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Cruz Makes Play for Libertarian Voters. Is Anybody Game?

David Boaz

As he moved from evangelical Iowa to fiscally conservative New Hampshire, Sen. Ted Cruz didn’t waste a minute in changing his tune.

In his Iowa victory speech Cruz gave a shout-out to libertarians, who are thick on the ground in New Hampshire. He declared, “That old Reagan coalition is coming back together, … conservatives and evangelicals and libertarian and Reagan Democrats all coming together as one, and that terrifies Washington, D.C.”

One friend asked on Twitter, “When was the last time a presidential candidate even mentioned the word #libertarian?” Well, Rand Paul and Ron Paul did, of course, and Republican-turned-Libertarian Gary Johnson. And so did Ronald Reagan, who said in various speeches just before he launched his 1976 campaign that “the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.” And so indeed did Barack Obama, once, in libertarian-leaning Wyoming in March 2008: “You can be liberal and a libertarian, or a conservative libertarian,” he told a crowd in Casper. But “there’s nothing conservative” about President George W. Bush’s antiterror policies. “There’s nothing Republican about that. Everybody should be outraged by that.”

Get beyond economics and some constitutional issues, and Cruz’s record is far less libertarian.

Still, libertarians are pleased when a candidate appeals to them by name. And with Sen. Rand Paul out of the race, the libertarian vote doesn’t have an obvious home.

That libertarian vote is bigger than Paul’s 5 percent in the Iowa caucuses. David Kirby and I found that 13 to 15 percent of American voters hold libertarian values on a range of questions. In three separate analyses Kirby found that libertarian strength among Republican voters had risen to between 34 and 41 percent by 2012. Paul’s father, Rep. Ron Paul, garnered 21 percent in the Iowa caucuses and 23 percent in New Hampshire, not far off that mark.

That’s why Cruz is now lowering the volume on social issues and trying to sound like Rand Paul. CNN reports, “Gone Wednesday morning was the vow to investigate Planned Parenthood. In was [Rand Paul’s] punchline about the White House tapping your cell phone.” He’s talking about the Fourth Amendment, eminent domain, and auditing the Federal Reserve. He’s downplaying the social issues that he emphasized in Iowa. (Maybe he’ll bring them back next week in South Carolina.)

But will libertarians buy it?

Cruz’s appeal to libertarians rests on his apparently strong commitment to free-market economics and the limited federal government established by the Constitution. He name-drops economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, who are idolized in liberty circles. He filibusters against Obamacare, albeit without a coherent game plan. Just this week he introduced a bill to reinstate school choice in the District of Columbia. Compared with far less ideological establishment candidates such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, or the megalomaniacal Donald Trump, he’s got an advantage.

Iowa gave Cruz one big selling point with libertarians. The Wall Street Journal exulted that he was the first candidate to win the caucuses without supporting the federal ethanol mandate. The ethanol industry and popular governor Terry Branstad spent millions to stop Cruz. Libertarians reveled in the victory over corporate welfare. As was once said of Grover Cleveland, they love him most for the enemies he has made.

Cruz talks a lot about his commitment to the Constitution and the constraints it places on government. He memorized and recited the Constitution as a teenager. His campaign website says, “Ted Cruz has spent a lifetime fighting to defend the Constitution [which] was crafted by our founding fathers to act as chains to bind the mischief of government and to protect the liberties endowed to us by our Creator.” Words to warm a libertarian heart.

Even there, though, a closer examination gives libertarians pause. Roger Pilon of the Cato Institute and Damon Root of Reason have pointed out that Cruz seems not to understand “the proper role of the courts in limiting legislative and executive excesses, federal, state, and local.” In both the seminal Lochner case of 1905 and the gay marriage case of 2015, Cruz has insisted that the Supreme Court defer to state legislative decisions rather than uphold individual rights.

Get beyond economics and some constitutional issues, and Cruz’s record is far less libertarian.

Take foreign policy. Cruz has tried to position himself between Republican uber-hawks such as Sens. John McCain and Rubio, and the non-interventionist positions of Rand Paul. He has questioned nation-building and the toppling of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi. And the interventionists have denounced him for it.

But Cruz is no non-interventionist. On the campaign trail he talks about “bombing ISIS back to the Stone Age,” “carpet-bombing,” and even making “sand glow in the dark”—a surprisingly unremarked threat to use nuclear weapons for the first in 70 years. It’s hard to see such loose talk about bombs attracting much support from libertarian voters.

And then there’s his hostility to immigration and gay marriage. Cruz promises to deny immigrants a path to citizenship, deport illegal immigrants, build a wall on the border, triple border patrols, and step up surveillance and biometric tracking at the border. That’s not the attitude that welcomed tens of millions of immigrants, including Cruz’s father, to this country.

Meanwhile, Cruz has been embracing a truly startling array of antigay extremists. I don’t mean that he says the Supreme Court exceeded its authority in striking down state gay rights bans—though of course he does—or that he has been endorsed by numerous members of Congress who support a constitutional amendment to take marriage rights away from gay couples—though he has. I mean that he has shared stages with people who ought to be beyond the bounds of any aspiring president. On caucus day in Iowa Cruz brought in Virginia pastor E. W. Jackson, who has called gays “perverted,” “degenerate,” “spiritually darkened” and “frankly very sick people,” to campaign for him.

The night before the caucuses, making his final pitch to Iowans, Cruz brought Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson with him to Iowa City, and Robertson told the crowd that same-sex marriage “is evil. It’s wicked. It’s sinful….We have to run this bunch out of Washington, D.C. We have to rid the earth of them.” In November Cruz appeared at a “religious liberties” conference organized by pastor Kevin P. Swanson, who railed at the conference, as he had said many times before, “YES! Leviticus 20:13 calls for the death penalty for homosexuals. YES! Romans Chapter 1, Verse 32, the Apostle Paul does say that homosexuals are worthy of death….And I am willing to go to jail for standing on the truth of the word of God.”

Those are not alliances likely to appeal to libertarians, not to mention moderates, independents, swing voters, soccer moms, or anyone who wants a president with a modicum of judgment.

Ron Paul supporters and other libertarian-leaning voters may swoon when Cruz says, “There are a whole bunch of areas that the federal government has no business sticking its nose in. I will fight every day for you, for your freedom, for your right to run a small business, for economic growth and for keeping government the heck off your back.” But if they look more closely, he’s going to have some awkward conversations.

David Boaz a native of Kentucky, is executive vice president of the Cato Institute and author of “The Libertarian Mind.”

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Don’t Make Women Register for the Draft. Just End Draft Registration for Everyone.

Christopher A. Preble

Top military brass made headlines this week when they called for expanding the Selective Service System — as close as we come, these days, to a draft registry — to include women. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army chief of staff, and Gen. Robert B. Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, both framed the issue as a matter of fairness: All eligible U.S. citizens should be included, Neller said, “Now that the restrictions that exempted women from [combat jobs] don’t exist.” But a better idea than requiring women to register is to do away with Selective Service altogether, for women and men.

When it comes to the draft, or any lingering vestige of it, it’s time for Congress to end it, not mend it.

The entire draft architecture is anachronistic and unnecessary. We’ve operated with an all-volunteer force for decades; no one, regardless of gender, expects that they’ll be drafted; and the wars that we fight don’t depend upon conscription. Future wars aren’t likely to, either.

Selective service was instituted during World War I, but America’s first peacetime draft, the Selective Service Act of 1940, was enacted as much of Europe and parts of Asia descended into the maelstrom of another world war. Many Americans wanted desperately to stay out, but also understood the need to prepare for it. All told, around 10 million men were drafted during World War II, but the act expired after the war ended.

Our military is all-volunteer for a reason. Time to end the pretense that we still need Selective Service.

