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Yesterday I shared some very good news about Brazil adopting a spending cap.

Today, I also want to share some good news, though it’s not nearly as momentous.

Indeed, it’s not even good news. Instead, it’s just that some bad news isn’t as bad as it used to be.

I’m referring to the fact that the nation’s capital region used to be home to 10 of the nation’s 15-richest counties.

That was back in 2012, and I viewed it as a terrible sign that the DC area was packed with overpaid bureaucrats, oleaginous rent seekers, and government cronies, all of whom were enjoying undeserved wealth financed by hard-working taxpayers from the rest of America.

Well, now for the “good news.”

Terry Jeffrey has a column for CNS News about the current concentration of wealth in the national capital area.

The four richest counties in the United States, when measured by median household income, are all suburbs of Washington, D.C., according to newly released data from the Census Bureau. …Of the Top 20 richest counties in the nation, nine are suburbs of the city that serves as the seat of a federal government that in fiscal 2016 taxed away $3,266,774,000,000 from the American people, spent $3,854,100,000,000, and ran a $587,326,000,000 deficit.

The reason this awful data is good news (relatively speaking) is that the DC region is now home to “only” nine out of the 20-richest counties rather than 10 out of the 15-richest counties.

Here’s Terry’s list, which I’ve augmented by highlighting the jurisdictions that are home to many of the bureaucrats, lobbyists, and other insiders that are living on Easy Street thanks to the federal leviathan.

I also awarded a star to Los Alamos County in New Mexico since that’s another jurisdiction that has above-average income because of Uncle Sam.

To be sure, not every private-sector worker in these rich counties is a cronyist, lobbyist, or rent seeker, so it’s difficult to accurately say what share of the income and wealth in these various counties is earned and how much is a transfer from government.

But we can say with confidence that the bureaucrats who are over-represented in these jurisdictions get a lot more compensation than their counterparts in the private sector. Chris Edwards has been relentless in his efforts to document excessive pay for bureaucrats.

Since we’re on this topic, let’s enjoy some additional bits of data about the cushy life of our bureaucratic overlords.

In addition to lavish pay, federal employees also receive gold-plated benefits. Most of the money goes for pensions and healthcare, but you’ll be happy to know the feds have also figured out more creative ways of pampering the protected class.

…a variety of federal agencies in a number of locations provide “free” yoga classes to employees. But these classes are not free; since 2013, they have cost taxpayers over $150,000. The State Department spends $15,000 for yoga in the nation’s capital. A yoga instructor in from Berkeley, California is paid $4,000 a year from the Department of Agriculture’s Research Service. Of course, the Department of Energy…has gotten in on taxpayer financed yoga; but for $11,000 annually they also offer pilates at a California location. …The Railroad Retirement Board spends $11,000 annually for yoga classes for office workers at its Chicago headquarters.

And many federal bureaucrats have figured out how to enjoy another fringe benefit of federal employment.

The federal government is full of people pulling in six-figure compensation packages who spend their days…watching porn on government computers… One compulsive porno-phile over at the EPA was watching so much porn that it caught the attention of the Office of the Inspector General — i.e., he was watching so much porn that a federal official noticed — and when the OIG investigator showed up to see what the deal was, you know what that EPA guy did? He kept right on watching porn, with the OIG inspector in his office. At the FCC, bureaucratic home of the people who enforce such obscenity laws as we have, employees routinely spend the equivalent of a full workday each week watching porn. Treasury, General Service Administration, Commerce — porn, porn, and more porn. Of course nobody gets fired. Nobody ever gets fired. …Federal employees, according to OIG reports, also spend a great deal of time browsing online-dating sites (apparently without much success) and shopping.

By the way, the jab about “nobody gets fired” isn’t 100 percent accurate.

But if you want lots of job security, then latch on to the federal teat.

Federal workers are far more likely to be audited by the IRS or get arrested for drunk driving than they are to be fired from the civil service payroll for poor performance or misconduct. The odds are one-in-175 for the IRS audit and one-in-200 for the drunk driving arrest, while the odds for a fed to be fired in a given year are one-in-500, according to the Government Accountability Office. …Private sector workers face just the opposite situation. They have a roughly one-in-77 chance of being involuntarily terminated — the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t distinguish between fires and layoffs — in a given month.

By the way, bureaucrats are sometimes forced into early retirement as “punishment” for misbehavior.

All things considered, though, we serfs shouldn’t complain too much.

After all, would it be proper to grouse about a group that does superlative work?

In the ranks of the federal government, 99 percent are really good at their jobs — and almost two-thirds exceed expectations or do outstanding work. That’s the conclusion of a new report by the Government Accountability Office, which also found that 78 percent of high-level civil servants — those in GS grades 13 through 15 — were given top performance scores of outstanding or fully successful….The glowing picture of everyone in calendar year 2013, the most recent data available to auditors, is…good news for federal agencies.

In reality, of course, these glowing performance reviews are highly suspect.

…a more likely reality to many in and outside of government. Rather than so many federal workers being exceptional, the system for rating them isn’t working right. …Federal workers themselves have long complained in annual surveys that their agencies do not deal with poor performers, hurting morale and efficiency. Lawmakers complain that it is nearly impossible to fire these employees, but bills to take away some of their their rights to appeal bad reviews have languished in Congress. …“Apparently the federal bureaucrats grading one another think virtually everyone who works for the government is doing a fantastic job,” Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said in a statement. “But given the dysfunction we’ve seen throughout the federal government over the last several years, that can’t possibly be true,” Miller said.

Of course it’s not true.

Misbehavior and malfeasance at bureaucracies such as the IRS and VA doesn’t prevent high ratings and generous bonuses. Instead, it’s almost as if doing the wrong thing is a job requirement.

Isn’t big government wonderful?

Survey data shows that black Republicans and Hispanic Republicans are far less likely than white Republicans to believe the nation’s criminal justice system is impartial.

I was able to combine two surveys conducted by the Cato Institute that included the same question on impartiality in the justice system to obtain a much larger sample size.[1] This offers an opportunity to take a look at how Republicans who are black, white, and Hispanic think about the justice system. Why do this? Essentially this “controls for” or accounts for the effect of political values when looking at how different racial/ethnic groups evaluate bias in the justice system.

When combining the surveys we find that 42% of Americans think the system in the U.S. treats white, black, and Hispanic Americans equally. A plurality (46%) think the system gives preference to white Americans and 12% think the system treats minorities better. 

Republicans (64%) are far more likely to think the system treats everyone fairly than Democrats (21%) and independents (43%). However, black and Hispanic Republicans are far less confident than white Republicans. Only 15% of black Republicans think the justice system treats everyone equally, compared to 67% of white Republicans. Hispanic Republicans fall in between with slightly less than half (45%) who think the system is fair. Consequently, Republicans who are white, Hispanic, or black, have dramatically different views of racial bias in the justice system.

In contrast, Democrats are far more similar: 26% of white Democrats, 17% of Hispanic Democrats, and 13% of black Democrats believe the justice system treats all people equally.

Looking at this data altogether, we notice a pattern: white Republicans (67%) are 16 points more likely than white independents (51%) and 41 points more likely than white Democrats (26%) to believe the system is fair. We observe a similar but attenuated pattern among Hispanics: Hispanic Republicans (45%) are 13 points more likely than Hispanic independents (32%) and 28 points more likely than Hispanic Democrats (17%) to believe the system is fair. However, black Republicans (15%) are about as likely as black Democrats (13%) and black independents (16%) to think the justice system is impartial. Ultimately, white Republicans are the only group that solidly believes the justice system treats all citizens equally before the law.

Why do Republicans who are black, white, and Hispanic have such different views of racial bias in the justice system? There could be several reasons, but the most obvious one to consider is that African Americans may be having different personal or vicarious experiences with the system.

Critics who argue perceptions of racial bias in the justice system are false contend that such perceptions are merely the result of “radical” “anti-cop ideology” or “elites’ investment in black victimology.” But these reasons tend to be associated with the political Left, not the political Right. How many Republicans (black, white or Hispanic) could be identified as “radical” who embrace “victimology”? A better explanation might be that people feel the system is biased based on their experiences rather than simply because they are inclined to rebel against authority figures.


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[1] Question wording: “Just your impression, do you think the criminal justice system in the United States treats white Americans more fairly than black and Hispanic Americans, treats black and Hispanic Americans more fairly than white Americans, or are they treated about the same?” Data about perceptions of systemic bias by race/ethnicity and partisanship come from the combined June 2016 and November 2015 national surveys (N=4000), which offer greater precision and smaller margins of error for subgroups. (Unweighted: Black Republicans=45, Hispanic Republicans=165, White Republicans=1193, Black Democrats=630, Hispanic Democrats=409, White Democrats=634.) Results have been weighted to be representative of the national population.

Prior to attacking intelligence assessments on Russian hacking and meeting with Kanye this week, the president-elect went on a bit of a defense jag. Monday, @realDonaldTrump bashed Lockheed’s F-35 joint strike fighter program for its “out of control” price-tag.  He said the same of Boeing’s Air Force One replacement last week. Saturday, he vaguely tweeted his approval for a Washington Post story claiming that the Pentagon “buried evidence” that it wastes $25 billion a year. Sunday, on Fox News, Trump criticized both aircraft and implied that their excessive cost results from a corrupt practice: the revolving door, where officials manage weapons programs and then go work for the manufacturer.

Trump’s tweets temporarily lowered defense contractors’ stock prices, prompting speculation that he’s paying CEOs back for criticism, or worse. But Trump’s comments aren’t new. He attacked the F-35 during the campaign. He claimed that he could fund a massive military buildup by “conducting a full audit of the Pentagon, eliminating incorrect payments, reducing duplicative bureaucracy, collecting unpaid taxes, and ending unwanted and unauthorized federal programs.”  He promised to “balance our budget,” by eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse” in the federal government. He repeatedly suggested that corporate interests—pharmaceutical, oil, finance and defense companies,” have hijacked government and added to its cost.

Trump’s views on Pentagon waste then seem less whim than an outgrowth of his approach to public policy. Does that mean Trump is set to “crack down” on Pentagon spending, “make war on the defense industry or take on the “military-industrial complex?” There are several reasons why the answer is not really.

One is Trump’s appointments. As in other areas, they conflict with his campaign rhetoric. Trump famously said he knows more about ISIS than the generals, but seems inclined to defer to those that he deems “his.”  That’s especially true of his Secretary of Defense pick, retired general James Mattis, who has mostly conventionally-hawkish views on military spending. For example, he repeats the false claim that sequestration, which only occurred once since the 2011 Budget Control Act, in 2013, annually slices the defense budget across-the-board.  He even called sequestration a bigger threat than any U.S. enemy, while testifying in favor of a military spending boost. Mattis casts doubt on Trump’s commitment to defense reform in another way: he raced through the revolving door, going to work for General Dynamics upon his retirement from military service in 2013.

