people armed with
swords and spears, illustrating Japan’s methods of warfare in the pre–Meiji
Restoration era. After China’s shocking defeat in the First Opium War, Japa-
nese policy makers began to consider how best to defend themselves from
powerful Western incursions, which could appear anywhere on Japan’s long
coastline. [Hoover Institution Archives, Jane Lathrop Stanford Miscellaneous Papers]
provide many public goods. Its tremendous size meant that Qing China was
lightly governed.
China’s geography mattered in another important way. Until the nine-
teenth century, the main threat facing all Chinese empires from the Qin to
the Qing was invasion from the steppe. As a consequence, Chinese empires
concentrated military resources in defense against nomadic invasion. This
changed in the nineteenth century. For the first time, China faced a genuine
geopolitical threat from its coast. Meanwhile, the traditional steppe threat
was replaced by expansionist czarist Russia. This new two-sided threat
radically changed China’s
geopolitical situation.
For example, in 1858, The First Opium War was the decisive
when fighting a joint shock to the East Asian order, not only
Anglo-French invasion, for China but also for Japan.
China ceded its territo-
ries north of the Amur River to Russia to avoid fighting a two-front war. Now
China needed both a modern army and a modern navy.
China responded to this new two-sided geopolitical threat by decentraliz-
ing political authority. Until then, the Qing state had maintained tight central
control over all armies. In the 1850s, as the Qing struggled to contain the
Taiping rebels, provincial governors were permitted much greater autono-
my. Local notables, like Zuo Zongtang and Li Hongzhang, raised armies to
suppress the Taiping, and then played a crucial role in pushing for military
modernization once peace was restored. Local authorities introduced a new
transit tax known as the lijin, the revenue from which was mostly spent
within the province, often on coastal defenses and re-equipping local armed
forces. This was the rational response to the challenges they faced.
Japan’s situation was very different. It faced no major external threats
until the mid-nineteenth century. It was geographically compact but politi-
cally fragmented. After 1850, however, it faced a multidirectional threat;
Western navies had the ability to land anywhere along Japan’s long coastline.
But the total territory of Japan was tiny in comparison with China. It was
also densely populated, and tightly governed at a local and village level. Even
prior to the Meiji Restoration, the provision of public goods and quality of
governance was higher in Japan than in China.
The fragmented nature of political authority in Tokugawa Japan caused
notable problems on contact with the West. Conrad Totman observed that
the arrival of foreigners created a legitimacy problem for the shogunate “not
only because they brought new substantive political problems of national

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 141
FORCES OF CHANGE: This scroll depicts a banquet given in honor of Com-
modore Matthew Perry after the 1854 signing of the Convention of Kanagawa.
Japan was forced to agree to the convention, the first treaty between the
United States and the Tokugawa shogunate. Reaction to the foreign influence
led to the Meiji Restoration, the end of the shogunate, and an increasingly
powerful military. [Hoover Institution Archives, Japanese Diaspora Collection]

scope but also because they demanded that some entity in Japan fill a nation-
al authority role analogous to that of a monarchy or republic in Europe—and
no such entity really existed in Tokugawa Japan.” The shogunate lacked
the capacity to adequately protect Western merchants, missionaries, and
diplomats. In what was but one of a series of violent incidents, Charles Len-
nox Richardson, a British merchant, was killed in 1862 because he refused
to make way and dismount for a retinue of Satsuma samurai. The British
demanded reparations from Satsuma and when these were not paid on time,
the British bombed Kagoshima, an event known as the Anglo-Satsuma War.

142 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
The arrival of Perry’s black ships was a crisis for the old order in Japan.
But it was a crisis that could be resolved only way: through the establishment
of a centralized state. Though the factions that divided Japan in the 1860s
disagreed on how to deal with the threat posed by the West, this fact became
clear to them, and both sides converged on the need to modernize. Had the
shogunate forces defeated those of Satsuma and Choshu in 1867, the nature
of Japanese state building would likely have followed a similar path to that
pursued by the Meiji reformers.

Claims that Chinese statesmen were too conservative, hidebound, or con-
strained by Confucianism to implement reforms are misleading. Local gov-
ernors and generals like Zeng Guofan, Zuo Zongtang, and Li Hongzhang did
attempt modernization. The “Self-Strengthening Movement” that they were
associated with has been reevaluated by many historians. In the military
realm, at least, it was comparatively successful: naval yards were estab-
lished; French military experts were brought in; factories, mines, and other
industrial projects were begun. Notable achievements include the construc-
tion of the Beiyang and Nanyang fleets. Chinese factories, such as the Jiang­
nan Arsenal, produced high-quality repeating rifles and up-to-date artillery.
In fact, as late as the First Sino-Japanese war, Western observers rated the
Chinese navy as superior to the Japanese. The Beiyang Fleet alone was the
largest and best equipped fleet in Asia. Their small arms and artillery were
at least equal to those of the Japanese. But the limitations of late imperial
China were political and institutional, and not amenable to a simple techno-
logical or military fix.
Crucially, moderniza-
tion efforts in China Tokugawa Japan had no central trea-
were dispersed and not sury or taxation, and no monopoly on
coordinated. Moreover, legitimate violence. Even weights,
in the face of local oppo- measures, and currency varied across
sition by elites, reform-
the domains.
ers were often forced to
back down, as in the case of Woosung Railroad. Corruption and bureaucracy
impeded foreign investment and diverted government funds away from the
most valuable projects. After 1885, momentum for reform slackened. The
imperial government grew wary of granting too much authority to Han
Chinese provincial governors. By the time China was defeated by Japan in
1895, it was too late for the imperial government to wholeheartedly back

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 143
NEW POWER: Japan’s modernized army in action: a poster titled “The Great
Battle at Kokkodai” depicts a clash in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War.
In this battle, Japanese and Russian forces fought in China, leading to twelve
thousand Russians killed or wounded and nine thousand Japanese. In the
end, Japan prevailed, to the surprise of many nations. [Hoover Institution Archives,
Poster Collection]

modernization. When it did attempt major reforms, this led to the collapse of
central political authority and the fall of the Qing dynasty.
In contrast, the efforts of the Meiji reformers in Japan were remarkably
coordinated and part of a coherent policy that aimed at not only adopting
Western technological and military tactics but also overhauling society from
the ground up. Of course, the Meiji reformers built on policies enacted during
the final decade of Tokugawa rule, and they made many missteps. But their
policies were much more radical than anything attempted in China. Their
reforms included the abolition of feudalism and the samurai class. The new
Japanese state also was prepared to use violence to suppress opposition.

144 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
The Meiji state was built on the system of political control and local admin-
istration that the former shogunate and domain administrations left behind.
In particular, the early Meiji regime’s ability to deal with local grievances
responsively enabled the successful implementation of unpopular policies
such as land tax reform and public education. On the one hand, it could
adjust its policies to appease dissent without fundamentally compromising
the reform agenda. For example, the land tax was lowered to 2.5 percent of
the land value in 1877 when it became clear that the initial level of 3 percent,
set during the 1873 land tax reform, was too high for many farmers. On the
other hand, it did not hesitate to crush open dissent. The anti-tax, anti-
reform uprisings of the 1870s—some of them involving as many as a hundred
thousand farmers—were forcefully suppressed and the primary instigators
executed as a warning to others.
The early Meiji state was successful not just in the military realm. It was
able to implement an extremely ambitious program of primary education
and build an extensive railroad network. In this respect, Japanese victory in
the First Sino-Japanese War reflected greater political cohesion rather than
superior military technology.

East Asia’s little divergence in the late nineteenth century was a critical
junction in modern history. The disintegration of Qing China set in motion
decades of turbulence in the East Asian state system. It provided a tempting
target to an increasingly aggressive Japan. The disorder China experienced
then provided fertile ground for the spread of communism.
A previous generation
of historians may have
exaggerated the impor- In Japan, the threat of colonization
tance of cultural factors spurred centralization and state
in this divergence, but building. In China, however, the
we do not believe they threat led to decentralization, weak-
were irrelevant. The ening the state.
Japanese elite were eth-
nically homogenous, whereas Qing China was ruled by a Manchu minority.
These ethnic divisions came to the surface as the Qing empire weakened in
the late nineteenth century. In contrast, Japan was relatively ethnically and
linguistically unified. Many Meiji reformers shared a common background
from Satsuma and Choshu. They came from the class of samurai who had
education and ambition but whose opportunities for advancement had been

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 145
limited under the old order. Moreover, once the shogun had been deposed
they were able to co-opt members of the imperial court and the old regime.
The East Asian little divergence contains several insights relevant for
thinking about state building today. First, it points to how international rela-
tions affect domestic state
building. Political mod-
The limitations of late imperial China ernization would no doubt
were political and institutional, and have occurred in China
not amenable to a simple technologi- and Japan in the absence
cal or military fix. of geopolitical threats,
but more slowly. In this
counterfactual, Qing China might have succeeded in managing gradual
modernization while the old order in Japan might have remained in place for
decades longer.
Second, the effects of external threats on state building are neither uni-
form or symmetrical. Geopolitical threats depend on geography. In the case
of China, possibilities for reform hinged on whether the threats it faced were
one-sided or multi-sided. These threats led to decentralization, which then
precluded a comprehensive and coordinated program of modernization.
Third, it is important to study state building in a long perspective. China
and Japan were shaped by long histories as independent states. Local invest-
ment in state capacity within both the shogunate itself and the territory
of the independent daimyo aided Meiji-era state building. Similarly, it was
China’s long history as a powerful centralized state that enabled it to survive
rebellion and then external invasion, and then to recover its status as a great
power in the twentieth century. Large but decrepit empires, and other states
overrun by the West, lacked those advantages.

Special to the Hoover Digest.

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Roots
of the Issei: Exploring Early Japanese American
Newspapers, by Andrew Way Leong. To order, call
(800) 888-4741 or visit

146 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


Cutting Out the
Middle Kingdom
Whatever comes of the Trump administration’s
negotiations with Kim Jong Un, China can no
longer dominate North Korea’s relations with the
United States.

By Miles Maochun Yu

n the ancient Chinese military strategy classic Questions and Replies
between Tang Taizong and Li Weigong, the great Tang dynasty emperor
Taizong famously ruminated that “in war, we prefer the position of the
host to that of the guest.” In essence, Emperor Taizong’s pithy state-
ment sums up China’s long-standing strategic approach toward the decades-
long military standoff on the Korean Peninsula—that is, to play the “host”
and to make the United States and its allies play the “guest.”
In Chinese strategic parlance, playing host means maintaining the capability
to control the process and direction of the conflict by creating dependency, both
in North Korea as China’s proxy, and in the United States as China’s enemy, on
Beijing’s own terms and the degree to which the Chinese leadership is willing to
cooperate with the United States to solve the North Korean problem.
The historical fallout of this Chinese strategy on the Korean Peninsula,
developed since the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, has always

Miles Maochun Yu is a member of the Hoover Institution’s Working Group on the
Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict. He is a professor of East Asia
and military and naval history at the United States Naval Academy.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 147
been China playing the host of the epic conflict while the US-led coalition
has been forced to play the guest by fundamentally relying on China’s crucial
moves, passively reacting to initiatives taken by China.
Chinese participation in the Korean War was the most decisive factor in
deciding the current geopolitical and geostrategic status quo on the Korean
Peninsula. In the ensuing
decades since the cease-
North Korea’s costly nuclear projects
fire in 1953, China was the
are depleting its limited resources, most generous source of
giving China an opening to deepen political, economic, and
Pyongyang’s dependency. military support for the
Kim dynasty in Pyong-
yang. Even when China itself was on the verge of economic ruin under Mao
Zedong’s catastrophic rule, Beijing never relinquished the vital economic and
military support to keep its proxy regime in Pyongyang in operation. Pyong-
yang’s dependency on Beijing was so deep that in the deadly internecine fight
for worldwide leadership of the communist movement between the Soviet
Union and China, North Korea was one of just two Stalinist regimes—the
other was Albania—that did not overtly abandon Beijing for Moscow, unlike a
host of other Moscow proxies such as Cuba and Vietnam. The cliché in China
for decades has been that Beijing keeps North Korea as close as “lips and
In the aftermath of the Cold War, North Korea was stunned by the pro-
found perfidy of China’s 1992 diplomatic recognition of South Korea, Pyong-
yang’s sworn enemy. In response, Pyongyang embarked on the dangerous
path of developing nuclear weapons, in part to reduce its strategic depen-
dency on Beijing. For a similar reason, Mao had also pursued his own nuclear
ambitions in the late 1950s to reduce China’s strategic and nuclear depen-
dency on Khrushchev’s Soviet Union, which Mao believed had turned from
hard-core Marxism and Leninism to “revisionism.”
Though China is displeased with Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, Beijing
has nevertheless done little to stop it because North Korea’s nuclear ambition
has simultaneously created a twist in Beijing’s favor: Kim’s costly nuclear
projects are depleting his country’s limited economic and financial resources,
giving China an unusual opportunity to deepen Pyongyang’s dependency on
Beijing for regime survival. As a result, for nearly three decades now, China’s
“host” role in the nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula has become even
more pronounced. Beijing has become the go-to place for the United States

148 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
and its allies to try to solve the North Korean problem, since China holds the
key to Pyongyang’s economic survival.
China has used its influence over North Korea as powerful leverage against
the United States and its allies concerning a host of other profound issues
including human rights, regional and global security, market and capital
access, and technological transfers. Since the George H. W. Bush administra-
tion, five American presidents in a span of nearly three decades have been
forced to be Beijing’s “guest” as China plays the “host” for a party of six
nations known as the Six-Party Talks, a prolonged and nonproductive phony
“dialogue” with Pyongyang on denuclearization. China, meanwhile, has been
overtly and covertly supplying the overwhelming majority of North Korea’s
energy, food, and other vital needs as North Korean nuclear projects make
critical progress along the way, now directly threatening the US homeland.
All this began to change swiftly soon after Donald Trump became
Trump understands the root of the North Korean conundrum and has
taken the bold initiative of direct negotiation with Pyongyang, bypassing
China as the host. By cajoling and forcing China to implement UN sanctions
on Pyongyang, the United States closed the loopholes through which the
United States has consistently lost leverage to Beijing.
Thus, when Trump and Kim Jong Un went to Singapore to meet face to
face, the biggest loser was Beijing. China’s role as the ultimate middleman in
the Korean crisis evaporated. Now the US president is playing the host on
the Korean issue, and China is the guest. Even Emperor Taizong would have
been amused.