Selective service started up again in the late 1940s, but notably did not include President Harry Truman’s call for universal military training. Selecting some men via the draft provided the military with the troops it needed to prosecute the wars in Korea and Vietnam. But the idea of forcing all men to serve during peacetime never took hold because the requirements of those wars never called for 10 million-plus men to fight them. The selective nature of the draft exposed the system to charges of unfairness, particularly with respect to exemptions given during the Vietnam era for those able to ride out the war as college students, but it still made more sense than the alternative: compelling every man to serve in a military that didn’t need them.

Compulsory service is even less essential today. America’s wars of the post-conscription era have been fought by far smaller forces, and our mixed track record in those conflicts hasn’t been a function of the number of available troops. Rather, the inability to achieve decisive victory in places like Iraq and Afghanistan reflects the inherent difficulty of nation-building, and our body politic’s understandable weariness with open-ended and costly missions in distant lands. Although in the wake of Paris and San Bernardino, there’s been an uptick in public support for deployment of additional ground troops to combat the Islamic State, having a draft, with one or both sexes, is unlikely to make the public more supportive of large-scale, decades-long wars.

Meanwhile, a draft would likely reduce the military’s fighting effectiveness. Today’s force is uniquely capable precisely because it is comprised entirely of volunteers, men and women who choose to join the military for a variety of reasons, including the desire to serve their country, but also because of the exceptional opportunities and benefits available to those in uniform. Overall compensation for troops is more than competitive relative to their comparably skilled peers, and Americans are willing to invest in their professional development because we are confident that many of them will remain in service long enough for our investment to be worthwhile. By contrast, draftees of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s weren’t expected to stick around after their obligation expired, and thus received minimal training. A conscripted military might be larger, but it wouldn’t be better.

I appreciate the sentiment argued for years by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) — himself a Korean War combat veteran — that a draft would “compel the public to think twice before they make a commitment to send their loved ones into harm’s way.” But the idea that the all-volunteer military explains Washington’s propensity to go to war, or that a draft would force policymakers to rethink their interventionist impulses, overlooks the fact that few, if any, of our conflicts in the first two decades of the post-conscription era could be considered protracted ground wars, and likewise cannot explain why other countries around the world with volunteer militaries are far less war-prone than we.

Consider, also, one lesson of the Vietnam War. It may be true that self interest drove some men with other priorities to oppose that war, and that the draft, therefore, helped hasten the war’s end. On the other hand, the existence of a draft actually made it easier for President Lyndon Johnson to dramatically increase the size of the U.S. ground commitment in Vietnam with little public debate. The protests came too late to prevent more than 58,000 names from being carved into that memorial on the Mall.

Finally, it is highly unlikely that we’ll face threats that require troop deployments on a scale that would necessitate another draft. Policymakers in Washington have chosen to fight wars in the Middle East with smaller, more nimble and highly-trained special operators, along with air power, manned and unmanned, in part because the capabilities are available to them, but mostly because these wars do not engage vital U.S. national security interests or threaten our survival.

In the event that a mass-conscripted army was ever again required to defend our country from attack, Congress could immediately pass a law to make that happen. But any notion that today’s Selective Service System is what stands between us and military defeat is absurd. And the push to expand combat roles to women signals that more, rather than fewer, Americans are willing, voluntarily, to do their part to defend this nation. We should take this opportunity to recognize that we can get rid of the draft altogether.

Christopher A. Preble is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.

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Donald Trump Supporters Think about Morality Differently than Other Voters. Here’s How.

Emily Ekins and Jonathan Haidt

How on Earth can anyone vote for that … [fill in the blank]? This is a question some Americans ask during every presidential primary race, but this year our mutual incomprehension feels especially intense. A year ago, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush were expected to be the frontrunners, but now a senator from the far right (Ted Cruz) and a political neophyte from no known political zip code (Donald Trump) have come in first and second among Republicans in Iowa, taking more than 50 percent of the vote between them. On the Democratic side, an avowed socialist essentially tied with Clinton. What is happening?

Politics is in many ways like religion: Voters reward candidates who are effective preachers for a set of moral concerns.

Political scientists and commentators have a standard toolbox they use to explain elections, including variables such as the state of the economy, changing demographics, and incumbency fatigue. But this year, the standard tools are proving inadequate. Experts are increasingly turning to psychology for help. A recent article in Politico was titled “The One Weird Trait that Predicts Whether You’re a Trump Supporter.” It argued that the psychological trait undergirding Trump’s popularity is authoritarianism — a personality style characterizing people who are particularly sensitive to signs that the moral order is falling apart. When they perceive that the world as they know it is descending into chaos, they glorify their in-group, become highly intolerant of those who are different, and feel drawn to strong leaders who promise to fix things, and who do not seem shy about using force to do so.

But now that Trump has lost in Iowa, there is increasing interest in the moral and psychological profiles of those who support other candidates. Iowa entrance polls showed that Cruz took the lion’s share of voters who said it was most important to elect a candidate who shares their values. But what are those values, exactly? Is that just code for “evangelical Christian?”

On the Democratic side, Sanders attracts supporters who are younger, whiter, and further to the left — but is that all there is to it? What are socialist values, anyway? Can authoritarianism tell us anything about the supporters of these other candidates, or do we need other instruments, with finer resolution?

What is Moral Foundations Theory?

We’d like to add another psychological tool to the toolbox: Moral Foundations Theory. One of us (Haidt) developed the theory in the early 2000s, with several other social psychologists, in order to study moral differences across cultures. Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) draws on anthropology and on evolutionary biology to identify the universal “taste buds” of the moral sense, while at the same time explaining how every society creates its own unique morality.

Think of it like this: Evolution gave all human beings the same taste receptors — for sweet, sour, salt, bitter, and umami (or MSG) — but cultures then create unique cuisines, constrained by the fact that the cuisine must please those taste receptors. Moral foundations work much the same way. The six main moral taste receptors, according to MFT, are:

  • Care/harm: We feel compassion for those who are vulnerable or suffering.
  • Fairness/cheating: We constantly monitor whether people are getting what they deserve, whether things are balanced. We shun or punish cheaters.
  • Liberty/oppression: We resent restrictions on our choices and actions; we band together to resist bullies.
  • Loyalty/betrayal: We keep track of who is “us” and who is not; we enjoy tribal rituals, and we hate traitors.
  • Authority/subversion: We value order and hierarchy; we dislike those who undermine legitimate authority and sow chaos.
  • Sanctity/degradation: We have a sense that some things are elevated and pure and must be kept protected from the degradation and profanity of everyday life. (This foundation is best seen among religious conservatives, but you can find it on the left as well, particularly on issues related to environmentalism.)

As with cuisines, societies vary a great deal in the moralities they construct out of these universal predispositions. Many traditional agricultural and herding societies rely heavily on the loyalty, authority, and sanctity  foundations to create rituals, myths, and religious institutions that bind groups together with a strong tribal consciousness.

That can be highly effective for groups that are often attacked by neighboring rivals, but commercial societies (such as Amsterdam in the 17th century or New York City today) are far less in need of these foundations, and so make much less use of them.

Their moral values, stories, and political institutions flow more directly from the liberty and fairness foundations — well suited to a culture based on exchange and production — and are therefore much more tolerant and open to ethnic diversity.

In recent years, MFT has been used to study political differences between the American left and right. Republicans and Democrats in the United States are now in some ways like citizens of different countries, with different beliefs about American history, the Constitution, economics, and climate science. Using questionnaires, text analyses, and other methods, psychologists have found that progressives put more emphasis on the care foundation than do other groups, while social conservatives see more value in loyalty, authority, and sanctity than do other groups. Libertarians, meanwhile, put liberty far above all other moral concerns.

Fairness, important to all groups, nonetheless has subtypes: The left values fairness more when it is presented as equality, particularly equality of outcomes between groups (which is at the heart of social justice). The right values fairness more than the left when it is presented as proportionality — a focus on merit, which includes a desire to let people fail when they are perceived to have been lazy or otherwise undeserving.