Another reason to doubt that Trump can successfully mine “waste, fraud and abuse” for savings is that it’s mostly fool’s gold. Fraud and abuse amount to small potatoes in Pentagon terms. Waste is tough to cut because people disagree on what it is. One man’s waste is another’s (usually a committee chair or Undersecretary) vital national security program. Going after waste requires political fights for which Trump seems unprepared.

I made that argument last week in the National Interest:

Budget cutters like to target waste because it means savings without sacrifice. Waste has no lobby or constituency, so you lose nothing and offend no one in hunting it. But true savings, even the efficiency sort where you do the same missions for less cost, don’t come for nothing. Efficiency savings include closing bases, combining or shuttering combatant commands, cutting a nuclear-weapons delivery system, lowering personnel costs and the like. All require political fights.

Bigger savings require going after the Pentagon’s efficient pursuit of foolish goals—by reducing military missions. With fewer wars to plan and fight, we could have less force structure, build fewer weapons and pay fewer people.

That piece tried to pour cold water on the Post story that Trump tweeted. For more criticism, see my letter to the editor, Robert Samuelson’s column, and Matt Fay’s post for the Niskanen Institute.

My point isn’t that we should buy F-35s or be content with growing overhead costs in the military. The point is that saving money there is more a political challenge than a managerial one, especially the sort solved by attacking overlap or graft.  Yes, there are procurement abuses facilitated by revolving doors. But closing them wouldn’t have helped F-35. Like most problematic acquisition programs, its troubles are belief in false economies of scale gained by joint production and an acquisition system that produces excessive requirements and incentives for premature production. That system reflects the will of Congress and the military services more than that of the contractors they hire.

Yes, the Pentagon suffers from subpar accounting. But that’s largely because it’s a confederation of services and offices with their own systems. Better record-keeping will highlight excessive spending, not stop it.

Yes, there’s duplication galore in the Pentagon. The Navy’s ground force duplicates the Army in many ways, for example. But Congress is not about to abolish the Marines. And that sort of redundancy usefully offers alternative solutions to military challenges. It also allows bureaucratic competition, which can produce some of the disciplining effects that market competition provides in the private sector.

The best way to target Pentagon inefficiency is to cut its topline. The budget should remain capped, ideally at a lower level, with the Overseas Contingency Operations budget included under the cap. That would prevent it from being used as a bailout fund preventing hard choices. Lower budgets will encourage Pentagon leaders to target administrative costs to protect more important programs. The department’s drive for efficiency, which has run under the past four defense secretaries, began as last decade’s massive military buildup waned. By promising a military buildup, Trump is closing off the best path to the efficiencies that he claims will fund it.

The selection of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education has exposed longstanding tensions among education reformers who are united in their support for expanding educational choice but divided over the government’s role in regulating such programs.

The schism is often portrayed as being between those who support or reject “accountability,” but this isn’t quite accurate. The real disagreement is not whether there should be accountability, but to whom schools should be held accountable: parents or bureaucrats. As Lindsey Burke and I argue in a new report published by the Heritage Foundation and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, educational choice programs like education savings accounts should place the accountability for academic outcomes with parents.

For decades, the term “accountability” primarily referred, in education policy circles, to government regulations intended to ensure quality. That’s because most children attend their assigned district schools, which are not directly answerable to parents and function as de facto monopolies. As Lindsey and I explain:

A distinctive feature of monopolies is lack of accountability. Because district schools are not held directly accountable to parents, some policymakers have attempted to impose accountability through top-down government regulations. Yet decades of attempts to regulate district schools into quality have had little effect. Unfortunately, too many policymakers have still come to see centralized government regulations as synonymous with “accountability” rather than an inferior alternative to direct accountability to parents, and have therefore sought to impose similar regulations on choice programs. However, regulations designed for a monopoly system are inappropriate for a market-based system.

In a market-based system, producers are held directly accountable to consumers for results. The government sets certain rules against fraud or health and safety standards, but the consumers ultimately decide whether a product or service meets their needs. Likewise, the government could ensure that ESA funds are spent on qualifying educational products and services, but the accountability for results should lie with parents, who are in the best position to evaluate those results. Holding education providers directly accountable to parents creates a feedback loop that does not exist in more centralized, top-down systems like the district schools. As social scientist Yuval Levin has argued, this enables the system to “channel social knowledge from the bottom up rather than…impose technical knowledge from the top down.” This channeling is accomplished “through a process of experimentation, evaluation, and evolution.”

If we want an education system that makes significant improvements in quality over time, education providers must be free to innovate and parents must be free to choose the providers that work best for their own children. This system evolves over time because higher-quality providers will attract more parents and lower-quality providers will face pressure to either improve or shut down.

However, technocratic attempts to guarantee quality through imposing uniform standards can interrupt this evolutionary process.

The Price of Technocratic Accountability

The technocratic approach to accountability requires that all schools are judged according to uniform metrics, therefore the technocrats rely heavily (indeed, almost exclusively) on standardized test scores, particularly in math and language arts. The technocratic reformers want to use these scores to set a minimum standard, meaning “underperforming” schools would be excluded from receiving voucher funds–or, in the case of charter schools, be shut down entirely–even against the will of parents who still want to enroll their children there.

Let us be clear about what is at stake. The technocratic approach would eliminate a family’s least-bad educational alternative, leaving children worse off “for their own good.” For example, parents may have chosen a private or charter school that did not perform well on the state’s standardized test overall, but the school may have provided a safer environment than the local district school. Or perhaps the school was succeeding at its mission to aid the most at-risk students, but the state’s uniform “accountability” system failed to take its mission into account. The damage done to children who lose the opportunity to attend schools that their parents believe are better than the alternative is incalcuable.

We should also be realistic about the unintended consequences of over-reliance on test scores. Although standardized tests can provide parents with useful information about their child’s academic performance, using them to impose uniform standards that so narrowly define “quality” creates perverse incentives that narrow the curriculum, stifle innovation, and can drive away quality schools from participating in the choice program. As Lindsey and I explain:

When schools are rewarded or punished based on their students’ performance on math and reading tests, they have a strong incentive to divert their time and resources to tested subjects and away from others. A study by the Center on Education Policy found that the time district schools spent on subjects besides math and reading declined considerably after Congress enacted the No Child Left Behind Act (NLCB), which mandated that states require district schools to administer the state standardized math and reading tests in grades three through eight and report the results. In the five years after NCLB was implemented, approximately 62 percent of elementary district schools reported increasing the amount of time spent on English language arts and/or math, and 44 percent reported decreasing time spent on social studies, science, art and music, physical education, lunch, or recess.

The narrowing curriculum is particularly alarming because, as Jay P. Greene has noted, recent research has found that “later success in math, reading, and science depends on early acquisition of the kind of ‘general knowledge’ and fine-motor skills learned through art and other subjects.” In other words, a narrower curriculum not only deprives students of having a broader and more enriching education, but also negatively impacts their performance in the tested subjects. “If we narrow education to the mechanics of math and reading as captured by yearly testing,” Greene concludes, “we short-change the broader knowledge that is the key to academic success later.”

Mandating a single test exacerbates this phenomenon. Within the tested subjects, schools have a strong incentive to teach the concepts that will be on the mandated test. This incentive to “teach to the test” can result in a de facto curriculum. For example, if a school had been teaching math concepts A, B, and C in grade 7, but the new state test was going to cover concepts B, D, and E, the school would almost certainly drop concepts A and C in favor of D and E, even if the math teachers believe that the original curriculum was superior. Keeping the original curriculum would put their students at a disadvantage on the state test vis-à-vis students at other schools that had aligned their curriculum to the test. This standardization might make sense in a world in which there was one right way to teach math, or at least one right order to teach concepts, but that is not the case.

Again, this isn’t to say that we should do away with testing entirely. As Robert Pondiscio recently wrote, standardized tests should be “used to illuminate and inform parent choice, but not to limit it.” Tests can provide valuable information, but using the tests as the sole or primary metric of performance does more harm than good. What’s needed is a more comprehensive understanding of quality that considers the needs of individual students, not just the “typical” student, and that’s something that parents are in a much better position to determine than technocrats.

The Potential of Parental Accountability

Parents are interested in more than scores. Parents consider a school’s course offerings, teacher skills, school discipline, safety, student respect for teachers, the inculcation of moral values and religious traditions, class size, teacher-parent relations, college acceptance rates, and more. Schools held directly accountable to parents, rather than technocrats, have to take all of these factors into account.

Of course, parents need information in order to make good decisions about their child’s education. Fortunately, research has shown that the vast majority of parents from all racial and socio-economic backgrounds are willing to take several steps in order to acquire that information. This is where independent organizations can satisfy parents’ demands for information with expert reviews and ratings and by providing platforms for parents and students to share their personal experiences:

Perhaps the most popular source of expert knowledge about college is the plethora of college ratings providers, such as U.S. News & World ReportPrinceton ReviewForbesKiplinger’s, and Business Insider. These ratings offer prospective students a variety of information about student outcomes, expected earnings, course offerings, campus life, and so on. No rating system is perfect, but parents and students can compare multiple ratings to get a clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses of different colleges and figure out which features are most important for them. Some outfits even rate the raters.

Parents and students are also relying in increasing numbers on user reviews to find the information they seek. Sites like College Times, Students Review, Rate My Professors, and Get Educated provide a platform for students to share information about their actual experiences at the college they attended.

The K-12 education sector has historically lacked high-quality sources of information about school performance, but to a large extent that is because the vast majority of students attend their assigned district school. With little to no other educational options, there has bee little parental need for information to compare competing options. And without much in the way of competition, existing private schools don’t feel great pressure to be forthcoming about performance data. However, as states implement educational choice policies, the demand for information will increase and schools that refuse to share their data will be at a competitive disadvantage. We are already seeing parents to turn organizations like and to find information about schools they are considering and we should expect to see more organizations emerge as demand increases.

In the interim, we should avoid the technocratic temptation to have the government rate schools directly. We have no good reason to believe that the government will do a better job of assessing school quality than private, third-party reviewers. U.S. News & World Report may offer crummy ratings, but the solution is having more independent reviewers (as the market has provided) rather than crowding them out with a single government rating system that is subject to political pressures.

Parents are adept at holding schools accountable when they are empowered with choices and armed with information about their options. As Matthew Ladner has shown, Arizona parents voting with their feet closed down low-performing charter schools earlier and more often than state regulators:

Arizona parents seem extremely adept at putting down charter schools with extreme prejudice. Arizona parents detonate far more schools on the launching pad compared to the number we see bumbling ineffectively through the term of their charter to be shut by authorities (or to give up the ghost in year 14 in an ambiguous fashion). Both of these things happen, but the former happens with much greater regularity than the latter. Having a vibrant system of open enrollment, charter schools and some private school choice means that Arizona parents can take the view that life is too short have your child enrolled in an ineffective institution.

There is no panacea. There is no perfect information just as there are no perfect bureaucrats or, for that matter, perfect parents. The question before us is how to design a system with imperfect people and imperfect information that will come as close as possible to providing every child with access to a high-quality education. The technocratic approach empowers bureaucrats at the expense of parents, often eliminates their least-bad educational alternatives, and creates perverse incentives that narrow curricular options. By contrast, making education providers directly accountable to parents allows for a more comprehensive understanding of quality that considers the needs of individual students and fosters greater innovation and diversity.