Read Military History in the News, the weekly column from the Hoover
Institution that connects historical insights to contemporary conflicts
( © 2018 The Board
of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Eyes,
Ears, and Daggers: Special Operations Forces
and the Central Intelligence Agency in America’s
Evolving Struggle against Terrorism, by Thomas H.
Henriksen. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 149


to You”
Defense Secretary James Mattis, a former Hoover
fellow, on running the Pentagon: “You go in, roll up
your sleeves, and go to work.”

By Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson, Uncommon Knowledge: An ascendant China, a bellicose
Russia, hostile regimes in North Korea and Iran. This past January, the
Pentagon published its plans for protecting the United States against these
threats. Here today to discuss the National Defense Strategy, the man over
whose signature it appeared, is the secretary of defense, James Mattis.
The attacks of 9/11 took place more than sixteen years ago. And ever since,
our armed forces have found themselves combating terrorism. In Afghani-
stan, the Taliban; in Iraq, Al-Qaeda; and then an array of insurgents in Syria,
ISIS. That is over the course of three administrations, six congresses, and
now a whole generation of troops and officers. A whole generation of the
American people have come of age thinking that what our armed forces do is
combat terrorism. Yet on page one of the National Defense Strategy, it says,

James Mattis (USMC, retired) is the secretary of defense and the former Davies
Family Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution. Peter Robinson
is the editor of the Hoover Digest, the host of Uncommon Knowledge, and a
research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

150 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
“Interstate strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern
of US national security.”

James Mattis: You’ll remember Secretary Shultz saying over the past
several years that we have a world that’s awash in change. Any strategy you
have must adapt to the world as it exists, not the one that used to exist. In
this case, we had not had a defense strategy, ladies and gentlemen, in ten
years. This is your defense strategy; it’s not the Pentagon’s. You own us and
we’re accountable to you. We get an awful lot of the nation’s treasure, and we
needed something to guide us because without a strategy, without a sound
strategy fit for its time, the most brilliant generals, the most well-equipped
troops, the most high-tech equipment, fine tactics—none of that works.
We had to assess what are the dangers in the world. In this case, we had to
look at the attack on the state system. You look at China today, and the way it is
shredding trust in the South China Sea, the way it’s using predatory economics.
You look at Russia trying to get veto authority over the economic security and
diplomatic decisions of countries around its periphery, and mucking around in
other people’s elections.
You look at even the ter-
rorists and how in one “Halfway around the world, Ameri-
case, that of ISIS, they ca’s power of inspiration reached all
bulldozed the boundary the way to the western Euphrates
line between Syria and River bank, to a guy who hated us so
Iraq. What you’re looking much he was trying to kill us.”
at is a variety of forms
of attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state system. So we
had to have a strategy that allowed our diplomats and our president to move
forward from a position of strength.
But there is a bigger issue here, Peter.
Back in 2004, I’m a two-star general, commander of twenty thousand sail-
ors and Marines, and we’re out in the western Euphrates River Valley. I’ve
got twenty-nine guys with me and we’re traveling and we get slowed down.
We have flat tires and stuff. It’s a terrible place. Seventeen of those twenty-
nine lads will be killed or wounded over the succeeding four months.
We pull into one of the camps, in the middle of nowhere, and there I am
reminded that America’s got two fundamental sources of power: the power
of inspiration and the power of intimidation. When the sun came up the next
day, the lieutenant with those sailors and Marines came up and said, “Would
you like to meet a guy who was digging a hole out here to put a bomb in on

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 151
ART OF WAR: “Don’t ever think that it’s just a matter of how many dollars are
spent on defense, and who’s got the latest gizmo,” says Secretary of Defense
James Mattis (right). “Power of inspiration, power of intimidation. Sometimes
you need both in an imperfect world.” [Hoover Institution]

the road you used last night?” That gets a little personal. I thought, “Yeah,
sure, I’d like to meet him.” And the lieutenant said, “He’s well-educated.
Educated in Europe. He speaks perfect English.” I said, “Really? Bring him
on over.”
So they bring him over. He’s obviously a little uncomfortable. There he
was with his wheelbarrow the night before, a couple of artillery rounds, a car
battery, detonator. He’s got his shovel, he’s digging, he looks up, and there are
five guys carrying M-16s looking at him. It’s not looking good for him and his
Now they cut his handcuffs off and he’s shaking like a leaf, of course. We
get him a cup of coffee. I say, “What are you doing this for? You’re Sunni,
we’re Marines. We’re the only friends you’ve got in this town, in this country.”
He says, “Oh, you Jews, you Zionists, you’re this and that. You’re here to
steal the oil,” and so on. I say, “You’re obviously an educated man. If you’re
going to run your rant like that, just go away.” And he says, “Well, can I sit
here for a minute?”
So I give him a cigarette, have to light it for him and everything. I say,
“Where’s your family?” He says, “In a place called Al-Qaim, about an hour
away.” He has a wife and two daughters and I say, “Well, that’s going to be
tough on them.” And he says, “Yeah. I just don’t like having foreign soldiers

152 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
here.” Well, I respect that. Now we’re getting into a conversation, and we’re
going on at some length and talking about our lives and everything. I’m
always curious about people.
And he says, “I guess I’m going to jail.” I say, “Oh yeah, you’re going to Abu
Ghraib. You’re going to be wearing an orange jumpsuit for a good long time
for this little stunt.” Now listen to this. He says, “General, do you think”—
we’ve kind of warmed to each other like two human beings can—“if I’m a
model prisoner, do you think I could someday emigrate to America?”
Now think about what he said. Halfway around the world, America’s power
of inspiration reached all the way to the western Euphrates River bank, to a
guy who hated us so much he was trying to kill us. He would love to be sitting
where you and I are today.
So don’t ever think that it’s just a matter of how many dollars are spent on
defense, and who’s got the latest gizmo. Power of inspiration, power of intimi-
dation. Sometimes you need both in an imperfect world.

Robinson: A minute ago you mentioned the South China Sea. The Chinese
have over the past couple of years taken a number of atolls and turned them
into military bases, with runways and deep-water ports. Have they already
bent back our first line of defense?

Mattis: They have chosen to be a strategic competitor, yet we’re still in a
position where we can cooperate with China in some areas, even while we
confront them in others. Obviously, we are going to sail and fly through
international waters and international airspace. And militarizing these
features in the South
China Sea, that doesn’t
“Without a sound strategy fit for its
change our international
status one bit. It’s an
time, the most brilliant generals, the
admittedly strategically most well-equipped troops, the most
uncomfortable position high-tech equipment, fine tactics—
to be cooperating with none of that works.”
someone on the one hand
and confronting them on the other. But when you look at the votes in the UN
Security Council referencing North Korea and that threat, and you see Rus-
sia and China and France, the United Kingdom, the United States, all voting
to sanction North Korea, you see what’s going on. We are going to engage
with China. At the same time, we have to recognize that predatory economics
and militarizing these features are aspects of an international system they’re
trying to put together that we disagree with.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 153
We’ll confront where we must, but at the same time, we’ve got to figure this
out. There is no rush to some kind of military confrontation. There’s no need
for that. We want to turn this over to the next generation in good shape.

Robinson: Let’s turn to Russia. How worried do we need to be? Are we sim-
ply containing an aging power, or are we containing something that’s newly

Mattis: I still remember Russian marines training with US Marines in North
Carolina, preparing for deployments together as UN peacekeeping troops.
Those days, unfortunately, are far in the rear-view mirror. Russia has chosen
to muck around in democratic elections. They’ve violated territorial integrity
and are using force of arms for the first time since World War II in Europe.
It’s got to be addressed by democratic nations standing together.
At some point, Russia will have to come back and see NATO as something
other than a threat to them. NATO is not a threat. I have too much regard for
the professionalism of the Russian army officers: they know it is not a threat.
They may have to say it is for public reasons, or for political reasons.
We need to get a philosophical, high-level, strategic discussion going again with
Russia. Russia, I think, has more in common with Europe, and more in com-
mon with America, than
with anyone else for its
“No nation can maintain its military long-term survival. And it
security if it doesn’t keep its fiscal is in our best interest that
house in order.” the Russian Federation
does not collapse. I believe
that America is their best hope in terms of their long-term future; nobody can
be more helpful. I’m not trying to downplay the challenges we face right now,
but I’m more optimistic in the longer term, just as I am with China in the longer

Robinson: It’s quite a job you have, because every question I have is about
bad news someplace in the world.

Mattis: That’s kind of my portfolio.

Robinson: All right then, North Korea. In November, they tested a new ballis-
tic missile, which at least in theory has a range that covers the entire conti-
nental United States. A purely military question: are we truly only a few test
firings of a ballistic missile away from having the continental United States
exposed to nuclear weapons from North Korea?

154 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
Mattis: I don’t know. Things go wrong in test programs. But at the same
time, we’re paid by all of you to be the sentinels, to be the guardians of this
great big experiment called America, and we have to assume the worst.
From the very beginning, when we first came into office, we were told this
will be the immediate crisis you have to deal with. The outgoing administra-
tion was very candid.
There has been a diplo-
matically led effort from “The number one thing I can do for
the very beginning to try the military on the battlefield is to
to address this problem.
bring them home alive and in one
There’s reason for hope
that this is on the right
track. But again, my job is to stay quietly behind our diplomats, making cer-
tain that they have options and the president has options.

Robinson: China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran are the four principal state
threats that the National Defense Strategy identifies. You identify three
distinct lines of effort in this document. One is building a more lethal force.
The budget deal that was just agreed to gives you a budget for fiscal year
2018 of $700 billion, roughly a $61 billion increase over last year. Have you got

Mattis: The short answer is yes, and it was due to bipartisan congressional
support. It wasn’t perfect. I’m very concerned about the level of debt we are
passing to the younger generation. But at this point, this was the best way to
reverse the damage that had occurred over years of combat, not replacing
ships or airplanes or equipment at the rate we should have, not maintaining
No nation can maintain its military security if it doesn’t keep its fiscal
house in order, so part of what I have to do is make certain we spend this
money well. If it does not contribute to the lethality of the military on the
battlefield, whether it be a personnel policy, a piece of equipment, a radio,
doesn’t matter what it is, then it’s probably not fit for us. Now, you look at
lethality widely. Part of lethality is making certain, for example, I have access
to good education for the sons and daughters of military members so they
feel like their family can move forward in life, even as they’re going off to
fight the nation’s wars. That is still going to contribute to what we do on the
battlefield. The number one thing I can do for the military on the battlefield
is to bring them home alive and in one piece—mentally, physically.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 155
The second line of effort is to build more and stronger alliances and part-
nerships. In history, nations with allies thrive. Nations without allies do not
survive. And our strongest suit right now is our allies. We also want to create
new allies.
The third line of effort is to reform the business practices of the Pentagon.
I’ve been told I have the seventeenth-largest economy in the world. That is
sobering. That is very sobering when I realize all of you are sacrificing for us
to have that. So we’re going to audit the Department of Defense for the first
time in seventy years. I hope we find a lot of problems, and every time I find
one, I’m going to slap the back of the auditor and tell her, “Well done. We’re
going to fix it.” And the money we save is going to go into lethality. We’re
going to make certain we reform the business practices so we’re getting the
most bang for the buck.

Robinson: Last question. Here you are, in what is surely one of the small
handful of the most demanding, exhausting, frustrating jobs on the planet.
What keeps you at it?

Mattis: Over the years, I grew exceedingly fond of these very selfless young
folks who sign a blank check to all of you, payable with their lives. And so
I stuck around long enough to learn that when the president of the United
States, Republican or Democrat, asks you to do something, you do it to the
best of your ability. You don’t get into the hot political rhetoric or anything
else. You go in, roll up your sleeves, and go to work. We have a responsibil-
ity to the young people to turn over the country in as good a shape as it was
when we inherited it, and that’s probably the thing that keeps me going.

