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  • Author: David Boaz
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Democrats accuse President Trump of abuse of executive power and “thinking he is a dictator.” But then, Republicans made similar charges about President Obama. They all have a point. At least since the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, there has been a flow of power from civil society to government, from the states to the federal government, and from Congress to the executive branch. But a recent newspaper headline reminded me of some other headlines that tell a story.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Gene Healy
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: For the past 17 years, presidents have used the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) as a blank check to wage war whenever and wherever they please. Congress is now debating several replacement AUMFs—but these, too, pose the danger of granting the president far broader war powers than the Constitution envisioned. At a Capitol Hill Briefing, Cato’s GENE HEALY and JOHNGLASER made the case for repealing, rather than replacing, the AUMF.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Mark A. Calabria
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: While Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and private subprime lenders have deservedly garnered the bulk of attention and blame for the mortgage crisis, other federal programs also distort our mortgage market and put taxpayers at risk of having to finance massive financial bailouts. The most prominent of these risky agencies is the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Government, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Mark A. Calabria
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The recent financial crisis was characterized by losses in nearly every type of investment vehicle. Yet no product has attracted as much attention as the subprime mortgage.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Steven Horwitz
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Politicians and pundits portray Herbert Hoover as a defender of laissez faire governance whose dogmatic commitment to small government led him to stand by and do nothing while the economy collapsed in the wake of the stock market crash in 1929. In fact, Hoover had long been a critic of laissez faire. As president, he doubled federal spending in real terms in four years. He also used government to prop up wages, restricted immigration, signed the Smoot-Hawley tariff, raised taxes, and created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation-all interventionist measures and not laissez faire. Unlike many Democrats today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's advisers knew that Hoover had started the New Deal. One of them wrote, "When we all burst into Washington ... we found every essential idea [of the New Deal] enacted in the 100-day Congress in the Hoover administration itself."
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Political Economy, Financial Crisis, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington
  • Author: Jim Harper
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Government transparency is a widely agreed upon goal, but progress on achieving it has been very limited. Transparency promises from political leaders such as President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have not produced a burst of information that informs stronger public oversight of government. One reason for this is the absence of specifically prescribed data practices that will foster transparency.
  • Topic: Democratization, Political Economy, Politics, Communications, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: George Avery
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Science is increasingly being manipulated by those who try to use it to justify political choices based on their ethical preferences and who are willing to suppress evidence of conflict between those preferences and the underlying reality. This problem is clearly seen in two policy domains, health care and climate policy.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Health, Politics, Science and Technology
  • Author: Arnold Kling
  • Publication Date: 04-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Recently, the Federal Reserve has significantly altered the procedures and goals that it had followed for decades. It has more than doubled its balance sheet, paid interest to banks on reserves held as deposits with the Fed, made decisions about which institutions to prop up and which should be allowed to fail, invested in assets that expose taxpayers to large losses, and raised questions about how it will avoid inflation despite an unprecedented increase in the monetary base.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Political Economy, Politics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Laurence Copeland
  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In response to the recent financial crisis, many governments chose to ban or restrict short sales, hoping to mitigate the impact of the stock market downturn. Stock markets function as a continuous election, held to determine the allocation of resources with buyers voting for and sellers voting against investment in particular stocks. Banning short selling is akin to disenfranchising the "no" voter, thereby creating a distortion in the resource allocation process. Ban-induced price distortions damage the integrity of stock prices among investors and potentially cause stocks to expand beyond what is optimal for the firms and the economy.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Global Recession, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Washington
  • Author: Michael F. Cannon, Arnold Kling
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The traditional model of medical delivery, in which the doctor is trained, respected, and compensated as an independent craftsman, is anachronistic. When a patient has multiple ailments, there is no longer a simple doctor patient or doctor-patient-specialist relationship. Instead, there are multiple specialists who have an impact on the patient, each with a set of interdependencies and difficult coordination issues that increase exponentially with the number of ailments involved.