Rather than attempting to design systems that override parental preferences, education reformers should focus their efforts on empowering parents with more choices and work to build institutions that will help them make more informed decisions.  

In the wake of the mistrial of police officer Michael Slager accused of shooting and killing unarmed Walter Scott as he ran away, a new Cato Institute/YouGov survey of public attitudes toward the police finds a 38-point gap between white and black Americans’ perception that police are too quick to resort to deadly force.

Nearly three-fourths (73%) of African Americans and 54% of Hispanics believe the police are “too quick to use deadly force,” compared to 35% of white Americans. Instead, 65% of white Americans believe police resort to lethal force “only when necessary.” 

When it comes to police tactics overall, black Americans (56%) are more likely to think they are “too harsh” compared to white (26%) and Hispanic (33%) Americans. Majorities of whites (67%) and Hispanics (58%) believe police generally use the right amount of force for each situation.

Find the full public opinion report here.

Is the Justice System Impartial? 

Only 17% of African Americans believe the criminal justice system treats all Americans equally and only 31% are highly confident their local police department treats all racial groups impartially. Whites are 32 points more likely to believe the justice system treats everyone equally (49%) and a solid majority (64%) are confident their local police are impartial. Hispanics fall in between with 27% who think the justice system and 42% who believe their local police treat everyone the same. Among all Americans, only 42% think all are treated equally by the justice system but 56% are highly confident their local police department treats everyone equally. 

Are Police Trustworthy and Held Accountable?

Strikingly high numbers of whites (46%), blacks (61%), and Hispanics (61%) think that “most” police officers “think they are above the law.” Overall, nearly half (49%) of all Americans worry that police think the law doesn’t entirely apply to them. 

Nearly two thirds (64%) of black Americans and a majority (51%) of Hispanic Americans believe police are “generally” not held accountable for misconduct when it occurs. This is 21 points higher than the 43% of white Americans who also share this view. Instead, a majority (57%) of whites think police are generally brought to account. 

Are Police Effective?

African Americans (41%) and Hispanics (41%) are twice as likely as white Americans (29%) to say they are “extremely” or “very” worried about crime. Furthermore black Americans (41%) are more than twice as likely as whites (17%) or Hispanics (15%) to say they know someone who was murdered.

Despite more salient fears over safety, only 44% of African Americans are highly confident their local police department responds quickly to a call for help. White Americans are 15 points more confident (59%) in their local police to come quickly if needed.  In a similar pattern, white Americans are about 20 points more likely than black Americans to give their local police high marks for protecting them from crime (60% vs. 38%) and enforcing the law (64% vs. 44%). Hispanics fall in between with about half who give their police high marks for enforcing the law, protecting them from crime, and responding promptly.

Do the Police Care About You?

Only 37% of African Americans are highly confident their local police department cares about the people they serve. White Americans (59%) are far more confident that their local police cares. A little less than half of Hispanic Americans (47%) agree.

Are the Police Courteous?

White Americans (62%) are 19 points more likely than African Americans (43%) and 13 points more likely than Hispanic Americans (49%) to rate their local police departments highly for being courteous.

White, Hispanic, and Black Americans Report Different Experiences with Police

Most Americans have personally had positive experiences with the police but those who have experienced verbal and physical misconduct are disproportionately black and Hispanic.

African Americans are nearly twice as likely as whites to say a police officer swore at them. About a quarter of African Americans (26%) and Hispanics (22%) report a police officer personally using abusive language or profanity with them compared to 15% of white Americans. The study also found some evidence that suggests whites who are highly deferential toward the police are less likely to report experiences with police profanity, whereas blacks and Latinos who are highly deferential do not report similarly improved treatment. [1] 

African Americans are about twice as likely as white Americans to know someone physically abused by police. Thirty-nine percent (39%) of African Americans know someone who has been physically mistreated by the police, as do 18% of whites and 27% of Hispanics.

Higher-income African Americans report being stopped at about 1.5 times the rate of higher-income white Americans. In contrast, lower income African Americans report being stopped only slightly more frequently than lower income white Americans.

African Americans (50%) are also about 30 points less likely than whites (70%) and Latinos (66%) to report being satisfied with their personal police encounters over the past 5 years.

Favorability Gap Toward Police Has Changed Little Over Past 50 Years

Taking these results together, it comes as little surprise that there is a wide racial gap in favorability toward the police.  Only 40% of black Americans have a favorable view compared to 68% of white Americans. Hispanic Americans fall in between with 59% who share a positive view of the police.

What is particularly surprising, however, is that these numbers haven’t changed much since 1970 when 67% of white Americans and 43% of African Americans had a favorable view of the police—nearly identical to today’s numbers.[2] 

Perceptions of Police Use of Force and Racial Bias Are Likely Key

In sum, African Americans and Latinos are less confident than whites that the police use appropriate force, are impartial, are competent, have integrity, are professional, care about them, and are held accountable.

While each of these perceptions matter, statistical tests reveal two perceptions are likely key drivers of African Americans’ confidence in the police: 1) perceptions of excessive use of force and 2) perceptions of racial bias.

These tests indicate that after controlling for the effects of these perceptions, African Americans are no less likely than whites or Hispanics to have favorable views of the police. (See Appendix J). In other words, results suggest if we were able to equalize or reduce the belief that the police use excessive force or are racially biased, the race gap in attitudes toward the police could very well disappear.

Certainly, we also want to improve perceptions of police effectiveness, accountability, integrity, and empathy. However, finding ways to minimize the amount of physical force police need to use and improving perceptions of police impartiality may prove most efficacious in restoring public confidence.

Americans Are Not “Anti-Cop”

It’s important to point out: although some groups have less positive views of the police, no group is “anti-cop.” You might expect a person who is “anti-cop” to want fewer police in their community.[3] But 9 in 10 Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity, oppose reducing the number of police officers in their communities. Instead, about half of blacks, whites, and Hispanics favor maintaining present levels and more than a third say their community needs more officers. Activists who call for “abolishing” or “defunding” the police may get media attention but are rare, and do not represent the views of very many people. Furthermore, 6 in 10 black, white, and Hispanic Americans all think police have “very dangerous jobs.”

Why We Should Care About the Confidence Gap in Police Performance

Confidence gaps in police come with consequences. Individuals with less favorable views of the police are less likely to “definitely” report a crime they witness. For instance, African Americans and Hispanics are more than 20 points less likely than white Americans to say they’d definitely report a crime. Among African American men making less than $30,000 a year, fewer than half are as confident they would do so. 

Effective policing depends on police and communities working together in a symbiotic relationship based on mutual respect and trust. The police are best able to safely and effectively serve and protect their communities when the residents freely cooperate with the police. And citizens are more willing to cooperate and help the police when they have confidence in them.[4] Moreover, public confidence in the police bolsters their legitimacy and by extension compliance with the law.[5]

Thus, regardless of one’s own experiences and views of police, these perception gaps alone merit our attention. It is important to improve relationships between police and communities they serve, or risk further eroding the legitimacy of the police and by extension the rule of law more generally.

Policing in America helps in this endeavor by carefully examining Americans’ perceptions of and experiences with law enforcement to help uncover why Americans think differently about the police. It also investigates and finds broad support for reforms that many believe can help improve police-community relations. You can find the full report here.


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The Cato Institute/YouGov national survey of 2000 adults was conducted June 6–22, 2016 using a sample drawn from YouGov’s online panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. YouGov uses a method called sample matching, and restrictions are put in place to ensure that only the people selected and contacted by YouGov are allowed to participate. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is +/-3.19 percentage points. The full report can be found here, toplines results can be found here, full methodological details can be found here.

[1] Data in this section come from the combined June 2016 and November 2015 national surveys (N=4000), which offer greater precision and smaller margins of error for subgroups. See the Survey Methodology for more information.

[2] Louis Harris and Associates Study No. 2043, 1970, cited in Michael J. Hindelang,” Public Opinion Regarding Crime, Criminal Justice, and Related Topics.”  Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 11 (1974):101-116.

[3] To be sure, advocates of shrinking police departments are not necessarily “anti-cop” either; however, it’s difficult to argue a person is if they do not want to cut the police force.

[4] See Linquiin Cao, James Frank, and Francis T. Cullen, “Race, Community Context and Confidence in the Police.”  American Journal of Police 15 (1996): 3-22. Tom Tyler, and Jeffrey Fagan, “Legitimacy and Cooperation: Why Do People Help the Police Fight Crime in Their Communities?”  Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 6 (2008): 231-275; Andrew V. Papachristos, Tracey L. Meares, and Jeffrey Fagan, “Why Do Criminals Obey the Law? The Influence of Legitimacy and Social Networks on Active Gun Offenders,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 102 No. 2 (2009): 397-440; Tom R. Tyler, “The Role of Perceived Injustice in Defendants’ Evaluations of Their Courtroom Experience,” Law & Society Review 18 (1984): 51-74; Tom Tyler, Why People Obey the Law (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006); Jonathan Blanks, “How Pretextual Stops Undermine Police Legitimacy,” Case W. Res. L. Review 66 (2016): 931-946.

[5] Andrew V. Papachristos, Tracey L. Meares, and Jeffrey Fagan, “Why Do Criminals Obey the Law? The Influence of Legitimacy and Social Networks on Active Gun Offenders,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 102, no. 2 (2009): 397-440.

Today is Bill of Rights Day. So it’s an appropriate time to consider the state of our constitutional safeguards.

Let’s consider each amendment in turn.

The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.” Government officials, however, have insisted that they can gag recipients of “national security letters” and censor broadcast ads in the name of campaign finance reform and arrest people for simply distributing pamphlets on a sidewalk.

The Second Amendment says the people have the right “to keep and bear arms.” Government officials, however, make it difficult to keep a gun in the home and make it a crime for a citizen to carry a gun for self-protection.

The Third Amendment says soldiers may not be quartered in our homes without the consent of the owners. This safeguard is one of the few that is in fine shape – so we can pause here for a laugh.

The Fourth Amendment says the people have the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. Government officials, however, insist that they can conduct commando-style raids on our homes and treat airline travelers like prison inmates by conducting virtual strip searches.

The Fifth Amendment says that private property shall not be taken “for public use without just compensation.” Government officials, however, insist that they can use eminent domain to take away our property and give it to other private parties who covet it.  The Fifth Amendment also protects our right against self-incrimination, but government officials tell us lies and trick many people into waiving that right while they warn their own families to “lawyer up” immediately.

The Sixth Amendment says that in criminal prosecutions, the person accused is guaranteed a right to trial by jury. Government officials, however, insist that they can punish people who want to have a trial—“throwing the book” at those who refuse to plead guilty—which explains why 95 percent of the criminal cases never go to trial.

The Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to a jury trial in civil cases where the controversy “shall exceed twenty dollars.” Government officials, however, insist that they can impose draconian fines on people without jury trials.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments. Government officials, however, insist that a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense is not cruel.