But these are broad-brush generalizations. Each person has a unique morality developed over the course of a lifetime. Each political party is a coalition of interest groups and political philosophies that appeal to people with diverse values. In the chaos of this political season, can MFT help us find some order? Can it improve our ability to predict which people will gravitate to which candidate, over and above the predictions we can make from standard variables such as age, race, gender, education, and self-ratings on the liberal-conservative dimension?

Our study

In November 2015 one of us (Ekins) was part of a team that surveyed 2,000 Americans as part of a Cato Institute/YouGov national public opinion study. The study included a battery of questions measuring each of the six moral foundations, and also asked respondents which presidential candidate they liked best. (See the bottom of this essay for the exact items we used.) When we analyzed the data, we found that the 2016 presidential candidates have indeed attracted unique voter constituencies with distinct sets of moral priorities. As we shall see, these moral differences among supporters map on pretty closely to real policy debates among the candidates.

To analyze the data, we first ordered the candidates from left to right based on their supporters’ self-described political ideology. The scale ran from 1 (“very liberal”) to 5 (“very conservative”). We included candidates who had at least 35 respondents in the survey, although we leave out supporters of Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie in subsequent figures and analyses because their supporters’ moral profiles were similar to those of Marco Rubio supporters. (Please see our supplemental blog post for many more graphs and analyses, including those for Fiorina and Christie supporters).


How do the candidates compare?

Next, we looked at how each candidate’s supporters prioritize each of the moral foundations compared with the average American (Figure 1). Bars above zero indicate that the candidate’s supporters place more emphasis on that particular moral foundation compared with the average voter. Bars that dip down below zero do not mean those supporters do not care about the moral concern, only that they gave relatively lower ratings to it compared with the rest of our nationally representative survey sample.


Let’s walk through the graph, one set of bars at a time.

1) Care (blue bars): The care foundation measures the psychological tendency to believe that morality requires caring for and protecting the vulnerable. A sample survey item asks respondents if they agree that “compassion for those who are suffering is the most crucial virtue.” Individuals who score high on this foundation tend to support a more activist government with a more generous safety net.

  • The most obvious thing to note is that supporters of the two Democratic candidates are high, whereas supporters of most Republicans are low. This is consistent with most studies of the left-right dimension: The left values care and compassion as public or political values more than the right does. (We note that all people, and all groups, value care to some extent; we are merely looking at relative differences among groups.)
  • Rand Paul’s supporters score particularly low. We have consistently found that libertarians score lower on care and compassion compared with others — indeed, they score low on almost all emotions, while scoring the highest on measures of reason, rationality, and intelligence.
  • The Republican candidates who put forth a gentle Christian persona draw the most care-oriented Republican voters. Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, and Jeb Bush supporters are the only Republican groups that are above the national mean or right at it (hence the blue bars don’t show for Bush and Carson).

2) Fairness as proportionality (green bars):Proportionality is the desire for people to reap what they sow — for good deeds to be rewarded and bad deeds punished. A sample survey item asks respondents if they agree that “people who produce more should be rewarded more than those who just tried hard.”

In practice, a strong desire for proportionality is highly predictive of a preference for small government and a dislike of activist government and the welfare state. (We only asked about fairness as proportionality in our survey, not fairness as equality — which is always higher on the left.)

  • The green bars show a very high correlation with ideology: As you move to the right, the bars rise. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio supporters score highest on this foundation. This pattern is consistent with these candidates receiving the most support from the Tea Party. In our earlier research, we have each independently reached the conclusion that Tea Party supporters are highly motivated by the sense that the government routinely violates proportional fairness, by bailing out well-connected corporations and by spreading a safety net of welfare benefits under people they see as undeserving of help.
  • Supporters of Democrats score the lowest on this foundation, particularly supporters of Bernie Sanders. This is consistent with Sanders’s emphasis on income redistribution, which many on the right see as a direct violation of proportional fairness carried out in the name of achieving equality of outcome.

3) Liberty (orange bars): The liberty foundation measures the psychological tendency to resist being controlled or dominated. A sample survey item asks respondents if they agree that “everyone should be free to do as they choose, so long as they don’t infringe on upon the freedom of others.”

  • Not surprisingly, Rand Paul’s supporters rate this the most important foundation, by far. Although Paul has said he’s a constitutional conservative, not a libertarian, his supporters reflect the moral profile of libertarians.
  • More surprisingly, Bernie Sanders supporters also score high. Sanders seems to be drawing the more libertarian elements of the left, consistent with his more libertarian views on personal freedom, gun rights, and dovish foreign policy. Libertarian-minded voters seem to choose Sanders if they are on the left on economic policy, and Paul if they are on the right.
  • Clinton supporters, in contrast to Sanders’s supporters, score slightly below the national mean. This may be one of the most important differences between the two candidates: Clinton attracts voters less concerned about individual autonomy. For instance, Clinton opposes legalizing recreational marijuana and until recently opposed legalizing same-sex marriage, while Sanders supports legalizing marijuana and voted against DOMA back in 1996 when President Bill Clinton signed it into law.
  • The most outwardly Christian candidates — Huckabee and Carson — draw supporters who score low on the liberty foundation. This may reflect the fact that socially conservative religious voters tend to prioritize values of community and group cohesion over individual autonomy.
  • Notably, despite the frequent use of rhetoric about “liberty” on the right, only a few Republican candidates — Rand Paul and Ted Cruz — attract supporters that score much above average on this foundation. These results suggest that the Cruz campaign strategy to capture libertarian-leaning voters may be working.

4) Authority/loyalty/sanctity (red bars): For simplicity, we took the average of each respondent’s answers to all six questions for these three foundations, because they tend to go together as the foundations of social conservatism, and in this data set they generally tell the same story about each candidate. (See our supplemental blog post for graphs and extended analyses of each foundation separately.) Authority shows up in political life in strong support for the police and a “tough on crime” attitude; a sample question in our survey asked respondents whether it is relevant to moral judgment that “an action caused chaos or disorder.” Loyalty shows up in political life in strong patriotism and a desire to protect the flag; a survey item we used asked if it was relevant to morality that a person “showed a lack of loyalty.” Sanctity shows up in political life in culture war debates related to sexuality (including same-sex marriage) and also to the sanctity of life (including abortion). An item we used asked if respondents agreed that “some acts are wrong on the grounds that they are unnatural.”

  • Supporters of the Republican candidates tend to highly rate authority/loyalty/sanctity. Supporters of Democrats and libertarian-leaning Rand Paul do not.
  • Huckabee supporters most clearly show the classic social conservative pattern — they have high scores on all three of these foundations, as do supporters of Cruz, Carson, and Trump.
  • Sanders supporters score the lowest on these foundations and are joined not by Clinton supporters but by Paul supporters. Voters inclined to libertarianism tend to shun restrictions on individual action dictated by valuing authority/loyalty/sanctity.
  • Clinton supporters are more socially conservative than are Sanders supporters (although they are still slightly below the national mean on these foundations).

Moral Foundations Theory gives us a clearer picture of what voters care about

What do moral foundations add to our understanding of voter preferences? If you already know a person’s age, sex, education level, income, race, and self-reported ideology (liberal to conservative), you can make an educated guess about which candidate he or she is most likely to support. But if you add on top of all that the person’s responses to our Moral Foundations questions, does that improve your ability to predict his or her vote?

To find out, we conducted a very stringent test: We performed a series of regression analyses, one for each candidate. (We carried out LOGIT regressions separately for the Democratic candidates among Democratic respondents and Republican candidates among Republican respondents). Then we examined how well each of the moral foundations predicted the likelihood that any particular person would pick each candidate as his or her favorite, while also accounting for the effects of demographic and political variables as well as the other moral foundations.

We wanted to see if adding the moral foundations improved prediction above and beyond the demographic factors that are usually used.

It did.