  • Topic: Economics, Health, Human Welfare
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Michael Tanner
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: When Massachusetts passed its pioneering health care reforms in 2006, critics warned that they would result in a slow but steady spiral downward toward a government-run health care system. Three years later, those predictions appear to be coming true: Although the state has reduced the number of residents without health insurance, 200,000people remain uninsured. Moreover, the increase in the number of insured is primarily due to the state's generous subsidies, not the celebrated individual mandate. Health care costs continue to rise much faster than the national average. Since 2006, total state health care spending has increased by28 percent. Insurance premiums have increased by 8–10 percent per year, nearly double the national average. New regulations and bureaucracy are limiting consumer choice and adding to healthcare costs. Program costs have skyrocketed. Despite tax increases, the program faces huge deficits. The state is considering caps on insurance premiums, cuts in reimbursements to providers, and even the possibility of a “global budget” on health care spending—with its attendant rationing. A shortage of providers, combined with increased demand, is increasing waiting times to see a physician. With the “Massachusetts model” frequently cited as a blueprint for health care reform, it is important to recognize that giving the government greater control over our health care system will have grave consequences for taxpayers, providers, and health care consumers. That is the lesson of the Massachusetts model.
  • Topic: Health, Human Welfare, Markets, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Randal O'Toole
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The administration has likened President Obama's high-speed rail plan to President Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System. Yet there are crucial differences between interstate highways and high-speed rail. First, before Congress approved the Interstate Highway System, it had a good idea how much it would cost. In contrast, Congress approved $8 billion for high-speed rail without knowing the total cost, which is likely to be at least $90 billion.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Government, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Michael F. Cannon
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The most hazardous health reform measure before Congress is not the so-called "public option," but proposals to make health insurance compulsory via an individual or employer mandate. Compulsory health insurance could require nearly 100 million Americans to switch to a more expensive health plan and would therefore violate President Barack Obama's pledge to let people keep their current health insurance. In particular, the legislation before Congress could eliminate many or all health savings account plans. Making health insurance compulsory would also spark an unnecessary fight over abortion and would enable government to ration care to those with private health insurance.
  • Topic: Government, Health, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Randal O'Toole
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Sometime in 2010 or 2011, Congress expects to decide how to spend the $250 billion or more of federal gas taxes and other highway user fees that will be collected over the next six years. The process of doing so is called surface transportation reauthorization. A major point of contention in this law is how much of our transportation system should be centrally planned and how much should be built and operated in response to the needs of actual transportation users.
  • Topic: Economics, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Lawrence H. White
  • Publication Date: 02-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Critics have raised a number of theoretical and historical objections to the gold standard. Some have called the gold standard a “crazy” idea. The gold standard is not a flawless monetary system. Neither is the fiat money alternative. In light of historical evidence about the comparative magnitude of these flaws, however, the gold standard is a policy option that deserves serious consideration.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Glen Whitman
  • Publication Date: 02-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The World Health Report 2000, prepared by the World Health Organization, presented performance rankings of 191 nations' health care systems. These rankings have been widely cited in public debates about health care, particularly by those interested in reforming the U.S. health care system to resemble more closely those of other countries. Michael Moore, for instance, famously stated in his film SiCKO that the United States placed only 37th in the WHO report. CNN.com, in verifying Moore's claim, noted that France and Canada both placed in the top 10.
  • Topic: Health, Human Welfare, Humanitarian Aid, International Organization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Michael Tanner
  • Publication Date: 07-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Healthcare reform will be one of the top issues of the 2008 presidential election. In the face of widespread public demand for changes in the U.S. health care system, both Barack Obama and John McCain have offered detailed proposals for reform.
  • Topic: Government, Health, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Johan Norberg
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine ;purports to be an exposé of the ruthless nature of free-market capitalism and its chief recent exponent, Milton Friedman. Klein argues that capitalism goes hand in hand with dictatorship and brutality and that dictators and other unscrupulous political figures take advantage of "shocks"-catastrophes real or manufactured-to consolidate their power and implement unpopular market reforms. Klein cites Chile under General Augusto Pinochet, Britain under Margaret Thatcher, China during the Tiananmen Square crisis, and the ongoing war in Iraq as examples of this process.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: China, Chile
  • Author: Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr.