The Ninth Amendment says that the enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights should not be construed to deny or disparage others “retained by the people.” Government officials, however, insist that they will decide for themselves what rights, if any, will be retained by the people.

The Tenth Amendment says that the powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states, or to the people. Government officials, however, insist that they will decide for themselves what powers they possess, and have extended federal control over health care, crime, education, and other matters the Constitution reserves to the states and the people.

It’s a disturbing snapshot, to be sure, but not one the Framers of the Constitution would have found altogether surprising. They would sometimes refer to written constitutions as mere “parchment barriers,” or what we call “paper tigers.” They nevertheless concluded that having a written constitution was better than having nothing at all.

The key point is this: A free society does not just “happen.” It has to be deliberately created and deliberately maintained. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. To remind our fellow citizens of their responsibility in that regard, the Cato Institute has distributed more than six million copies of our pocket Constitution. At this time of year, it’ll make a great stocking stuffer.

Let’s enjoy the holidays (and remember many of the positive trends that are underway) but let’s also resolve to be more vigilant about defending our Constitution. To learn more about Cato’s work in defense of the Constitution, go here. To support the work of Cato, go here.

A majority of Americans (54%) say that police departments using military weapons and armored vehicles “goes too far.” Another 46% believe that police using military equipment is “necessary for law enforcement purposes,” according to a new Cato Institute/YouGov survey of 2,000 Americans.

Find the full public opinion report here.

Although Americans of different races and ethnicities vary widely in their perceptions of the police, majorities of whites (53%), blacks (58%), and Latinos (51%) all believe police using military equipment is excessive.

Police militarization divides partisans. Sixty percent (60%) of both Democrats and independents think that police using military equipment “goes too far” and 40% think it is necessary. In stark contrast, 65% of Republicans think police need to use military equipment while 35% think it’s unnecessary. Support for police militarization comes disproportionately from the “strong Republican” wing of the GOP with 71% in support, compared to 57% who agree among “not very strong” Republicans.

Opposition to police militarization brings together Libertarians and Liberals, groups identified according to our ideological typology. Fully 75% of liberals and 60% of libertarians think that police using military equipment “goes too far.” In contrast, Communitarians (social conservatives who support the welfare state) and Conservatives come together in their support for police using military equipment: 60% of Conservatives and 51% of Communitarians think it’s necessary.

Working class Americans, across all races and ethnicities, are more supportive (51%) of police using military weapons and armored vehicles than Americans with college degrees (42%). Instead, a majority (58%) of college graduates thinks it’s excessive.

Americans under 65 oppose militarization by a margin of 57% to 43%. However, seniors (65 and up) stand out with their comfort with police militarization: 61% believe it is necessary and 39% think it’s not.

We find that people disposed toward authority figures are most supportive of police militarization. Americans who score high (57%) on our Respect for Authority Index (RAI) are significantly more likely than those who score low (30%) to believe police need military weapons to do their jobs. Americans with greater skepticism towards authority are far more likely to believe military weapons are excessive (70%).

Notably, Americans who live in cities are no more likely than Americans living in suburban or rural areas to think it’s a good idea for police to use military equipment. Support also does not vary considerably by gender, income, or age for those under 55.

In sum, support for police militarization is less contingent on one’s environment, and more related to people’s dispositions toward authority—and by extension their political ideology. Americans with more respect for authority figures are more likely to believe that police (a trusted authority figure) would only use military equipment if it were necessary.

For public opinion analysis sign up here to receive Cato’s upcoming digest of Public Opinion Insights and public opinion studies.

The Cato Institute/YouGov national survey of 2000 adults was conducted June 6–22, 2016 using a sample drawn from YouGov’s online panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. YouGov uses a method called sample matching, and restrictions are put in place to ensure that only the people selected and contacted by YouGov are allowed to participate. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is +/-3.19 percentage points. The full report can be found here, toplines results can be found here, full methodological details can be found here.

I was saddened by the news of Ralph Raico’s passing on December 13.

At Cato summer seminars during the 1980s, he delivered fabulous lectures about the history of liberty and its adversaries. He focused on European intellectual history, the development of classical liberalism. He was clear, concise and passionate, and his talks sparkled with memorable details. I still cherish audio cassettes of those lectures.

Ralph attended the Bronx High School of Science, earned a B.A. at the City College of New York, and joined the New York libertarian underground during the 1950s. His friends included Ronald Hamowy, Leonard Liggio, George Reisman, Robert Hessen, and other eager students of liberty. For a while, Ralph and his group, calling themselves the “Circle Bastiat,” met for discussions with Ayn Rand’s group, “the Collective.” Ludwig von Mises invited Ralph to attend his graduate seminars at New York University. Ralph became a close friend of Murray and Joey Rothbard.

By 1960, Ralph was at the University of Chicago for a Ph.D. in intellectual history. F.A. Hayek was his thesis advisor. Ralph started a quarterly student journal called New Individualist Review and served as editor-in-chief. Each issue featured about a half-dozen articles. The first issue appeared in April 1961. The lead article was “Capitalism and Freedom” by Milton Friedman. The second issue featured “Freedom and Coercion” by Hayek. And so it went, a cavalcade of scholarly stars, including three future Nobel Laureates. The authors included George Stigler, Yale Brozen, Karl Brunner, Henry Hazlitt, W.H. Hutt, David Levy, Walter Oi, Sam Peltzman, Wilhelm Roepke, B. R. Shenoy, Gordon Tullock, Joe Cobb, and E.G. West, in addition to Hayek and Friedman. A few conservatives joined the fun, too—William F. Buckley, Jr., M. Stanton Evans, and Russell Kirk.

As it happened, in 1962, when I had to decide on a college, I received a subscription flyer for New Individualist Review. I was familiar with a number of the authors, because I had read issues of The Freeman that my father had in his home office, and they published some of the same authors. So, the University of Chicago was where I had to go. While many college kids did fraternities or football, I did NIR. I met Ralph, joined the staff of New Individualist Review, and altogether 17 issues were published. NIR involved insightful, inspiring and sometimes amusing exchanges among students and professors in history, economics, philosophy, science, law, and business. For better or worse, NIR was a spontaneous phenomenon that never focused on becoming an institution. Gradually, everybody got their degrees and moved on. I was the last editor-in-chief (1968).

Ralph had so much literary talent that there were hopes he might produce a glorious history of liberty, like Lord Acton talked so much about but never started. Alas, time slipped through their fingers and—for now—that big story is still out there.

Nonetheless, Ralph became known for elegantly-crafted articles, pamphlets, and chapter contributions that helped illuminate the history of liberty.

Ralph translated Mises’ 1927 book Liberalismus, an excellent basic statement of classical liberalism, into English (1962), and a number of publishers have reissued his splendid translation.

He also wrote:

  • Die Partei der Freiheit: Studien zur Geschichte des deutschen Liberalismus (1999), about the fateful struggles of German classical liberals during the 19th century.
  • The Place of Religion in the Liberal Philosophy of Constant, Tocqueville, and Lord Acton (2010), his University of Chicago Ph.D. thesis.
  • Classical Liberalism and the Austrian School (2012). 

Venezuela – ravaged by socialist policies, corruption, and incompetence – is currently embroiled in the world’s 57th episode of hyperinflation. Since the beginning of November, the bolivar has lost 55.2 percent of its value on the black market (read: free market), worsening the situation in a country in which wheelbarrows have already replaced wallets. So, on November 30th, Venezuelan officials announced a misguided and foolhardy plan to issue larger bills in an attempt to mitigate the damaging effects of its hyperinflation.

But why is the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) redenominating? Because if it doesn’t, then the people are stuck. If you go to a market in Caracas today, you either need a wheelbarrow of cash or bigger bills – much bigger. So, President Maduro and the BCV hope that, by printing 20,000-bolivar notes, they can skirt around the hyperinflation problem until it goes away. And that’s a mug’s game.

In the early 1990s, Yugoslavia tried to combat its own hyperinflation by printing larger bills, and it failed horribly. Yugoslavia’s heavy inflation continued throughout the ‘90s, and the dinar was devalued 18 times between 1991 and 1999, losing 22 decimal places of value along the way. Yugoslavia’s monetary orgy finally came to an end when the Topcider mint ran out of capacity. Yugoslavia’s 313,000,000 percent monthly inflation transformed 500-billion-dinar bills into small change before the ink had dried.

Redenomination does nothing if elevated inflation levels persist – as Zimbabwe’s infamous 100-trillion-dollar note demonstrates – and Venezuela will be no different. When inflation goes to the moon, you physically cannot redenominate bills fast enough – you can only add zeroes to notes so quickly. In consequence, you are ultimately left with valueless notes with many zeroes and a “wheelbarrow problem.” The issuance of higher-denomination bolivar notes isn’t the end of this episode, and it’s not the solution.

In fact, the only surefire solution is either to dump the bolivar and replace it with the U.S. dollar or make the bolivar a clone of the dollar via an orthodox currency board, in which the bolivar trades at a fixed rate with the U.S. dollar, is totally convertible with the U.S. dollar, and is completely backed by U.S. reserves.

Here’s a letter to the editor I sent to the Washington Post that they didn’t publish, responding to a piece by their business columnist Steven Pearlstein.

To the editor:

Steven Pearlstein (Dec. 2) writes with apparent approval of the prospect that President Trump will “make an example of a runaway company by sending in the tax auditors or the OSHA inspectors or cancelling a big government contract. It won’t matter that, two years later, these highly publicized retaliations are thrown out by a federal judge somewhere. Most companies …will find a way to conform to the new norm.”

I was reminded of Paul Farhi’s revealing story in the Post last March about Donald Trump’s prolonged, losing libel suit against reporter Timothy O’Brien. Per that report, Trump “said in an interview that he knew he couldn’t win the suit but brought it anyway to make a point. ‘I spent a couple of bucks on legal fees, and they spent a whole lot more. I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about.’”

The knowing use of a flimsy legal case to retaliate or intimidate, to inflict punishments or extract concessions a judge would never have ordered, is no more excusable when aimed at other sorts of businesses and professionals than when aimed at the press and reporters. In both cases it is wrong, it sets a bullying example to others, and it endangers the impartial rule of law.

— W.O.

President-elect Donald Trump announced that his will appoint John Kelly, retired Marine Corps general and former commander of United States Southern Command, to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Kelly has made many statements in support of increasing border security, and appears to believe that insecurity caused by illegal behavior south of the border poses an “existential” threat to the United States.  So far, I have not found any statements by Kelly that reveal his opinions on legal immigration.

David North wrote a short blog pointing out that Kelly would be the third general in charge of immigration.  The others were three-star Army General Joseph May Swing (1954–1962) and retired four-star Marine General Leonard Fielding Chapman Jr. (1973–1977).  General Swing was an interesting head of the U.S. Bureau of Immigrant and Naturalization.  He oversaw and led a vast increase in border enforcement and a systematic liberalization of work visas in the Bracero Program.  The latter was essential to severely curtailing illegal immigration in the 1950s.      

