Policy Institutes

Today is Human Rights Day, a time we should celebrate great advances in human freedom through history—the rise of the rule of law, the abolition of slavery, the spread of religious liberty, the secular decline of violence, respect for free speech, etc.—as well as honor those groups and individuals working to promote or safeguard human rights in the many parts of the world they are currently being violated or threatened.

At Cato, we have been honored to host and work with human rights champions from around the globe, all of whom have suffered persecution for speaking truth to power. The list includes renowned Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, independent Cuban blogger and journalist Yoani Sanchez, Malaysian politician and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, Venezuelan opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, Russian liberty advocate Garry Kasparov, Chinese activist  Chen Guangcheng (sometimes known as the blind, “barefoot lawyer”) and many more.

Because we believe in the inherent dignity of individuals, human freedom is worth defending. For that reason, and because freedom plays a central role in human progress, it is also worth gaining a better measure and understanding of the spread of,  and limitations on, freedom around the world. That’s why we created the Human Freedom Index in conjunction with the Fraser Institute and the Liberales Institute. The index is the most comprehensive global measure of civil, personal and economic freedom so far devised. And although Human Rights Day technically commemorates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we think the Human Freedom Index and its definition of freedom—the absence of coercive constraint—can help us think more carefully about the state of freedom around the world.

You may view the index here, see how countries and regions of the world rank, examine how income and democracy relate to freedom, get a sense of how various freedoms relate to one another, and otherwise gauge how the world is doing on 76 distinct indicators.

Other Cato activities and publication that may be of interest on Human Rights Day include:

Recent events

“The Deteriorating State of Human Rights in China”

“Property Rights Are Human Rights: Why and How Land Titles Matter to Indigenous People”

“Islam, Identity, and the Future of Liberty in Muslim Countries”

“Magna Carta and the Rule of Law around the World”

“The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice and Freedom”

Publications

The Tyranny of Silence by Flemming Rose

The Power of Freedom: Uniting Human Rights and Development by Jean-Pierre Chauffour

Realizing Freedom by Tom Palmer

“Islam and the Spread of Individual Freedoms: The Case of Morocco” by Ahmed Benchemsi

“Capitalism’s Assault on the Indian Caste System,” by Swami Aiyar

“Magna Carta’s Importance for America,” by Roger Pilon

Before becoming wedded to statism in America, liberalism was a philosophy of liberation. But while leading liberals of the past advocated peace, many foreign (“classical”) liberals today favor war—at least, if conducted by America.

For instance, former chess champion Garry Kasparov has taken on the heroic but thankless task of battling for democracy in his Russian homeland. Alas, he also is surprisingly generous with other people’s lives. He recently declared: “Anything less than a major U.S. and NATO-led ground offensive against ISIS will be a guarantee of continued failure and more terror attacks in the West.”

Kasparov is confused over cause and effect, since terrorism most often follows intervention, as did the recent Islamic State strikes against France, Hezbollah and Russia. But there is a more basic point.

It’s easy for a celebrity Russian living in the West to argue that it is the job of Americans, with maybe a couple Europeans tossed in, to destroy ISIS, save Syria, and more. But there’s actually nothing liberal in pushing a broader, longer war on others.

Kasparov is not alone. A number of foreign liberals—Lithuanian, Russian, Slovakian, Swedish, for instance—have criticized American libertarians for advocating a non-interventionist foreign policy. They’ve instead argued that a “compelling” argument can be made for a “globalist” strategy.

Actually, that’s true only so long as one isn’t paying the cost of the foreign policy. As foreigners typically do not for American intervention, unless it is directed at them.

Indeed, foreign liberals who call for intervention mostly talk about America. After all, the Russian government is interventionist, but not in the right way. Lithuania, Slovakia, and Sweden have minuscule militaries. No one cares whether the latter three countries even have a foreign policy.

About the only option for them is to ask someone else, namely America, to defend them. Thus, when they advance “collective security,” they really mean Americans should do the creating and investing—and, ultimately, fighting.

But U.S. foreign policy should, indeed, must, be guided by what is in the interest of those doing the paying and dying, namely the American people. The Pentagon exists to protect them, and the liberal republic which governs them, not conduct grand “liberal” crusades around the world.

First, as social critic Randolph Bourne warned, “War is the health of the state.” Military spending is the price of one’s foreign policy. Moreover, war kills, disables, and wounds. The national security state generates economic controls, restraints on civil liberties, and restrictions on political freedoms.

Second, U.S. alliances act as a form of international welfare. Washington doing it ensures that no one else will do it. Yet today the European Union enjoys a greater GDP and population than America.

Third, an interventionist, warlike policy kills. Not just Americans, but foreigners. The foolish Iraq invasion unleashed sectarian war that killed perhaps 200,000 Iraqis before ebbing, only to flare again under the Islamic State, a malign force spawned by the conflict.

Fourth, Washington does badly at social engineering at home. It does far worse attempting to remake the world, especially the Middle East.

As I argue in the American Conservative, “Given these realities, the kind of aggressive U.S. policy toward Russia desired by many foreign liberals would be foolish and, yes, illiberal, for America. Russian activities harm the liberties of other peoples. Doing more to stop Moscow would do greater damage to the liberties of Americans.”

Moreover, where is Europe? The continent enjoys around eight times the GDP and three times the population of Russia.

Is the result a good outcome? No. But nothing in liberal philosophy requires residents of the globe’s most powerful “liberal” nation to bankrupt themselves, sacrifice their liberty, and court national destruction to try to remake the earth. Americans, especially traditional liberals, should choose domestic peace over international conflict. 

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. In this case, the Palmetto State, following the lead of other state and federal regulators, has added a new twist to that old saying: fool no one, pay $124 million to the treasury.

Ortho-McNeil-Janssen (“Janssen”) is a pharmaceutical company that distributes a popular antipsychotic drug known as Risperdal. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Risperdal was in fierce competition for market dominance and made some questionable claims about the drug’s side effects. The FDA investigated and compelled the company to correct some defective warning labels.

South Carolina regulators, however, despite the FDA’s settlement of the matter, commenced state action against Janssen under the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. That action worked its way up to the state supreme court, which ultimately confirmed a $124 million penalty against the company. That massive fine was sustained on the theory that each labeling violation was its own violation of the statute, worth up to $5,000 each, rather than the overall labeling violation counting as one singular misdeed.

Such a large penalty, disproportionate to the actual harm caused (none) runs afoul of the Eight Amendment requirement that “excessive fines [not be] imposed.” Cato has filed an amicus brief calling for the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decisions below and clarify the scope of the Excessive Fines Clause.

South Carolina’s statute, like many similar state laws, is poorly worded and fails to define whether each individual manifestation of a regulatory violation is cognizable as an offense. Taking advantage of that lack of specificity, South Carolina converted a potential $5,000 fine into a $124 million one. Because of the huge numbers that can be achieved by multiplying even modest per-violation fines, state and federal regulators are often able to secure grandiose settlements and thereby insulate their fines from judicial review.

Moreover, the state supreme court here accepted this theory in the face of no evidence of harm resulting from the allegedly improper statements. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that under the Excessive Fines clause, the monetary penalty imposed shall not be “grossly disproportional to the gravity of the defendant’s offense.” United States v. Bajakajian (1998). A finding of no harmful effect attached to 9- or 10-figure penalties blows any notion of proportionality out of the water.