Table 2 shows what we found. Each row shows which moral foundations were statistically significant predictors of vote choice in the regression analysis for each candidate. The numbers in parentheses show the size of the “standardized beta weight,” which quantifies how big the contribution was. Negative numbers mean that the predictor worked in the reverse direction (e.g., scoring low on care makes a Republican more likely to vote for Trump, holding everything else constant).


Among Republicans, four moral patterns stand out. First: Voters who still score high on authority/loyalty/sanctity and low on care — even after accounting for all the demographic variables — are significantly more likely to vote for Donald Trump. These are the true authoritarians — they value obedience while scoring low on compassion. They are different from Huckabee supporters, who appeared to score even higher than Trump supporters on authority/loyalty/sanctity, but also scored high on care, as we saw in Figure 1.

Authoritarianism is often assessed in social science research by asking people two or three questions about the relative importance of teaching their children obedience and respect, but our data shows a limitation of this approach: Not everyone who wants their kids to be obedient is an authoritarian. Some past research has been too quick to lump in social conservatives with authoritarians. MFT offers a more nuanced assessment of voters’ moral concerns.

The second pattern picks up the voters who seem to be most concerned about proportional fairness. They want society to reward people according to what they have earned, not according to their needs. These voters are split between Cruz and Rubio. The fact that our proportionality items predicted support for these candidates even after taking background and ideology into consideration shows how directly these candidates are appealing to the core moral concerns of the Tea Party.

But it revealed something else: Despite often being portrayed as opposites (Rubio is “establishment”; Cruz isn’t), and Cruz being seen as more aligned with Donald Trump, Rubio and Cruz actually draw from voters with a similar moral profile. Each would probably be doing better in the polls if the other weren’t in the race.

The third moral pattern we tracked was Republicans who were not strongly focused on enforcing proportional fairness in society. A low score on the proportionality questions predicted support for Bush (and, we would guess, for Kasich, although we did not have enough Kasich supporters in our data to test that hypothesis).

The fourth moral pattern was the classic libertarian archetype: high on liberty, low on the social conservative virtues of authority/loyalty/sanctity. Those voters gravitate to Rand Paul. Now that Paul has dropped out of the race, the moral profile of his supporters suggest they may find a new home with Cruz, Rubio, or even Sanders, who draws civil libertarians.

Now turning to the Democratic primary: Before controlling for demographic factors, the liberty foundation positively predicts a vote for Sanders and a vote against Clinton. But this effect seems to be driven by young libertarians. Once age is included in the analysis, the liberty foundation no longer adds significantly to the prediction of support for Sanders. When accounting for demographics, Sanders support is actually predicted by low proportionality and low authority/loyalty/sanctity.

Meanwhile, Moral Foundations do not significantly predict a vote for Hillary Clinton; demographic variables seem to be all you need to predict her support (being female, nonwhite, and higher-income are all good predictors).

Much of this contradicts conventional wisdom about the candidates

The 2016 presidential campaign is among the most unusual and confusing in many years, but moral psychology can help us make sense of what is going on. Moral values matter a great deal in both parties. Despite the fact that the Moral Foundations questions don’t ask about public policy, they still uncovered distinct moral profiles of each candidate’s supporters that map onto actual policy differences that we hear coming from the candidates.

The Democratic candidates are both competing to show how much they care about the poor and vulnerable. It makes sense that they would both covet this impression: There is no difference between their supporters on the care foundation. But beyond care, Clinton and Sanders appeal to different moral values.

Like Barack Obama in 2008, Bernie Sanders draws young liberal voters who have a strong desire for individual autonomy and place less value on social conformity and tradition. This likely leads them to appreciate Sanders’s libertarian streak and non-interventionist foreign policy. Once again, Hillary Clinton finds herself attracting more conservative Democratic voters who respect her tougher style, moderated positions, and more hawkish stance on foreign policy.

On the Republican side, we see evidence that the “Reagan coalition” has fractured. No candidate has yet brought together the conservatives, libertarians, and foreign policy hawks. Our survey was conducted last November, but today it is clear that the leading candidates are striving to outdo one another on appealing to social conservative policies (particularly immigration) and hawkish foreign policy (including “carpet-bombing” our enemies).

Despite Trump’s longevity in the polls, authoritarianism is clearly not the only dynamic going on in the Republican race. In fact, the greatest differences by far in the simple foundation scores are on proportionality.

Cruz and Rubio draw the extreme proportionalists — the Republicans who think it’s important to “let unsuccessful people fail and suffer the consequences,” as one of our questions put it. Bush and Huckabee attract those who are not so focused on enforcing proportional fairness. Trump and Paul fall in between on this dimension.

One surprise in our data was that Trump supporters were not extreme on any of the foundations. This means that Trump supporters are more centrist than is commonly realized; consequently, Trump’s prospects in the general election may be better than many pundits have thought. Cruz meanwhile, with a further-right moral profile, may have more difficulty attracting centrist Democrats and independents than would Trump.

One last interesting finding: Jeb Bush supporters are closest to the average American voter, despite the fact that his campaign has thus far has failed to gain any traction among Republican primary voters.

Bush’s failures may have more to do with his poor debate performances than with his moral profile, but in this time of high and rising polarization, cross-partisan hostility, and anger at elites and the establishment, Bush appears to be suffering from an excess of agreeability: He has no standout moral message that connects to any particular moral foundation, even at the risk of alienating supporters of another.

Politics is in many ways like religion: Voters reward candidates who are effective preachers for a set of moral concerns. Candidates who understand this realize that electoral campaigns are not won just by articulating the most effective policy responses to the pressing issues of our time — they are not even won by appealing to self-interest.

Rather, an effective political preacher offers a clear moral vision of America. That vision includes a historical narrative about where we went wrong, and then tells us how we can set things right. It also includes strong moral arguments that connect with and validate the moral judgments of voters.

So the next time you hear someone ask, “How on Earth can anyone vote for that … person?” tell them to think about all six foundations of morality.

Emily Ekins is a research fellow and the director of polling at the Cato Institute. She completed a PhD in political science from UCLA in 2015, conducting research on the moral foundations of the Tea Party. Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist at New York University Stern School of Business; he is the author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.

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The Best Defense Is a Good…Defense

A. Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner

During the week leading up to the Super Bowl it seems like a good time to discuss the American foreign policy establishment’s love affair with the old saying: “The best defense is a good offense.” But football fans know: as fun as it is to watch the offense score, it is defense that wins championships. The same is true when it comes to terrorism. Smart foreign policy makers should know that a good offense is no substitute for a good defense when it comes to preventing terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately, the allure of offense is irresistibly in Washington these days. During his recent stop in Rome, Secretary of State John Kerry hinted at an expanded U.S. offensive against ISIS, while Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has said the U.S. was looking for ways to put more troops in Iraq and Syria to confront ISIS. The Republican presidential candidates are all but united in their desire to ramp up the use of military force in the Middle East. Even the two Democratic candidates have both called for pursuing an aggressive global war on terror. Other than Senator Rand Paul, who has now suspended his presidential campaign, there are no national political figures calling for military restraint in the fight against ISIS.

As a result, it is a foregone conclusion that by the time the next president takes office, the United States will be more deeply engaged in military action in the Middle East than it is today.

Unfortunately, the allure of offense is irresistibly in Washington these days.

Policy makers should know better; we’ve heard this refrain before. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration repeatedly argued that the United States needed to take the fight to the terrorists. In a speech from the Oval Office following the invasion of Iraq, for example, Bush said “…the surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and plans. We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today so that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities.”

Giving a talk at the Heritage Foundation just after the second anniversary of 9/11, Vice President Cheney made the administration’s focus on offense even clearer: There is only one way to protect ourselves against catastrophic terrorist violence, and that is to destroy the terrorists before they can launch further attacks against the United States.”

And despite talk of ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when he campaigned for office, President Obama has found himself following a similar strategy, surging in Afghanistan, vastly expanding the drone campaign, and now once again sending more troops to Iraq.