Commissioner Swing realized that he would have to enlist the cooperation of the employers of unlawful migrant workers if he was to have any hope of shrinking the number of unauthorized workers.[i]  Such enlistment required the continued deregulation and expansion of the Bracero Program to provide an alternative, legal source of Mexican workers.   If the cost of employing Bracero workers was too high, farmers would just hire unauthorized immigrants as they threatened to do numerous times.[ii]  Prior to the expansion and partial deregulation of the Bracero Program in 1951, employers in the Rio Grande Valley referred to the Border Patrol as a “Gestapo outfit” that wrenched their willing unlawful workers away from employment.[iii] 

Before launching his enforcement operation, named Operation Wetback, Swing travelled and spoke to numerous audiences and farmers assuring them that their unlawful workers would be replaced with legal workers from Mexico on a Bracero work visa.[iv]  In Swing’s words, the purpose of a ten-day trip to visit farmers along the border prior to the launch of Operation Wetback was to tell them: “If there is any employer who cannot get legal labor all he has to do is let either the Department of Labor or Immigration know and we will see that he gets it … I am quite emphatic about this because I know I am going to run into some opposition in Southern Texas.”[v]  As a result, the illegal immigrant population cratered and was replaced by a legal workforce.

Swing characterized his success as an “exchange” of illegal workers for legal guest workers.[vi]   For example, the 1953 harvest in the Rio Grande Valley only employed 700 legal guest workers while in 1954 the number had grown to 50,326.[vii]  At every opportunity, Swing praised farmers and gave them credit for the substitution of illegal workers for legal Bracero workers, saying the “accomplishment of this task would have been impossible without the generous cooperation extended to the effort by ranchers, farmers, and growers.”[viii]  Swing didn’t attack employers but instead understood their incentives and worked with them to craft a sustainable solution.   

Beginning in 1954, Commissioner Swing also ordered the issuance of I-100 cards to law-abiding Bracero workers who were favored by particular American growers, further simplifying the bureaucratic process for them to re-enter and work in the future.[ix]  The INS eventually came to believe that the I-100 cards became an integral part of their efforts to keep unlawful immigration low.[x]  The INS also made it easy for Braceros to move among farms to work regardless of the original labor contract.[xi]  As historian Ernesto Galarza wrote, “[t]he most skeptical of farm employers could see that the private black market was no longer vital, now that a public one could be created at will.”[xii]  The Bracero Program made it economically advantageous for American employers of unlawful immigrants to cooperate with the Border Patrol and INS to ensure that their workforces were legal.

We don’t know how John Kelly will attempt to tackle the issue of illegal immigration besides support for more border security.  If he wants to be known as the man foremost responsible for ending illegal immigration in modern America, he should take a lesson from the first General to head immigration:  Liberalizing migration and working with the labor market, not against it, is essential to ending the flow of illegal immigration.    


[i] Kitty Calavita, Inside the State: The Bracero Program, Immigration, and the INS, Quid Pro Books, New Orleans, Louisiana, 2010, p. 57.

[ii] Ibid, p. 90.

[iii] Ibid, p. 37.

[iv] Ibid, p. 57.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid, p. 59.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Ibid, p. 63.

[ix] Ibid, pp. 94–95, 104–105.

[x] Ibid, p. 104.

[xi] Ibid, p. 107.

[xii] Ernesto Galarza, Merchants of Labor: The Mexican Bracero Story, McNally and Loftin Publishers, Charlotte, North Carolina, 1964, p. 69.

You Ought to Have a Look is a regular feature from the Center for the Study of Science.  While this section will feature all of the areas of interest that we are emphasizing, the prominence of the climate issue is driving a tremendous amount of web traffic.  Here we post a few of the best in recent days, along with our color commentary.

With news of the past week or so dominated by announcements and then post-announcement scrutiny of Trump’s cabinet picks, we highlight a few pieces that go into deeper waters on these (and other) topics.

First up is an informative piece by Vox’s Brad Plumer that’s built from an interview he conducted with Jody Freeman, a Harvard law school professor and former climate adviser to President Obama. Over the course of their conversation, Plumer and Freeman pretty much lay out a road map as to how the Trump Administration could go about undoing much of President Obama’s ill-advised (in our opinion) Climate Action Plan. The selection of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA is definitely a big step in that direction.

There is a lot of good stuff in Plumer’s piece, discussing ways to approach everything from overturning the moratorium on coal leases on public lands, to disallowing consideration of the social cost of carbon, to the rescinding the Clean Power Plan—some of these things, Freeman explains, are easier to do than others. Ultimately, Plumer tries to sum things up with what we guess was supposed to be an optimistic tone from his point of view (after all, he does write for Vox):

“It does sound like the main point here is that the federal government is this vast bureaucracy that can’t just be turned around overnight.”

To which we’ll add that perhaps this is true, but with a bit of slimming down and concerted effort, we can hope for success.

Next up we highlight another interview, this one between Christopher Flavelle, a Bloomberg View journalist, and Craig Fugate, director of FEMA. In the article, “FEMA’s Director Wants Capitalism to Protect Us from Climate Change,” Flavelle and Fugate discuss the federal government’s flood insurance program and how Fugate would like to see it overhauled to place more of the burden of ill-advised development on the states and localities that acceded to it in the first place, and to relieve the burden on the American taxpayer at large. Here’s a taste:

[Flavelle]: Federal disaster policy is built on a perverse incentive: Local governments have the greatest ability to reduce damage from storms but face little pressure to do so, because FEMA will pick up the tab. Earlier this year, you proposed a disaster deductible. How would you characterize the response from states?

[Fugate}: They felt this was a shifting of funding burden from the federal government back to the local. And I said, quite honestly, the answer is yes. We have set the threshold and the pain point of disasters so low, we’re not seeing a change in behavior.

The decisions about our built infrastructure are made at the local level on a daily basis, through land-use decisions, building-code decisions, permitting decisions. If they’re not looking at what that means as far as future stability in their tax base, future risk, a lot of times we get short-term development that is sold on the idea of jobs and growing the tax base – but also transferring more risk to the taxpayer.

There’s got to be a forcing mechanism. You’ve got to really look at this from the standpoint of, Can you afford disasters?… Why do we treat these areas with such deference and subsidies that nobody except for the taxpayer ends up on the hook?

[Flavelle]: Why is that so hard to change?

[Fugate}: Because we won’t call people out and say they’re socialists.

[Flavelle]: Who’s socialist?

[Fugate}: The builders and developers and all the people running around saying they’re capitalists and they’re Republicans and they’re conservatives, and it’s all about individual freedoms and making money and growing the tax base, and all the bullshit they throw at people, convincing them this is an economic boon activity. It’s nothing but socialism and social welfare for developers when you subsidize risk below which the public gets a benefit from.

They’ve got to be called out.

Property rights and all of that are such a powerful argument in many parts of the country, I don’t want to get into the argument about telling people where they can and can’t build. What I want to talk about is, Why are we subsidizing that risk?

While addressing climate change through adaptation was the presumptive premise of the conversation (an approach we prefer over mitigation), climate change or not, efforts to get the federal government out of the flood insurance business are very welcome.

And we’ll round out this week’s edition of You Ought to Have a Look with an article that may have been overlooked in the post-election news coverage but would potentially have made a bigger splash had it come out during this summer’s climate-change-is-behind-the-Zika-outbreak scare. It is a new study that finds that, no, it is not climate change that is behind the flourishing of mosquito populations across America, but rather the growth of the urban/suburban landscape and, more importantly, the ban on DDT use.

Valerie Richardson does a good job in covering the new finding in her Washington Times article. Richardson runs through a litany of claims by environmental groups that global warming is leading to more mosquitoes and, of course, more mosquito-borne disease outbreaks, and then gets to the kicker—“In the latest study, however, scientists said that previous research failed to take into account the impact of DDT and land use.” She continues:

“Although many studies have found positive correlations between temperature and insect populations, most have been limited in temporal scope to the past five decades and nearly all of these studies have ignored the influence of land use or anthropogenic chemical use,” said the paper.

The study also said that population growth had resulted in mosquitoes expanding their habitat to urban areas.

“While our correlative analyses suggested that DDT was the strongest driver of mosquito populations overall, other factors, such as land use, that have changed monotonically over the last century, were also important in explaining patterns of change in mosquito communities,” the paper said.

Richardson points out that “[t]he U.S. mosquito population is on the rise, but don’t blame climate change.”

And another one bites the dust.

Democrats complain that fake news stories from web sites supposedly linked to Russia undermined the electoral process. The Antiplanner has been concerned with a related issue for some time, which is fake news stories inspired by Russia that undermine our economy. Here are a few of those stories that I hope Democrats will disavow.

Fake News Item #1: Urban sprawl is paving over all of our farms

This is an old one that has been used to justify central planning similar to that done in the Soviet Union. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the contiguous 48 states have 900 million acres of agricultural land, of which we use only about 40 percent for growing crops. The acres used for crop production have been declining, not because they are getting paved over, but because per-acre yields of most crops are growing faster than our population.

Meanwhile, the department also says that just 84 million acres have been urbanized. This is a little less than the Census Bureau’s estimate of 106 million acres, but either way, as the Department of Agriculture says, urbanization is “not considered a threat to the Nation’s food production.”

Fake News Item #2: Suburbs make people fat

This fake story came out when a fake-news group did a study that found a “small” correlation between suburbs and obesity, then loudly proclaimed that they had proven that suburbs make people fat. They ignored the truth that correlation does not prove causation, and later studies found that, if people in suburbs weigh slightly more than people in cities, it is because overweight people choose to live in the suburbs. Thus, the real story is that overweight people helped to make the suburbs, not the other way around.

Fake News Item #3: Urban transit saves energy

This fake story has been retold so often that people take it for granted. In fact, as the Department of Energy’s Transportation Energy Data Book reveals, the average car used about 3,122 BTUs per passenger mile in 2014 while the average transit bus used 3,829.

While some rail transit lines (notably the New York subway) used less energy than cars, calculations based on the National Transit Database reveal that, on average, transit used 3,141 BTUs per passenger mile in 2014. Moreover, of the 50 largest urban areas, just five have transit systems that use less energy per passenger mile than driving. Most transit also produces more greenhouse gases per passenger mile than the average car.

Fake News Item #4: Millennials want to live in dense urban neighborhoods, not low-density suburbs

This fake news story is based entirely on anecdotal evidence. In fact, a recent report from the Urban Land Institute (which itself favors more dense development) found that 74 percent of Millennials in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas live in low-density suburbs, which is not much different from the 79 percent of the population as a whole. The difference is easily attributable to the reality that many Millennials haven’t yet earned enough income to buy their own home.

Fake News Item #5: Light rail relieves congestion

This fake-news story helped persuade voters in Los Angeles and Seattle to approve tens of billions of dollars worth of new rail construction last month. In fact, a recent study found that no correlation between transit usage and congestion. On the other hand, light rail often increases congestion because it either operates in streets, taking up space that could be used by cars, or crosses streets, delaying cars at intersections, and the delays are greater than the savings from the few cars that light rail takes off the roads.