And South Carolina is not the only state where this is occurring. For example, an Arkansas court imposed a $1.2 billion penalty for purported misstatements about the same drug at issue here, on the theory that the Arkansas Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act was violated each time the drug was prescribed or re-filled. Other cases have revealed penalties as high as 20 or 46 times the harm suffered by consumers.

The Supreme Court should take this opportunity to reaffirm that the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause imposes a judicially enforceable limit on grossly disproportional fines. It will consider next month whether to take up Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. South Carolina.

The federal government uses protectionist country-of-origin labeling (COOL) regulations to privilege a certain segment of the U.S. cattle industry at the expense of meat processors, retailers, and consumers.  Due to a successful challenge by Canada and Mexico at the World Trade Organization, and the resulting threat of trade retaliation, Congress may finally repeal the law.  This is good news.

I explained last month in The Hill(Online) what’s wrong with the COOL law:

Under current U.S. regulations, meat produced in the United States and sold in American grocery stores must carry a label indicating in which country or countries the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered. In order to comply with this law, American meat processors have to keep track of where each animal was born or raised and segregate any border-crossing cattle to ensure accurate labels. The requirement imposes a significant cost on processors, which they can avoid if the only cattle they purchase are born and raised in the United States.

The WTO ruled against the labeling law because much of what the law requires burdens processors who buy Canadian cattle without conferring any benefit on consumers.

In a free market, consumers receive product information if they care enough about it to pay for that information.  Sometimes providing that information is cheap and sometimes it’s expensive. 

When the government comes in to mandate labels, it’s because someone wants consumers to have information that consumers don’t actually care enough about to pay for.  Mandated labels also reflect what the government (and lobbyists) want people to know, not what actually matters to consumers.  In the case of COOL, protectionists think Americans will buy beef from U.S.-origin cattle if they have that information thrust upon them even though what Americans really want is high-quality food at a low price. There’s a second layer of rent-seeking here, because compliance costs privilege domestic ranchers regardless of consumer response to the labels.

Supporters of the law rely largely on the claim that consumers have a “right to know” where their food comes from.  A quick look at the costs and benefits of providing this “right to know” through the existing mandatory country of origin labeling scheme reveals how simplistic formulations of positive rights do more harm than good.

If Americans have the right to know what country the animals they eat were born or raised in, do they also have a right to know what state a domestic animal came from?  What about the ranch it lived at or the direction it typically faced while grazing?  Do we have a right to know the animal’s name or favorite Taylor Swift song? 

The questions may sound silly, but can you answer them and explain why such labels should or should not be required?  The answer surely depends on what limiting principle, if any, defines the contours of the “right to know.”  Perhaps the right to know depends on the costs of acquiring or providing the information.  The rhetoric of rights, however, implies that the costs are irrelevant.  Weighing costs and benefits certainly won’t justify the COOL law, which was found to have a net negative impact on the U.S. economy by the Office of Management and Budget in 2004 and by the USDA itself in 2015.

Perhaps we only have a “right to know” things that matter—but does it matter that the animal whose meat you’re eating was born in Canada?  Who decides what matters?  Personally, I can’t think of a single reason to care what side of the 49th parallel my steak was on when it began its life.  Why is that more important than knowing which Dakota it came from or what pitch it mooed on?  Assertions of a vague right to know don’t answer any of these questions, which are at the heart of a policy debate over how strict and expensive COOL regulations should be.

What we do know is that the “right to know” is a catalyst for cronyism and inefficiency.  In a free market, the simple desire to know is enough to prompt the supply of information to consumers at a price they want to pay.

Over the last month, GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s counterterrorism policy prescriptions have included creating a database of Arab and Muslim Americans, and more recently, a call for a ban on all Arab/Muslim immigration to the United States. While he has yet to call for the creation of WW II-style ethnic/religious concentration camps for our Arab/Muslim American neighbors, at this point nothing seems beyond the pale for Trump. Unfortunately, as I have noted before, when it comes to stigmatizing–if not de facto demonizing–Arab/Muslim Americans, he’s getting some help from DHS, DoJ, and the legislative branch.

Indeed, in the ongoing legislative battle to pass dubious cybersecurity legislation, House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul (R-TX) is being wooed to support the revised cyber information sharing bill with a new carrot: the inclusion of his “countering violent extremism” (CVE) bill in the FY16 omnibus spending bill–a measure condemned earlier this year by civil society groups from across the political spectrum.

To date, McCaul has been opposed to the Senate’s approach to cybersecurity issues in the form of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), and, keeping that in mind, House and Senate supporters have largely excluded him from their negotiations over a final cyber bill. By dangling the inclusion of his CVE legislation in the omnibus is a clear effort to get McCaul to drop his opposition to CISA by giving him one of his priorities: Passage of CVE legislation would create yet another bureaucracy in DHS to essentially monitor the Arab/Muslim American population for signs of extremism. 

The fact that a similar CVE effort in the U.K. failed miserably has not deterred Congressional boosters like McCaul from pursuing that same discredited approach at the expense of the civil and constitutional liberties of a vulnerable minority population. Additionally, the expense of American taxpayers is likely to be at least an additional $10 million per year for the proposed DHS CVE office. 

As former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw reminded us this week, Arab and Muslim Americans have died for the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have paid for our freedom with their blood and their lives. Proposals that would strip them of their rights and attempt to turn them into political and societal lepers should be repudiated–vocally and forcefully. Those who propose such un-American and unconstitutional discrimination are the ones who should be shunned and permanently confined to the unhinged fringes of American political and social life.

Despite some of the breathless headlines, Finland is not adopting a national universal basic income. That is, Finland is not scrapping the existing welfare system and distributing the same cash benefit to every adult citizen without additional strings or eligibility criteria. Finland is moving forward with one of the most extensive and rigorous basic income experiments in decades, which could help answer some of the lingering questions surrounding the basic income. The failures of the current system are well documented, but there are concerns about costs and potential work disincentives with a basic income. Finland’s experiment could prove invaluable in trying to find an answer some of these questions, and whether it is possible some kind of basic income or negative income tax would be a preferable alternative to the tangled web of programs in place now.

The Finnish Social Insurance Institution (Kela) will lead a consortium of think tanks, universities, and businesses in surveying the existing literature, analyzing past experiments, and designing different models to test in Finland. They will present an interim report next March, where the government will decide which models to develop further. The consortium will present a final report in November, after which the government will choose which models to actually test. The experiment will begin in 2017 and last for two years, after which the consortium will begin to evaluate the results.

One of the most important issues with any basic income proposal is deciding whether it would replace the current system or be added on to the existing structure. (The latter, of course, does not have much appeal from a limited-government perspective.) The consortium is considering multiple models, as Kela’s presentation shows: 

 In the full model, most safety net programs would be replaced with a fairly high basic income, while a partial model would purportedly keep some programs, such as housing assistance, intact. The consortium is also exploring a negative income tax, where benefits would be phased-out with earned income. At this early stage, these models are in flux and not fully developed. It’s not yet clear which programs would be replaced in which models or what the benefit level would be. These developments should be closely monitored as the working group solidifies more details.