Excerpted from Hoover’s webcast series, Uncommon Knowledge (www. © 2018 The Board of
Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

156 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


The Jung and the
Psychologist and author Jordan Peterson spurns
the pursuit of happiness, encourages the pursuit
of Jungian archetypes, and lays claim to the
modern soul.

By Russell Roberts

Russell Roberts, EconTalk: Jordan Peterson’s latest book is Twelve Rules for
Life: An Antidote to Chaos, which is the subject of today’s conversation. Jor-
dan, welcome to EconTalk. Your book is extraordinary. It may be the only self-
help book that combines the Bible, Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Jung, and a lot of
Jordan Peterson. I found it provocative, inspiring, and sometimes frustrating.

Jordan B. Peterson: I found it frustrating too. You’re not alone there.

Roberts: I bet you did. Keeping to a mere 350 or so pages must have been
challenging for you, because I know you have a lot to say. I want to start with
happiness. Many people have as their central goal in life to be happy. Is there
something wrong with that?

Peterson: Well, there are a bunch of things wrong with it. First, it’s simply
not true. What people actually mean when they say they want to be happy

Jordan B. Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and
the author of Twelve Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Penguin Random
House, 2018). Russell Roberts is the John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow at
the Hoover Institution.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 157
is that they want to not be anxious and miserable. The reason I’m making a
point of that is because you might think of happiness and sadness as oppo-
sites. But they’re actually not, because you have a system in your brain, or a
part of your psyche, that’s responsible for the production of positive emotion.
And you have a separate system that’s responsible for producing negative
emotion. People say they want to be happy, but what they really mean is they
don’t want to be anxious and in pain. And that’s not surprising. So, techni-
cally, it’s incorrect that people are after happiness. But metaphysically, and
more strictly psychologically, I also think it’s a bad goal because there are
going to be lots of times in your life when you just can’t be happy. My neigh-
bor said to me once, “You’re only ever as happy as your least happy child.”

Roberts: There’s something to that.

Peterson: There is something to it. Most of the time in life, there’s at least
one serious thing going wrong. You have a relative who’s not well, or you have
financial difficulties, or there’s a problem in a relationship. Life is hard, and
there’s often something going wrong. So, if what you want is to be happy and
most of the time there’s something serious going wrong, then that’s not going
to work out very well for you. So, what I recommend in Twelve Rules for Life,
and what wise people have recommended since the beginning of time, is that
you look for meaningful engagement, significance, and responsibility instead
of happiness. Because that can keep you afloat during tragic and troubled
times. It’s not like I’m against happiness—if it comes your way, embrace it.
But it’s a gift, I think, rather than something that’s a proper pursuit.

Roberts: Do you think it’s dangerous and unhealthy to assume it’s our lot in
life? I feel like a lot of people, certainly in America in the twenty-first century,
feel like it’s their birthright. And if they don’t get it, something’s terribly

Peterson: Yeah, that’s not good. That’s why in so many religious traditions
the fundamental axiom is that life is suffering. The fundamental precondi-
tions of life are tragic, and that has to be contended with. The idea that
somehow the default position of human beings is happiness is the delusion of
an extremely naive child.


Roberts: I want to talk about meaning, which runs through the book. I got
an interesting question from a listener, who wanted me to ask you about the

158 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
ethics of searching for meaningful life. You have a very poetic way of talking
about it. You say things like: “Lift your gaze beyond yourself.” “Aim high.”
“Look for a star, like Pinocchio, who wants to grow up and become a real,
genuine, awake human being.” And yet, when I was thinking about that, I was
thinking about David Foster Wallace, who said, I thought very profoundly,
“Everyone worships.” So, some people set their star on a religious goal that’s
maybe a very beautiful, high-minded goal. Some set their sights on a reli-
gious goal that’s maybe dark. Some set their sights on joining a movement
that’s hateful at its core but feeds something deep inside. It seems to me we
all want something profoundly greater than ourselves. But Wallace’s point is
that we should be very careful what we attach ourselves to. What are your
thoughts on that?

Peterson: I think that often people attach themselves to something for the
wrong reasons. I wrote about that a fair bit in rule six: set your house in per-
fect order before you criticize the world. Which is a meditation on the desire
to commit atrocity. It’s a description of the mindset of people like the Colum-
bine High School shooters and a serial killer and rapist whose psychological
state I analyze named Carl Panzram, who wrote a very interesting autobiog-
raphy describing his motivations. People can go to very dark places because
they become bitter and resentful, and they can align themselves with the
desire to do harm, to commit atrocity, to produce suffering for the sake of
suffering. That’s the gateway to hell.
I do think that people can differ in the metaphysics of their aim. Some peo-
ple are aiming at having a loving family life, and that’s perfectly fine. That’s a
high-order goal, and challenging. There’s nothing trivial about it at all. It’s dif-
ficult to put your family
in order, properly. And
“Impulsive gratification of each whim if you can do that, then
is a very bad strategy. It’s the strategy of you’ll be able to do a
lot of other things as
a two-year-old—literally—and a two-
well. But people need
year-old can’t survive in the world.” to have a goal that’s
beyond the gratifica-
tion of the impulses of the moment. Not least because the strategy of gratify-
ing impulses in the moment doesn’t work very well. So, Twelve Rules for Life
is a very philosophical book, and it deals in high-order abstractions fre-
quently. But the entire point of the book is practicality. I’m trying to provide
people with information that’s necessary to make the kind of choices in their
day-to-day life that would really help put their worlds together. Impulsive

160 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
gratification of each whim is a very bad strategy. It’s the strategy of a two-
year-old—literally—and a two-year-old can’t survive in the world. And if left
to their own devices, they are often extremely upset. So, you need a tran-
scendent goal, because that unifies you psychologically, and then unifies that
unity with the social world. And both of those things are absolutely necessary
if you don’t want to suf-
fer stupidly and bitterly.
“The idea that somehow the default
Roberts: At the same position of human beings is happi-
time, you emphasize ness is the delusion of an extremely
something it takes a naive child.”
while to learn as you
grow up: focusing only on the goal rather than on the process of getting to
the goal is a huge mistake. It’s good to have a goal, but you’re going to have a
tough time if all you do is think, “Got to have it.”

Peterson: I do a fairly detailed analysis of the Sermon on the Mount in rule
seven: do what is meaningful, not what is expedient. The advice in the Sermon
on the Mount is to aim at the highest good that you can conceive of, but, having
done that, concentrate on the moment. Imagine that you get your goal right,
whatever “right” means. And then imagine that it’s good for you now, and next
week, and next year. So, you can play it out across time in a successful way.
But it’s also good for other people at the same time. And it’s also the kind of
goal that engages you in its pursuit. You want all of that in a goal. Say I want to
establish a business. There’s some sense of financial security that goes along
with that, and financial opportunity and challenge. But if you configure it cor-
rectly, you’ll find that the steps you take on the way to that goal are in and of
themselves worthwhile. So, the end and the means are aligned. Why not have
that? If you are going to pick a goal, why not pick one that works for you and
everyone else, and that works while you are pursuing it and as an end?


Roberts: I wonder if you’d reflect on something Adam Smith says in The
Theory of Moral Sentiments: “Man naturally desires not only to be loved but to
be lovely.” What he means is that people yearn for the respect of the people
around them. They want to be praised; to be paid attention to; to matter. You
talk a lot about posture—both physical and metaphysical. In Smith’s vision, a
person who’s satisfied—who has some tranquility in their life—is somebody
who is paid attention to. And he says there are different ways to get there.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 161
Fame and fortune do it, but he urges you to be wise and virtuous. And you
should earn that praise and respect honestly, which is why he says you should
be lovely and not just loved. What do you think of that?

Peterson: I think it’s brilliant. You can see that in the way people look at each
other, and I mean that literally. When you talk with someone or a group, you
watch the eyes and face of the individuals to see what they’re broadcasting
at you. What you want is interest: eyes open, pupils slightly dilated, and their
face configured so that they’re taking in the information that the interac-
tion with you constitutes. You want them broadcasting a certain amount
of hopeful, positive emotion at you. And all of that is broadcasting that you
are acting in a lovely manner, in Smith’s sense of the term. And people are
always telling each other exactly how to do that. You want people to laugh
at your jokes, because that means you’re actually funny. You want people to
listen when you speak,
because that means you
“I can say that despite the horrors, the have something to say.
betrayal, and the atrocity, you have You want people to be
enough nobility of spirit and enough happy when you enter a
potential to actually live successfully room, because that means
they’re glad you’re there.
in the face of that.”
And people broadcast
your departure from the ideal at you all the time. If you pay attention to that,
you can figure out how it is that you should be, and you could get better at
being that way. There’s no loss in that. Well, the one loss is that you have to
take responsibility for it, and you have to let go of everything about you that’s
interfering with that. So, there are sacrifices to be made. But, there’s nothing
but ultimate gain, I would say, in every sense of the word.

Roberts: When we interact with other people, we have these little feedback
loops of approval and disapproval. That’s what Smith talks about. It’s the
raised eyebrow or that look that says, “I want more. I want to be here.” When
you get that look, you know you’re doing something right.

Peterson: Exactly. That’s a good look.

Roberts: Some of the most transcendent moments of my life have been the
handful of times that I’ve had a conversation where that kind of connection
is established, with a person who might be almost a stranger. Although it’s
lovely if it’s your wife, your children, your loved ones. When you can connect
with another human being in that open, inviting manner, it’s a delicious thing.

162 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
Peterson: That’s rule nine: assume that the person you are listening to
knows something you don’t. And it’s a guide to having that kind of conversa-
tion. Both of you are developing in the conversation; you’re both extending
yourself. That’s incredibly engrossing. People love to see that happen. Like
they love to watch athletes do that. Now and then you see someone go beyond
perfection, and you wonder how it’s possible. It’s possible because they do
everything perfectly, but
at the same time they’re
pushing themselves past “That’s the secret of humanity: mak-
their previous limit just ing the sacrifices that will bring the
that right amount that proper future into being.”
puts them on the ragged
edge of disaster. So, they’re perfect and developing further, at the same time.
That’s something that will bring an audience to their feet. You can have that
experience in a conversation when you are both exchanging information
honestly and you’re in a domain of competence while doing it, but you’re
also stretching yourself beyond your competence and transforming yourself.
That’s a great conversation.

Roberts: And it’s a great drug. The side effects are all positive. You can’t beat it.

Peterson: Yeah, and it’s good for you, and good for the people you’re having
the conversation with, and good for all the people they know.


Roberts: Suffering runs through your book. It’s a fundamental human
condition. I can relate to that—it’s taken me a long time. As you get older,
tragedies happen, inevitably, to you, to your friends, to your loved ones. And
your heart opens up. You get changed by it. There’s something poignant and
beautiful about it, and painful. But one of my few complaints about the book
is that it’s a little short on joy and love. I would call it a stern book. It’s a bit of
a lecture. I certainly see this as a time in history when we need a little more

Peterson: It’s a lot of a lecture. But I’m lecturing myself as well, so I hope that
redeems it to some degree. I hope that I’m not finger-wagging.

Roberts: Not at all. There’s a lot of self-revelation in it that’s clearly well
earned. But I’m just curious why you focus so much on what I would call the
dark side of the human heart.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 163
Peterson: I think it’s a corrective. Because everyone knows it, but no one
will talk about it. It’s a relief to people. I’ve really noticed this in my public
lectures over the last year and a half. I’ve talked to thousands of people about
the themes that are developed in the book. I say things that are really rough:
life is fundamentally tragic, ridden with suffering, and touched with malevo-
lence and evil; and that goes for you and everyone around you. But it’s a relief
to people, because they think, “Oh my God! I thought I was supposed to be

Roberts: It’s not just me.

Peterson: Right. It’s like, “Oh, I kind of suspected this is what it is like, but
no one’s ever actually said it.” I really want to make a strong case for that
and just drive it home, so that there’s no doubt about it. Because then I can
say that despite the horrors, the betrayal, and the atrocity, you have enough
nobility of spirit and enough potential to actually live successfully in the
face of that. And that’s even more powerful. The ability to live a meaning-
ful, responsible, and truthful life is more significant than the pain and the
malevolence. I weighted things heavily in the negative direction because I
want people to understand that the optimism the book contains, which is a
hymn to the possibilities of the human spirit, is not naive.


Roberts: This show is nominally about economics, and I believe economics
is the study of how to get the most out of life, among other things. I think
everything we’ve talked
about so far falls under
“I want people to understand that the that category. But there’s
optimism the book contains, which a part of your book that’s
is a hymn to the possibilities of the explicitly about econom-
ics, about trade. You make
human spirit, is not naive.”
the argument—it’s a
beautiful idea—that human beings discovered sacrifice and bargaining with
the future, and that leads to trade. Can you explain that?