There are many related fake-news stories, all of which are designed to lead to the same conclusions: government must control private land use to keep cities compact and must also heavily subsidize transit to provide mobility in those compact cities. This was the message of The Ideal Communist City, a book written by planners at the University of Moscow in 1965. An English version was published by George Braziller in 1971.

Just three years later, American urban planners published a book titled Compact City that presented the same messages and cited The Ideal Communist City as one of its influences. The Compact City book persuaded Congress to hold hearings in 1979 on how compact cities could save energy. Although the compact-city ideal has been thoroughly debunked, its advocates merely changed the name to “smart growth.”

Above is a three-dimensional density chart made by demographer Alain Bertaud showing a typical American urban area. Note that it has a high-density core surrounded by low-density suburbs, some of which have their own little high-density cores. In fact, the area shown is New York, which is atypical in many ways but in this way is typical.

Above is Bertaud’s three-dimensional version of an ideal compact or smart-growth city at the same scale as the previous chart. Note that it is of approximately equal density in both the core and its suburbs, and that outside of the urban area there is virtually no density. In fact, the urban area shown is Moscow, showing that the Soviet Union achieved its goal of making an ideal communist city.

Russia would clearly like to hamper our economy in the same way it hampered its own: with central planning, strict land-use controls prescribing how everyone can or cannot use their land, and mobility limited to where you can get to by mass transit. Numerous American groups have eagerly joined this effort by spreading fake news stories about the evils of sprawl and automobiles and why government should promote high-density cities and mass transit. Those who are upset about the influence of fake news on the recent election must expand their concern to the much deeper problem of the influence of fake news on the economy.

Over the summer, The New York Times published an error-ridden piece on Michigan’s charter schools that it has yet to retract. Now, the NYT is doubling down with another piece adding new errors to old ones. The errors begin in the opening sentence:

Few disagreed that schools in Detroit were a mess: a chaotic mix of charters and traditional public schools, the worst-performing in the nation.

This is editorializing thinly veiled as “news.” In fact, lots of experts disagreed with that statement. The original NYT piece received a wave of criticism from national and local education policy experts, charter school organizations, and other journalists. As I explained at the time, the central premise of the NYT’s takedown on Detroit’s charter schools was an utter distortion of the research:

The piece claims that “half the charters perform only as well, or worse than, Detroit’s traditional public schools.” This is a distortion of the research from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO). Although the article actually cites this research – noting that it is “considered the gold standard of measurement by charter school supporters across the country” – it only does so to show that one particular charter chain in Detroit is low performing. (For the record, the “gold standard” is actually a random-assignment study. CREDO used a matching approach, which is more like a silver standard. But I digress.) The NYT article fails to mention that the same study found that “on average, charter students in Michigan gain an additional two months of learning in reading and math over their [traditional public school] counterparts. The charter students in Detroit gain over three months per year more than their counterparts at traditional public schools.”

As shown in this table from page 44 of the CREDO report, nearly half of Detroit’s charter schools outperformed the city’s traditional district schools in reading and math scores, while only one percent of charter schools performed worse in reading and only seven percent performed worse in math.

Grouping the very few underperforming charters with the approximately half of schools that perform at roughly the same level as the district schools distorts the picture. It’s just as fair to say that more than nine out of ten Detroit charters performed as well or better than their district school counterparts. The most accurate description would note that about half of Detroit’s charters outperform their district school counterparts, about half perform roughly the same, and a very small number underperform. […]

[NYT reporter Kate] Zernike is still claiming that the CREDO study “does not consider Detroit[’s charter sector] stellar,” even though both the 2013 CREDO study of Michigan’s charter sector and the 2015 CREDO study of charters nationwide found that, on average, Detroit’s charter schools outperformed the district schools that their students would otherwise have attended. Indeed, one even called Detroit’s charter sector “a model to other communities.”

Nevertheless the NYT has resurrected its spurious claims to attack Betsy DeVos, the president-elect’s pick for Secretary of Education. In the NYT’s telling, DeVos was responsible for killing a bill that would have imposed some sort of regulations on Michigan’s charter schools that supposedly would have improved the system:

So city leaders across the political spectrum agreed on a fix, with legislation to provide oversight and set standards on how to open schools and close bad ones.

But the bill died without even getting a final vote. And the person most influential in killing it is now President-elect Donald J. Trump’s nominee to oversee the nation’s public schools, Betsy DeVos.

Her resistance to the legislation last spring is a window into Ms. DeVos’s philosophy and what she might bring to the fierce and often partisan debate about public education across the country, and in particular, the roles of choice and charter schools.

The bill’s proposals are common in many states and accepted by many supporters of school choice, like a provision to stop failing charter operators from creating new schools. But Ms. DeVos argued that this kind of oversight would create too much bureaucracy and limit choice. A believer in a freer market than even some free market economists would endorse, Ms. DeVos pushed back on any regulation as too much regulation. Charter schools should be allowed to operate as they wish; parents would judge with their feet.

The idea that DeVos thinks “any regulation” is “too much regulation” is sheer nonsense. As I’ve detailed before, regulations in Michigan limit the ability of charter schools to set their own mission (e.g., they must be secular), mandate that they administer the state standardized test, forbid them from setting their own admissions standards, forbid them from charging tuition, limit who can teach in the schools, limit the growth of the number of schools, and so on. Calling this regulatory environment the “Wild West” is downright Orwellian.

The NYT piece never once lists any of the regulations to which Michigan’s charter schools are already subject, nor does it cite any education policy analysts who disagree with the reporter’s spin regarding Michigan’s charter sector. (The one dissenting voice was only quoted saying that DeVos “never said choice and choice alone is a panacea.”)

And what exactly did DeVos object to? More than 20 paragraphs into the article, the NYT finally explains:

But the provision that proved most controversial to the DeVoses would have established a Detroit Education Commission, appointed by the mayor. With three members from charter schools, three from the traditional public schools and one an expert in educational accountability, the commission was to come up with an A-to-F grading system for all schools, and evaluate which neighborhoods in the city most needed schools.

In other words, DeVos objected to giving district school officials and their political allies the power to regulate and even close down their competition. Why, she’s a veritable Ayn Rand!

Yet again, The Times fails to cite any education policy experts who were skeptical of the proposal or sympathetic to DeVos’s position. Moreover, in the antepenultimate paragraph, someone working for a DeVos-funded education advocacy organization in Michigan explained that DeVos supported the final version of the bill, which did not contain the commission but did “allow the state to close the [charter] schools at the bottom of existing state rankings,” putting lie to the reporter’s spin that DeVos thinks “any regulation is too much regulation.”

New York Times readers deserve better. 

Eighty-four percent (84%) of Americans oppose civil asset forfeiture–police “taking a person’s money or property that is suspected to have been involved in a drug crime before the person is convicted of a crime,” according to a new Cato Institute/YouGov survey of 2,000 Americans. Only 16% think police ought to be allowed to seize property before a person is convicted.

Civil asset forfeiture is a process by which police officers seize a person’s property (e.g. their car, home, or cash) if they suspect the individual or property is involved with criminal activity. The individual does not need to be charged with, or convicted of, any crime for police to seize assets.[1] In most jurisdictions police departments may keep the property they seize or the proceeds from its sale. However, as these survey results demonstrate, most Americans oppose this practice.

Find the full public opinion report here

In instances when police departments seize people’s cars, houses, or cash, 76% of Americans say local departments should not be allowed to keep the assets. Instead, 48% say seized assets should go into the state general fund, while another 28% say assets should go into a dedicated state-level general law enforcement fund. 

Although Americans prefer policing be done by local (not state or federal) authorities, only 24% think local police departments should keep the assets they seize. [2] Americans may believe transferring seized assets to a state-level fund will reduce local departments’ material incentive to seize people’s property.

Opposition to civil asset forfeiture cuts across demographics and partisanship. Strong majorities of whites (84%), blacks (86%), Hispanics (80%), Democrats (86%), independents (87%), and Republicans (76%) all oppose. In fact, virtually every major group surveyed solidly rejects the practice and prefers property only be seized after a person is convicted of a crime. Even those highly favorable toward the police staunchly oppose (78%) civil asset forfeiture.

Few understand the concept of civil asset forfeiture. Yet, once the concept is explained to them in concrete terms the public overwhelmingly rejects the practice. Thus, reformers’ primary challenge is informing the public that this practice occurs. Policy reforms may follow broader public knowledge of civil forfeiture.


For public opinion analysis sign up here to receive Cato’s upcoming digest of Public Opinion Insights and public opinion studies.

The Cato Institute/YouGov national survey of 2000 adults was conducted June 6-22, 2016 using a sample drawn from YouGov’s online panel, which is designed to be representative of the US population. YouGov uses a method called sample matching, and restrictions are put in place to ensure that only the people selected and contacted by YouGov are allowed to participate. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is +/-3.19 percentage points. The full report can be found here,  toplines results can be found here, full methodological details can be found here.


[1] The legal rationale is that the property itself may be involved in a crime, and thus must be seized. However in practice, since property can be seized without charging a person with a crime or convicting them, many innocent people have had their property taken from them without due process. See Marian R. Williams et al, “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture,” Institute for Justice, March 2010, assetforfeituretoemail.pdf; “Civil Asset Forfeiture: 7 Things You Should Know,” Heritage Foundation Factsheet no. 141, March 26, 2014,

[2] John Samples and Emily Ekins, “Public Attitudes toward Federalism: The Public’s Preference for Renewed Federalism,” Cato Institute Policy Analysis no. 759, September 23, 2014,….

In 2011, federal authorities charged Calvin Walker, a Texas electrician, with 37 counts of fraud. Eighteen months later, Walker accepted a plea deal in exchange for all charges being dropped. That should have been the end of his legal saga. Yet two years later, Walker was again indicted for exactly the same alleged fraud, only this time by state authorities. He challenged this second prosecution as a violation of the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees that no person shall “be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb” for the same offense. But under a strange exception to the Double Jeopardy Clause created by the Supreme Court 60 years ago, both the state and federal governments are allowed to prosecute someone for the same act.

Cato has joined the Constitutional Accountability Center in filing a brief urging the Supreme Court to review of Walker’s case and overturn this misguided “dual sovereignty” exception. We make three principal arguments. First, none of the Framers would have contemplated such a large exception to Double Jeopardy protection. Even before the Founding, English jurist and legal theorist William Blackstone wrote that it was considered a “universal maxim of the common law of England, that no man is to be brought into jeopardy of his life, more than once, for the same offence.” And in congressional debates before the enactment of the Fifth Amendment, Rep. Roger Sherman observed that “the courts of justice would never think of trying and punishing twice for the same offence.”

Second, the practical magnitude of the dual-sovereignty exception is much greater today than it was 60 years ago. For most of our nation’s history, the federal government left most criminal matters to be handled by the states; there were relatively few offenses punishable by both authorities. But in recent decades, there has been “a stunning expansion of federal criminal jurisdiction into a field traditionally policed by state and local laws,” as Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in dissent in Evans v. United States (1992). Now that nearly every state crime has a federal analog, the dual-sovereignty exception risks entirely swallowing the Double Jeopardy rule.