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In the past, the federal government has introduced moral hazard in the banking system through deposit insurance. Banks underpriced risk because of the federal guarantee that backed deposits. After banking crises in the 1980s and 1990s, deposit insurance was put on a sound basis and that source of moral hazard was mitigated. In its place, monetary policy has become a source of moral hazard. In acting to counter the economic effects of declining asset prices, the Federal Reserve has come to be viewed as underwriting risky investments. Policy pronouncements by senior Fed officials have reinforced that perception. These actions and pronouncements are mutually reinforcing and destructive to the operation of financial markets. The current financial crisis began in the subprime housing market and then spread throughout credit markets. The new Fed policy fueled the housing boom. Refusing to accept responsibility for the housing bubble, the Fed's recent actions will likely fuel a new asset bubble. The cumulative effects of recent monetary policy undermine the case for free markets.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: T.J. Rodgers
  • Publication Date: 08-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Since the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, the Financial Accounting Standards Board has passed rules that it promises will make corporate accounting more transparent. In fact, its revised Generally Accepted Accounting Principles have made it difficult for investors — or even CEOs — to understand a company's financial report.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Arnold Kling
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Fannie Mae-Freddie Mac crisis may have been the most avoidable financial crisis in history. Economists have long complained that the risks posed by the government-sponsored enterprises were large relative to any social benefits.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Randal O'Toole
  • Publication Date: 10-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Rising gas prices and concerns about greenhouse gases have stimulated calls to build more rail transit lines in urban areas, increase subsidies to Amtrak, and construct a large-scale intercity high-speed rail system. These megaprojects will cost hundreds of billions of dollars, but they won't save energy or significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Michael F. Cannon
  • Publication Date: 10-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (IL) has proposed an ambitious plan to restructure America's health care sector. Rather than engage in a detailed critique of Obama's health care plan, many critics prefer to label it "socialized medicine." Is that a fair description of the Obama plan and similar plans? Over the past year, prominent media outlets and respectable think tanks have investigated that question and come to a unanimous answer: no.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Health, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: David R. Henderson, Jeffrey Hummel
  • Publication Date: 11-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Is Alan Greenspan to blame for the current housing bubble and the ongoing financial crisis? A growing chorus charges the former Federal Reserve chairman with being an "inflationist" whose loose monetary policy caused or significantly contributed to our current economic troubles. However, although Greenspan's policies weren't perfect, his monetary policy was in fact tight, and his legacy is one of having overseen low and stable inflation and a striking dampening of the business cycle.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Lawrence H. White
  • Publication Date: 11-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: As policymakers confront the ongoing U.S. financial crisis, it is important to take a step back and understand its origins. Those who fault "deregulation," "unfettered capitalism," or "greed" would do well to look instead at flawed institutions and misguided policies. The expansion in risky mortgages to under qualified borrowers was encouraged by the federal government. The growth of "creative" nonprime lending followed Congress's strengthening of the Community Reinvestment Act, the Federal Housing Administration's loosening of down-payment standards, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development's pressuring lenders to extend mortgages to borrowers who previously would not have qualified.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Daniel Mitchell
  • Publication Date: 11-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Some policymakers in the United States and Europe argue that it is possible to enjoy economic growth and also have a large welfare state. These advocates for bigger government claim that the so- called Nordic Model offers the best of both worlds. This claim does not withstand scrutiny. Economic performance in Nordic nations is lagging, and excessive government is the most likely explanation. The public sector in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland consumes, on average, more than 48 percent of economic output. Total government outlays in the United States, by contrast, are less than 37 percent of gross domes- tic product. Revenue comparisons are even more striking. Tax receipts average more than 45 per- cent of GDP in Nordic nations, a full 20 percent- age points higher than the aggregate tax burden in the United States.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe
  • Author: Randal O'Tool
  • Publication Date: 10-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: California cities have the least affordable housing and the most congested traffic in the nation. California's housing crisis results directly from several little-known state institutions, including local agency formation commissions (LAFCos), which regulate annexations and the formation of new cities and service districts; the California Environmental Quality Act, which imposes high costs on new developments; and a 1971 state planning law that effectively entitles any resident in the state to a say in how property owners in the state use their land. Cities such as San Jose have manipulated these institutions and laws with the goal of maximizing their tax revenues.