Going on the offensive may have been reassuring in the months following 9/11, but the offense-as-defense strategy has proven to be a disaster. The U.S. has invaded two nations and executed military operations in another five at a cost of more than four trillion dollars. It has sent two and a half million military members into harm’s way, nearly 7,000 of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice. Despite the enormous costs, we’re less safe.

After fourteen years of intense efforts to eradicate Al Qaeda, the Islamist terrorism threat, which measured in at around 500-1,000 core operatives in 2001, has now morphed into a much bigger threat. The Islamic State alone has a fighting strength estimated at 30,000, not to mention the emergence and growth of numerous other terrorist groups. The result? The number of Islamist-inspired terror attacks within the homeland is higher than before 9/11 and terrorists are killing more Americans each year since 2001 than before.

Beyond these grim numbers is the fact that the American emphasis on offense has unleashed chaos in the Middle East, promoting the very instability and resentment o U.S. foreign policy that experts acknowledge motivates terrorist groups in the first place. The tragic irony is that U.S. military intervention has ensured a longer and bloodier battle against terrorism than anyone imagined after September 11.

Even though it is the less sexy approach, the superior strategy is to focus on defense. Putting an end to military intervention will immediately save lives, save money, and allow the United States to focus greater attention on how to improve homeland security here at home. Though vulnerability to small-scale terrorism is inevitable in any open society, the United States has made important strides in its ability to prevent major attacks since 9/11. And perhaps the most important thing a defensive strategy will do is stop the United States from creating new enemies and giving them fresh reasons to kill Americans.

So the next time someone tries to argue that the best defense is a good offense, remind him or her that defense wins championships.

A. Trevor Thrall is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and an associate professor at George Mason University in the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs. Erik Goepner, retired Air Force veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Property Ownership Fairness Act: Protecting Property Rights

Christina Sandefur and Timothy Sandefur

Nearly a decade ago, the United States Supreme Court delivered one of the most controversial decisions in its history, Kelo v. City of New London, upholding a decision by state officials to seize private homes through eminent domain to make way for a massive redevelopment project to benefit powerful private developers. The ruling triggered outrage across the political spectrum. In response, Americans sought to safeguard their property rights through reforms at the state level. While some of these endeavors were successful, most were hampered by loopholes or ineffective tinkering with procedural details, thus leaving property rights as vulnerable as ever.

Arizona was different. In 2006, that state’s voters overwhelmingly approved the Private Property Rights Protection Act, one of the strongest protections for property rights in the nation. The Act is an excellent model for states that want to provide meaningful security for one of the most essential human rights: the right to ownership.

While in an eminent domain case, the government takes outright ownership of a person’s property, the government can also take away property through regulations that bar owners from using, selling, or building on their land. Such restrictions block people from pursuing the purpose for which they bought the property—thus taking away their property rights just as much as an eminent domain condemnation does—but because the government does not technically take the title to the land, judges often hold that owners are not entitled to any “just compensation” at all. Under this rule, people are often forbidden from using their property, but are then stuck with the purchase price, the taxes, the loan payments, the possible liability if someone is injured on the land—and such regulations often reduce the property’s value so much that the owner also cannot sell it.

Arizona’s Private Property Rights Protection Act is an excellent model for states that want to provide meaningful security for one of the most essential human rights: the right to ownership.

Consider just one of the many ways land-use regulations interfere with the rights of homeowners and stifle economic opportunity: restrictions on short-term rentals. The advent of the so-called Sharing Economy has opened new opportunities for property owners to make money and improve their local economies—and to benefit consumers with greater choice and lower prices. Airbnb and in particular have opened a new era for vacationers and others looking for places to spend the night. With expensive hotels no longer the only option, short-term rentals bring people to new destinations and encourage them to patronize the local economy and experience the local atmosphere. To get a sense of how important this revolution is, consider: Airbnb alone offers more rooms than major international hotel chains like Hilton and Marriott, and makes up about 8-17 percent of the short-term rental supply in New York City alone. In 2013, visitors to Coachella Valley, California, booked over a quarter million nights at short-term rental homes, pouring over $272 million into the local economy and creating 2,500 jobs.

Unfortunately, regulators have responded not by welcoming these innovations, but by trying to drive them out of business. Responding to the growing popularity of private rentals, powerful hotel companies and vocal neighbors have urged cities to ban property owners from offering room in their homes to travelers, despite the fact that these restrictions have no connection to government’s legitimate functions of protecting people’s health and safety. From New York to Santa Monica, places with bustling tourism economies are forbidding short-term rentals. Honolulu, which already prohibits rentals of fewer than 30 days, is considering raising fines for those who violate the ban to $10,000 per day. In 2008, Sedona, Arizona, even made renting residential property for fewer than 30 days a crime, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine. Astonishingly, that ordinance defined “rent” so broadly that it would apply to purchasing a time share, contracting for home improvements, and even hiring a babysitter.

Other cities are imposing burdensome regulations, though not complete bans. Rancho Mirage, California, requires at least one occupant be 30 years old, thus discriminating against legal adults who are younger. Nashville, Tennessee, limits the number of properties that may be “non-owner-occupied short-term rentals” to three percent, meaning that property owners like P.J. and Rachel Anderson—a young couple who are often on the road for P.J.’s job and who rent their home while they are away to supplement their income—and Lindsey Vaughn—who invested her children’s college fund in a property in hopes of drawing rental income—are simply out of luck.

These restrictions reveal a growing belief that an individual’s private property should be micromanaged by regulators who are often more interested in serving vocal special interests in the hotel industry than in respecting the rights of homeowners. Such efforts do not just hurt tourism, they also reduce property values, drive up the costs of travel and lodging, and put entrepreneurs out of business. And, unfortunately, most states do not protect unsuspecting property owners and entrepreneurs from these extreme regulations.

In 2012, Glenn Odegard bought a century-old home in historic Jerome, an old Arizona mining town known as “America’s Most Vertical City” because of its steep streets and its 5,200 foot elevation. Founded in 1876, Jerome was a copper boom town with a peak population of 15,000 in the 1920s, but when the mine closed in 1953, the population dwindled to about 450 today. The remaining residents sustained the town by transforming it into a tourist destination with ghost tours, art galleries, bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants, bars, and shops.

Glenn tried to contribute to that restoration by resuscitating a home that had been abandoned and left vacant for 60 years after a landslide filled it with rocks and mud. Intending to offer it as a vacation rental, Glenn lovingly restored the dilapidated house to its original historic condition. His successful efforts earned the home a feature in Arizona Highways Magazine and a spot on the Jerome Historic Home and Building Tour. Yet after they issued the relevant permits, Town officials changed their minds, and decreed that Glenn could no longer use the home as a vacation rental. Under the town’s newly announced ban, he and other homeowners face fines of $300 and up to 90 days in jail for each day they allow guests to stay in their homes for money. His “reward” for the investment of his time, money, and labor was to be declared an outlaw.

Sadly, state courts routinely uphold vacation rental bans, on the theory that “preserving the character and integrity of residential neighborhoods” and “securing affordable housing for permanent residents” (by forcibly keeping housing values down) are legitimate goals the government may pursue by restricting private property rights. Because owners can still rent their property long-term, and can live in the homes themselves, short-term vacation rental bans do not completely destroy the economic value of a home, meaning that under the laws of most states, owners are not entitled to any compensation, no matter how much the restriction costs them.

While it is understandable that neighbors don’t want loud renters next door or excessive traffic on their streets, those interests are adequately served by enforcing existing rules against noise and traffic congestion than by imposing new restrictions that only drive up the cost of living, hurt local businesses, and violate the rights of property owners.