Finally, the Supreme Court created the dual-sovereignty exception a decade before it held that the Double Jeopardy Clause fully applies to the states. Now that we know that it does, there’s no reason why a state prosecution shouldn’t “count” when a defendant objects to having been prosecuted twice. As Justice Hugo Black once put it, also in dissent, “If double punishment is what is feared, it hurts no less for two ‘Sovereigns’ to inflict it than for one.” Bartkus v. Illinois (1959). The Court should take this common-sense advice and put an end to the misguided dual-sovereignty exception, at least as it works in practice in modern times.

The Court will decide whether to take up Walker v. Texas early in the new year.

Kratom is a plant indigineous to Southeast Asia that, according to users, relieves pain more effectively—and with fewer side effects—than opioids. The FDA and the DEA have nevertheless proposed banning Kratom; see here for excellent background and discussion. One fact in particular caught my attention:

The U.S. government didn’t pay much attention to kratom until July 2013. That month, three advocacy groups sent a one-page letter to Daniel Fabricant, who was then the director of the FDA division that oversees the dietary supplement industry, which has annual revenues of $30 billion or more. The letter was co-signed by the heads of the United Natural Products Alliance, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, organizations representing dietary supplement producers and marketers such as Herbalife, Bayer, and Pfizer—but not, notably, any kratom vendors. “Given the widespread availability of kratom,” the letter said, “the dietary supplement industry is concerned about the potential dangers to consumers who may believe that they are consuming a safe, regulated product when they are not.” The organizations asked the FDA to “deter further marketing of kratom under the mistaken belief that it is a legitimate product.”

In other words, the U.S. government responded to complaints from competitors—not from consumers—in initiating its investigation of kratom.

Venezuela’s inflation has officially become the 57th official, verified episode of hyperinflation and been added to the Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table, which is printed in the authoritative Routledge Handbook of Major Events in Economic History (2013). An episode of hyperinflation occurs when the monthly inflation rate exceeds 50 percent for 30 consecutive days. Venezuela’s monthly inflation rate first exceeded 50 percent on November 3rd and continues to do so, sitting at 131 percent as of December 11, 2016. The peak monthly inflation rate thus far was 221 percent, which is relatively low in the context of hyperinflations. This and more is documented in detail in the linked paper, which I co-authored with Charles Bushnell, titled “Venezuela Enters the Record Book: The 57th Entry in the Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table,” newly published in the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise Studies in Applied Economics working paper series.

The Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table and a chart of Venezuela’s monthly inflation rate are reproduced below. Sources for the Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table are at the bottom.





Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table Notes and Sources

- When a country experiences periods of hyperinflation that are broken up by 12 or more consecutive months with a monthly inflation rate below 50%, the periods are defined as separate episodes of hyperinflation.

- The currency listed in the chart is the one that, in a particular location, is associated with the highest monthly rate of inflation. The currency may not have been the only one that was in circulation, in that location, during the episode.

- We are aware of one other likely case of hyperinflation: North Korea. We reached this conclusion after calculating inflation rates using data from the foreign exchange black market, and also by observing changes in the price of rice. Based on our estimates, this episode of hyperinflation most likely occurred from December 2009 to mid- January 2011. Using black-market exchange-rate data, and calculations based on purchasing power parity, we determined that the North Korean hyperinflation peaked in early March 2010, with a monthly rate of 496% (implying a 6.13% daily inflation rate and a price-doubling time of 11.8 days). When we used rice price data, we calculated the peak month to be mid-January 2010, with a monthly rate of 348% (implying a 5.12% daily inflation rate and a price-doubling time of 14.1 days). All of these data were obtained August 13, 2012 from Daily NK, an online newspaper that focuses on issues relating to North Korea ( We also acknowledge that our investigation was aided by reports from Good Friends USA, a Korean-American advocacy and research organization, as well as from Marcus Noland at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. 

(*) The authors calculated Zimbabwe’s inflation rate, from August to November 2008, using changes in the price of the stock, Old Mutual, which was traded both on the Harare and London stock exchanges. The stock prices yielded an implied exchange rate for Zimbabwe dollars, under purchasing power parity.

(†) The Republika Srpska is a Serb-majority, semi-autonomous entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina. From 1992 until early 1994, the National Bank of Republika Srpska issued its own unique currency, the Republika Srpska dinar.

(‡) Greece’s inflation rate was estimated by calculating the drachma / gold sovereign exchange rate.

(§) The peak monthly inflation rate listed for China in the table differs from that presented in one of the authors’ previous pieces on hyperinflation (Hanke and Kwok, 2009). This revision is based on new data from a number of sources, which were recently obtained from the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

(**) We calculated the Free City of Danzig’s inflation rate using German inflation data, since the German papiermark was in circulation in Danzig during this time. It is worth noting that Germany and Danzig experienced different peak months of hyperinflation. This is case because the last full month in which the German papiermark circulated in the Free City of Danzig was September 1923. Germany continued to circulate the papiermark beyond this point, and subsequently experienced its peak month of hyperinflation (October 1923).

(††) The data for many of the post-Soviet countries were only available in the World Bank’s Statistical Handbook: States of the Former USSR. In this publication, the authors stated that the data should be viewed with an extra degree of caution because the statistics were taken from the corresponding official internal government source and not independently reviewed by the World Bank. However, these statistics are official and are the only source of data available for the corresponding time periods for each country.

(***) We calculated PPP implied inflation for Venezuela using black-market exchange rate data from

1. Nogaro, B. (1948) ‘Hungary’s Recent Monetary Crisis and Its Theoretical Meaning’, American Economic Review, 38 (4): 526–42.

2. Hanke, S. H. and Kwok, A. K. F. (2009) ‘On the Measurement of Zimbabwe’s Hyperinflation’, Cato Journal, 29 (2): 353-64.

3. a) Hanke, S. H. (1999) ‘Yugoslavia Destroyed Its Own Economy’, Wall Street Journal, April 28, p. A18.

b) Petrovic ?, P., Bogetic ?, Z. and Vujoševic ?, Z. (1999) ‘The Yugoslav Hyperinflation of 1992–1994: Causes, Dynamics, and Money Supply Process’, Journal of Comparative Economics, 27 (2): 335–53.

b) Rostowski, J. (1998) Macroeconomics Instability in Post-Communist Countries, New York: Carendon Press.

4. a) Republika Srpska Institute of Statistics, Announcements 19/92 (pg. 801), 20/92 (pg. 825), 1/93 (pg. 31), 2/93 (pg. 54), 3/93 (pg. 83), 4/93 (pg. 155), 7/93 (pg. 299), 16/93 (pg. 848), 19/93 (pg. 790), 20/93 (pg. 808), 23/93 (pg. 948), 1/94 (pg. 29), 9/94 (pg. 345), 17/94 (pg. 608), 22/94 (pg. 710), 23/94 (pg. 717), 26/94 (pg. 768), 27/94 (pg. 784), 30/94 (pg. 840), 1/95 (pg. 7), Banja Luka: Official Gazzette.

b) Vilendecic, S. (2008) Banking in Republika Srpska in the late XX and early XXI century, Banja Luka: Besjeda.

5. Sargent, T. J. (1986) Rational Expectations and Inflation, New York: Harper & Row.

6. Makinen, G. E. (1986) ‘The Greek Hyperinflation and Stabilization of 1943–1946’, Journal of Economic History, 46 (3): 795–805.

7. Chang, K. (1958) The Inflationary Spiral, The Experience in China, 1939-1950, New York: The Technology Press of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and John Wiley and Sons.

8. Sargent, T. J. (1986) Rational Expectations and Inflation, New York: Harper & Row.

9. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed October 2009.

10. World Bank. (1996) Statistical Handbook: States of the Former USSR, Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

11. Liu, F.C. (1970) Essays on Monetary Development in Taiwan, Taipei, Taiwan: China Committee for Publication Aid and Prize Awards.

12. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed October 2009.

13. Kreso, S. (1997) Novac Bosne i Hercegovine: Od BHD do Novog Novca BiH, Sarajevo: Jez.

14. White, E.N. (1991) ‘Measuring the French Revolution’s Inflation: the Tableaux de depreciation,’ Histoire & Mesure, 6 (3): 245 – 274.

15. Young, A. (1965) China’s Wartime Finance and Inflation, 1937-1945, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

16. State Statistics Committee of Ukraine. ‘Consumer Price Indices’, accessed May 2012.

17. Sargent, T.J. (1981) ‘The Ends of Four Big Inflations’, working paper, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, 158.

18. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed October 2009.

19. Beaugrand, P. (1997) ‘Zaïre’s Hyperinflation, 1990-96’, working paper, International Monetary Fund, April, 97/50.

20. World Bank. (1993) Statistical Handbook: States of the Former USSR, Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

21. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed October 2009.

22. National Bureau of Statistics of the Republic of Moldova. ‘Consumer Price Indices’, accessed May 2012.

23.; US. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: All Items [CPIAUCSL], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis;, December 5, 2016; Johns-Hopkins-Cato Institute Troubled Currencies Project,

24. Bernholz, P. (1996) ‘Currency Substitution during Hyperinflation in the Soviet Union 1922-1924’, Journal of European Economic History, 25 (2): 297-323.

25. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed November 2011.

26. World Bank. (1993) Statistical Handbook: States of the Former USSR, Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

27. Wang, J.Y. (1999) ‘The Georgian Hyperinflation and Stabilization’, working paper, International Monetary Fund, May, 99/65.

28. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed October 2009.

29. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed October 2009.

30. World Bank. (1994) Statistical Handbook: States of the Former USSR, Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

31. World Bank. (1994) Statistical Handbook: States of the Former USSR, Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

32. World Bank. (1994) Statistical Handbook: States of the Former USSR, Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

33. Sargent, T.J. (1981) ‘The Ends of Four Big Inflations’, working paper, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, 158.

34. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed October 2009.

35. World Bank. (1993) Statistical Handbook: States of the Former USSR, Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

36. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed April 2012.

37. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed October 2009.

38. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed November 2009.

39. Liu, F.C. (1970) Essays on Monetary Development in Taiwan, Taipei, Taiwan: China Committee for Publication Aid and Prize Awards.

40. Sargent, T.J. (1981) ‘The Ends of Four Big Inflations’, working paper, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, 158.

41. IMF. (1973-1974) ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS’), Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund.

42. World Bank. (1993) Statistical Handbook: States of the Former USSR, Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

43. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed November 2009.

44. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed October 2009.

45. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed November 2011.

46. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed October 2009.

47. World Bank. (1996) Statistical Handbook: States of the Former USSR, Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

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49. Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia. ‘Consumer Price Indices’, accessed May 2012.

50. World Bank. (1996) Statistical Handbook: States of the Former USSR, Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

51. a) Hartendorp, A. (1958) History of Industry and Trade of the Philippines, Manila: American Chamber of Commerce on the Philippines, Inc.

b) Sicat, G. (2003) ‘The Philippine Economy During the Japanese Occupation, 1941-1945’, discussion paper, University of the Philippines School of Economics, 0307, November.