Peterson: I’ve thought about the idea of sacrifice for a long time, for a variety
of reasons, trying to understand what it meant psychologically. Take the
sorts of sacrifices, for example, that are acted out dramatically in biblical sto-
ries and that were so much a characteristic of ancient cultures: the idea that
you had to sacrifice to please God. It finally occurred to me that people were

164 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
dramatizing the idea that you could give up something of value in the present
and obtain something of greater value in the future. You could bargain with
the future, or trade with the future. And that would be, in some sense, future
people. But it would also be your future self. So, you could let go of what was
impulsively gratifying in the present. And you might regard it as a precondi-
tion for an advanced morality. So, you make a sacrifice to please God, and
that actually works.
I conceptualize God in Twelve Rules for Life, for the purpose of that argu-
ment, as a personification of the future community. If you shared with other
people, for example, then
you were storing up good
will. That was something
“Rule six: set your house in perfect
like a bank, but it’s a real- order before you criticize the world.
ly reliable bank, because Which is a meditation on the desire to
as long as the people with commit atrocity.”
whom you shared are
alive, and your reputation is intact, then that’s something you can continue
to draw on. So, there’s a long discussion of sacrifice in the book, and then a
discussion of the idea that if sacrifice works to obtain a desired end, then that
also produces two philosophical questions. First, what’s the most desirable
future? That’s sort of a meditation on paradise or heaven or utopia. Also, what
is the ultimate sacrifice? What’s the proper sacrificial attitude in life?
Now, back to our earlier ideas about conversation. Let’s say we’re hav-
ing a good conversation, and we’re throwing ideas back and forth. If I have
the proper sacrificial attitude during that conversation, then I’m going to
let some of the ideas that you put forth kill some of my ideas. I’m going to
sacrifice them and replace them with better ideas. There’s going to be some
pain and anxiety associated with that, because who likes to have their con-
ceptual structure flipped upside down? But, if you’re willing to sacrifice, you
can let your old ideas die—and not you. And that’s the secret of humanity:
making the sacrifices that will bring the proper future into being. We first
dramatize that—that’s what all the people in the Old Testament were doing
when they were making sacrifices to God. They were acting out the idea that
you could let go of something in the present that was desirable and valuable
and receive an enhanced reward in the future. It’s the discovery of the future
itself. It’s the most profound discovery of humankind.

Roberts: It’s an incredibly deep idea. It’s basically a response to the idea,
which seems very reasonable, that savers are fools.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 165
Peterson: Exactly. There’s a bit of a discussion there in what the ultimate
saving might be. Let’s say you could throw your meat in a freezer and keep it
for a year. That’s one form of saving. But another form of saving is a hunter
making a kill and sharing the kill with other hunters. You’re saving it in the
form of your enhanced reputation as a good, valuable person. Then, when
someone else hunts in the future, they’re going to share with you. It’s perfect.

Roberts: That’s how you get to trade, right? Because eventually you realize
you don’t have to give that meat away. Instead, you could swap it and get
something. Or you could get a promise that you could swap something later,
when their corn grows or whatever.

Peterson: Right. That also shows you why integrity is so important, because
you can’t swap something you have now for a promise unless you both have
integrity. You might say that integrity is the best form of saving. That’s why
the New Testament says that you should pile up treasures in heaven. That’s
really what it means.
Because they’re the
“I’m an advocate of equality of oppor-
treasures that can’t be
tunity. But equality of outcome— destroyed. And it’s true—
there’s no difference between that it’s literally true—which is
and tyranny.” so cool.

Roberts: So, just as a footnote, John Maynard Keynes blames the idea of
savings on the Jews. And he blames the idea of the future on the Jews—and
views it as a bad thing. It’s one of the dark sides of Keynes’s ethos. He viewed
sacrifice as a tragedy. Why not enjoy it now? That was the hedonistic side of
Keynes. But the fact that he blames it on the Jews is very interesting, given
that you argue also that it comes out of the Old Testament.

Peterson: Yes. It’s also funny that he would regard that as a catastrophe.
It’s not a catastrophe to live for the moment if you’re going to die tomorrow.
We also know that’s how people behave. If you put people in an environment
where their mortality risk dramatically increases, and they know it, they
become increasingly hedonistic. And it’s no wonder, because they’re not
going to be around. But the problem with living for the moment is that you’re
also going to be around for the hangover.

Roberts: Or your children will be. Keynes says that in the long run we’re all
dead. And I always want to say, “Yeah, but my kids aren’t, I hope.” In which case,
I don’t want to burden them with whatever it is that you’re worried about.

166 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
Peterson: Also, the argument that in the long run we’re all dead can be used
to justify absolutely anything. It’s an argument that breeds nothing good.


Roberts: I wonder if you’d reflect a little bit on the Jordan Peterson phenom-
enon. I’d never heard of you until a year or so ago, when several people said I
should interview you. And now it seems like you’re everywhere. You’ve obvi-
ously hit a nerve.

Peterson: Yeah, I hit it with a hammer.

Roberts: You did. Many people are enormously gratified that you’re saying
what you’re saying. Another group is enormously angry. Your book is cur-
rently the top seller on Amazon. What’s going on?

Peterson: Who knows? I ask myself that virtually every minute I’m awake.
It’s completely overwhelming. But there are a couple of things. First, I
definitely have set myself up in loud, continual, and intense opposition on all
fronts against the radical left.

Roberts: And I’d say, against egalitarianism, generally. And postmodernism,

Peterson: Egalitarianism, not precisely. I’m an advocate of equality of
opportunity. But equality of outcome—there’s no difference between that and
tyranny. They’re the same thing, and people don’t understand that, partly
because they don’t want to. But I understand it.
The whole compelled-speech thing in Canada is where all the accusations
about being alt-right came from. I made it clear that I’m not going to stand
for compelled speech. I’m in opposition to the radical left, so it’s very conve-
nient for the radical left to presume that I’m a Nazi, because if I’m a Nazi,
then they don’t have to take me seriously. If I’m a reasonable person, then
maybe a reasonable person could object to what they’re doing. All sorts of
pejoratives have flowed my way—it’s palpably absurd. Some of what’s come
my way is just conceptual confusion. If you stand against the radical left, then
where exactly do you stand? So, people have been guessing that I’m on the
radical right.
I have two hundred hours of lectures, about a hundred of which are about
the horrors of the Nazi death camps and the appalling pathology of right-wing
totalitarianism. So, it’s pretty bloody obvious that I’m not on the radical right.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 167
Roberts: How’s that humility thing working for you? You get to help people
and you feel like you’ve got all the research on your side, and all the wisdom
of the past. Do you have any issues with hubris?

Peterson: There’s a paper by Jung called “The Relations Between the Ego
and the Unconscious,” which I read about twenty-five years ago. It’s about
hubris, and it’s a warning about Icarus. Jung was very clear. He said that
you have to be careful when you are in the archetypal domain that you don’t
confuse yourself with the archetypes, because you will burn yourself up if you
do. I took that to heart. I needed to read that essay at the time I read it, for
reasons I can’t go into. I understood what he meant. And I’m painfully aware
of my own shortcomings; they’re always at the forefront of my mind. I’m not
confusing myself with the wisdom that I’m fortunate enough to be able to
speak about.

Excerpted by permission from Russell Roberts’s podcast EconTalk (www., a production of the Library of Economics and Liberty. ©
2018 Liberty Fund, Inc. 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

168 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


Sunny Delusion
California recently enacted a law requiring solar
roofs on all new homes. Wasteful and pointless,
the measure will damage the state’s economy
while doing nothing about climate change.

By Lee E. Ohanian

he five political appointees who comprise
the California Energy Commission voted
Key points
»» California’s
unanimously last May to require that
renewables plan
almost all new California housing include will do very little to
rooftop solar panels. The mandate also requires that cut global carbon
new homes include expensive, highly energy-efficient
»» More use of solar
appliances, lighting, windows, and home insulation. will only increase
Environmental groups and the solar industry are the mismatch be-
tween supply and
embracing this building mandate, which would take
effect in 2020. But the new policy is unprecedented
»» The cost of man-
within the United States and it highlights just how far datory solar panels
California has gone in its quest for renewable energy. could skyrocket,
negating any sav-
California has committed itself to renewable energy ings.
like no other state, and this reflects the state govern-
ment’s preferences to unilaterally reduce carbon emis-
sions through renewables, with a focus on solar and wind power. As Gover-
nor Jerry Brown stated, “We don’t want to do nothing and let the climate get

Lee E. Ohanian is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor of eco-
nomics and director of the Ettinger Family Program in Macroeconomic Research
at UCLA.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 169
worse. California is all in.” The new solar mandate follows up on 2015 legisla-
tion requiring 50 percent of electricity to be produced from renewables by
2030. And just last month, California Senate Bill 100 was approved, commit-
ting California to produce carbon-free electricity by 2045.
But the state government’s zealous rush into renewables is an expensive
mistake. It will do very little to reduce carbon emissions at a global level; it
will raise housing and business costs significantly; it will have the unintend-
ed consequence of reducing future energy reliability; and it will increase
the possibility of brownouts and blackouts in California. There are much
better ways to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution more generally—
ways that will also increase California’s economic growth and won’t risk its
energy reliability.
Solar energy has the enormous drawback that on a day-to-day basis, its
production peaks when residential demand is low and plummets late in
the day when residential demand peaks. This very predictable imbalance
between supply and demand leads to bizarre market outcomes, including
the fact that California can produce so much power at midday that it pays
Arizona to take the excess production to prevent an electrical overload.
The imbalance between supply and demand also stresses conventionally
generated electricity production, which operates at very inefficient, low
levels during midday, but then must increase production extremely rapidly in
the late afternoon when the sun sets, and when residential demand peaks. As
California increases its solar power share, this tightrope act of matching sup-
ply and demand becomes increasingly complicated, and will tend to increase
brownouts as operators
struggle to keep up with
California accounts for less than 1 demand.
percent of world emissions. The reason that Califor-
nia’s electrical grid opera-
tors must jump through increasingly difficult hoops to manage solar power
fluctuations is that there is currently no feasible way to store solar energy.
If there were, then solar power generated at midday could be stored for use
in the late afternoon and evening. But even after all of the research that has
been conducted on solar power since the energy crisis of the early 1970s, and
the billions of dollars of government subsidies that have poured into the solar
arena, there is still no economical way to store solar energy. So we continue
to pay other users to take solar power off of our hands when supply exceeds
demand, and we struggle to keep up with residential demand in the late
afternoon when the sun sets.

170 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
But even if California could
drastically cut carbon emis-
sions with renewables, it
would make little global
difference, as the state
accounts for less than 1
percent of world emis-
sions. However, the
cost of cutting
carbon with

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

H O O V E R D IG E S T • Fall 2018 171
rooftop solar power is very high. The California Energy Commission
estimates that the solar mandate will raise construction costs by about
$9,500 per home. But cost estimates by builders—which include not only
the cost of installing the solar system but also the mandate’s additional
requirement of more-efficient appliances, lighting, windows, and insula-
tion—are $30,000. These substantially higher construction costs will
drive up the already high cost of California housing, where only 30 per-
cent of households can afford the median home price of nearly $540,000.
Higher building costs will also exacerbate the state’s homeless problem.
California has about 12 percent of the country’s total population, but 26
percent of the country’s homeless.
The Energy Commission counters that lower future energy costs will save
homeowners about $19,000, and thus more than offset the $9,500 in residen-
tial solar installation. But the commission’s calculation does not pay for the
total costs of the mandate, which includes the other requirements, such as
energy-efficient appliances. Nor does the cost estimate allow for the possibil-
ity that solar panel prices may skyrocket once orders come in from every
homebuilding site in California.
The state touts this plan as making good economic sense, but if it did, then
consumers would naturally demand these home attributes, and builders
would build them without any state arm-twisting. The commission is man-
dating its preferred energy choice only because consumers don’t value these
energy-saving items nearly as much as the commission thinks they should.
The commission estimates that after three years, the solar mandate will
have the same effect on carbon reduction as eliminating 115,000 cars. But
this represents only 0.8
percent of California’s
There’s currently no feasible way to registered motor vehicles.
store solar energy. And with California build-
ing about 100,000 homes
each year, this relatively small carbon reduction comes at a cost of about $9
The reason that the mandate will not reduce carbon emissions more is
because California’s electricity generation is powered primarily by natural
gas, which produces much less carbon than motor vehicles. Motor vehicles
are the largest source of the state’s carbon emissions, producing twice as
much carbon as electrical generation. The state’s failure to build roads—
there are fewer miles of serviceable roads in California today than in the
1990s—means that drivers burn tons of fossil fuels while sitting in traffic.