To protect the rights of property owners nationwide, the Goldwater Institute has drafted a bill called the Property Ownership Fairness Act, modeled on the Arizona Property Rights Protection Act, to require state and local governments to compensate owners when their regulations reduce the value of property in ways not justified by public safety needs. The Act prohibits the abuse of eminent domain and the unfairness of regulatory takings, by providing that if government limits “the existing rights to use, divide, sell or possess private real property,” and that restriction reduces the property’s fair market value, government must pay to the owner just compensation. The Act does not require compensation, however, when a property restriction protects the general public against actual nuisances or threats to public safety. In other words, owners can be barred from engaging in pollution, maintaining dangerous conditions on their property, or using their land in ways that violate the rights of their neighbors, but cannot be prohibited from building or renovating homes or operating legitimate businesses—or forced to use their land in ways they don’t want to—unless the government pays owners for the rights that it has taken away.

Regulatory takings reform is an issue of fundamental fairness – the cost of community desires should not be imposed on property owners alone, but must be paid for by the community. The Property Ownership Fairness Act protects the fundamental human right of private property while respecting the need for rules that protect everyone.

Some have argued against compensating property owners for regulatory takings on the grounds that regulations almost always reduce the property values in some sense. Requiring compensation, it is said, would mean the government must pay to govern. But that argument overlooks the basic difference between regulations that prevent injuries to the public—for which the Act would not require compensation—and restrictions that go further, and force owners to give the public something of value, such as rules that force them to maintain their land as a wildlife refuge, or that forbid the renting of rooms in their homes in order to maintain a “small-town atmosphere.” These kinds of restrictions are not typical government functions. Instead, they essentially confiscate an owner’s rights in order to provide a public benefit, just like in an eminent domain case, when owners must give up land for the construction of a highway or a school. These kinds of regulations should come along with compensation, just as in eminent domain cases.

Others have argued that compensating people for regulatory takings is simply too expensive. One prominent leftist attorney, the late Douglas Kendall, admitted that requiring compensation “would essentially gut…efforts” to restrict the rights of property owners “because the funds necessary to compensate these landowners simply do not and will not ever exist.” But the fact that the government cannot afford to pay for what it takes is not a good reason for excusing it from its constitutional duty to justly compensate. Instead, it’s a good reason for government to show some restraint. When the costs of providing public goods—whether they be a wildlife habitat or a neighborhood without vacation rentals—fall on a single person or a small group, then the public should compensate the owners for their losses.

The Property Ownership Fairness Act strikes the right balance, respecting the need for regulations that protect the public—and even allowing government to do more, so long as it pays for what it takes from people. A decade after Arizona enacted its own version, we can inaugurate new era of nationwide protections for property rights, fairness, and the rule of law.

Christina Sandefur is Executive Vice President at the Goldwater Institute. Timothy Sandefur is Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute.

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Rand Paul Would Have Enlarged GOP Tent

David Boaz

Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential campaign has ended, like most presidential campaigns, short of the White House. The Republican debate will be poorer without him.

Polls show substantial support for libertarian ideas in the Republican Party. Gallup found that libertarian strength in the GOP had risen from 15% in 2002 to 34% in 2012. In two surveys in 2012 and 2013, David Kirby, then at FreedomWorks, found libertarians were 35% or 41% of the party.

Paul obviously didn’t capture that vote. The senator of Kentucky had trouble triangulating between his own strongly libertarian views and what he thought Republican voters, especially in evangelical Iowa, wanted. The rise of the Islamic State terrorist group and its bloody videos in the summer of 2014 made it more difficult to sell non-interventionist ideas on foreign policy. Donald Trump and Ted Cruzin different ways appealed to the angrier and more conservative-leaning segment of libertarians. And despite a news media perception that libertarians draw heavy support from billionaires, Paul attracted few of the seven-figure donations that flowed to Cruz, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton.

Republicans didn’t just lose a presidential candidate. They lost a chance to revive the party.

Both in the Senate and in the presidential race, Paul brought new ideas and a fresh perspective to the Republican debate. Most of the GOP candidates are just 50 shades of Reagan-Bush. Neoconservative, social conservative, establishment conservative — they all stayed in a pretty narrow lane on most issues.

Paul brought something new to the table. He said he wanted to “defend the whole Bill of Rights,” not just the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. He pushed Republicans to question the mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden. He joined Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., to reform excessive prison sentences, which led to a bill introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn and others that could well pass the Senate this spring.

On conservative talk shows and in front of all-white audiences, Paul repeatedly spoke like this: “There are many people in our country, particularly minorities, who aren’t being treated fairly. They’re not getting due process. They’re not getting a speedy trial. I think if we showed equal deference and love for the Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment, and the Fourth Amendment, the right to privacy, all of a sudden, there’s a whole new group of people, young kids, college kids, African Americans — who are going to say, ‘You know what? That’s the party I want to belong to.’”

In his first Senate campaign in Kentucky, in 2010, he opposed the USA Patriot Act, saying that “America can successfully protect itself against potential terrorists without sacrificing civil liberties.” He drew cheers on the presidential campaign trail for declaring, “What you do on your cellphone is none of (the government’s) damn business.” He filibustered against the potential use of drone strikes to kill U.S. citizens in America, and again to block extension of the Patriot Act.

In his statement withdrawing from the presidential race, he said, “Big Government threatens Americans from all walks of life,” not just businesses and workers but also “the teenager from a poor family facing jail time for marijuana.” No other candidate in either party spent so much time talking about civil liberties issues.

On foreign policy, while the other candidates tried to top one another with uber-hawkishness — Trump’s “bomb the s—- out of them,” Cruz’s gleam at seeing whether “sand can glow in the dark,” Rubio’s proposal to send U.S. troops into yet another country — Paul cautioned that interventionism hadn’t worked very well in recent decades.

Perhaps unfortunately for his campaign, he blurred his message by denouncing President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal and calling for a declaration of war against ISIL. But as the conservative writer Michael Brendan Dougherty pointed out, the senator eschewed the flat-out non-interventionism of his father for a sort of Fabian realism: “Paul often offers rhetorical hostility instead of sanctions, sanctions instead of conflict, and limited constitutionally authorized conflict instead of open-ended war.”

With Paul gone from the presidential race, so is the voice for realism and prudence in foreign policy. So is a passionate voice on criminal justice reform and overcriminalization.

And that revived Republican Party that Paul talked about, the one that “a whole new group of people, young kids, college kids, African Americans” might “want to belong to”? Well, between Trump’s immigrant-bashing and Cruz’s embrace of anti-gay hysteria, that has gone too, at least for this year.

The good news for libertarian-leaning voters — and for anyone who cares about out-of-control federal spending, the Bill of Rights, mass incarceration, mass surveillance or wars without end — is that Rand Paul is still a U.S. senator and likely to win another term this fall.

The White House’s loss will be the Senate’s gain. And, hopefully, America’s gain, as Paul continues his effort to rally Americans on these issues and to work with senators of both parties to make progress toward smaller government and more liberty.

David Boaz is executive vice president of the Cato Institute and author of The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom.

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Congress and the States Should Reject the National ID Law

Jim Harper

It hardly sounds like something that would happen in America, but state legislatures across the country are currently debating whether to put their residents into a national identity system. The Department of Homeland Security is working to break down state resistance to the REAL ID Act, which states have not implemented in its ten-plus years on the books.

States shouldn’t move too quickly, though. Earlier this month, bills were introduced in the U.S. House and Senate to repeal REAL ID. For the good of Americans’ security and privacy, states should continue to refuse, and Congress should repeal, the national ID law.

The hook in the REAL ID Act is simple. DHS can turn people away at TSA checkpoints if they are from states that aren’t following federal identity card mandates. Several times over the last decade it has threatened to do so.

The American impulse to reject a national ID is the right one.

Last fall, once again, DHS bureaucrats menaced state governors and legislators with this threat, fanning rumors that the Transportation Security Administration would start refusing licenses and IDs from non-compliant states as early as January. But a week into the new year, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson kicked REAL ID compliance down the road again, moving the deadline back two more years. Not coincidentally, this made REAL ID the next administration’s problem.