Finnish politicians may decide to test multiple models, so the experiments could give a better understanding of how the effects of a basic income differ from a negative income tax, for example. Kela has also expressed interest in conducting not only a national experiment, where randomly selected Finns around the country are given the basic income to examine its effects on work effort and well-being, but also county level and local experiments where larger proportions of the target population get the benefit. These local and county experiments would help the researchers analyze the effects of a basic income beyond the individual. At the community level, they may see how businesses, neighborhoods, and other government programs are affected.

Even with these studies, some uncertainty will remain. We won’t know how these results would translate to other countries that have different economies, fiscal situations, and welfare systems. The studies only last two years, so longer-term effects over the course of a person’s life or subsequent generations will not be understood. Even with these limitations, this would be the largest and most comprehensive basic income experiment to date.

Some aspects of a basic income are intriguing. The current system is deeply flawed, so doing away with the dozens of different government programs and bureaucracies has some appeal. But too many questions remain regarding cost and impact on work incentives. My colleague Michael Tanner explored these issues in depth in his paper earlier this year, and an issue of Cato Unbound allowed proponents and skeptics to suss out the topic.  The Finnish experiments, and similar developments in Switzerland and cities like Utrecht, could help answer some of the many questions raised by a basic income proposal. Stay tuned. 

Coming out of oral argument in Fisher v. UT-Austin, I have a frustrating sense of déjà vu all over again. Not simply because this is the second iteration of Abigail Fisher’s plea not to be judged by skin color, but because every time the Supreme Court takes up affirmative action both sides talk past each other and the issue is (not) resolved by a mushy baby-splitter like Justices Lewis Powell or Sandra O’Connor. Regardless of what the particular legal issues may be, one side pushes racial preferences forever (for whatever reason, currently “diversity”) and the other says never (because the way to stop racial discrimination is to stop discriminating on race). The ultimate ruling inevitably rejects the specific use of race at issue but keeps the door open for future uses – chasing some Goldilocks ideal of “race consciousness” but not too much.

Fisher II is no different. I’ll let others provide detailed exegeses of the justices’ repartee, but the bottom line is that there aren’t any surprises here. With Justice Elana Kagan recused, there’s a reduced three-justice liberal bloc staunchly in favor of UT-Austin’s holistic review (which Cato’s brief assails as being a black box that can’t pass the smell test, let alone strict scrutiny). Conversely, I heard nothing from Chief Justice Roberts or Justices Scalia/Thomas/Alito that would support the university. For that matter, Justice Kennedy – who dissented in the University of Michigan case of Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) that was Fisher’s precursor – didn’t say anything to indicate he would approve UT’s admissions program either, though at one point suggested that a remand for fact-finding might be appropriate (Later, he all but rejected that idea).

So we wait to see how broadly Kennedy wants to go. Will he merely vote to strike down the use of race in the admissions decisions complementing UT’s Top 10 program, or will he cast doubt on the use of race in educational administration altogether? Will he tighten the judicial standard of review that the Court set in Fisher I – making it essentially impossible to meet – or will he throw bones to both sides in a way that again avoids changing the status quo?

At some point, the Supreme Court has to realize that the hallowed “diversity” interest is both pretext and ephemera, and that an admissions program that uses race in a constitutional manner is a self-contradicting proposition. I don’t know if that day will come next June when Fisher is decided, but my fervent hope is that Justice Kennedy pushes his own jurisprudence further in that direction.

With Justice Antonin Scalia writing, the Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that a challenge can proceed in federal court arguing that Maryland’s ridiculous, convoluted Congressional redistricting map violates the Constitution by harming some voters based on their political views. In general, the high court has declined to disturb partisan gerrymanders, no matter how flagrant, so long as they otherwise comply with equal population requirements and the federal Voting Rights Act. The rationale for this position being that the Court could not identify any principled standard to apply that would not draw it into a multitude of political disputes. 

Yesterday’s unsurprising decision rests solely on a narrow procedural point – whether the claim as not “obviously frivolous” deserves to proceed to a three-judge panel, rather than being thrown out by a single judge – which augurs little about whether the Court has changed that view. The Court has signaled continued interest in redistricting, however, by accepting two other merits cases for argument this term, Wittman v. Personubhallah from Virginia and Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. These are in addition to the just-argued case of Evenwel v. Abbott, discussed this morning by colleague Ilya Shapiro (no relation to Steve Shapiro, plaintiff in the Maryland case). 

Meanwhile, state interest in redistricting reform is gaining steam. Last month, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a plan to draw state legislative districts by nonpartisan commission, an idea that has advanced in a number of other states in recent years, especially out West.

I’ve had a chance to grapple with these issues myself this fall, because Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was generous enough to appoint me as a private citizen as co-chair of his bipartisan Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission, created by executive order in August. After three months of hearings, research, and workshops, we filed our report last month, calling for Maryland to adopt an independent citizen commission format similar to California’s pioneering model, but simplified and adapted to fit our smaller state and its institutions. While libertarians have paid only sporadic attention to gerrymandering over the years, the practice exemplifies the manner in which self-serving use of government power can entrench and insulate a political class, enabling it to withstand discontent and correction from voters. 

The progressive group Envision Frederick County invited me to share my thoughts on the issue at greater length. Those thoughts, of course, represent my views alone, not those of anyone else at the Cato Institute. You can read them here, as well as the entire report of the governor’s commission. I hope they represent steps onward and upward to a fairer and more effective system of representation, both in Maryland and in other states afflicted by gerrymandering.

One of the most important aspects of the separation of powers is the commitment of the power of the purse to the legislative branch. It constrains the executive and the judiciary from engaging in unilateral action without congressional approval. If there’s no approval, there will be no money to pay for the executive action, as the rule would have it. Unsurprisingly, with the advent of the administrative state and an aggressive executive, this power has been significantly diminished in modern times

Indeed, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution provides expressly that “[t]he Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts,” to the exclusion of any other branch’s exercise of those powers. The upshot: the separation of powers, especially Congress’ power over appropriation priorities, is eroded as executive agencies and executive allies have access to funds not appropriated by Congress.

In order to keep their power of the purse intact, Congress originally enacted the Miscellaneous Receipts Statute in 1849. That law is now codified today in Title 31 of the U.S. Code. It requires all government officials in receipt of funds, such as settlements from civil or criminal enforcement, to deposit that money with the Treasury. As a structural point, the law effectively aims at stopping executive agencies from self-funding through enforcement or other receipts of money. It maintains their dependence on Congress for their annual appropriation.

However, the Justice Department has found a way around this law to fund political allies on the left or executive priorities without congressional approval: settlement agreements. As Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel recently reported, “[i]t works like this: The Justice Department prosecutes cases against supposed corporate bad actors. Those companies agree to settlements that include financial penalties. Then Justice mandates that at least some of that penalty money be paid in the form of “donations” to nonprofits that supposedly aid consumers and bolster neighborhoods.”

The trick here is that Justice never “receives” the funds within the meaning of the Miscellaneous Receipts Statute, and thus has no requirement to deposit the funds it exacts from defendants with the Treasury—the donations are made directly without money ever being received into Justice’s hands.

Despite the fact that Justice Guidance discourages the practice because “it can create actual or perceived conflicts of interest and/or other ethical issues”—and, indeed, it was almost banned in 2008 due to perceptions of abuse—Justice continues to push this method of funding political allies and favored priorities of the executive. In fact, “[i]n 2011 Republicans eliminated the Housing Department’s $88 million for ‘housing counseling’ programs,” Strassel reports, “which spread around money to groups like La Raza. Congress subsequently restored only $45 million, and has maintained that level. . . [B]ank settlements pour some $30 million into housing counseling groups, thereby essentially restoring all the funding.”