172 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
Drivers in Los Angeles spend 150 percent more time in traffic than the aver-
age US driver, which costs those drivers about $3,500 per year.
A related problem is California’s failure to build more housing. This has
increased home prices enormously in coastal cities and is causing a growing
number of workers to commute long distances from locations with relatively
affordable housing, such as the Central Valley, to work in areas with high-
paying jobs, such as San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Los Angeles. In 2016,
471,000 drivers commuted to Los Angeles daily from another county, and
California is home to the three US cities with the greatest share of workers
commuting at least three hours per day.
More broadly, Cali-
fornia’s solar rooftop
mandate is not cost
If the solar plan made economic sense,
effective, even judged consumers would demand it without
solely among solar any arm-twisting by the state.
energy alternatives.
Residential rooftop solar energy production is twice as expensive as that
from large-scale solar production, known as solar farms. This large cost
difference reflects economies of scale in managing the operations associated
with thousands of solar panels in one location, as well as the fact that solar
farm panels can be placed on towers that rotate to follow the sun’s path,
which means that the panels directly face the sun throughout the day. This in
turn maximizes the power generated, and particularly improves the effi-
ciency of the panels later in the day when residential demand peaks. Because
of these efficiencies and cost advantages, solar farms are by far the dominant
form of solar installations, accounting for about 80 percent of all new solar
installations in 2016.
Solar farms can be located in the desert, which offers maximum sun expo-
sure, and can be constructed on land that may otherwise have little value.
Solar farm installations also would avoid another cost of the home rooftop
mandate that the commission does not consider, which is that solar panels
completely change the aesthetic feature of a home’s rooftop. Many California
homes have Spanish-style red tile roofs, which harks back to the earliest Mis-
sion architecture in California. This historical and popular architectural style
would effectively be eliminated by the mandated installation of solar panels.
Moreover, the installation of conventional rooftop panels may well be a
remarkably dated technology by the time the state’s solar mandate is up and
running, as there are important research advances occurring in nonsolar
energy, which may displace solar in the future. This includes advances in the

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 173
treatment of carbon emissions, in which carbon is captured from fossil fuel
energy and is then injected into the ground, where the carbon ultimately is
mineralized. This practice has been used in Iceland since 2012, and shows
promise for wider-scale adoption. Researchers have also developed ways to
convert carbon emissions into ethanol. Advances are also occurring in the
areas of plant-based energy by increasing plant photosynthesis, in algae and
biofuels, and in nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy is perhaps the most promising alternative energy source,
given its substantial improvements in safety and efficiency. While consum-
ers are understandably concerned about a major nuclear accident, such as
at the Fukushima plant in Japan, recent research shows that the Fukushima
accident could have been easily prevented. France, which produces nearly
80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, has not had a significant
nuclear incident since 1980, when a reactor had to be shut down for extended
repairs. This event had no impact on the health of those living in the area or
on the broader environment.
California’s rush into renewables is unwise and premature. Sensibly adopt-
ing renewables on a major scale requires waiting until new technologies are
developed that can feasibly store renewable energy. Waiting would also allow
California to assess alternative options to reduce carbon.
In the meantime, California can take straightforward steps to reduce car-
bon: build more roads and build more houses. Not only will the state use less
carbon with those changes, it will also experience more economic growth.

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
Government Policies and the Delayed Economic
Recovery, edited by Lee E. Ohanian, John B. Taylor,
and Ian J. Wright. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit

174 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


The Invisible
The coastal elites ignore the Central Valley—yet
force it to abide by their decisions. A portrait of
California’s own flyover country.

By Bruce S. Thornton

n 1973, as I was going through customs in
New York, the customs agent rifling through Key points
»» Coastal Califor-
my bag looked at my passport and said, with
nians are often blind
a Bronx sneer, “Bruce Thornton, huh. Must to the world on the
be one of them Hollywood names.” other side of the
Coast Range.
Hearing that astonishing statement, I realized for
»» Inland Califor-
the first time that California is as much an idea as nians rarely see their
a place. There were few regions in America more concerns, beliefs,
and needs taken into
distant from Hollywood than the rural, mostly poor,
account at the state or
multiethnic San Joaquin Valley where my family federal level.
lived and ranched. Yet to this New Yorker, the valley »» Government poli-
was invisible. cies hurt rural people,
the poor, and the
Coastal Californians are sometimes just as blind aged in California’s
to the world on the other side of the Coast Range, heartland.

even though its farms, orchards, vineyards, dairies,

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 • Fall 2018 175
and ranches make up more than half the state’s $46 billion agriculture indus-
try, which grows more than four hundred commodities, including over a third
of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts.
Granted, Silicon Valley is an economic colossus compared to the agricul-
ture industry, but agriculture’s importance can’t be measured just in dollars
and cents. Tech, entertainment, and every other industry tends to forget
that lives and businesses, indeed civilization itself, all rest on the shoulders
of those who produce the food. You can live without your iPhone or your Mac
or the latest Marvel blockbuster. But you can’t live without the food grown by
the one out of a hundred people who work to feed the remaining ninety-nine.

Living in the most conservative counties in the deepest-blue state, valley
residents seldom see their concerns, beliefs, and needs taken into account
at the state or federal level. Registered Democrats in California outnumber
registered Republicans by more than 19 percentage points, and the state
legislature seats about twice as many Democrats as Republicans (California
is among only eight states with a trifecta: a Democratic governor and two
Democratic-controlled legislative bodies).
California’s congressional delegation is even more unbalanced: in the
House of Representatives, currently there are fourteen Republicans com-
pared to thirty-nine Democrats, and at least half of those GOP districts might
turn blue in the November balloting. Half the Republicans represent Central
Valley districts, none bordering the Pacific Ocean. The last elected Republi-
can US senator left office in 1991. The last Republican governor was action-
movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose second term ended in 2011.
This progressive dominance has led to policies and priorities that have
damaged California’s agricultural economy and seriously degraded the qual-
ity of life in the valley.
Despite a long
drought that has
The dominant cultures and mores of the diminished snow
dot-com north and the Hollywood south runoff from the
are inimical to those of the Central Valley. Sierra Nevada,
projects for dams
and reservoirs are on hold, creating a serious impact on the ag industry
that relies on the snowmelt for most of its water. Worse yet, since 2008, a
period including the height of the drought, 1.4 trillion gallons of water have
been dumped into the Pacific Ocean to protect the endangered delta smelt, a

176 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
DRILLING DOWN: State Route 33, whose Kern County portion has been
dubbed the Petroleum Highway, runs through the rich South Belridge oil field
west of Bakersfield. The western foothills of the Central Valley are little visited
by motorists passing through the region on Interstate 5. [Peter Bennett—Newscom]

two-inch bait fish. Thousands of agricultural jobs have been lost and farm-
land left uncultivated, all to satisfy the sensibilities of affluent urban environ-
mentalists. And even after a few years of abundant rain, valley farmers this
year are receiving just 20 percent of their south-of-the-delta water allocation.
Or take California’s high-speed-rail project, currently moribund and $10
billion over budget just for construction of the easiest section, through the
flat center of the valley. Meanwhile, State Highway 99, which bisects the
valley from north to south for five hundred miles, is potholed, inefficient, and
crammed with semis. It is the bloodiest highway in the country, in dire need
of widening and repair. Yet to gratify the Democratic governor’s high-tech
green obsession, billions of dollars are being squandered to create an unnec-
essary link between the Bay Area and Los Angeles. That’s $10 billion that
could have been spent building more reservoirs instead of dumping water
into the ocean because there’s no place to store it.
The common thread of those two examples of mismanagement and waste
is the romantic environmentalism of the well-heeled coastal left. That group

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 177
serially supports government projects and regulations that affect the poor
and the aged, who are left to bear their costs.
The same idealized nature-love has led to regulations and taxes on
energy that have made California home of the third-worst energy poverty
in the country. (Energy poverty refers to the inability to afford basic energy
services such as lighting, cooking, heating, and cooling.) In sweltering San
Joaquin Valley counties like Madera and Tulare, energy poverty rates are 15
percent, compared to 3–4 percent in cool, deep-blue coastal enclaves. Impov-
erished Kings County averages over $500 a month in electric bills, while tony
Marin Country, with an average income twice that of Kings County, averages
$200. Again, it’s the poor, aged, and working class who bear the brunt of
these costs, especially in the Central Valley, where temperatures regularly
reach triple digits in the summer; along the coast, the clement climate makes
expensive air conditioning unnecessary.

It’s no wonder then that Fresno, in the heart of the valley, is the second-most-
impoverished city in the poorest region of a state that has the highest pov-
erty levels in the country and one of the highest rates of income inequality.
Over one-fifth of its residents live below the poverty line, and it has the worst
child poverty in California.
The greatest impact on the valley’s deteriorating quality of life, however,
has been the influx of illegal aliens. Some are attracted by plentiful agri-
culture and construction work, and others by California’s generous welfare
transfers—California is home to one in three of the country’s welfare recipi-
ents—all facilitated by California’s status as a “sanctuary state” that regular-
ly releases felons rather
than cooperate with
My Latino students have more expe- Immigration and Customs
rience with physical labor, they are Enforcement (ICE). As
more religious, and, like me, they a result, one-quarter of
the country’s illegal alien
are often the first in their families to
population live in Califor-
graduate from college.
nia, many from underde-
veloped regions of Mexico and Latin America that have different social and
cultural mores and attitudes to the law and civic responsibility.
The consequences of these feckless policies are found throughout the state.
But they are especially noticeable in rural California. There, high levels of
crime and daily disorder—from murders, assaults, and drug trafficking, to

178 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
CATCH: Farmworkers harvest watermelons in the San Joaquin Valley. The
Central Valley’s farms, orchards, vineyards, dairies, and ranches make up
more than half of California’s $46 billion agriculture industry. More than a
third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts are grown
here. [Jim West—Newscom]

driving without insurance, DUIs, hit-and-runs, and ignoring building and
sanitation codes—have degraded or, in some cases, destroyed the once-
orderly farming towns that used to be populated by earlier immigrants,
including many legal immigrants from Mexico, who over a few generations of
sometimes rocky coexistence assimilated to American culture and society.

More broadly, the dominant cultures and mores of the dot-com north and
the Hollywood south are inimical to those of the valley. Whether it is gun-
ownership, hunting, churchgoing, or military service, many people in the San
Joaquin Valley of all races are quickly becoming cultural minorities marginal-
ized by the increasingly radical positions on issues such as abortion, guns,
and religion.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 179
Despite the liberal assumption that all Hispanics favor progressive policies,
many Latino immigrants and their children find more in common with valley
farmers and natives with whom they live and work than they do with distant
urban elites.
Indeed, as a vocal conservative professor in the local university (Fresno
State), I have survived mainly because my students, now more than half
Latino and Mexican immigrants or children of immigrants, are traditional
and practical in a way that makes them impatient with the patronizing
victim-politics of more-affluent professors. They have more experience with
physical labor, they are more religious, and, like me, they are often the first
in their families to graduate from college. As I did with the rural Mexican-
Americans I grew up with, I usually have more in common with my students
than I do with many of my colleagues.
And this is the great irony of the invisibility of the “other” California: the
blue-coast policies that suit the prejudices and sensibilities of the affluent
have damaged the prospects of the “others of color” they claim to want to
help. Overrepresented on the poverty and welfare rolls, many migrants
both legal and illegal have seen water policies that destroy agricultural jobs,
building restrictions that drive up the cost of housing, energy policies that
increase their cost of living, “sanctuary city” policies that put back on the
streets thugs and criminals who prey mainly on their ethnic fellows, and
economic policies that favor redistribution rather than the creation of wealth
and jobs.
Meanwhile, the coastal liberals who tout a cosmetic diversity live in a
de facto apartheid world, surrounded by those of similar income, taste,
and politics. Many look down on the people whom they view as racists and
xenophobes at worst, and intellectually challenged rubes at best. This disdain
has been evident in the way the media regularly sneer that House Intelli-
gence Committee Chair Devin Nunes is a former “dairy farmer” from Tulare
County, an origin that makes “the match between his backstory and his
prominence” seem “wholly incongruous,” per David Hawkings of Roll Call.
Finally, those of us who grew up and live in the rural valley did so among a
genuine diversity, one that reflected the more complex identities beyond the

DRY TIMES: A sign (opposite page) near Wasco offers a pointed message.
Drought leaves many farms without water, and many workers without jobs.
Valley residents complain that neither coastal communities nor state politi-
cians in Sacramento take their concerns, beliefs, and needs into account. [Rus-
sell Kord—Newscom]

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 181
crude categories of “white” or “black” or “Hispanic.” Italians, Basques, Portu-
guese, Armenians, Swedes, Mexicans, Filipinos, Southern blacks, Chinese,
Japanese, Volga Germans, Scotch-Irish Dust Bowl migrants—all migrated
to the valley to work the fields and better their lives. Their children and
grandchildren went to
the same schools, danced
The blue-coast policies that suit the together and drank
prejudices and sensibilities of the together, helped round up
affluent have damaged the prospects each other’s animals when
of the “others of color” they claim to they got loose, were best
friends or deadly enemies,
want to help.
dated and intermarried,
got drafted into the Army or joined the Marines—all of them Americans who
managed to honor their diverse heritages and faiths but still be a community.
Their most important distinctions were not so much between races and
ethnicities, though those of course often collided, but between the respect-
able people—those who obeyed the law, went to church, and raised their
kids right—and those we all called “no damned good.” Skin color or accents
couldn’t sort one from the other.
What most of us learned from living in real diversity in the valley is that
being an American means taking people one at a time.
That world still exists, but it is slowly fading away—in part because of the
policies and politics of those to our west, who can see nothing on the other
side of the Coast Range.

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
Unstable Majorities: Polarization, Party Sorting, and
Political Stalemate, by Morris P. Fiorina. To order, call
(800) 888-4741 or visit

182 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


Marx’s Moldering
Karl Marx didn’t free the proletariat or anyone else.