  • Topic: Demographics, Environment, Poverty
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Justin Logan, Ted Carpenter
  • Publication Date: 09-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Taiwan spends far too little on its own defense, in large part because the Taiwanese believe the United States is their ultimate protector. The Taiwan legislature's six-year delay and severe down- sizing of a budget to pay for weapons systems that Washington has offered the island since 2001 is only one piece of evidence of Taiwan's free riding. Although Taiwan recently approved roughly US$300 million of the original budget of about $18 billion, the underlying problem remains: even with the new appropriation, Taiwan's overall investment in defense—approximately 2.6 percent of GDP—is woefully inadequate, given the ongoing tensions with mainland China. America is now in the unenviable position of having an implicit commitment to defend a fellow democracy that seems largely uninterested in defending itself.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, Defense Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, Asia
  • Author: Bryan Caplan
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In theory, democracy is a bulwark against socially harmful policies. In practice, however, democracies frequently adopt and maintain policies that are damaging. How can this paradox be explained? The influence of special interests and voter ignorance are two leading explanations. I offer an alternative story of how and why democracy fails. The central idea is that voters are worse than ignorant; they are, in a word, irrational—and they vote accordingly. Despite their lack of knowledge, voters are not humble agnostics; instead, they confidently embrace a long list of misconceptions.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Democratization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Will Wilkinson
  • Publication Date: 04-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: “Happiness research” studies the correlates of subjective well-being, generally through survey methods. A number of psychologists and social scientists have drawn upon this work recently to argue that the American model of relatively limited government and a dynamic market economy corrodes happiness, whereas Western European and Scandinavian-style social democracies pro- mote it. This paper argues that happiness research in fact poses no threat to the relatively libertarian ideals embodied in the U.S. socioeconomic system. Happiness research is seriously hampered by confusion and disagreement about the definition of its subject as well as the limitations inherent in current measurement techniques. In its present state happiness research cannot be relied on as an authoritative source for empirical information about happiness, which, in any case, is not a simple empirical phenomenon but a cultural and historical moving target. Yet, even if we accept the data of happiness research at face value, few of the alleged redistributive policy implications actually follow from the evidence. The data show that neither higher rates of government redistribution nor lower levels of income inequality make us happier, whereas high levels of economic freedom and high average incomes are among the strongest correlates of subjective well- being. Even if we table the damning charges of questionable science and bad moral philosophy, the American model still comes off a glowing success in terms of happiness.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Europe
  • Author: Daryl Press
  • Publication Date: 04-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Many Americans have lost confidence in their country's “energy security” over the past several years. Because the United States is a net oil importer, and a substantial one at that, concerns about energy security naturally raise foreign policy questions. Some foreign policy analysts fear that dwindling global oil reserves are increasingly concentrated in politically unstable regions, and they call for increased U.S. efforts to stabilize—or, alter-natively, democratize—the politically tumultuous oil-producing regions. Others allege that China is pursuing a strategy to “lock up” the world's remaining oil supplies through long-term purchase agreements and aggressive diplomacy, so they counsel that the United States outmaneuver Beijing in the “geopolitics of oil.” Finally, many analysts suggest that even the “normal” political disruptions that occasionally occur in oil-producing regions (e.g., occasional wars and revolutions) hurt Americans by disrupting supply and creating price spikes. U.S. military forces, those analysts claim, are needed to enhance peace and stability in crucial oil-producing regions, particularly the Persian Gulf.
  • Topic: Security, Oil, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Ted Galen Carpenter
  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The U.S. military occupation of Iraq has now lasted longer than U.S. involvement in World War II. Yet there is no end in sight to the mission. Staying in Iraq is a fatally flawed policy that has already cost more than 3,000 American lives and consumed more than $350 billion. The security situation in that country grows increasingly chaotic and bloody as evidence mounts that Iraq has descended into a sectarian civil war between Sunnis and Shiites. Approximately 120 Iraqis per day are perishing in political violence. That bloodshed is occurring in a country of barely 26 million people. A comparable rate of carnage in the United States would produce more than 1,400 fatalities per day.