But the gambit worked to a degree. In a number of states around the country, legislators are scurrying to do the federal government’s bidding. If they obey federal mandates, they’ll put uniform identity cards into the hands of drivers and ID card holders, and they’ll submit data about their residents into a nationwide system for sharing drivers’ personal information. But in many states, that’s controversial.

Montana has been a leading state for refusing the federal government’s national ID mandate. In 2008, under pressure to comply from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Governor Brian Schweitzer (D) refused to even ask for a deadline extension. Instead, Montana’s attorney general sent the DHS a letter outlining the security features in Montana’s driver’s licenses. DHS interpreted the letter as a request for extension and granted it. “I sent them a horse and if they want to call it a zebra, that’s up to them,” Schweitzer said at the time.

Montana’s bipartisan congressional delegation has now introduced legislation to repeal REAL ID entirely. Senators Steve Daines (R) and Jon Tester (D) and Representative Ryan Zinke (R) put the bills in as a response to deadline pressure for federal ID mandates that DHS is leveling against their state. Elsewhere, though, states are considering steps that would lengthen lines at their DMVs, increase paperwork burdens, and raise costs of getting a driver’s license.

Crucially, REAL ID compliance would not improve national security. It is often said that REAL ID responds to a 9/11 Commission recommendation, but the law repealed and replaced post-9/11 legislation that brought to together interested parties to examine standards for birth certificates and ID cards.

The 9/11 Commission devoted three-quarters of a page — under 300 words — to identity cards, articulating nowhere how a national ID would cost-effectively secure against terrorism, crime or illegal immigration. A recent USA Today editorial supporting REAL ID was more than twice as long as the 9/11 Commission’s treatment of the subject.

REAL ID compliance would undermine Americans’ security against identity fraud. The law requires digital copies of basic identity documents to be held in state databases, from which they could be stolen. The law requires states to share their driver databases with every other state, making the security of any state’s data only as strong as the least secure state in the country.

By unifying all licenses and ID cards around a single, uniform standard, REAL ID would promote regular swiping and scanning of ID cards. When Americans entered buildings, bought beer or wine, picked up prescriptions, or cashed a check, data about them would go into databases already optimized for information sharing. Governments and corporations alike would have even more data about the comings and goings of ordinary, law-abiding Americans.

The American impulse to reject a national ID is the right one. It offers little national security while undercutting personal security and privacy. State compliance with REAL ID would put the Department of Homeland Security in charge of state licensing policy, empowering federal bureaucrats to dictate state priorities and spending in that area forevermore. Given that its costs outweigh its benefits, states should decline to comply with the national ID mandate, and Congress should repeal the REAL ID Act.

Jim Harper is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

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Time to Privatize the Postal Service

Chris Edwards

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is losing billions of dollars a year. The government company that delivers “snail mail” is losing out to email and other types of electronic communication. First-class mail volume fell from a peak of 104 billion pieces in 2000 to just 64 billion pieces by 2014.

Congress confers on the 600,000-employee USPS a monopoly over first-class and standard mail. The company pays no federal, state, or local taxes, pays no vehicle fees or parking tickets, is immune from many regulations imposed on other businesses, and can borrow at subsidized rates.

The government needs to wake up to changing technology, study postal reforms abroad, and let entrepreneurs reinvent our antiquated postal system.

Despite these advantages, the USPS has lost $52 billion since 2007, and will continue losing money without major reforms. The problem is that Congress is preventing USPS from reducing costs as its sales decline. Congress blocks efforts to end Saturday service and close unneeded post office locations.

Another problem is that USPS has a costly union-dominated workforce that impedes innovation. USPS workers earn substantially higher compensation than comparable private-sector workers.

The way to tackle these problems is to privatize the USPS and open postal markets to competition. With the rise of the Internet, the argument that mail is a natural monopoly that needs government protection is weaker than ever.

Other countries facing declining letter volumes have made reforms. Germany and the Netherlands privatized their national postal companies over a decade ago, and other European countries have followed suit. Britain floated shares of the Royal Mail on its stock exchange in 2013. Some countries, such as Sweden and New Zealand, have not privatized their national postal companies, but they have opened them up to competition.

These reforms have driven efficiency improvements in all these countries. Excess workers have been trimmed, productivity has risen, and consumers have benefitted. Note that cost-cutting—such as closing excess post offices—is good for both the economy and the environment.

Privatization and competition also spur innovation. When the USPS monopoly over “extremely urgent” mail was suspended in 1979, we saw an explosion in efficient overnight private delivery by firms such as FedEx.

A few years ago, two young entrepreneurs in Texas convinced a local USPS manager to allow them to contract with households to scan their mail at the post office and deliver it by email. Among other advantages, the system could have eventually reduced the volume of waste from bulk mail.

Alas, when USPS headquarters found out about the deal, they shut it down. That’s ridiculous. The government needs to wake up to changing technology, study postal reforms abroad, and let entrepreneurs reinvent our antiquated postal system.

Chris Edwards is editor of at the Cato Institute.

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Three Cheers for the Middlemen

Matthew Feeney

On commercials, screaming used car salesmen and wholesalers sometimes promise to “eliminate the middleman.” But what’s wrong with middlemen? Middlemen can help you find a ride or a couch to sleep on, and middlemen have even helped prisoners of war make the best of their circumstances.

In 1942 a British soldier named R.A. Radford was captured in Libya. For years Radford lived in prisoner of war camps, which housed allied soldiers from across the globe. Within a year of his release, Radford wrote a paper on the economy of prison camps, explaining how POWs traded goods and used cigarettes for currency.

Red Cross packets were the principal source of goods, and they included things such as cigarettes, jam, chocolate, biscuits, sugar, and other “foodstuffs.” Because the POWs didn’t like those things equally, they traded these goods with one another.

Amid this trade, Radford notes, middlemen emerged. These middlemen made it their business to facilitate trade by learning who needed a particular good and who had that good for trade. Yet, despite their obvious benefit, middlemen were hardly universally praised in the POW camps, as Radford explains:

Taken as a whole, opinion was hostile to the middleman. His function, and his hard work in bringing buyer and seller together, were ignored; profits were not regarded as a reward for labour, but as a result of sharp practices. Despite the fact that his very existence was proof to the contrary, the middleman was held to be redundant.

Even when everyone had access to food packets and trade was voluntary some still frowned upon those who profited from using information to their advantage. That animosity towards middlemen in the POW camps is remarkable, but it is a common attitude toward middlemen that still exists today. When taxi drivers lit tire fires on the streets of Paris in protest of rideshare companies like Uber, they were protesting middlemen.

Uber and Airbnb do not own cars and hotels. Rather, they are profiting from what they know about consumers and dead capital. Before the rise of Uber there were many people who needed rides but were unable to efficiently contact nearby strangers who would be willing to give them a ride in exchange for a fee. In a similar fashion, Airbnb connects travelers in strange cities to the hundreds of nearby homeowners who have spare bedrooms. Before companies like Airbnb travelers faced significant costs if they wanted to spend their holiday living in a native’s spare room. In almost every circumstance, booking a hotel or hostel room was more cost-effective and reliable. Now, finding people who want to give you a place to sleep is just a few clicks away.

Consequently, Uber and other “sharing economy” companies such as Airbnb have been causing headaches for regulators and competitors across the world. Although Uber and Airbnb are not taxi or hotel companies, traditional market incumbents are facing stiff competition from these new upstarts.

Traditional competitors seeking to halt the growth of the sharing economy will claim that Uber and Airbnb should be governed by the same regulations that oversee taxi companies and hotels. In Paris, a representative from a taxi collective called for the government to “ensure respect for the regulations,” and a protester accused Uber of “economic terrorism.”

What makes the sharing economy so successful is that it allows users to more easily engage in voluntary exchange by dramatically reducing transaction costs (costs that prevent a transaction from taking place).