By Russell A. Berman

arl Marx was born two hundred years ago in Trier, Germany, a
small town in the western part of the country. To celebrate his
bicentennial, the People’s Republic of China donated a larger-
than-life statue of the founder of communism to the city of his
birth, which the Trier city council voted to accept. It goes without saying that
this memorialization was controversial, not only because of the devastation
caused throughout the world during the twentieth century in the name of
Marxism, but also because of the still living memory of communist rule in
East Germany. Henceforth, when one thinks of Trier, one should remember
Tiananmen Square.
As if the China connection were not sufficiently provocative, the Marx
commemoration in Trier included a panegyric delivered in the town’s cathe-
dral by none other than Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European
Commission and effective head of the European Union. Juncker is hardly
known as a deep philosophical thinker and his efforts to present Marx as
a “philosopher who thought into the future” were the insipid ramblings of
a career Eurocrat. But his very presence at the event became a scandal

Russell A. Berman is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a member of
Hoover’s Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the Inter-
national Order, and the Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 183
because he casually dismissed the letters of protest he admitted having
received from concerned members of the public in central and eastern
Europe—the territories that had suffered most under communist rule and
where the memory of that dictatorship is still very much alive.
In Juncker’s telling, Marx was a mild social democrat. But Juncker failed
to explore the implications of what was done in Marx’s name. What was it in
Marx’s writings that lent itself to the interpretations—or misinterpretations,
according to Juncker—of his Stalinist followers? There is of course a legiti-
mate tension between judging a work—Marx’s work—on its own merits and
judging it based on its impact. But Juncker cannot praise Marx for “thinking
into the future” while simultaneously trying to insulate Marx from his own

As we approach the thirtieth anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union,
it is astonishing that Marx continues to be popular, and not just among
people like Juncker. Of course, there are the dogmatists in the few remaining
communist countries, such as China and Cuba, who continue to cling to his
sclerotic ideas. But there are also, closer to home, intellectuals and aca-
demics who purvey versions of Marxism in the humanities departments of
many college campuses. Meanwhile, outside of the universities, popularized
versions of Marx’s ideas circulate among left-wing populists, like those of the
Occupy Wall Street movement.
All the more reason to review what was rotten about Marx’s ideas—ideas
that gave rise to brutal dictatorships and the killing machines of the gulags.
If you read nearly any passage in Marx’s oeuvre, it’s hard not to be struck
by his sense of absolute certainty. He pronounces statements in an apodictic
manner, laying claim to an unquestionable sense of truth, with no opportu-
nity to doubt. He is therefore always on the attack as he decimates opponents
with unyielding polemic—and he was a master of polemical style, to be sure.
Meanwhile there is no self-reflection, no interrogation of his own views, and
no sense that he might possibly be wrong.
Marx channels a voice of infallibility, making sweeping claims with no
margin of error and no exploration of evidence: “All history is the history of
class struggle,” begins the Communist Manifesto, which he co-authored with
Friedrich Engels. All history? Was there really nothing else than conflicts
between different economic groups? For Marx, apparently, there was never
any other dimension of human experience worthy of independent consider-
ation: no history of technology, of ideas, of culture, or faith. He comes to this

184 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
STILL HAUNTING EUROPE: Statues of Karl Marx, such as this one in Mos-
cow, have outlived the communist era that Marx prophesied. However, some
people still honor Marx as “a philosopher who thought into the future.” China
donated a new Marx statue this year to Trier, Germany, the city where the
author of the Communist Manifesto was born two hundred years ago. [Federico

one-dimensional schema by deflating the philosophy of history he had found
in his teacher, the German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel. In place of Hegelian
complexity, he offered simplistic claims to predict the future in the form of
“developmental laws of capitalism.”
Perhaps the kindest judgment on Marx is that he was just one more econo-
mist who thought he could predict the future. His delusion about his own pre-
dictive capacities is what made Marx so distasteful to a thinker like Friedrich
von Hayek, who recognized that humans can get things wrong, so best not to
endow any single human with too much power, and certainly not the govern-
ment. Not so Marx, who claimed direct access to incontrovertible insights
into the logic of history. For that reason he could conclude his Manifesto with
a series of crushing verdicts on competing radical movements, denounced
and condemned, without a shadow of doubt. These concluding diatribes
against other socialist currents that dared to differ from Marx’s communism
are perhaps the most symptomatic elements of his work, setting up a pattern

H O O V E R D IG E S T • Fall 2018 185
of defaming one’s opponents, especially those closest to him. Marx’s Bolshe-
vik heirs would transform that confidence into a rationale that sent political
competitors to their deaths. On the long list of victims of Marxism, compan-
ions on the left figured prominently.
While we might associate Marx with politics, in fact he lacked any real
appreciation for a political sphere in which one would interact productively
with advocates of varying programs. While for others, politics represents a
realm of compromise and negotiation, for Marx it was really the pursuit of
power and the obligation to command. He described the state simply as “the
executive committee of the bourgeoisie,” meaning that politics was second-
ary to the economy. Moreover, he promised to abolish the state, and therefore
politics, once communism would eliminate class difference—or so the story
went, as the ultimate outcome of communism would be a libertarian utopia of
Nothing, however, would be further from the truth. In practice, what com-
munism provided for was the development of a nomenklatura, a new class
elite that talked
the egalitarian talk
You can’t praise Karl Marx for “thinking while claiming for
into the future” while simultaneously try- itself the privilege
of dictators. The
ing to insulate him from his own legacy.
communist cadre
always knew better than the unenlightened populace, and therefore members
of the cadre would claim the power to impose their views and programs on
the rest of society. The real political legacy of Marxism was not the aboli-
tion of the state but, on the contrary, the expansion of the state over society,
and the elevation of a Marxist elite over the populace. No wonder the East
Germans calling for the end of their communist government in November
1989 chanted, “We are the people,” a people whom the communists, when all
is said and done, simply deplored.
Marxism was not about achieving an egalitarian society: it was the vehicle
through which party activists and thugs could pursue their own will to power.
(For this reason, the young radical Max Eastman described the communist
revolutionaries in Russia as Nietzschean.)
The Marxist pursuit of power also meant denouncing all religion, which
Marx described as an opiate, a drug intended to lull its consumers into pas-
sivity and false consciousness, so as to keep them from the truth (his truth).
Because Marxism emphasized labor and the primacy of human experience,
it could appeal to various twentieth-century philosophers, existentialists

186 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
among others, who emphasized the problem of alienation. Yet Marxism,
which treated all thought in a reductionist manner as an expression of econ-
omy, could never shake its own anti-intellectual legacy, famously expressed in
Marx’s Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach: “Philosophers have only interpreted
the world; the point, however, is to change it.”
Discussion of the
meaning of life—inter-
preting the world— Communism merely created a new
turned out to be of class elite that talked the egalitarian
negligible import for
talk while claiming for itself the privi-
Marxists, easily dis-
lege of dictators.
missed as only “epiphe-
nomenal.” Marx’s alternative to reflective thought was changing the world,
but without any room for the sort of ethical guidance that philosophical
thinking might offer: change at all costs, change with no limits. The result
was a modernizing fantasy of thoroughgoing transformation with scant
attention to the human costs. As Hannah Arendt showed a century later
in her Origins of Totalitarianism, this would lead to systematic violence in
“experiments” to fashion a “new man,” no matter how much suffering would
ensue. Ultimately, Marx had offered a false alternative: philosophical think-
ing or changing the world. In fact, what defines the human condition is the
ability to engage in both deep thinking and intentional action, and indeed
we should prefer action to be guided by thinking, just as thinking should be
informed by the experience of prior action.

The claim of infallibility, the will to political power, and the dismissal of ethi-
cal thought: such was the legacy that Karl Marx bequeathed to the com-
munist movement that once ruled half the world. President Juncker, in his
celebration of Marx,
recalled none of this,
revealing himself to be Marx couldn’t even conceive that he
just one more of Marx’s might be wrong. His Bolshevik heirs
defenders who still insist would wield that utter confidence to
on the fantasy of a good murder political competitors.
Marx motivated by sym-
pathy for the poverty of the workers during the Industrial Revolution.
But Marx was hardly the only thinker to write about nineteenth-century
social conditions, and he was surely not the most interesting. A page of

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 187
Dickens is worth a volume of Das Kapital. Wherever Marxism dominated
working class movements—by suppressing competing reform movements
or manipulating unions—blue collar workers fared worse. Had Marx not
been appropriated as the ideological figurehead of the Bolshevik Revolution
in 1917 in order to
justify the dictator-
The claim of infallibility, the will to politi- ship in Russia, he
cal power, and the dismissal of ethical would barely be
thought: such was Marx’s legacy. remembered today.
(A Google Ngram
search shows that Marxism took off as a term only after Lenin came to
power.) Instead, he has become the symbol of decades of terror.
For those who want to talk about Marx, to erect statues in his memory, or
to defend him as a philosopher, it is high time to discover intellectual integ-
rity and face up to the crimes committed in his name. It is wrong to say, as
one commonly hears in some circles, that his program of communism was a
good idea, but poorly implemented. On the contrary, it was a bad idea from
the start and the brutality that always accompanied it was a consequence of
its core character.

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 In
Retreat: America’s Withdrawal from the Middle East,
by Russell A. Berman. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or

188 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8


Revolution Comes
to Stanford
Remembering Alexander Kerensky: leader of the
short-lived Russian Provisional Government that
ruled between the czar and the Bolsheviks, he
spent his later years at Stanford, hoping for “the
resurrection of liberty in my land.”

By Bertrand M. Patenaude

uring Homecoming Week in 1965, Stanford students cast their
ballots for the most popular candidate in the annual “Red Hot
Professor” charity competition. The winner—who had the honor
of leading the rooting section at Big Game—was Dwight Clark,
dean of freshmen men, with 19,752 votes. Close behind him in second place, with
18,200 votes, was a stooped, eighty-four-year-old lecturer with failing eyesight
and a cane he used for walking and, when in the classroom, thwacking loudly on
his metal desk. His name was Alexander Kerensky, the man who led the Russian
Provisional Government in 1917 and was overthrown by the Bolsheviks in what
became known in the USSR as the Great October Socialist Revolution.
By 1965, Kerensky had been at Stanford for much of the previous decade. In
his first years on the Farm, he occupied a cubicle in Hoover Tower, where he
researched a multivolume documentary study of the Provisional Government,
based on materials from the Hoover Library & Archives. In subsequent years,
he gave talks at Rinconada, Tresidder, Cubberley, and the Women’s Clubhouse

Bertrand M. Patenaude is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 189
in the Old Union, wrote numerous letters to the editor of the Stanford Daily,
taught seminars in history and international relations, frequented the Oasis,
and, according to a credible witness, demonstrated the Watusi at a party at
Kingscote Gardens. In November 1965, at the moment when the former prime
minister of Russia was briefly in the lead in the race for “Red Hot Prof,” he
told a reporter from the Daily that he felt “very honored” to be in the running
and that, should he win, he would be ready to lead a cheer or two.
When I first arrived at Stanford in 1978 to begin my doctoral studies in
Russian history, I was surprised to learn that Kerensky had spent time on
campus. My mentor, Russian history professor Terence Emmons, told me
how, as a new faculty member back in the fall of 1965, he was sitting in his
office one day in the basement of the History Corner with the door open,
when he heard from across the hall a booming voice in a thick Russian
accent, punctuated by loud banging sounds. Upon investigation, the man
turned out to be an animated Kerensky, wielding a wooden cane that he was
striking on his metal desk for emphasis. To his interlocutor—someone who
had approached him after class—Kerensky was defending his role in the Rus-
sian Revolution. In 1917, he had been the most powerful man in Russia. As a
lonely exile, he was forever having to defend himself from the charge that he
helped pave the way for the advent of Soviet communism—that he was, as he
was often called, “the man who lost Russia.”