Not only are many of the charitable groups benefitting from this rule left-wing activist organizations like the National Council of La Raza or the National Urban League, but many times defendants are given double credit for these donations, receiving $2 towards the total penalty in the settlement for each $1 given to nonprofits. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been funneled to left-leaning groups by this method.

Congress’ power of the purse is effectively curtailed by the end-run of the Miscellaneous Receipts Act. As muy colleague Ilya Shapiro and I pointed out in a recent National Review piece, this comes on the heels of a several-year-long effort by Justice to reduce the level of culpability required to hold corporate managers responsible for actions of the company. The easier it is to prosecute, the easier it is to force a big settlement.

But the problem is broader, for not only have Congress’s appropriations powers been diminished by aggressive agencies, but Congress itself has all but abdicated its power over the purse through modern budgetary practices.

Since 2001, Congress has funded the federal government not through the traditional 12 separate appropriations bills covering various sets of executive branch agencies, but through an unending series of Continuing Resolutions, or CRs—omnibus statutes that extend the previous year’s entire federal budget with broad percentage adjustments. As the Hudson Institute’s Christopher DeMuth recently noted:

The CR surrenders Congress’s power of the purse. When Congress is appropriating individual agencies, it can adjust program spending and policy elements on a case-by-case basis. It doesn’t always get its way in the face of a possible presidential veto, but at least Congress is in the game, with a multitude of tactics and potential compromises in play. In contrast, the threat of shutting down the entire government is disproportionate to discrete policy disagreements. The tactic would be plausible only in the rare case where congressional opinion amounted to veto-proof majorities in both chambers.

There are ways to fix this. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) introduced legislation that passed the House and is pending in the Senate to end the settlement slush fund Justice has created. More important still, Congress can return to its earlier practice of passing separate appropriations measures rather than Continuing Resolutions, thereby taking back its control of budget priorities.  Constitutional government requires nothing less than a restoration of the separation of powers.

 

As more North Carolina families are using school vouchers, enrolling their children in charter schools, or homeschooling, some traditional district schools are experiencing slower growth in enrollment than anticipated. The News & Observer reports:

Preliminary numbers for this school year show that charter, private and home schools added more students over the past two years than the Wake school system did. Though the school system has added 3,880 students over the past two years, the growth has been 1,000 students fewer than projected for each of those years.

This growth at alternatives to traditional public schools has accelerated in the past few years since the General Assembly lifted a cap on the number of charter schools and provided vouchers under the Opportunity Scholarship program for families to attend private schools.

Opponents of school choice policies often claim that they harm traditional district schools. Earlier this year, the News & Observer ran an op-ed comparing choice policies to a “Trojan horse” and quoting a union official claiming that “public schools will be less able to provide a quality education than they have in the past” because they’re “going to be losing funds” and “going to be losing a great many of the students who are upper middle-class… [who] receive the most home support.” 

Setting aside the benefits to the students who receive vouchers or scholarships (and the fact that North Carolina’s vouchers are limited to low-income students and students with special needs), proponents of school choice argue that the students who remain in their assigned district schools benefit from the increased competition. Monopolies don’t have to be responsive to a captive audience, but when parents have other alternatives, district schools must improve if they want to retain their students. But don’t take their word for it. Here’s what a North Carolina public school administrator had to say about the impact of increased competition:

New Wake County school board Chairman Tom Benton said the district needs to be innovative to remain competitive in recruiting and keeping families in North Carolina’s largest school system. At a time when people like choice, he said Wake must provide options to families.

“In the past, public schools could assign students to wherever they wanted to because parents couldn’t make a choice to leave the public schools,” Benton said. “Now we’re trying to make every school a choice of high quality so that parents don’t want to leave

New Wake County is not unique in this regard. As I’ve noted previously, there have been 23 empirical studies investigating the impact of school choice laws on the students at district schools. As shown in the chart below, 22 of those studies found that the performance of students at district schools improved after a school choice law was enacted. One study found no statistically significant difference and none found any harm.

Beating district schools over the head with more and more top-down regulations has done little to improve quality. A better approach is bottom-up: empower parents with alternatives and give district schools the freedom to figure out how to provide a quality education that will persuade parents to choose them.

[Hat tip to Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation for the story from New Wake County.]

I was at the Supreme Court for oral argument in Evenwel v. Texas, the case asking whether states have to draw legislative districts that equalize voters or people. (For more background, see here and Cato’s brief, and the argument transcript.)

I don’t have much to add to the excellent analysis of our own Andrew Grossman, other than to highlight that it looks like the ruling will come down to the votes of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justice Samuel Alito seems to be the only safe vote for the challengers, though one can infer from their pasts that Justices Clarence Thomas – who dissented 15 years ago from the Court’s decision not to take a previous case raising this issue but maintained his characteristic silence – and Antonin Scalia – who was (very) uncharacteristically silent – are also on that side. The four members of the so-called liberal bloc, meanwhile, were unflinching in their attack on the challengers’ position as threatening representational interests and also being impractical.

Justice Kennedy seemed to want to have it both ways, asking Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller (a friend of mine), “Why can’t you use both [population equality and voter equality]?” That approach may well appeal to the chief justice, who could, in the alternative, simply defer to the states (which is Texas’s position, while the United States insists that total population must be the measure used).

Indeed, it’s possible that we end up with a 3-2-4 split, in which case the Kennedy/Roberts position would set the controlling precedent and we would still see a change in how at least some states draw district lines without affecting the more significant nationwide standard that the challengers request.

Such a split-the-baby decision, while perhaps emblematic of the Roberts Court, would be constitutionally unsatisfying. As I write in my new USA Today oped:

The Supreme Court must thus intervene again, to maintain voter equality by specifying that “one person, one vote” demands an equalization of voters rather than population.

Otherwise, you end up with the scenario we see in Texas. Depending on where you live in the Lone Star State, you might be one of 383,000 people who choose a state senator, or one of 611,000. Indeed, the legislature could’ve drawn 31 districts of equal population where 30 have one voter each and the 31st all the other voters.

That can’t be right. If “one person, one vote” means anything, it’s that we can’t weigh some people’s votes more than others’.

Over at Cato’s Police Misconduct web site, we have identified the worst case for the month of November.  It involved several officers with the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD).

Here’s what reportedly happened.  SAPD police were hunting for a suspect on drugs and weapons charges.  In a case of mistaken identity, officers swarmed on poor Roger Carlos.  Mr. Carlos had done nothing wrong.  He was apparently just standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And even though Mr. Carlos complied with the police commands, to get on the ground and to not resist arrest, they just kept hitting him over and over again.

Mr. Carlos’s wife, Ronnie, still can’t believe what has happened to her husband.  The couple has three boys under the age of ten–but their father is now paralyzed from the chest down.  Doctors are also concerned that Mr. Carlos may have difficulty breathing down the road.  The medical bills for multiple surgeries are enormous.

After reviewing the case, a police discipline board recommended 15-day suspensions for three officers involved.  The Police Chief, William McManus, thought that recommendation was wrong.  He shortened each of the suspensions to five days.