  • Topic: Security, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, America, Middle East
  • Author: Neal McCluskey
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: It is all too often assumed that public education as we typically think of it today—schooling provided and controlled by government—constitutes the “foundation of American democracy.” Such schooling, it is argued, has taken people of immensely varied ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds and molded them into Americans who are both unified and free. Public schooling, it is assumed, has been the gentle flame beneath the great American melting pot.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil Society, Demographics, Education
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Alan Reynolds
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: There are frequent complaints that U.S. income inequality has increased in recent decades. Estimates of rising inequality that are widely cited in the media are often based on federal income tax return data. Those data appear to show that the share of U.S. income going to the top 1 percent (those people with the highest incomes) has increased substantially since the 1970s.
  • Topic: Demographics, Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Andrew J. Coulson
  • Publication Date: 12-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The index presented in this report attempts to measure how closely existing school systems resemble free markets and rates education policy proposals on how conducive they are to the rise of competitive marketplaces. We define an education market as a system that provides the freedom for producers and consumers to voluntarily associate with one another, as well as the incentives that encourage families to be diligent consumers and educators to innovate, control costs, and expand their services. It is a system in which schools can offer instruction in any subject, using any method, for which families are willing to pay.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Education, Markets
  • Author: Andrew J. Coulson
  • Publication Date: 12-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The index presented in this report attempts to measure how closely existing school systems resemble free markets and rates education policy proposals on how conducive they are to the rise of competitive marketplaces. We define an education market as a system that provides the freedom for producers and consumers to voluntarily associate with one another, as well as the incentives that encourage families to be diligent consumers and educators to innovate, control costs, and expand their services. It is a system in which schools can offer instruction in any subject, using any method, for which families are willing to pay.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Education, Markets
  • Author: Jim Harper, Jeff Jonas
  • Publication Date: 12-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, spurred extraordinary efforts intended to protect America from the newly highlighted scourge of international terrorism. Among the efforts was the consideration and possible use of “data mining” as a way to discover planning and preparation for terrorism. Data mining is the process of searching data for previously unknown patterns and using those patterns to predict future outcomes.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, International Relations, National Security, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Justin Logan
  • Publication Date: 12-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: It appears increasingly likely that the Bush administration's diplomatic approach to Iran will fail to prevent Iran from going nuclear and that the United States will have to decide whether to use military force to attempt to delay Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability. Some analysts have already been promoting air strikes against Iran, and the Bush administration has pointed out repeatedly that the military option is “on the table.” This paper examines the options available to the United States in the face of a prospective final diplomatic collapse.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Economics, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Andrew Mwenda
  • Publication Date: 07-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Africa is the world's poorest continent. Between 1974 and 2003, the per capita income in sub-Saharan Africa declined by 11 percent. Africa continues to trail the rest of the world on human development indicators including life expectancy; infant mortality; undernourishment; school enrollment; and the incidence of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. The international aid lobby advocates more foreign aid and greater debt relief for Africa as solutions.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Humanitarian Aid
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Author: Ted Galen Carpenter
  • Publication Date: 11-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Mexico is a major source of heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine for the U.S. market as well as the principal transit and distribution point for cocaine coming in from South America. For years, people both inside and outside Mexico have worried that the country might descend into the maelstrom of corruption and violence that has long plagued the chief drug-source country in the Western Hemisphere, Colombia. There are growing signs that the “Colombianization” of Mexico is now becoming a reality.