Kerensky was born in 1881 in Simbirsk, on the Volga River, where his father,
a schoolteacher, was said to have had as one of his pupils a young Vladimir
Lenin. The future Bolshevik leader would one day oust Kerensky from power.
In 1904, Kerensky earned his law degree in the Russian capital, St. Peters-
burg. It was a time of political upheaval in Russia. The following year brought
a revolution that nearly toppled the Russian autocracy. Kerensky joined the
populist Narodnik movement and made a name for himself as legal counsel to
victims of the 1905 revolution. In 1912, he was elected to the Russian parlia-
ment, the Duma, as a member of the Toilers’ Party, a moderate, populist
party affiliated with the far more formidable Socialist Revolutionary Party.
Russia’s disastrous military performance in World War I, together with
the economic dislocation and hardship caused by the war, led to a political
crisis. In the winter of 1916–17, with bread shortages and workers’ strikes
on the rise, the autocracy was on the verge of collapse. Czar Nicholas II was
persuaded to abdicate the throne in what became known as the February
Revolution of 1917 (it occurred in March on the Western calendar, thirteen

190 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
ANOTHER POINT: Alexander Kerensky, pictured in 1938, was a key figure
in the years leading up to the Bolshevik Revolution. In Petrograd (St. Peters-
burg) in 1917, Kerensky was among a number of figures who established the
Provisional Government, which was meant to pave the way for a constituent
assembly. That government crumbled and Kerensky fled abroad. [Hoover Insti-
tution Archives]

days ahead of the calendar used in Russia). In Petrograd, as St. Petersburg
had been renamed in 1914, Kerensky was part of a group of Duma leaders and
other liberal and conservative public figures who established the Provisional
Government. This government was called “provisional” because it was
intended to exist as a caretaker body until elections could be arranged for a
constituent assembly—a kind of constitutional convention that would draw
up a constitution for the new Russia. But the tide of revolution did not abate,
and the Provisional Government’s existence was destined to be brief and
marked by a series of crises and reshufflings.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 191
Initially, Kerensky was minister of justice, then became minister of war,
and eventually rose to prime minister. He was a spellbinding orator and a
charismatic figure, prone to histrionics. With his trademark crewcut hair-
style, he is instantly recognizable in photographs from the period. One reason
for Kerensky’s prominence in February 1917 is that he was also a leader of the
Petrograd Soviet, which was dominated by radical socialists and Marxists.
From the beginning, the Soviet refused to take power, but preferred instead
to act as a watchdog over the Provisional Government, making sure it did not
backslide. The Provisional Government was never able to put down roots in
the country by establishing local branches, but the Soviet spawned imitators
by the hundreds across Russia. As a result, the Soviet’s leaders could claim to
have a genuine national constituency.
The Soviet forbade its members from joining the Duma, but Kerensky
used his formidable persuasive powers to convince his colleagues to make an
exception for him.
Kerensky was thus, initially, the only man in both the Provisional Govern-
ment and the Petrograd Soviet.
The Provisional Government made the fateful decision to keep Russia in
the war, based on the assumption that a democratic Russia would be able
to fight more effectively. After becoming minister of war in May, Kerensky
decided to launch a Russian military offensive into Galicia, against Austria-
Hungary. He adopted a semi-military uniform and manner and took to
barnstorming at the front, where he came to be regarded as something of a
“persuader in chief.” The Galician offensive had disastrous results. It was the
last of Russia’s catastrophic military defeats in World War I.
Many critics of the Provisional Government, especially those aided by
hindsight, believed it was a mistake to keep Russia in the war. Kerensky, how-
ever, would argue to his dying day that he had had no choice, that Russia had
to remain faithful to its Western allies and continue to fight.
Russia, meanwhile, was descending into chaos. Peasants seized gentry and
church lands, while soldiers at the front—most of them peasants in uni-
form—were deserting and returning to the countryside to claim their share
of the spoils. In Petrograd, workers, the soldiers of the garrison, and the
sailors of the Baltic fleet were becoming increasingly radicalized, and street
demonstrations were growing. The culmination was the so-called July Days
crisis, when half a million people came out to demonstrate in Petrograd and
violence erupted. Most historians view the July Days as an unsuccessful, if
half-baked, attempt by Lenin and the Bolsheviks to seize power. Kerensky
moved to arrest the Bolsheviks, forcing Lenin to go into hiding in Finland.

192 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
“PERSUADER IN CHIEF”: Kerensky (reading) consults with other Provisional
Government officials in 1917. He was both a government official and a leader
of the Petrograd Soviet, which preferred not to take power directly. In time
the government appeared weak and vulnerable, and was swept aside by the
Bolsheviks. [Wikimedia Commons]

This might have spelled the end of Bolshevism, but Russia’s turmoil was far
from over. The next chapter was the so-called Kornilov Affair in August—the
attempted coup d’état by General Lavr Kornilov, supreme commander in chief
of the Russian army, who marched his forces from the front in the direction of
Petrograd. Kornilov claimed to want to eliminate the Soviet, but Kerensky saw
a threat to the Provisional Government. In order to meet that threat, he chose
to release the Bolsheviks from prison and arm the city’s workers. Kornilov’s
march on the capital fizzled out, but the Provisional Government now
appeared weak and vulnerable, and its enemies were armed and dangerous.
The Bolsheviks, as the only party promising an immediate peace with
Germany and Austria-Hungary, were becoming increasingly popular with
workers and especially soldiers. In September, they won a majority in the
Petrograd Soviet. Lenin’s fighting slogan was “All power to the Soviets,” which
meant the overthrow of the Provisional Government. On the night of October
25–26 (November 7–8 on the Western calendar), the Bolsheviks occupied the
key government buildings in the capital, then seized power in the name of a

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 193
national Congress of Soviets convening in Petrograd. Contrary to the Soviet
myth—which still persists a century later—there was no “storming” of the
Winter Palace.
Forces loyal to the Bolsheviks took the palace with minimal resistance and
arrested the members of the Provisional Government. Kerensky had already
left the city. He tried to rally troops in defense of his government, but to no
avail. He eventually fled Russia, never to return.
Kerensky spent the interwar years in Paris, then in 1939 moved to New
York. As an exile, Kerensky feared assassination, especially when living
among White Russian émigrés in Paris. In fact, he suffered no more than a
slap in the face or two when walking the streets of Paris. Typically, he was
subject to nothing worse than verbal abuse by émigrés claiming he had
brought down Russia by underestimating the threat posed by the Bolsheviks.

In 1955, the exiled former prime minister of Russia decided to visit Stanford.
He was inspired after reading a report published the previous year by Witold
Sworakowski, assistant director of the Hoover Institution, challenging the
common assumption that there was little documentation about the Provi-
sional Government available outside Russia. The Hoover Institution had
plenty of it, Sworakowski maintained. He published a statement to this effect
in a 1954 survey of Hoover’s collections on Russia.
That document came to the attention of Kerensky, who was living in New
York and thinking of writing his memoirs. In the summer of 1955, he came
out to have a look for himself. Kerensky was amazed by the wealth of Rus-
sian material he found at Hoover, and his planned two-week trip lasted two
months. Late in 1955, inspired by Kerensky’s presence, the Hoover Institution
decided to publish a multivolume collection of documents on the Provisional
Government and invited Kerensky to participate as compiler and editor. He
would help select the documents for translation into English and work with a
translator to annotate them. Kerensky accepted the invitation, and in Febru-
ary 1956, he was named a research associate at Hoover.
His collaborator on the project was a Stanford graduate named Robert
Paul Browder. Browder had earned his PhD at Harvard in 1951 and then
become associate professor of history at the University of Colorado. For the
next few years, Browder traveled back and forth from Boulder to work with
Kerensky on the project. In 1956, Kerensky was seventy-five years old. He
was trim and athletic, with a deeply lined face and a greying crewcut. He first
lived in a boarding house on Alpine Road before moving into an apartment in

194 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
FLEETING COMMAND: Alexander Kerensky salutes from an open car during a
review of the troops in 1917. Kerensky was minister of justice, minister of war,
and eventually prime minister. As war minister, he took a fateful decision:
to keep Russia fighting in the Great War. The Galician offensive he launched
against Austria-Hungary was a disaster. [AKG—Newscom]

Kingscote Gardens, on the Stanford campus. He would begin each day at 6
a.m. with a walk across the campus. Onlookers remarked that he strode like a
soldier. Everyone thought he seemed to be in a hurry.
An interesting profile of Kerensky appeared in the San Francisco Examiner
in 1961. The writer noted that the legendary Russian “drummed home his
points with his fists upon his desk. His steel-gray eyes flashed with an intelli-
gence little marred by age. His English faltered upon difficult terms at times,
but his eloquence was still immensely moving.”
Kerensky tended to be reclusive, yet he and Hoover Institution Director C.
Easton Rothwell and his wife became good friends. “We became very fond of
him and very close,” Rothwell remembered. Kerensky never let anyone call
him by his first name, Alexander, and insisted that even the Rothwells call
him A. K. He would walk to their home in Los Altos every Sunday morning.
Rothwell would offer to pick him up on campus and drive him to the house,
but Kerensky preferred to walk the two-plus miles. When he arrived, he

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 195
would mow the lawn and tend the garden. As Rothwell remarked in his oral
history, “He was the most distinguished gardener anywhere in California.”
The two men would enjoy a beer before lunch, Rothwell recalled. “We
would sit and talk in the afternoon, and then we would really have some-
thing to drink later. The man had absolutely unlimited capacity, and it never
showed. Then we would have supper.” Often, friends would join them for
dinner. Rothwell recalled that Kerensky loved people—although numerous
Stanford witnesses remembered him as standoffish and cantankerous.
After dinner, Rothwell would drive Kerensky home. This happened every
single Sunday, rain or shine, Rothwell recalled.
Kerensky was also apparently a regular at the Oasis. Bernie Tougas, who
opened the “O” in 1958, was quoted in the Daily as saying that Kerensky “and
that Polish count friend of his”—meaning his Hoover colleague Sworakow­
ski—“would come in every day and order two dark and two burgers.” This
sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, although Rothwell’s testimony confirms
that Kerensky loved a good beer.

Over time, Kerensky was drawn increasingly into campus activities, initially
with the encouragement of history professor Wayne Vucinich. As the story is
told, Vucinich was walking past Hoover Tower one day when he came upon
Kerensky relaxing on the grass. Vucinich asked him something along the
lines of, “Are you who I think you are?” Within minutes, Vucinich had invited
the distinguished visitor to visit his seminar on European history. And so it
happened that in April 1957, Alexander Kerensky made his first appearance
in a Stanford classroom, addressing Vucinich’s European history seminar in
Cubberley. He talked for about a half hour, and then took questions.
Among those in attendance was a reporter for the Daily, who wrote it up
for the paper. One of the students inquired of Kerensky, “Could you have kept
the Provisional Government in power by withdrawing from World War I?”
Kerensky had heard that one a thousand times, and his response verged on
dismissiveness: “It was complicated, and we were dealing with issues that
maybe you can’t understand.” Looking out at the fresh faces of the Stanford
undergrads, he added, “You young people here, you can’t understand what it
means to be free. You’ve always been free. For it is like trying to imagine living
without air.”
Kerensky must have enjoyed the encounter, because it did not inhibit him
from future appearances at a variety of campus events. At these gatherings
he would often express optimism about the chances for the post-Stalin Soviet

196 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
A PEACEFUL HOME: While living in New York, Kerensky (right) was intrigued
by a report published by Witold Sworakowski, assistant director of the Hoover
Institution, about Hoover’s collection of Provisional Government materials. In
time, Kerensky settled in as a research associate at Hoover and began editing
a multivolume collection of revolutionary documents. He became a familiar
figure around Stanford, speaking to students and community members while
he finished his book project. As the Stanford Daily wrote in 1957, “Even at
seventy-six, Kerensky has the power to stir an audience. One can only guess
what an orator he must have been forty years ago.” [Hoover Institution Archives]

Union to evolve away from totalitarianism. At a certain point, he insisted, the
Soviet people were going to begin to think for themselves.
Kerensky became good copy for the Daily. On May 7, 1957, a front-page
headline read, “Russian Ex-Premier Does Research in Hoover Libe.” The arti-
cle noted: “Even at seventy-six, Kerensky has the power to stir an audience.
One can only guess what an orator he must have been forty years ago. He is a
flaming idealist who still feels deeply and intensely for the people of Russia.”
Right around this time, the CBS program Odyssey, hosted by Charles
Collingwood, was preparing a program about the Kremlin, called Biography
of a Walled City. The producers tracked down Kerensky, and the program
opened with him standing on the steps of Hoover Tower and showed some of
the Hoover materials he was researching.

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 197
In fall 1957, Kerensky spoke at the Stanford Women’s Clubhouse on the
topic “Russia: Past and Present,” a talk in which he repeated the case that
totalitarian states were capable of evolution. He reiterated that point at a
two-day event in January 1959, in Cubberley Auditorium, called “The Iron
Curtain of Ignorance,”
sponsored by the Institute
Exiled far from his native land, Keren- of International Relations.
sky was forever having to defend On the second day of the
himself from the charge that he was forum, Kerensky joined a
“the man who lost Russia.” panel discussion, moder-
ated by Rothwell, who
had just been selected president of Mills College. The Daily summary of the
proceedings included the statement that “Kerensky firmly negated the pos-
sibility of the regime changing for the next one hundred years.”
That may have been how Kerensky, with his thick Russian accent, was
understood, but it was not what he had meant to say. This was the occasion
for the first of Kerensky’s several letters to the editor of the Daily during
his years at Stanford. The Daily, he insisted, had misreported his statement
about the potential for reform in the USSR. “No one can predict what will
happen,” he wrote, “not even in the next ten years. Radical change could
In spring 1960, Kerensky and Sworakowski conducted a retreat for about
fifteen students near Santa Cruz, on the topic “Russia and Its Satellite
States.” The event was held at Camp Campbell, near Boulder Creek. “On
Sunday morning,” the Daily reported, “Kerensky led a small group of happy,
singing students on a short hike through the redwoods. Probably weary from
the burdensome results of the discussion, he requested that they sing Ameri-
can, not Russian, songs.”
All these public activities did not prevent Kerensky from completing his
research project. In the fall of 1961, the three-volume documentary collection,
The Russian Provisional Government, 1917: Documents, co-edited by Kerensky
and Browder, was published by Hoover Press. The entire one-of-a-kind set,
which contained 1,400 documents translated into English, could be pur-
chased for $30. It remains an invaluable resource.
Before Kerensky left Stanford, he decided to endow one of the traditions
he loved most at Hoover—the coffee hour—by giving the institution a modest
financial gift for the purchase of coffee equipment and supplies.
He returned to New York, where he began to work on his long-post-
poned memoirs. He came back to campus very briefly in 1964, making an

198 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
appearance at the Russian Club, where he reminisced about his glory days
in revolutionary Russia. “To the delight of his audience, which packed the
room,” the Daily reported, Kerensky recounted the details of his escape from
Red Russia. The Bolsheviks had created a “legend” that he had fled the coun-
try in women’s clothing. In truth, Kerensky insisted, “I passed by the Red
Guards in my open car and my uniform. They were so surprised that they
saluted me!” The story sounds improbable, but upon hearing it, the apprecia-
tive audience burst into applause.