The National Academy of Sciences recently published a comprehensive report on the pace of immigrant assimilation.  Short conclusion: It’s on par with previous waves of immigrants.  I want to highlight one section of their report that explains why assimilation is so rapid that is only occasionally mentioned by some and totally ignored by others: ethnic attrition. 

Ethnic attrition occurs when the descendants of immigrants from a particular country, let’s say Mexico, cease to identify as Mexicans, Hispanic, or Latino in surveys.  This almost entirely occurs through intermarriage with spouses of different ethnic groups.  This wouldn’t matter except that ethnic attrition is selective, not random, and is severe (see Table 1).  Subsequent generations descended from Spanish-speaking immigrants who identify as Hispanic, Mexican, or Latino systematically differ from those who are descended from the same Spanish-speaking immigrants but who drop the self-identification. 

Therefore the problem is that you can’t use polls of self-identified Mexicans, Hispanics, or Latinos born here to form an accurate picture of multi-generational assimilation.  Any poll of those groups will only catch those who self-identify as such, not those born here to Mexican, Hispanic, or Latino parent(s) who do not.

Table 1

Hispanic Self-Identification with Ancestors from Spanish Speaking Country

Most Recent Ancestor from A Spanish-Speaking Country

Percent

Respondent (1st generation)

98.7

Parent(s) (2nd generation)

83.3

Grandparent(s) (3rd generation)

73

Great grandparent(s) (4th generation)

44.4

Further back (5th+generation)

5.6

Source: Ethnic Identification, Intermarriage, and Unmeasured Progress by Mexican Americans,” by Brian Duncan and Stephen J. Trejo. 

Note:  This information is from a small sample size of 369 from the 1970 U.S. Census Content Reinterview Study.  It should be taken as suggestive rather than hard truth.   

Studies that rely on the subjective Mexican self-identification of the descendants of immigrants typically find low rates of economic and educational assimilation that stall between the second and third generation.  There is significant educational and economic progress after correcting for ethnic attrition and measuring all of the descendants of immigrants.  Below are the major papers in the ethnic attrition literature. 

Duncan and Trejo’s 2007 seminal paper showed that Hispanic self-identification fades by generation and that correcting for ethnic attrition reveals far more socioeconomic progress than other methods of measuring assimilation.  Looking at the microdata from the 1970 US Census for everyone who had at least one ancestor for a Spanish-speaking country shows significant attrition (Table 1).  Virtually all (99 percent) of immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries self-identified as Hispanic, 83 percent of the second generation, 73 percent of the third, 44 percent of the fourth, and 6 percent of the fifth and higher generations. 

Intermarriage plays a central role in explaining the rapid loss of Hispanic self-identification.  In the 1970 data, 97 percent of Americans with Hispanic ancestry on both sides of the family self-identified as Hispanic while only 21.4 of those with Hispanic ancestry on one side of the family did so.  Their analysis of 62,734 marriages in the 2000 Census found a high rate of intermarriage (Table 2).

Table 2

U.S. Born Mexican-Americans and Their Spouses

 

US-Born Mexicans

Spouse

Husbands

Wives

U.S. Born Mexicans

50.6

45.3

Foreign Born Mexicans

13.6

17.4

Other Hispanics

4.2

4.1

Other Races, Ethnicities

31.6

33.2

All

100

100

Non-Mexicans

35.8

37.3

Source: Ethnic Identification, Intermarriage, and Unmeasured Progress by Mexican Americans,” by Brian Duncan and Stephen J. Trejo.

Duncan and Trejo found a positive educational (Table 3) and economic selectivity for Mexican-Americans whose spouses were from other ethnic groups.  In other words, Mexican Americans who are more educated are also more likely to intermarry with other ethnic and racial groups.  60 to 52 percent of the children from mixed marriages do not self-identify as Mexican.  For third-generation Mexicans who marry a non-Mexican, between 66 and 53 percent of their children do not self-identify as Mexican. 

The Mexican-American spouses in mixed marriage have at least a year more of education than Mexicans in non-mixed marriages, the children of those marriages gain even more education, and a majority of their children don’t self-identify as Mexican.  Adjusting for ethnic attrition significantly shifts how we view the educational and economic assimilation of the descendants of all Mexican immigrants.

Table 3

Average Education Outcomes by Type of Marriage, 2000

    Years of Education Husbands   Type of Marriage     Both Spouses U.S.-born Mexicans

12

  Husband Foreign-Born Mexican

9.6

  Wife Foreign-Born Mexican

11.5

  Husband Non-Mexican

13.5

  Wife Non-Mexican

13.1

All Husbands

12.3

      Wives     Type of Marriages     Both Spouses U.S.-born Mexicans

12.1

  Husband Foreign-Born Mexican

11.4

  Wife Foreign-Born Mexican

10.3

  Husband Non-Mexican

13.1

  Wife Non-Mexican

13.3

All Wives  

12.4

Source: Ethnic Identification, Intermarriage, and Unmeasured Progress by Mexican Americans,” by Brian Duncan and Stephen J. Trejo.

Richard Alba and Tariqul Islam (2009) argue that self-identification research fails to accurately measure assimilation due to intermarriage, echoing Duncan and Trejo.  Alba and Islam find that Americans with mixed Mexican ancestry are less likely to identify themselves as “Mexican Americans” in the Census.  Another problem is that Hispanic-origin question on the 1980, 1990 and 2000 censuses changed and encouraged Americans of Mexican descent to identify themselves pan-ethnically as “Hispanics or Latinos” instead of as “Mexican Americans.” 

In a later paper, Alba and Islam (2011) find that those who self-identify as Mexican-American tend to do poorly in socioeconomic advancement, especially in education, compared to other immigrant groups.  However, the descendants of Mexicans who are of mixed ancestry are the most likely to not self-identify as Mexican and tend to be more educated than other Mexican-Americans. 

Duncan and Trejo built on their earlier work with 2009 and 2011 papers that found Mexican Americans who do not self-identify differ systematically from those who do.  Mexicans who intermarry have higher levels of human capital and their children do not self identify as Mexican in Census data.  

For instance, second generation Americans who have only one parent born in Mexico are more educated than those with both parents born in Mexico.  The latter group are also 10 percent less likely to be deficient in English and their children are 9.5 percent less likely to self-identify as Mexicans.  This conclusion was partly preceded by a 2005 paper by Delia Furtado that found human capital and intermarriage increases immigrant adoption of native culture, boost assimilate rates for their children, achieve higher socioeconomic attainment, and possess higher human capitals.

Duncan and Trejo’s 2009 and 2011 papers used a new measure to identify Mexican-Americans who do not self-identify as such for the first and second generations.  Their new method discards the self-identification data and instead relies on identifying all respondents born in Mexico and those who have at least one parent born in Mexico.  Their new method better at identifying first and second generation Mexican-Americans but it cannot identify third, fourth, or subsequent generations due to a lack of data from previous Censuses.

In twin papers published in 2011 and 2012, Duncan and Trejo apply their new method to compare Mexican ethnic attrition to ethnic attrition for other Hispanic (Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Salvadorans and Dominicans) and Asian immigrant groups (Chinese, Indians, Japanese, Koreans and Filipinos).  They find that Mexicans and their American-born descendants do show the lowest rates of ethnic attrition in the first and second generations.  However, there is a “catch up effect” for the children of mixed-ancestry marriages where one spouse is Mexican.