The protester in Paris was not the first person to allude to terrorism when discussing ridesharing companies. In 2014 the president of the Pennsylvania Taxi Association said, “I try to equate this illegal operation of UberX as a terroristic act like ISIS invading the Middle East.”

These protests provide an opportunity to remind people that sharing economy companies operate much more like Radford’s middlemen than they do radical Islamic fanatics. Like those who disliked Radford’s middlemen, people seem to think that those who only trade information—whether it is who has coffee to trade or who has an extra room—are not adding any actual value.

It might strike many readers as bemusing that companies that merely trade in information can be valued at billions of dollars. Like some POWs critics of middlemen regard Uber’s and Airbnb’s profits not as “reward for labour, but as a result of sharp practices.” Not too long ago a friend of my family remarked that he didn’t understand why Uber was worth so much money when it doesn’t “make anything.”

Unfortunately, many people remain skeptical or ignorant of the fact that the total welfare within a group can dramatically increase without an increase in available goods. All that is needed is voluntary exchange. This won’t come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the “brown bag” experiment.

What makes the sharing economy so successful is that it allows users to more easily engage in voluntary exchange by dramatically reducing transaction costs (costs that prevent a transaction from taking place). Uber isn’t producing new cars, but it’s providing car owners with a way to find people willing to pay for rides.

It would be a mistake to regulate Uber as if it were a taxi company. Uber is a technology company that connects drivers with passengers. It’s not a taxi company

True, in many jurisdictions taxi drivers have had to invest time and money into securing the opportunity to do business. Clearly, it’s frustrating to have diligently complied with taxi regulations and then to have Uber arrive on the scene without having dealt with the same regulatory hurdles.

Nevertheless, instead of regulating Uber and Airbnb as if they were taxi companies and hotels lawmakers should deregulate the taxi and hotel industry, thereby allowing taxis and hotels to compete on a level playing field. But why stop there?

There are many industries where middlemen are needed but are held back. You’d think in 2016 it wouldn’t be too much to ask for alcohol to be delivered to your doorstep or for you to be able to invite people into your home for a meal without risking running afoul of the law.

The alcohol delivery service Klink can deliver to those lucky enough to live in the nation’s capital. But, thanks in part to alcohol regulations, Virginia residents like myself don’t have access to its services. This is regrettable considering that I’d gladly pay for a liquor store driver to deliver booze to my front door. The problem is I don’t have a cost-effective way of finding those drivers without Klink, In other words, I need a middleman, but regulators are preventing me from finding one.

There are also so-called “underground supper clubs,” which might sound nefarious, but are really just places for people to gather to eat. Granted, sometimes these “clubs” are operated out of someone’s home and are not inspected like restaurants, but that shouldn’t prevent entrepreneurs from openly and freely connecting talented amateur chefs to hungry mouths to feed.

Duke University’s Michael Munger foresees the growth of a “middleman economy,” which he describes as the “third entrepreneurial revolution.” Clearly, people are willing to pay for lowered transaction costs, and we should expect that trend to continue and for more companies to seize the kind of opportunities the founders of Uber and Airbnb saw years ago. But it shouldn’t be a surprise if suspicion of middlemen as well as anti-competitive market incumbents hamper the spread of this revolution, if only temporarily.

But unfortunately, the hatred of middlemen is eternal, whether it is in POW camps or anti-Uber protests.

Matthew Feeney is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute.

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Trump and Smart Foreign Policy: Both Missing From the GOP Debate

Emma Ashford

Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates accurately described the state of foreign affairs discourse during prior Republican debates, when he noted “either they really believe what they’re saying, or they’re cynical and opportunistic, and, in a way, you hope it’s the latter, because God forbid they actually believe some of the things that they’re saying.” Thursday night’s debate, the last before the Iowa Caucasus, was no exception. All the candidates talked tough—sometimes taking it to quite ridiculous extremes—but most were either unwilling or unable to offer any specific foreign policy proposals, or to deviate from clearly planned talking points.

Certainly, with Donald Trump absent, the average foreign policy knowledge among the candidates was several notches higher than usual. But to borrow a phrase from foreign policy guru Ben Carson, if Russia is a one-horse economy, some of those on last night’s debate stage in Iowa were one-horse candidates. Chris Christie answered every question by promising to prosecute terrorists and Hillary Clinton. Marco Rubio answered questions about the liberty movement and immigration with responses on ISIS. The questions were generally high quality, but many of the candidates effectively refused to answer them, choosing instead to pivot to the issues they were most comfortable with.

A number of common misconceptions reappeared. As Gates noted, we simply don’t know if the candidates actually believe these factoids, or if they are simply using half-truths for political expediency. We were again told by several candidates that America’s military is in decline. Ted Cruz described declining numbers of planes (8,000 to 4,000) and ships (529 to 272). But not only were these numbers inexplicably wrong, but comparing today’s military to that required during the Cold War is disingenuous at best. Nor do such numbers take any notice of factors like improvements in technology. Marco Rubio noted that he will rebuild “the U.S. military because the world is a safer and better place when America is the strongest military in the world.” No mention was made of the fact that U.S. military spending already eclipses its closest seven rivals.

The questions were generally high quality, but many of the candidates effectively refused to answer them, choosing instead to pivot to the issues they were most comfortable with.

Ted Cruz could certainly use some further education on the uses and effectiveness of air power, after he again repeated his call for the use of carpet bombing against ISIS. First, his statements are inaccurate. The Gulf War did not involve the use of carpet bombing, but in fact some of the earliest successes in precision bombing. Second, the statements also lead one to believe that it is only the Obama administration’s caprice which prevents the U.S. from engaging in carpet bombing today. In fact, most experts agree that carpet bombing is not a useful strategy; there is no need to engage in such a practice inside Iraq or Syria where the risk of civilian casualties is high. Indiscriminate bombing of the type Cruz calls for is also generally considered a war crime. We might almost prefer to assume that Cruz doesn’t believe what he’s saying.

And even where the moderators provided an opening for nuance on various foreign policy issues, the candidates were typically unable to answer with any statement more complicated than their talking points. A nuanced question involving America’s NATO treaty obligations to the Baltic States was posed to Ben Carson, who proved unable to answer in any coherent fashion. In response to a question designed to get candidates to address the dichotomy between their stated intentions to ‘rip up’ the Iranian nuclear deal, and the fact that the deal will be largely concluded by the time any of them takes office, Marco Rubio retreated to his familiar—if  confusing—refrain about Iran’s apocalyptic theology.

Some candidates did perform better in this debate. John Kasich was able to provide nuance on the issue of sanctions, explaining why unilateral sanctions are often less effective than multilateral ones. His calls for coalition building and against a permanent U.S. role as a global policeman were realistic, and a welcome retreat from his absurd assertion in another recent debate that he “would punch Russia in the nose.” Rand Paul also seems to have tired of trying to disguise himself as a hawk, making strong and coherent statements in support of a more restrained foreign policy.

But overall, whether the result of poor knowledge, poor advising or political expediency, the candidates remain generally weak on foreign policy, especially when it strays from the hot button topic of ISIS. Even on that topic, when pressed by moderators, many candidates fell back on policies not dissimilar to those currently being pursued by the Obama administration, such as building a global coalition to combat ISIS. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—there are almost no good alternatives to the administration’s current policies—but it does illustrate the stark divide between the tough rhetoric the candidates repeatedly toss around and their actual proposed solutions, which are often superficial and unrealistic.

Unfortunately, the question posed by Gates—whether the candidates are ill-informed or simply cynical—remains a relevant one. These debates are adding little to our understanding of how the candidates might actually pursue foreign policymaking as president. Nor are debate moderators free of blame on this issue, as many questions repeat from debate to debate while other key foreign policy issues—how the U.S. should deal with China, for example—go largely unaddressed. Ultimately, it might be another quote from Gates that sums up the debate best: “The level of dialogue on national security issues would embarrass a middle schooler.”

Emma Ashford is a Visiting Fellow in Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Follow her on twitter: @emmamashford.