Kerensky returned to Stanford in fall 1965 as he toured the country to publi-
cize his memoir, Russia and History’s Turning Point, which had just appeared
in print. It sold briskly at the Stanford Bookstore, where it remained a best-
seller for many months.
Stanford political science professor Jan Triska gave the book a very
positive review in the Daily, in which he quoted the words of an oracular
Kerensky, “Man must learn to live not by hatred and revenge, but by love
and forgiveness.” Kerensky gave a book talk in front of a large audience at
Tresidder on February 1, 1966, which the Daily covered under the headline,
“Kerensky Sees Need for Love, Not Bombs”—a sentiment very much in tune
with the times.
That fall, Kerensky, now eighty-four, was enlisted to teach two seminars,
“The Russian Provisional Government” and “Contemporary World Politics.”
Both classes met in a basement classroom of the History Corner. Once again
he lived in Kingscote,
and each morning he set
out on his constitutional The tide of revolution did not abate.
four-kilometer walk. The Provisional Government’s exis-
Occasionally he would
tence was brief.
walk to a grocery store
in downtown Palo Alto that carried his favorite imported foods. But by now
he no longer had the erect military bearing of his first years at Stanford. He
was a bit stooped and he was losing his eyesight, so he carried a walking stick
to make sure that he didn’t crash into anything. He made use of the walking
stick in the classroom, too—banging it on the desk to emphasize his points
and, when necessary, to keep students awake.
Kerensky’s failing eyesight prevented him from reading his students’
papers, so they were instructed to visit him at his Kingscote apartment to
describe their proposed topic to him, then to return to review their paper

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 199
outline, then to go back yet again to read him a draft of their paper, and then
to make the trek to Kingscote a final time to read him their finished paper.
In private conversation, as in the classroom, Kerensky was not shy about
expressing his opinions, though his students sometimes had trouble under-
standing his heavily accented English. Despite these difficulties, he had a
strong showing in the “Red Hot Prof” contest in November 1965, and he was
invited to give the same two seminars again in the spring quarter of 1966.
It was during that especially busy academic year that Kerensky participat-
ed in a history-making moment on the Stanford campus. On January 27, 1966,
Kerensky sat among a packed audience of six hundred at Cubberley Audito-
rium for a screening
of Sergei Eisenstein’s
Kerensky tried to rally troops in defense 1928 feature film, Ten
of his government, but to no avail. He Days That Shook the
eventually fled Russia, never to return. World, a dramatiza-
tion of Russia’s Octo-
ber Revolution. Eisenstein’s film created indelible images of 1917, not least
the melodramatic gestures of the actor who played Kerensky. Ten Days That
Shook the World (called October in Russian) is an icon of avant-garde film, yet
Kerensky, it turned out, had never seen it. One of his students who attended
the screening recalled that, at times, Kerensky became quite agitated, as if
reliving painful events of long ago. The following evening he participated in a
discussion about the film, in room 61H on the Quad. Kerensky praised Eisen-
stein’s technique, but the film’s contents, he told his audience, were almost
“pure fantasy,” including the “legend that I was a member of the conspiracy
and I betrayed my friends out of fear of the Soviets.”
Before leaving Stanford in June, he gave a little party at Kingscote, at
which he demonstrated the Watusi, according to Kay Pinkham, associate
editor for the Stanford News Service. Around that time, Pinkham received
a letter from the producers of the television show I’ve Got a Secret, inviting
Kerensky to appear on the program. Pinkham telephoned Kerensky at Kings­
cote to describe the show and convey the offer. As he would soon be back in
New York, he decided to accept.
I’ve Got a Secret, broadcast live on Monday evenings, was hugely popular,
with thirty million viewers, but Kerensky had no idea what he was getting
into. With Pinkham’s help he was carefully coached before he left Stanford,
but when he arrived in New York, things didn’t go according to plan. When
Kerensky got to the studio, the television crew was rehearsing an animal
act that would appear on the show. Kerensky was appalled, according to a

200 H OOVER DI GEST • Fa ll 201 8
production assistant. “He took one look at what was going on in the theater
and fled,” leaving the producers to fill some live air time that evening.
Kerensky returned to Stanford one last time in fall 1967 for a symposium
titled “Fifty Years of Communism.” He was also on hand for the dedication
ceremony, on October 9, of the Lou Henry Hoover Building. On the flight
back to New York, he became ill and had to go directly from the airport to
St. Luke’s Hospital. There, on November 7—the fiftieth anniversary of the
October Revolution—the ailing revolutionary dictated a statement from his
sickbed that was quoted in the Daily: “I don’t have much longer to be on this
earth. I shall not see the resurrection of liberty in my land. But you will—of
this I am convinced. And when this rebirth of a radiant, free Russia comes to
pass, it will redound to the benefit of all mankind.” He lived another two and
a half years, and died in New York City on June 11, 1970.
Kerensky’s memory lives on at Stanford, as do myths about his time on
campus. According to one such legend, Kerensky crossed paths in the shadow
of Hoover Tower with the exiled Bolshevik revolutionary Leon Trotsky, whom
Joseph Stalin had banished from the USSR in 1929. (Trotsky, who was mur-
dered by a Stalinist assassin in Mexico City in 1940, never visited Stanford.)
Over the years, customers at the O in Menlo Park have been on the lookout for
the initials “A. K.” carved into a table or a bench of Kerensky’s old haunt. And
the former premier’s ghost hovered over a 2012 Daily article about Kingscote
Gardens. The author supposed that the “inconspicuous peace of Kingscote”
was “a fitting conclusion to Kerensky’s volatile life” and imagined him “con-
templating his ideology around the shaded ponds.” A more accurate image
of Kerensky at Stanford, however, is that of a restless exile, striding across
campus on his early-morning four-kilometer walks, pursued by history.

Published by permission of Sandstone & Tile, the magazine of the Stan-
ford Historical Society. © 2018 The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stan-
ford Junior University. All rights reserved.

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is War,
Revolution, and Peace in Russia: The Passages of
Frank Golder, 1914–1927, edited by Terence Emmons
and Bertrand M. Patenaude. To order, call (800) 888-
4741 or visit

H O O V E R D IG E ST • Fall 2018 201
On the Cover

n November 11, 1918, the guns fell silent on the Western Front,
bringing the Great War to a close. This French war-bonds
poster from late in the war, with its soldier and ragged banner,
hints at the conflict’s gargantuan trail of destruction. It stands
in stark contrast to an earlier poster by the same artist, Jules-Abel Faivre
(1867–1945), which portrayed an eager soldier running toward the action and
crying out, “We’ll get them!” The armistice a hundred years ago ended the
war, and many illusions about war, but not the war’s suffering.
France issued four National Defense Loans during the conflict. This poster,
invoking the core French value of liberté, summons citizens to subscribe to
the third loan. In contrast to the humorous, satirical, bright American post-
ers of the day, European imagery had long since ceased depicting the war as
an adventure. The thousands of dead young men would never again be com-
pared to “swimmers into cleanness leaping,” as Rupert Brooke had rhapso-
dized in 1915. In this poster, Europe and the very globe itself drip with blood.
In this scarred landscape, Herbert Hoover, who would become president of the
United States a decade later, had been busy leading the Commission for Relief in
Belgium, dedicated to feeding people in German-occupied territory, and the US
Food Administration. After World War I ended, hunger remained—in fact, the
need for humanitarian aid was just beginning. With $100 million from Congress
and another $100 million collected from private donations, Hoover led the
American Relief Administration (ARA) on a mission to feed and provide other
critical materials to war-ravaged Europe. Its role expanded to revolution- and
famine-ravaged Russia, where it operated until 1923, sustained by the $20 million
Congress supplied under the Russian Famine Relief Act. Ultimately the ARA fed
twenty-three countries, delivering four million tons of relief supplies.
Hoover, who had to deal with reluctant and suspicious Russian leaders,
also faced pushback on the home front for feeding the Bolsheviks. He replied
to a critic, “Twenty million people are starving. Whatever their politics, they
shall be fed.”

202 H OOVER DI GEST • FALL 201 8
Hoover also looked to the future. Starting with the records of the Com-
mission for Relief in Belgium, he set out to preserve the history of the war
and document how it began. His donation of $50,000 to Stanford University
funded the Hoover Library, whose agents would cross Europe to collect
posters such as this one, newspapers, documents, books, and other materi-
als related to the war. The overarching goal was to study the conflict and
learn from its mistakes so as to prevent war and promote peace. In time, this
library became the Hoover Institution.
—Zev Roberts

H O O V E R D IG E ST • FALL 2018 203


Board of Overseers
Chair Cynthia Fry Gunn
Joel C. Peterson Arthur E. Hall
Everett J. Hauck
Vice Chairs W. Kurt Hauser
Paul Lewis “Lew” Davies III Warner W. Henry
Mary Myers Kauppila Kenneth A. Hersh
Heather R. Higgins
Members Hank J. Holland
Katherine H. Alden Allan Hoover III
Neil R. Anderson Margaret Hoover
Barbara Barrett Philip Hudner
John F. Barrett James D. Jameson
Robert G. Barrett Gail A. Jaquish
Donald R. Beall William E. Jenkins
Peter S. Bing Charles B. Johnson
Walter E. Blessey Jr. Franklin P. Johnson Jr.
Joanne Whittier Blokker Mark Chapin Johnson
William Kay Blount John Jordan
James J. Bochnowski Steve Kahng
Jerome V. “Jerry” Bruni John B. Kleinheinz
James J. Carroll III Richard Kovacevich
Robert H. Castellini Allen J. Lauer
Jean-Pierre L. “JP” Conte Howard H. Leach
James W. Davidson Walter Loewenstern Jr.
Herbert M. Dwight Howard W. Lutnick
Jeffrey A. Farber Hamid Mani
Henry A. Fernandez Frank B. Mapel
Carly Fiorina James D. Marver
James E. Forrest Craig O. McCaw
Stephen B. Gaddis Susan R. McCaw
Samuel L. Ginn David McDonald
Michael W. Gleba Harold “Terry” McGraw III
Jerry Grundhofer Henry A. McKinnell

204 H OOVER DI GEST • FALL 201 8

Carol J. McNeil David L. Steffy
Mary G. Meeker Thomas F. Stephenson
Jennifer L. “Jenji” Mercer Stephen K. Stuart
Rebekah Mercer W. Clarke Swanson Jr.
Roger S. Mertz Curtis Sloane Tamkin
Harold M. “Max” Messmer Jr. Robert A. Teitsworth
Jeremiah Milbank III Marc Tessier-Lavigne*
Mitchell J. Milias Thomas J. Tierney
Scott Minerd David T. Traitel
K. Rupert Murdoch Victor S. Trione
George E. Myers Darnell M. Whitt II
George A. Needham Paul H. Wick
Robert G. O’Donnell Diane B. “Dede” Wilsey
Robert J. Oster Richard G. Wolford
*Ex officio members of the Board
Stan Polovets
Jay A. Precourt
Distinguished Overseers
Jeffrey S. Raikes*
Martin Anderson
George J. Records
Stephen D. Bechtel Jr.
Christopher R. Redlich Jr.
Peter B. Bedford
Samuel T. Reeves
Wendy H. Borcherdt
Kathleen “Cab” Rogers
Peyton M. Lake
Adam Ross
Shirley Cox Matteson
Douglas G. Scrivner
Bowen H. McCoy
Peter O. Shea
Roderick W. Shepard Overseers Emeritus
Robert Shipman Frederick L. Allen
Thomas M. Siebel Joseph W. Donner
George W. Siguler John R. Stahr
Boyd C. Smith Robert J. Swain
William C. Steere Jr. Dody Waugh

H O O V E R D IG E ST • FALL 2018 205
The Hoover Institution gratefully acknowledges the support of
its benefactors in establishing the communications and information
dissemination program.

Significant gifts for the support of the Hoover Digest
are acknowledged from

Bertha and John Garabedian Charitable Foundation
The Jordan Vineyard and Winery
Joan and David Traitel

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

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

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

William K. Bowes Jr.
William C. Edwards
Charles B. Johnson
Tad and Cici Williamson
FA L L 2 0 1 8 NO. 4

Hoover’s Centennial

Government Growth


Law and Liberty

Health Care

The Economy

Science and the Environment




The Middle East

Eastern Europe


Interviews: James Mattis,
Jordan Peterson


History and Culture

Hoover Archives