52. IMF. (1990-1992) ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund.

53. Sargent, T. J. (1986) Rational Expectations and Inflation, New York: Harper & Row.

54. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed October 2009.

55. Lithuania Department of Statistics. ‘Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Price Changes’, accessed May 2012.

56. IMF. ‘International Financial Statistics (IFS)’, Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, accessed November 2011.

57. Liu, F.C. (1970) Essays on Monetary Development in Taiwan, Taipei, Taiwan: China Committee for Publication Aid and Prize Awards.


There are probably a wide range of reasons to object to Senator Jeff Sessions as President-elect Trump’s choice for Attorney-General. I’ll leave it to others to explain the concerns with Sessions in that role, but there is an issue with his understanding of trade agreements that I think is worth highlighting. Sessions has been repeating an objection to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that completely misunderstands the text of that agreement, and it is worth correcting the record.

The issue relates to the governance of the TPP. Sessions believes there will be a TPP Commission that acts as a supra-national governing entity and can override domestic laws. Here’s something he said last year: 

Among the TPP’s endless pages are rules for labor, environment, immigration and every aspect of global commerce – and a new international regulatory structure to promulgate, implement, and enforce these rules.  This new structure is known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission – a Pacific Union – which meets, appoints unelected bureaucrats, adopts rules, and changes the agreement after adoption.

The text of the TPP confirms our fears, plainly asserting: ‘The Parties hereby establish a Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission which shall meet at the level of Ministers or senior officials, as mutually determined by the Parties,’ and that ‘the Commission shall’:

  • ‘consider any matter relating to the implementation or operation of this Agreement’;
  • ‘consider any proposal to amend or modify this Agreement’;
  • ‘supervise the work of all committees and working groups established under this Agreement’;
  • ‘merge or dissolve any subsidiary bodies established under this Agreement in order to improve the functioning of this Agreement’;
  • ‘seek the advice of non-governmental persons or groups on any matter falling within the Commission’s functions’; and
  • ‘take such other action as the Parties may agree’.

Further, the text explains that ‘the Commission shall take into account’:

  • ‘the work of all committees, working groups and any other subsidiary bodies established under this Agreement’;
  • ‘relevant developments in international fora’; and
  • ‘input from non-governmental persons or groups of the Parties’.

This global governance authority is open-ended: ‘The Commission and any subsidiary body established under this Agreement may establish rules of procedures for the conduct of its work.’  It covers everything from the movement of foreign nationals: ‘No Party shall adopt or maintain…measures that impose limitations on the total number of natural persons that may be employed in a particular service sector… in the form of numerical quotas or the requirement of an economic needs test’; to climate regulation: ‘The Parties acknowledge that transition to a low emissions economy requires collective action.’

These 5,554 pages are like the Lilliputians binding down Gulliver.  They will enmesh our great country, and economy, in a global commission where bureaucrats from Brunei have the same vote as the United States.

At bottom, this is not a mere trade agreement.  It bears the hallmarks of a nascent European Union. … 

In August of this year, he said something similar:  

The TPP permanently alters the landscape. The 5,554-page accord, disguised as a simple trade agreement, commits the American people to an international commission with the power to act around Congress. It allows 12 nations, some with less than 1 percent of the GDP of the United States, an equal vote in the TPP Commission. Actions by this commission separate the American people from the policy decisions that affect their lives. The TPP Commission is a direct threat to representative democracy and accountability. 

The reality is very different. To be clear, there is in fact something called a TPP Commission, established in Chapter 27 of the agreement, which is titled Administrative and Institutional Provisions. Article 27.1 says: “The Parties hereby establish a Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission (Commission), composed of government representatives of each Party at the level of Ministers or senior officials. Each Party shall be responsible for the composition of its delegation.” And it does have the tasks he mentions, as set out in Article 27.2.

But if you just read down one more provision, to Article 27.3, you can see why this Commission is no threat to anyone’s sovereignty or democracy:

Article 27.3: Decision-Making

1. The Commission and all subsidiary bodies established under this Agreement shall take all decisions by consensus, except as otherwise provided in this Agreement, or as otherwise decided by the Parties.2  Except as otherwise provided in this Agreement, the Commission or any subsidiary body shall be deemed to have taken a decision by consensus if no Party present at any meeting when a decision is taken objects to the proposed decision.


FN. 2 For greater certainty, any such decision on alternative decision-making by the Parties shall itself be taken by consensus.

2. For the purposes of Article 27.2.2(f) (Functions of the Commission), a decision of the Commission shall be taken by agreement of all Parties. A decision shall be deemed to be reached if a Party which does not indicate agreement when the Commission considers the issue does not object in writing to the interpretation considered by the Commission within five days of that consideration. 

Basically, this provision says that all decisions of the Commission have to be by consensus of all the governments who are parties to the TPP, one of which is the United States. In other words, no decision can be made unless the U.S. government agrees to it. And while the provision mentions that the parties can decide to take decisions in a manner other than consensus, note that footnote 2 says that the decision to do so must itself be taken by consensus, so the U.S. would have a veto here as well. (There is also a clause that says “except as otherwise provided in this Agreement,” but that applies to a very limited number of situations, such as the special decision-making procedures for accession of new countries to the agreement.) 

Furthermore, when it comes to the only provision that envisions the Commission actually modifying the TPP, Article 27.2.2(c), the provision requires both consensus among parties and the “completion of any necessary legal procedures by each Party.” In the United States, this would mean implementation of the relevant TPP modification pursuant to the TPP Implementation Act passed by the U.S. Congress or new congressional legislation. This provision thus underscores the Commission’s—and the TPP’s more broadly—deference to the sovereignty of each TPP party, including the United States.

What this all means is that there will be no “Pacific Union,” no “nascent European Union,” and no “unelected bureaucrats” adopting rules and changing the agreement after it has been concluded. 

And just to be clear, this Commission is not some nefarious innovation created by the Obama administration as part of the TPP negotiations. Rather, similar bodies have been part of U.S. free trade agreements for a long time. (Examples from Bush-era trade agreements are here and here.) Practically speaking, based on how the same thing works in other trade agreements, what the Commission means is this: if the TPP comes into force, the governments would meet occassionally and talk about how the agreement is working. They will offer diplomatic statements, express concerns, and have long discussions. Every now and then they will actually have to make a decision. But again, unless all the governments—including the U.S.—agree, no decision will be made. 

There may be other reasons Sessions opposes free trade or trade agreements, but we should not let the real debate get thrown off course by misconceptions about how these agreements operate.

Sixty-five percent (65%) of Americans believe police regularly “stop motorists and pedestrians of certain racial or ethnic backgrounds because the officer believes that these groups are more likely than others to commit certain types of crimes.” However, 63% of Americans oppose police using racial profiling for traffic and pedestrian stops, according to a new Cato Institute/YouGov national survey of 2,000 Americans.

Find the full public opinion report here.

An overwhelming majority of African Americans (81%) believe the police regularly racially profile, as do a majority of Hispanics (70%) and Caucasians (62%). Democrats (80%) are considerably more likely than Republicans (53%) and independents (61%) to believe the police engage in racial profiling. Only respondents identified as ideologically conservative, according to our ideological typology, reach a majority (54%) who believe racial profiling does not commonly occur. In contrast, majorities of Liberals (87%), Communitarians (67%), and Libertarians (63%) think police routinely racially profile.

Most Americans Solidly Oppose Racial Profiling, but Slim Majority of Republicans Favor

Two-thirds (63%) of Americans oppose police officers “stopping motorists or pedestrians of certain racial or ethnic groups because the officer believes that these groups are more likely than others to commit certain types of crimes.” This percentage includes 34% who “strongly oppose” and 29% who “somewhat oppose” this practice. The remaining third (37%) support racial profiling, including 10% who “strongly support” and 26% who “somewhat support” it. 

Partisans see profiling differently. A slim majority (51%) of Republicans support racial profiling while nearly as many (49%) oppose. However, Black Republicans differ from their fellow partisans: 65% oppose racial profiling and 35% support it.[1] Hispanic Republicans also oppose by a margin of 57% to 43%. A strong majority (73%) of Democrats and independents (64%) oppose it while roughly 3 in 10 support its use.

Conservatives Support Racial Profiling While Libertarians Strongly Oppose

A majority (60%) of Conservative respondents (identified according to our ideological typology) support racial profiling. In stark contrast, Libertarian respondents solidly oppose (71%) racial profiling, as do a majority of Communitarians (68%), Moderates (61%), and Liberals (87%).


African Americans are the most opposed to racial profiling (77%), although majorities of both Latinos (62%) and whites (62%) also oppose. Black Americans are also nearly twice as likely to “strongly oppose” (56%) profiling as Latinos and whites (31%). Latinos and Caucasians are not significantly different in their support for racial profiling.

Opposition to racial profiling is near universal across other demographic groups with strong majorities of men (61%), women (65%), evangelicals (60%), urban residents (65%), suburban residents (62%), high school grads (61%), college grads (64%), households earning less than $30,000 (66%), and households earning above $60,000 (64%) all solidly opposed to racial profiling. Millennials (70%) are more opposed than seniors (54%), but still majorities of both oppose. Overall, conservative Republicans stand out as uniquely supportive of police using racial profiling when deciding whom to stop.

Are Americans being honest about their feelings when it comes to racial profiling? Social scientists have developed a unique test called the “list experiment” to measure attitudes on sensitive topics. We included a list experiment on our survey and split survey respondents into two groups. The first group was asked “If you were a police officer, how many of these five factors do you think would be relevant when deciding who to stop and search for criminal activity? You don’t need to identify which ones, just HOW MANY:”

  • Is acting strangely (fearful, agitated)
  • Is making quick and secretive movements
  • Is present in a high crime area
  • Is male
  • Is young

We offered the second group (the treatment group) the same list plus one addition item:

  • Is black

When we compare the average number of items selected in the first group (Mean: 3.87 number of items) to the average number of items selected in the second group: (Mean: 4.29 number of items), the difference is .42. This indicates that 42% of Americans think that race should be a factor when police decide whom to stop and search and 58% think it should not be a factor . This is remarkably similar to the 37% who supported racial profiling and 63% who opposed when asked directly. The list experiment method found that 53% of Republicans felt that race should be a factor when police decide who to stop, as did 40% of independents, and 34% of Democrats. These numbers are very similar when partisans were asked about racial profiling directly.

In sum, these results indicate that when Americans say they oppose racial profiling, they seem to mean it.

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The Cato Institute/YouGov national survey of 2000 adults was conducted June 6-22, 2016 using a sample drawn from YouGov’s online panel, which is designed to be representative of the US population. YouGov uses a method called sample matching, and restrictions are put in place to ensure that only the people selected and contacted by YouGov are allowed to participate. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is +/-3.19 percentage points. The full report can be found here,  toplines results can be found here, full methodological details can be found here.

[1] Data about support for racial profiling by race and partisanship come from the combined June 2016 and November 2015 national surveys (N=4000), which offer greater precision and smaller margins of error for subgroups. (Unweighted: Black Republicans=45.)