  • Topic: Crime, Health
  • Political Geography: Colombia, South America, Central America, Mexico
  • Author: Thomas Dichter
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The foreign aid industry has for decades tried one approach after another in an effort to make aid work. A career of field experience in the aid industry, however, confirms the empirical record that aid is unimportant to growth or poverty reduction and suggests that aid is not likely to work in the future. The belief that foreign assistance has been generally ineffective, moreover, appears to be widespread among aid practitioners with long field experience.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, International Cooperation, United Nations
  • Author: Moeletsi Mbeki
  • Publication Date: 04-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Economic growth in Africa, as in the rest of the world, depends on a vibrant private sector. Entrepreneurs in Africa, however, face daunting constraints. They are prevented from creating wealth by predatory political elites that control the state. African political elites use marketing boards and taxation to divert agricultural savings to finance their own consumption and to strengthen the repressive apparatus of the state. Peasants, who constitute the core of the private sector in sub-Saharan Africa, are the biggest losers. In order for Africa to prosper, peasants need to become the real owners of their primary asset—land—over which they currently have no property rights.
  • Topic: Economics, Human Rights, Politics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Ted Galen Carpenter
  • Publication Date: 11-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: There is a growing tension between two U .S. objectives in Afghanistan. The most important objective is—or at least should be—the eradication of the remaining Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in that country. But the United States and its coalition partners are now also emphasizing the eradication of Afghanistan's drug trade. These antidrug efforts may fatally undermine the far more important anti-terrorism campaign.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Middle East, Taliban
  • Author: Steve H. Hanke
  • Publication Date: 07-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: After a decade of rapid economic growth, the Dominican Republic entered a downward spiral in 2003. The economy shrank for the first time since 1990, the inflation rate quadrupled, the Dominican peso collapsed, government debt more than doubled, interest rates soared, and the central bank incurred large losses.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Latin America, Caribbean
  • Author: Ted Galen Carpenter
  • Publication Date: 03-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Bush administration has gone from one extreme to the other with regard to U.S. policy on Taiwan. During the early months of his administration, the president gave a seemingly unconditional pledge to defend Taiwan from attack by mainland China—going significantly further than his predecessors had. He followed that assurance by approving the largest arms sales package to Taiwan in nearly a decade. In marked contrast to the Clinton years, high-profile visits by Taiwanese leaders to the United States have been encouraged, despite Beijing's protests.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Development, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia
  • Author: Subodh Atal
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Despite progress in the return of refugees and the prevention of humanitarian disasters, stability in Afghanistan is threatened by ethnic tension, feuding warlords, and violence perpetrated by regrouping elements of the Taliban and their allies. The United States is being asked to increase its level of commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan as a means of stabilizing the country, even as American troops battle the resurgent Islamic extremists who operate along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Development, Politics
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, America, Middle East, Taliban, Arabia
  • Author: Steve H. Hanke, Matt Sekerke
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Following a swift military campaign to remove the Saddam Hussein government in Iraq, it has become clear that preparations for the postwar period have been inadequate and that the occupying forces lack a workable exit strategy. Specifically, the Coalition Provisional Authority has failed to anticipate the challenges that face the postwar Iraqi economy, including the introduction of sound money to facilitate exchange.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Ian Vásquez
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The failure of past foreign aid programs has given rise to a new consensus on how to make foreign aid effective. According to the new approach, aid that goes into poor countries that have good policies and institutions is highly effective at promoting growth and reducing poverty. Disbursing aid to countries that have good policies contrasts with the traditional practice of providing aid to countries irrespective of the quality of their policies or providing aid to promote policy reforms. President George Bush's proposed foreign aid initiative, the Millennium Challenge Account, is based on the selective approach to foreign assistance, as are, in large part, the World Bank's calls to double foreign aid flows worldwide.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Third World
  • Author: Ian Vásquez, John Welborn
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Overseas Private Investment Corporation is a government agency that provides loans and investment insurance to U.S. companies doing business around the world. Its four-year, renewable charter will expire in September 2003. Proponents of OPIC claim that the agency helps the U.S. economy and promotes economic development abroad.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Charles V. Peña
  • Publication Date: 05-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The rationale for missile defense put forward by its advocates is often a “doom and gloom” picture: America and its citizens are defenseless against the threat of ballistic missiles, and missile defense is supposed to protect the American people. The administration's vision of missile defense is not just a global system that protects the United States against long-range missiles but a global system capable of engaging all classes of ballistic missiles to protect U.S. forces deployed worldwide, U.S. allies, and other friendly countries. Thus, the purpose of missile defense is extended well beyond protecting America and Americans.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, America