Duncan and Trejo in 2015 and Frank Bean et. al in 2011 argue that the large number of Mexican unauthorized immigrants from Mexico produced the lower rate of ethnic attrition.  Mexican unlawful immigrants have limited job opportunities, take lower-skill jobs, and have less education and fewer skills meaning that they are less likely to intermarry or pass opportunity on to their children.  This explains why it takes more time for Mexican-Americans to achieve the same level of education and wages compared to other immigrant groups – an effect called “delayed incorporation.”  Legalizing them would speed assimilation.

Quick survey results from self-identified Americans of Mexican, Hispanic, or Latino origin are not a reliable gauge of assimilation because they miss many second, third, and later generation descendants of immigrants who don’t self-identify as such.  Properly adjusting for ethnic attrition reveals substantial assimilation of Mexican, Hispanic, and Latino immigrants and their descendants.

One of my favorite journalistic tropes is when a reporter goes on a vacation with his ideological enemy and tells us what he learned from the experience. The reporter invariably returns with his ideology unchanged but a modicum of respect for the people on the other side, at least on a personal basis. The New York Times recently sent David Brooks (that David Brooks) to spend time with their enemy du jour--the evil one percenters, and he dutifully followed the script.  

The event was a 21 day around-the-world luxury trip that cost a cool $120,000 per person. The group went from locale to locale on a private jet, stayed in luxurious suites in top hotels, and had every single arrangement taken care of for them, to the point that the tour leader handed them spending money in the local currency at each destination.

Brooks admitted that he was initially skeptical of such a trip, assuming that he would have little in common with the sort of person who can afford such luxury and that being insulated from the day-to-day vicissitudes of travel would take some of the meaning out of travel. But he quickly came to realize that complaining about excellent service is petty and churlish, and that the people weren’t so bad either.

He also discovered was that his fellow travelers did not inherit their wealth–most of them had started their own businesses and worked hard to earn their money. What’s more, none of these people seemed truly rich. While a $120,000 vacation isn’t a middle-class excursion, this trip represented a relatively large expenditure for most of the travelers and had a bit of a “trip of a lifetime” feel to it.

Brooks seemed genuinely surprised by how much he enjoyed the company of those on the trip, an interesting a priori assumption I never would have expected from one of the paper’s token conservatives, although anyone paying attention to his column these days (and I can just barely bring myself to do so) recognizes that he’s changed a bit. He devotes more column inches worrying about our souls than the mis-steps of government.

The people were gregarious and eager to make friends, and by the time Brooks joined the trip near the end of the excursion they seemed more content to socialize with one another than to push themselves to see the sights at each new locale. It was his perception of a lack of curiosity on the part of the travelers that ultimately bothered him the most about the trip. Here they were, he lamented, traveling in some of the most important historical sites in all Christendom, yet they all seemed more interested in chatting about their families and hometowns with the other travelers than learning more about the genesis of western civilization.

Of course, what Brooks chalks up as a character flaw happens to be an essential attribute for an entrepreneur. Being an extreme extrovert who can talk to anyone about anything–and feels compelled to do so–is an incredibly useful trait to have for someone running a business.  While people may go on vacation to get away from work, extroverts don’t become quiet and contemplative when they’re away from their job. He also doesn’t account for the fact that the 50 and 60 something couples he was traveling with may have been a bit piqued after the first two weeks of their trek that Brooks skipped, a cost measure I’m glad that Johnny Apple isn’t alive to read about.

The most interesting part of the piece was the ending, when Brooks conforms to the trope and declares that despite how much he liked his new friends his views haven’t changed and that we all have a responsibility to reduce income inequality.

I hope that this coda keeps him in good stead with his Times colleagues, but I’m not at all prepared to accept his vacuous and banal charge. I would eagerly embrace the notion that reducing poverty is important and I’m affiliated with a think tank that’s devoted a lot of resources into thinking about that question. It has come up with a wide list of things to do about it, some small and no doubt shrinking fraction of which David Brooks agrees with.

But the gap between the wealthy and the poor is not a fight I’m signing up for, because in a world where the left gets to decide how to fight poverty, the next step after that fails is to reduce the wealth of the people on top, regardless of the outcome.  And once the moral satisfaction from that dissipates we’re all worse off for it. 

Is NATO a military alliance or social club? The “North Atlantic” Treaty Organization just invited Montenegro to join. With 2,080 men under arms, Podgorica is a military nullity.

As I point out on National Interest online: “Adding Montenegro to NATO is like accumulating Facebook Friends. They do little more than allow preening Washington officials to wander the globe gloating how popular the U.S. is.”

During the Cold War NATO was viewed as deadly serious. For years war seemed to be a real possibility.

Then the Soviet Union collapsed. The quintessential anti-Soviet alliance no longer had anything to defend or defend against.

As Public Choice economists would predict, institutional instinct took over. Supporters subordinated the military to the political, and NATO became a geopolitical Welcome Wagon for former Warsaw Pact members.

The good times came to a halt last year with the Ukraine crisis. The Baltic States suddenly looked vulnerable and alliance members remembered Article 5, which committed them to battle against a nuclear-armed power to protect largely indefensible nations. Americans and Europeans were expected to risk nuclear war as an act of international charity.

Proposals to add Georgia and Ukraine would multiply the dangers. Russian aggressiveness, though unjustified, illustrates how important Moscow views its influence in both nations. Nothing in Kiev or Tbilisi is worth a nuclear confrontation.

The problem is not just NATO’s recent expansion. Turkey also is undermining U.S. and European security.

Ankara spent years prosecuting a brutal campaign against Kurdish separatists and occupied more than one-third of the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey has turned in an ever more authoritarian and Islamist direction as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dropped his liberalizing pretensions.

Worse is Ankara’s irresponsible shoot-down of the Russian plane. Turkey may have been protecting the illicit oil trade or insurgents in an area dominated by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, or attempting to punish Moscow for backing Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

The first two undermine American interests. The latter runs against the more fundamental objective of destroying the Islamic State. Nothing justifies allowing Ankara to drag NATO into a war with Russia.

Finally, Europe could, if it was so inclined, defend itself. Why, 70 years after the conclusion of World War II, are Europeans still dependent on America?

Why can’t an area with a larger economy and population than the U.S. provide its own soldiers for defense? Why can’t an area of such economic prowess, which has around eight times the GDP and three times the population of its only possible antagonist, Russia, deter any threats?

The reason the Europeans don’t do so is because they don’t want to and don’t have to. Some don’t believe that Moscow actually poses much of a threat. Others figure only the nations bordering Russia face any risk, and there’s little interest in “Old Europe” for confronting Moscow over “New Europe.” And almost everyone assumes America will take care of any problems.

Particularly striking is the lack of military effort from those supposedly threatened by the supposed new Hitler to the east. Over the years American officials have pleaded, cajoled, contended, and begged the Europeans to do more.

To no effect. Reported Jan Techau of Carnegie Europe: “while European membership in NATO has nearly doubled since 1990, defense spending by Europeans has gone down by 28 percent since then.”

The U.S. should announce that the world has changed since creation of a U.S.-dominated NATO. It was time to refashion the alliance.

One possibility for the future would be a European-run NATO, with America perhaps as an associate member. Another alternative would be a continental defense run alongside the European Union. Maybe there’s something else.

But the time for subsidizing, coddling, and reassuring the Europeans is over. American taxpayers finally deserve at least as much consideration as European ones. 

Highlights from my op-ed today at Real Clear Policy on last week’s Senate vote repealing the majority of ObamaCare:

Health-care entitlements are supposed to be a political third rail — touch them, and you die. This Senate vote means majorities in both chambers of Congress will approve a bill repealing not one but two health-care entitlements…That alone makes yesterday’s vote historic.

Even more remarkable, it is doubtful Republicans will suffer at the polls for it. Republicans have done well by running against Obamacare. Most recently, Matt Bevin won the governor’s race in Kentucky by campaigning against ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, which his predecessor implemented.

The history-making doesn’t end there. A bill repealing the majority of ObamaCare is now almost certain to land on President Obama’s desk. It is not often that presidents have to veto a law repealing most of their signature legislative achievement.

Finally, the vote is historic for what it portends: It proves that America is just one presidential election away from repealing ObamaCare…

With that prospect on the horizon, states that have not implemented ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion will now be even more reluctant to do so. This vote may even encourage Governor Bevin to make Kentucky the first state to withdraw from the expansion…

Republicans and Democrats should replace ObamaCare not with “ObamaCare-lite,” but with reforms like large health savings accounts (HSAs), which would drive down medical prices and deliver an effective tax cut of $9 trillion — greater than the Reagan and Bush tax cuts combined.

 

Even failed candidates sometimes had good ideas. So it was with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. He sharply challenged conventional wisdom when he proposed a tax reform plan that ensured everyone paid at least some income tax.

His bottom rate was just two percent. But he would have killed most of the deductions and credits that allow those with low incomes to pay nothing.

Jindal’s idea should outlive his dismal candidacy because other GOP presidential wannabees propose going in the other direction. Former Gov. Jeb Bush would double the standard deduction and figured that another 15 million Americans would “no longer bear any income-tax liability.”

Billionaire turned populist Donald Trump would do much the same. He figured that the percentage of households paying no income tax would rise from 36 percent to 50 percent, knocking 31 million households off of the rolls. In fact, the Tax Policy Center figures that already 45.3 percent of American households—77.5 million out of 171.3 million—won’t pay any income tax this year.

The idea of reducing taxes to nothing, especially on those who don’t earn much, is superficially attractive. But it’s actually dangerous for a democratic republic, especially one based on limited government and individual rights.

As Jindal explained, “We simply must require that every American has some skin in this game. If we have generations of Americans who never pay any taxes, it will be very easy for them to turn a blind eye to absurd government spending.”

His point was simple but powerful. If government programs don’t obviously cost you something, there’s no reason to be against government programs. Even stupid ones, so long as you perceive some possible benefit from them.

Of course, many who don’t pay income taxes are hit by payroll taxes. But income taxes are the most visible federal levy and are what formally funds most of the programs received by nonpayers.

The Tax Foundation concluded: “Basic economic theory tells us that consumers will respond to a drop in the price of a product by demanding more. By extension, economists predict that as the price of government goes down for a citizen, he or she will then demand more of it.”

That certainly appears to be our experience. The federal income tax has become the engine of big government growth.

Of course, government expenditures have risen year in and year out, irrespective of the share of nonpayers. The system’s overall bias toward an expanded state may overwhelm any additional impact from the rising number of nonpayers.

Nevertheless, the Tax Foundation recorded a stronger relationship between that number and transfer payments: “After the late 1960s, with the start of the Great Society programs, the growth of transfer payments and the growth of nonpayers begin to move closer together.” Indeed, “over the past 25 years, the two trends seem to track each other quite closely, with both reaching their 60 year peak in 2009 and 2010.”

As I point out in the American Spectator online: “This suggests that real tax reform, while simplifying and reducing taxes, also should ensure a minimum level of burden-sharing by everyone, including lower-income workers.”

The wealthy already pay the vast majority of income taxes. The top one percent of taxpayers paid 38.1 percent and the top five percent were responsible for 58.9 percent of income tax collections in 2012 (the latest available figures).

Thus, proposals to massively expand the welfare state by shaking a bit of change loose from the pockets of the rich are a delusion. Expanding the number of nonpayers inevitably increases the burden on fewer and fewer payers.

Bobby Jindal won’t be president, but he got tax reform right. As he explained, “in America, everyone is expected to help row the boat. Independence, not dependence, is the root of the American dream. It’s time we had the guts to say so in public.” He did. The rest of the presidential candidates should follow.

This week, The Economist magazine has an article reporting that U.S. health insurance companies are making lots of money right now:

the share prices of America’s five biggest health insurers—UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, Humana, Cigna and Anthem—have all roughly tripled over the past five years. The big insurers have been consistently and highly profitable … . Unlike most big American firms, the trend is still upward. All five will probably report record profits for this year, next year and several more to come, predicts Ana Gupte, an analyst with Leerink, a research firm. For that, they owe a debt of gratitude to an unlikely creditor. The results of most financial firms may have buckled under the weight of new regulation, but health insurers appear to be thriving in the complicated new regulatory environment.

… in America, at least, health care turns out to be the most exciting corner of the [insurance] industry. The vast expense and unintelligible complexity of American health care may be a national disgrace, but they are a huge opportunity for firms that can navigate the system and minimise costs.

It’s not particularly surprising that regulation benefits the rich and powerful in this way.  So what can be done about it?  One obvious solution is to pull back on all that regulation, but that has been politically difficult.  Another option, which I’ve mentioned before, is to encourage foreign insurance companies to enter the U.S. market.  As noted, there’s plenty of money being made right now, which makes it a great time to get in.  No doubt many foreign companies find the U.S. regulations daunting, and perhaps this is why they have stayed out of the market so far.  But when you realize that regulation leads to such high profits, navigating the rules becomes worth the effort.  And what helps foreign insurance companies also helps U.S. consumers, as increased competition brings prices down.

I can imagine that federal and state regulations make it difficult for foreign insurers to operate in the U.S.  This is where trade negotiations can be helpful.  For example, in the trade negotiations going on right now with the EU, European companies can ask the EU trade negotiators to press for rules ensuring that U.S. regulations don’t discriminate against foreign insurance providers.

From today’s Washington Post:

Has this war on marijuana worked?

“No, it hasn’t,” said Clive Weighill, chief of the Saskatoon police force, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and a veteran of the August raids.

Times, however, are beginning to change in Canada.

The new Liberal government has promised to act quickly to legalize marijuana for general use, which would make Canada the first Group of 20 country to end cannabis prohibition on a national level….

“Our system is badly, badly flawed,” said Eugene Oscapella, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and a longtime advocate for legalization. “I keep asking myself a question that I have been asking for 30 years: ‘Could we have done a worse job if we tried? Could we have found a way to create more dysfunction than we managed to create?’ ”

Politicians in this country don’t like this subject. I think Hillary Clinton’s latest position is that medicial marijuana ought to be studied or something. The success of the marijuana legalization movement here has come by referendum thus far. Looks like California voters will approve it in 2016. In the meantime, dysfunction continues all over.

Related Cato work here and here.

Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik were killed last week in a gun battle with police after they committed a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.  Malik entered the U.S. on a K-1 visa, known as the fiancé visa, accompanied by Farook.  Their attack is the first perpetrated by somebody on the K-1 visa - igniting a debate over increasing visa security.   

The government issued approximately 262,162 K-1 visas from 2005 to 2013 – 3177 or 1.21 percent of the total to Pakistani citizens. 

Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) SECURE Act identifies 34 countries as particularly terror-prone.  There were 32,363 K-1 visa, 12.34 percent of the total, issued to citizens from those countries from 2005 to 2013. 

The top ten countries for sending fiancés are the Philippines (17.34%), China (6.45%), Vietnam (5.56%), Mexico (4.99%), Colombia (3.77%), Russia (3.14%), Dominican Republic (3.12%), United Kingdom (3.12%), Thailand (2.72%), and Canada (2.67%).  Those top ten countries are responsible for 52.77 percent of all K-1 visas issued from 2005 to 2013.  Russia is the only country in the top ten that Senator Paul considers a risk.  Pakistan is number 24.

K-1 Visa Entrants, Country of Citizenship

 

2005-2013

Total

262,162

99.90%

Afghanistan

1,482

0.57%

Albania

468

0.18%

Algeria

309

0.12%

Andorra

0

0.00%

Angola

14

0.01%

Antigua and Barbuda

22

0.01%

Argentina

886

0.34%

Armenia

789

0.30%

Australia

1,993

0.76%

Austria

152

0.06%

Azerbaijan

152

0.06%

Bahamas

75

0.03%

Bahrain

0

0.00%

Bangladesh

143

0.05%

Barbados

42

0.02%

Belarus

865

0.33%

Belgium

242

0.09%

Belize

89

0.03%

Benin

36

0.01%

Bhutan

4

0.00%

Bolivia

367

0.14%

Bosnia and   Herzegovina

442

0.17%

Botswana

12

0.00%

Brazil

4,590

1.75%

Brunei

0

0.00%

Bulgaria

587

0.22%

Burkina Faso

49

0.02%

Burma

484

0.18%

Burundi

9

0.00%

Cambodia

5,744

2.19%

Cameroon

482

0.18%

Canada

7,004

2.67%

Cape Verde

306

0.12%

Central African   Republic

0

0.00%

Chad

0

0.00%

Chile

611

0.23%

China

16,916

6.45%

Colombia

9,880

3.77%

Comoros

0

0.00%

Congo   (Brazzaville)

82

0.03%

Congo   (Kinshasa)

34

0.01%

Costa Rica

691

0.26%

Cote d’Ivoire

105

0.04%

Croatia

182

0.07%

Cuba

3,324

1.27%

Cyprus

3

0.00%

Czech Republic

232

0.09%

Denmark

225

0.09%

Djibouti

12

0.00%

Dominica

113

0.04%

Dominican Republic

8,171

3.12%

East Timor

0

0.00%

Ecuador

1,383

0.53%

Egypt

1,337

0.51%

El Salvador

1,128

0.43%

Equatorial Guinea

0

0.00%

Eritrea

300

0.11%

Estonia

80

0.03%

Ethiopia

2,791

1.06%

Fiji

94

0.04%

Finland

213

0.08%

France

1,267

0.48%

Gabon

5

0.00%

Gambia

165

0.06%

Georgia

166

0.06%

Germany

2,619

1.00%

Ghana

2,150

0.82%

Greece

156

0.06%

Grenada

49

0.02%

Guatemala

785

0.30%

Guinea

184

0.07%

Guinea-Bissau

4

0.00%

Guyana

667

0.25%

Haiti

4,502

1.72%

Holy See

0

0.00%

Honduras

891

0.34%

Hungary

276

0.11%

Iceland

45

0.02%

India

6,690

2.55%

Indonesia

1,246

0.48%

Iran

3,280

1.25%

Iraq

1,143

0.44%

Ireland

730

0.28%

Israel

451

0.17%

Italy

738

0.28%

Jamaica

2,811

1.07%

Japan

3,630

1.38%

Jordan

673

0.26%

Kazakhstan

405

0.15%

Kenya

652

0.25%

Kiribati

0

0.00%

Korea,   North

0

0.00%

Korea,   South

2,706

1.03%

Kuwait

16

0.01%

Kyrgyzstan

252

0.10%

Laos

3,204

1.22%

Latvia

177

0.07%

Lebanon

1,288

0.49%

Lesotho

0

0.00%

Liberia

355

0.14%

Libya

122

0.05%

Liechtenstein

0

0.00%

Lithuania

224

0.09%

Luxembourg

0

0.00%

Macedonia

275

0.10%

Madagascar

35

0.01%

Malawi

12

0.00%

Malaysia

447

0.17%

Maldives

0

0.00%

Mali

81

0.03%

Malta

8

0.00%

Marshall Islands

0

0.00%

Mauritania

5

0.00%

Mauritius

15

0.01%

Mexico

13,077

4.99%

Micronesia,   Federated States of

0

0.00%

Moldova

473

0.18%

Monaco

0

0.00%

Mongolia

107

0.04%

Morocco

1,798

0.69%

Mozambique

20

0.01%

Namibia

8

0.00%

Nauru

0

0.00%

Nepal

409

0.16%

Netherlands

754

0.29%

New   Zealand

506

0.19%

Nicaragua

806

0.31%

Niger

64

0.02%

Nigeria

4,900

1.87%

Norway

234

0.09%

Oman

0

0.00%

Pakistan

3,177

1.21%

Palau

0

0.00%

Panama

430

0.16%

Papua New Guinea

3

0.00%

Paraguay

147

0.06%

Peru

4,017

1.53%

Philippines

45,468

17.34%

Poland

1,368

0.52%

Portugal

176

0.07%

Qatar

3

0.00%

Romania

1,880

0.72%

Russia

8,231

3.14%

Rwanda

63

0.02%

Saint Kitts and   Nevis

12

0.00%

Saint Lucia

50

0.02%

Saint Vincent and   the Grenadines

42

0.02%

Samoa

9

0.00%

San Marino

0

0.00%

Sao Tome and   Principe

0

0.00%

Saudi Arabia

110

0.04%

Senegal

278

0.11%

Serbia and   Montenegro

56

0.02%

Seychelles

0

0.00%

Sierra Leone

567

0.22%

Singapore

263

0.10%

Slovakia

196

0.07%

Slovenia

27

0.01%

Solomon Islands

0

0.00%

Somalia

162

0.06%

South Africa

677

0.26%

Spain

616

0.23%

Sri Lanka

171

0.07%

Sudan

146

0.06%

Suriname

11

0.00%

Swaziland

0

0.00%

Sweden

539

0.21%

Switzerland

223

0.09%

Syria

1,237

0.47%

Taiwan

907

0.35%

Tajikistan

39

0.01%

Tanzania

143

0.05%

Thailand

7,142

2.72%

Togo

152

0.06%

Tonga

64

0.02%

Trinidad and Tobago

383

0.15%

Tunisia

142

0.05%

Turkey

843

0.32%

Turkmenistan

31

0.01%

Tuvalu

0

0.00%

Uganda

292

0.11%

Ukraine

6,940

2.65%

United Arab   Emirates

15

0.01%

United   Kingdom

7,898

3.01%

Uruguay

128

0.05%

Uzbekistan

502

0.19%

Vanuatu

0

0.00%

Venezuela

998

0.38%

Vietnam

14,565

5.56%

Yemen

76

0.03%

Zambia

57

0.02%

Zimbabwe

66

0.03%

Unknown/Other

5,661

2.16%

Source: Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Supplemental Table 1

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